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Profile: Lana Padilla
Lana Padilla was a participant or observer in the following events:
Courtroom sketch of Lana Padilla. [Source: Lawrence Journal-World]Michigan realtor Lana Padilla files for divorce from her husband Terry Nichols. Padillla, frustrated with her husband’s tendency to drift from job to job, was disappointed in his failure to commit to an Army career (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990) and tired of trying to motivate him to begin a career. Padilla decides to move from their home in Michigan to Las Vegas, where the real estate market is booming. The divorce will be finalized in July 1989. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 72-74]
Michigan farmer Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, April 2, 1992 and After, and October 12, 1993 - January 1994) suffers a tragedy. He is packing his family for what he says is a move to St. George, Utah. Around 6:30 a.m., he checks on his two-year-old son Jason, who, Nichols later says, had been crying and “fussing” through the night. Nichols is called back inside his house around 9 a.m. Jason is dead, suffocated with his head and shoulders in a plastic bag. Investigating officers later report that Nichols is “quiet and visibly upset.” Nichols’s wife Marife (see July - December 1990) is distraught, according to the sheriff’s report, “requesting the police officer to go up and take fingerprints at the house in the bedroom.” The report will state, “She thought this could not have happened by accident, that someone had to have intentionally done this to her boy.” The report also notes, “It was observed that there were no unusual signs of trauma.” The authorities rule the death accidental. A neighbor who sits with the family for hours later describes both of the parents as devastated. Among the mourners is Nichols’s close friend Timothy McVeigh, who has been staying with the Nichols family. After Jason’s death, Nichols will abandon his plans to move to Utah; instead he will attempt a brief stint as a construction worker in Las Vegas, then take a job as a ranch hand in Marion County, leaving Marife to live on his brother’s farm. [New York Times, 5/28/1995; New York Times, 12/24/1997] Nichols’s ex-wife Lana Padilla will later imply in her book By Blood Betrayed that McVeigh had something to do with Jason’s death, though no evidence of foul play has ever been suggested. McVeigh’s younger sister Jennifer McVeigh will have harsh words for the implication, telling author Brandon M. Stickney: “I think it’s cruel of her, sick of her to put that in there, because from what I knew about that, Tim found him and tried to save him. Implying he would hurt a little kid like that… he has a niece. He likes kids. He would never do anything to intentionally harm a child like that. He would have no reason to.” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 157] Nichols will later take part in the Oklahoma City bombing with McVeigh, in which 19 children are killed and many others injured (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Police reports mention McVeigh under an alias, “Jim Tuttle.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 111]
Roger Moore. [Source: Free Republic (.com)]White separatists Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, and February - July 1994) and Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994 and October 20, 1994) plan and execute the robbery of Roger Moore, a Royal, Arkansas, gun dealer and acquaintance of McVeigh’s. Nichols and McVeigh are planning the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Moore cannot positively identify his single masked assailant, though he will tell FBI investigators he believes McVeigh is the masked assailant who knocks him unconscious, binds and gags him, and takes guns, military gear, jewelry and gemstones, Indian artifacts, cameras, gold, silver, a safe-deposit key, and cash worth around $60,000 from his dealership. Moore, according to investigators’ reports, “believes that Tim McVeigh may have been involved in the robbery, in that he had visited the owner on several occasions and was familiar with the gun collection.” Moore will give further descriptive details: the robber wears a full camouflage uniform, a black ski mask, and gloves, and wields a pistol-grip shotgun. Moore believes a second man is also involved, but will say he is unsure, because he is quickly bound and tied up while the assailant or assailants ransack his house for 90 minutes before packing the stolen goods into his van and driving off with it. Moore frees himself after about 30 minutes and calls the police, who find the van abandoned some two hours later. Moore gives McVeigh’s name as the first person he suspects of the robbery; after the bombing, though, Moore will tell a reporter that McVeigh “wasn’t the one who pulled off the robbery; I would have recognized him. Tim really stands out in a crowd and there’s no mistaking him.” Instead, Moore will say, “He