The FBI temporarily lost track Thursday of a former martial arts instructor whose Mississippi home and business were searched this week as part of an investigation of ricin-laced letters sent this month to President Obama and other elected officials.
The FBI and local police looked for James Everett Dutschke, 41, for at least five hours, obtaining a search warrant for a former client’s family vacation home in Marietta, Miss., where they thought he was hiding, according to his attorney.
“The FBI was there,” said Melvin Kitchens, whose small home was the suspected hiding place. Sheriff’s deputies “handled the search. They looked under the bed and in the closets and in the storage house. They said they were looking for Dutschke.”
Dutschke’s attorney, Lori Nail Basham, confirmed that FBI agents were looking for her client for much of the day and that they said they were “satisfied” when she told the agency where he was staying Thursday afternoon. She would not disclose his location and said he left his home in Tupelo because of the heavy media presence and because after the FBI search, “it was in disarray.”
Dutschke has denied any involvement with the mailing of the ricin letters.
FBI officials declined to comment Thursday.
Kitchens said he thinks Dutschke had been to his home this week. Dutschke knows Kitchen’s 13-year-old grandson, who earned his black belt while studying at his studio, Tupelo Taekwondo Plus. The studio closed in January when Dutschke was under a child-molestation investigation. A grand jury indicted him this month. The alleged victim is a 7-year-old girl from his studio, Basham said.
Dutschke has denied any sexual contact with the girl.
The FBI, local police and hazardous materials crews spent more than 10 hours at the site of the former studio Wednesday. Several people at the scene were wearing respirators, and a portable laboratory was set up nearby.
Basham said no warrant has been issued for her client’s arrest in the ricin case.
Attention shifted to Dutschke on Tuesday after the U.S. attorney’s office dropped charges against Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, who was arrested April 17. Curtis, who is known locally as an Elvis impersonator, told the FBI that he thought Dutschke may have sent the letters and may have attempted to frame him.
Alice Crites and Julie Tate contributed to this report.
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