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Eric Rudolph: The Investigation

Aired June 7, 2003 - 12:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A week after the capture of Eric Rudolph, court documents are unsealed reportedly revealing evidence of the alleged involvement in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. Last Saturday, Rudolph was arrested in the small North Carolina town of Murphy where a manhunt had underway for five years. Atlanta federal court documents unsealed yesterday indicate Rudolph's handwriting is similar to that in threatening notes sent to news organizations after the Olympic Park blast. The documents also reportedly say fibers found in the vehicle matched those of bomb materials. In the next hour ahead, we'll look beyond his capture in this special report ERIC RUDOLPH, THE INVESTIGATION.
There are still a lot of unanswered questions. How did he survive in the thick forest for so long? Did he get help? We'll focus on the theories, the evidence, and the suspect. First, correspondent Bruce Burkhardt bring us up to date.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This morning at 4:30 in the morning, an alert Murphy police officer noticed something unusual going on behind Valley...

JEFFREY SCOTT POSTELL, MURPHY POLICE OFFICER: I came around the corner and turned my headlights off, that how I usually proceed around a building, observed a male subject squatted down...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Rudolph initially provided a fake name, fake date of birth, and advised that he was a homeless person from Ohio. He was taken into the Cherokee County Sheriff's office where he subsequently admitted his identity.

BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Five years, five months in hiding, Eric Robert Rudolph was finally found.

KEITH LOVIN, CHEROKEE COUNTY SHERIFF: He was relieved. It was what he indicated early on.

BURKHARDT: Relief. The same sentiment might have been felt by all those law enforcement agencies who spent years and millions of dollars in what seemed to be a futile game of hide and seek.

ROBERT CONRAD, JR., U.S. ATTORNEY: We probably have approximately 50 agents out there at this point. By trying to piece the last five years together to find out where Mr. Rudolph may have been hiding, may have been staying, who may have been assisting him. BURKHARDT: Those answers will assist U.S. prosecutors as they carefully piece together all of the details for the case against Eric Robert Rudolph.

CHRIS SWECKER, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: He's charged in connection with the bombings,...


SWECKER: ...of the Centennial Park.


SWECKER: The Sandy Ridge Professional Center office building, and the double bombings of the Otherside Lounge in Midtown, Atlanta.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Facing indictments in both Alabama and Georgia, Rudolph was taken from the cell in Murphy, North Carolina, to a federal court in Asheville. There, it was decided the fate lay first in the hands of the Birmingham courts.

BOB CONRAD, U.S. ATTORNEY: His guilt must be established by the United States and the burden on the United States to establish guilt. Mr. Rudolph, like any other criminal defendant, has the presumption of innocence.


WHITFIELD: Now, just how did Rudolph spend the last five years? CNN's Art Harris takes us into the mountains of Western North Carolina.


ART HARRIS, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A hideout with a view. From here, Eric Rudolph could watch the people who were looking for him. The FBI headquartered in one of those white buildings. This is temporary shelter, one of many, investigators believe, Rudolph used along a mountain ridge stretching from Murphy to Andrews North Carolina. It sits between two other camps investigators discovered after Rudolph was arrested. This one is Rudolph's last known hideout. Mats and wood he used for shelter, vegetables now rotting, a campfire ready to light. From the look of things here, it appears Rudolph planned to stay a while.

CHARLES STONE, FMR. RUDOLPH INVESTIGATOR: He doesn't have to worry about being seen, you've got the thick forest on one side row, he drives down underneath the bridge -- doesn't have to worry about being seen by the cars, crosses the river here, and ends up behind a grocery store foraging for food stuffs.

HARRIS: As investigators backtrack from the camp to others, a pattern emerges -- how Rudolph says he lived in the wild, alluding authorities for five years, apparently using the ridge to get around. Call it Eric's highway. STONE: Well, the trail that runs along the top of the ridge into Fire Creek parallels this road. I think he traveled using the ridge top trails as a way to get from point A to point B and then the side trails to come down to forage for supplies.

HARRIS: The last Rudolph sighting was at this campground where he abandoned a truck loaded with stolen supplies. He may have come back here any time he needed water.

STONE: I think drink he'd drink it out of a fountain like a camper I think he was skilled enough to know that you have to have a source water and that there plenty of sources of water in this area that's safe to drink from.

