CNN BREAKING NEWS
Eric Rudolph May Have Been Captured in North Carolina
Aired May 31, 2003 - 07:47 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have some breaking news to report to you this morning regarding a long FBI and multi-agency investigation that has been going on early, since the late '90s.
We're joined by senior producer Henry Schuster -- Henry, what can you tell us?
HENRY SCHUSTER, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Anderson, what I can tell you is that last night the sheriff's office in Cherokee County, North Carolina stopped a man who they say appeared to be homeless in Murphy, North Carolina. They brought the man in. From a source who has been close to the investigation in the past, they say the man is cooperating.
They believe the man is Eric Rudolph and they're doing fingerprint identification. We've...
COOPER: They're doing that right now?
SCHUSTER: They're doing that right now and as we know, that FBI agents are also on their way to the scene.
COOPER: OK, let's remind viewers, Eric Robert Rudolph, who is he? What is he wanted for?
SCHUSTER: Eric Robert Rudolph is wanted for the Olympic Park bombing in 1996 here in Atlanta, just right across the street from CNN Center, in which one person was killed. He was also wanted for some -- for two other bombings in Atlanta, a nightclub bombing and a bombing at an abortion clinic.
COOPER: The nightclub bombing was a gay nightclub? That was my memory.
SCHUSTER: It was primarily for gay and lesbian.
SCHUSTER: But it was...
COOPER: And was anyone killed in that?
SCHUSTER: Nobody was killed in that. And then there was another bombing about a month later in, at an abortion clinic in Sandy Springs, which is just a suburb north of Atlanta. Two devices went off in each of those cases. In the second device, I don't know if you remember the dramatic footage that happened where camera crews were on scene. Our Alan Duke, who was just standing behind me, who we may hear from later, was on the scene and is actually officially listed as one of the victims of that bombing, because the secondary device went off.
COOPER: Right. One device went off, people rushed to the scene, another device went off later.
SCHUSTER: Right. And that's when they first started getting the letters from someone who identified himself as the bomber. However, they had no idea that this might be Eric Rudolph until after another bombing in Birmingham in January of 1998.
COOPER: Now, Rudolph was originally born in Florida, but he was raised in North Carolina, became very familiar with the woods, some called him even a survivalist.
SCHUSTER: I think that survivalist is a pretty accurate statement. He had an attempt, he enlisted in the Army. He wanted to be an Army Ranger. He washed out. He got kicked out of the Army, we were told, for smoking marijuana. We know one of the things that he did do in North Carolina was that he was a marijuana grower and he made substantial amounts of cash selling marijuana.
COOPER: But this investigation has taken so many twists and turns. Let's talk about what has gone on in the woods in North Carolina for the last several years now. There has been a massive manhunt for this man.
SCHUSTER: Well, there was a massive manhunt and right after they identified him, between January of '98 and June of '98, they flooded North Carolina with more than 200 GBI agents -- that's Georgia Bureau of Investigation -- FBI agents. They were using, even using National Guard helicopters at one point to try to find him.
The last known sighting was in the summer of 1998. He surfaced at the cabin of an old friend. Apparently he had been staking out that cabin for several days. He surfaced and he got that friend to get him some food. Now, the friend says he acted like this because he was in fear of his life. But the FBI has had a presence up in North Carolina since then. They've scaled back in that for the last couple of years they were primarily just acting on leads. They had had one resident agent up in that area of North Carolina.
COOPER: And as you said, I mean this hunt was, back then, extraordinarily tough. I mean these woods were enormous, it's an enormous area of territory...
SCHUSTER: We're talking about a half million acres of woods that they thought he might be in, plus that was just on the gate of the Great Smoky Mountains, which is another million plus acres of woods. So they knew he was there, but that's the sort of forest where, when, even when they were using heat seeking radar, they couldn't find him, because of the tree cover during the summer.
Now, one of the things I have is this. I don't know if when we come back, this is the wanted poster for Eric Robert Rudolph. I've had a copy of this up in my office since they...
COOPER: Yes, you've been following the story from the beginning.
COOPER: What -- we are going to...
ARTHEL NEVILLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Henry, you know what? There is someone else who probably had this very poster in his office, as well. We're talking about former FBI agent Don Clark, who joins us now on the phone.
And good morning, Mr. Clark.
I know you've been following this case. You worked on this case. You are hearing these latest developments and if you would, tell us exactly what this means to you, someone who worked so diligently to try to capture this man.
DON CLARK, FORMER FBI AGENT: Well, you know, Arthel, it really kind of gives you a few chill bumps, quite honestly, because all of us across the country, FBI wise, not just the East Coast people, people down in the Southwest, we contributed to trying to locate this person. We sent SWAT teams. We rotated SWAT teams in and out of those wooded areas up there and those guys and gals who were parts of those search units really had courage and have to be complimented because of the terrain and the thickness of it and the real dense problems that they had trying to just get in there and work, to look for this guy, that have to be commended.
So this is just a great day, if, in fact, that this is Rudolph.
NEVILLE: Now, Mr. Clark, it has been said that Rudolph is a survivalist. Is that why he's been able to be so elusive?
CLARK: Well, I think he's probably proven that. This has been a long time that he's been on the run like this. And the ordinary person -- when I mean the ordinary person who is not accustomed to the type of terrain and being able to live off the land, so to speak, could have no way survived like this, even if they had some help.
NEVILLE: Now, he was last seen, what, July 7th, 1998, correct?
CLARK: That's about right, yes.
NEVILLE: Go ahead, I'm sorry, sir. Go ahead.
CLARK: And I don't know that -- there has been many, many reports of sightings, Arthel, but I cannot recall anybody having any concrete information on sighting of him since that time.
NEVILLE: Now he, would he be considered armed and dangerous? CLARK: Oh, yes. I think no matter what or how many years ago that it's been, I mean certainly you just don't change and say OK, I've committed one act -- or he's been charged with committing one act -- so now I'm finished with that. Of course, he would have to be considered armed and dangerous.
NEVILLE: And when is the last time on record that he allegedly struck?
CLARK: To my knowledge, I think the Olympic bombing incident may have been the last time and I have not had any real current information on that. But I think that that may have been the last time.
NEVILLE: OK, and Mr. Clark, we have Henry Schuster here on the set with us, who, of course, has been covering this story since it first broke.
Go ahead, Henry.
SCHUSTER: Well, Arthel, actually he was identified. Nobody knew this was Eric Rudolph. He was identified after the bombing in the Birmingham abortion clinic. The last was not just simply an abortion clinic. He was identified after that. That was where a Birmingham, an off duty police officer from the Birmingham Police, Robert Sanderson, was killed, and Emily Lyons, who was a nurse who was just coming into the clinic, was really severely, severely wounded and maimed in that bombing.
What happened was that a man was seen fleeing from the scene. And as we later learned, a medical student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham was looking out the window of his dorm room and he saw a man leaving the scene of the bomb blast and he was curious, because he thought people would be walking to it. So he went downstairs and he got into his truck and he tried following the man and he started following the man. The man disappeared into some woods. These woods went up a hill in a park just outside of Birmingham. And he came, he was looking around for the man. He went to a local McDonald's and as he was trying to call the police to tell him, them that he had spotted this man, he saw the man again emerge from the woods.
