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Context of 'May 9, 1997: Prosecutors Establish Timeline of Events Leading up to Rental of Truck Used in Oklahoma City Bombing'

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Marife Nichols in 1997.Marife Nichols in 1997. [Source: CNN]Terry Nichols, a shy Army veteran (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990) drifting through life as a single (see November 1988), underemployed father, does something that surprises everyone he knows: he leaves his home state of Michigan for the Philippines to marry a mail-order bride, 17-year-old Marife Torres, who lives with her parents in a small apartment above a lumberyard. Torres lives in Cebu City, where Nichols meets her. Her parents are leery of their daughter marrying an older man; in talking with Nichols, they learn that he wants a Filipino bride because he has been told “they stayed at home.” The two are married on November 20, 1990 at a Chinese restaurant in Cebu, and Nichols returns to Decker, Michigan, to begin the legal process necessary to bring Marife back to the US. [New York Times, 5/28/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 74-75] Nichols will later be convicted of conspiracy in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). His connection to the Philippines will result in shadowy connections with suspected Islamist terrorists in that nation (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994 and November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995).

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Marife Torres Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Ranch hand Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, and October 12, 1993 - January 1994) prepares to leave his job on a Marion, Kansas, farm (see March 16, 1994), in part because his wife Marife (see July - December 1990 and November 22, 1993) is planning on leaving him. Marife Nichols has complained that she is treated more like a cook and a maid than a wife. She leaves in the fall, and takes their young daughter Nicole with her to her home in Cebu City, Philippines. Nichols quits his job on September 30, and tells one of his boss’s sons that he is going into business with his friend Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992, February - July 1994, September 13, 1994 and After, and September 12, 1994 and After), selling guns and military surplus. Nichols has apparently already begun mulling over some sort of physical assault on the federal government with McVeigh (see September 13, 1994), and has begun obtaining materials for a bomb (see September 30, 1994 and October 18, 1994). In October, he will begin using aliases to rent storage lockers and obtain ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be used to make a powerful explosive when mixed correctly with fuel oil (see October 4 - Late October, 1994, October 17, 1994, and October 21 or 22, 1994). [New York Times, 5/28/1995; New York Times, 12/24/1997] Nichols will later take part in the Oklahoma City bombing with McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Marife Torres Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) makes a fake driver’s license using forms his friend Michael Fortier (see February 17, 1995 and After) ordered from an advertisement in Soldier of Fortune magazine. He uses a typewriter belonging to the Fortiers. McVeigh chooses the name “Robert Kling,” picking the last name in honor of the alien race of Klingons in Star Trek. He selects April 19, 1972 as his fake birthday, and lists as his birthplace Redfield, South Dakota. When he asks Lori Fortier if he can use her iron to laminate the fake license, she tells him she will do it herself so as to avoid the possibility of his ruining her iron. She will later recall: “It was white. It had a blue strip across the top, and Tim had put his picture on there. And it was the false name of Robert Kling.” The federal indictment against McVeigh will incorrectly state that McVeigh “obtained” the ID instead of making it for himself. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 122, 133] The issue date of the Kling license is false—April 19, 1993, the date of the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). [New York Times, 6/3/1997] The New York Times will later point out that McVeigh may have also chosen the last name of “Kling” because he served with Kerry Kling during his stint in the Army (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990). [New York Times, 4/23/1995]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Lori Fortier, Michael Joseph Fortier

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City. Two Ryder trucks similar to the one rented by McVeigh are visible.Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City. Two Ryder trucks similar to the one rented by McVeigh are visible. [Source: Luogocomune (.net)]Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, April 13, 1995, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) rents a Ryder panel truck from Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City, Kansas. McVeigh uses the alias “Robert [or Bob] Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995). [CNN, 5/9/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 132; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] McVeigh wants a one-way rental of a 20-foot Ryder and a hand truck. He says he intends to drop off the Ryder and the hand truck in Omaha, Nebraska. McVeigh pays in cash. He pays the entire rental fee of $280.32 instead of a mere deposit, so he will be able to get in and out of the store quickly on April 17, when he intends to pick up the truck, and is adamant that he needs the truck by 4:00 p.m. He declines insurance, telling store owner Eldon Elliott he does not need it because he is a truck driver for the Army. Elliott gives McVeigh two days free because he believes McVeigh is in the military. McVeigh will later tell his lawyers that the employee who rents the truck to him, presumably Elliott, is “a dumb guy,” though he could be referring to Elliott’s employee Tom Kessinger, who is also involved in the transaction. McVeigh drives back to the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, and returns the oil filter he bought from WalMart the day before. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 1/13/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 133] A chronology prepared by McVeigh’s lawyers will later state that McVeigh buys a car battery, not an oil filter. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] The New York Times will later erroneously report that McVeigh uses the alias “William B. Kling” to rent the truck, not “Robert Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995). [New York Times, 4/23/1995] An unidentified man, later designated as “John Doe No. 2” by federal authorities (see April 20, 1995), is apparently with McVeigh. The man will later be described as being of medium build and having a tattoo on one arm. Authorities will not determine his identity, and will remain unsure if this man was actually with McVeigh or merely another customer. [New York Times, 4/26/1995; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810]

Entity Tags: New York Times, Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Eldon Elliott, Tom Kessinger

