SALTILLO, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi man whose home was searched in the investigation of poisoned letters sent to the president and others has apparently gone into hiding, but his attorney said he is cooperating and the FBI knows how to get in touch with him.
Everett Dutschke had his home and former business in Tupelo searched in connection with the letters, which allegedly contained ricin. They were sent last week to President Barack Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and earlier to an 80-year-old Mississippi judge named Sadie Holland.
Charges were initially filed against a celebrity impersonator but then dropped. Attention then turned to Dutschke, who has ties to the former suspect and the judge and senator.
On Thursday, investigators looked through a different home about 20 miles away and a plane circled above for much of the day.
A friend of Dutschke's told The Associated Press that both he and Dutschke stayed at the home for a while Wednesday before slipping out through the woods to rendezvous with someone who drove Dutschke elsewhere. He said Dutschke was just trying to escape the news media.
"I just helped him get out of the spotlight," Kirk Kitchens said Thursday at his home in nearby Saltillo.
Dutschke has not been arrested or charged in the letters case. The FBI has said nothing about the building searches or Thursday's developments.
Dutschke's lawyer, Lori Nail Basham, said there is no arrest warrant for her client, who continues to cooperate with investigators.
Earlier Thursday, Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson said agents told him Dutschke had been under surveillance, but authorities weren't sure where he had gone. He said they were satisfied he was not at the Ozark property.
Dutschke did not answer a call to his cellphone Thursday from the AP. He had previously kept in touch with AP reporters.
It was yet another strange turn in the case that began when charges were filed against 45-year-old entertainer Paul Kevin Curtis, whose lawyers now say he was set up for the crime.
Charges against Curtis were dropped Tuesday after authorities said they developed new information. His attorney, Christi McCoy, has said she does not know what new information led the FBI to abandon the charges but that the agency acted in good faith and worked from the information it had at the time.
The focus then turned to Dutschke. He said he was cooperating.
"I don't know how much more of this I can take," Dutschke said Tuesday as investigators combed through his house. His business was searched the next day.
Curtis attorney Hal Neilson said the defense gave authorities a list of people who may have had a reason to hurt Curtis, and Dutschke's name came up. He said prosecutors "took it and ran with it."
Dutschke and Curtis were acquainted. Curtis said they had talked about possibly publishing a book on an alleged conspiracy to sell body parts on a black market. But he claimed they later had a feud.
Judge Holland is a common link between two men who have been investigated and both know Wicker.
Holland was presiding judge in a case in which Curtis was accused of assaulting a Tupelo attorney in 2004. Holland sentenced him to six months in the county jail. He served only part of the sentence, according to his brother.
Holland's family has had political skirmishes with Dutschke in the past.
Steve Holland, a state representative, said he believes his mother's only other encounter with Dutschke was at a rally in the town of Verona in 2007, when Dutschke ran as a Republican against Steve Holland.
Holland said his mother confronted Dutschke after he made a derogatory speech about the Holland family. She demanded that he apologize, which he did.
Steve Holland said he doesn't know if his mother remembers Curtis' assault case.
Associated Press writers Emily Wagster Pettus and Jeff Amy in Jackson, Miss., contributed to this report.