Incredible story, but it -- so he jumps in his truck again and he starts following the man. He notes his license plate in the description of his Toyota truck and he gets that information to the Birmingham Police Department and they run a license search. And it takes them a day to find out that it's Eric Rudolph because Eric, even then he was using a fake address.
SCHUSTER: And about a day later, they show up at his trailer in North Carolina and he had left just a few hours before.
NEVILLE: Something that strikes me as interesting in this case, and I want to bring Mr. Clark back in on the discussion here, I mean Eric is, what, he's 5'11," brown hair, blue eyes and they even say that he's an attractive man. You know how society treats people who are attractive. So I'm asking you, Mr. Clark, if that in some way allowed him to remain on the run, because you don't suspect him as someone who would be an armed and dangerous person?
CLARK: Well, you know, Arthel, I think you may be right to some extent there, that persona by a persona may very well allow them to move a little bit more freely around the country. We all remember some of the serial killers there who were handsome, good looking and had a good conversation, if you will, and they sort of moved freely without anybody suspecting them. And that could be part of the reason.
But, also, a lot of times when you have the photographs on fliers, the people are significantly different from that and unless you really have a current photograph of them, it's somewhat difficult for people just at a glance to say ooh, that's that person that's on the wanted flier.
NEVILLE: This is true. I understand that there were some times when Rudolph wrote a couple of notes. And Henry, you can go ahead and jump in on this, as well, wrote...
SCHUSTER: Yes, he wrote, well, we don't -- well, now, somebody wrote notes.
SCHUSTER: Again, we don't know that that's Eric Rudolph. We don't know that Eric Rudolph has been captured.
SCHUSTER: We know somebody who they're doing fingerprint identification. I just wanted to back up on all of that. And there were a couple of notes that emerged in the summer of -- that emerged after the nightclub bombing and after the abortion clinic bombing. And they were full of -- it was one note, it was four letters sent to various news agencies. They were in block printing. They had what he claimed was a special code that he would use if he bombed again, this person.
They were full of wailings against the government. They used the phrase about sodomite places, which was presumably referring to the nightclub. The FBI and the task force and all these agencies spent an enormous amount of time trying to figure out where they might have been mailed from.
Now, what's been less reported was that there was another letter, another two letters that were mailed after the Birmingham bombings which appeared to be written by the same person using the same code. And that's what was one of the many things that led investigators to link the Birmingham bombings to the Atlanta nightclub and abortion clinic bombings and then what they've also done is that they've used forensic evidence, the components of the bomb making, to link all of them, some metal plating that was used in the bombs. And I know that if you've got Charles Stone on the phone, he can tell us a lot about that.
COOPER: Yes, not yet. He's going to be coming any moment, though.
One of the things, also, that had, was so fascinating about this case and about the investigation was that this man almost took on sort of a mythic status in this area that he was being hunted in and there were lots of reports, I remember at the time, when federal authorities sort of descended on the scene that some local people there actually kind of were rooting for him.
SCHUSTER: Yes, there were T-shirts and bumper stickers that said, "Run, Eric, Run!" I don't want to over blow that. I mean I think in some, you know, most of the people there, when they understood that this was the man who was wanted for the murder of a police officer, they didn't feel that way. But there was always, there were a few people. You know, it's a sort of free spirited community. You find the far right, the far left up there, as well as just a lot of folks.
COOPER: And we're almost at the top of the hour. Let's just restate what we know at this moment.
SCHUSTER: OK. What we know is that last night in North Carolina, the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department pulled in a man in Murphy, North Carolina who they said appeared to be homeless. They brought him in, a person who is a source of longstanding close to the investigation says it was understanding that the man began cooperating with them. There was some reason that led them to believe that he might be Eric Rudolph, either the sketch, which we have here, one of the longstanding sketches of him most recently, and they began to fingerprint. They were fingerprinting him.
They're still doing the fingerprint identification right now. We know that FBI agents are on their way to the sheriff's department in Cherokee County, North Carolina. And they're trying to rule him in or out.
Now, they've been down this road before, but not as, as Agent Clark said, with this sort of degree of, you know, of certainty, not so close to home.
COOPER: And how active has the investigation been in the last year or two?
SCHUSTER: It's been fairly dormant. They reacted kind of strongly when we did a story how they were scaling back the investigation. But the truth is it's been mostly reactive. They've been, from time to time, gone out and interviewed Eric's friends in the -- former friends in the area. But mostly they're, they've been waiting to see if there were any leads. And they used to tell us that they got more leads when we would repeat our hour on Eric Rudolph than from any other source. And then a couple of other shows, I think "America's Most Wanted" has done it, as well. NEVILLE: Mr. Clark, we have former FBI agent Don Clark on the phone with us, and Mr. Clark, I ask you, have you spoken to relatives of Rudolph over the years?
STONE: You know, Arthel, I think that the investigators have spoken to people, just a number of people that they felt who could help them. And I can't say specifically whether or not they've spoken to relatives.
And I wanted just to back up on a point that Henry was just talking about, and clearly the FBI and all of the other law enforcement components did have to scale back, because this was a massive effort and it was almost unrealistic to just continue it at that pace until the leads came out.
And, again, this is where the media still plays in on these investigations. And I keep going on my soapbox with that because when you did re-air these things, additional leads would come in and further information would come in.
But, as always, as many times, I should say, that the incidents end up just as they did with this, with local police officers being really attuned to what's going on and doing a good job, as they did here.
NEVILLE: And we have another former GBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent on the phone now, Charles Stone.
Good morning, Mr. Stone.
We'd like to welcome you to the show this morning and ask you, we were just talking about how for a moment this investigation was scaled back and Agent Clark was explaining to us why that was scaled back. And if you could expound on that for us? And I understand you also interviewed some family members of Rudolph.
CHARLES STONE, FORMER GBI AGENT: Yes, Melissa, I did. Back before I retired from the GBI I interviewed a couple of Eric's brothers and his mother. The reason the investigation was scaled back from the level it was during the manhunt was the lack of leads had dried up. There were no active leads as far as sightings, finding of additional evidence. And like I believe Agent Clark was talking about, it becomes impossible to keep that many people tied up when there's no active leads being pursued.
I'd like to reiterate the local police and sheriff's office in that area we worked with extremely close, and they are attuned to what's going on. They know who's who in their county and if this turns out to be Eric, it just shows the value of integrating local police departments and sheriffs departments in task force operations.
NEVILLE: Now, Mr. Stone, when there aren't many leads coming into your bureau, at what point, what do you do? What do the FBI agents do at that point?
STONE: Well, again, I'm retired from the GBI. NEVILLE: Yes.
STONE: But in most police agencies, when the leads dry up the manpower is scaled back. Unfortunately crime continues to go in other areas of the country or whatever jurisdiction is involved, and you have to be responsible to that.
Since there were no confirmed sightings after Eric stole the local resident's truck, we pursued in North Carolina a great many leads. We ran patrols trying to uncover water sources, trails that were being utilized and things of that nature.
