Four face arson charges in Vail case
A grand jury indicted four people Thursday in connection with the 1998 arson on Vail Mountain, seven years after the mysterious Earth Liberation Front purportedly carried out the sabotage.Chelsea “Country Girl” Gerlach, 29, and Stanislas Meyerhoff, 28, are in custody in Oregon awaiting trial on separate charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported. The other two suspects – Josephine Overaker, 31, and Rebecca Rubin, 33 – are believed to be outside the country, said Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver.All four face eight counts of arson in the Oct. 19, 1998, arson attack, which destroyed Two Elk Lodge and ski patrol headquarters and damaged four chairlift structures. Vail Resorts officials have estimated the damage at $12 million.Dorschner reported the indictments, handed down by a federal grand jury in Denver, but he declined to comment on the manner in which the fires were set.”I can’t discuss evidence or how we arrived at today’s indictment,” Dorschner said, adding details likely would be made available at a Denver-based trial.If convicted, the four suspects face five to 20 years in prison and/or $250,000 in fines for each count.Colorado United States Attorney Bill Leone praised the efforts of several law enforcement agencies to bring the suspected individuals to justice.”We are a nation of laws, and we are fortunate to live in a free society,” Leone said. “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.”Shadowy groupTwo days after the destruction of the Vail structures – since rebuilt – a mysterious group dubbed the Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the fires in a communiqué, saying the expansion of ski terrain into Blue Sky Basin would ruin lynx habitat.A Jan. 19 indictment handed down by an Oregon grand jury linked each of the suspects charged Thursday in Denver to the Earth Liberation Front.The Oregon indictment contained 65 counts against a group of 11 people known as “the family” accused of arsons in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.At the time of arrest, Gerlach worked as a DJ in Portland, living with convicted Canadian animal-rights activist Darren Thurston. Meyerhoff, who went to school with Gerlach, was attending Piedmont Community College in Charlottesville, Va.The 11 suspects are scheduled to go to trial Oct. 31 in Eugene, Ore.The timetable for the suspects in Colorado is unknown, Dorschner said.”Nothing will happen any time soon,” he said. “They will have to resolve their case [in Oregon] before they come to Colorado.”The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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