just set us up for it.” The guns alone make an impressive list: the robber(s) make off with 66 rifles, including expensive AR-15 assault rifles and Mini-14s, along with eight handguns. Moore will not list serial numbers, nor will he file for insurance reimbursement, later explaining that none of the stolen items were insured. Subsequent investigation finds key evidence of the robbery, and of Nichols’s subsequent flight to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995), while searching Nichols’s home in Herington, Kansas (see (February 20, 1995)). Circumstantial evidence later ties McVeigh closer to the crime, as neither he nor Nichols make much money from their jobs, but McVeigh will often be seen paying for items with cash from a large roll of bills, and the two have told friends that in spite of their meager resources, they intend to set up an itinerant gun dealing business together (see (September 30, 1994)). Authorities will come to believe that the Moore robbery may be just one of an entire series of unsolved robberies carried out by Nichols and McVeigh. Nichols takes the proceeds and flees to Las Vegas, where he hides the cash in the home of his ex-wife Lana Padilla. [New York Times, 6/15/1995; New York Times, 6/18/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Nicole Nichols, 2003] Investigators later learn that the safe-deposit key is for a box in a bank in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Press reports will later state that the person who robs Moore may be someone other than Nichols or McVeigh, but someone shorter and stockier than McVeigh and larger than Nichols. [New York Times, 8/13/1995] Prosecutors in the 1997 Nichols trial will say that Nichols alone robbed Moore. [New York Times, 8/29/1997] In 2006, law professor Douglas O. Linder will speculate that the robbery may have been carried off with the participation of white supremacists from Elohim City (see 1973 and After and August - September 1994). [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] After leaving the scene of the robbery, Nichols stays in the Sunset Motel in Junction City, Kansas, using the alias “Joe Kyle” (see October 21 or 22, 1994) and giving his address as “1400 Decker, Lum, Michigan, 48447.” According to McVeigh, he and Nichols began considering the Moore robbery as early as August 1994. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] Moore himself will interfere with the robbery investigation, giving law enforcement officials conflicting versions of the story and changing key facts such as whether one or two men carried out the robbery. Moore and his girlfriend Karen Anderson will conduct their own “investigation” into the robbery, and will write McVeigh a series of letters mailed to a Kingman, Arizona, postal box, first accusing him of perpetuating the robbery and later asking for his help in solving it. Some of Moore’s letters are written in odd codes, confusing investigators who remain unsure if Moore was writing to McVeigh as one anti-government zealot to another, or trying to trick McVeigh into returning to Arkansas so he can have him arrested. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 89-90]
White separatist Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, and February - July 1994) flees the scene of a robbery he has committed in Arkansas and goes to Council Grove, Kansas, where he has rented a storage locker (see November 7, 1994), and then to Las Vegas, to stash the proceeds of the robbery with his ex-wife, Lana Padilla (see November 5, 1994 and November 6, 1994). Nichols makes plans to leave for the Philippines to visit his family in Cebu City, and leaves a note to be opened only if he does not return (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994) by January 28, 1995—days after the terrorist plot Operation Bojinka was to be executed (see January 6, 1995). Nichols leaves the US on November 11.
Opening the Note - Padilla, fearing her ex-husband has left her a suicide note, opens it after taking Nichols to the airport. The note, titled “Read and Do Immediately,” instructs Padilla to send all of Nichols’s cash and valuables, including the loot from the robbery, to his wife Marife Nichols in Cebu City (see July - December 1990). Some of the cash and valuables, he says, is in a Las Vegas storage unit, and some is hidden in Padilla’s kitchen, behind a wooden panel in the back of her kitchen utility drawer. “As of now, only Marife, you, and myself know what there is and where it is. I hope you will do as I have stated. Josh has just a few years before he’s capable of being on his own and Marife and Nicole [Nichols’s young daughter by Marife—see (September 30, 1994)] have many more years of support needed. There is no need to tell anyone about the items in storage and at home.” After reading the note, Padilla is convinced Nichols intends to kill himself. She follows the directions in the note, breaks through the wooden panel behind her utility drawer, and finds $20,000 in cash in a plastic baggie.
