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Suspect in ricin case described as 'a little different'

By Vivian Kuo and Michael Pearson, CNN
updated 10:44 AM EDT, Tue April 30, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • James Everett Dutschke is accused of sending ricin-tainted letters to Obama and others
  • He has denied the allegations in federal court
  • Dutschke ran for political office and has had variety of jobs
  • He has been accused of molesting three girls under the age of 16

Tupelo, Mississippi (CNN) -- The nation knows James Everett Dutschke as the man accused of sending ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and two other officials.

But to people who live near him, he's the guy whose alleged abuse of young girls turned their neighborhood upside down, according to one neighbor. And to a former coworker, he's the "genius" with a few odd quirks.

Exactly who Dutschke is and why he might have taken the extreme step of sending toxic letters to Obama, a Mississippi senator and an official in Lee County, Mississippi, remained up in the air Monday as prosecutors began criminal proceedings against him for allegedly making the deadly toxin ricin and sending it through the mail.

However, through court documents and conversations with people who knew him, a clearer picture is starting to emerge.

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Dutschke appears to have a wide range of interests and has held a variety of jobs, most recently working as a martial arts instructor at a Tupelo, Mississippi, studio he ran.

He once worked at an insurance company owned by the brother of a man initially arrested -- and then cleared -- in the same case in which Dutschke is now charged.

According to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal newspaper, he is a musician.

Dutschke has registered several business ventures with state officials, all of which appear to be closed, according to a Mississippi Secretary of State database.

In 2007, he ran as a Republican for a state House seat against incumbent Democrat Rep. Steve Holland and lost 68% to 27%. Holland is the son of Lee County Judge Sadie Holland, who received one of the ricin-laced letters.

"We just want to move on," Holland told CNN, adding that he wanted justice for his mother.

"This could have been devastating. Mom could have died had this taken the worst-case scenario."

In 2008, Dutschke ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for election commissioner in Lee County, according to the Daily Journal newspaper.

Former suspect in ricin case: 'A train has been lifted off my shoulders'

Indecency allegations

According to a grand jury indictment handed up this month and obtained by CNN, Dutschke is accused of molesting three girls under the age of 16.

He has repeatedly denied the charges in interviews with local media and pleaded not guilty in court this month.

Dutschke closed his tae kwon do studio after the allegations were made public.

Last year, residents in his Tupelo neighborhood sought police help after, one neighbor says, Dutschke repeatedly exposed himself to young girls.

The case resulted in a conviction on indecent exposure charges and a 90-day jail sentence.

He has appealed the conviction, according to the Daily Journal newspaper.

"He was pretty well terrorizing the neighborhood," said neighbor Dennis Carlock, who said the Dutschke family rarely stepped outside their home.

For Carlock, the fact that Dutschke is accused of sending a potentially lethal poison to public officials is secondary to what happened in his neighborhood.

"I don't care how they got him, as long as they got him out of this neighborhood," he said.

Genius?

Carlock had almost exclusively bad things to say about Dutschke, with one exception: He said his neighbor is extremely smart.

Apparently, Dutschke thought so too.

He sometimes showed off a card from Mensa, a group for people with high intelligence quotients, according to Laura Curtis, who worked with Dutschke at the insurance company.

"A lot of the people in the office thought he was odd," she said, adding that she liked him.

"I knew he was a genius, and you know how geniuses act a little different," she said.

CNN's Vivian Kuo reported from Tupelo, Mississippi; Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Dana Ford, Rich Phillips and Alina Machado contributed to this report.

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