TUPELO, Miss. The Mississippi man charged with sending poisoned letters to President Barack Obama and others was released from jail Tuesday without explanation, while FBI agents returned to another man's house where they'd previously searched in connection with the case.
Everett Dutschke said in a phone interview with The Associated Press that the FBI was at his home Tuesday for a search related to the mailing of the poisoned letters to Obama, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker and a Mississippi judge. Dutschke said his house was also searched last week.
Dutschke has maintained his innocence and says he doesn't know anything about the ingredients for ricin. He said agents asked him questions about suspect Paul Kevin Curtis but also asked him if he would take a lie detector test and whether he had ever bought castor beans, which can be used to make the potent poison.
"I'm a patriotic American. I don't have any grudges against anybody. I did not send the letters," Dutschke said.
Outside his house, numerous law enforcement officers from several agencies were seen along with a mobile crime lab.
Earlier Tuesday, Curtis was released from custody, though authorities didn't explain why. His attorney has said he's innocent and may have been framed.
Jeff Woodfin, chief deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service in Oxford, Miss., said Curtis was released from custody but that he doesn't know if there were any conditions on the release.
Defense lawyer Christi McCoy, who has been pushing for the charges to be dropped, said in a text message Tuesday that she could only confirm that her client has been released.
"I can tell you he is with his family," McCoy said.
McCoy has said that there is a news conference scheduled for 5 p.m. CDT to discuss the case.
Curtis was arrested last Wednesday at his house in Corinth, Miss., and charged with sending the ricin-laced letters, the first of which was found April 15.
Tuesday's hearing in federal court was canceled about 90 minutes after it was supposed to begin. Lawyers spent that time conferring with the judge. Later, Curtis and family members were escorted into a meeting room with his lawyers, followed by a probation officer.
A day earlier, FBI Agent Brandon Grant testified searches on Friday of Curtis' vehicle and house in Corinth, Miss., found no ricin, ingredients for the poison, or devices used to make it. A search of Curtis' computers found no evidence he researched making ricin. Authorities produced no other physical evidence tying Curtis to the letters at the hearings.
"There was no apparent ricin, castor beans or any material there that could be used for the manufacturing, like a blender or something," Grant testified. He speculated that Curtis could have thrown away the processor.
Through McCoy, Curtis has denied involvement in the letters.
"The searches are concluded, not one single shred of evidence was found to indicate Kevin could have done this," McCoy told reporters after the hearing Monday.
One of Curtis' friends from high school, Tammy Kelly, told CBS affiliate WJTV that she believes Curtis is not the man who sent the poisonous letters.
"That guy and this guy has got to be two different people," she said. "It's not the same person."
Meanwhile U.S. officials say a package containing what authorities said could be ricin was found this morning at a military mail sorting facility at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Tuesday there was an incident at the Bolling base that involved the "same substance" as recent letters sent to Mr. Obama and Sen. Wicker.
A U.S. official says the package was found at a Defense Intelligence Agency headquarters mail-sorting facility on the base. The official says initial tests indicated possible ricin. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the incident so requested anonymity.
The DIA says tests indicated possible biological toxins. DIA says the agency has maintained normal operations.