HARRIS: There are campgrounds like this along the ridge line that you believe he traveled?

STONE: Oh yeah. There's campgrounds off and on -- off the route in Nantahala National Forest, picnic areas, things of that.

HARRIS: Not to mention cabins with tempting vegetable gardens and other possible detours off Eric's highway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have heard of occasional break-ins around in this area before.

HARRIS: Getting up to Rudolph's ridge is a tough climb, as we found out. Even with a four-wheel drive on abandoned logging roads. Tracker David Allen showed us, like he once showed investigators; how Rudolph likely made it on foot following animal trails like these left by wild boar. In an exclusive tour for CNN, Allen led the way to Rudolph's possible shelter on the ridge.

DAVE ALLEN, TRACKER: As you can see from the inside, it's very small, but it's large enough to serve as a storm cellular or an overnight temporary place that could accommodate one individual. It was designed and built as a storm cellular and a food pantry for employees on the fire track. Of course, from the front of the building here, front of the structure, you can see downtown Andrews.

HARRIS: Some task force investigators in Andrews told us they always felt Rudolph somewhere up on the ridge watching them.

ALLEN: Here's Rudolph's name on the tree. Not sure that he does it, possibly he could have marked his areas that he utilized.

HARRIS: Out of pride that he had escaped everybody?

ALLEN: Out of pride and it's something to be proud of. If you outsmart the authorities for the number of years he did.


HARRIS: Investigators will keep searching the trails for other camps, weapons and explosives they believe he was hiding. They're especially concerned about 200 pounds of missing dynamite they think he stole because deteriorates over time and becomes very dangerous -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Now, Art, we saw on your video how difficult it was to maneuver through those woods by use of 4-wheel vehicle, but even on foot it's quite treacherous, isn't it, even for someone who is believed to be quite the survivor?

HARRIS: Fredricka, if we hadn't had a guide, we might still be up there and when we were going up in a SUV, at times, it was like a goat path. Our crew was tremendous, our photographer, Steven Sword (ph); soundman, Kevin Kavicula (ph); producer, Alex Blade (ph) got out several times to guide the SUV over these rocky paths because we almost tipped over several times. We finally get to the top, thorny brush, we go to the undergrowth and you look around and you could see -- you know, it doesn't look the same, but you could see how he eluded authorities for so long because, you know, you can just vanish on one side of the trail or the other in an instant. So, you could understand how Eric hid by going there -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Now, Art, we saw that hideaway that you show, but early on in the investigation and I got a chance to see quite a bit of it, too, in the Nantahala forest, there, that there are a number of caves. Art, is there a belief perhaps Rudolph may have used any of those underground caves?

HARRIS: Well, they're shying away from the thinking that he used caves. Right now, they're still looking for the camps. The shelter we showed you is about ten miles from the camp in Murphy, the one with the vegetables, and the plywood and about a mile above the other camp. We could -- couldn't see, but we could hear the dogs -- the Bloodhounds leading investigators on a search for other camps -- Fredricka

WHITFIELD: And so, at least the two camps that were located that he is believed to have spent time -- what's the proximity of them from one another? You mentioned how far away they are from downtown Murphy, but how about from one another?

HARRIS: Well, from our shelter, about a ten mile hike to the first camp in Murphy, about a one mile hike down the mountain to the other.

WHITFIELD: All right. Art Harris, thanks very much from Murphy, North Carolina.

Well, Rudolph faces 23 charges in connection with four bombings in Georgia and Alabama. Two of the charges are linked to the blast at the Birmingham clinic, which occurred a year and a-half after the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing. So, why, then, will Rudolph be tried in Birmingham first? CNN's Brian Cabell has the answer.


BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bomb exploded January 29, 1998, at the New Woman, all women clinic.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's been a bombing -- at what?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 10 01 17th Street, south.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A bomb explosion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the New Woman's abortion clinic.


CABELL: An off duty police officer was killed, ripped by nails and shrapnel, a nurse was maimed. The perpetrator escaped. But, next day, officials had a name.

DOUG JONES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: We have issued a warrant for a Mr. Eric Robert Rudolph.

CABELL: Rudolph, a 31-year-old handyman and carpenter was sought as a witness, then as a suspect. Now, five years later, they finally have him.

