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Ricin letters: What's the evidence against new suspect, per the FBI affidavit?

James Everett Dutschke, accused of mailing three letters containing ricin, was arrested Saturday at his home. He is being held without bond until a preliminary hearing Thursday.

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Staff writer

Allison Terry works on the web team at the Christian Science Monitor, coordinating online infographics. She contributes to the culture section and Global News blog, and previously reported and edited for the national news and cover page desks.

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Investigators turned their focus to Dutschke after the former primary suspect, Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis, said he was being framed. Mr. Curtis gave Dutschke’s name because the two men had feuded over the years. Officials released Curtis on April 23 after the FBI failed to find any traces of ricin in his home or vehicle.

“I am very disappointed in decisions made to pursue charges against [Curtis] ... in light of the facts we now know,” Christi McCoy, Curtis’s attorney, said Tuesday afternoon, The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported.

According to the affidavit, someone used Dutschke’s laptop to download a report on safe handling and storage of ricin soon after the castor beans were delivered to his home address. Dutschke allegedly attempted to clear the computer of the research by reinstalling the operating system on April 22, but state police had already searched his computer after he was arrested in January on separate charges, Agence France-Presse reported.

During its investigation, the FBI found traces of ricin on a dust mask, latex gloves, and a coffee grinder, which can be used to grind the castor beans and produce ricin – all items that the suspect removed from his martial arts studio. The FBI also found documents in Dutschke’s home that had printer markings similar to those found on the ricin-laced letters.

Dutschke told reporters last week that he didn't send the letters, and his lawyer, federal public defender George Lucas, had no comment Tuesday about the evidence in the affidavit.

Law enforcement officials have yet to report how lethal the ricin in the letters was, but a Senate official told The Associated Press that it was not “weaponized,” which means its form could not easily enter the body. There is no known antidote for ricin poisoning, which can be inhaled, ingested, or injected, depending on the form.

• Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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