Deborah Rudolph Speaks Out About Her Former Brother-In-Law, Olympic Park Bomber Eric Robert Rudolph
RUDOLPH: Not at first. They called it "Pat's search for the church." It became a joke after a while because she'd find this little group and she'd get pissed off at them, just like she got pissed off at Dan Gayman, and then she'd leave.
[Editor's Note: Pat took Eric and Eric's younger brother, Jamie, to spend several months in 1984 at the Church of Israel in Schell City, Mo., an enclave run by nationally known Identity minister Dan Gayman, before returning to Topton.]
While they were up in Missouri, Pat would send Joel and I tapes of Gayman's sermons.
IR: What about Eric?
RUDOLPH: I think Eric took a little bit of his journey "searching for the church" with Pat, but then he developed his own thoughts on things.
You know, I don't think he's a follower. I don't think he wanted to be at a mass with a lot of people. I really don't think that Christian Identity was the whole thing for him.
IR: In 1998, the Southern Poverty Law Center said it had learned that Eric was connected to Nord Davis, Jr., a well-known Identity minister who lived close to the family and who died in 1997. Do you know anything about this?
RUDOLPH: Well, the family talked a lot about Nord Davis. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but Pat and he were on a first-name basis. It was always Nord this, Nord that, but eventually Pat ended up having a falling out with Nord.
And the family would go see [political] people speak. That is something I've never mentioned to anyone. If it was an issue that Pat was interested in or the guys were interested in, they would discuss it and if they wanted to go, they'd go. They were a very close-knit family and they talked a lot.
IR: Was Tom Branham in that circle?
RUDOLPH: Probably. Tom knew a lot of people before they moved up there. Tom lived in Florida, got to know Pat and Bob and knew how they thought, so they had something in common. That's why I think they were already involved in this stuff before Bob died. It wasn't all Pat.
IR: Did Pat and the family attend Identity church services?
RUDOLPH: No, no, no. It was more friends getting together and having a political discussion. They might go to see Nord and all get into a conversation and Tom might walk in and they would sit around and talk. It was a potbellied stove thing, where everybody sits in the general store and talks.
IR: Did you know Eric well? What was it like to be with him?
RUDOLPH: Oh God, yes. Eric stayed in my home [in Nashville, where Eric frequently visited in the early 1990s] a lot. He would sleep all day, then stay up all night and eat pizza and smoke pot and watch movies by Cheech and Chong.
I mean, what do I not know about the guy? If you were to walk into my house, you'd see him hanging out with his brothers, talking about an issue they were discussing on TV with a joint hanging out of his mouth. They'd say, "Hey dude, let's eat a pizza." It was like [the movie] "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure."
IR: Well, was there anything about him that indicated he might one day be accused of bombings that killed two people and injured more than 100 others?
RUDOLPH: It was his animation and the way he would act things out. You could be watching a 30-minute sitcom and the credits would roll and there'd be Jewish names and, excuse my expression, but he would say, "You fucking Yids."
Any little thing and he would start. He'd say, "Look at this commercial. They've got to show this white, blond, blue-eyed woman modeling beside this black guy, where it looks like she's hanging all over him."
And Eric hated weak people. He would say Hitler killed all those people to get rid of the weak. He would say if you're weak, you are no good to society because you can't contribute.
I used to tell Joel [after their 1991 divorce], "Eric is going to get in trouble. He's going to go down in infamy one day. He is too radical and you don't need to go up there and live with him."
It must have been bad because Joel moved out [of the Topton house he had moved back into with Eric] in 1994 and left Eric by himself. Dan [one of Eric's older brothers] had already gone.
IR: Eric was a big action movie buff. But he wasn't fond of television?
RUDOLPH: He thought it was "The Electronic Jew." You sit your kids down in front of it and let their heads get filled with crap. You know how in 1984 [a famous novel by George Orwell that attacks totalitarianism] the guy was so controlled by the government through the TV?
Eric's deal was Big Brother was the TV. Instead of being able to see into your home, they controlled what came into your home.
But he loved videos, because he could control that. I think it's about control with Eric.
IR: Eric left Topton to enlist in the military in 1986, although he only lasted 18 months before being discharged. Why do think he went in?
RUDOLPH: Everybody thinks it was to learn about bombs and stuff. Everybody in the family was shocked. Nobody knew why he did it, because although he was outspoken about political issues, religious issues, racial issues, he was pretty quiet about himself.
But now, when I think back, I remember he really respected [Gen. Erwin] Rommel [who led Nazi forces in North Africa] and he read a lot about wars. He talked a lot about leaders, generals and heroes.
I think he thought he could be a leader. He wanted to be an airborne ranger and then go into the Special Forces. But he didn't make it. I think he finally realized he was just a peon there.
I don't think he realized the racial situation. I was raised in the military and you better get along with your brother over here because his color doesn't matter — he may be the one who saves your life.
I can't see Eric standing there with some black guy telling him what to do. I don't see him sleeping in the barracks. I mean on the weekends, he was at my house [in Nashville]. I think that when he realized he wasn't going to make it in the Special Forces, he pretty much lost interest.