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Agents seize bombing witness' pickup truck

flatbed wrecker
The Nissan truck belonging to Rudolph is taken away on a flatbed
February 9, 1998
Web posted at: 9:43 p.m. EST (0243 GMT)

MURPHY, North Carolina (CNN) -- A pickup truck belonging to a man wanted as a witness in the fatal bombing of an Alabama women's clinic was hauled out of a pasture on Monday after being checked for booby traps by federal agents.

Officers used a bloodhound to check the 1989 gray Nissan truck for traps, and none were found. The pickup was loaded onto a flatbed wrecker, wrapped in a tarpaulin and driven to the National Guard Armory in Murphy.

The truck's owner, Eric Robert Rudolph, 31, is still missing.

The truck appeared to have been stuck in the mud and abandoned, federal agents said. Tow truck driver Steve Dockery said a cross was hanging from the truck's rear view mirror, and it had fast food wrappers and scattered change inside.

Hunters found the truck on Sunday in a wooded area outside of Murphy, not far from Rudolph's last known address. A muddy dirt road was the only access into the area.

ATF Hotline

Law enforcement agents conducted a house-to-house search in western North Carolina on Monday for Rudolph. Agents say he is not considered a suspect, but that they "urgently" need to talk to him about the January 29 blast at the New Woman All Women Clinic, which provides abortions and family planning services. The clinic reopened one week after the blast.

The bomb killed Robert Sanderson, 35, a police officer working as a security guard, and severely injured nurse Emily Lyons, 41. She remains hospitalized in serious condition.

Agents heavily armed

federal agent

About 100 agents armed with automatic weapons and wearing camouflage and bulletproof vests were involved in Monday's search around the site where Rudolph's truck was found. They were being aided by U.S. Forest Service personnel and canine units.

The Nissan pickup was spotted about five miles from Rudolph's last known residence, a mobile home in the community of Marble.

Witnesses reported seeing the gray truck near the Birmingham clinic around the time the bomb exploded in front of the clinic.

Investigators were able to link the truck to Rudolph because a witness took down the license plate number. A truck with that tag number was registered in Rudolph's name.

Investigators said Rudolph is likely still in the area where his truck was found. There is evidence he left his rented trailer in haste, because the lights were on and the doors were unlocked.

A group calling itself the Army of God has claimed responsibility for the bombing in letters mailed to news organizations.

 
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