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Profile: Helen May Mitchell
Helen May Mitchell was a participant or observer in the following events:
Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992, February - July 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, and September 13, 1994 and After) begins developing plans plans to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), echoing a plan developed by white supremacists in Elohim City, Oklahoma years before (see 1983). Federal authorities will later say that the “official” date of the conspiracy coincides with a federal ban on some assault weapons that goes into effect on September 13 (see September 13, 1994 and September 13, 1994), but McVeigh has been considering such a plan for some time. McVeigh uses the alias “Shawn Rivers” to rent a storage unit, Unit No. 2, in Herington, Kansas, at Clark Lumber, for four months at a cost of $80. The address McVeigh gives on the rental registration is Rt. 3, Box 83, Marion KS. McVeigh’s co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, (September 30, 1994) and September 13, 1994) works in Marion, Kansas (see (September 30, 1994)). The clerk who rents McVeigh the storage unit is Helen Mitchell; the owner is Ray Mueller. McVeigh pays four months’ advance rent. During the latter part of September and the first two weeks of October, McVeigh and Nichols either stay at the Sunset Motel in Junction City, Kansas, or sleep in Nichols’s truck at Geary County State Park near Junction City. [New York Times, 5/9/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 92; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Nichols will soon buy a house in Herington (see (February 20, 1995)).
Virginia gun dealer Gregory Pfaff testifies that Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) wanted to buy detonation cord from him six months before the Murrah Building was destroyed by a bomb (see Late September or October, 1994). McVeigh was so eager to buy “det cord,” Pfaff testifies, that he offered to drive from Arizona to Virginia to pick it up. Pfaff says he met McVeigh at gun shows several times during 1992; in September or October 1994, he testifies, McVeigh called him and “asked if I could get him detonation cord.” Pfaff says that he did not sell “det cord,” a highly regulated item, but did not want to offend McVeigh, so he told him he could not ship it within the US. McVeigh then offered to come to Virginia from Arizona to pick it up. “It was an awful long way to drive,” Pfaff recalls telling McVeigh, but he says McVeigh told him “it didn’t matter, that he needed it bad.” The sale never took place. Pfaff is one of 14 prosecution witnesses to take the stand, all testifying to their knowledge of McVeigh’s bomb-construction scheme. Kyle Kraus, McVeigh’s second cousin, says McVeigh mailed him a copy of The Turner Diaries (see 1978) in 1991, while Kraus was still in high school. The novel is an inflammatory racist work that prosecutors say McVeigh used as an ideological blueprint for the bombing (see April 24, 1997). The prosecution enters the novel as Exhibit #1. Kraus, who with other witnesses testifies that McVeigh has been thinking about explosives and a racially motivated “civil war” for a long time, says that at Christmas of 1991, when McVeigh was at home on leave from the Army (see January - March 1991 and After), he asked Kraus what he thought of the book. Kraus says he told McVeigh the book was “powerful” and added that it “would be very, you know, very frightening if it really did come to this.” McVeigh told him, according to Kraus’s testimony, that “if the government continued its strong hold,” the country could face “a civil war.” Dana Rogers, the finance director of Colorado mail-order house Paladin Press, testifies that McVeigh ordered several books about weapons and explosives, including one titled “Homemade C4.” The book’s description in Paladin’s catalogue, as read by Rogers, says: “Serious survivors knew that the day may come when they need something more powerful than commercial dynamite or common improvised explosives. For blowing bridges, shattering steel, and derailing tanks, they need C-4.” The explosive is “not legally available to civilian and is hard to come by on the black market,” Rogers says; the book offers a recipe with “legal, common, and inexpensive” ingredients. Helen May Mitchell, an employee of the Clark Lumber Company in Herington, Kansas, says she rented a storage locker to a “Shawn Rivers,” who gave alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols’s mailing address in Marion as his contact information. Though Mitchell testifies that she cannot recall what “Rivers” looked like, prosecutors say “Rivers” was another alias used by McVeigh. Robert D. Nattier, the president and general manager of the Mid-Kansas Cooperative, testifies that a man calling himself “Mike Havens” bought 2,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer on September 30, 1994 (see September 30, 1994) and again on October 18, 1994 (see October 18, 1994) from the store in McPherson, Kansas. “Havens” has been identified as a psuedonym used by McVeigh; the McPherson store is 37 miles west of the ranch near Marion, Kansas, where Nichols worked (see (September 30, 1994)). Nattier’s testimony is bolstered by testimony from FBI agent Louis Michalko, who tells the jury of finding receipts by a “Mike Havens” for 4,000 pounds of fertilizer from the McPherson branch of the co-op (see May 1, 1995 and After). A rancher, Timothy Patrick Donahue, testifies that on Nichols’s last day of work on the ranch, September 30, 1994 (see February - September 30, 1994), he saw McVeigh standing outside Nichols’s home. That same evening, antiques dealer Marion Ogden says he saw McVeigh alone at the Nichols house, and he saw guns stored behind Nichols’s living-room sofa. Sharri Furman, an employee of the Boots-U-Store-It storage locker center in Council Grove, Kansas, testifies that a “Joe Kyle” rented a storage locker there on October 17. She cannot remember what “Kyle” looked like, but prosecutors say Nichols used the name as an alias (see October 17, 1994). She identifies Nichols as “Ted Parker,” who rented a storage unit on November 7, 1994 (see November 7, 1994). [New York Times, 5/2/1997; New York Times, 5/3/1997; Chicago Tribune, 5/3/1997]
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