OPINION COLUMNS

Return to sender: The mysterious case of the poison letters

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, May 4, 2013

{{{*}}}As a general rule, it’s not necessary to explain why you’d want to send an Elvis Presley impersonator to jail.

But a Tupelo, Miss., man may have gone a little too far in an effort to silence his nemesis. Last Saturday, James Everette Dutschke was arrested for sending letters laced with the poison ricin to the White House, a U.S. senator and a county judge and trying to frame his “sworn enemy” – an Elvis impersonator named Paul Kevin Curtis.

Suspicious minds?

Both Dutschke and Curtis gave them plenty of fodder.

A search of Dutschke’s home garbage on April 22 revealed yellow paper similar to the ricin letters, address labels and a dust mask. Numerous printed documents found at his home bear the same “trashmarks” as the three ricin letters. He’s also known to have downloaded two publications about ricin and purchased castor bean seeds (the key ingredient) last winter.

Curtis, who for a reasonable fee will bring Elvis to your wedding reception, bar mitzvah or backyard barbecue, was doing the jailhouse rock until he was ordered released by a federal magistrate.

But for awhile, he was all shook up.

Now, with the arrest of Dutschke it looks like everything’s all right, Mama.

According to the Washington Post, Curtis is known for more than just a slick pompadour, soulful mimicry and pelvic gyrations.

In fact, he’s known to law enforcement types for his detailed Internet diatribes and a long-held conspiracy theory about underground trafficking in human body parts – the subject of his novel-in-progress, “Missing Pieces.”

He’s been arrested four times since 2000 on charges that include cyber-harrassment. So it’s understandable that investigators couldn’t help falling in love with the theory that Curtis did it. His initials matched those on the envelopes, and there’s even a rumor (which I made up myself) that blue suede shoeprints were found in the mud around a certain Mississippi mailbox.

And obviously, anyone who can memorize all those song lyrics could easily follow the recipe for ricin, whether he grew up in the ghetto or not.

Curtis may be weird, but compared to Dutschke he’s a teddy bear.

Dutschke, a 41-year-old martial arts instructor, had been arrested in January and charged with two counts of child molestation. He’s been previously convicted of indecent exposure, according to “numerous media accounts.”

And if that’s not sleazy enough, he even ran (unsuccessfully) for the Mississippi state legislature in 2007.

As investigators talked to Curtis, Dutschke emerged as a suspect. The two had exchanged terse emails, angry words – at one point they even had an appointment to fight it out, man-to-man, but neither showed up.

Poisoned letters and angry emails are probably more their style.

So one minute, Curtis was crying in the chapel, then suddenly, he was released, leaving those early theories charred and useless – like hunks o’ burnin’ love.

Investigators likely felt like they were nothing but hound dogs. But they should cheer up, and check out of that heartbreak hotel. They were just pursuing every lead. A fool such as I will not criticize them for doing their job.

Let’s don’t be cruel. Obviously, Dutschke was out to get Curtis. He does not love him tender, or any other way. But he is innocent until proven guilty, and he denies all charges.

“Where his anger and hate started from, I don’t know,” Curtis said of Dutschke. “That’s just the wonder of you, baby.”

OK, he really didn’t say that last part.

But I suspect he would.

Bob Buckel is executive editor of the Messenger.

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