In the middle of the Oregon forest, Gregory Rodvelt turned a house into a maze of tripwires, barricades and booby traps fit for a heist movie.
Rodvelt wasn’t guarding a lost treasure. And the person who ran afoul of his traps in September 2018 wasn’t an intrepid adventurer, but a federal agent. An FBI agent and two Oregon State Police bomb experts went to inspect the house, which Rodvelt did not own, court records state.
They avoided triggering the hot tub of doom. But upon entering the house, the FBI agent set off another trap when he nudged a wheelchair, triggering a mousetrap that fired a shotgun pellet into his leg. The officers retreated and the FBI agent was taken to a hospital.
Rodvelt, who investigators said admitted to fashioning numerous traps to prevent a court-appointed receiver from accessing the house, was charged in a years-long federal court case that only went to trial in 2022. Last week, a jury found him guilty of assaulting a federal officer.
Rodvelt’s attorney declined to comment.
The house in Williams, Ore., that Rodvelt fortified originally belonged to his mother Violet, according to documents from the FBI investigation into Rodvelt. Violet appointed a trustee for her property and Rodvelt had no claim to the house, the FBI documents state. In 2016, Violet sued Rodvelt for elder abuse, resulting in a $2.1 million judgment, the Oregonian reported.
Rodvelt had a further criminal history — he was arrested in Arizona after a standoff with police while in possession of guns, bombmaking components and a manual on how to make improvised explosives in April 2017, according to the FBI. Several months later, Violet died. In 2018, Rodvelt attempted to claim the Oregon home by filing a fraudulent objection to a court order appointing an attorney to receive the house, documents state.
Rodvelt was granted a pretrial release from his Arizona case to travel to Oregon and resolve the ownership matter in August 2018. But once he arrived, he hunkered down. Neighbors told investigators they heard Rodvelt banging and grinding metal throughout one night in late August.
The next morning, the attorney and a private security guard went to the property and saw a new sign at the gate that warned: “Property is Protected by Improvised Munitions,” according to court documents. When they drove up the driveway, their vehicle’s tires were damaged by nails driven into the ground, records state. They retreated and called for authorities to investigate.
The FBI and Oregon State Police officers who inspected the house that September at the attorney’s request catalogued a long list of booby traps and barricades installed in and around the home. Before the Indiana Jones-inspired hot tub, a green minivan blocked access to the house’s front gate. The van was rigged with two steel jaw traps normally used on wild animals, court records state.
The officers disarmed the steel jaw traps and avoided triggering the hot tub. They used an explosive charge to breach the door to the house out of caution. The wheelchair trap that injured the federal agent was directly in front of the door, and it was triggered when he entered, according to the FBI.
The officers did not find Rodvelt at the house. Other agents interviewed him at the home that evening. The next day, Rodvelt — still under surveillance for his pretrial release — returned to Arizona where he was questioned twice more by the FBI.
Rodvelt admitted to setting the traps to guard the property when he was first approached by an agent in an Arizona grocery store, documents state. He described the hot tub trap by likening it to the “stone rolling down in the Indiana Jones movie.”
Later that evening, agents tracked Rodvelt to an abandoned boat near the Phoenix Raceway and arrested him. When asked if there were any other hazards in the house, he allegedly told investigators: “I would not race right in.”
FBI agents returned to the Oregon house to clear it of hazards after Rodvelt’s arrest, where they found the device that had injured their colleague: a mousetrap modified to fire a shotgun shell. The house was eventually cleared.
Rodvelt was convicted in Arizona for aggravated assault and several other charges and given a five-year sentence. He was still in prison when he was summoned for an initial appearance for the federal charges he incurred in Oregon in February 2022. He faces up to 20 more years. A sentencing is scheduled for October.
Source: Washington Post
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