Deborah Rudolph Speaks Out About Her Former Brother-In-Law, Olympic Park Bomber Eric Robert Rudolph
For six years, Deborah Rudolph was part of the extended family of Eric Robert Rudolph, the fugitive who has been charged with the fatal 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, two other Atlanta-area terrorist bombings in 1997, and the fatal bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic in 1998.
Deborah Rudolph first came into contact with the Rudolph family — mother Patricia, five sons including Eric, and daughter Maura — in 1984. She married one of Eric's older brothers, Joel, the following year.
Living with Joel in Nashville until their divorce six years later, Deborah Rudolph spent a great deal of time with the close-knit Rudolph family, with Eric visiting the couple several times in Tennessee and Deborah and Joel visiting with the Rudolph clan frequently at their family home in Topton, N.C.
In the years since her divorce in 1991, Deborah Rudolph has remained close to Joel — who last spoke to Eric in 1997 — and to other members of the Rudolph family. Because of her close contact with Eric, Deborah was asked to work with an FBI profiler to help federal agents capture her former brother-in-law.
The Intelligence Report asked Deborah Rudolph, 48, about Eric Rudolph, his family, beliefs and way of life.
IR: What was your impression of the Rudolph family when you first met them in Topton in 1984?
DEBORAH RUDOLPH: They had a charming little house on eight-and-a-half acres on one of the highest peaks in North Carolina. It was something to realize how self-sufficient they were, how they had a generator in case the electricity went out. They had a wood-burning stove that heated water inside a radiator.
They had a distiller for their water that steamed the water so you wouldn't have to drink faucet water and its fluoride. They'd say, "It's terrible how they put fluoride in the water to poison our kids!" And Joel would always tell me, "If we ever get invaded, you'll have a place to go."
Everything up there was tastefully done. I mean, these are not back woods country people, hicks living in the back woods. They are very clean, very self-sufficient people. I like to call them my little organic family.
A lot of people get this impression that Eric was this guy who was raised up there in the mountains — some kind of Grizzly Adams. Well, they've got the wrong impression. He was very smart. All the kids were very well read.
IR: It's been said that some of the Rudolph family were adherents of the anti-Semitic and racist Christian Identity theology. What was your first contact with family members' racial views?
RUDOLPH: I already knew Joel's racial inclinations [at the time of meeting the family], his feelings about races and the Jewish people — how they run the country, they run the money, most of them are on Wall Street or in banks, they run the publishing companies, the media is run by them. He said that Jews control what we hear and see on TV and what is in publications.
And he would have all these facts to back his ideas up — people in publishing, people in Hollywood, actors who changed their Jewish names. He could name them all off, like Michael Douglas.
And the Bible, it was like I was reading the Bible in a whole new light. I got really, really interested just from listening to Joel talk about it. It's really amazing how your mind takes on their whole mindset.
But the last time Joel saw Eric [at Christmas 1997, at Maura's house in Hendersonville, N.C., just weeks before the Birmingham bombing], they had words. They were arguing about Eric's views. Joel said he couldn't handle it. Everything is hate, hate, hate. And Joel has now become this really enlightened spirit.
IR: Although Bob Rudolph, Eric and Joel's father, died in 1981 before you met the family — and before they moved from Homestead, Fla., to Topton — I understand you heard a lot about him. What kind of man was he?
RUDOLPH: Bob was smart, successful. He worked around airports and that's supposedly how he got melanoma [a form of skin cancer]. I think they operated on him [unsuccessfully] and that's why the family is so dead set against operations.
You know, Bob was on laetrile [a drug that has been used to treat cancer, but which has not been proven effective]. It's derived from apricot pits, but it's illegal here.
They have hard feelings [about Bob's death]. They think that if Pat could have given him laetrile, he wouldn't have died.
IR: What was Eric's mother like?
RUDOLPH: Pat is from Philadelphia. Her maiden name was Murphy and she used to be a nun, but she didn't take her vows — she left the convent before her three years as a novice were up. She left and met Bob and they started having kids.
She is really an intelligent and sociable and artistic woman who probably got her education through the Catholic Church.
IR: How did members of the family get interested in racial ideas?
RUDOLPH: I don't know whether it was through Bob or how it came about, but it was going on before Bob died in Florida.
IR: How did they come to leave South Florida and move to North Carolina?
RUDOLPH: Through Tom Branham. Tom and Pat were friends in Florida and he's apparently the one who found this property for Pat. It happened to be right next door to him.
[Editor's Note: Sawmill owner Tom Branham was arrested in 1984 after federal agents found a submachine gun, dynamite, blasting caps and other materials in his home. Pat Rudolph was the co-signer on his bond, putting up the family home in Topton as security. In a motion, Branham referred to an "oppressive government" that he said was "causing tyranny and despotism." Ultimately, Branham's conviction on federal weapons violations was overturned. Neighbors have told reporters that in the absence of Bob Rudolph, Branham became a father figure to Eric Rudolph.]
So Pat packed up the boys and got out of Miami. She said, "I am not raising them in the city. I don't want my kids to walk down on the canal and find packets of cocaine or a dead body floating in the canal."
I think Eric got a lot of his ideas from Tom. You'd walk into Tom's house and he had all these firearms and canned goods and water and gasoline. He was stocked up. And his house was made out of steel and cinder block, a fortress on this mountain. I thought it was an eyesore.
IR: Not long after the Rudolphs moved to North Carolina, Eric's ninth-grade teachers remember him writing a paper that denied that the Holocaust ever occurred. When they questioned him on his sources, Eric produced some sort of pamphlet. What kinds of things did the family read?
RUDOLPH: They had wall-to-wall bookshelves in the living room that were filled with books on philosophy and evolution, among other things. They subscribed to Thunderbolt magazine [a crude publication edited by Marietta, Ga., white supremacist minister Ed Fields].
And Eric would get High Times magazine [specializing in marijuana and marijuana cultivation] and Soldier of Fortune. They couldn't pick up much TV.
Eric loved philosophy, especially Nietzsche. The whole family was into philosophy.
Eric's paper saying that the Holocaust never happened, this was Eric's and Joel's and the whole family's deal. I mean they had it down to numbers. Okay, there were X amount of Jews before the Holocaust and then after the Holocaust there were this many Jews, so how the hell could Hitler have killed 6 million Jews?