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Suspect in string of ecoterrorism fires surrenders

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 29, 2012 at 4:33 pm •  Published: November 29, 2012

The informant was Jacob Ferguson, a local environmental activist who once had a pentagram tattooed on his forehead and studied diesel mechanics at a community college. Prosecutors said he agreed to take a recorder into Family meetings held around the country to break through their code of silence. Originally sentenced to probation, Ferguson was sent to prison after authorities found him selling heroin.

In a 2009 paper on environmental terrorism, sociologists Brent L. Smith of University of Arkansas and Kelly R. Damphousse of University of Oklahoma wrote that The Family members were mostly from middle-class backgrounds, though a few, like Ferguson, had a criminal history. The group developed from the environmental activist and anarchist community of Eugene, Ore. Though as many as 20 people were part of The Family, no more than eight took part in any one attack.

The indictment against Rubin said the group was bent on retaliating against the government, businesses and others, and tried to change the conduct of government and commerce using violence, intimidation and mass destruction.

In the Vail arson, the group issued a communique saying the buildings were burned as retribution for the Forest Service allowing the resort to expand into critical habitat for the Canada lynx, a threatened species. The attack focused national attention on the idea of ecoterrorism.

However, by the time they were sentenced, members of The Family expressed regret and frustration that after all their hardships, they had accomplished practically nothing.

Though a horse slaughterhouse in Redmond, Ore., was never rebuilt, the Vail resort buildings and Oregon ranger stations were reconstructed, timber companies stayed in business, genetic engineering research went on, and wild horses were still rounded up and removed from federal lands.

Authorities said Rubin was to appear Thursday in federal court in Seattle, then will be sent to Eugene, Ore., for trial.

The two remaining fugitives are Joseph Mahmoud Dibee and Josephine Sunshine Overaker, Ferguson's former girlfriend. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Peifer said Dibee is believed to be in Syria, where he has family, and Overaker is believed to be in Europe.


Jeff Barnard can be reached at —