Editor's Note: As the trial approaches for accused bomber Eric Rudolph, CNN.com is releasing three excerpts from "Hunting Eric Rudolph," a new book on the case that goes on sale March 1. Written by CNN Senior Producer Henry Schuster and former Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Charles Stone, "Hunting Eric Rudolph" profiles the man on trial for the bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama, abortion clinic that claimed an off-duty officer's life. Rudolph also is accused of three bombings in the Atlanta, Georgia, area -- including the 1996 explosion at Centennial Olympic Park that killed a person. In this first excerpt, Schuster and Stone examine the contradictions between Rudolph's upbringing and his daily life as an adult.
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It didn't seem to fit. Eric Rudolph was by all accounts someone raised on the far-right fringes, who believed in the tenets of Christian Identity. Yet, he not only smoked pot, but grew and sold it as well.
Eric never did anything by half-measure and marijuana was another example. Mission-driven. Not for Eric to get a few seeds, plant them and sell the product with no regard for quality. Deborah (Eric Rudolph's sister-in-law, at the time described) said that Eric would study High Times, the magazine devoted to marijuana, like a businessman doing product research. He was in it for the money and he was determined to grow the best pot around. That meant starting with the best possible seeds and in High Times, there were ads that hinted how you could get them. At least once he went to Amsterdam, where marijuana use was legal, to buy seeds that he then smuggled back into the States. Eric became something of an amateur geneticist, trying to breed the most powerful plants, even offering to buy back seeds that he might have inadvertently sold to customers. And apparently he succeeded in his efforts, earning two hundred dollars an ounce or more.
Investigators ran across some indication that Eric was dealing during the short period of time when he went to Western Carolina University in 1985-86. But Nashville was where he brought most of his crop and because he often stayed with Joel (Eric's brother) and Deborah for weeks on end, she saw it first-hand. Eric was a grower, but he was also a loner, so he found one or two other people to do the real selling job for him. One acquaintance liked the pot so much, that he began to buy it on behalf of his friends, sometimes getting a pound or more. He said Eric's marijuana, which fetched top dollar on the Nashville market, was distinctive and that for the eight years he smoked it, he could always tell whose it was. And he said you could always tell when Eric would show up in Nashville, just after growing season was over in the mountains. About this time, on one of her trips back to Topton, Deborah told how Eric took her out into the woods and showed off some of his plants; as evidence of his devotion to his enterprise, he would even haul jugs of water to his pot patch to make sure the plants were getting their proper share.
The business seemed to have slacked off during Rudolph's brief stint in the military, but his marijuana use certainly didn't. A barracks mate at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, told the FBI Rudolph always seemed to have a couple of ounces of pot on hand and that he made it clear this was home-grown from North Carolina -- and that he grew it in the mountains four to five miles from his home. This Army friend said that Rudolph wouldn't go out with the other soldiers, instead he would hang back in his room and get high, reading military manuals and (a) book called "The Little Black Book of Explosives." When he was off-duty, Eric would make the hour drive from Ft. Campbell to Nashville, where he would crash at Joel and Deborah's place. Deborah would say that it was all about pot, pizza and sleep. Eric would get high, sometimes with a buddy that he might bring along, they would call Domino's for a couple of pies, then crash until well into the next day. His girlfriend at the time and one of her friends said they spend a lot of time getting high with Eric, but his girlfriend and an Army buddy said Eric was also drinking heavily.
Marijuana offered Eric an escape route from the Army, as well. His ex-girlfriend echoed what Branham told investigators, that he let it be known he was smoking pot, hoping to get caught. When he tested positive after a urinalysis, Rudolph was busted in rank and his unit commander soon decided that the Army could do without him. By January 1989, he was gone.
Eric's career in the marijuana trade seemed to accelerate after that. He started moving some serious weight, as they call it, four pounds at a time. And he was doing crazy ass stuff. Sometimes he would send Army duffle bags full of marijuana to Nashville via the Greyhound bus, mixing it with coffee so the scent would be hidden. One time he brought it himself, on the bus, wearing his Army uniform as cover, even though he had been out for a while. He got someone to remove the side panels from their car doors, so he could send marijuana to Nashville that way. Eric had broken up with his previous girlfriend and his new one disapproved of his dope dealing. She told Stone and Jordan how one day, she found a large duffle bag of his pot in her apartment and told him to get it out of there because she was afraid of the consequences. He said he did, but she still suspected that Eric was keeping a personal stash there and smoking when she was out.
Eric Rudolph's former house in Topton, North Carolina.
Then there was the time Daniel (Eric's brother) sent some film to a local pharmacy to be processed. Apparently there were some shots of Eric's plants on there and someone might have sent a copy of the picture to the police or Forest Service, because some similar looking photos ended up on the wall of the local Post Office. One person claims that when Eric's mother found out about this, she hit the roof, made him pull down his plants and get rid of his crop. Instead, he brought it to Nashville, dried the leaves there in someone's house and still managed to sell it. Patricia Rudolph wasn't keen on losing the Topton house because of her son's shenanigans, said this person, and she wasn't thrilled about Eric's career choice either.EXCERPT NO. 2: Life in the WildEXCERPT NO. 3: Eric and the Islamists
"Hunting Eric Rudolph" is published by Berkley Books, which is the copyright owner. (Publisher's Web site)
More information on the book "Hunting Eric Rudolph" is available at online, at huntingericrudolph.com.