Meet The Real Eric Rudolph

He's not who you think he is, this man who allegedly bombed his way into history at the Atlanta Olympic Games, CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports.

In fact, long before Eric Rudolph was charged with that crime and a string of other explosions, investigators tell CBS News they now suspect he was little more than a smalltime drug dealer.

Eric Rudolph, they say, grew some of the most potent marijuana ever found in the Southeast. And from plots near his home in North Carolina, agents say, he trucked it to a drug wholesaler in Nashville, Tenn., where he was paid in cash.

It was part of the same cash, agents now suspect, he later gave a Tennessee gun dealer for the powder used to blow up Olympic Park.

And there are two more dots connecting back to Rudolph's suspected drug past. The reason he was booted out of the Army early, sources say, is because he tested positive for marijuana.

The reason he's so successfully disappeared into the North Carolina mountains near his home may be because long before he took up bombing, he prepared a cave from which to watch over his marijuana field - and he's still hiding in the mountains.

But what is it that's driven Eric Rudolph to become what he is today, the most wanted man in America? Agents have a theory. They believe that while growing up he was exposed to a whole jumble of hatreds - hatred for blacks, hatred for gays, even for women's rights.

More than anything else, he was brought up to hate the federal government. And that's turned him, they believe, into nothing more than a cop killer.

It was an off-duty policeman he killed outside a Birmingham abortion clinic last year, but anyone in authority would have done, police believe. That kind of hate, agents say, Rudolph learned on his mother's lap.

Patricia Rudolph, now living in Florida, declined to speak to CBS News, but investigators say it was with her that Eric first visited a white separatist group that was violently anti-Semitic. Senior ATF Agent Jack Killorin has been one of the point men on the case since the first bombing.

"Mr. Rudolph's mother was looking for a belief, a philosophy that brought her into contact with people who were strongly anti-government, almost Christian Identity in a lot of operations - and Eric was exposed to that philosophy," Killorin said.

It showed early. Before he dropped out of this school in the 9th grade, Rudolph wrote a term paper denying the Holocaust took place. He cited research his mother gave him. Tina Hyleman was a classmate and remembers Rudolph as a gifted student, but indifferent.

"He missed quite a bit of school. He would never come in with excuses and we would ask him about it and say, 'Hey, where were you at?' And he'd just shrug his shoulders," she said.

Rudolph's classmates say they knew nothing about his involvement with marijuana, but one time, Hyleman said, Rudolph returned from one of his mysterious trips with a surprise.

"I know for a fact that he taught a friend that was in the 7th grade how to make a homemade bomb," Hyleman said.

Hyleman said Rudolph never explained where he learned to make the bomb. But she said the device did work: "It wasn't a massive bomb but, you know - it did work."

And there is one final youthful episode that sticks in investigators' minds. A man Rudolph's mother once befriended was charged with gun violations.

Patricia Rudolph charged into an ATF office screaming at agents to release her friend, they recall, and behind her, in silent fury, stood her grim blue-eyed son. Ten years before the Olympic bombing, agents later realized, they'd just had their first encounter with Eric Rudolph.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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