Note to Fellow Bombing Conspirator - The note also contains two letters to Nichols’s fellow conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing plan, Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), both addressed to “Tim.” The first tells McVeigh how to access the Las Vegas storage locker and where his blue pickup truck will be parked for his use if he needs it. Padilla drives to the Las Vegas storage locker and finds a box of carved jade, camera equipment, precious stones, and a ski mask. Much of this material will later be connected to the Arkansas robbery. The second letter to McVeigh instructs him to “clear everything out of CG 37” and to “also liquidate 40,” apparently referring to two storage lockers Nichols has rented in Council Grove (see October 17, 1994, and November 7, 1994) under the alias “Ted Parker,” which contain, among other items, a store of explosive fertilizer and some of the guns stolen in the Arkansas robbery. If he chooses, Nichols writes, McVeigh can pay for further rentals on the lockers instead of clearing them out. He warns McVeigh about possible law enforcement attention, writing: “As far as heat—none that I know. This letter would be for the purpose of my death.” The letter concludes: “Your [sic] on your own. Go for it!” Based on the instructions regarding the fertilizer, federal authorities will come to believe that Nichols is instructing McVeigh to go ahead with plans to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
Return to the US - Nichols will return to the US on January 16, 1995 and, after staying a few days at Padilla’s home in Las Vegas, settle in Herington, Kansas, a tiny town not far from the ranch where he recently worked (see (September 30, 1994)). [New York Times, 5/28/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 11/20/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 112-114; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Nicole Nichols, 2003]
Later Attempts to Explain Letter, Actions - In his statement to the FBI (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995), Nichols will claim to have returned to the US on November 17. The indictment against Nichols will allege that he rented a storage locker in Las Vegas on November 16, based in part on his FBI statement. These dates do not correspond with other evidence showing Nichols remains in the Philippines until January 16. A chronology of events compiled by McVeigh’s lawyers (see Early 2005) also has McVeigh staying in Arkansas and New Mexico motels with Nichols in mid-December 1994. These contradictions are never adequately explained. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] Nichols will also tell authorities that the phrase “Go for it!” is nothing more than an innocent reference to an old sales pitch he and his ex-wife had used in the early days of their marriage. The government authorities will not believe Nichols’s explanation. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 114] After the bombing, Padilla will tell authorities that Nichols gave her a key to a storage locker at the AAAABCO storage facility in Las Vegas, as stated in his note. The locker, she will say, contained thousands of dollars in gold and silver bouillon, tubular pipe, ski masks, and other items (see May 9, 1995 and May 11, 1995), many of which will be linked to the Arkansas robbery. After the bombing, FBI investigators will find a key to a safe-deposit box from the robbery in Nichols’s Herington home (see (February 20, 1995)) along with other items from the robbery. [New York Times, 5/9/1995; New York Times, 5/12/1995; New York Times, 5/28/1995; New York Times, 11/20/1997]
Terry Nichols, conspiring with Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992) to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City (see September 13, 1994 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), calls his ex-wife Lana Padilla. Nichols is en route to his ex-wife’s home in Las Vegas; unbeknownst to Padilla, Nichols has just robbed a gun dealership (see November 5, 1994) and is preparing to leave much of the goods obtained from that robbery for her use if he fails to return from an imminent trip to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). Padilla has sent Nichols a letter indicating her concerns about their son Joshua, 15. Instead of talking about Joshua, Padilla will later say, Nichols talks at length about the FBI raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) and of the possibility of civil unrest. Padilla will later describe their conversation as “very odd.” [New York Times, 11/20/1997]
Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, who has told his fellow conspirator Timothy McVeigh that he does not want to participate in the actual bombing (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995), takes his wife Marife and their daughter Nicole to Michigan, his home state, to take part in a number of gun shows. Nichols’s movements will later be traced by the FBI. The Nichols stay at a Motel 6 in Joliet, Illinois, on the evening of April 5, and on April 6 they stay at the Caro Motel in Caro, Michigan. Both times, they register under their own names, and note their vehicle’s license plate as Michigan VW 1460. During this time, Nichols writes to his father and promises to see him in May or June; the postmark on the letter is from Las Vegas, Nevada. It is possible that Nichols mails the letter to his ex-wife Lana Padilla, who lives in Las Vegas, to have her remail it for him. Around this time, he purchases a fuel meter at Fort Riley, Kansas, approximately 600 miles from their location in Michigan. Nichols will later claim the fuel meter is broken, and will place an ad in a newspaper to sell it. On the evening of April 7, Nichols stays by himself at the President Inn in Grand Rapids, Michigan. On April 8, McVeigh receives a letter from Nichols, which he later claims makes no mention of the bombing plot. On April 8, Nichols stays at the Motel 6 in Walker, Michigan. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
During the evening, Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see (February 20, 1995)) takes his family, including his son Joshua Nichols, who usually lives with his mother Lana Padilla in Las Vegas (see November 6, 1994), to dinner. He then drives Joshua to the airport. Nichols has already told his fellow conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) that he does not want to directly participate in the bombing (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995). However, after putting Joshua on the airplane, he makes two phone calls using the Spotlight telephone card he and McVeigh have previously used (see August 1994). One is to Padilla, telling her that Joshua is on the airplane. The second is to McVeigh, who is preparing to leave the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas (see April 13, 1995). McVeigh tells Nichols that he has rented the Ryder truck he will use to deliver the bomb (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995). [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 146-150]
