The story behind that weird ricin plot is even weirder than previously thought

Dylan Stableford
Yahoo News
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FILE - In this Friday, April 19, 2013 file photo, federal agents wearing hazardous material suits inspect a trash can outside the house of Paul Kevin Curtis in Corinth, Miss. Curtis is in custody under the suspicion of sending letters covered in ricin to U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. Event after nail-biting event, America was rocked this week, in rare and frightening ways, with what felt like an unremitting series of tragedies. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

The story was weird enough: In April, the FBI arrested Kevin Curtis, a 46-year-old Elvis impersonator from Tupelo, Mississippi, suspected of mailing ricin to President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and a Mississippi judge. Authorities later determined the suspect had been set up.

But according to GQ, the story is even weirder.

In an 8,500-plus word piece entitled "The Elvis Impersonator, the Karate Instructor, a Fridge Full of Severed Heads, and the Plot 2 Kill the President," GQ's Wells Tower tried to piece together the bizarre tale. Curtis, the impersonator, briefly became household name after he was cleared by federal authorities.

It seems Curtis was already notorious in Tupelo. In 1999, he claims he accidentally uncovered “black-market organ harvesting" while working as a janitor at North Mississippi Medical Center. (In a refrigerator, Curtis says, “the first thing I saw was an arm, wrapped in plastic with a bar code, and a leg wrapped in plastic — the whole bottom portion of the refrigerator was legs, arms, feet, hands, and eyes, and a brain.”) And after refusing to keep quiet about it, Curtis says he was harassed for years.

His reputation as a conspiracy theorist led authorities to suspect he was the one who mailed ricin to Obama, Wicker and the judge, and locals — including the mayor — to declare him guilty:

“I think he’s insane and out to harm people,” Jason Shelton, an acquaintance of Curtis’s who is now mayor of Tupelo, tells the press. Kevin’s brother, Jack, releases a statement referencing “Kevin’s lengthy history of mental illness” and pleading for the public’s understanding. “He may be better off in the custody of the federal government,” says Jim Waide, an attorney who once represented Kevin.

But the FBI later fingered Everett Dutschke, a Tupelo tae kwon do instructor who residents described to GQ as “a mystery man,” “a snappy dresser,” “a genius,” “an idiot,” “a crusader,” “a flirt,” “a wacko,” “smart,” “a psycho,” “a pervert,” “arrogant,” “kind of hot looking,” “hairy,” “a liar,” “nice,” “a troublemaker,” and “a douche.”

And, as some in Tupelo alleged, someone apparently hell-bent on framing Curtis in the ricin plot.

But why the bitter rivalry? According to Curtis, Dutschke was "jealous" of his musical talents. According to Dutschke, Curtis was jealous of his martial arts ability. According to GQ, Dutschke worked with Curtis' ex-wife, Laura, who told the magazine she considered having an affair with him but didn't because "he's short and hairy."

And then there's this:

According to Dutschke, Curtis created Facebook accounts consisting, eerily, of photos and videos taken from Dutschke’s and his wife’s pages, including footage of his stepdaughter bathing the family pet. “He even wrote his own caption for his video, ‘Bathtime for Pogo.’ Well, he didn’t know Pogo, and he doesn’t know the girls.” Curtis says it was the other way around, that Dutschke was the one stalking him. Through the use of tracking software, Curtis claims he knew Dutschke was surveilling his Myspace site, “clicking on my page seventy-five times a day.” As usual, nobody believed him. So in May 2010, Curtis devised a trap. He baited his Myspace page with a fake Mensa certificate made out in his own name.

Within hours of posting the certificate, Curtis says, Dutschke sent him this menacing e-mail:

I have put up with your lies silently for a long time... But This one I cannot abide...
I am an officer in Mensa,1 Kevin, of this I am certain you are aware... what you were NOT aware of, is that we keep very good records of who IS and who is NOT a MENSA member...
There is one person named Kevin Curtis from New York and one named Paul Curtis from Kentucky... I know you are not either of them...I am giving you ONE DAY to remove your fraudulent claims from your website.
By the way Kevin, you cannot be both genius and retarded at the same time...
Your claim of being a gigging musician is one thing. Claiming to be playing at a MontgomeryTheatre (when DL Hughley was there) and claiming to be on tour with Carrie Underwood are harmless lies that everyone simply laughs at you for...
But this claim is no laughing matter. This is a serious fraud...
One day is all you have, Kevin... just one Day...

Curtis did not remove the certificate. Dutschke followed up with an e-mail invitation to settle things man-fashion down at his dojo: “I will meet you next Tuesday at My school at 1PM & we can finish this once & for all.” Hand-to-hand showdowns, Dutschke explained later, are not uncommon among martial artists. “That’s just part of the code. This kind of thing happens all the time.”

Curtis claims he went to Dutschke’s school, and failing to find his rival there, “I posted on Myspace, ‘I drove up to Taekwondo Plus to have a meeting with Everett Dutschke and the coward had left the building.’”

According to Dutschke, it was Curtis who “never showed up.”

According to the FBI, though, authorities have mounting evidence in support of its charges against Dutschke:

Damning details include an interview with an unnamed witness who claimed to have heard Dutschke touting his poison-manufacturing know-how and his “secret knowledge” of a method for “getting rid of people in office.” There is also the report of an FBI surveillance team who claimed that they watched Dutschke cart from his dojo to a Dumpster down the street “the box for a Black and Decker Smart Grind coffee grinder," “a box containing latex gloves,” and a dust mask and drain-trap cullings that tested positive for ricin. There is also the document, recovered from Dutschke’s laptop, “Standard Operating Procedure for Ricin, which describes safe handling and storage methods for ricin.” There are also the eBay and PayPal records indicating that “Dutschke paid for fifty red castor bean seeds on or about November 17, 2012. He made a second purchase of fifty red castor bean seeds on or about December 1, 2012.” And there are the text messages, sent from Dutschke’s wife’s phone days before his arrest, with instructions to “get a fire going” because someone was “coming over to burn some things.”

If convicted, Dutschke faces a possible maximum penalty of life in prison.

“I’ve read the FBI affidavit a thousand times," Dutschke, who pleaded not guilty, told GQ, "and there’s nothing illegal in it.”