Saturday, April 16, 2005

Eric Rudolph's Ozarks Connection

The plea agreement for Eric Rudolph announced last week reminded me of some research I'm doing for a screenplay I'm writing. It led me to this 2003 article from the St.Louis Post Dispatch, linking Rudolph to the Ozarks:

Once considered a leading theologian in the far-right Christian Identity movement, Gayman is back in the news because his church gave shelter 18 years ago to the family of Eric Rudolph, who now stands accused of being a domestic-terrorist bomber. Investigators say Rudolph holds dear many of the beliefs of Christian Identity.


Gayman and his church attracted reporters in 1998, when Rudolph became one of the United States' most-wanted fugitives, and again when Rudolph was arrested in North Carolina on May 31. Gayman didn't like the attention five years ago, and he doesn't like it now.

"I'm a footnote on the national map," Gayman said by telephone last week. "We're just an autonomous group of Christians in western Missouri. To suggest that Eric somehow became contaminated when he was here is irresponsible."

The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., and the national Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith - two organizations that monitor fringe groups - say they believe there is a connection. Both report that the height of Gayman's national prominence was in the 1980s, when Rudolph grew to adulthood.

"Clearly, Eric has adopted a great many of the tenets of Identity, and we know through his writings that he adopted the theory that the Jews are the primary enemy," said Mark Potok, editor of the Law Center's quarterly Intelligence Report.

Potok said he believes "Dan Gayman had a significant influence on Eric's thinking. Gayman was among the important mentors when Eric was looking for what makes the world tick."


Gayman said Patricia Rudolph and two of her sons lived near the church from November 1984 until May 1985, when they moved back to Florida. Eric Rudolph was 18 at the time.

Gayman recalled Eric Rudolph as "very much a loner, a very quiet boy. He spent a lot of time with his mother, and he often went to see a friend in Arkansas. ... My regret today is that he never enrolled in our school while he was here. We might have had some influence over Eric."

But Tim and Sarah Gayman, the pastor's estranged son and daughter-in-law, said pastor Gayman considered Rudolph a potential husband for one of his daughters. In an interview in 2001 with the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, Sarah Gayman said, "Eric used to date Tim's sister, Julie. Dan (Gayman) was just beside himself. He just thought Eric was great." Tim Gayman said, "My dad thought he was going to mold Eric into whatever he wanted him to be, but Eric had a mind of his own."
Dan Gayman achieved a measure of secular success, earning a degree in history at Southwest Missouri State College (now University) and becoming a teacher and later a principal. He has also been connected to The Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord, which had a compound on Bull Shoals Lake raided by the FBI in the mid-80s, and David Tate, a neo-Nazi who killed Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Jimmie Linegar in April, 1985, just south of Branson.