OXFORD, Miss. — The investigation into poisoned letters mailed to President Barack Obama and others has shifted from an Elvis impersonator to his longtime foe, and authorities must now figure out if an online feud between the two men might have escalated into something more sinister.
Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, was released from a north Mississippi jail on Tuesday and charges against him were dropped, nearly a week after authorities charged him with sending ricin-laced letters to the president, Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and an 80-year-old Lee County, Miss., Justice Court judge, Sadie Holland.
Before Curtis left jail, authorities had already descended on the home of 41-year-old Everett Dutschke in Tupelo, a northeast Mississippi town best known as the birthplace of the King himself. On Wednesday, they searched the site of a martial arts studio once operated by Dutschke, who hasn’t been arrested or charged.
Curtis, who performs as Elvis and other celebrities, describes a bizarre, yearslong feud with the former martial arts instructor, but Dutschke insists he had nothing to do with the letters. The letters contained language identical to that found on Curtis’ Facebook page and other websites, making him an early suspect.
Federal authorities have not said what led them to drop the charges against Curtis, and his lawyers say they’re not sure what new evidence the FBI has found.
On Wednesday, dozens of investigators were searching at a small retail space where neighboring business owners said Dutschke used to operate a martial arts studio. Officers at the scene wouldn’t comment on what they were doing.
Dutschke’s attorney, Lori Nail Basham, said Dutschke is “cooperating fully” with investigators.
“The authorities state to me that no warrant has been issued for his arrest,” she said Wednesday afternoon.
Dutschke was seen outside the studio watching the search on Wednesday.
Both men say they have met Wicker, and they each have a connection to Holland, who received one of the ricin letters.