FBI agents used a crane Wednesday to search underneath Amtrak cars derailed in a desert gulch, while experts conducted a “psycholinguistic analysis” on a letter believed left by the saboteur.
“Silence of the Lambs?” said FBI spokesman Jack Callahan, referring to a book and movie about a mass murderer tracked through an FBI psychological profile. “That’s exactly what it is.”
Ninety agents, some on their hands and knees amid dust and creosote bush in 100-degree-plus heat, crept over a 1- to 2-square-mile area of the dry stream bed where the Sunset Limited derailed early Monday.
The Miami-to-Los Angeles train toppled 30 feet from a trestle, killing a crew member and injuring at least 78 people.
At a news conference at a desert staging area seven miles from the scene, the FBI acknowledged for the first time the existence of a letter that reportedly makes oblique claims of responsibility for the wreck.
“Everybody knows a letter was left at the site,” said David Tubbs, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Kansas City office, helping with the probe.
He refused to confirm reports that the letter refers to federal sieges in Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho. He said it had been sent to the bureau’s academy at Quantico, Va., for “psycholinguistic analysis.”
Experts study grammar, spelling, word choice and other aspects to come up with a profile of the writer, he said.
Tubbs said several photocopies of the same typed, single-spaced letter were found.
The letter was signed “Sons of Gestapo,” a name that isn’t recognized by experts on hate groups.
It follows themes common to right-wing anti-government extremists, but experts have said that could be cover for anyone, including someone with a grudge against the railroad. Tubbs said the FBI wasn’t ruling out anyone.
Agents at the scene crawled under the cars as they were lifted by huge cranes, taking plaster casts of wheel tracks and footprints and looking for bits of evidence.
Agents interviewed people who live in the remote area 55 miles southwest of Phoenix who might have seen something suspicious, even though the nearest paved road is 10 miles away.
“This investigation is like any other,” Tubbs said. “It’s a neighborhood. It’s just a very large neighborhood.”
Randy Weaver, the white separatist at the center of the siege at Ruby Ridge, issued a statement denouncing the sabotage and saying he had never heard of “Sons of Gestapo.”
“I am angry that anyone would use the tragedy that occurred to my family as some kind of justification for further senseless killing and more tragedy,” said Weaver, whose wife and 14-year-old son were killed along with a federal marshal in the 1992 siege. “I hope that the persons who derailed that train and killed and seriously injured innocent people will be caught and tried and brought to justice.”