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Murrah Federal Building before the bombing.The Murrah Federal Building before the bombing. [Source: Oklahoma City National Memorial (.com)]Oklahoma City bomb plotter Terry Nichols (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, November 5, 1994, and November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995) meets his partner Timothy McVeigh (see April 15, 1995) at a gas station next to a Dairy Queen in Herington, Kansas, where Nichols lives (see (February 20, 1995)). (McVeigh had expected to meet Nichols at Geary State Park in Kansas earlier this morning, but Nichols failed to appear.) The two travel separately to Oklahoma City to scout the location for planting the fertilizer bomb they have constructed (see December 22 or 23, 1988 and September 13, 1994); McVeigh leaves his getaway car (see April 13, 1995), backing it up against a brick wall and leaving a note (that obscures the car’s VIN number) asking that the car not be towed. They then drive back to Kansas, arriving sometime before 2:00 a.m on April 17. Nichols drops McVeigh off at a McDonald’s restaurant in Junction City, and drives back to Herington. Nichols has already told McVeigh he does not want to be directly involved in planting the bomb (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995). When the bomb detonates three days later (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), Nichols is at his Kansas home. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Nicole Nichols, 2003]
Different Account of Events - In statements given to authorities shortly after the bombing (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995 and April 25, 1995), Nichols will tell a very different version of events. Nichols will say that on April 16, Easter Sunday, he plans on taking his family to mass at a local Catholic church, drives to the church, and returns with the news that there are no services being held. Instead, Nichols will say, he and the family drive 25 miles to St. Xavier’s in Junction City. They then return home and have an Easter meal. Sometime after 3:00 p.m., he will say, McVeigh calls him and asks him to pick him up in Oklahoma City, asks him to tell his wife Marife that he is driving to Omaha, not Oklahoma City, and asks him to “keep this between us.” McVeigh, Nichols will say, has a television that once belonged to Nichols’s ex-wife Lana Padilla, and wants Nichols to come get the television. Nichols will say he wants the television as his son Joshua, who usually lives with Padilla but is visiting him, wants to watch television during his stay. Joshua asks to go with his father to Omaha and Nichols turns him down. Nichols drives from Herington to Oklahoma City, a five-hour trip, picks up McVeigh, and drives to Junction City, Kansas. Nichols will say that he drives by the Murrah Federal Building two or three times before seeing McVeigh in an alley and picking him up. During the drive to Junction City, McVeigh tells Nichols, “Something big is going to happen” (see April 15, 1995). Nichols, who will claim to be unaware of any plans to detonate a bomb (see March 31 - April 12, 1995), asks, “Are you going to rob a bank?” to which McVeigh repeats his previous statement, “Something big is going to happen.” According to Nichols’s story, he then drops McVeigh off in Junction City and returns to Herington sometime after midnight. Marife Nichols will confirm that Nichols brings a television into the house with him; she will see it when she wakes up on April 17. It is old and almost completely unusable, being without an antenna; Nichols will later get cable television activated. Nichols will claim that on April 17, the family watches rented videos on the television, including The Lion King, and will claim that he spends some of the day puttering around the house, trying to fix a broken fuel meter that he wants to resell. He will say that he takes the family to eat dinner at a steakhouse that evening, then drives to the airport to see Joshua off (see (6:00 p.m.) April 17, 1995). Nichols will say that he will not hear from McVeigh again until April 18 (see Late Evening, April 17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and Early Afternoon, April 18, 1995). [New York Times, 4/26/1995; Associated Press, 3/16/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 146-148]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Marife Torres Nichols, Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Murrah Federal Building, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) leaves the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas (see 3:30 a.m. April 18, 1995), and drives his rented Ryder truck (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995) to Herington, Kansas, where he has planned to meet with his co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see (February 20, 1995)) at 6:00 a.m. The plan is for McVeigh and Nichols to meet in the parking lot of the Pizza Hut near the storage unit where they have stored materials for the bomb (see September 22, 1994), leave Nichols’s truck at the Pizza Hut, and ride in the truck to the storage shed. Nichols, who has told McVeigh he does not want to participate directly in the bombing (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995), does not appear. Nichols will later tell FBI investigators that around 6:00 a.m., McVeigh calls him asking to borrow his pickup truck to pick up some items and look at vehicles, and asking him to pick up McVeigh on his way to an auction in Fort Riley, Kansas (see November 20-21, 1997). At 6:15 a.m., McVeigh begins loading the truck himself, first loading empty drums and then beginning to load the seven boxes of fuel-oil gel. At 6:30 a.m., Nichols arrives in his truck. McVeigh has already loaded 20 50-pound bags of fertilizer into the truck. Nichols wants to leave and wait until sunrise to finish loading the truck, but McVeigh refuses. Nichols drives his truck to the Pizza Hut and walks back to the shed. Nichols then helps McVeigh load another 70 bags of fertilizer and three 55-gallon drums of nitromethane. McVeigh and Nichols leave in the shed a Ruger Mini 30 rifle, a duffel bag, LBE rifles and extra magazines for the guns, a smoke grenade, a hand grenade, a CS gas grenade, a shortwave radio, three KinePal explosive sticks similar to dynamite sticks, two changes of McVeigh’s clothing, three license plates, and a shovel. McVeigh tells Nichols, “If I don’t come back for a while, you’ll clean out the storage shed.” Nichols and McVeigh drive to Geary Lake State Park, Nichols in his pickup truck, McVeigh in the Ryder. [New York Times, 4/26/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 150; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Nichols Tells Different Story - Nichols will later describe to investigators (see April 25, 1995) a somewhat different chain of events. According to Nichols, McVeigh calls him at 6 a.m. and asks him to come to Junction City; according to Nichols’s statement, he drives to Fort Riley, where he intends to spend most of the day at an auction (see November 20-21, 1997), and lets McVeigh have the truck. Nichols will say that McVeigh returns the truck later this afternoon and the two drive to a storage shed, where McVeigh instructs Nichols to clean out the shed if he does not “come back in a while.” [New York Times, 4/26/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
Witnesses See McVeigh in Junction City, McVeigh Will Say Witnesses Are Mistaken - Two witnesses will later say they see McVeigh and another, unidentified man park a Ryder truck in front of a Hardee’s restaurant in Junction City sometime during the morning, but McVeigh will later tell his lawyers that this does not occur. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]

Entity Tags: Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A remote, yet accessible area of Geary State Lake Park.A remote, yet accessible area of Geary State Lake Park. [Source: Leisure and Sports Review (.com)]Oklahoma City bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, having finished loading McVeigh’s rented Ryder truck with the bomb components (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995), arrive at Geary State Lake Park, Kansas, where they begin assembling the bomb. (A diner owner will later say she sees McVeigh, Nichols, and a third man eating breakfast at her establishment between 8 and 9 a.m.—see 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995. It is possible that the 8:15 a.m. time of arrival is slightly erroneous.) Each 55-gallon drum has the contents of seven 50-pound bags of fertilizer and seven 20-pound buckets of nitromethane. They use a bathroom scale to weigh the buckets of nitromethane. They slit open the bags of ammonium nitrate, pour the fuel into empty plastic barrels, and mix in the racing fuel, turning the white fertilizer pellets into bright pink balls. After 10 minutes or so, the components will blend sufficiently to cause a tremendous explosion if detonated by blasting caps and dynamite, which they wrap around the barrels. McVeigh runs the main fuse to the entire batch through a hole in the storage compartment into the cab of the truck, allowing him to light the fuse from inside the cab. When they finish, Nichols nails down the barrels and McVeigh changes clothes, giving his dirty clothes to Nichols for disposal. Nichols also takes the 90 empty bags of fertilizer. The rest of the “tools” are placed in the cone of the bomb. They finish sometime around noon. Nichols tells McVeigh that his wife Marife (see July - December 1990) is leaving him for good. Nichols says he will leave McVeigh some money and a telephone card in the Herington storage shed (see September 22, 1994). They shake hands and Nichols wishes McVeigh good luck. Before they drive off in their separate vehicles, Nichols warns McVeigh that the truck is leaking. As they drive away, McVeigh sees two trucks pulling in. [New York Times, 4/26/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 150-151; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Nichols will drive from the lake to a military surplus auction at Fort Riley, Kansas. He then picks up address labels and business cards for his new surplus-reselling business (see April 6, 1995). McVeigh will drive back to the Dreamland Motel to check out, and head towards Oklahoma City (see Noon and After, April 18, 1995). [Serrano, 1998, pp. 151] Witnesses will later tell FBI investigators that around 9:00 a.m. they see a large Ryder truck parked next to a blue or brown pickup truck at the lake. Around 10:00 a.m., Sergeant Richard Wahl of Fort Riley and his son arrive at Geary Lake about 50 yards away from where McVeigh and Nichols are mixing the bomb. As the morning is cold and rainy, they wait for about an hour trying to decide whether or not to put their boat in the water. Wahl sees the Ryder truck and the blue pickup parked together near the boat ramp, though he cannot see anyone near the two vehicles. He will recall seeing the side door on the Ryder open and later seeing it closed. Other visitors to the park say they did not see any large yellow truck, and some will claim to have seen the truck at the park a week before, adding to the confusion surrounding the circumstances. Investigators will later find an oily substance which smells like fuel oil at the spot indicated by witnesses that the trucks were parked (see April 15-16, 1995). [New York Times, 5/12/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 150-151]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Marife Torres Nichols, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Timothy James McVeigh, Richard Wahl

