May 31st, 2003, 10:04am
Victim: 'That's the ultimate goal, to see him in court'
From Henry Schuster
Saturday, May 31, 2003 Posted: 9:58 AM EDT (1358 GMT)
(CNN) -- Eric Robert Rudolph -- the man charged with the 1996 Olympics bombing, as well as the bombings of a gay nightclub and two women's clinics that performed abortions – has been captured alive, an FBI source told CNN. Two people were killed and many were injured in the attacks.
A sheriff's deputy in Murphy, North Carolina, arrested a man believed to be Rudolph late Friday night without a struggle after he was found behind a business, Cherokee County Sheriff Keith Lovin told CNN.
The man appeared to be homeless, Lovin said.
Authorities have not officially announced a match on fingerprints, but a source within the FBI said it was him.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Erik Blowers in Charlotte told CNN that a news conference would be held between 1 and 1:30 p.m. EDT in Cherokee County.
Rudolph, now 36, has eluded law officers for years, despite a massive search in the North Carolina mountains that involved hundreds of law enforcement officers and reportedly cost millions of dollars.
He was last seen in July 1998, when he tried to buy food and other supplies from health food store owner George Nordmann. Nordmann told authorities that he decided not to help Rudolph. Two days later, Nordmann said he came home and found that 75 pounds of food and his truck were missing. Five $100 bills were on his table.
Rudolph was first listed on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted List" in 1998 when his pick-up truck was found abandoned near the scene of the January 29 bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama, women's clinic that performed abortions.
The blast killed off-duty Birmingham police officer Robert Sanderson, who was working as a security guard at the clinic, and seriously injured nurse Emily Lyons, who was on her way in to work. (Timeline: Events in Rudolph's life)
Lyons told CNN Saturday that she always believed that Rudolph was still alive and hiding in North Carolina, and that she was hopeful that "this was the real thing, this time."
She said she hoped to see Rudolph in court and find out what motivated him.
"That's the ultimate goal, to see him in court, possibly to talk to him and to see the final justice done," Lyons said.
Rudolph also was wanted in connection with the July 1996 bombing at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta in which an Albany, Georgia, woman was killed and more than 100 people were hurt. (1997 Special Report: The Olympic Park bombing)
He was also being sought for the double bombing outside a suburban Atlanta women's clinic in January 1997 and another at an Atlanta gay nightclub in February 1997. There were several injuries in the incidents, but no one was killed.
Federal investigators have long believed Rudolph was hiding in the Nantahala National Forest of western North Carolina, where he had spent his teenage and young adult years.
The Southeast Bomb Task Force -- formed to investigate the bombings -- kept a presence in the area, at times with as many as 200 federal agents combing a 500,000 acre mountainous and heavily-wooded area.
May 31st, 2003, 10:06am
Coming across the news for the last hour. Olympic Park bomber and Clinic bomber Eric Robert Rudolph has been caught in Murphy, N.C. This is Great as I was down in Atlanta when the Olympic bomb went off. I just wonder how this guy survived for 6 or 7 years.
May 31st, 2003, 10:19am
I just think it's too bad he DID survive.
May 31st, 2003, 10:30am
I am glad caught him FINALLY. That guy is seriously screwed. Hope they put him to death. ( I would wish worse on him but tortue isnt "supposed" to be legal in the US - what a shame...situations like this makes you wish it were...)
May 31st, 2003, 10:45am
just wanted to ask how many people were aware that the fbi had other suspects in all the bombings except for the abortion clinic? they had these three guys who commited the same crimes in another state that were seen at the olympics had phone records that proved them there had a witness that had sold them the same type of stuff clothing backpack etc that were used they were like part of one of those stupid white supremecy groups yes he should be punished but only for the crimes he commited im in total agreement with that i just wndered how many people were aware of those other guys and the evidence that pointed at them ? so please dont anyone get mad at this post im not excusing eric or agreeing with him i just wanted to ask a question thanks heres a link that gives a little info.
May 31st, 2003, 2:53pm
What great news to wake up to--I thought this guy was a lost cause! :cheer: :cheer: :cheer: for the fine law enforcement officials (local, state and federal) who never gave up and finally got their man!
May 31st, 2003, 3:00pm
EXCELLENT NEWS. That guy is a serial killer.
May 31st, 2003, 3:13pm
I'm surprised the press didn't report that Richard Jewel had finally been caught.
