A man suspected in the 1998 Vail Mountain firebombings killed himself in his Arizona jail cell Thursday, while a federal judge in Oregon denied the release of a woman linked to the same eco-terrorism strike.
William C. Rodgers, 40, labeled the "mastermind" of radical environmentalists who left a nationwide swath of firebombings linked to the Environmental Liberation Front, was found dead early Thursday in his single cell at the Coconino County Jail in Flagstaff, authorities said.
A deputy sheriff rousing Rodgers about 6:15 a.m. found him with "multiple plastic bags, like grocery bags, wrapped around his head," said Deputy U.S. Marshal Brenda McLaughlin. She said prisoners who are not on suicide watch typically are given such bags to carry toiletries and other belongings.
I guess whether or not he's one of those that lit the Vail fires is mostly immaterial to him now. The only ones that his guilt or innocence could affect now are his alledged accomplices, such as Chelsea Gerlach, who is currently awaiting trial in Oregon on an unrelated but remarkably similar set of charges.
But for me, the most telling thing about the story is that Rodgers apparently committed suicide the very same day he was scheduled to be shipped off to Washington state for trial. That, to me, does not sound like the act of an innocent man. Nor does it sound to me like the act of someone who, as a spokesperson described him, "lived a life of great reverence of others and the world around him." It sounds to me like the act of a desperate man who did not wish to face his just punishment.
And yet... Something doesn't square right here. Just how does someone wrap their head in something akin to a plastic grocery bag, even multiple ones, and allow themselves to suffocate? As much as I would love to put him in the category of Death By Suicide, there's something about this that I can't put my finger on. For a person to manually smother themselves would take an amazing amount of willpower, not to mention the foresight required to insure that the bags didn't slip off after they'd rendered themselves unconscious. And that doesn't jibe at all well with the thought of him taking the coward's way out.
But then again, I don't know the man at all. All I have available is a couple of news clippings and a spokesperson's statement. That isn't hardly enough to get to know the recently deceased and how he would think. After all, just before the part I quoted above, the spokesperson was cited as saying that he "took great strength at feeling free" and that could have been just the degree of despair required to push him over the edge.
And what does all of this mean? Quite frankly, it means that it's drattedly difficult to do amateur psychoanalysis based off of news clippings! I've just about exhausted what I remember from my Psych of Development class.
Well, all of this means one more thing. Gerlach is definately going to have an additional problem if/when she is charged for setting the Vail fires: one less witness to use when she tries to establish an alibi for the court.