Stymied by a lack of leads and with no sightings in the last seven months, federal investigators are preparing to cut more than 100 agents from the task force now searching for accused bomber Eric Robert Rudolph and switch to a new and far less visible strategy.
Most of the helicopter units attached to the search are being recalled, as well as the SWAT teams, dog teams and bomb experts, leaving a core of only 50 agents in the western North Carolina hills to continue the search.
Instead of sending heavily armed patrols into the mountains for weeks at a time, the new strategy will concentrate on re-interviewing residents in the area and reexamining old evidence for possible new leads.
FBI Director Louis Freeh ordered the withdrawal, as local residents stepped up their complaints about the massive federal presence in the mountains.
The task force had been reinforced this winter, when investigators discovered someone had broken into local cabins and poisoned several dogs, perhaps to quiet them.
But agents never developed any evidence linking Rudolph to the incidents. There are now two schools of thought among the searchers:
- The first holds that the only way to get Rudolph down from the mountain is to stop the manhunt and wait for him to make his move.
- The other school holds that it really doesn't make any difference what you do because Eric Rudolph, they believe, is probably dead.
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