May 31st, 2003, 7:18pm
Pretty cool that he was caught (I'm sure some people are going to sleep more soundly tonight) - and by a rook p.o with a year on the job, how awesome is that...
May 31st, 2003, 7:20pm
What happened to Richard Jewel was awful, this guy had his life turned upside down for something he didnt do.......as for Eric Rudolph , I am from NC about 50 miles from where he was caught and I can tell you with the military survival experience he had, the terrain of the mountainous area there only aided him in hiding..it does not look good the FBI spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to find him for 5 years and a local deputy ends up "accidentally" arresting him.....never the less I am glad he was caught
May 31st, 2003, 7:31pm
This is kind of my general neighborhood (or the center thereof). When I heard that the prints matched, I told my DH that maybe there is hope yet that they will catch Osama and Saddam.
May 31st, 2003, 7:44pm
It took 5 years to find this guy. They knew about where he was and what he was doing, and it still took that long.
Yup! They will soon find Osama and Sadaam.
May 31st, 2003, 11:03pm
Boy, was I happy to hear that this guy was caught! It just made me smile when I heard the news.
I wonder how the nurse (Emily Lyons) is doing. I think she was blinded in one eye and the other eye was damaged. That happened at the clinic where Rudolph murdered the off-duty policeman. What a real shame that was!!
June 1st, 2003, 12:29am
thanks for the info its always great to see a real dirtbag off the stret now hopefully the courts will do there job as quickly as possible and put him down
June 1st, 2003, 12:33am
just saw his mug shot and man he looks a lot different. he was a very handsome man before and now he looks very hard.
June 2nd, 2003, 11:29pm
the June 02, 2003 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0602/p01s02-usju.html
FBI usually does get its man, even if tardily
Saturday's capture of Eric Rudolph offers a lens on the tools - and twists - of manhunts.
By Abraham McLaughlin and Patrik Jonsson
RALEIGH, N.C. - Just about all of them get caught ... eventually. That may be a central lesson in Saturday's capture of FBI fugitive Eric Rudolph, suspected of masterminding four bombings - including the 1996 Centennial Park bombing in Atlanta - that killed two and injured more than 100.
Sometimes it's a mug shot or an appearance on "America's Most Wanted" that does the job. Sometimes it's a suspect's slip-up - as when David Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam" killer, was caught after getting a parking ticket in New York City in 1977. And sometimes, as happened with Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, it's a family member or acquaintance who proffers the crucial clue.
One way or another, though, authorities tend to nab their culprits. In this case, it wasn't the vaunted FBI but a bit of serendip-ity and a rookie deputy who used to be a Wal-Mart security guard. And it wasn't just Rudolph's wiles that kept him out of reach, but a mountain culture that may have helped him disappear - taunting authorities with bumper stickers praising him as an "escape artist" and urging, "Run, Rudolph, Run."
Of the 100 people on the FBI's most-wanted list over the past decade, only a handful have eluded capture. And if history holds up, many other high-profile fugitives may eventually be captured - from James "Whitey" Bulger to Osama bin Laden.
This time, after five years of searches with howling bloodhounds and high-tech tools, the survivalist credited with Houdini-like escape skills was found in a dark alley behind a Save-A-Lot grocery store in the small mountain town of Murphy, N.C.
At 3:27 a.m. on Saturday, Officer Jeffrey Scott Postell spotted a man squatting in the alley. The man scrambled into a bin of milk cartons, where Mr. Postell, gun drawn, apprehended him. Rudolph reportedly did not put up a fight, accepting his arrest with almost a sense of relief.
"Usually people get tripped up not because of great investigative work but because they do something stupid," says Tod Burke, a former forensics investigator who's now a professor at Radford University in Radford, Va.
Indeed, suggests Eric Sterling, head of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation in Silver Spring, Md., the "cult of law-enforcement cheerleading" that often surrounds the FBI is sometimes unwarranted.
The Army veteran had apparently lost weight, but had clean-cut hair and light stubble. He looked much like the FBI most-wanted pictures. Officer Sean Matthews, who first recognized Rudolph, says he was familiar with those images, which were "plastered all over the place."
It takes a village ...