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Alfred P. Murrah Building after being bombed.The Alfred P. Murrah Building after being bombed. [Source: CBS News]A truck bomb destroys the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people in America’s worst domestic terrorist attack. Timothy McVeigh, later convicted in the bombing, has ideological roots both in the Patriot world and among neo-Nazis like William Pierce, whose novel, The Turner Diaries (see 1978), served as a blueprint for the attack. [Washington Post, 4/20/1995; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; Clarke, 2004, pp. 127] Initially, many believe that no American set off the bomb, and suspect Islamist terrorists of actually carrying out the bombing (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Their suspicions prove groundless. Investigators will find that the bomb is constructed of some 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, carried in 20 or so blue plastic 55-gallon barrels arranged inside a rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995). The bomb is detonated by a slow-burning safety fuse, most likely lit by hand. The fuse is attached to a much faster-burning detonation cord (“det cord”) which ignites the fertilizer and fuel-oil mixture. [New York Times, 4/27/1995] The Murrah Federal Building houses a number of federal agencies, including offices for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF); the Social Security Administration; the Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture departments; and the Secret Service. [Washington Post, 4/20/1995] It encompasses an entire city block, between 5th and 4th Streets and Harvey and Robinson Streets, and features a U-shaped, indented drive on 5th that allows for quick pickup and delivery parking. The entire building’s facade on this side is made of glass, allowing passersby to see into the offices in the building, as well as into the America’s Kids day care center on the second floor, which by this time is filling with children. It is in this driveway that McVeigh parks his truck. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 99-102]
Entering the City - McVeigh drives into Oklahoma City, entering around 8:30 a.m. from his overnight stop in Ponca City, Oklahoma; the details reported of his entrance into the city vary (see 7:00 a.m. - 8:35 a.m., April 19, 1995). At 8:55 a.m., a security camera captures the Ryder truck as it heads towards downtown Oklahoma City [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] , a sighting bolstered by three people leaving the building who later say they saw the truck parked in front of the Murrah Building around this time. At 8:57, a security camera captures an image of McVeigh’s Ryder truck being parked outside the Murrah Building in a handicapped zone. One survivor of the blast, Marine recruiter Michael Norfleet, later recalls seeing the Ryder truck parked just outside the building next to the little circle drive on 5th Street leading up to the main entrance of the building. Norfleet had parked his black Ford Ranger in front of the Ryder.
McVeigh Lights Fuses - McVeigh drives the Ryder truck west past the Murrah Building on NW Fourth Street, turns north on a one-way street, and turns right on Fifth Street. He pulls the truck over and parks near the Firestone store, next to a chain-link fence. He then lights the five-minute fuses from inside the cab (see 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), sets the parking brake, drops the key behind the seat, opens the door, locks the truck, exits, and shuts the door behind him. A man later claims to have hit his brakes to avoid someone matching McVeigh’s description as he crossed Fifth Street around 9:00 a.m. McVeigh walks quickly toward a nearby YMCA building where he has hidden his getaway car, a battered yellow Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995), in the adjoining alleyway, crossing Robinson Street and crossing another street to get to the alleyway. He begins to jog as he approaches his car. He later says he remembers a woman looking at him as she is walking down the steps to enter the building; he will describe her as white, in her mid-30s, with dirty blonde hair. According to McVeigh’s own recollection, he is about 20 feet into the alley when the bomb goes off. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 184-185; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 158; Douglas O. Linder, 2006; The Oklahoman, 4/2009]
Truck Explodes - At 9:02 a.m., the truck explodes, destroying most of the Murrah Building and seriously damaging many nearby buildings. Eventually, it will be determined that 168 people die in the blast, including 19 children. Over 500 are injured. The children are in the second-story day care center just above the parking space where McVeigh leaves the Ryder truck. McVeigh will later tell his biographers that he is lifted off his feet by the power of the blast.
Devastation and Death - When the bomb detonates, the day care center and the children plummet into the basement. The building, constructed with large glass windows, collapses, sending a wave of flying glass shards and debris into the building and the surrounding area. The oldest victim is 73-year-old Charles Hurlbert, who has come to the Social Security office on the first floor. Hurlbert’s wife Jean, 67, also dies in the blast. The youngest victim is four-month-old Gabeon Bruce, whose mother is also in the Social Security office. One victim, Rebecca Anderson, is a nurse who runs towards the building to render assistance. She never makes it to the building; she is struck in the head by a piece of falling debris and will die in a hospital four days after the blast. Her heart and kidneys will be transplanted into survivors of the bombing. [Denver Post, 6/3/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 153-154; Oklahoma City Journal Record, 3/29/2001] Sherri Sparks, who has friends still unaccounted for in the building, tells a reporter in the hours after the blast, “Oh, I can’t stand the thought of… those innocent children, sitting there playing, thinking they’re safe, and then this happens.” The explosion leaves a 30-foot-wide, 8-foot-deep crater in the street that is covered by the wreckage of the building’s upper floors. The north face of the nine-story building collapses entirely. [Washington Post, 4/20/1995; Washington Post, 4/22/1995] Mary Heath, a psychologist who works about 20 blocks from the Murrah Building, says the blast “shook the daylights out of things—it scared us to death. We felt the windows shake before we heard the noise.” In a neighboring building, a Water Resources Board meeting is just commencing; the audiotape of the meeting captures the sound of the blast (see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995). [Washington Post, 4/20/1995; The Oklahoman, 4/2009] Norfleet, trapped in the Marine Corps office, is thrown into a wall by the explosion. His skull is fractured, and a shard of glass punctures his right eye. Three separate arteries are pierced, and Norfleet begins bleeding heavily. Two supply sergeants in the office are far less injured; Norfleet asks one, “How bad am I hurt?” and one replies, “Sir, you look really bad.” One of the two begins giving Norfleet first aid; Norfleet later recalls: “He immediately went into combat mode and started taking care of me. He laid me on a table and he started looking for bandages to administer first aid. And while I was laying on that table, I just knew that I was losing strength and that if I stayed in the building, I would die.” Norfleet wraps a shirt around his head and face to slow the bleeding, and the two sergeants help him to the stairs, through the fallen rubble, and eventually out. Norfleet will later say that he follows “a blood trail of somebody that had gone down the steps before me” to get outside, where he is quickly put into an ambulance. He loses almost half his body’s blood supply and his right eye. He will never fly again, and will soon be discharged for medical incapacity. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 161-162] Eighteen-month-old Phillip Allen, called “P.J.” by his parents, miraculously survives the blast. The floor gives way beneath him and he plunges 18 feet to land on the stomach of an adult worker on the floor below, Calvin Johnson. Landing on Johnson’s stomach saves P.J.‘s life. Johnson is knocked unconscious by the blast and by the impact of the little boy falling on him, but when he awakes, he carries the toddler to safety. P.J.‘s grandfather calls the child “Oklahoma’s miracle kid,” and media reports use the label when retelling the story of the miraculous rescue. P.J. is one of six children in the day care center to survive the blast. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 275-277] Some people later report their belief that the Murrah Building was rocked by a second explosion just moments after the first one, the second coming from a secure area managed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) that illegally stored explosives. Law professor Douglas O. Linder will later write, “Both seismic evidence and witness testimony supports the ‘two blast theory.’” [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] That theory is later disputed (see After 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
Explosion's Effects Felt Miles Away - Buildings near the Murrah are also damaged, seven severely, including the Journal Record newspaper building, the offices of Southwestern Bell, the Water Resources Board, an Athenian restaurant, the YMCA, a post office building, and the Regency Tower Hotel. Two Water Resources Board employees and a restaurant worker are killed in the blast. The Journal Record building loses its roof. Assistant Fire Chief Jon Hansen later recalls, “The entire block looked like something out of war-torn Bosnia.” Every building within four blocks of the Murrah suffers some effects. A United Parcel Service truck 10 miles away has its windows shattered by the blast. Cars in parking lots around the area catch fire and burn. Millions of sheets of paper, and an innumerable number of glass shards, shower down for hundreds of feet around the building. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 28-30]
Truck Axle Crushes Nearby Car - Richard Nichols (no relation to bomber Timothy McVeigh’s co-conspirator Terry Nichols), a maintenance worker standing with his wife a block and a half away from the Murrah Building, is spun around by the force of the blast. They throw open the back door of their car and begin taking their young nephew Chad Nichols out of the back seat, when Richard sees a large shaft of metal hurtling towards them. The “humongous object… spinning like a boomerang,” as Richard later describes it, hits the front of their Ford Festiva, smashing the windshield, crushing the front end, driving the rear end high into the air, and sending the entire car spinning backwards about 10 feet. Chad is not seriously injured. The metal shaft is the rear axle of the Ryder truck. Later, investigators determine that it weighs 250 pounds and was blown 575 feet from where the truck was parked. Governor Frank Keating (R-OK) points out the axle to reporters when he walks the scene a day or so later, causing some media outlets to incorrectly report that Keating “discovered” the axle. The scene will take investigators days to process for evidence. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 32; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 187-189]
First Responders Begin Arriving - Within minutes, survivors begin evacuating the building, and first responders appear on the scene (see 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995).
McVeigh's Getaway - McVeigh flees the bomb site in his Mercury getaway car (see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995), but is captured less than 90 minutes later (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995).

