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Ricin linked to suspect in Obama letters case

The Washington Post

Federal investigators found ricin on a dust mask discarded by the man suspected of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and other public officials, according to an FBI affidavit released by a federal court judge on Tuesday.

James Everett Dutschke, 41, of Tupelo, Mississippi, was under FBI surveillance on April 22 when he returned to the taekwondo studio he once ran and removed several items, placed them in his van and then discarded them in a public garbage receptacle about 100 meters away, the affidavit said. The items included a coffee grinder, a box of latex gloves and a dust mask. The mask later tested positive for ricin, the affidavit said.

“Based on my training and experience, I know that a coffee bean grinder could be utilized in the process of extracting ricin from castor beans,” Special Agent Stephen Thomason wrote in the affidavit. “Furthermore, latex gloves and a dust mask could be utilized as personal protective equipment while the castor beans are being crushed to protect the producer from an accidental exposure.”

More traces of ricin were found in a subsequent search of Dutschke’s former martial arts studio, including on several swabs taken by investigators and in liquid in a drain, the affidavit said.

Dutschke was arrested Saturday at his home and is being held without bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday in federal court.

On the same day that he was seen dumping the equipment near his former studio, FBI officials also found a dust mask, yellow paper and address labels similar to those used in the ricin-laced letters in garbage collected at Dutschke’s home in Tupelo.

The next day, agents obtained records that showed Dutschke had ordered 50 red castor bean seeds on eBay and paid for them using PayPal on Nov. 17, 2012. He made a second purchase of 50 red castor bean seeds “on or about” Dec. 1, 2012, the affidavit said.

U.S. Postal Service records confirmed that the second order was delivered to Dutschke’s home four days later, the affidavit said.