Federal authorities investigating the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) find the address left on suspect Timothy McVeigh’s recent hotel registration (see April 13, 1995 and 3:30 a.m. April 18, 1995). The address is of the family farm owned by James Nichols, the brother of McVeigh’s co-conspirator Terry Nichols. Late in the evening of April 20, FBI investigators speak with two detectives from Sanilac County, Michigan, David Hall and Paul Cowley. Hall and Cowley had gathered information about bombing experiments that had taken place on a farm belonging to James Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988 and October 12, 1993 - January 1994). By 9 a.m. on April 21, Hall and Cowley facilitate an interview between the investigators and Kelly Langenburg, James Nichols’s ex-wife. By this time, Langenburg has spoken with her son Chase and gathered more information for the investigators. After speaking with the investigators, the agents tell local police officers that “[t]his is the best information we’ve received so far, and we’re going to run with [James Nichols].” Langenburg also tells the agents that Terry Nichols had been married to her sister, Lana Padilla (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and November 1988). Agents then contact Padilla in Las Vegas, and on April 21, teams of agents interview her and her son Joshua, Nichols’s son. She confirms that she has spoken to Nichols earlier this day, and gives the FBI his address in Herington, Kansas (see (February 20, 1995)). She says that Nichols is “an associate” of McVeigh’s. At this point, the FBI considers James Nichols a more likely suspect for a co-conspirator than Terry Nichols. [New York Times, 6/27/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 200]
Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, November 5, 1994, and November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995), having turned himself into the local police in Herington, Kansas (see 2:00 p.m. and After, April 21, 1995), is interrogated for nine hours by federal authorities and consents to have his home and truck searched (see Evening, April 21, 1995 and After). [Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Nicole Nichols, 2003]
Nine-Hour Interrogation, No Recording Made - Starting around 3:15 p.m., FBI agents interrogate Nichols for over nine hours. Nichols agrees to speak without a lawyer present. The agents do not record the interview, instead making handwritten notes on it. Preliminary questions include verification of his Social Security number (which he says he never uses because he does not believe in having a federal government number; he also says he does not pay federal taxes (see March 16, 1994)) and his job (self-employed dealer of military surplus). They then ask him when he heard that he might have been involved in the bombing. Nichols says he only heard of his alleged involvement earlier in the day. He says he knew bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh during their stint in the Army (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990). He says that he saw the sketches of the two bombing suspects (see April 20, 1995), but does not believe the sketch of “No. 1” looks like McVeigh. He explains that once he heard about his being a suspect, he decided to go directly to the local police instead of federal agents, because “I didn’t want another Waco” (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Apparently Nichols means he did not want to become involved in an armed standoff with police and FBI agents. He says he realized he was being followed when he pulled into the Surplus City parking lot, and came directly to the police station. Agents Stephen E. Smith and Scott Crabtree then begin asking him about his brother James, and he gives some information about his earlier life in Decker on his brother’s farm, and notes that McVeigh had lived with them for a time (see Summer 1992 and October 12, 1993 - January 1994). At this point, around 3:30 p.m., the agents inform him that he is not a suspect, but a witness. Nevertheless they ask him to read aloud a form titled “Interrogation; Advice of Rights,” that sets forth his rights to have a lawyer present or to remain silent. He refuses to sign the form. Smith will later testify, “He said the word ‘interrogation’ sounded like the Nazis.” The US Attorney for Kansas, Randall K. Rathbun, tells reporters, “He refused to sign the form, indicating that since it dealt with interrogation, he said that was a word that reminded him of Nazi Germany and he refused to sign the form dealing with his rights.” From Washington, lead FBI counsel Howard Shapiro advises the agents that they need to secure Nichols’s oral acknowledgment that he is waiving his rights to legal representation, and advise him again that he is free to go. Shapiro adds that if Nichols does leave, the agents should follow him and arrest him once a warrant for his detention as a material witness is available. Nichols waives his rights to a lawyer and agrees to continue speaking. Shapiro advises the agents not to tell Nichols about the warrant for his arrest being prepared, as it may discourage him from talking. [New York Times, 5/11/1995; New York Times, 7/2/1996; Denver Post, 12/24/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 203-205] He signs a Consent to Search form allowing agents to search his home and pickup truck, though his lawyers will later claim he believes his wife will be allowed to be present during the search. He says repeatedly that he hopes the agents searching his home can tell the difference between cleaning solvents and bomb components: “There is nothing in my house or truck that could be construed as bomb-making materials,” he says. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 7/2/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 205]
Denies Knowledge of Bombing - Nichols denies any foreknowledge of McVeigh’s bombing, saying merely that McVeigh had told him “something big” was in the offing (see April 15, 1995). He tells his questioners that the first he heard of the bombing was while watching a television demonstration at the Home Cable Television sales outlet in Herington. The agents ask him when he last had contact with McVeigh. According to Nichols, he sent McVeigh a letter in February 1995, asking McVeigh if the next time he was in Las Vegas, he could pick up an old television set from his ex-wife Lana Padilla; Nichols says he wanted the television set for when his son Joshua visited.