A federal grand jury indicts Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) on 11 counts of murder and conspiracy. Neither McVeigh nor Nichols are present during the hearing. The grand jury is only empowered to bring federal charges; the eight murder charges are in regards to the eight federal agents slain in the bombing: Secret Service agents Mickey Maroney, Donald Leonard, Alan Whicher, and Cynthia Campbell-Brown; DEA agent Kenneth McCullough; Customs Service agents Paul Ice and Claude Madearis; and Paul Broxterman, an agent in the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Both Nichols and McVeigh are expected to face 160 counts of murder brought by the state of Oklahoma; both will plead not guilty to all counts of the indictment (see August 15, 1995). The indictment levels the following charges:
bullet on September 30, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols purchased 40 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate (2,000 pounds in total, or one ton) in McPherson, Kansas, under the alias “Mike Havens” (see September 30, 1994);
bullet on October 1, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols stole explosives from a storage locker in Marion, Kansas (the actual date of the theft is October 3—see October 3, 1994);
bullet on October 3-4, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols transported the stolen explosives to Kingman, Arizona, and stored them in a rented storage unit (see October 4 - Late October, 1994);
bullet on October 18, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols bought another ton of ammonium nitrate in McPherson, Kansas, again using the “Mike Havens” alias (see October 18, 1994);
bullet in October 1994, McVeigh and Nichols planned the robbery of a firearms dealer in Arkansas as a means to finance the bombing, and on November 5 they “caused” firearms, ammunition, coins, cash, precious metals, and other items to be stolen from gun dealer Roger Moore (see November 5, 1994);
bullet on December 16, 1994, McVeigh drove with Michael Fortier to Oklahoma City and identified the Murrah Federal Building as the target of the upcoming bombing (see December 16, 1994 and After);
bullet in March 1995 McVeigh obtained a driver’s license in the name of “Robert Kling,” bearing a date of birth of April 19, 1972 (see Mid-March, 1995);
bullet on April 14, 1995, McVeigh bought a 1977 Mercury Marquis in Junction City, Kansas, called Nichols in Herington, Kansas, used the “Kling” alias to set up the rental of a Ryder truck capable of transporting 5,000 pounds of cargo, and rented a room in Junction City (see April 13, 1995);
bullet on April 15, 1995, McVeigh put down a deposit on a rental truck under the name of “Robert Kling” (see April 15, 1995);
bullet on April 17, 1995, McVeigh took possession of the rental truck in Junction City (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995);
bullet on April 18, 1995, at Geary Lake State Park in Kansas, McVeigh and Nichols constructed the truck bomb using barrels filled with ammonium nitrate, fuel, and other explosives, and placed the cargo in the compartment of the Ryder truck (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995);
bullet on April 19, 1995, McVeigh parked the truck bomb directly outside the Murrah Building during regular business hours; and
bullet on April 19, 1995, McVeigh “caused the truck bomb to explode” (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
The indictment accuses McVeigh and Nichols of plotting the bombing “with others unknown to the Grand Jury.” It does not mention the person identified earlier as “John Doe No. 2” (see June 14, 1995). The grand jury says it is confident others, as yet unidentified, also participated in the plot. Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says: “The indictment mentions unknown co-conspirators. We will try to determine if there are others who aided and abetted this crime.” After the indictments are handed down, Attorney General Janet Reno says: “We will pursue every lead based on the evidence.… [M]ost of these leads have been pursued and exhausted.… [W]e have charged everyone involved that we have evidence of at this point.” Prosecutors say that while others may well have been involved, the plot was closely held between McVeigh and Nichols. US Attorney Patrick Ryan has already announced he will seek the death penalty against both McVeigh and Nichols (see July 11-13, 1995), a decision supported by Reno (see 4:00 p.m., April 19, 1995). A third conspirator, Michael Fortier, has pled guilty to lesser crimes regarding his involvement; Fortier has testified against McVeigh and Nichols in return for the lesser charges (see May 19, 1995 and August 8, 1995), and defense lawyers are expected to assail Fortier’s credibility during the trials (see April 19, 1995 and After, April 23 - May 6, 1995, and May 8, 1995). Nichols’s lawyer Michael Tigar says, “Terry Nichols is not guilty of the allegations of which he is charged,” calls the case against his client “flimsy” and “irresponsible,” and accuses prosecutors of attempting to try his client “in the national media.” Periodically, Tigar holds up hand-lettered signs reading, among other messages, “Terry Nichols Wasn’t There” and “A Fair Trial in a Fair Forum.” Prosecutors have dropped all charges against Nichols’s brother James Nichols, who was indicted on three related explosive charges (see December 22 or 23, 1988, April 25, 1995, and May 11, 1995). US Attorney Saul A. Green says that “additional investigation failed to corroborate some of the important evidence on which the government initially relied.” [Washington Post, 8/11/1995; New York Times, 8/11/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 189-191; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 811; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 245; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] McVeigh’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, tells reporters after the hearing that he has been in contact with a man who, he says, told the government early in the fall of 1994 of plans to blow up federal buildings. This man, Jones says, was given a “letter of immunity” by the authorities in exchange for information involving a trip he had taken to Kingman, Arizona, Fortier’s hometown, and for information about his discussions with potential bombers whom, Jones says, the man had described as either “Latin American or Arab.” Jones refuses to identify the person to whom he is referring. [New York Times, 8/11/1995]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Cynthia Campbell-Brown, Alan Whicher, Stephen Jones, Donald Leonard, Claude Madearis, Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore, Saul A. Green, Paul Broxterman, Paul Douglas Ice, Janet Reno, James Nichols, Kenneth McCullough, Joseph H. Hartzler, Michael Joseph Fortier, Patrick M. Ryan, Mickey Maroney, Michael E. Tigar

