When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Eric Robert Rudolph

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Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.

Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.

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Eric Robert Rudolph

Eric Robert Rudolph is known today as “the Olympic Park Bomber” and a terrorist. Responsible for a string of anti-abortion and anti-gay bombings across the U.S. from 1996 to 1998, he is serving a life sentence at the ADX Florence supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft called Eric Robert Rudolph "the most notorious American fugitive on the FBI's 'Most Wanted' list."

Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft called Eric Robert Rudolph “the most notorious American fugitive on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list.”

Eric was born on September 19, 1966. His mother and father (who died in 1981) had extreme beliefs “ranging from hatred of Social Security numbers to a naïve faith in the curing powers of laetrile.” After her husband died in 1981, Eric’s mother Patricia moved herself, Eric, and Eric’s five siblings to Topton, North Carolina. In Topton, his mother — and subsequently Eric — became immersed in the Christian Identity movement, which is “a virulently anti-Semitic ‘religious’ sect that preaches that Jews are descended from Satan and that God made non-whites inferior to whites.” Followers are “fiercely opposed to race-mixing, abortion and homosexuality.” They also are “taught to shun birth certificates, Social Security numbers and marriage licenses,” and have “a taboo on antibiotics.”

A year after moving to North Carolina, Patricia and Eric traveled to Missouri and stayed for several months in a Christian Identity compound. Patricia spent time with Nord Davis, an Identity advocate who “advocated killing gays and those who engaged in mixed-race relationships.” She homeschooled Eric and his siblings except for one year when he attended ninth grade at Nantahala School. (During that one year attending school, he “wrote a class paper denying the Holocaust ever happened.”) In fact, Patricia said that she “was drawn to the [Christian Identity] group by the promise of home schooling.” She reportedly used homeschooling to “drill her brand of idealism and independence into her offspring with a vengeance,” teaching that “the government was  a threat to society” and her ideas about God had a “racist slant” with “overtones of the KKK and Nazis.”

After receiving a general equivalency diploma for high school, Eric briefly attended Western Carolina University. He dropped out after two semesters, though, and then enlisted in the Army in August 1987. After 1 1/2 years in the Army, he was discharged “for smoking marijuana.”

In the time between being discharged from the Army and his string of bombings, Eric grew “increasingly paranoid” about the government and society. Then on July 27, 1996, Eric detonated a bomb during the 1996 Summer Olympics at the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. The blast killed 1 person and wounded 111 others. His reason for doing so, he wrote, was “to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand.”

A year later, on July 16, 1997, Eric also bombed an abortion clinic in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs, injuring 50 people. A mere month later, on February 21, 1997,  he bombed the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian bar in Atlanta, and injured 5 more people. His last attack was one year later on January 29, 1998, when he bombed an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, killing a police officer and critically injuring a nurse.

From 1998 until 2003, Eric became a fugitive, “hiding in the Nantahala National Forest of western North Carolina.” During those 5 years, Eric was featured on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. At the time of his capture on May 31, 2003 in Murphy, North Carolina, Eric was “the nation’s most wanted domestic terrorist.” In fact, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft called him “the most notorious American fugitive on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list.”

Eric was finally captured in May of 2003 in North Carolina when a police officer “spotted Rudolph at about 4 a.m. behind a Save-a-Lot grocery store during a routine patrol.” In April 2005, Eric revealed his motives for all the attacks. After pleading guilty to the attacks, he issued an 11-page statement blaming them on “the legalization of abortion and ‘aberrant sexual behavior.'” Abortion and homosexuality, he explained, were to be met with “force if necessary.” He also said he had no regrets or remorse over the deaths he caused. In August 2005, Eric was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

View the case index here.

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