Tells of Long Easter Trip to Oklahoma City, Junction City for Television - On the afternoon of Easter Sunday, April 16, Nichols says, McVeigh called and asked him to come to Oklahoma City to pick up the television set (see April 16-17, 1995). “I’m pressed for time to get back east” to his family in New York, Nichols says McVeigh told him. “If you want your television, you’ll have to come to Oklahoma City.” Although Oklahoma City is some 250 miles away, Nichols agreed to make the trip. He also agreed to tell his wife that he was going to Omaha, not Oklahoma City, at McVeigh’s request. Nichols explains: “He [McVeigh] has a private nature. He has told me that no one is to know his business. Some of the things he wanted kept private were trivial matters. He just doesn’t want people to know what he is doing. That is just his nature.” Nichols tells the agents that before Easter, he had last heard from McVeigh in November 1994 or perhaps early 1995 (see February 20, 1995 and April 11, 1995). He then says: “In my eyes, I did not do anything wrong but I can see how lawyers can turn stuff around. I did not know anything. Lawyers can turn stuff around.” He denies ever seeing McVeigh at any motel in Junction City, Kansas (see September 22, 1994, January 19 - January 27, 1995, and (February 20, 1995)), says he has no knowledge of McVeigh renting a Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995, April 16-17, 1995, Late Evening, April 17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), and was never asked by McVeigh to buy any materials related to making bombs (see September 13, 1994, September 22, 1994, September 30, 1994, October 3, 1994, October 4 - Late October, 1994, October 17, 1994, October 18, 1994, October 20, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, October 29-30, 1994, November 5, 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, November 7, 1994, November 9, 1994, January 19 - January 27, 1995, January 31 - February 12, 1995, February 20, 1995, March 1995, March 17, 1995, April 5-10, 1995, April 15-16, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). He says he drove to Oklahoma City and picked up McVeigh near the Murrah Federal Building (see April 16-17, 1995). McVeigh loaded the television into the pickup, Nichols says, along with a green duffel bag. They then headed towards Junction City. Nichols says he met McVeigh in an alleyway and never saw McVeigh’s car, which he says McVeigh claimed was broken down. Asked what they talked about, Nichols responds, “McVeigh talked in code.” He only later understood what his friend meant when he said “something big” was going to happen; he claims that he thought McVeigh was talking about robbing a bank. The conversation then turned to the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), and McVeigh said he was interested in a protest rally for April 19 in Washington, DC. Nichols says he does not know why McVeigh wanted to go to Junction City. Maybe McVeigh had another car there, Nichols speculates. He let McVeigh off in Junction City, ate by himself at a Denny’s restaurant, and made the short drive home.
Second Trip to Junction City - On Tuesday, April 18, Nichols says, McVeigh called him around 6 a.m. and asked to borrow his pickup. Nichols says he met McVeigh in Junction City, and spent the morning at a military surplus auction while McVeigh used the truck. When they met up again in the early afternoon, all McVeigh had, Nichols says, was his green duffel bag. Explaining why McVeigh had had the truck for hours and brought back no items, Nichols explains, “Tim lives and travels light.” He then tells of picking up items from a storage locker McVeigh has rented (see April 20, 1995), and says that was the last time he saw McVeigh. The agents would find some of McVeigh’s belongings in his garage: a sleeping bag, rucksack, and rifle. [New York Times, 5/11/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 205-208; The Oklahoman, 4/2009]
Morning's Events - Nichols says he spoke to his ex-wife Lana Padilla earlier that day, angering his wife Marife, who announced she wanted to go back to the Philippines. “I’ve got friends there,” he says she told him. “I don’t have friends here. You got friends like Tim.” Marife does not like McVeigh, Nichols says, complaining that he lives his life “on the edge” and drives too fast. As for his conversation with Padilla, Nichols says she asked him about $3,000 he had apparently given her for their son Joshua. Investigators will later speculate that the money came from a robbery Nichols perpetrated in order to fund the bombing (see November 5, 1994). He says he went to a local lumberyard, then came back home.