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Defense lawyers in the Oklahoma City bombing case (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) seek to suppress the testimony of nine prosecution witnesses. Some of these witnesses are publicly identified for the first time, disclosed in court papers filed by the lawyers for defendants Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. McVeigh’s trial is slated to begin in March. Some of the newly identified witnesses are:
bullet Fred Skrdla, who worked at a gasoline station in Billings, Oklahoma, some 80 miles north of Oklahoma City, on the day of the bombing. Skrdla remembers a man driving a large Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995) buying gasoline between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m (see (1:00 a.m.) April 19, 1995). The man paid cash. Skrdla says he was busy and does not remember if the man was alone or had company. When he saw composite drawings of “John Doe No. 1” and “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), he recognized one of them as the man who bought the gasoline. When he saw television coverage of McVeigh being “perp walked” out of the Noble County Courthouse in Perry, Oklahoma (see April 21, 1995), he became sure that the man he saw paying for the gasoline was McVeigh.
bullet William Dunlap, who took his wife to work in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing. Minutes before the bomb detonated in front of the Murrah Federal Building, Dunlap told FBI investigators, he drove past the building and noticed a Ryder truck parked in front of it. Dunlap said he saw a white man get out of the truck and walk to the rear of it. Dunlap said the man wore jeans, was in his mid- to late 20s, had “clean-cut” hair, a “medium” complexion, a slight build, and was between 5’8” and 5’9” tall. McVeigh is 6’2”. Dunlap told investigators he thought the man might have been McVeigh, but he was not certain.
Stephen Jones, McVeigh’s lead lawyer, says the “saturation” news coverage of the crime and the arrests has “tainted” the ability of Skrdla, Dunlap, and the other witnesses to make accurate identifications of the person or persons they believe they saw. Jones cites information given to the FBI by David Ferris, a Junction City, Kansas, taxi driver who talked about a passenger he had on April 17, two days before the bombing. In early interviews, Ferris did not say that any of the passengers he had looked like McVeigh, and denied taking any passengers to the McDonald’s restaurant on South Washington Boulevard that day, where the investigators are sure McVeigh went (see May 9, 1997). Interviewers’ notes show that Ferris became emotional during the questioning, and tearfully said he “never picked up McVeigh.” The next day, however, Ferris changed his story, saying he took a man resembling McVeigh to the McDonald’s in question between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. on April 17. Ferris told agents that he had seen McVeigh’s picture on television and was “scared and panicked” after realizing who he was. Jones also contends that identifications of McVeigh by Eldon Elliott and Tom Kessinger, who rented the truck to McVeigh, were tainted by television news coverage of McVeigh; by the time Elliott and Kessinger made their identifications, Jones says, McVeigh’s face was so familiar “monks living on the mountainside in Tibet could have made the same identification.” Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael Tigar, is attempting to suppress identification by an unnamed witness or witnesses who worked at the Mid-Kansas Cooperative in McPherson and, prosecutors say, sold fertilizer to McVeigh and Nichols (see September 23, 1994, September 30, 1994, and October 18, 1994). [New York Times, 1/13/1997] Judge Richard P. Matsch refuses to bar the witnesses’ testimonies. [New York Times, 2/21/1997]

Entity Tags: Fred Skrdla, Federal Bureau of Investigation, David Ferris, William Dunlap, Tom Kessinger, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Michael E. Tigar, Eldon Elliott

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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

