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Ricin-letters suspect tried to 'elude' FBI, documents say

A former martial arts instructor charged with sending poisoned letters to President Barack Obama and other officials spotted government agents tailing him in the days before his arrest and then tried to dodge them — using tactics that included hiding under a blanket — according to FBI documents released in the case on Thursday.


James Everett Dutschke, 41, of Tupelo, Miss., was arrested at his home on April 27 and charged with mailing letters laced with the nerve agent ricin to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and county judge Sadie Holland.

 

James Everett Dutschke of Tupelo, Miss., has been arrested, accused of sending letters containing deadly ricin addressed to President Obama and a senator. He has feuded with Paul Kevin Curtis, who was charged with the crime and later released. NBC's Pete Williams reports.

The documents released Thursday include FBI applications for warrants in order to get Dutschke’s phone records so they to track his whereabouts — while Dutschke seemed determined to hide.

In the documents, FBI investigators detail Dutschke’s movements while they were trailing him in order to gather evidence.

According to the documents, on April 24, at about 3:30 a.m., Dutschke and his wife Janet left their home in a green van and drove to two different banks, where they appeared to take cash out of ATM machines.

After leaving the second bank, Dutschke and his wife returned to their home. As they left the green van, Dutschke waved at the surveillance team that had been watching him, the documents state.

Then, while investigators moved to get into another position, Dutschke took off in the green van and went missing for about 12 hours, according to the FBI documents.

It wasn’t until 3:15 p.m. that day that agents were again able to find Dutschke and his green van at his former business -- Tupelo Taekwondo Plus.


Dutschke left the martial arts studio at about 8 p.m. that night and got into an acquaintance’s truck and “crouched down in the rear seat of the truck and was covered by blankets,” the FBI said.

“The acquaintance and Dutschke appeared to attempt to elude law enforcement,” the documents state. The two traveled what was described as an “evasive route,” taking two hours to drive only 22 miles from Tupelo to Mantachie, Miss.

A friend of Dutschke's, Kirk Kitchens, told The Associated Press on April 25 that he helped Dutschke sneak away to Kitchens’ home, but he said it was to escape from the news media. Kitchens said he and Dutschke stayed at the home for a while before slipping out through the woods to rendezvous with someone else, who drove Dutschke to another location.

Dutschke, 41, was arrested three days later. He is being held without bond in the case pending action by a federal grand jury. He has denied involvement in the letters.

Dutschke could face the death penalty in the ricin-letters case. Earlier in April, he pleaded not guilty to two child molestation charges.

The FBI investigators say traces of ricin were found on a dust mask and other items seized from Dutschke’s former martial arts studio. FBI agents also said that Dutschke ordered 50 red castor beans — used to make ricin — on eBay last November and December.

Another man, Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis, was first held in connection with the crime, but charges were later dropped.

Curtis has said that Dutschke was attempting frame him. The two had feuded for years, Curtis said.

Related:

Mississippi man charged with attempted use of a biological weapon in ricin case