So once all that was done, we exhausted all those leads, there was a lot of technology that was involved in it. But at a given point in time, you have to make an administrative decision that you have to divert resources elsewhere.
COOPER: Mr. Stern, this is Anderson Cooper in Atlanta.
We're also joined by Henry Schuster, I know a man you know probably quite well.
And, Henry, you just talked to one of the relatives of Eric Rudolph.
SCHUSTER: Yes, I just talked to Deborah Rudolph, who is Eric's former son-in-law, who helped investigators build a profile -- and I know Charles can talk about this -- who helped investigators build a profile of Eric. Give us some insight into his personality, because I think Charles can tell us that that was helpful in trying to figure out whether he might be in the area or he might have gone overseas, because what we do know from our reporting and from the investigation was that a portrait had emerged of Eric that said that he was just a mountain boy. But, in fact, he had traveled overseas extensively. He had been to England. He had been to Germany. He had been to the Netherlands. In fact, he went overseas and in Amsterdam on more than one occasion he bought marijuana seeds, which he had sent back to the United States to help him grow marijuana.
NEVILLE: Now, if he's on the FBI 10 most wanted fugitive list, how is he getting out of the country?
SCHUSTER: This was before.
NEVILLE: OK. OK.
SCHUSTER: This was before. Remember that even after the Olympic Park bombing and the abortion clinic bombing in Atlanta and the nightclub bombing in Atlanta, there was no knowledge that Eric Rudolph might have been a suspect in those, none at all. You may have remembered one notoriously false lead right after the Olympic Park bombing.
SCHUSTER: But it wasn't until, you know, a year later, it's been now five years since they've started looking at it, more than five years since they've started looking for Eric Rudolph, but remember for the first 18 months of this investigation, they didn't know who it was. They had built a profile of a man and it turns out that Eric Rudolph fit it very closely.
Charles, perhaps you can tell us a little bit.
But before we do, you're right, I spoke with Deborah and she said oh, is he alive? She was...
COOPER: That was her reaction?
SCHUSTER: That was her reaction.
COOPER: Because there have been a number of people who thought well maybe he's dead, we haven't heard anything for -- since 1998.
SCHUSTER: Absolutely. And she, in fact, thought that he might have gone to Canada or overseas.
But, Charles, maybe you can tell us what led you and other investigators to think that he might have stayed close to home?
STONE: Henry, the biggest reason we believe he stayed there, there was a core group of us that always never wavered in the belief he was still in western North Carolina. If you go back to some of the original profiles, and particularly one that was done by Dr. Park Deitz out of California, the -- he is, he was very comfortable in that area. And it's true of fugitives everywhere, they go back to an area where they're comfortable.
He had lived in western North Carolina since he was a child. He had hunted, fished, played in that area. After he got kicked out of the military, he went back to that area. We believe we can place him coming back after the bombings. And we could not apprehend him in that area. So why leave?
Eric's personality type is such that he did not like minorities and did not like large cities, so he was comfortable in that area. It's sort of a catch-22, he -- we couldn't find him, but he was comfortable, but he didn't want to leave that area.
COOPER: And Mr. Stone, tell us a little bit about this area. I mean I know there were caves, there were old abandoned mines which caused a lot of difficulty for investigators. I mean it made the search all the tougher.
STONE: Right. In the Nantahala National Forest there, there's about a half a million acres of just pure wilderness. And it is hard. It's mountainous, it's rugged mountainous terrain. You've got a two story, a two tier forest. You have the tall trees and then underneath you have the rhododendrons, which provided excellent places to hide and conceal things. You have a great deal of temperature change year round, both even in the summer. You have snow and cold in the winter.
They literally have mined anything that can be mined in that area -- gold, silver, copper, beryllium, mica. And some of these mines are just small little holes in the wall, but some of them are quite vast complexes. We believe, I believe Eric was living underground at the time. He has probably found a place that he was comfortable with and outfitted it to his own needs.
NEVILLE: And, Henry, the fingerprinting process is taking place as we are reporting this news. Of course, tell us again, if you would, how authorities captured this person who could possibly be Eric Rudolph.
SCHUSTER: Well, they found, according to the sheriff's department, they found a homeless -- a man who appeared to be homeless last night in Murphy, North Carolina, which, as Charles points out, is really close to where Eric was living. And they brought him in to investigate and apparently -- and we don't know all the details here -- apparently either he began cooperating or they had a suspicion that he, you know, from his physical appearance, that he might be Eric Rudolph. So they began identification and the only way that you can really tell, of course, is the fingerprint identification.
And that's what they're doing now.
And, Charles, maybe you can speak a little bit more to the process of what that would go through, because you all had all those plans in place, didn't you, in case Eric was, in case Eric Rudolph might ever have been caught.
STONE: Right. Henry, we, the fingerprint process would basically be they'd roll a good set of fingerprints. I don't know the capabilities of the Macon County Sheriff's Department, if they are connected into AFIS, the automated fingerprint identification system, or if they would have to go through the North Carolina bureau of -- state bureau of investigation.
But basically someone would actually look at that fingerprint and compare it either with a computer or with actual fingerprint cards to determine whether or not, in fact, it is Eric.
It could be a matter of a few minutes or it could be a matter of a few hours. If the FBI is sending people there, I would believe that they would get it done within an hour or so after their arrival.
The state bureau of investigation could provide a fingerprint examiner to actually look at their old fingerprints and the fingerprint cards we have on Eric from his military service and determine relatively quickly if it is, in fact, him.
SCHUSTER: OK, Charles, one question I want to ask you about that is that why, I'm sorry, why would they not have the fingerprint cards on record, given that the task force operated in that area?
STONE: Oh, they very well might have them on record. They might be in the AFIS system, which, again, is basically a nationwide computer system of computerized fingerprint records. He is, in all probability, in that system. But whether or not Cherokee County, North Carolina has access, immediate access to that system will be the biggest thing.
SCHUSTER: OK. There have been a lot of false leads in the past. I know there have been sightings of Eric Rudolph in Moscow, in Russia. There have been...
COOPER: Oh, really?
SCHUSTER: There have been...
COOPER: It's like Elvis.
SCHUSTER: Right. There was one from California where they stopped a man who had a driver's license that said Eric Robert. Now, that's the first two names of Eric Robert Rudolph. So there was a, you know, the San Bernardino, California sheriff's office spent a lot of time chasing that one down.
So, Charles, what is the process to make sure that they get it right, that this man might actually be Eric Rudolph?
STONE: Well, the first process would be, since they have him in the custody, the first thing would be appearance, does he look like the picture and sketch? The positive confirmation will be through fingerprint identification. Once they get that done, they'll be able to confirm and say this is Eric or it's not Eric. The other thing would be in interviewing him, they are certain, there was a lot, not a lot, but there was some information withheld from the media where if he is, in fact, cooperating and is willing to make a statement, there are questions that could be asked to validate a confession or an admission.
COOPER: Just to inform our viewers, you're listening to Charles Stone, formerly with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, deputy director of the task force involved in the, this massive hunt that had been going on for Eric Robert Rudolph.
Mr. Stone, I've got a question for you. Do you have any doubt that this man was operating alone all this time? There, I mean the last sighting was, I think, back in July 7th, 1998. Someone who he knew gave him some supplies. Under duress or not, it's not exactly clear. Do you think he had contact with anyone else since then?
