Authorities Zero In On Rudolph

Nearly six months after he disappeared, the man suspected of blowing up an Alabama women's clinic and wanted for questioning in three other blasts has given federal agents their best lead yet.

Eric Robert Rudolph, 31, took a man's pickup truck and a six-month supply of food last week before dumping the truck and vanishing into a thick forest in the North Carolina mountains, authorities said Tuesday.


Truck that authorities say Rudolph took Thursday.(CBS)
It was a huge break in the case, considering that agents have spent weeks searching the same rugged terrain amid false sightings at least as far away as Denver. It also supported their contention that Rudolph had not fled far from the forests and mountains of his home.

The manhunt for one of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted suspects was immediately beefed up with extra officers and bloodhounds around Andrews, a community in far western North Carolina, not far from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"We've said all along Eric Rudolph was still in the area," said Woody Enderson of the Southeast Bomb Task Force. "We said he's alive and alone, and we still believe that... We know he's in the area."

Rudolph was spotted last Thursday by a man from whom Rudolph took the food and the truck. He disappeared after ditching the truck at a campground that leads into the mountains, honeycombed with caves. The truck was found Monday.

"[For] anyone who's not a mountain man, it would be very slow going through those hills," Cherokee County Sheriff Jack Thompson said. "It's rough country, full of rattlesnakes and copperheads."

CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports that inside the truck, investigators found a note asking that the vehicle be returned to its owner, a man once associated with the leader of a radical-right Christian compound near Rudolph's home. It was written in handwriting identified by authorities as Rudolph's, CBS News has learned.

Stewart reports that authorities are not sure whether or not Rudolph stole the vehicle or borrowed it.

CBS News has also learned that the truck's owner told investigators that Rudolph had a shopping list of things he wanted. Among the items on the list were several large batteries. Investigators say such batteries were a common denominator in the Birmingham bombing and the Atlanta blasts.

Rudolph, an avid outdoorsman and carpenter, is charged in the Jan. 29 bombing of the New Woman All Women clinic, which killed an off-duty police officer and seriously wounded a nurse in Birmingham, Ala. He also is wanted for questioning in the three Georgia bombings, including the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Park bombing that killed one and wounded more than 100 others.

ThFBI placed Rudolph on its most wanted list on May 6 and increased the reward to $1 million for anyone with information leading to his arrest and conviction.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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