Most of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives are caught, but not always by the FBI. That was the result in the case of Eric Rudolph, suspected of masterminding four bombings – including the 1996 Centennial Park bombing in Atlanta – that killed two and injured more than 100, the Christian Science Monitor says.
Sometimes it’s a mug shot or an appearance on “America’s Most Wanted” that does it. Sometimes it’s a suspect’s slip-up – as when David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam” killer, was caught after getting a parking ticket in New York City in 1977. And sometimes, as happened with Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, it’s a family member or acquaintance who comes up with the crucial clue.
Rudolph was arrested by a rookie deputy who used to be a Wal-Mart security guard. Of the 100 people on the FBI’s most-wanted list over the past decade, only a handful have eluded authorities. And if history holds up, many others may eventually be captured – from James “Whitey” Bulger to Osama bin Laden.
This time, after five years of searches with howling bloodhounds and high-tech tools, Rudolph the survivalist was found in a dark alley behind a Save-A-Lot grocery store in the small mountain town of Murphy, N.C. at 3:27 a.m. on Saturday.
“Usually people get tripped up not because of great investigative work but because they do something stupid,” says Tod Burke, a former forensics investigator who’s now a professor at Radford University in Radford, Va.
The Washington Post questions whether Rudolph is a “Christian terrorist” and how numerous, organized and violent others who share that ideology may be. The Post says that federal investigators believe Rudolph has had a long association with the radical Christian Identity movement, which asserts that North European whites are the direct descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, God’s chosen people. “Based on what we know of Rudolph so far, and admittedly it’s fragmentary, there seems to be a fairly high likelihood that he can legitimately be called a Christian terrorist,” said Michael Barkun of Syracuse University, who has been a consultant to the FBI on Christian extremist groups.