Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Eric Rudolph: Serial Bomber

At Long Last!

By Rachael Bell

N.C. map with Murphy locator
N.C. map with Murphy locator

For more than 5 ½ years Eric Robert Rudolph remained on the FBI's Most Wanted list In all he allegedly killed two people and wounded scores of others. Amazingly he eluded the authorities, even though most agreed that he was likely hiding in a 550,000-acre area within North Carolina 's Nantahala National Forest in Cherokee County. Finally, on May 31, 2003 the long search for one of the nation's most notorious domestic terrorists was at last brought to an end when a young rookie police officer made a surprising find behind a grocery store.

Save-A-Lot storefront
Save-A-Lot storefront

That Saturday morning at around 3:30 a.m., Officer Jeffrey Scott Postell, 21, who had worked the beat for less than a year spotted a suspicious man behind Save-A-Lot grocery store in the small mountain town of Murphy, North Carolina, Melissa Manware reported in The Charlotte Observer. Postell initially thought the man was a burglar and brandished his gun as the suspicious character ducked behind several milk crates stacked on top of one another in the delivery dock. The young officer ordered the man to come out and lay on the ground. Luckily the stranger, armed with only a flashlight and a backpack, complied.

When asked, the man was unable to provide the officer with identification and it was assumed he was a homeless person scourging for food. He claimed that his name was Jerry Wilson and he gave a fake date of birth, Dahleen Glanton said in a Chicago Tribune article. Yet, when the man was taken to police head quarters, a sheriff's deputy recognized him from the FBI's Most Wanted poster as none other than fugitive Eric Robert Rudolph.

Officer Jeff Postell
Officer Jeff Postell

His capture was any rookie cop's dream-come-true. Manware quoted Postell at a police conference as saying, "It was just in a day's work. I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time." It was a modest remark from an extraordinary officer.

Rudolph was temporarily held in a local jail until he was airlifted to Asheville, North Carolina for arraignment and later to Alabama to face pre-trial hearings. Tim Whitmire reported in a June AP Online article that he faced, "six federal counts of using an explosive against a facility in interstate commerce," which included all of the bomb attacks committed between 1996 and 1998. If convicted, Rudolph could face the death penalty.

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