Turning Up the Heat on Nichols - Nichols and Marife watched a few minutes of television together, and that was when they saw news reports identifying McVeigh as a suspect in the bombing. “I thought and swore that I could not believe it was him because he was heading back to see his family!” he says. “And he was back there in Oklahoma City? When I heard his name on TV, that is when I figured out why my name was on the radio, because I was his friend.… I was feeling shock, because I heard my name. How am I involved? How am I connected to it? I must not have known him that well for him to do that.” Nichols says he and McVeigh had become somewhat estranged, in part because McVeigh did not like Nichols’s penchant for practical jokes. The agents lean in and begin demanding to know if McVeigh executed the bombing, and if Nichols had any role in it. It is apparent they do not believe Nichols’s stories. Nichols, talking fast, says: “I feel upset that I’m involved, in a sense, because of him, and knowing that I am not.… I feel I cannot trust anyone any more than Tim. I would be shocked if he implicated me. Tim takes responsibility for his actions, and he lives up to his arrangements.… I cannot see why he would do it.” The agents ease off for a bit, and ask Nichols about his recent fertilizer purchases. He admits buying two 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate at a Manhattan, Kansas, elevator, for which he has the receipts. He intends to sell it in one-pound bags at gun shows, to be used as fertilizer. He has already sold a few bags at earlier gun shows, he says: “If I sell any more at these shows, they will question me.” He says he spread some of the leftover fertilizer on his lawn just recently. (Investigators will later determine that the fertilizer was probably left over from the bomb-making process (see 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995).) He did not mention the fertilizer earlier, he says, because ammonium nitrate can be used to make an explosive compound, and “[i]t would make me look guilty to a jury.” He says he is working to build a new career as a military surplus dealer and create a peaceful life for himself and his family (see April 6, 1995). While he has worked gun shows with McVeigh in the past, he says, he does not know any of the other vendors, and though they never associated with militia members, he did recently sell 30 MREs (military “meals ready to eat”) to members of the Michigan Militia. Sometimes he heard talk about the Davidian tragedy and federal law enforcement officials at the shows, but he rarely took part in the conversations. He admits to having some anti-government feelings, and has read some of the literature, but says others got “hyped” about it and talked about taking action. McVeigh “was much more hyped about Waco,” he says. McVeigh is very knowledgeable about explosives, and is “capable” of building a bomb such as the one detonated in Oklahoma City, he says, but the agents should not assume he actually carried out the bombing. Nichols denies having specific knowledge himself of how to build a fertilizer bomb similar to that used in Oklahoma City, though he says the information is readily available. McVeigh is particularly fascinated with guns, Nichols says, and is extremely knowledgeable about them. He notes some common acquaintances, including Michael Fortier (see December 16, 1994 and After, Mid-March, 1995, April 5, 1995, and April 19, 1995 and After). whom he merely identifies by his last name and does not disclose that the three of them served in the Army together. Nichols admits to having rented a number of storage facilities in Las Vegas (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995) and in Kansas, including one in Herington (see September 22, 1994) and another in Council Grove (see October 17, 1994 and November 7, 1994), but he just uses them for storing household items, he says, along with a few guns and ammunition. After more questioning, Nichols admits that he now suspects McVeigh might well be the bomber. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 7/2/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 208-214] One source says that the FBI first learns of Fortier from Nichols’s 12-year-old son Joshua, who phones the bureau from his Las Vegas home and speaks with agent Debbie Calhoun about Fortier. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 183]
Break and Resumption - Everyone, including Nichols, is tired. At 6:10 p.m., they take a break, and give Nichols a glass of water and two slices of pizza. They refuse to let him see his wife. Special Agent John F. Foley sits with Nichols, and they talk casually until about 7:00 p.m. Smith and Crabtree resume the questioning, and ask Nichols to verify that the house or garage is not “booby-trapped.” He says it is not, and gives them a map of his house that indicates where guns and ammunition are stored on his property. Nichols repeats much of what he said earlier, insisting that his story about McVeigh’s borrowing his pickup truck on April 18 is factual and that he fully intends to build a new life for himself with his family. While McVeigh had grown increasingly agitated about the federal government and had become more radicalized, Nichols says, he himself just wanted to settle down. At 11:15 p.m., they play him an audiotape of his ex-wife Lana and his son Joshua urging him to cooperate. The tape upsets Nichols. Just after midnight, they hand him copies of the letters he had left at his ex-wife’s house urging McVeigh to “Go for it!” (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). Nichols says he wrote the letter to take the place of a will, worried that he might not return from the trip he took to the Philippines. During the last two hours of interrogation, a new pair of agents, Foley and Daniel L. Jablonski, begin pressuring Nichols, accusing him of lying. Nichols does not respond to the new tactics. He refuses to take a polygraph exam, and refuses to sign a form certifying that he has been advised of his Miranda rights. He ends by denying any involvement whatsoever in the bombing. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 7/2/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 208-214]
Wife Questioned for Six Hours - Marife Nichols is questioned for six hours (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21, 1995).
