Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Eric Rudolph: Serial Bomber

Eric Rudolph

Eric Rudolph
Eric Rudolph

Eric Robert Rudolph is a white male born on September 19, 1966 in Merritt Island, Florida. His family moved to the rural area of Nantahala, North Carolina, where he was raised. He knows the forest well, having spent much time camping and hiking there as a teenager. Acquaintances have described him as a "survivalist."

He is a rather handsome man with brown hair, blue eyes, pale skin and a medium build. He has worked as a carpenter and roofer and served 18 months in the armed forces.

The day after the bomb went off in Birmingham, Rudolph is believed to have returned to his rural home near Murphy, North Carolina. There he visited a video store and rented Kull the Conqueror. The movie has never been returned.

Authorities believe that Rudoph fled into the rugged hills of North Carolina two days after the bombing in Birmingham. There are a lot of places to hide in that mountainous terrain, which has hundreds of caves and abandoned mines.

Rudolph is known to be solitary so it is doubtful that a group assisted him in either the bombings themselves or his life on the lam. "He is charged alone," Crosby said. "Possibly he's had help in hiding but there's no evidence to indicate that. He's been quite a loner for a long time. He would walk right into the middle of a rainstorm or into the forest with just a backpack and a poncho."

Searchers in the Nantahala National Forest
Searchers in the Nantahala National
Forest

Searchers from dozens of agencies descended on the Nantahala region of North Carolina hill country. Teams searched with bloodhounds and from helicopters with heat-seeking equipment.

The FBI offered a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

Though unsuccessful, the search did help fuel the economy of the region. Government agents and reporters required housing, food, supplies and entertainment. Profits spiked for hotels and motels, restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and just about every other sort of business in the area.

Bumper stickers and T-shirts with Rudolph jokes and slogans began appearing throughout North Carolina. One restaurant put on its marquee: "Rudolph eats here."

Abandoned blue Toyota truck
Abandoned blue Toyota truck

On February 8, 1998, hunters walking in the woods close to Murphy came upon Rudolph's pickup truck.

The last reported sighting of Rudolph was on July 7, 1998. The suspect visited George Nordmann, a friend who owned a health food store. Nordmann's daughter had once dated Rudolph.

Rudolph told Nordmann, "I need some supplies because I'm heading for the hills." Rudolph stocked his pickup truck up with food and gave Nordmann $500 in $100 bills. "I'm going where no man or dog can reach me," Rudolph said before taking off. Nordmann waited a few days before notifying authorities of the incident.

Unfortunately, the wanted man took on a kind of folk hero aura to some people. One reason for this twisted admiration was that he was eluding a massive manhunt, seemingly thumbing his nose at the combined powers of state and federal governments. Others, including the most extreme opponents of legalized abortion and the most rabidly anti-gay, cheered Rudolph on because of his choice of targets.

Nantahala resident John Wagner told journalists, "A lot of people say he killed people who were killing babies." Wagner's wife, Joy, who writes for a local publication, the Andrews Journal, said, "I think those who support him are just a few." However, a flurry of leaflets appeared in Andrews denouncing the investigators as "jack-booted thugs."

Federal grand juries in both Atlanta and Birmingham indicted Rudolph on 23 counts on November 15, 2000. Regarding the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, the Atlanta grand jury indicted Rudolph for the malicious use of an explosive, use of a destructive device during a crime of violence, and interstate transportation of an explosive. He was also indicted for a phone call making a bomb threat just before the explosion. In the bombs planted at the Sandy Springs abortion clinic, Rudolph was indicted on two counts of malicious use of explosive, two counts of using a destructive device during a crime of violence and one count of interstate transportation of explosives. There were nine counts relating to the Otherside bombing, including two counts of malicious use of an explosive and two counts of using a destructive device in a crime of violence. He was also indicted on multiple counts of making bomb threats for the alleged "Army of God" letters.

The federal grand jury in Birmingham indicted him for using explosives in the attack on the New Woman All Women Health Care Clinic.

Murder charges were not handed down by these grand juries because that crime must be charged in state courts. These charges can still be pursued in state courts as district attorneys and political officials in both Alabama and Georgia have sworn to pursue the bomber to the fullest extent of the law.

The victims of these explosions have not been forgotten and they will not be.

Emily Lyons showed great courage in the aftermath of the attack that left her disabled and in pain. Her support for legal abortion was undiminished and she publicly vowed to make a good life for herself despite her afflictions. At a press conference, seated in a wheelchair and with her husband Jeff Lyons standing by her side, she spoke directly to the bomber. "If your goal was to shut the clinic down or to shut me down," she said in a confident voice, "it didn't work. It's not going to work: the clinics will stay open, the workers will continue to come, the patients will continue to come." She went on to say, "I want everyone to know that this person survives. I will not stay down."

After enduring many operations, the still-handicapped Lyons recovered sufficiently to become a spokesperson for reproductive freedom. She has traveled widely, testified before a congressional committee, and been honored by Pro-Choice organizations.

The band that had been performing when the bomb went off at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Jack Mack and the Heart Attack, released a record honoring its victims. That record bore the title Arrhythmia.

At Centennial Olympic Park, the Quilt of Remembrance Plaza memorializes the bombing victims with a stylized eternal flame and a mosaic of stone from around the world. There is one stone for each victim.

Searchers from dozens of agencies descended on the Nantahala region of North Carolina hill country. Teams searched with bloodhounds and from helicopters with heat-seeking equipment.

The FBI offered, and still offers, a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

Though unsuccessful, the search did help fuel the economy of the region. Government agents and reporters required housing, food, supplies and entertainment. Profits spiked for hotels and motels, restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and just about every other sort of business in the area.

Bumper stickers and T-shirts with Rudolph jokes and slogans began appearing throughout North Carolina. One restaurant put on its marquee: "Rudolph eats here."

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