Eric Rudolph, now 36, will be tried in Birmingham first because the case the case against him, here, seems stronger than the Georgia cases. Investigators have an eyewitness who spotted a man walking away from the clinic right after the bomb exploded just as others were running towards it. The witness followed him until the suspect disappeared into the woods of Red Mountain near the clinic. The witness drove to the top of the mountain, to a McDonald's where he called police and then remarkably spotted the suspicious individual emerging from the woods.

JONES: The individual ducked into the woods and at that point, he and other person decided to go looking. They spotted the individual, spotted the truck, got the tag number, and the rest was built from that.

CABELL: They lost the truck in traffic, but had a license number. The Nissan pickup belonged to Eric Rudolph. Officials also say they have forensic evidence linking the bomb scene to Rudolph's residence, storage facility, and truck in North Carolina.

(on camera): For the last five years, federal prosecutors and investigators have been methodically putting together their case against Eric Rudolph, here in Birmingham. They have witnesses lined up, they have evidence lined up, they're just about ready to go. Rudolph's new defense attorneys, on the other hand, are anything but ready.

(voice-over): They've just meant their client. They've been given 16,000 documents to pour over, so far, many more will follow. But still, Defense Attorney Richard Jaffe, a specialist in death penalty cases, and Rudolph could face the death penalty here, claims that his client should be considered innocent. RICHARD JAFFE, RUDOLPH'S ATTORNEY: Mistakes can be made, images can be painted, perceptions can be wrong, facts could be misinterpreted, and...

CABELL: He cautions against a rush to judgment -- a difficult request for the widow of the policeman slain in the bombing.

FELECIA SANDERSON, WIDOW: I truly, honestly feel that we have the right man.

CABELL: It's difficult, as well, for the nurse that was maimed in the bombing.

EMILY LYONS, BOMBING VICTIM: We waited five years for this day and if he is the one that is guilty of this, we want the legal system to provide us appropriate punishment for him.

CABELL: Eric Rudolph's trial likely won't start until next year, then an Alabama jury will decide whether he was the infamous clinic bomber or a man falsely accused. Brian Cabell, CNN, Birmingham.


WHITFIELD: So much intrigue to explore in the Eric Rudolph case from forensic details and eyewitness accounts to the techniques Rudolph may have used to be so elusive. Inside information on Rudolph's life of hiding, hunting, and foraging for survival. Stay with us for more of CNN's special, "Eric Rudolph: The Investigation."


WHITFIELD: ERIC RUDOLPH, THE INVESTIGATION continues now, with more on the court documents unsealed in an Atlanta federal court, yesterday. Documents reportedly say at least 15 witnesses believe the voice in a 911 call warning of the 1996 Olympic Park bombing sounded like Eric Rudolph, that according to the "Associated Press." CNN's senior producer, Henry Schuster, has a closer look at the case against Rudolph in Georgia.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yeah. You having a good time?

HENRY SCHUSTER, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER (voice-over): It began with this call to 911.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a bomb in Centennial Park, you have 30 minutes.

SCHUSTER: A voice that to Eric Rudolph's former sister-in-law sounds familiar, maybe.

DEBORAH RUDOLPH, RUDOLPH'S FMR. SISTER-IN-LAW: It sounds like Eric. I couldn't swear to it.

SCHUSTER: Then there was this sketch released after the Olympic Park bombing. To some former investigators, it looks like the mug shot of Eric Rudolph immediately after his arrest, but that may still not translate into eyewitness testimony placing Rudolph in Centennial Park.

JACK DAULTON, RETIRED FBI AGENT: A lot of time has passed, I think for somebody to make a -- to testify that was the individual, I think that would be very difficult.

SCHUSTER: Instead, if and when the Atlanta case goes to trial, the evidence will revolve around forensics, something akin to the TV show "CSI."

WOODY JOHNSON, RETIRED FBI AGENT: It's more difficult to cross- examine forensic evidence.

SCHUSTER: Law enforcement officials say they can link the one- eight inch steel plate used in the Centennial Park bombing to one used in the Sandy Springs clinic bombing and that they can link both to a specific batch produced at a steel mill in North Carolina, near Rudolph's home.

DAULTON: They're able to identify the components of each of those steel plates and basically, ascertain that they came from the same sheet of steel.

