A Mississippi man arrested last week for allegedly sending ricin-tainted letters to President Obama was released today and the charges against him dismissed, as federal agents began searching the home of a new suspect this afternoon.
Paul Kevin Curtis was released this morning from federal custody and said today that he was "overwhelmed" by being arrested and charged with sending threatening letters to government officials. The charges were dismissed without prejudice, so that they could be reinstated if the investigation warranted it.
Curtis, 45, was arrested at his home in Corinth, Miss., a day after a letter laced with the poison was discovered addressed to Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. A second letter was intercepted before it reached President Obama and a third letter was mailed to Sadie Holland, a justice of the peace in Lee County, Miss.
Officials said that the signature on the letters matched that of Curtis' online postings and other letters he had mailed. He consistently signed them "I am KC and I approve this message," according to an FBI affidavit.
During a bond hearing on Monday, however, FBI investigators admitted that there was no physical evidence that Curtis had sent ricin, a poison made from ground castor beans, to the officials. Curtis's attorney, Christi McCoy, called for his release.
McCoy and Curtis, an Elvis impersonator and enteratiner, appeared today in Oxford, Miss., to praise federal officials for dropping the charges and investigating other suspects in the crimes.
"We're just thrilled, so happy with the government," McCoy said. "Sometimes law enforcement will get on one angle and stay on that angle no matter what, and we are so happy that was not the case here. They went where the evidence led, realized it was a dead end, and went where true evidence was."
"I mean, let's be honest," McCoy said at the conference, "his Facebook page and writings directly correlated with what was sent to our officials. I haven't seen anything that makes me think they acted recklessly."
"It feels amazing, it feels wonderful," Curtis said. "It was overwhelming to say the least. The last seven days, staring at these four great walls, and to not know what's really happening, not having a clue when I'm there. I was just in a state of being overhwelmed."
Meanwhile, federal agents searched the home of Everett Dutschke, a Tupelo, Miss., resident currently facing charges for child molestation. Curtis said that Dutschke has had a long-running conflict with him.
Curtis was released this morning after the third day of his bond hearing was abruptly cancelled as lawyers met with prosecutors privately in the courthouse.
Niether McCoy nor the U.S. Attorney's office handling the case have responded to requests for comment.
Investigators testified on Monday that they found no trace of the poison or the tools they think could have created it in Curtis's home or car, and no Internet searches for how to make the drug on his computer.
FBI agent Brandon Grant believed that the ricin was made by crudely chopping castor beans in a food processor or blender, neither of which were located in Curtis's home, according to ABC News affiliate WTVA-TV.
Curtis' attorney, Christi McCoy, said there was no physical evidence tying her client to the alleged crime.
"There continues to be more and more evidence, or lack of evidence, that's being fleshed out," McCoy said Monday, according to WTVA.