According to reports by the Dallas Morning News, indicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) has confessed to planning the bombing and detonating a bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003] Reporter Pete Slover cites as his source “summaries of several 1995 interviews with a defense team member” [New York Times, 3/1/1997] , though he later admits in a court filing that he could not be sure the story was true before filing it. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 271] Researchers will later learn that McVeigh suspects his lead attorney Stephen Jones of leaking his purported confession to the press. The leak is later shown to be from a member of Jones’s staff, who gave a computer disk containing FBI reports to Slover, apparently unaware that the McVeigh “confession” was also on the disk. [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] However, this reported speculation is countered by an opinion advanced in 1998 by author Richard A. Serrano, who will write that the defense’s work to humanize McVeigh and “soften” his image (see June 26, 1995) “was blown apart” by the leaked information. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 271] The Morning News prints the article on its Web site seven hours before its next print edition can be published, and later cites a desire to match the immediacy of television and to ensure its exclusive isn’t “scooped” by a competitor. Editors worried before publication that McVeigh’s lawyers might leak the story in one fashion or another to another media outlet. [New York Times, 3/3/1997]
Details of Bombing Plot, Involvement by Co-Conspirator Nichols, Denials of Wider Conspiracy - According to documents obtained by the Morning News, McVeigh’s defense lawyers wrote that McVeigh told one of them that his bombing of the Murrah Federal Building during working hours would leave a “body count” that would make a statement to the federal government. McVeigh also named his friend, alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols, as being intimately involved with the bomb plot (see August 10, 1995), but insisted he alone drove the Ryder truck containing the bomb that destroyed the Murrah Building. McVeigh also denied any involvement by Terry Nichols’s brother James Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988, May 11, 1995, and April 25, 1995). The Morning News describes the source of its reporting as summaries of several 1995 interviews with a member of the defense team’s staff, conducted between July and December 1995 at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center in Oklahoma, where McVeigh was held before his transfer to the Denver area in March 1996. The summaries, the Morning News says, validate much of the prosecution’s contention that McVeigh and Nichols committed robberies and burglary in the course of assembling money and materials for the bombing, even as it acknowledges that they could not be used by prosecutors in either man’s trial. One summary of a July 1995 interview has a staffer asking McVeigh if it would have been better to bomb the building at night when relatively few people would have been present. According to the staffer: “Mr. McVeigh looked directly into my eyes and told me: ‘That would not have gotten the point across to the government. We needed a body count to make our point.’” According to the documents, McVeigh and Nichols used significantly more ammonium nitrate than federal investigators have estimated—some 5,400 pounds as compared to federal estimates of 4,800 pounds—and about $3,000 worth of high-powered racing fuel to make a lethal explosive combination. “Mr. McVeigh states that 108 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer were mixed with the nitro fuel purchased by Terry Nichols,” one summary reads. The summaries also have McVeigh admitting to his involvement in a 1994 robbery carried out by Nichols and himself to fund the bombing plot (see November 5, 1994 and Before July 3, 1995). “Mr. McVeigh stated that he laid out the plan and that Terry Nichols alone broke into [gun dealer Roger] Moore’s house and stole the weapons,” one summary reads. The summary tallies closely with recent statements by McVeigh’s friend Michael Fortier, who pled guilty to helping transport the stolen weapons and is now helping the prosecution (see May 19, 1995 and August 8, 1995). Fortier has testified that he and McVeigh sold the weapons stolen from Moore in Arizona. McVeigh also detailed a burglary committed by himself and Nichols at a Kansas rock quarry (see October 3, 1994). He also gave information about a third burglary carried out by himself and Fortier of a National Guard armory (see February - July 1994), where they attempted to steal welding tools but only made off with hand tools. According to the summaries, McVeigh denied being part of a larger conspiracy, and said the bomb plot was conceived and executed by himself and Nichols. He called a witness who claimed knowledge of a Middle Eastern or Islamist connection (see February - July 1994) a “bullsh_t artist.” He also said that another conspiracy theory centered around right-wing activist Andreas Strassmeir is groundless (see January 23, 1993 - Early 1994 and April 20, 1995). [Dallas Morning News, 3/1/1997; Washington Post, 3/1/1997] Initially, McVeigh’s lead defense attorney Stephen Jones calls the documents “a hoax” and denies that McVeigh made any of those statements. The Dallas Morning News is trying to garner attention and subscriptions, Jones says, and implies that the Morning News’s source is “setting up” the paper: “They just bought the Brooklyn Bridge,” he says. The Morning News has informed Jones of the identity of the source that provided it with the documents. [Washington Post, 3/1/1997] “This is about the most irresponsible form of journalism,” Jones says. He says that after McVeigh learned of the story, his client said, “There’s a practical joker every week.” [New York Times, 3/1/1997]
Defense Alleges Press Stole Documents - The Morning News denies a subsequent defense allegation that Slover stole thousands of computerized documents belonging to McVeigh’s defense lawyers, documents Jones says were used in the Morning News’s reporting. Jones says the documents acknowledge McVeigh’s responsibility for the bombing, but do not constitute a confession. The Morning News, Jones says, got the documents “by fraud, deception, misrepresentation, and theft” involving the defense’s computer files. Attorney Paul Watler, speaking for the Morning News, “categorically denies it committed any crime,” and says the documents were obtained through “routine news-gathering techniques.” The Morning News “did not hack into Mr. Jones’ computer system, and it did not assist anyone else in doing so,” Watler says. Jones says the documents are not, as some reports say, notes of a defense staffer’s conversations with McVeigh; defense lawyers have previously alleged that they produced a “fake confession” designed to persuade a witness to talk to defense investigators. Jones says any such false confessions, if they exist, would not be used during McVeigh’s trial. Jones says he may ask Judge Richard Matsch to delay the trial for 90 days to allow for a “cooling-off period” and allow “people to move on.” Watler says Jones is using the allegations to cloud the trial proceedings. [Dallas Morning News, 3/4/1997; New York Times, 3/4/1997] Freelance journalist J.D. Cash, who writes for a far-right publication called The Jubilee and a small Oklahoma newspaper, the McCurtain Daily Gazette, denies reports that he is the source of the article. Cash says he is not “the intermediary who set up The Dallas Morning News,” but says he is familiar with the documents described in the newspaper’s accounts. The confession, Cash says, is “a mixture of fact and fantasy.”
Possible Negative Impact on Jury - Observers worry that the story may prejudice a potential jury. “It’s a worst-case scenario,” says legal studies professor Jeffrey Abramson. “At the witching hour, but before people have been isolated from pretrial publicity, you get explosive evidence, exactly the kind of thing that makes it very difficult for a defendant to think he hasn’t already been tried in the press.” Law professor Rita J. Simon says the article could make a fair trial very difficult. “The jurors will know there was some report about a confession,” she says. “I can’t imagine, no matter where you hold the trial, that the jurors will not hear about it. As soon as the trial gets under way, the story will come out afresh.” [New York Times, 3/2/1997]
Second Purported Confession - Days later, a second confession from McVeigh is reported, this time published by Playboy magazine. The article containing the purported confession is written by freelance reporter Ben Fenwick, and is apparently based on an internal summary of the case compiled by the McVeigh defense team (see Early 2005). Fenwick had obtained the document in 1996, he later says, and had kept it under wraps in the hopes of eventually writing a book about the case. He quickly wrote an article based on the document and sold it to Playboy after Slover’s article hit the press. According to Fenwick’s article, McVeigh says he detonated the bomb when he was a block away from the Murrah Building, and admitted to the bombing during a lie detector test administered by his lawyers. Other details in the article contradict physical evidence already presented in open court. Jones says: “These escalating reports of alleged statements by Mr. McVeigh are corrupting the heart of the jury system. The American ideals of justice are being held hostage to sensationalism.” Fenwick is soon hired by ABC News as a legal consultant, an arrangement that allows ABC to quote extensively from the article in a special broadcast aired shortly before the trial begins. Fenwick will later admit that he did not authenticate the document before using it. The document and the article will lead the FBI to discover McVeigh’s purchase of racing fuel from an Ennis, Texas, dealer (see October 21 or 22, 1994). [New York Times, 3/14/1997; New York Times, 3/18/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 271]

