The mystery of who sent poison-laced envelopes to President Obama and a U.S. senator took a new turn Tuesday, as police said they'd dropped charges against Paul Kevin Curtis, the Mississippi Elvis impersonator who'd been their prime suspect in the case. (Watch Curtis celebrate his release above.)
Curtis had been accused of mailing envelopes to Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) that tested positive for ricin, a toxic substance. But a federal magistrate on Tuesday said Curtis had been released because "the ongoing investigation has revealed new information."
"We're just thrilled, so happy with the government," Curtis' lawyer, Christi McCoy said Tuesday. "Sometimes law enforcement will get on one angle and stay on that angle no matter what, and we are so happy that was not the case here. They went where the evidence led, realized it was a dead end, and went where true evidence was."
At the same time, investigators searched the home of a second man in connection to the ricin letter scare. And according to CNN, police are specifically investigating whether someone tried to "falsely implicate" Curtis in the mailings.
Curtis was arrested last Wednesday and charged with mailing the two toxic letters to Washington. The letters were signed "I am KC and I approve this message," and contained language similar to that which Curtis had used before in online writings, leading investigators to question him.
However, police searched Curtis' home and found no traces of ricin, nor any indications he'd been making it there. According to the Associated Press, investigators didn't even find evidence Curtis had searched for information about ricin on his home computer.
Ricin is made from castor beans, and can be lethal when ingested.
McCoy vehemently denied Curtis' involvement earlier this week, suggesting instead that he'd been framed.
"I do believe that someone who was familiar and is familiar with Kevin just simply took his personal information and did this to him," she told CNN. "It is absolutely horrific that someone would do this."
Police are now apparently refocusing their search on J. Everett Dutschke, a former candidate for Mississippi's House of Representatives who has carried on a long-standing email war with Curtis. Police, including some in hazmat suits, searched Dutschke's home Tuesday. Dutschke told the AP that officers had also searched his house last week, and maintained his innocence.
In a phone interview with Talking Points Memo's Hunter Walker on Tuesday, Dutschke seemed surprised to find out Curtis had been released.
Dutschke expressed disbelief when told of Curtis' release.
'What did you just say?' he asked.
We repeated that Curtis had been released.
'You're kidding me,' said Dutschke. 'For what?'
We told him we were unsure and asked whether he knew if officials were still investigating him in the case.
'I really can't answer that question at this exact second,' he said.
Dutschke then said he had to go. Subsequent attempts to speak with him were unsuccessful. Less than an hour later FBI agents arrived at Dutschke’s house and he told local reporters on the scene they were there to question him. [Talking Points Memo]
Investigators have not said if Dutschke himself is a suspect at this time. Dutschke is, however, currently facing child molestation charges.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- Why Israel can no longer let the Palestinian Authority be responsible for security in the West Bank
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- Why you shouldn't eat dog. Not even once.
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Grammar quiz: Do you know the passive voice?
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- How social conservatives became a minority in need of protection
Subscribe to the Week