Eric Robert Rudolph is charged with four bombings in Georgia and Alabama, including the 1996 explosion at Centennial Olympic Park during the Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
* Atlanta Olympics
Tens of thousands of people jammed into Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta early on July 27, 1996, for a concert by the rock band Jack Mac and the Heart Attack. The atmosphere was joyful in the 21-acre plaza, designed by the Games' organizers as a place where athletes and spectators could mingle for food and fun under the scrutiny of four surveillance cameras and the largest security force in Olympic history.
The fun stopped at 1:25 a.m., when a pipe bomb placed under a bench near the AT&T Global Village exhibition hall went off, filling the air with an acrid, sulfur-like odor. Concertgoers ran through the streets in panic as dozens of ambulances raced to the scene. Alice Hawthorne of Albany, Ga., was killed, and 111 people were injured. A Turkish cameraman responding to the explosion also died.
Federal authorities described the bomb as three galvanized pipes packed with low-explosive powder and nails, and triggered by a timing device. They were in an olive green military-style backpack, its buckles covered with black plastic electrical tape. Also inside the pack was a 1/8-inch thick steel plate -- apparently designed so the nails would spew in one direction.
One of the three pipes failed to explode, leaving police with a valuable piece of evidence. Another intriguing clue: Shortly before the blast, police had received a call from a pay phone several blocks from the park, telling them a bomb would go off in the plaza within 30 minutes. The voice, police said, sounded like "a white American male with an indistinguishable accent."
Terrorism experts and police said the 911 warning may have been an attempt to lure authorities to the site and injure them. Six state troopers and one Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent were among those hurt.
Within days, authorities focused their manhunt on an Atlanta security guard named Richard A. Jewell who worked at Centennial Park and had alerted police to the suspicious green backpack minutes before the bomb went off. Through hours of interrogation in the days that followed, Jewell repeatedly denied he had anything to do with the bombing. Investigators said he might fit a profile -- of a man on the fringes of law enforcement who would plant a bomb so he could come to the rescue.
By October, however, federal authorities were forced to acknowledge that Jewell was innocent and was no longer a suspect.
* Atlanta Clinic
On the morning of Jan. 16, 1997, an office building in suburban Atlanta was shaken by an explosion that knocked out windows and sent panicked workers in the area screaming into the frigid morning air. Forty-five minutes later, as police, firefighters and medical teams converged on the scene, a second, more powerful bomb went off at a trash bin in the parking lot.
Although the first bomb injured no one, the second bomb injured seven, including law enforcement agents and a television news cameraman. The target of the first blast, police said, was North Side Family Planning Services, an abortion clinic on the first floor of the three-story Sandy Springs Professional Building. The target of the second bomb, they said, may have been the rescuers.
The attack came six days before the 24th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion.
* Atlanta Nightclub
On a Friday night five weeks later, the Otherside Lounge in the Piedmont Road neighborhood of Atlanta, popular with gay people, was crowded with patrons. Shortly after 10 p.m., a bomb that had been placed on a patio at the back of the nightclub blew up, hurtling large nails into the lounge. Five people were injured.
The following morning, police found a second bomb in the club's parking lot, apparently intended to go off the previous night. Police detonated it safely.
Law enforcement officials quickly said the Feb. 21 attack was strikingly similar to the bombing at the Atlanta abortion clinic the previous month. And they said it had some of the same characteristics as the Centennial Park bombing the year before.
Within months, authorities reported that dynamite was used in both the nightclub and abortion clinic bombs; the Atlanta Olympic Games device was much cruder. The abortion clinic and nightclub attacks featured two bombs: one placed near potential victims inside the targeted establishment; the other outside the building timed to explode after police, firefighters and rescue workers arrived.
In all three attacks, authorities said, the bombs were filled with large, construction-type nails for shrapnel, Westclox brand windup alarm clocks for timing devices, and steel plates. All three were designed to spray shrapnel in a single direction.
The week after the bombing, federal authorities reported receiving a letter from a militant Christian group calling itself Army of God. It claimed responsibility for the nightclub attack, as well as the bombing at the suburban abortion clinic five weeks earlier.
* Birmingham Clinic
Just past 7:30 a.m. on Jan, 29, 1998, a bomb so powerful that it shattered glass a block away exploded outside an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala. The blast killed an off-duty policeman and seriously injured a nurse on her way to work at the New Woman All Women Health Care Clinic.
The following day, a witness told police he saw a man discard a brown wig into a blue bag near the scene of the explosion and drive off in a pickup truck. The witness also reported the pickup was bearing North Carolina tags, and had jotted down the tag number.
Two weeks later, federal authorities cited that piece of evidence as they charged Eric Robert Rudolph in connection with the Birmingham bombing. (He would be charged with the three unsolved bombings in the Atlanta area in October 1998.)
A 1989 gray Nissan pickup driven by the itinerant carpenter had been found abandoned at a campground by hunters near Murphy, N.C., in the rugged foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains where North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia converge.
Rudolph had emerged as a material witness to the bombing because of his reported association with anti-government fringe groups. But U.S. Attorney G. Douglas Jones told reporters that evidence found in the pickup, in a nearby trailer where Rudolph had lived, and in a storage locker Rudolph had rented bolstered suspicions and led to the formal charge.
Authorities noted that the Cherokee Scout, Murphy's weekly newspaper, had received a mysterious letter that week, postmarked from nearby Asheville, N.C. It warned: "Be advised. The Army of God is more than one."