Real Name: Unknown, possibly Charles S. Barbee, Robert S. Berry, and Verne Jay Merrell
Aliases: None Known
Wanted For: Murder, Attempted Murder, Terrorism
Missing Since: July 27, 1996
Details: Some investigators believe that there may be a link between the 1996 Summer Olympic Bombings in Atlanta and a series of bombings in Spokane, Washington. The main Summer Olympic bombing occurred at 1:25AM on July 27, 1996. Thirty minutes earlier, a man called 911, warning that there was a bomb. Two people were killed and hundreds were injured as a result. A pipe bomb hidden in a military backpack had exploded next to the AT&T pavilion. An initial suspect was security guard Richard Jewell; however, he was officially cleared after months of investigation.
A newspaper reporter was one of the first people to connect the Atlanta bombings to the Spokane bombings. The first Spokane bombing occurred on April 1, 1996, April Fool's Day. At 2:36PM, a customized van pulled up to the rear of the Spokesman Review, Spokane's leading newspaper. One of the van's occupants placed a pipe bomb in a stairwell. At the same time, the newspaper's operations manager arrived. He witnessed the explosion; fortunately, no one was injured. On the ground, the manager found a rambling note that quoted from the Bible and appeared to be an extreme right-wing manifesto. At that same moment, two armed men, operating with military-like precision, entered the US Bank, twenty blocks away. The robbers made off with $70,000 in cash. They also left copies of the rambling note left at the newspaper.
Three months later, another pipe bomb exploded at a Planned Parenthood office. That same day, the US Bank was robbed again. Surveillance photos of the robbery helped lead to a break in the case: a military surplus dealer in Idaho recognized a parka worn by one of the robbers. He told authorities that he had sold similar parkas to three men: Charles Barbee, Robert Berry, and Verne Merrell. In October of 1996, the three were arrested in Portland, Oregon. They were allegedly members of an extreme right-wing religious sect.
A year earlier, Barbee had been interviewed for the Spokesman Review for a series on the anti-government movement. He stated that blood may have to be shed because the government was "so evil". At the time, no one suspected that these three men might have had a connection to the Atlanta bombings. Then, in December of 1996, the FBI released photographs of the type of backpack used to conceal the pipe bomb in Atlanta. The military surplus dealer in Idaho came forward again, claiming that he had sold the same type of backpack to the three men. They also asked the man how to remove fingerprints from the backpack. Finally, they asked how to create a time-delay detonator, similar to the one used in the Atlanta bombing.
The Spokesman Review began to investigate the three men for a possible connection to the Atlanta bombing. They discovered that Barbee had worked for AT&T but had quit because of their support of affirmative action. Interestingly, the Atlanta bomb was detonated not far from the AT&T pavilion. The FBI also obtained phone records which showed that there had been telephone calls from Atlanta to Barbee's north Idaho home immediately after the Atlanta bombing.
The Spokesman Review released their report on the connections between the bombings on Super Bowl Sunday, 1997. Within hours, another witness came forward with a link between the bombings. An architect was watching the Super Bowl when photographs were shown of the three Spokane bombers. He recognized Robert Berry as a man he had seen carrying a backpack into Centennial Park on the night of the bombing. A sketch of the alleged bomber appeared similar to Berry.
The FBI has investigated the alleged connection between the bombings. They do not believe that there is a connection between the cases; they have stated that the connection was a "creation by the Spokesman Review". However, the Spokesman Review stands by their story.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the May 16, 1997 episode. The Spokane bombings was documented on Forensic Files.
Results: Solved. Eric Rudolph was eventually identified as the Summer Olympics Bomber, and was arrested in May of 2003. He pleaded guilty to the bombings and murders and was sentenced to four life terms in prison.
Charles Barbee, Robert Berry, and Verne Merrell, were all convicted of the Spokane bombings and bank robberies and were sentenced to life in prison. They are no longer believed to have been involved in the Summer Olympic bombings.
- The Centennial Olympic Park Bombing on Wikipedia
- Extremist group suspected in the Spokane bombings
- NBC Film Crew Stages Dramatic Reenactment of Two Valley Bombings and Bank Robberies For 'Unsolved Mysteries'
- Spokane bomb suspects investigated in Olympic Park bombing
- 3 Extremists Guilty in Bombings and Robberies
- Spokane Bombers Get Life Terms
- Eric Rudolph at Wikipedia
- Olympic Bomb Suspect Rudolph Caught