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THE CAPTURE OF ERIC RUDOLPH

Capture Ends 5-Year Search in N.C. Woodlands

June 01, 2003|From Times Staff Reports

The search for Eric Robert Rudolph always returned to the harsh woods he knew well -- the expanse of red spruce and pines of the Nantahala National Forest that stretches for 528,000 acres through the Appalachians of western North Carolina.

For five years, federal agents and state police investigators foraged through the woods, inspecting lonely hillside cabins and picking through abandoned campsites.

In the summer of 1998, just six months after his name turned up as a suspect, Rudolph daringly left five $100 bills at the home of a neighbor after taking off with a six-month supply of food and a pickup truck.

If it was a robbery, some law enforcement officials believed, it was a crime among friends -- the sort of friendly heist that may have aided Rudolph in his flight from his pursuers.

Rudolph's arrest Saturday morning came not far from the home he grew up in. He was scavenging for food outside a supermarket, police said.

"His outdoor skills have been much overblown," said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives Special Agent James Cavanaugh. "He's no Mr. Outdoors, Mr. Survivor. He's down there diving in the dumpster."

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