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'Survivalist' murder suspect goes to ground in huge earthen 'bug out' bunker

The survivalist movement is aimed toward apocalypse and social meltdown. But for some, the end game is one of their own making, as seems to be the case with accused murderer Peter Keller, holed up in an earthen fort.

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Survivalists have pegged the US Northwest, including Idaho and Washington, as probably the best place to survive an apocalypse.

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While doomsaying has been around since before Biblical times, many believe America is in its third wave of survivalism, an era unique for its focus on communal survival and embrace of environmentalism. Survivalism also peaked in the early 1980s amid a US-Russian arms race and in the 1990s, ahead of concerns about Y2K, which spawned a popular book, “The Hippy Survival Guide to Y2K.”

Interest in the survivalist movement “is experiencing its largest growth since the late 1970s,” Rawles told the New York Times several years ago. Unlike the caricature of someone in camoflauge gear carrying an AK-47, today’s survivalists are a diverse lot, experts say.

But as it’s become more diverse, inclusive and even communal, the survivalism community continues to attract people who put their own survival above the welfare of others. “Unabomber” Ted Kacsynski, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph, and Colton Harris-Moore, the “Barefoot Bandit,” were all accomplished and avowed survivalists who retreated to the woods after lashing out at society, sometimes with deadly consequences.

Similar to Mr. Rudolph, who lived within earshot of  Franklin, N.C., for five years while evading capture by the FBI, Mr. Keller’s hideout was actually close to civilization, given that Rattlesnake Ridge is a popular hiking destination.

In Keller’s case, the disaster he had prepared for, it also  appears, became one of his own making. So far, his survival preparations have kept him technically a free man, although police say their seige of the compound has Keller “contained.”

Police say they are not clear about what motivated Keller to allegedly kill his family and attempt to set his home ablaze.

"We gathered he had a doomsday attitude…. Family and friends have indicated he thought the world was going to end at some point," King County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Cindi West told CNN.

Keller has been on the run since last Sunday. Detectives used photographs found on a family computer to triangulate and pinpoint the general area where the bunker might be hidden. The standoff began Friday when police found the bunker after smelling a whiff of wood smoke and hearing noises coming from inside the fort.

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