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February 19, 1997: Prosecution Witnesses Identify McVeigh as Renting Ryder Truck Used in Oklahoma City Bombing

Two prosecution witnesses in the Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) testify under oath that the person who rented the Ryder truck used to carry the bomb was accused bomber Timothy McVeigh. Eldon Elliott, the owner of Elliott’s Body Shop, the Ryder rental outlet in Junction City, Kansas, and body shop employee Tom Kessinger both say that “Robert Kling,” who paid $280 cash and said he did not need insurance because he was a careful driver, was, in fact, McVeigh (see Mid-March, 1995 and April 15, 1995). Defense lawyer Stephen Jones questions their credibility, saying that because of Kessinger’s misidentification of another person as having accompanied McVeigh to the store to rent the truck (see January 29, 1997), both Elliott’s and Kessinger’s identifications must be thrown out. The defense is expected to argue that “Kling” was someone else and not McVeigh. Kessinger admits that he misidentified Army Private Todd Bunting as “John Doe No. 2,” whom federal investigators have considered a likely accomplice until recently. Kessinger stands by his identification of McVeigh. In court, Kessinger says he was sitting in the back of the truck rental office, taking a break at about 4:15 p.m. on Monday, April 17, 1995, when he saw two men come into the shop. They stood at the counter and began speaking with Vicki Beemer, who handled the paperwork that day. Kessinger remembers McVeigh because of something McVeigh said, which is not disclosed in court. He watched McVeigh and the second man—not Bunting—for about 10 minutes. He met with FBI agent Scott Crabtree at 4:45 p.m. on April 19, the day of the bombing, and met with an FBI sketch artist at 3:30 the next morning, he says, to start work on the composite sketches of the bombing suspects. He was then asked not to watch television news accounts of the bombing or to read the press coverage. “They told me to rely only on my own memory,” he says. Jones elicits that Kessinger watches “a lot of MTV, a lot of Discovery Channel,” but does not watch network television news or local news. He says he never saw a photograph of McVeigh until FBI agents showed him a group of photographs on April 30, 1995. Kessinger identified McVeigh as the man he saw in the body shop. Asked by Jones if McVeigh was accompanied by someone else, Kessinger responds: “I don’t know. I want to say yes, but I don’t know who that individual was.” The transaction with McVeigh was short and businesslike, Kessinger recalls, noting that McVeigh turned down the offer to purchase insurance because, Kessinger recalls, “he said ‘I’m not going very far, I’m used to driving trucks out of Fort Riley [an Army base near Junction City], and I’m a careful driver.’” [New York Times, 2/19/1997]

Entity Tags: Scott Crabtree, Eldon Elliott, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Timothy James McVeigh, Todd David Bunting, Tom Kessinger, Stephen Jones

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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