Entity Tags: Jeffrey Abramson, James Nichols, Terry Lynn Nichols, Andreas Strassmeir, Dallas Morning News, J.D. Cash, Ben Fenwick, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh, Rita J. Simon, Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore, Murrah Federal Building, Michael Joseph Fortier, Paul Watler, Playboy, Pete Slover, Richard P. Matsch, Richard A. Serrano

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

April 24, 1997: McVeigh Trial Opens

Opening statements are presented in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995).
Heavy Security - Security in and around the Byron Rogers Federal Building and Courthouse in Denver, where the trial is being held, is tight. Roads and sidewalks approaching the building are blocked off. Special credentials are needed to walk around certain areas inside the courthouse. Pedestrian traffic in and out of the federal office next door is constrained with a heavy police presence. Federal officers look under the hoods of cars and check beneath vehicles with mirrors on the streets surrounding the building. Concrete barriers prevent vehicles from getting too close to the building. Even the nearby manhole covers are sealed shut. [CNN, 4/17/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 274]
Jury Makeup - The jury (see March 31, 1997 and After) is composed of seven men and five women; their identities and personal information have been shielded so they can avoid being sequestered. Six alternate jurors—three men and three women—are also available. The jurors include a retired teacher, a registered nurse, an auto mechanic, a real estate manager, and a store manager who served in the Air Force. Several are military veterans. One said during jury selection that he hopes the trial will not turn McVeigh into another victim: “I believe there have been enough victims. We don’t need another one.” James Osgood, the jury foreman and store manager, believes in mandatory gun ownership. (Like the other members of the jury, Osgood’s identity will not be revealed until after the trial is concluded.) Several expressed their doubts and worry about being able to impose the death penalty if McVeigh is convicted. Some 100 potential jurors were screened to create this jury of 12 members and six alternates. As the trial commences, McVeigh greets the jury by saying, “Good morning.” He will not speak to them again during the trial. Judge Richard P. Matsch begins by saying: “We start the trial, as we are today, with no evidence against Timothy McVeigh. The presumption of innocence applies.” [Washington Post, 4/23/1997; New York Times, 4/23/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 275; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Prosecution: McVeigh a Cold, Calculating Terrorist - Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler begins with an emotional evocation of the bombing and the story of one of the victims, Tevin Garrett, a 16-month-old child who cried when his mother Helena Garrett left him at the Murrah Building’s day care center. The mothers could wave at their children through the day care’s glass windows, Hartzler says. “It was almost as if you could reach up and touch the children. None of those parents ever touched their children again while they were alive.” He says of Tevin Garrett’s mother, “She remembers this morning [the morning of the bombing] because it was the last morning of [Tevin’s] life” (see 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995). Hartzler wastes little time in slamming McVeigh as a “twisted,” calculating terrorist who murdered 168 people in the hope of starting a mass uprising against the US government. McVeigh, Hartzler says, “chose to take their innocent lives to serve his own twisted purposes.… In plain and simple terms, it was an act of terror and violence, intended to serve a selfish political purpose. The man who committed this act is sitting in this courtroom behind me. He is the one who committed those murders.” Hartzler says that McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City to avenge the federal assault on the Branch Davidian religious compound outside Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993, April 19, 1993 and After, and April 24, 1995). “Across the street, the Ryder truck was there to resolve a grievance,” Hartzler says. “The truck was there to impose the will of Timothy McVeigh on the rest of America and to do so by premeditated violence and terror, by murdering innocent men, women, and children, in hopes of seeing blood flow in the streets of America.” He notes that McVeigh carried an excerpt from the violently racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978) that depicts the bombing of FBI headquarters in Washington. Hartzler reads the following line from the excerpt: “The real value of our attack lies in the psychological impact, not in the immediate casualties.” Hartzler also notes the T-shirt McVeigh wore when he was arrested, a shirt that Hartzler says “broadcast his intentions.” On the front was a likeness of Abraham Lincoln and on the back a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Drops of scarlet blood dripped from a picture of a tree. Investigators found traces of residue on McVeigh’s shirt, in his pants pockets, and on a set of earplugs found in his pocket (see Early May 1995 and After). Hartzler reads from a document McVeigh had written on a computer belonging to his sister, Jennifer (see November 1994). In a letter addressed to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, McVeigh wrote: “All you tyrannical [expletive], you’ll swing in the wind one day for your treasonous attacks against the Constitution of the United States.… Die, you spineless, cowardice [sic] b_stards” (see May 5-6, 1997). Hartzler says the trial has nothing to do with McVeigh’s beliefs or his freedoms of expression: “We aren’t prosecuting him because we don’t like his thoughts. We’re prosecuting him because his hatred boiled into violence.” Of the innocent victims, Hartzler tells the jury that McVeigh “compared them to the storm troopers in [the popular science fiction movie] Star Wars (see October 21 or 22, 1994). Even if they are innocent, they work for an evil system and have to be killed.” Hartzler moves to preempt expected defense attacks on the prosecution’s star witness, Michael Fortier (see After May 6, 1995, May 19, 1995 and August 8, 1995), on reports that evidence was mishandled by an FBI crime lab (see January 27, 1997), and the failure to identify or apprehend the now-infamous “John Doe No. 2” (see June 14, 1995). Hartzler concludes: “Timothy McVeigh liked to consider himself a patriot, as someone who could start a second American revolution. Ladies and gentlemen, statements from our forefathers can never be twisted to justify warfare against women and children. Our forefathers didn’t fight British women and children. They fought other soldiers, they fought them face to face, hand to hand. They didn’t plant bombs and then run away wearing earplugs” (see Early May 1995 and After) Hartzler returns to the prosecutors’ table; Matsch calls a brief recess.
Defense: McVeigh Innocent, Framed by Lies - McVeigh’s attorney, Stephen Jones, tells the jury that McVeigh is innocent, and says that McVeigh’s views fall within the “political and social mainstream.” Like Hartzler, he begins with the story of a mother who lost one of her two children in the bombing, saying that the mother saw someone other than McVeigh outside the Murrah Building before the bomb went off. “I have waited two years for this moment,” Jones says, and says he will prove that other people, not McVeigh, committed the bombing. Jones sketches McVeigh’s biography, focusing on his exemplary military service and the bitter disappointment he suffered in not being accepted in the Army’s Special Forces (see January - March 1991 and After). It was after he left the Army, Jones says, that McVeigh began to steep himself in political ideology. But far from being an extremist, Jones says, McVeigh began to study the Constitution. The shirt he wore when he was arrested bore the motto “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” but that is not merely a revolutionary slogan, Jones notes: it is the motto of the State of Virginia. McVeigh was “extremely upset” over what he viewed as government abuses of individual liberty, Jones admits, but says it was no different from how “millions of people fear and distrust the government.” McVeigh’s statement that “something big was going to happen” (see Mid-December 1994, March 25, 1995 and After, and April 15, 1995) had nothing to do with the bombing, Jones says, but was merely a reflection of the increasing anxiety and concern he was seeing among his friends and fellow political activists, all of whom believed “that the federal government was about to initiate another Waco raid, except this time on a different scale” (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “[B]eing outraged is no more an excuse for blowing up a federal building than being against the government means that you did it.” Jones spends much of his time attacking Fortier’s credibility as well as the consistency of other prosecution witnesses, saying that they will give “tailored testimony” crafted by the government to bolster its case, and focuses on the reports of crime lab mishandling of key evidence (see April 16, 1997): “The individuals responsible for the evidence… contaminated it… manipulated it, and then they engaged in forensic prostitution,” he says. After the case is done, Jones says, the jury will see that the evidence shows, “not just reasonable doubt, but that my client is innocent.” He closes by reminding the jury, “Every pancake has two sides.” [Washington Post, 4/25/1997; New York Times, 4/25/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 275-280; Douglas O. Linder, 2006]

