Deborah Rudolph Speaks Out About Her Former Brother-In-Law, Olympic Park Bomber Eric Robert Rudolph

IR: Pat left the Topton house in the late 1980s and moved to Sylva, N.C., near Western Carolina University, where Eric had gone to school briefly before dropping out in 1985. What was it like at the Topton house after Pat left?

RUDOLPH: First, it was Dan and Eric living up there doing whatever they wanted to do. Joel joined them in September of 1991, after our divorce. If they wanted to go camping, if they wanted to go canoeing, they did it. If they wanted to work, they could work. [Eric sometimes worked part-time as a carpenter.]

Dan and Joel were more the workers. But Joel said it got to where all Eric wanted to do was sit around and smoke pot and philosophize all day.

IR: What exactly was Eric's involvement with marijuana?

RUDOLPH: At one point, he was probably making $60,000 a year selling pot. What happened was once Pat moved out, she agreed to sell the house in the mountains [in Topton] to Dan and Eric.

Eric built a garage that went up under the house and there was a secret little room for hydroponics [a method of growing plants in nutrient solutions that allows indoor cultivation without sunlight].

But he had already been growing pot out on Army Corps of Engineers land behind the house. He kept it buried out in the yard. It was surreal.

IR: How did he conduct his business?

RUDOLPH: He always got top dollar for everything. He would have people pay up to $80 for a quarter-ounce of his product [more than twice typical marijuana street prices]. I know he put that money away.

I mean he would go on little shopping sprees and get what he wanted. He spent his money on stuff he thought he needed for his protection, like two pits that he bought to guard his house and a 9mm pistol.

But Eric was pretty tight. He set his prices on his pot and that was about it — no discounts. Most of that money went to pay for the house.

IR: At some point, Eric found out that his younger brother, Jamie, who now works in the music business in New York City, was gay. How did he react?

RUDOLPH: He never talked about it. But boy let somebody else be gay and he was very verbal, calling them sodomites and faggots.

In his mind, Eric believes that what he's doing is right, just like Osama bin Laden thinks what he's doing is right. Eric's striking out on his own, thinking that he can draw attention to certain situations in this country.

Like the gay thing. When he found out his brother was gay, I think that had a whole lot to do with why he focused on a gay nightclub [Eric is charged with bombing a lesbian club in Atlanta].

And you know why he bombed the abortion clinic? He believes that the white people are eventually going to be a minority instead of a majority. He believes that you should reproduce and be true to your race. He thought white women should marry white men and black people should marry black people.

He would say we are all going to be one color — and God doesn't want us all one color. He'd be so upset! You know, he's fighting for what he believed in.

IR: What was the family's reaction when Eric was identified as a suspect in 1998?

RUDOLPH: Eric's mother is in denial. She swears up and down Eric has been framed. They've all discussed it.

Pat was going to write this book to help Eric, but it ended up being more about herself than about Eric, from what Joel told me. Dan doesn't believe it, but I don't think Dan wants to believe it. He's in denial.

IR: In March of 1998, a couple of months after federal agents identified Rudolph, Dan cut off his left hand with a radial saw and made a videotape of the act in which he first said, "This is for the FBI and the media." [The hand was later successfully reattached.] What do you think was going through his head?

RUDOLPH: Okay, here's my take on the whole ordeal. You take a man in his thirties who was always tied to his mother's apron strings. He finally moves down to Florida to help his sister, whose house was damaged in Hurricane Andrew.

He is discovering for the first time, this independence — society without mother and without the influence of Eric and everybody else. Then he meets a woman, finds some love, and gets married to this girl. She graduates from college and he's got a job — the whole deal. But then they divorce and everything about Eric comes out.

So what does that do? It brings attention on the rest of the family.

Dan's working for these very rich people building homes on a private island off the coast of South Carolina. Every day when he leaves, he's got the FBI in his yard, he's got media in his yard, he's got them meeting him at work trying to get him to talk.

It starts really stressing him out. He's not used to that. I mean he's just now delving into society. I think he really couldn't deal with it. It was a sick way to act out.

IR: The federal manhunt for Eric Rudolph has been one of the largest in American history. Do you think he's still alive, up there in the mountains of North Carolina?

RUDOLPH: He's not up there. I think he made his way to the coast, got on a ship and he's gone. I think he went to Europe. Eric loved Europe. He went over there twice — once he just went to Amsterdam and brought some [high-quality] pot seeds back.

Eric always talked about how much he loved Amsterdam. Pat, Joel and Eric visited Switzerland, Germany and, I think, England together. Eric's a big history freak. He's really into the history of Europe, the battlefields and the architecture.

He was also really interested in Civil War history. He would go to the battlefields near Nashville when he came to visit.

IR: What does the FBI say about your Europe theory?

RUDOLPH: They say, "He couldn't go, because we have his passport." Yeah, but he probably wanted to leave that passport for the FBI.

Eric used to talk about how easy it is to get fake identification. He'd say, "You know, people die and you can get their identities." He would read all this stuff in those mercenary magazines.

IR: You don't think he was helped by likeminded racists?

RUDOLPH: I think Eric acted alone. Eric's not a follower. And I don't think he was on the Internet. There are ways of getting involved with those kinds of people, but I don't know if Eric would really trust somebody or be scared enough to ask for help.

IR: If you were able to say one thing to Eric, what would it be?

RUDOLPH: I would want to know in my heart if he really did it so there would be no doubts in my mind that I've done the right thing by talking about this.