STONE: My personal belief is that he did not have any contact. I've talked to a lot of the people in North Carolina that got to be friends with him and I don't think he had any broad-based community support. The community realized what he had done. He had murdered an innocent schoolteacher at Centennial Park. He murdered a Birmingham police officer and maimed a nurse.
So I never found any broad-based support for him. There are certain elements in western North Carolina, like there are any other place, that don't particularly care for the federal government. But based upon the people I met with, both if you put them on a continuum, left and right-wing, there wasn't any broad-based support for him.
And, more importantly, Eric's personality type, in talking with his friends and family, he had become increasingly paranoid. This is prior to the bombings, prior to him ever being identified as the bomber. He had become increasingly more paranoid.
So I don't believe he had any local support.
COOPER: Now, also, we know he, at one point, at least, was growing marijuana. Henry was talking about him going, getting some marijuana seeds in Amsterdam and bringing them back. Was that for his own personal use or was that for sales? And if that was for sales, it seems sort of at odds with the image that he was painting of himself, you know, as opposed -- I mean did that surprise you and what -- how serious a marijuana grower was he?
STONE: Oh, I can only basically relay what I was told, that he grew a high quality grade of marijuana and was selling it. I don't see that in direct conflict with what happened later on in his life. He need -- sold marijuana to obtain money. There are a lot of marijuana growers in any mountainous area. Marijuana grows well there.
And getting back to the point concerning whether or not he would have stayed, Eric had an opportunity to leave that area in July of '98 when he stole the gentleman's truck, along with the supplies. If he had wanted to leave the area then, we did not know about the truck for several days, then he could have left then. When, in fact, he just stole the supplies, hid them somewhere and then abandoned the truck with a note to get it back to its original owner.
So he's had plenty of opportunities to leave. There are a lot of cabins in that area where people leave motorcycles, cars and things year round. He could have stolen one of them. But he never did. He was comfortable in that area.
NEVILLE: And Agent Stone, this is Arthel Neville.
I understand that Eric had some Army training. Can you tell us about that?
STONE: Yes. Eric was, went into the military, went through basic training, went through air assault school -- I believe he was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky -- and received training, the basic military training, including some training in demolitions and improvised explosives. He was a fairly accomplished woodsman in that he hunted in that area. And he was self-sufficient. He could provide, you know, food for himself and he went to obtain supplies and things of that nature.
NEVILLE: Yes, and there is one description of him saying that he would walk right into the middle of a rainstorm or into the forest with just a backpack and a poncho.
STONE: Yes. In talking to, again, his friends and family, they related that he enjoyed the outdoors. He grew up in it. They used to -- he and his friends used to play basically an adult version of hide and seek where they would run and hide in the woods and people would try to find them. I believe Eric has had a hiding place since he was in high school in that area and that over the years he has modified his use.
NEVILLE: And, again, Agent Stone, of course, the fingerprinting processing is, process is still taking place as we speak. Let's fast forward for a moment. If, in fact, there is a positive identification and this, in fact, this man in custody is Eric Robert Rudolph, what happens next?
STONE: Well, I would assume once he is positively identified if he is cooperating he will be interviewed. I know the authorities would love to locate his main hiding place for a variety of reasons. One, his bomb factory, where he actually constructed the devices, has never been found. And, two, there's still a sizable quantity of explosives missing that we believe is linked to Eric. And the explosives become more dangerous as time passes and, of course, we'd like to render them safe.
COOPER: Agent Stone, the fact that nobody has heard publicly from this man since 1998, since this last sighting, did you ever come to think maybe he was dead?
STONE: No. I was asked that question a good bit. There's always a possibility he's dead. But, again, if -- I believed that if he had died, he would have died of natural causes in that he probably became sick in his hiding place, became dehydrated and wasn't able to get out.
I don't, I didn't believe that Eric is the kind of individual who would take his own life, nor did I believe he would take foolish chance as far as, you know, walking along dangerous cliffs and things like that. He used established trails and roads. There are over 500 miles of roads just in the Natanhala Forest.
And so it's really no surprise to me that he was still alive and that he has been apprehended.
COOPER: Then were you surprised that there had not been any other bombings that had been attributed to him?
STONE: Oh, a little surprised about that. Since he had started his bombing campaign, some of the profiles tend to indicate that he would. But then on the other hand, my personal belief is that Eric, for whatever reason, had decided he needed to kill law enforcement and ultimately he succeeded with the bombing in Birmingham, and, of course, that was the last bombing that took place.
SCHUSTER: Yes, Charles, maybe you could talk a little bit more about that point, because that became a key point in the investigation, even as early as the Olympic Park bombing, the notion of having a second bomb that would bring law enforcement people in that therefore they might be injured. And that, the bomb went off before the time had elapsed from the warning. Remember, the caller had said there is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have 30 minutes. But the bomb went off earlier than 30 minutes, before people had been completely cleared away.
SCHUSTER: So talk about that notion that he might have been after law enforcement and that how -- that might have messed with what you came to learn of his political beliefs.
STONE: Well, when the investigation began, of course, there was a time discrepancy between the 9/11 call and the bomb detonating in the park. Prior to this, based upon standard protocol, bomb technicians would have been trying to render the bomb safe and, you know, one of the scenarios is that they would be approaching the bomb slowly, looking at it when the bomb would have detonated, thus killing them.
That didn't occur simply by the grace of god. The second bombing at the abortion clinic in Atlanta, again, by fate, a car was placed, a car was parked directly in front of the secondary device that exploded and injured several people, but didn't kill anyone.
The gay bar bombing, the Otherside Lounge bombing, I believe -- and this is just speculation -- that one of the bombs malfunctioned. Of course, one bomb detonated. A lady was injured. The Atlanta Police Department did an extremely good job getting to the scene and then finding the secondary device. We were trying to render it safe when it exploded. But, again, we were fortunate no one else was injured.
I believe Eric was possibly getting frustrated then. He changed his device this way it became a command detonated device where he could actually be in the area and detonate it when appropriately, and unfortunately for us, he did such and killed the Birmingham police officer.
COOPER: And that's how it worked, Henry?
SCHUSTER: Yes, I mean from the investigation, what they learned was that we were actually shown where they believed the tree he was hiding behind. The bomb was hidden in a flower pot in front of the clinic in Birmingham. And there had been an off duty police officer who had been working the overnight shift. And he was getting ready to come off of his overnight shift. And I believe investigators thought that Eric Rudolph was, or whoever the bomber was, was waiting a few more minutes beyond that when there would start to be a few people gathering out, just right out in front of the clinic.
But at that point, from what we understand, Emily Lyons, the nurse, was just arriving and she was just walking up to the front door and the police officer, Officer Robert Sanderson, had his baton extended and he was looking at what he thought was a suspicious object in a flower pot. And as he was poking it, that's when the bomb was detonated.
But it was detonated by somebody who was watching and they saw that somebody who was in a police uniform -- correct me if I'm wrong, Charles, but he was in a police uniform, was, you know, was looking at the bomb when it went off. So if his intent, if the bomber's intent was to kill law enforcement, then he may not have gotten all the people he wanted, he might have been after at the clinic, but he certainly got a lot, unfortunately...