Entity Tags: Byron Rodgers Federal Building and Courthouse, Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Osgood, Joseph H. Hartzler, Helena Garrett, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh, Michael Joseph Fortier, Tevin Garrett

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Prosecutors in the trial of Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) use a number of witnesses to establish a timeline leading up to McVeigh’s rental of a Ryder truck (under the alias “Robert D. Kling”—see Mid-March, 1995) that, they say, he used to bomb an Oklahoma City federal building (see April 15, 1995). Eldon Elliott, the owner of the Junction City, Kansas, truck rental agency that rented McVeigh the truck (see February 19, 1997), identifies McVeigh as the truck renter “Kling.” McVeigh’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, presses Elliott to admit that he does not remember what McVeigh was wearing the day he rented the truck, though Elliott maintains he remembers McVeigh quite clearly. Jones notes that in his initial statement to the FBI, Elliott told investigators that “Kling” was either 5’10” or 5’11” “or a little taller,” whereas McVeigh is 6’1”. Other witnesses show that a Junction City taxi took a passenger identified as McVeigh from a shopping center near the Dreamland Motel to a McDonald’s restaurant on April 17; McVeigh was staying at the Dreamland on that day (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995) under the alias “Robert Kling.” Security photographs from the Junction City McDonald’s show a man closely resembling McVeigh buying a meal, and, in court, the McDonald’s manager identifies McVeigh as the customer. Prosecutors say McVeigh was in Junction City that afternoon without a car because he had parked his car the night before in Oklahoma City to use for his getaway after the blast. Another witness says he delivered an order of Chinese food ordered by “Kling” to Room 25 of the Dreamland Motel during the time McVeigh stayed in that room, though under cross-examination he says the man who accepted the food was not McVeigh. Perhaps the most memorable witness is Marife Nichols, the Filipina bride of McVeigh’s accused co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see July - December 1990). She testifies that McVeigh had stayed with her and her husband in their Marion, Kansas, home for a few days in September 1994 (see (September 30, 1994)). She testifies that on April 16, 1995, her family’s dinner was interrupted by a telephone call; her husband then left the house and did not return until the following morning. Prosecutors say that Terry Nichols drove 220 miles from their house in Herington, Kansas, to Oklahoma City, where he picked up McVeigh after McVeigh had stashed his car for his planned getaway (see April 16-17, 1995). Press reports have alleged (see February 28 - March 4, 1997) that McVeigh and Marife Nichols had an affair during the summer of 1994; lawyers do not broach the subject during the trial. [CNN, 5/9/1997; New York Times, 5/10/1997; New York Times, 5/16/1997] Marife Nichols will confirm the affair in 2004. [New York Times, 4/9/2004]

Entity Tags: Stephen Jones, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Marife Torres Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Eldon Elliott

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The defense for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) attempts to cast doubt on the identification of the Ryder truck used in the bombing with one rented by McVeigh under the alias “Robert Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995 and April 15, 1995). The jury hears testimony from Herta King, a friend of Lea McGown, the owner and manager of the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh stayed in the days before the bombing (see April 13, 1995). Prosecutors say McVeigh checked into Room 25 of the Dreamland on Good Friday, April 14, 1995. King testifies that her son, David King, was then living at the motel and she took him an Easter basket on Easter Sunday, April 16. She saw a large Ryder truck in the Dreamland parking lot on that day. “Kling” did not rent the Ryder truck used in the bombing until April 17 (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995). Renda Truong, a high school student who had Easter dinner with the McGown family, testifies that she, too, saw a Ryder truck in the parking lot on April 16. McGown has testified that she saw McVeigh bring a truck to the motel on April 16 (see May 9, 1997). The New York Times’s Jo Thomas writes, “[T]he testimony elicited by [McVeigh’s lead lawyer Stephen] Jones today may be the start of an effort to establish that Mr. McVeigh had a truck for some innocent purpose, one day before someone else rented the truck that would carry the bomb.” The last witness for the day is Vicki Beemer, who handled the paperwork for Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City, where McVeigh rented the Ryder truck. Beemer says two men came in on April 17 to rent the Ryder truck (see January 29, 1997) but she cannot remember what either man looked like. Asked by Jones, “Are you able to tell us that Mr. McVeigh is Robert Kling?” she replies, “No, I can’t.” Prosecutor Scott Mendeloff, on cross-examination, asks, “Can you say Mr. McVeigh is not Mr. Kling?” She again replies, “No, I can’t.” [New York Times, 5/23/1997]

Entity Tags: Jo Thomas, David King, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Herta King, Vicki Beemer, Stephen Jones, Lea McGown, Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Scott Mendeloff, Renda Truong, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) calls a witness who casts doubts on the FBI’s version of the events preceding the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building (see May 9, 1997). Nancy Kindle, a waitress at a Denny’s Restaurant in Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh spent the weekend before the bombing (see April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), testifies that on Easter Sunday, April 16, McVeigh and two other men came into her restaurant for lunch. She placed them on a waiting list, and, she recalls, had to ask how to spell “McVeigh.” She describes one of McVeigh’s companions as “scraggly looking” and short. She cannot recall what the third person looked like. She says she saw McVeigh again later that afternoon at a Junction City Texaco, and remembers speaking to him, because, she says, “he had a cute appearance to me.” McVeigh’s co-conspirator Terry Nichols has given a different version of events: according to Nichols, McVeigh called him on the afternoon of April 16 and asked him to come to Oklahoma City to pick him up because his car had broken down; during the drive back to Kansas, Nichols said that McVeigh had told him he was planning “something big” (see April 16-17, 1995). Judge Richard P. Matsch has not allowed the prosecution to introduce Nichols’s statements. The call that came to the Nichols home that afternoon came from a telephone booth a few blocks away from the Nichols’s Herington, Kansas, residence, not from Oklahoma City; prosecutors have suggested that the two men made the four-and-a-half-hour drive to Oklahoma City to drop off McVeigh’s car for a getaway after the bombing. Kindle’s version of events seems to corroborate allegations that McVeigh worked in conjunction with several other conspirators aside from Nichols (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). [New York Times, 5/24/1997]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Richard P. Matsch, Timothy James McVeigh, Nancy Kindle

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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