SCHUSTER: They say they can tie the nails used in at least one of the Atlanta bombings to nails found in a storage shed rented by Rudolph, nails that have two special markings. They also say there was other unspecified evidence from the storage unit linking it to the Atlanta bombings. And there were fibers, receipts, and other items they have recovered from Rudolph's property. Two of the Atlanta bombings used Westclox's "Baby Ben" alarm clocks like these as timers. But, the government hasn't tied them directly to Rudolph.

JOHNSON: Let's say that you can identify that he -- that Eric Rudolph bought Westclox and you can identify that -- that he may have purchased steel. It plays to the -- what are the odds that anybody else do this?

SCHUSTER: And, there are the letters sent after the Atlanta and Birmingham bombings, similar language, similar block printing. The Atlanta letter says, "You may confirm with the FBI the Sandy Springs devices used gelatin dynamite power source, the Midtown devices were similar, except not ammo cans."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you got that letter, had that information made public?


DAULTON: It gives you the belief that whoever wrote that letter is the individual who has, you know, personal knowledge of the bombings or could be the individual who's involved in the bombing.

SCHUSTER: The prosecutors in Atlanta felt they had enough evidence to indict Rudolph even before he had been captured. Now that they've got him, they're hoping to find a bomb lab somewhere in the woods of North Carolina. They believe that would tie him even more closely to the bombs in Atlanta and Birmingham.

Henry Schuster, CNN, Atlanta.


WHITFIELD: Prosecutors have had years to build a case against Rudolph. His defense team has been on the case less than a week. Our legal experts offer insights on how the attorneys might tackle the challenge. Also ahead, the search for possible accomplices. Who may have helped Eric Rudolph? As our special coverage continues, right after this break.


WHITFIELD: The prosecution and defense are already lining up strategies in the Eric Rudolph case. How do you prosecute this defendant and how do you defend him? Here to discuss the legal picture are, Kendall Coffey a former U.S. attorney in Miami, and here in Atlanta, Ed Garland, a prominent criminal defense attorney. Good to see both of you gentlemen.

Kendall, let me begin with you. The prosecution has already said that they believe their case is stronger in Alabama, mainly because they have witnesses that place Rudolph at the scene of the crime. What does this say about their case in the Olympic Park bombing, however?

KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, it indicates that they're going to rely heavily on the Olympic Park case on forensics, connection after connection, that really point to no one other than Eric Rudolph as being the perpetrator. Everything from gun powder that was apparently tracked to an Eric Rudolph purchase, to the kind of nails, so many connections that after some point, it becomes an overwhelming case.

WHITFIELD: So, Ed, if you were the defense attorney for Eric Rudolph, how in the world would you approach trying to defend your client when already there are witnesses that place him at the scene of the crime?

ED GARLAND, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The role of a defense attorney, in this case, is to test the integrity and the accuracy of the supposed evidence. This case will be a great deal about experts. You will have gun powder experts, you'll have nail experts, you'll have handwriting experts, you'll have eyewitness identification experts, voice experts. The FBI can do incredible things in terms of scientific evidence; they can determine when a nail is made to the hour if it's made in foreign factory. So, there will be a lot of expert testimony. You begin there and the second thing you do is attempt to humanize this individual so you eventually can save his life.

WHITFIELD: And in fact, humanizing this individual is what it sounds like is defense attorney, Richard Jaffe, is trying to do with most recently two days ago, he said, quote, "I think it's only fair for all of us to suspend judgment and allow the courtroom to test whether the proof is really proof or whether it's more speculation and hearsay." But, Ed, it seems as though he's also fighting a verdict that's essentially seemingly has already been reached by the court of public opinion.

GARLAND: I would say

WHITFIELD: Hasn't he? GARLAND: Yes. I would say the public generally thinks the defendant is guilty at this point. However, you're going to see a very professional defense. Lawyers like Mr. Jaffe, and he is one of the very best, in my opinion, are to be the most admired people in the legal process because they insure that this system will be fair, unbiased. So, he will fight for his client, he will test all of the evidence, and he ultimately will try to get a jury that -- of people that don't want to kill other people.

GARLAND: And Kendall, it might be possible that his attorney -- Rudolph's attorney may try its darnedest to try to make sure that any evidence is suppressed and not released because he sees that that might make a jury pool prejudicial. Do you see that that's a likely possibility he might pursue?