NEVILLE: The officer.
SCHUSTER: ... he killed a police officer.
COOPER: Now, Arthel had asked this question to Agent Stone. Let me ask it to you. What jurisdiction do you think this would be adjudicated in first...
COOPER: If, in fact, this is...
SCHUSTER: Good. If it's him, good question. He's been indicted by federal grand juries in Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia. We had been told that the latest thinking -- and this was admittedly a year ago -- that he would go to Birmingham first for the murder of the police officer and the maiming of Emily Lyons. And one of the reasons that he would go there was because they had a better and stronger case. And the fact is that they have an eyewitness, which we talked about earlier, the medical student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who looked out his window. And he was the person who chased the person leaving the scene and then spotted his license plate of his gray Nissan pickup truck.
And that part of it helps make it a much stronger case. It's not just forensics.
COOPER: Do you know -- and maybe it's a good time to sort of remind our viewers why we are talking about this man at this time -- but in your recitation of what we know at this point, when was it first believed, sort of brought up as the possibility that this man who is in custody might be Eric Robert Rudolph? Was it this morning or was it last night when he was first found?
SCHUSTER: Last night the sheriff's office pulled him in. We heard about it this morning, obviously, and they're doing the fingerprint identification this morning. Something led them to believe, either he was cooperating or his physical appearance -- I mean they do have, I mean of all of the places that you're going to have a wanted poster for Eric Robert Rudolph, it's going to be in the Cherokee County Sheriffs Department.
COOPER: So we do know from sources, from your source, that the fingerprinting began today?
COOPER: So with that in mind, Agent Stone, and I know there's some question as to the capabilities, the technological capabilities of this particular police unit in which he is now, can you give a sense of a time frame of how long it might be before any sort of positive identification is made from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if, if they began this morning?
STONE: If it began this morning, you would know, you would have a confirmation within a matter of minutes, as soon as the -- again, I don't know whether or not, I don't know how the State of North Carolina is structured. But once a federal agent gets there, he can fax a good quality fingerprint card to an examiner or to the AFIS system in Washington and they will get an almost instantaneous response to it.
Being on the top 10 list adds impetus to the identification process.
COOPER: All right, so it's, you know, we're trying to pull together all this information as it is happening. What we know at this point, a man is being held by police. They are trying to do fingerprinting, trying to identify whether or not it is Eric Robert Rudolph, a man who has been the focus of police efforts for quite some time now.
We're talking on the phone to Charles Stone, formerly with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, formerly deputy director of the task force hunting down Eric Robert Rudolph.
Mr. Stone, if you could, talk a little bit about the last time he was known to have been seen. I believe it was July 7th, 1998 at the home of this friend, George Nordmann.
STONE: Well, without just reiterating the whole thing, Eric appeared to Mr. Nordmann. Mr. Nordmann had known him all, basically all of his life, since he had moved to North Carolina anyway. And told Mr. Nordmann he needed food. Mr. Nordmann's house, who also serves as his warehouse for his health food store business, Mr. became concerned, left the house and in the following night, a large quantity of foodstuff and supplies were removed, along with his pickup truck.
COOPER: And how long was it before Mr. Nordmann notified authorities from the time he saw Eric Robert Rudolph?
STONE: Keep in mind it's been several years. It was the next day, I believe. Mr. Nordmann became concerned, didn't go home that night and if my memory serves me right, he contacted local law enforcement the next day.
SCHUSTER: I think one of the most fascinating things, and, Charles, you can talk about this, is that because investigators had no idea that Eric, who Eric Rudolph was, up until the Birmingham bombing, until he actually became a suspect after the Birmingham bombing, he was moving about freely in that even the day that he returned to North Carolina he -- Charles, what was it? He rented a couple of videos. He went to the Burger King. He went to the grocery store and stocked up on food. Tell us about those last hours before he disappeared.
STONE: Basically it's just what you said. He, we believe he returned to North Carolina not knowing that had been identified and was wanted by the Birmingham Police Department. He purchased groceries, purchased Burger King, rented a movie, found out, probably through a media broadcast, that he was wanted, went back to the trailer where he was living, gathered up a few things and disappeared.
A week or so later, his pickup truck was found outside Murphy, North Carolina and the hunt began. He didn't resurface then until January.
COOPER: And, by the way, I should just point out to viewers, the movie he rented was called "The Conqueror," and, of course, the video has not been returned, from what I understand, probably understandably -- Arthel.
NEVILLE: Yes, well, you know, we have a special guest here on the set with us, Alan Duke.
Alan, of course, you were covering this story, reporting for CNN during the Sandy Springs abortion clinic bombing. And when you heard that, in fact, authorities might have in custody Eric Rudolph this morning, what sort of memories flooded to your mind?
ALAN DUKE, CNN WRITER: Well, one thing I remember is that that bomb blast, we were caught quite by surprise by that second bomb blast. We went to the scene to cover the first one in Sandy Springs at the women's clinic there, just thinking we were covering a bombing. And we got too close, apparently. There was a second bomb hidden and, of course, several law enforcement agents and emergency officials were injured.
I mean that second bomb surprised everybody and several reporters were very close to that bomb when it went off.
NEVILLE: And you were close to it.
DUKE: I was probably about 15 yards away from it and I was walking directly toward it when it went off. And I think I was saved by this dumpster, the corner of the dumpster. If I had taken a couple of more steps, I might have gotten bloodied. There was a firefighter just in front of me, when that bomb blast went off, the first thing I saw blood coming down his face, streaming down his face. The second thing I thought was why am I not hurt?
But the shrapnel that might have been in that bomb that would have hit me, I was protected by that dumpster.
NEVILLE: And, Alan, of course, obviously you have personal ties because you were there covering this story and you were so close to, as you just told us, being injured. Again, you covered this story closely for the first two years. Tell us what you know about Eric Rudolph. DUKE: I spent a lot of time in Andrews, North Carolina, and Murphy and Cherokee County walking through the woods. It seemed to go on forever, the various attempts at capturing him, finding him, when probably the most interesting thing that happened was that time when the former Green Berets Bo Gritz went there to lead a group of citizens, I suppose, militia members, in some cases, looking for him. It became something of a circus, that search.
They had about 200 federal agents there at one time from various federal investigative agencies looking for him. They had a whole tent city there and they had all the hotels and motels within miles of Andrews, North Carolina filled with federal agents and journalists. And it also attracted a lot of people who are interested in the militia movement there who perhaps felt some sympathy with Eric Robert Rudolph.
NEVILLE: And, of course, after having covered the story so extensively, you realized and learned that Eric Rudolph had some Army training, some sort of military training and that he was a loner, he's a survivalist. So were you -- are you surprised that he's been able to be so elusive for so many years?
DUKE: Oh, absolutely, because I just could not imagine for five or six years, the five years, I guess it would be, living in the mountains like that. There were a lot of caves up there. You know, we covered that extensively. Very big trees, a lot of covered forest. Of course, the Appalachian Trail runs right through there and it's quite a natural place.
He probably may be glad not to be up in that situation again.
