EUGENE, Ore. – Two people who have admitted helping in the $12 million firebombing of a Vail, Colo., ski resort as part of an ecoterrorism campaign formally pleaded guilty Thursday to federal arson charges.
Chelsea Dawn Gerlach and Stanilas Gregory Meyerhoff, both 29, had already pleaded guilty to some of the $20 million worth of arsons committed between 1996 and 2001 by a Eugene-based cell of the Earth Liberation Front known as the Family. Under plea deals with federal prosecutors, they agreed to have charges from the 1998 Vail arson transferred from Colorado to Oregon to be settled along with their other cases.
Prosecutors have recommended a 10-year prison sentence for Gerlach, who is to be sentenced April 18, and 15 years and eight months for Meyerhoff, who has a sentencing hearing scheduled for April 10.
The Vail firebombing focused national attention on radical environmentalists who ascribed their attacks to the secretive Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, characterized by the FBI as the nation's top domestic terrorism threats. The investigation went nowhere for years until a task force found an informant who got old friends to talk about the crimes in recorded conversations.
Two others indicted in the Vail arson, Josephine Sunshine Overaker and Rebecca J. Rubin, remain at large.
The Vail firebombing was one of 20 firebombings in Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming and Colorado blamed by federal investigators on the Family. Twelve people — 10 in Oregon and two in Washington — have pleaded guilty in the cases, and others remain at large. The alleged leader of the group, William C. Rodgers, committed suicide in an Arizona jail in December 2005.
The lodge destroyed in Vail, about 100 miles west of Denver, has been rebuilt.