William C. Rodgers, one of six people charged with committing arson in the name of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), was found dead in his jail cell today. Rodgers and his cohorts are alleged to have started the fire that destroyed the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture in May 2001.
This news comes at the same time as state investigators announced that one of those charged had agreed to testify. Another defendant, Chelsea Gerlach, has been placed in suicide watch.
KING5.com Staff and Wire Reports FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - An Arizona man charged in the 1998 eco-terror attack on the National Wildlife Research Facility in Olympia has committed suicide in an Arizona jail. William C. Rodgers, 40, of Prescott, Ariz., committed suicide, according to the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office. The county medical examiner determined that Rodgers suffocated after placing a plastic bag over his head while he was being held in a one-person cell.
Rodgers was one of six people arrested this month in connection with eco-terrorist attacks in Oregon and Washington in recent years. He was charged in the firebombing of a government wildlife lab outside Olympia, Wash.
In an affidavit filed in federal court last week, an FBI agent said Rodgers attended a meeting of Earth Liberation Front members in western Colorado where the arson of a Vail, Colo., ski resort was planned.
A federal magistrate in Flagstaff declined to release Rodgers from custody pending proceedings that will continue in western Washington.
Rodgers is charged with arson in connection with a 1998 blaze at the National Wildlife Research Facility in Olympia.
Rodgers was supposed to be transported shortly to Seattle to face the charges, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Engdall said during a court hearing Thursday in Eugene, Ore., for another suspect, Chelsea Gerlach.
Engdall said Gerlach was placed on suicide watch as a result of Rodgers’ death because of her close relationship with Rodgers.
Gerlach’s attorney, public defender Craig Weinerman, denied the close relationship.
Rodgers’ death occurred on the same day the Associated Press reported that one of the six people arrested this month on the eco-terror charges has agreed to testify against others charged in the case.
Hindsight’s always 20/20, but shouldn’t every defendant be put on suicide watch after he’s told that his friend has turned on him? Just a thought.