Unsolved Amtrak Derailment's 20th Anniversary Marked With $310,000 Reward

A new reward is being offered in the 1995 case of an Amtrak train that derailed in the desert south of Phoenix, killing one person and injuring 100 more.

The FBI and Amtrak announced today that up to $310,000 will be handed out for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever was involved.

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It's hoped the increased potential payout will help close a case of sabotage that sparked numerous conspiracy theories yet no solid investigative leads.

The perpetrator -- or perpetrators, since no one knows how many people may have been involved -- could have taken as little as 10 minutes to remove 29 spikes in tracks in a remote area near Hyder. The Sunset Limited train, carrying 258 passengers, hit the ruined track at 1:40 a.m. going about 50 miles per hours. Sleeping-car attendant Mitchell Bates, 41, was killed.

Investigators found four copies of a letter from the previously unknown "Sons of the Gestapo" that referred to the botched raid of a cult compound in Waco, Texas, and the 1993 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma. Whether the letter contains genuine grievances by a terrorist or was created as a ruse for investigators isn't known. A few weeks before the tragedy, a train magazine published an article that recounted a similar 1939 derailment that may have served as a blueprint for the Sunset Limited attack.

Polly Hanson, chief of Amtrak police, and Mark Cwynar, FBI assistant special-agent-in-charge, will speak about the reward and derailment at a news conference in Phoenix on Friday.

Vernae Graham, spokesperson for Amtrak, says the FBI will answer any questions about the new reward. The FBI's Phoenix office didn't return a phone message.

Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.