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

Mills left his job at a newspaper in North Carolina after the news hit the national papers that he was a prime suspect. And it has come up when he applied for newspaper jobs since.

"It's very difficult to go out on an interview with a resume that has accomplishments on it and then to have a document in the public domain in which the FBI says you were fired from your last three jobs [as the memo said erroneously]. It's hard to fight, especially if you can't talk about it."

"I'm sure it has caused him some troubles that we would rather not have," Callahan says.

Mills still burns that the FBI never apologized for outing him.
"Mr. Callahan issued a statement to the press that they had issued an apology to me," Mills says. "It did not happen. That conversation with the FBI agent that night lasted no more than 20 seconds. It was:

"'We'd like to talk to you, etc., etc.'
"'I have answered all your questions in [the preceding] December, other questions you have of me since this document's been released; I have nothing to say to you.'

"Well, he interrupted me in the middle of those two sentences and said, 'I wasn't responsible for that. I didn't do it.'

"Those were his exact words. That must be an offical FBI apology. Doesn't sound like much of an apology to me.

"It's malarkey. After a while you get so pissed off about it that there's nothing to do but laugh."

Larry Leforte claims he doesn't know why Mills would think he had anything to do with the wreck, other than that he had lobbied for Mills' removal from the chief's job.

"I was home in bed when it all [the wreck] occurred," he says. "I got a phone call from Tonopah in the middle of the night that said get down here. . . ."

He lives just south of Prescott, an hour and a half from his old job.
"By the time I got down to Tonopah, all the equipment had been pulled out of the district and sent to the train, and so I found the only thing running and drove down there and told everyone to come home," so that there would be fire coverage in the district.

Leforte's got dirty blond hair and aviator-style glasses that cover a lazy eye. He left Tonopah on his own, seeing that the department would go under financially, but not without lodging a 1996 complaint with the Department of Health Services against the Buckeye Valley Rural Fire Department after he got in an argument with a Buckeye paramedic on an ambulance call to which both companies responded. Unlike Hurley and Mills, he's been able to continue his career as a firefighter for the state. But he claims that the recurring FBI visits that followed Mills' accusation spooked his wife. She took their child and left. And he hopes the FBI will soon solve the crime so he can get his life back to normal without wondering when they'll be back.

As a parting shot at Mills and Hurley, he says, "They were total messes when they started. I don't think their lives have changed any."

A month and a half ago, in late May, Steve Hurley resurfaced. He called New Times from a hospital bed with big news:

"I have the information on the Amtrak train derailment," he said, breathlessly. "Who did it, why they did it, and where the FBI's going with it, and it's going to break real big in the next--I would say--less than a week."

It was a wild goose chase worth looking into.
He was lying flat on his back in St. Joseph's hospital with an IV pumping painkillers into his arm, a deep knife cut on his hand and a whole gallery of bruises on his head and torso.

He'd been beaten up the night before, right after he'd been released from jail. That much of his story, at least, was true.

He claimed he'd been sent there because he came home from the Amtrak wreck, found his wife in bed with another man and then beat up the lover. In fact, court records show that he was convicted of trying to run down his wife's boyfriend with a car in 1996 and of then trying to get his real estate agent to lie about where he had been at the time of the attempted assault.

Then, Hurley claims, he was beat up repeatedly in prison because other inmates recognized him from his work with the sheriff's posse. In fact, his lawyer plans to file a civil lawsuit against the Sheriff's Office to that effect.

He ended up in the hospital, he claims, because one of his jailhouse assailants was released the same time as he. That fellow prisoner enlisted some friends, followed Hurley and beat the tar out of him.

He was found lying in a doorway on West McDowell at 8:45 in the morning on May 21. The police report said little to corroborate his story.

"Stephen seemed to have difficulty answering any of my questions and seemed to have to think about the answers for some time prior to answering," wrote the cop who scraped him off the sidewalk in his police report.

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