Warrants Signed - Oklahoma City’s chief federal judge, David L. Russell, is at the FBI’s command center, and after the decision is made in Washington to procure a material witness arrest warrant, Russell signs it. It is faxed to the police station in Herington at 4:46 p.m. FBI agents interrogating Nichols do not tell him that the material witness warrant is now available; lead agent Thomas A. Price will later say he did not want to interrupt the interrogation. Russell will say he is not aware that Nichols is being interviewed by the FBI, and, noting language on the warrant that says Nichols “has attempted to leave the jurisdiction of the United States,” will say that the language is “inconsistent” with Nichols’s voluntary presentation at the police station.
Public Defender Denied Access - Public defender David J. Phillips, the federal defender for Kansas, learns from television reports that Nichols is in custody and has asked for legal representation. Phillips repeatedly calls the Herington police station, but is told that no one is available to speak with him. At 9:10 p.m., he calls a federal prosecutor in Topeka and is told that Nichols is not being arrested, and that Nichols is not the “John Doe” the FBI is looking for. Price will testify that he is aware of Phillips’s attempts to contact the police, and has told Police Chief Dale Kuhn to write down Phillips’s number. “[I]f Nichols asked for counsel, we’d provide the number,” Price will testify. Phillips will represent Nichols beginning April 22. [New York Times, 7/2/1996]
Possible Militia Affiliation - The FBI says it has reason to believe Nichols is a member of the Michigan Militia (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994); spokesmen for the Michigan Militia say Nichols is not a member and their group has no connection to the bombing [New York Times, 4/22/1995] , though a relative says that both brothers are indeed members of the group. A neighbor of Nichols, Randy Izydorek, tells a reporter that Nichols is proud of his affiliation with groups such as the Michigan Militia. “He told me it’s nationwide and it’s growing,” Izydorek says. [New York Times, 4/23/1995] (Militia spokesmen have said the group ejected Nichols and his brother James for “hyperbolic language,” apparently referring to calls for violence.) [New York Times, 4/24/1995]
Nichols Arrested and Jailed, Admits to Using Aliases - Shortly after midnight, the agents formally serve the warrant on Nichols and arrest him. At 12:24 a.m., Nichols is incarcerated in Abilene, Kansas. The afternoon of April 22, he is transferred to a jail in Wichita, Kansas, in the custody of Smith and Crabtree, where he will make his initial court appearance. Nichols continues to talk; during the drive, he admits to using a number of aliases, including Ken Parker (see October 17, 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, and November 7, 1994) and Jim Kyle (see October 17, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, November 5, 1994, January 19 - January 27, 1995, and January 31 - February 12, 1995). McVeigh, he says, often used aliases such as Shawn Rivers (see September 22, 1994 and October 1994) and Tim Tuttle (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, November 22, 1993, December 1993, February - July 1994, and November 30, 1994). McVeigh liked to use aliases, he says, and Nichols went along with the practice. “But we parted ways last fall,” he says. “The way we both live did not jive.” His brother James always “got along well” with McVeigh, he says. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 7/2/1996; Denver Post, 12/24/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 215]
Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Debbie Calhoun, David L. Russell, Scott Crabtree, Thomas A. Price, Timothy James McVeigh, Dale Kuhn, Ronald G. Woods, David J. Phillips, Daniel L. Jablonski, Randy Izydorek, Stephen E. Smith, Nicole Nichols, Howard Shapiro, Randall K. Rathbun, Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Nichols, Joshua Nichols, John F. Foley, Michigan Militia, Lana Padilla, Michael Joseph Fortier, Marife Torres Nichols, Murrah Federal Building
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The FBI says that evidence compiled on the Oklahoma City bombing shows that it was planned for months by accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995) and a small number of co-conspirators. The statement by the FBI echoes statements made earlier by Attorney General Janet Reno (see April 22, 1995). Evidence shows that McVeigh was driven in part by his rage at the government’s handling of the Branch Davidian standoff two years earlier (see April 19, 1993). McVeigh has refused to cooperate with investigators, and reportedly has shown no remorse or emotion of any kind, even when confronted with photographs of dead and maimed children being taken from the devasted Murrah Federal Building. The attack was timed to coincide with the Branch Davidian conflagration of April 19, 1993, investigators say, and was executed after months of planning, preparation, and testing. Some investigators believe that McVeigh may lack the leadership skills to plan and execute such a plot, and theorize that the ringleader of the conspiracy may turn out to be someone else (see April 21, 1995 and After). Evidence collected from the Ryder truck, particularly shards of blue plastic from barrels containing the fertilizer and fuel oil that comprised most of the bomb’s elements, point to the involvement of Terry Nichols, a friend of McVeigh’s who is coming under increasing scrutiny as a possible co-conspirator (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Similar barrels were found in Nichols’s garage in his Herington, Kansas, home (see (February 20, 1995)), along with other evidence tying him to the bomb’s construction.
