A man wanted for questioning in the deadly Alabama abortion clinic bombing wrote a paper in high school denying the Holocaust occurred and believed the government spied on people through their Social Security numbers.
Residents of this remote mountain region of winding two-lane roads and tree-lined ridges in western North Carolina remember 31-year-old Eric Robert Rudolph and his family not for their actions, but their lack of involvement in the community."There's was nothing really special about him," said Kenny Cope, an acquaintance who is a sheriff's deputy in Franklin.
"I remember him because it was strange that he never hung out with anybody," he said. "You'd see him out working and then he'd go home. That was it."
Rudolph's truck - a gray 1989 Nissan pickup with North Carolina plates - was seen leaving the area of the Birmingham, Ala., clinic on Jan. 29, minutes after a bomb blew out windows and left a crater at the front door. An off-duty police officer moonlighting as a security guard was killed and a nurse was wounded in the nation's first fatal abortion clinic bombing.
A day after the bombing, a warrant was issued for Rudolph as a material witness. He has yet to come forward and the FBI issued an appeal Friday, saying it "urgently" needs to talk with him.
Linda Ledford, who manages a video store in Murphy, said Saturday the store's records show a video was rented by a person signing Rudolph's name on the night of Jan. 29, and again during the day Jan. 30. Murphy is a four-hour drive from Birmingham and the location of a trailer that is Rudolph's last known address.
A swarm of FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents on Thursday took a number of items from the house Rudolph once rented from Susan Roper and the trailer he currently rented in Murphy for $275 a month. He rent-ed it Nov. 20 and had paid through Feb. 20, said his landlord, Jonathan Crisp.
Roper said Saturday that Rudolph told her he disliked banks. He lived in the house from February 1997 to October and always paid his rent on time in cash or by money order, she said.
"He said that he did not believe in banks. He did not trust them," Roper said. "He took care of the place. He was nice. He was polite."
In 1980, Rudolph moved to North Carolina from Homestead, Fla., with his mother, three brothers and a sister. Neighbors said the move may have been precipitated by the death of his father, an airline pilot.
He dropped out of high school his freshman year to go to work doing odd jobs for the elderly in the area.
"(Rudolph and his brothers) expressed anti-government views. But they were friendly, intelligent kids," said Richard Baldwin, principal at Nantahala Union School, where Rudolph attended high school.
A former classmate, Teresa Morgan, said Rudolph told her the government used Social Security numbers to watch people. She said he once walked out of a government class.
"He didn't agree with what the teacher was saying. He said it was all propaganda," she said.
Rudolph's mother, Patricia Rudolph, refused to disclose her children's Social Security numbers or other personal information, Baldwin said.
Angie Bateman, his high school English teacher, said he was a good student but questioned conventional history.
"He didn't think the Holocaust happened. He wrote a paper about it," she said. "The paper was well-written."
On Aug. 4, 1987, Rudolph enlisted in the Army and was assigned to a training brigade at Fort Benning, Ga. Military records show he was discharged Jan. 25, 1989, still a private at the lowest pay grade.
Acquaintances said they couldn't recall Rudolph expressing opinions on abortion.
Rudolph's high school sweetheart, Kim Bateman, remembers a shy, nice boy who enjoyed spending time with his family.