FBI searches for clues in ricin probe, ex-suspect calls arrest ‘surreal’

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

(CNN) — FBI agents on Wednesday searched the former martial arts studio of a Tupelo man in connection with the investigation into ricin-tainted letters sent to President Barack Obama and other officials, the man’s lawyer, Lori Basham, told CNN.

Agents in hazardous materials suits had searched James Everett Dutschke’s home on Tuesday, the same day prosecutors dropped charges against the man arrested last week on suspicion of sending the letters.

Authorities have not called Dutschke a suspect and no charges have been filed. It was unclear what, if anything, they found.

Basham said Dutschke has not yet spoken to federal investigators. He did sign a consent form allowing the searches, she said. Dutschke no longer rents the taekwondo studio space, she said.

Investigators are trying to determine whether someone attempted to pin the poisonous letters on Paul Kevin Curtis of Corinth, Mississippi, a law enforcement source told CNN Tuesday on the condition of anonymity.

In a court hearing Monday before the charges were dropped, Curtis said he was being framed and identified Dutschke as a potential culprit.

Prosecutors initially arrested Curtis April 17 and charged him with sending a threat to the president after letters containing a suspicious powder triggered security scares around Washington.

The letters — sent to Obama; Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi; and Sadie Holland, a judge in Lee County, Mississippi — touched off anxieties in Washington and elsewhere in the wake of the bombing of the Boston Marathon. The two incidents were unconnected, officials said.

The FBI said the letters tested positive for ricin, a toxin derived from castor beans that has no known antidote. No illnesses have been reported.

Authorities dropped the charges against Curtis on Tuesday after new information became available, U.S. Attorney Felicia Adams said.

Curtis’ attorney, Christi McCoy, said her client had been framed by someone who used several phrases Curtis likes to use on social media.

The letters read, in part: “To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance.”

They were signed “I am KC and I approve this message,” a source told CNN.

Each letter had a Memphis, Tennessee, postmark and no return address.

Basham said Dutschke used to work for Curtis’ brother, but the two have had no contact since 2010.

Speaking on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live” on Tuesday, Curtis called his arrest surreal.

“It’s like a train has been lifted off my shoulders,” he said of the charges being dropped. “I’m overwhelmed. I’m extremely happy to be vindicated and out and able to see my kids.”

CNN’s Victor Blackwell, Vivian Kuo, Bill Mears, Chris Cuomo, Ed Payne and Michael Pearson also contributed to this report.

Photo courtesy WREG/CNN

™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.