NEVILLE: Do we still have Agent Stone on the line? I know, Alan, you have been waiting on the line with authorities to give you any sort of confirmation with this fingerprinting process that's taking place now and, of course, Agent Stone, who is the former Georgia Bureau of Investigation deputy director of the task force at the time, of course he said that they have to be very careful about this process and explained to us why it could take an hour or it could take a day.
DUKE: This is what's happening, as I understand it, in the Cherokee County sheriff's office. I've talked with guys. I've talked with April in the office, with Stacey in the office. I've gotten to know them quite well this morning since we first started working on this story, actually several hours ago. And Sheriff Keith Lovin was reluctant to talk to us about it at first. And then as we let him know we had other sources telling us what was going on, he started letting us know how they were doing this.
He's still, the sheriff last I called the office a few moments ago before coming up on the set, he's in his office sitting there waiting for the very final confirmation on the fps. And every time I called, about every three minutes, that's the answer that I've gotten.
They're waiting on the final confirmation. He's in his office. And, of course, now, we were the first news agency to call him up and so it sort of surprised him that we knew. But we have our sources. And when Henry let on how much we knew, he started opening up confirming some of the details to us.
But he, of course, was reluctant to tell us that they absolutely knew that it was Eric Robert Rudolph until they get that final confirmation on the fps.
NEVILLE: Of course. Of course.
SCHUSTER: And, of course, the FBI wants to part of all of this.
DUKE: That's another factor.
SCHUSTER: So they're waiting for the FBI to get there.
COOPER: We should also just point out we have on the phone Emily Lyons, the woman injured in the Birmingham bombing.
Ms. Lyons, are you there?
EMILY LYONS, INJURED IN BIRMINGHAM BLAST: Yes.
COOPER: Your thoughts upon hearing about this possibility -- we do stress that it's just a possibility that Eric Robert Rudolph may be in custody. We are waiting to hear. But your thoughts this morning?
LYONS: My husband and I are both hopeful that this is the real thing this time. You know, we are -- our optimism is still guarded until the proof is there. But pleased. I mean if this is it, it's what we've been waiting for.
NEVILLE: Ms. Lyons, I'm sure you've spent years sort of trying to suppress the memories of what took place. But if you could tell us again, what happened to you? What was your involvement? And I understand that you were left disabled from this bombing?
COOPER: Right. It was January 29th, '98, and when I went to work that morning at the women's clinic in Birmingham, a pipe bomb exploded outside the clinic. It killed Officer Sanderson and, yes, has, indeed, disabled me for the rest of my life.
COOPER: You have been so outspoken since then, such a force for women's reproductive rights. How, I mean how did that incident change your life?
LYONS: It really made me outspoken, because I was a real quiet person. I don't know why it did that. It was like a consequence of the bomb that day. It flipped a switch in my mind and things just had to be, had to be told.
COOPER: Did you ever think that this man was dead?
LYONS: No. Never.
COOPER: Why? LYONS: I don't know. It's just one of those things. He had support and we know that other groups and other people like him have had so much support in the country. So I just didn't think he was dead. And I've said all along, I thought he was still in North Carolina, even when everybody else was saying no, no, he's not there. He's gone. He's out of the country. But no.
NEVILLE: So let's bring Agent Stone back into the conversation.
Agent Stone, you're hearing Ms. Lyons say that she knew somewhere in her -- Agent Stone is gone.
But getting back to Henry and...
COOPER: Yes, actually, Emily, you knew Officer Sanderson, the other, the man who was killed in the blast that injured you so severely.
Tell us about him.
LYONS: He was a good police officer. He came to work. He did his job. He knew what he was there for, even if he didn't agree with it. He knew that it was his duty to provide security for us.
COOPER: And you knew him because he had been providing security for the place you worked for how long?
LYONS: I'm not sure about time wise. We had several during the period that I was there so I can't remember.
COOPER: But that is how you knew him, because he had been there previously?
COOPER: It wasn't just from that one day?
LYONS: No, no. He was pretty much there every day during the week.
COOPER: Do you, you must think of him often.
LYONS: Yes. I mean it's not -- it's not something you forget about. It's always with you, every day. You have to think about it.
COOPER: You know, I hope this isn't an unfair question, but do you hate Eric Robert Rudolph?
LYONS: No. I hate what he did to me and what he did to Sandy. But I don't know him so I can't equate that emotion to him.
COOPER: Do -- what do you think motivated this man? I mean do you really believe it was ideological? Do you believe it was something just pathological?
LYONS: I'd have to go -- well, a little of each, I think. But until he, until it's for sure that it's him, he's the only one that can tell us that.
NEVILLE: But, of course, there is the first bomb that brought the '96 Olympics to a standstill. Alan, again, you've been covering the story, and Henry, both of you. Let's talk about that a little bit, Alan.
DUKE: Well, that was a most unbelievable week. I think Henry will concur with that. The whole world was watching Atlanta after that blast that night and it was the most unbelievable thing that we went through. It happened right here in our front yard here at CNN. And many of us, not me, but many CNN colleagues here were out in the park when that bomb exploded. And it's, it brought everything to a standstill, one of the most important weeks of that every four years.
SCHUSTER: Arthel, I just wanted to say that it also is -- it must be mentioned here that Alice Hawthorne, who was a woman from south Georgia who was visiting Centennial Park with her daughter that night, they had gone to a variety of Olympic events around Atlanta and they had gone into Centennial Park just for a few minutes. There was a band playing. It was a band called Jack Mack & The Heart Attack. And they were over by a statue that's not very far from here when the bomb went off.
And Alice Hawthorne was killed by flying nails. And her daughter was pretty badly injured. And she was the -- a cameraman for a Turkish television station also died that night, coming back in, trying to -- of a heart attack trying to come back in. And hundreds of people were injured.
What we learned from investigators was very important, that it was only because a group of kids who had been, who had seen a backpack under a bench, and they were thinking about stealing it. They had had a little bit to drink and they were thinking about grabbing the backpack with them. It was only because they tipped it over on its back that the force of the bomb blast went upwards instead of out.
They estimated that hundreds of people could have been killed. This was the largest pipe bomb that the ATF could find in its records. It was over 40 pounds. There were three separate pipes filled with explosives, black powder and smokeless powder. They had never seen a bomb like this when they built it.
They were finding nails five stories up on buildings across the street because the force of the bomb blast had knocked it up. And the other thing that this group of young men who almost took the backpack with them and actually saved lives by knocking it over. They had said in later interviews that they were going to go across the street to what was then called the House of Blues, which was a nightclub. So you can only imagine what would have happened if that backpack would have gone off inside a closed space where there were about a thousand people.
COOPER: Ms. Lyons, are you still on the phone?
LYONS: Yes. COOPER: I don't want to keep you holding on. I just wanted to ask you one more question. Do you dream of seeing Eric Rudolph in court?
LYONS: Yes. I mean that's the ultimate goal, to see him in court, you know, possibly talk to him and to see the final justice done.
COOPER: Why -- it's interesting you say you would like to talk to him. What would you like to say to him?
LYONS: Why? What was it that you picked that day, that place, for what purpose?
COOPER: Do you think he has an answer for that?
