Bomb fugitive's family to make appeal

Relatives of Eric Rudolph, suspect in fatal 1998 abortion-clinic bombing, will ask him on Saturday to turn himself in.

By Jeff Stein
Published July 24, 1998 7:00PM (EDT)

WASHINGTON -- The family of fugitive Eric Rudolph, expected to appeal for the bombing suspect to surrender Saturday, abruptly canceled a press conference scheduled outside the federal command post for the manhunt in western North Carolina.

The cancellation was announced by FBI task force spokesman Earl Woodham. News organizations were told to contact attorney David Payne in Asheville. A woman who answered the telephone at his home said he was not immediately available, the Associated Press reported.

Rudolph, one of the FBI's 10 most wanted suspects, has successfully eluded a massive manhunt in the foothills of North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains since a local merchant reported he had shown up and stolen food July 7.

On Friday FBI sources told Salon that members of the Rudolph family would appeal for the 31-year-old, pony-tailed fugitive to turn himself in, but it was not clear whether family members would appear personally in tiny Andrews, N.C., where the fugitive task force is headquartered.

Patricia Rudolph, the fugitive's mother, has refused to talk to reporters in the six months since her son was named a suspect in the Jan. 29 bombing of the New Women-All Women clinic in Birmingham, Ala. The bomb killed an off-duty policeman working security at the clinic and severely maimed a nurse.

Rudolph is also wanted for questioning in connection with the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing and the bombings of a gay nightclub and an abortion clinic in Atlanta.

A brother, Danny, who cut off one hand with a buzzsaw in an apparent protest to the FBI and media after his brother was named as a suspect, lives with their mother in Florida.

Another brother, Jamie, a composer and musician in New York, said last weekend that he was "shocked and surprised ... absolutely dumbfounded" that his brother would be a suspect in an abortion clinic bombing, because "he was very anti-government, anti-Washington and a fan of Rush Limbaugh," but "he never mentioned abortion."

Eric Rudolph and his mother visited Jamie in New York last November. "We had a very nice time," Jamie said. They went out for dinner, attended the opera and took a walk through Central park.

Eric rented a movie about an Irish Republican Army terrorist for the family to watch, Jamie recalled. "I thought it was odd," he said.

Neither Jamie Rudolph nor his mother could be reached for comment Friday. It could not be learned whether they were en route to North Carolina, where more than 1,000 federal and local police have been fighting searing heat, snakes, rushing rivers, high mountains and thick brush in their unsuccessful hunt for Rudolph, a suspected follower of the white-supremacy Christian Identity movement.

"We've been working on it in one form or fashion since Day One," said Craig Dahle, the FBI spokesman in the Birmingham headquarters of the Rudolph investigation. "We've been meeting with some resistance, or not connecting with the family (until now)," he added. "It's encouraging, to say the least." Dahle added later that "my impression is that the family will not be there" but would speak through "a representative" at a gazebo outside the fugitive task force command post in Andrews.

"We are not part of it," he said.

Frank Scarfidi, FBI spokesman in Washington, confirmed to Salon that the family would make a statement Saturday, but said he had not been able to learn any more details from the Fugitive Task Force in Andrews, which has been giving daily media briefings but not allowing reporters to ask questions.

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the coauthor, with Khidhir Hamza, of "Saddam's Bombmaker: The Daring Escape of the Man Who Built Iraq's Secret Weapon." He writes frequently for Salon on national security issues from Washington.

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