COFFEY: Well, I think especially in federal court, you're going to see judges take a very tough and dim view of pretrial publicity, so they're certainly going to be careful about it. But, just as the defense tries to humanize Eric Rudolph, we are going to see some pretty devastating evidence about the manner and the means that these particular bombs were placed. Remember, with both of the Atlanta bombings in 1997, there were secondary bombs set up so that after the initial explosion within an hour or so, a second bomb was going to go off directly aiming at -- the prosecution will argue, the first responders, the medics, the police, the fire personnel who were coming there and these weren't just bombs about damaging buildings, they were affectively anti-personnel devices filled with nails to inflict the maximum potential for mayhem and murder.

WHITFIELD: In fact, let's talk about those nails, because the prosecutor, Robert Cleary in the Alabama case, said specifically, quote, "But, if the FBI's lab hasn't matched the nails as coming from the same batch it will be less conclusive, especially since Rudolph sometimes worked as a carpenter." So while, Kendall, many people seem to think that the nails might be the incriminating bit of evidence, at the same time, this prosecutor is saying -- well, we're not even that sure that we'll be able to rely on it wholeheartedly.

COFFEY: There's going to be matches of every kind, though. There's going to be nails and of course, the defense will argue -- hey, carpenters have all kinds of nails. But, their also talking about fabrics that were found at the scene of the bombings, fabrics that were ultimately going to be matched to materials found in the pickup truck. The gun powder, we've talked about that before. There will be identification with respect to four letters that claim credit for the bombings, and of course, the actual sound heard on the 911 tape, apparently, as many as 15 witnesses say they believe that was Eric Rudolph. So, at some point, if you've got enough connections, even if there's no eyewitness, you have an overwhelming case for conviction and, indeed, even for the death penalty.

All right. Kendall Coffey, Ed Garland, thank you, gentlemen for joining us.

COFFEY: Thanks, Fredricka.

GARLAND: Nice to be here.

WHITFIELD: When Eric Rudolph was arrested, he was clean shaven. Is this the look of a man on the run on the run for five years living in the woods? Did he have help and if so, from whom? With or without help, Rudolph is a case study on survival. We'll look at that as our special coverage continues.



WHITFIELD: When Eric Rudolph emerged after five years on the run in the backwoods of North Carolina, he didn't exactly look like a man who had been living without the amenities of home. His hair was closely cropped, he was clean-shaven, he appeared well fed. Many people speculate the fugitive had help from locals. Here's investigative correspondent Art Harris again on the scene in the Nantahala National Forest.


HARRIS (voice over): After Eric Rudolph became a fugitive, old friends came under suspicion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They thought the whole time, that somebody in our family knew where he was at. Either my granddaddy, my brothers, somebody knew where he was at. Nobody knew.

HARRIS: Steve Cocran (ph) says it was no secret the FBI was watching him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the sudden here they came. And they had this plane that just kept criss-crossing all back and forth, taking pictures and looking. All over, you could set here and watch it everyday.

HARRIS: How did that make you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was intimidating. And that's what they did. They want to intimidate people. They want to scare people and flush people out.

HARRIS: Cocran (ph), cleared of any involvement, says he never did see Rudolph, didn't know where he was, but that doesn't mean he would have turned him away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn't come by. I'd would've gladly thrown a slab of meat on the grill and said, there's the eat son.

HARRIS: Did someone actually feed Rudolph on the sly? That's the sizzling topic at the Burger-Basket.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was amazed at how good he looked on television. And you know, he looked healthy to me, and he looked like somebody was taking care of him.

HARRIS: Locals, like George Postell, kin to the rookie cop who caught Rudolph, says unaware, he could have easily opened his door to Eric.

GEORGE POSTELL, MURPHY, N.C. RESIDENT: If somebody comes by needing help, that's just the way of life around here. We usually try to help one another. Whether you know them or not.

HARRIS: Signs around town suggest sympathy. Or, is it for the dollars he's been generating? At one coffee shop, the special: Captured Cappuccino. At another, Caught Ya coffee. But Murphy's mayor says there is no love here for any alleged lawbreaker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's been a loner from the very beginning. I think he was a loner right up until the end. Why was he skewering around in a dumpster if people were helping him?

