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Profile: Herta King

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Herta King was a participant or observer in the following events:

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), having finished buying a getaway car for the upcoming bombing and arranging to rent a Ryder truck to deliver the two-ton bomb (see April 13, 1995), checks into Room 25 of the Dreamland Motel just outside of Junction City, Kansas, off of I-70, the connecting highway between Fort Riley and Junction City. He fills out a registration card under the name “Bob Kling,” then reconsiders, throws that registration card away, and fills out another card under his own name, giving his address as 3616 N. Van Dyke, Decker, Michigan, the Nichols family farm (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). He writes the license plate number for his Mercury, but it is illegible, according to motel employees. He rents the room for four days, through April 17. Motel owner Lea McGown will later say that McVeigh talks her into reducing the room rate from $28 to $20, and will recall: “He’s a talker. He paid attention to his appearance. He was a very neat person. The feeling was he just washed his pants and put them on.” She will also remember him driving the Mercury, which she says has Arizona license plates, and remembers him later parking a Ryder truck behind the motel (see April 15, 1995), a recollection that conflicts with records indicating McVeigh does not pick up the truck until April 17 (see April 16, 1995 and 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995). Lea’s son Eric McGown, who does maintenance work around the motel, will recall talking with McVeigh about the car, the Arizona plate, and the desert heat. [New York Times, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 4/30/1995; New York Times, 12/3/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 131-132; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Recollections of Ryder Truck - Both Lea McGown and her son Eric later claim to have seen the Ryder truck at the motel before April 17. Eric McGown will be quite clear, saying he sees McVeigh with the truck twice, once when he asks him to move it to a different parking space and again when he sees McVeigh having some difficulty closing the rear door of the truck. He will also tell investigators, “Once I saw the Ryder truck, I never saw that Marquis again.” A Junction City resident, Herta King, whose son David lives in Room 24 of the motel, will also claim to have seen the Ryder truck at the motel on April 16. She will say that she comes to the motel around 12:30 p.m. to visit her son because he is depressed and to bring him an Easter basket. “I saw a yellow Ryder truck sitting right there, and I could not see my son’s car because the Ryder truck blocked the view,” she will say. When she visits her son again around 7:00 or 8:00 p.m., she will say, the Ryder truck is gone. In 1998, author Richard A. Serrano will write: “If the McGowns [and King] are right, then there was a second truck and McVeigh played some sort of role with that truck, too. And perhaps with someone other than Nichols. But if the McGowns are mistaken, if they are innocently caught up in the rush of hysteria that came with the search for the Oklahoma City bombers, then their recollections were nothing more than fodder for conspiracy theorists and defense lawyers hoping to confuse a trial jury.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 146]
Witnesses See Unidentified Man with McVeigh - Two witnesses later say they see another man who may be with McVeigh. Helicopter mechanic Shane Boyd, also staying at the motel, will tell investigators that he sees a bushy-haired man who resembles sketches of the so-called “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995) in the parking lot near McVeigh’s room. Boyd will remember the man as smiling. Junction City resident Connie Hood drives into the parking lot shortly after midnight to visit David King; she sees a man throw open the door of Room 23, next to King’s room, as if he is expecting someone. He then closes the door. Hood later describes the man as being stocky, having thick, dark, brushed-back hair, and an olive complexion. She will say he resembles the sketches of “John Doe No. 2” but is not identical. The description does not match Nichols’s appearance. The FBI will dust Room 23 for fingerprints; McGown will confirm that Room 23 is not rented this evening, though it is possible, she will say, that someone might have taken a key to have a look at the room and is coming out when Hood arrives. [New York Times, 12/3/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]

Entity Tags: David King, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Eric McGown, Lea McGown, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Timothy James McVeigh, Herta King, Richard A. Serrano, Shane Boyd

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

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