A 23-year-old Caltech graduate student was arrested yesterday for environmentally motivated attacks last summer that caused more than $3.5 million in damage to California four auto dealerships. William Cottrell was caught via tracing e-mail messages he allegedly sent to the Los Angeles Times boasting of the crimes and taunting the FBI, the Times reports. Cottrell is being held without bail.
Last August’s early morning fire bombings, carried out in less than three hours and blamed on eco-terrorists, damaged or destroyed about 125 vehicles and one commercial building.
Three weeks after the fires, the FBI arrested Josh Connole, a environmentalist and antiwar activist who matched the appearance of one of two men caught on a security videotape at one of the car dealerships. Four days later, Connole, who maintained his innocence, was released.
Cottrell allegedly began a correspondence with the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 15, saying in part, “the police have the wrong man here – I was amongst those responsible for the SUV attacks.” The Times, in researching the route of the e-mail, learned it might have been sent from a computer at Caltech. The university confirmed that, and it was a big break for the FBI.