HARRIS: Law enforcement sources tell CNN residents were courted as informants. Steve Cocran (ph) denies ever helping Rudolph, or local law enforcement to try to find him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told them the same thing as always. I ain't got a clue. You know I just don't know. You know, I don't know nothing.

HARRIS: And even if he did, he wouldn't turn in a friend. Not even for a million dollar reward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I am in hock up to my eyeballs. And there ain't no way I'd do it.

HARRIS: Cocran (ph) doubts anyone will ever be arrested for helping Rudolph.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think anybody helped Eric. I think he did it on his own. He's pretty good. I think the Green Berets and the Rangers would have come and asked him a few questions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's my opinion.


HARRIS: Art Harris, CNN, Nantahala National Forest.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: What do investigators who worked closely on the case think about Rudolph's survival? Charles Stone is a former agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and he was one of the lead investigators in the Rudolph case. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right. Is this the way you expected the search to end?

STONE: I fully expected that Eric would be taken into custody at some given point in time. I think it's a classic way for the case to end.

WHITFIELD: But emerging from the woods, foraging perhaps for food through the trash cans?


WHITFIELD: He seemed awfully sterile.

STONE: Not so much sterile. But he -- if you follow Eric's background, if you knew his family, his previous position of not liking large urban areas, it's fitting that he should be caught in his own home town, by a local police officer.

WHITFIELD: So there was no doubt that by the way of -- you know you and the investigators, felt that he was in the town of Murphy, or somewhere near there. Somewhere among these 500,000 acres in the Nantahala Forest.

But was it your feeling that he was in fact the survivalist out there? Or do you feel like he got some assistance?

STONE: Fredricka, I believe putting on that continuum, he is a survivalist. Eric has a strong dislike of people. He was increasingly more paranoid prior to the bombings. And the one person he approached after he became a fugitive, basically turned him in, and I don't think he had any sustained help.

I think a lot of people are overlooking the fact that he could have walked down into Murphy, into Andrews, North Carolina, especially at this time of year, when they have so many out-of-town guests, rafters, and hikers, dressed appropriately, and not be seen.

WHITFIELD: Early on in the investigation though however, I remember when being out there, many of the investigators admitted that a hurdle was certainly the fact that the people in the area were rather sympathetic toward Eric Rudolph, and they would not be willing to collect $1 million in exchange for information to help the investigators.

Is that what you came across?

STONE: No, you had a few people up there who dislike the federal government to a large extent, and would help. I don't believe there are a lot of people up there who would knowingly help Eric Rudolph. If he was a stranger, they didn't recognize, if he needs a ride, sure people would give him a ride.


STONE: But as far as an organized effort, I don't believe there was ever any organized effort to help him. And the people in that area are just like other small towns across America.

WHITFIELD: I've heard many investigators and the like say over the -- particularly toward the tail end of this five years of the search, that it was their belief that he was dead. Did you ever think for a moment that he was dead?

STONE: I never thought he was dead by either suicide, or by falling off a cliff misfortune. The only way I figured that he could possibly be dead would be if he became ill, he was in a hiding place, and became incapacitated through dehydration or something of that nature.


STONE: But Eric is not a fool. He knew that he would not be able to access local care, so he took care of himself.

WHITFIELD: How do you assess his physical appearance? However, he did not look gaunt; he didn't look like somebody who's had a difficult time you know, finding a meal out there. He was also clean- shaven. What were your impressions of how that came to be?

STONE: Well, I think as far as being clean-shaven, Eric had access to a lot of cabins up -- still we believe he has a base camp that has yet to be found. That is going to have a lot of creature comforts in it. The cameras were a little misleading. I spoke to the jailers...


STONE: ... and he's extremely thin, compared to his weight when the fugitive investigation began.

WHITFIELD: Charles Stone, thanks very much.

STONE: You're quite welcome.

WHITFIELD: Well, authorities have a suspect, but still unclear is the motive in the bombing attacks. Are the Atlanta and Birmingham blasts connected with hate groups? CNN's special coverage of ERIC RUDOLPH: THE INVESTIGATION continues right after this.


