Suspect in Vail fires surrenders

Jeff Barnard
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO, Colorado

PORTLAND, Ore. – One of the three remaining fugitives in a string of high-profile fires across the West – including on Vail Mountain in 1998 – that focused national attention on a group of environmental radicals surrendered to authorities Thursday after spending years in hiding in Canada.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Portland, Ore., said Rebecca Jeanette Rubin, 39, a Canadian citizen, turned herself in to the FBI at the Canadian border in Blaine, Wash.

Rubin was arrested after spending a decade as an international fugitive from the largest ecoterrorism investigation in U.S. history, the U.S. attorney’s office said. The former wildlife researcher was part of a cell of the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front known as the Family, based in Eugene, Ore.

Rubin was sought on conspiracy and arson indictments dating to 2006 alleging she helped set fires on Vail Mountain and at federal wild horse corrals in Eastern Oregon and Northern California and that she tried to set fire to a lumber-mill office in Medford, Ore.

Defense attorney Richard Roberman said Rubin wanted to get the case behind her and was dropped off at the border by her mother. She tried to surrender earlier, but tentative deals fell through with three different U.S. attorney districts.

Rubin wore a white cardigan for her appearance in federal court in Seattle. She breathed deeply as a prosecutor read the indictment and smiled briefly as the judge greeted her.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Peifer in Portland said Rubin would be kept in custody and transported to Eugene for trial.

Rubin is not specifically charged with terrorism, but the indictment alleges she and the other members of the Family tried to influence businesses and the government and tried to retaliate against the government. Prosecutors won terrorism enhancements at sentencing for some of the others in the case.

Vail Mayor Andy Daly, who was president of Vail Resorts at the time of the fires, said it’s impressive that the FBI has been so diligent in pursuing the case for many years.

The fires on Vail Mountain caused $12 million in damage, destroying or damaging Two Elk Lodge, ski patrol headquarters and several chairlifts.

Daly still vividly recalled the day – Oct. 19, 1998.

“If you can imagine, on Oct. 19, having Chair 5 incapacitated, along with Chair 4, the top of (Chair) 14, and, of course, Two Elk totally gone – it was just devastating to the community.”

But, Daly said, the fires improved the relationship between the resort and the town.

“It gave us a chance to work together, and we really came together,” he said.

In the aftermath of the fires, Daly said both Vail Resorts and people in town “put on a positive face.

“We were going to move forward, and this wasn’t going to impact us,” he said.

In the wake of the fires, Two Elk was quickly rebuilt. Vail Resorts opened a bigger, better facility on the mountain during the 1999-2000 season.

Ten people pleaded guilty in 2007 to conspiracy and arson in the case and were sentenced to prison. Two others remain at large.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott N. Miller contributed to this report.


See more