LYONS: I'm sure he does. Why did you do the Olympics? Why did you do the others in Atlanta? What were you trying to tell everybody that day? And if it was important enough to do that, then it's important enough to tell everybody.
COOPER: Has it surprised you that there have not been any other bombings, any other incidents attributed to him since 1998?
LYONS: Yes, because the media has kept his name and his face in the public eye for the past five and a half years. So I'm not surprised that he's possibly caught today. The media has been excellent with that.
COOPER: And if this is not him in custody in that jail right now, if it's not his fps that prove that Eric Robert Rudolph has been caught, what does that mean? What are your thoughts then?
LYONS: That the person is still out there who can still make bombs and destroy other people.
COOPER: And if it is him and he does go to court, what do you want to see him tried, convicted of? What sort of -- I mean is any kind of jail time sufficient for what has happened to you?
LYONS: Not in my mind, there's not. No. It's either he stays in prison for the rest of his life or the death penalty. Either one.
COOPER: And we're seeing a picture of you from soon -- well, not too soon, but after the bombing in Birmingham. The time in between, I don't know if you're seeing this picture, as well.
LYONS: Right. Yes.
COOPER: But from the time then to the time now, the recovery, the pain that you have lived with, if you can, talk about it a little bit.
LYONS: I don't look like that now. No, the recovery has been a long period of time and it seems like it'll always be recovering. There's always something going on with my body. The pain has lessened, the physical pain. But the psychological pain is still there.
NEVILLE: But Ms. Lyons, in spite of that psychological pain, you said that you remained a survivor and you've refused to let him get you down, you've refused to let Eric Robert Rudolph win. Looking at these pictures of you and to see what happened to you physically and knowing that you were left disabled by this, anyone who goes through any sort of traumatic experience like that, at some point you do feel like you want to give up and asking if you ever got to that point?
LYONS: No. I mean I have a great husband who supported me and who loves me no matter what I look like or how bad of a shape I've been for five and a half years. That keeps me going.
COOPER: Emily Lyons, thank you so much for joining us this morning.
LYONS: You're welcome.
COOPER: We'd love to stay in touch with you over the next minutes and hours and try to get back in touch with you as developments warrant. And we appreciate your time this morning. Thank you so much.
We are now joined on the phone by Duke Blackburn. He's with the Georgia Department of Corrections, led a part of the investigation, hunting down Eric Robert Rudolph.
Mr. Blackburn, your thoughts this morning?
DUKE BLACKBURN, GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: Yes, I'm here.
COOPER: Your thoughts upon hearing that a man is being held by police and they are trying to find out whether or not he is Eric Robert Rudolph?
BLACKBURN: Well, it doesn't surprise me. There's probably not a day that goes by that I don't think about it, I've been involved with it for so long. But I just totally believed that he was still up there.
NEVILLE: And Mr. Blackburn, this is Arthel.
Good morning, sir.
Asking you, we were speaking to a couple of other former FBI agents and a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent this morning and I asked them why Mr. Rudolph remained so elusive. What is your theory?
BLACKBURN: Well, I certainly think that he, you know, he had the training and he lived there. He was on his home turf, I guess, but strong life. He knew the area and he was very familiar with it. It was like kids playing in the woods anywhere in Georgia. He knew all the good places, the fun places, and I think he had time over the years to really build him some type of hideout.
NEVILLE: And Mr. Blackburn, talk about, if you would, your involvement in the investigation.
BLACKBURN: We were, I was physically at the site, at the Olympic Park the night, the morning the bomb went off. We have, the Georgia Department of Corrections has a number of bomb dogs and tracking dogs. We were called. We were over, I was over at the tactical unit for the Olympic Park during the bombing, during the Olympics. We had, you know, then we were called in to support the FBI and ATF and GBI. We actually went to the abortion clinic there in Rosborn (ph) and were there, we were there when the second bomb went off. We were then called to North Carolina and we were there for, I guess, almost a year during that time that the major manhunt was going on.
NEVILLE: And Mr. Blackburn, if, in fact, authorities have in custody Eric Robert Rudolph, what would you like to see happen to him?
BLACKBURN: I'd like to really find out, you know, certainly find out exactly what went on, what he was responsible for, where he was, who helped him, if anybody, and, you know, we had a large number of explosives that are missing, try to find those. And supposedly he had a place that he manufactured the bombs, you know, find that, just try to find out the bits and pieces that -- the unknowns right now.
NEVILLE: And do you think you can actually get inside of someone's head? I mean do you think, in fact, that he would, this Rudolph character would actually cooperate with investigators at any point?
BLACKBURN: Personally, I don't think, you know, just from what he did, he's certainly got problems. But I think he's not the type that you cannot have a conversation with and find out. He's, I think he would, from what we know of him and events that happened, that, I think that the investigators, I'd feel sure that he'd, the men are probably, you know, talking to him.
COOPER: Mr. Blackburn, also, we're joined on the phone by Charles Stone, formerly with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. He was the deputy director, as you well know, of the task force.
Mr. Stone, we want to ask you, Eric Robert Rudolph signed some of his letters that made bomb threats Army of God.
Was there ever an Army? Was there ever a group he was with? Is it known to investigator?
STONE: No. As far -- that's sort of a nebulous term. A publication outlining how to disrupt and destroy abortion clinics, a pamphlet was produced by an individual or a group identifying themselves as an Army of God. It was fairly prevalent, if you keep up with material of that nature. It was in the news. As far as Eric being a member of any group, I don't believe he was.
COOPER: I should also point out that it was, that he who allegedly wrote those letters. It has not yet been proven.
COOPER: Henry, it sound right to you, though, that Eric Robert Rudolph was never really known to be part of any larger organization?
SCHUSTER: Yes, that does sound right. He had a lot of intersections with people in the far right movement. When he was a teenager, his mother had taken him out to a compound in Missouri run by Reverend Dan Gaymen (ph), which was a Christian identity church. And his mother took him out there and he was there for a little while. And that raised a lot of suspicions. But when we talked to people out there, what they said was he had a lot of direct conflict with Dan Gaymen.
Eric had his -- he also had a mentor next door to him when they moved to North Carolina, who was also involved in the survivalist movement. And then there was a third man.
But every time that Eric would run up with one of these people and maybe pull away a little bit of the political philosophy, what would also happen was that his own very strong personality would drive him away from those people.
So whereas it looks suspicious that he might be part of this movement or that movement or the other movement, and I think Charles Stone can talk about this a little bit more, but the profile that they developed was of a man who was so headstrong that he drove other people away.
STONE: Yes, Henry was correct in what he described in talking to family and friends and acquaintances of Eric. He disliked authority. In fact, he -- that became apparent during his time in the military. When he was discharged from the military, he became even more anti- authoritarian and became, as Henry described him, very strong-willed and very -- believed in himself and very few other people.
NEVILLE: And Alan Duke, you have your own supposition as to what drove Robert Rudolph.
DUKE: Well, there were, of course, a lot of links, as Henry pointed out, between Eric Robert Rudolph and the various splinters of the militia movement. Whether he was a member of a group or not, I think I would agree with Henry that he really wasn't because of his personality. There was something of what you might call a training camp for people who may have been like-minded in the militia movement, if you want to call it that, at Andrews, North Carolina, near his teenage home where he had lived also and worked as a young adult.