WHITFIELD: Federal authorities link Eric Rudolph to the Christian Identity movement. Its followers are loosely organized, and believe that white Europeans are the true children of Israel. Jews, they claim, are impostors from Satan. Christian Identity followers are anti-Semitic, anti-abortion, and anti-gay. Deborah Rudolph, in several media interviews this past week confirms her former brother- in-law's beliefs.

She says, she was a witness to Rudolph's racial slurs, diatribes against homosexuals and Jews, but Rudolph's attorney, who himself is Jewish, disputes such generalizations.


JAFFE: We intend to challenge that right now and challenge that throughout. That this person again has appeared very calm, very concerned, very reflective, very thoughtful. There's no evidence of anger or extremism that I have seen in any form or fashion. And that's consistent with what the law enforcement said when they found him, and talked with him. That's consistent with what the sheriff's office here has said.


WHITFIELD: The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks hate groups and domestic terrorists, and Mark Potok is director of publications and information for the center. He's in Montgomery, Alabama now to discuss the Rudolph case. Good to see you Mark.


WHITFIELD: Do you believe that Eric Rudolph mat have been a part of any kind of hate group?

POTOK: No, he was not a member of any hate group, but he was very definitely despite what his attorney says, entrenched in the theology of Christian Identity.

WHITFIELD: And how would anybody know anyway? Is membership documented?

POTOK: No, no it's a theology. This is not a group. It doesn't have -- you know, people don't walk around with membership cards in their wallet whatsoever. It's a theology. It takes different forms, slightly from place to place around the country. But Eric Rudolph's connection to this theology I think is very well documented in fact.

WHITFIELD: Now investigators have said, and we even saw it again underscored during a -- court documents that were recently revealed, that there were handwriting samples that match that of Eric Rudolph's of notes that were distributed to various news organizations that said Army of God. That came after the first Olympic -- the Olympic Park bombing.

And in that, it said Army of God. What's the difference between Army of God, and say the Christian Identity?

POTOK: Yes, I've seen several of those notes. The Army of God is really a concept. It is not in fact, an organized group where there's no real evidence to suggest that there's an organized group. Really, what it is, is for more than 25 years, from just a few years after the '73 Roe vs. Wade decision, people have been attacking abortion physicians, clinics, people connected with those establishments.

And then claiming those attacks in the name of The Army of God. Really what it is, it's a concept. You know, I feel that I am called by God to sort of smite the abortionists, and carry out that act. By virtue of my action, I am in The Army of God. It's really between me and God. So you know, there have been all kinds of actions claimed by...


POTOK: ... Army of God, or AOG, for a very long time now. And I think that Eric Rudolph, if indeed he is guilty simply signed those letters that way in order to make it perfectly clear -- and in addition to what he said in the letters, that this was an anti- abortion action.

WHITFIELD: So if Army of God is a concept, as is Christian Identity, does it mean anything that his own mother has reportedly said that indeed her son was part of this Christian Identity theology?

POTOK: Well, my understanding was that Pat Rudolph was essentially denying that he was involved in any hateful theologies and so on. But in any case, you know, I think it's quite clear, that Pat Rudolph really was interested in some similar things. I'm not accusing her of being anti-Semitic or anything else, but I think there's no question that she moved the family to North Carolina to be near Nort Davis (ph) who was a leading -- was until his death in '97, a leading Christian Identity ideologue.


POTOK: And it was of course, Pat Rudolph who took her son Eric to live for about four months on the Compound in Missouri. The very famous Christian Identity ideologue Dan Gamen (ph).

WHITFIELD: If Eric Rudolph subscribed to this theology of the Army of God, or Christian Identity, is that in itself enough to convince you that because it subscribes to those talking points, that perhaps he would carry out a crime such as the four bombings that have taken place in Alabama and Georgia?

POTOK: Well of course it's not evidence in any sense; however, it gives a very clear-cut motivation. I think for instance, there's been a lot of confusion about why would somebody who bombed a lesbian lounge, why would somebody who bombed abortion clinics, then go on -- or in fact in reverse order, then bomb the Olympics.

I think the answer is in Christian Identity. Which sees the Olympics basically as a kind of gathering of all races and all nations. Very much the new world order. This sort of multi-racial multi-national thing. Which is despised and rejected by Identity ideologues. And believers who of course believe that all white people should band together and be you know, completely alone, isolated.

