TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — A second Mississippi man investigated in connection to ricin-laced letters sent to the president and a U.S. senator said Wednesday that investigators "ripped" through his house during an hours-long search the previous day after charges were dropped against another man in the case.
No investigators appeared to be at the Tupelo home Wednesday morning, and Everett Dutschke said he'd gone to a friend's house to rest. Piles of items could be seen all over the floor through the window. The home was searched Tuesday by dozens of officials, some in hazmat suits, from early in the afternoon until about 11 p.m. CDT. Officials declined to comment on what they had found or on the next phase of the investigation.
At one point, two FBI agents and two members of the state's chemical response team left Dutschke's property and began combing through ditches, culverts and woods about a block away from his house in the neighborhood of single-family detached homes.
Dutschke (DUHST'-kee), who spoke with The Associated Press by telephone during the search, said his house was also searched last week. He said he and his wife had gone to a friend's Wednesday because they didn't feel safe at their home.
"They ripped everything out of the house," he said Wednesday morning, adding: "I haven't slept at all."
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 in hazardous materials suits were seen going in and out of the building. No officers at the scene would comment on what they were doing.
No charges have been filed against Dutschke and he hasn't been arrested. Both he and Paul Kevin Curtis, who had faced charges in the case, say they have no idea how to make the poisonous ricin and had nothing to do with sending the letters to President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Mississippi county judge Sadie Holland.
Curtis, a 45-year-old celebrity impersonator, has maintained his innocence since his arrest.
Referring to investigators' questions, Curtis said after he was released from custody Tuesday afternoon, "I thought they said rice and I said, 'I don't even eat rice.' ... I respect President Obama. I love my country and would never do anything to pose a threat to him or any other U.S. official."
A one-sentence document filed by federal prosecutors said charges against Curtis were dropped, but left open the possibility they could be reinstated if authorities found more to prove their case. Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment, but the document said the ongoing investigation had revealed new information. It did not elaborate.
Dutschke and Judge Holland know each other: In 2007, he lost his Republican bid for a seat in the Mississippi House of Representatives to Holland's son, Democratic state Rep. Steve Holland, who was the incumbent.
Steve Holland previously said that during a political rally in the small town of Verona in 2007, Dutschke gave a speech disparaging the Holland family, including him, his mother and his wife.
Holland said his mother, who spoke just after Dutschke at the rally, called him back on the stage and said, "You're not going to disparage me. Now, you apologize to me."
Holland said Dutschke returned to the stage and at Judge Holland's instruction, got down on his knees and apologized, but Dutschke disputed that Tuesday.
"That's just Steve Holland being Steve Holland," he said, adding that he did not get down on his knees and apologize for anything. "He's a bit grandiose about the way he describes things."
Since Curtis' arrest at his Corinth, Miss., home on April 17, his attorneys have said their client didn't do it and suggested he was framed. An FBI agent testified in court this week that no evidence of ricin was found in searches of Curtis' home.
The dismissal is the latest twist in a case that has been strange from the beginning and rattled the country during the same week as the Boston Marathon bombing and a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.
Dutschke and Curtis are no strangers to each other. Dutschke said the two had a disagreement and the last contact they had was in 2010. Dutschke said he threatened to sue Curtis for saying he was a member of Mensa, a group for people with high IQs.