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Ricin case against Everett Dutschke tightens

Ricin was found in the former martial arts studio of Everett Dutschke, charged with sending poison-laced letters to President Barack Obama and other public officials. Ricin was also found on a dust mask and other items he threw in the trash.

By Holbrook Mohr and Jay ReevesAssociated Press / April 30, 2013

Everett Dutschke stands in the street near his home in Tupelo, Miss., waiting for the FBI to arrive and search his home. Dutschke has been charged in the case of letters laced with deadly ricin being sent to President Barack Obama and other elected officials.

Thomas Wells / Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal / AP / File

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TUPELO, Miss.

Ricin was found in the former martial arts studio of the man suspected of sending poison letters to President Barack Obama and other public officials, and was also discovered on a dust mask and other items he threw in the trash, federal prosecutors said in a court document made public Tuesday.

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The affidavit says an FBI surveillance team saw James Everett Dutschke remove several items from the studio in Tupelo, Miss., on April 22 and dump them in a trash bin about 100 yards down the street. The items included a dust mask that later tested positive for ricin, the affidavit said.

Traces of ricin also were found in the studio, and Dutschke used the Internet to buy castor beans (from which ricin is derived), the affidavit said.

Annette Dobbs, who owns the small shopping center where the studio was located, said authorities padlocked the studio door during the search. She said Tuesday that FBI agents haven't told her anything, including whether the building poses a health threat. Inside the studio is one large room with a smaller reception area and a concrete floor. Police tape covered the front and the small back door.

Dutschke, 41, was arrested Saturday by FBI agents at his home in Tupelo, and is being held without bond pending a preliminary and detention hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Oxford.

The FBI searched his home, vehicles and studio last week, often while wearing hazardous materials suits. Attention turned to Dutschke after prosecutors dropped charges against an Elvis impersonator who says he had feuded with Dutschke in the past.

Dutschke told The Associated Press last week that he didn't send the letters. His lawyer, federal public defender George Lucas, had no comment Tuesday about the information in the affidavit.

Dutschke was arrested as part of the investigation into poison-tainted letters sent to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and Lee County, Miss., Judge Sadie Holland.

The affidavit said numerous documents found in Dutschke's home had "trashmarks" that were similar to ones on the letters sent to the officials.

"Trashmarks are flaws or marks that come from dirt, scratches, or other marks on the printer. They are transferred to each piece of paper that is run through the printer," it said.

It also describes text messages allegedly sent between two phones subscribed to Dutschke's wife, including one on April 20 that said "get a fire going" and "we're coming over to burn some things."

The FBI has not yet 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.

The most notable case of ricin poisoning was in 1978, when a Bulgarian dissident was lethally injected with it by an operative of that country's secret service.

Dutschke also bought 50 castor beans off eBay in November 2012 and 50 more in December 2012, the affidavit said.

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