Trainspotting

Nearly three years after Amtrak's Sunset Limited was sabotaged near Buckeye, firefighters who rode to the rescue remain on the FBI's list of suspects

The FBI memo later said he had been fired from his last three jobs, an error, at least semantically. He and the Tonopah board came to agreement that he'd done what he'd come to do and he should resign. He'd been laid off from his job in emergency planning at Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant, and might have been hired back if he hadn't done a stint as chief of the Harquahala Valley Fire Department just west on I-10.

Mills brought Bill Ballard from Harquahala as his assistant chief, and in June 1995, he hired Spinner, Hurley and Leforte as the department's full-time firefighters. Then, at Hurley's suggestion, he promoted them to the rank of captain to distinguish them from the volunteers.

Leforte says now that Mills "had no clue what he was doing."
"Me and Spinner both agreed that Mills was out of control. And we weren't too happy with Hurley, because Hurley is the one who forced us into captainship relations with the fire department. We were hired as firefighters, and somehow Hurley convinced Mills that we had to be captains."

Mills left the department on September 21, 1995, just months into his yearlong contract.

"That's probably when the weird stuff started," Leforte continues. Mills "got kind of weirded out on us. We were concerned. We'd lock the doors at night. He was seen parked in the parking lot staring at the fire station one night."

Mills then took a job as a photographer at the West Valley View, a community newspaper serving Buckeye and environs. After the train wreck, the FBI came to visit him there.

He had no idea they were looking at him.
"They said they were interviewing me to check out somebody else's theory that two other people had the ability to pay for others to do it," he later told a reporter at the View.

And he told New Times, "I answered their speculative questions--you know, who has trucks and who carries equipment and those kinds of questions. They made conclusions from it."

When Mills spoke to the agents, he produced a large file on the train wreck, which he says actually belonged to the paper, not to him. He also mentioned that he had been out to the site to take photographs.

Mills and his wife had moved to North Carolina to be close to his mother. He'd taken a job at another small-town paper, and he was there last September when the news of the memo broke.

Mills received a call from a reporter at his old newspaper.
"I thought they were playing with me," he says. "I thought it was a joke. I really did."

The memo about him states that the FBI went to talk to him to see if he had written two anonymous letters to the FBI implicating Hurley and volunteer firefighter Allan Gustafson.

Mills, in turn, implicated Larry Leforte, though the memo does not say how and Mills won't say. But the FBI was interested in Mills' interest in the case. And furthermore, he fit the profile that FBI technicians in Quantico, Virginia, had generated from the Sons of the Gestapo letter.

"The 'traits' Mills is believed to possess are listed as follows," the document says.

"1.) Mills is a white male, between 35 and 45 years old (Mills was 45 at the time of the derailment), and is a U.S. citizen. 2.) Mills is a College graduate with above average intelligence and had good writing skills. 3.) Mills is a fireman and is believed to be both a police officer, and a former government employee. 4.) Mills knew the area around the derailment site, was known to camp in the area near the site, and lived within one hour of the site. 5.) Mills is described by friends and associates as a liberal in his political beliefs, is a private person, a loner, and shows signs of paranoia. 6.) Mills has no history of criminal or violent behavior."

"If you believe that document, it's like Ted Kaczinsky living in the wilds of Maricopa County," Mills says now.

The memo also mentioned that Mills had a computer and a pickup truck with wide tires.

"Some people are going to read that and see right through it," Mills says. "It says the guy has a personal computer. Well, of two million people in Maricopa County, maybe one million have a computer. It says the guy's a certain age bracket, so now maybe we're down to 660,000. Then does he have a pickup truck? How many males in this valley have pickup trucks? Well, all right then, now we're down to 400,000."

The memo also claims that the FBI had confiscated from the Harquahala Valley Fire Department a metal pry bar of the sort that could be used to pry up rail spikes, and it says that Bill Ballard claimed the pry bar had been given to the department by Mills.

Ballard denies having said that and further says that the FBI has recently given the bar back to Harquahala.

Ballard and Mills, who are close friends, say they won't talk to the FBI anymore, and neither has apparently been subpoenaed to appear before the Federal Grand Jury investigating the case.

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