WHITFIELD: The Southern Poverty Law Center is known for monitoring the chatter between and amongst hate groups such as the ones that you are describing. What have you all been able to monitor in the past week since Eric Rudolph's arrest?

POTOK: Well of course there has been continuing stuff posted about Eric's a sort of hero. I mean he's been treated that way by the radical right for more than five years now. He is very much the kind of Butch Cassidy of the radical right. However, you know, underlying that is I think a terrible sense of disappointments. I mean, the sort of fair-haired boy of the radical right, after all in the end was found more or less literally up to his waste in garbage, by a rookie police officer.

It was not a very glorious end. I think many people hoped to see him go out in a you know, hail of gunfire, and a blaze of glory. And that did not happen. So I think there's a lot of disappointment.

WHITFIELD: Are you hearing, or seeing anything from any of those involved in these hate groups? The chatter that you monitor, who talk about any repercussions that come as a result of his arrest?

POTOK: No, there's been some talk accusing for instance, the federal government of leaving Eric Rudolph exposed after he got to Birmingham. In other words basically setting him up for an assassination. Which is you know, based on absolutely nothing. But there's some conspiracy theories like that developing. Many of the anti-abortion extremists of course you know, out there defending Eric Rudolph, although even the most extreme of those step back when it gets to the Olympics bombing, because they don't know quite how to explain that. That's awfully hard to cast as somehow saving unborn children.

WHITFIELD: Got you. All right, Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Thanks very much for joining us from Montgomery.

POTOK: Thank you for having me.

WHITFIELD: An unorthodox memorial is proposed for the victim of the Olympic Park Bombing back in 1996. Coming up, the story of Alice's Wonderland. And why some say the idea can only happen in Never-Never Land.


WHITFIELD: The bombing in Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park killed one Georgia mother, who was there celebrating her teenage daughter's birthday. Now Alice Hawthorne's family is struggling to fins a way to make their very ambitious plans for her memorial into a wondrous reality. CNN's Martin Savidge reports.


FALLON HAWTHORNE, DAUGHTER: It was actually going to be a birthday present for me. Because I was playing basketball the following year, and she wanted me to go see the Dream Team.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dreams are what brought Fallon, and her mother Alice Hawthorne to Atlanta, in 1996. And it was a bomb that shattered them.

JOHN HAWTHORNE: Our project is known as Alice's Wonderland.

SAVIDGE: Now, seven years later, Alice's Husband John, has dreams of his own. Every since Alice was killed in the Olympic Park bombing, her home town of Albany has been contemplating how best to remember her. The city gave John Hawthorne $50,000 to plan some sort of tribute. When he unveiled his ideas to the Albany City leaders, they weren't just surprised. They were stunned.

HENRY MATHIAS, ALBANY DEPUTY MAYOR: It was a great idea, but it was to much in cost.

SAVIDGE: What John proposed was an unorthodox memorial. A combination amusement park and education center. With hotels, a water park, and shopping area spread out over 71 acres. It would be called Alice's wonderland. And it had a price tag of 100 million dollars.

MATHIAS: We're talking 24 million dollars more than the city's budget. And there's just no way we can.

SAVIDGE: John says Albany would make millions each year from tourism. He only wants the city to help acquire the land. Private investment would cover the rest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is this the fitting tribute for Alice's memory?

HAWTHORNE: Because everything that will be included in this development are the things that Alice had her hand in in some way in this community. From business, to recreation, to education.

SAVIDGE: The city had something smaller in mind. Such as renaming a park in Alice's honor. John said that would be unfair to the person the park was originally named for. Since then, Alice's memorial has been in limbo.

FALLON HAWTHORNE: It was kind of hard and disheartening when you get stonewalled the way my dad has in his process in trying to his (ph) center built.

SAVIDGE: The deputy major says Albany won't get into the amusement park business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any compromise that can be struck between either yourself and the large plans you have, and what the city might have envisioned?

HAWTHORNE: I am willing to compromise.

SAVIDGE: Even if Albany decides on something smaller and more traditional, John Hawthorne says he's not giving up on Alice's Wonder Land. He'll keep holding onto his plans, and his dreams.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Albany, Georgia.


WHITFIELD: A check of the headlines straight ahead, then "IN THE MONEY." The price of real estate, and whether the value of your home could be headed for a big fall. Then at 2:00 Eastern more CNN LIVE SATURDAY.


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