Breaking News

National News

May 3, 2013

Miss. ricin-letters case headed to grand jury

OXFORD, Miss. — A dust mask that tested positive for ricin also contained DNA from a Mississippi man suspected of sending poison-laced letters to President Barack Obama and others, an FBI agent testified Thursday.

The testimony came during a preliminary hearing for James Everett Dutshcke, 41, who was arrested Saturday at his home in Tupelo and charged with making ricin, the same substance mailed on April 8 to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and Lee County, Miss., judge Sadie Holland.

Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander ruled that there was enough probable cause to send the case to a grand jury. It’s not clear when one would hear evidence in this case.

Dutschke’s lawyer, George Lucas, waived a detention hearing, but reserved the right to ask for one later. That means Dutschke will remain behind bars for now.

FBI agent Stephen Thomason said that on April 22, agents saw Dutschke go to his former martial arts studio in Tupelo and then throw items in a trash can down the street. One of those items was a dust mask that tested positive for ricin, he said.

Thomason said the mask had DNA from two people on it.

He said Dustchke was the “major contributor.” The agent did not say who else’s DNA was on it.

Dutschke is second person to be charged in the case. The first suspect, Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, was arrested on April 17, but the charges were dropped six days later. After his arrest, Curtis said he was framed and identified Dutschke as someone who might have sent the letters, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court.

Curtis said he knows Dutschke and that they feuded over the years.

During Thursday’s hearing, Dutschke sat at the defendant’s table wearing an orange jail uniform. He scribbled notes at times and also shook his head in disagreement at some of the testimony.

No possible motive was discussed.

Much of Agent Thomason’s testimony was from an FBI affidavit made public earlier this week, which said trace amounts of ricin were found in Dutschke’s former martial arts studio.

Thomason said Dutschke used the Internet to make three purchases of castor beans, from which ricin is derived. The affidavit had said two, but Thomason said the investigation turned up another.

Lucas, Dutschke’s lawyer, said there was a way to make ricin in a way so that it isn’t deadly and repeatedly questioned the agent about tests performed on the substance in the letters.

“If it’s ricin, it’s deadly,” the agent said.

The FBI has not revealed details about how lethal the ricin was. A Senate official has said the ricin was not weaponized, meaning it wasn’t in a form that could easily enter the body. If inhaled, ricin can cause respiratory failure, among other symptoms. No antidote exists.

During the investigation, officials searched Dutschke’s home, business and minivans.

Thomason said documents from the home had printer markings similar to ones on letters sent to the officials.

Dutschke faces up to life in prison if convicted in the ricin case. He’s also facing unrelated charges of child molestation.

1
Text Only
National News
  • 10 Things to Know for Wednesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday.

    April 22, 2014

  • A bipolar doctor probes the brain on 'Black Box’

    ABC’s brainy new medical drama “Black Box” does a neat trick: It dares viewers to imagine for themselves the cost-benefit ratio of addiction, and does it without taking a firm stand.

    April 22, 2014

  • Courthouse violence unpredictable despite security

    When Utah’s new federal courthouse opened last week, it came with security improvements that are becoming standard around the country: separate entrances and elevators for judges, defendants and the public; bullet-resistant glass and paneling; and vehicle barricades to keep car bombs at bay.

    April 22, 2014

  • Lucey is tops in Iowa’s ‘Beautiful Bulldog’ event

    Lucey is a slobbering 18-month-old pooch whose human family dreams of making her a therapy dog.

    April 22, 2014

  • Cuban-American leaders helped ’Cuban Twitter’

    Leaders with the largest nonprofit organization for young Cuban-Americans quietly provided strategic support for the federal government’s secret “Cuban Twitter” program, connecting contractors with potential investors and even serving as paid consultants, The Associated Press has learned.

    April 22, 2014

  • 10 Things to Know for Tuesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday:

    April 22, 2014

  • Apple offering free recycling of all used products

    Apple is offering free recycling of all its used products and vowing to power all of its stores, offices and data centers with renewable energy to reduce the pollution caused by its devices and online services.

    April 21, 2014

  • UAW drops appeal of defeat in Volkswagen vote

    The United Auto Workers dropped its appeal of a worker vote against unionizing at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, a move that the union said should put pressure on Republican politicians to quickly approve incentives the German automaker is seeking to expand its lone U.S. assembly plant.

    April 21, 2014

  • In show of defiance, 32,000 run Boston Marathon

    Some ran to honor the dead and wounded. Others were out to prove something to the world about their sport, the city or their country. And some wanted to prove something to themselves.

    April 21, 2014

  • Stowaway teen forces review of airport security

    A 15-year-old boy found his way onto an airport’s tarmac and climbed into a jetliner’s wheel well, then flew for five freezing hours to Hawaii — a misadventure that forced authorities to take a hard look at the security system that protects the nation’s airline fleet.

    April 21, 2014