A federal grand jury in Denver has indicted four people on eight counts of arson for a series of eco-terrorism fires set at the Vail ski area in 1998.
Those indicted are: Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, 29, Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff, 28, Josephine Sunshine Overaker, 31, and Rebecca Jeanette Rubin, 33. Gerlach and Meyerhoff are presently in federal custody in Oregon, facing separate arson charges. The whereabouts of Overaker and Rubin are unknown.
The Two Elks Lodge and other structures on Vail Mountain were burned to the ground on Oct. 19, 1998. Damage was estimated at $12 million.
A group called the Earth Liberation Front, or ELF, claimed responsibility for the fires and said it was done to protect the habit of the lynx. The FBI describes the group as one of the nation's leading domestic terrorist organizations. ELF says harming people is not its intention.
Authorities had earlier said Gerlach was a prime suspect in the case. Her family said they believe she is innocent.
The indictments were announced by Bill Leone, United States Attorney for the District of Colorado, Richard C. Powers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigations Denver Office, and Lester D. Martz, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
"This indictment is a result of over seven years of hard investigative work," said Leone. "Thanks to the hard work of the FBI, ATF, and other law enforcement officers, those alleged to be responsible for the arson fires at Vail will now face justice for their actions. We are a nation of laws and we are fortunate to live in a free society. No matter how strongly we feel about any issue or cause, there are peaceful ways to express our views. We simply cannot capitulate to the use of violence as a means of political discourse."
At the time of the Vail fires, authorities said they had at least 100 suspects. The first big break came in 2000, when a hunter found four five-gallon gas cans hidden under some broken branches in the White River National Forest just outside the ski area.
Officials with Vail Resorts Inc. did not immediately return calls.
Gerlach and Meyerhoff had both been indicted in Portland, Ore., in December. Gerlach was accused in the toppling of an 80-foot electrical transmission tower in December 1999 and in a fire that year at an Oregon meat company. Meyerhoff was accused of setting fire to a lumber company and a tree farm in the state in 2001.
Overaker was indicted in January on federal charges stemming from fires at two ranger stations, a lumber company office and a meat company in Oregon. She is also accused in the toppling of the transmission tower in 1999.
Rubin was indicted in January in connection with fires at a lumber office in Oregon and wild horse facilities in Wyoming and California.
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