And there was also an interesting connection with that camp and another well-known American linked to the militia movement, Bo Gritz, the former Green Berets who led this group of, I guess you could say ragtag group of volunteers who, for I think about a week, camped in the mountains looking for him. And then there was also the connection with the Missouri compound that he stayed I think maybe four, five or six months with his mom when he was, I think, 17 years old.
So there were a lot of connections there. And remember, this was at a time when -- it was not long after the Olympic -- I mean, I'm sorry, the Oklahoma City bombing and the McVeigh and the Nichols's arrests. This was, this started before the trials of McVeigh and Nichols. So the media was very much focusing in on the militia movement and we were learning a lot about what was going on.
And so this was a very hot topic then and we had our focus on that kind of terrorism, domestic terrorism at that time, instead of the kind that we're talking about now, the international terrorism. But Eric Robert Rudolph came to me to symbolize that and what it could be. But like McVeigh, he seemed to have been not a part of a larger group.
NEVILLE: And, thank you, Alan, for that theory.
We have someone on the phone joining us now, Daryn Freeh (ph), who actually taught the ATF and FBI the task force forces who were trying to find Eric Robert Rudolph.
And good morning, Mr. Freeh.
If you could tell us a little bit about that training when you're looking for someone who is called a survivalist, someone who knows very well how to operate in the caves and to go, as he said, to where no man or dog can reach him?
DARYN FREEH: Well, Eric spent a lot of time, like everybody else was saying, with, in the mountains. He was a loner and he was used to seclusion. And that was part of the getting ahead of the game. And knowing that area, that he could, he understood it and that's why I think he stayed out there too long. But just like I always thought -- actually, I thought he was already dead and that was my own personal opinion.
And I was actually quite surprised this morning when I learned the news but...
NEVILLE: And when you did hear the news that, in fact, authorities might have Eric Robert Rudolph in custody, what sort of thoughts and pictures came to your mind, sir?
FREEH: Just actually I felt great that this was, being in the times we are with our international terrorists, this is a good place to show that, you know, we can take care of the domestic and international, and that that is important.
NEVILLE: And getting specifically here to this Eric Robert Rudolph case, sir, you, I understand, where hired to go into caves during the search for this man?
FREEH: That's true. I worked up there for a couple of months teaching them the terrain and a lot to look for. I took archaeology and geology and not finding just something as simple as a hole in a rock, but not being familiar with that, and well that's from old time drilling where they made mines and then you start chasing them down, we might even be, we could have been three miles from, in the one particular situation, from the actual mine where we started finding traces of just maybe microscopic -- well, not microscopic but just small pieces of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
NEVILLE: Give me an idea, though. I mean here I sit. People who are watching this, you were hired to go into caves and you're talking about the terrain. Give me a vivid picture of someone who is not familiar with this.
FREEH: OK, well, you're looking at some real rough just straight up and down terrain, actually, literally sliding down on your, on, down the mountain or going up on hands and knees through thickets. You had the element of possible rattlesnakes. Also in the mines they tend to create gases that can kill you quicker than cyanide. You walk in and maybe one day you walk into a mine and it'll be perfectly fine. Well, the weather changes, it gets a little wet, you walk in, stir up the gases just on the ground with the water and you're dead before you hit the ground. That's something else we had to look for.
NEVILLE: And are you surprised that this Eric Robert Rudolph could survive in such terrain, in such -- I mean it seems so dangerous.
FREEH: Well, I'm just -- as I said, I'm absolutely just overwhelmed that he's not dead and it is, it's just a miracle that he was found.
NEVILLE: And Mr. Freeh, I understand, is it true that you still go looking for Eric Robert Rudolph?
FREEH: I had up till February and then I developed this arthritis in my legs and it put me down for up till May. And actually I was just going over the mountains about a week ago saying well, I wonder if he's over here, because to me Eric was like, just like a rabbit running in circles in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) real graphics in the details with that.
NEVILLE: But just...
FREEH: But it was just amazing.
NEVILLE: Earlier you said you had believed that he was dead. So were you looking for a dead man?
FREEH: Yes, I was. Yes, I was. I was trying to, I'd pretty well -- last, early in January I'd figured that he kept on these old trails and the next step was just to actually literally start where he was born at or raised at and go from where he was raised just from there and try to, you know, find him. I always felt like that he within probably three miles of this, of where he was raised at.
NEVILLE: And given what you know about these caves in this area that Eric Robert Rudolph spent much of his time in, what sort of obstacles would he have had to face?
FREEH: Well, he had the elements, naturally, the winters. But, see, that was one thing that played in his favor was that we really didn't have that bad of winters the whole time he's been out there. But, you know, it didn't matter, even back in the old days, the old timers used to have to get -- you had to get salt and beans and whatever. And I just, I figured that if anything that would happen, that he would, you know, be caught getting food up till the time until now. But he, you know, he had the weather. He had the heat. The heat just, the, it's just, the dampness, you know, he gives himself pneumonia.
NEVILLE: But he was dealing with rattlesnakes, as well.
FREEH: Oh, rattlesnakes, it's just, for him to be out there, personally I'd like to see what kind of mental condition he's in now because after that type of seclusion, I always heard one of the profilers saying that, you know, the thing is he'd always want to know that people were still around and maybe that he was above the Nantahala River. And actually I found some camps that I felt was his campfires for overlooks, but not his actual lair.
NEVILLE: OK, Mr. Freeh, thank you very much for your time this morning.
FREEH: OK. Well, thank you.
COOPER: It is just about 9:00 a.m. here on the East Coast of the United States.
We want to just step back and bring you up to date on exactly what we know at this moment in time.
We know that a man is in custody at a sheriff's station in Cherokee County, North Carolina, picked up last night, believed to be homeless at the time, found on a road in Murphy, North Carolina, which is in Cherokee County.
This, of course, the area, both Cherokee County and Macon County, where the most intensive part of the search for Eric Robert Rudolph has been going on since he disappeared, last seen in 1998.
We do not know at this time whether the man in custody in the sheriff's station in Cherokee County is Eric Robert Rudolph. The last information we had was that he was being fingerprinted. Those fps would be compared on a national database, trying to find out whether or not it is, in fact, him.
Henry Schuster, our senior producer, he's been following this investigation from the beginning, tells us federal agents are also on the way to that sheriff's station. They have, of course, been spearheading this campaign, this investigation, along with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and a host of other state, local and federal agencies.
That is what we know at this point. We do not know if Eric Robert Rudolph is in custody, but that has been the indication that we have been given.
There is still a lot to talk about. On the phone, we have Duke Blackburn with the Georgia Department of Corrections. We also have Charles Stone, formerly with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, formerly the deputy director of the task force. We're also talking to Henry Schuster, our senior producer here at CNN, who has been following this investigation for us really from the early days of it.
And, Henry, I want to talk to you a little bit about -- and also bring in Charles Stone on this -- what drove this man as far as we know?
SCHUSTER: Well, it's very interesting. When he was a boy living in Florida, his father developed cancer.
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