To be sure, many high-profile fugitives are still on the lam, including alleged police killer Charles Eugene Webb, who's eluded capture for nearly 25 years. And those who evade capture often do so by relying on the sympathies of a surrounding community. Observers say that Mr. bin Laden, for instance, may have allies among Pakistani and Afghani tribal leaders who are sheltering him in a lawless border region. Former Bosnian leaders - and war-crime suspects - Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic also have many sympathizers in Serbian enclaves near Sarajevo.
Sometimes, of course, those support networks disintegrate. For years, "Carlos the Jackal" relied on sympathy from Eastern European governments, as well as regimes in Syria and Sudan. But the end of the cold war and changing Arab politics ended that support, and he was captured in 1994. Likewise, when Yugslavia's political mood shifted in 2000, former president Slobodan Milosevic was shipped to the Hague to stand trial for war crimes.
One reason Mr. Rudolph may have been able to hide out so long is the strong antigovernment sentiment in the rugged moonshine country of North Carolina's Smoky Mountains. It was that antipathy toward the feds that long ago led Scots-Irish settlers to form remote villages and fight every effort to tax them. While most residents don't share Rudolph's embrace of violent means, many sympathize with his hard-line Christian views and hatred of gays and abortion.
As Rudolph continued to elude the police, he become a folk hero for many locals, and the fact that he was clean-cut at the time of his arrest may indicate he'd received some aid. The FBI has not ruled out bringing charges against anyone who sheltered him.
Murphy is a town of 1,568 people, rimmed by the gentle slopes of the Smoky Mountains. Rudolph may have been living nearby for years. Police believe they've located his campsite on the east side of Will Scott Mountain near Cherokee High School - just a quarter of a mile from the home of former Cherokee County Sheriff Jack Thompson, who told the Asheville Citizen-Times with a laugh: "He's probably been eating out of my garden."
A footpath used by high school students leads from the school to Valley River, 200 yards from the Valley Village shopping center where Rudolph was apprehended.
"Mountain folk take care of mountain folk," says Jack Allen Powell, a former IRS "revenuer" who spent his career putting axes through moonshine stills all through Appalachia. "Old folk still hanging around, moonshiners, farmers, and people like that, may have some feeling for him, and there's a real possibility that they did aid and assist him."
A life of cultivated isolation
When Rudolph was 13, his father died - a loss that, some say, left the boy angry. Soon after, his mother introduced him to the Christian Identity movement, a radical faith that sat well with an avowed loner seeking not only to remove himself from American society, but to wage war against it. Rudolph isolated himself at an early age, enlisting in the Army apparently only to bolster his survival and weaponry skills.
Experts say he had trouble maintaining relationships with women, farmed trout in a pond, and grew marijuana, which he smoked regularly. In high school, Rudolph wrote an essay denying the Holocaust. He grew increasingly distant from the Murphy community after being forced to sell the family home in 1996.
"This was something he enjoyed, that he could hit the beast with his remote-control bomb and evade the best American law enforcement had to offer," says Brian Levin, executive director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. "His targets and tactics were all part of this belief system, and not only made him the terrorist that he was, but made him an extremely effective fugitive."
The lush crags of Cherokee County were familiar to him: They're where he grew up, fished, and learned to survive without the umbilical cord of society. He didn't use phones or credit cards, and stayed away from surveillance cameras. After escaping into the hills, he simply outwaited, outmaneuvered, and outfoxed his would-be captors.
Even when the FBI pulled most of its agents off the search, freelancers, armed with handcuffs and shotguns, kept looking, in hopes of getting the $1 million reward. Bounty hunters as far away as Duck, N.C., on the Outer Banks, scoured beaches for him.
Rudolph's arrest came five years after police found nails in a storage locker that matched those used in the bombing of an Alabama abortion clinic in January of 1998.
Tuna and hope for tips
Over 200 federal agents searched the Nantahala Forest near the Tennessee border for months. Soon after the manhunt began, a natural-foods store owner said Rudolph had grabbed six months of supplies - and left five $100 bills behind. All authorities found were discarded oatmeal tins and cans of tuna.
After months of frustration, at least one federal agent said publicly that he thought Rudolph had died. Others believed he'd finagled his way to Mexico or West Virginia. Still, many never gave up hope of his capture, suspecting a local police officer might eventually crack the case.
"This sends a clear message that we will never cease in our efforts to hunt down all terrorists, foreign or domestic, and stop them from harming the innocent," said Attorney General John Ashcroft in a statement confirming Rudolph's capture.