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Nurse expects to be charged with aiding Rudolph

MARION, N.C. — MARION, N.C. - A nurse who worked at a hospital near where Eric Rudolph camped before his arrest last month says she expects to be indicted on charges of helping the serial bombing suspect elude capture.

Brenda Kay Phillips, 44, is in jail awaiting trial on unrelated charges of firing a shotgun into an Asheville medical clinic. After her arrest in February, Phillips told FBI agents that she helped Rudolph elude capture.

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In an interview yesterday at the McDowell County Jail, Phillips said she had heard of Rudolph but did not know him before moving from Indiana to North Carolina in 2001. She declined to discuss how she knew Rudolph or what she did to help him.

"I can't talk about Eric right now because the federal government is talking about going for an indictment for helping him," Phillips said.

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Initially, FBI agents looking into Rudolph's actions during the five years he was on the run discounted Phillips' claims that she was in contact with him.

Shortly after Phillips' arrest, Chris Swecker, the FBI's agent in charge in North Carolina, told a newspaper that Phillips said she had helped Rudolph but that he dismissed her claims. "I wouldn't give much credence to what she says," Swecker said. Last week, he declined to discuss her.

But federal agents are looking at Phillips' story again, said her attorney, Jack Stewart of Asheville. "Government authorities have shown a renewed interest in what Brenda has to say during the past couple of weeks," Stewart said. But during recent interviews, Phillips has declined to provide details about when and how she might have helped Rudolph, he said.

"She has begun answering their questions with questions and with hypothetical situations," Stewart said.

Phillips' behavior was subjected to a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation. This month, a federal judge found her competent to stand trial and scheduled it for September, Stewart said. "She doesn't seem to have any diagnosable psychiatric diseases, but she does have some pretty significant personality issues that cause me to question her reasonableness and common sense," Stewart said.

Federal prosecutors and investigators declined to discuss Phillips' case.

How someone with no history of involvement in violent anti-abortion activities could possibly have gotten involved with Rudolph and the attack on the Asheville clinic mystifies her family.

"I think she just got involved with somebody she shouldn't have," said Phillips' aunt, Phyllis Warden, who lives next door to Phillips' father in Franklin, N.C. Warden said that the last time she saw her niece, they did not talk about the abortion issue.

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Phillips' father, Bob Davidson, was traveling to the family's hometown in Indiana and unavailable for comment.

Phillips, who moved to Murphy, southwest of Asheville, in 2001, quit her job as an emergency room nurse at the local hospital in mid-January. She says that about a month later she pumped multiple shotgun blasts into the Femcare Clinic in Asheville.

Yesterday, Phillips said she went to the clinic just after midnight Feb. 13 and fired through windows. She went back to fire more shots into the clinic because she wasn't sure she had hit the building, which is surrounded by a chain-link security fence, Stewart said.

She returned to her hotel room and decided to call police because she became concerned that a security guard might have been on duty and could have been hurt.

"I saw lights in the windows, and so I thought maybe someone was crouching down and might be injured and lying there without anyone knowing they were hurt," she said.

Phillips said she also called police to explain her actions.

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"I wanted to take responsibility and let people know why I did it - to bring attention to abortion and to the unborn children," Phillips said. "I want to take this to trial. I believe I will be found guilty, but I want to speak up for the unborn babies."

A six-count federal indictment returned Feb. 24 also charges Phillips with telephoning threats Jan. 28 to the Asheville clinic and to the Birmingham, Ala., clinic where an explosion in 1998 killed an off-duty police officer and maimed a nurse.

During the calls, Phillips identified herself as a member of the Army of God, Stewart said. Authorities have said Rudolph noted his affiliation with the Army of God in letters claiming credit for several of the bombings in which he is charged.

Federal authorities have said they believe that a small number of people, "maybe three or four," helped Rudolph while he was a fugitive.

Rudolph is charged in federal indictments in the 1996 Olympic bombing in Atlanta that killed one person and wounded more than 100; bombings the next year in Atlanta at a clinic that performed abortions and at a gay nightclub; and the Birmingham clinic.


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