Investigating Possible Involvement of Sister - Investigators are in the process of searching the home of McVeigh’s younger sister Jennifer, who has returned from a vacation in Pensacola, Florida (see April 7, 1995 and April 21-23, 1995). They are also poring over Jennifer McVeigh’s 1995 Chevrolet pickup truck, registered in New York. Investigators say the two siblings are very close, share similar anti-government views (see March 9, 1995), and have had numerous conversations in recent months (see Mid-December 1994). Jennifer McVeigh is taken into federal custody as well, as a witness, not as a suspect, and is released on April 25, after an intensive interrogation session that leaves her frightened and angry. “They told me Tim was guilty,” she will later recall, “and that he was going to fry.” According to her recollections, the agents threaten to charge her as a co-conspirator unless she gives them evidence against her brother, but she refuses to cooperate. She does reveal some information about her brother’s involvement in gun dealing, his strong belief in the US Constitution as he and right-wing white separatist groups interpret it, and his obsession with the violently racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978). “He had people he knew around the country,” she tells agents, mentioning three: “Mike and Lori and Terry.” Terry is Terry Nichols. “Mike and Lori” are McVeigh’s close friends Michael and Lori Fortier (see May-September 1993, February - July 1994, August 1994, September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, April 19, 1995 and After, and December 16, 1994 and After). She tells them about watching anti-government videotapes with her brother, in particular one called “Day 51” about the Waco siege. “It depicted the government raiding the compound, and it implied that the government gassed and burned the people inside intentionally and attacked the people,” she tells the agents. “He was very angry. I think he thought the government murdered the people there, basically gassed and burned them down.” The agents ask if by the government, he meant the FBI and the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, also abbreviated BATF). “He felt that someone should be held accountable,” she answers, and says her brother believed no one ever had been held responsible. She shows them the “ATF Read” letter he had written on her word processor (see November 1994) that concludes with the exhortation, “Die, you spineless cowardice [sic] b_stards!” She says that McVeigh had told her he had moved out of a “planning” stage into an “action” stage, though he never explained to her exactly what “action” he intended to take. Later, she will sign a statement detailing what her brother had told her. She will always insist that he never spoke to her about ammonium nitrate, anhydrous hydrazine, or any of the chemical components of the bomb, and had never spoken to her about the scene in The Turner Diaries that depicts the FBI building in Washington being obliterated by a truck bomb similar to the one used in Oklahoma City. The FBI seizes a number of her belongings, including samples of her antigovernment “patriot” literature. But, they determine, Jennifer McVeigh was never a part of her brother’s conspiracy.
Interviewing Alleged Co-Conspirator's Ex-Wife - Investigators are also interviewing Nichols’s ex-wife, Lana Padilla, who currently lives in Las Vegas. The press speculates that she is cooperating with the investigation and may have been taken to a undisclosed location for security reasons. Investigators are combing through a large body of writings McVeigh left behind, many of which detail his far-right, anti-government ideological beliefs. From what they have read so far, McVeigh believes that his Second Amendment rights are absolute, and he has the right to live without any restraints from the government. They have not found any documents detailing any operational plan for the bombing, nor have they found evidence that McVeigh directly threatened any government buildings or personnel. The FBI is offering a $2 million reward for information about McVeigh and the bombing. [New York Times, 4/24/1995; New York Times, 4/24/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 237-238]
Entity Tags: Michael Joseph Fortier, Janet Reno, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Branch Davidians, Jennifer McVeigh, Lori Fortier, Timothy James McVeigh, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Terry Lynn Nichols, Lana Padilla
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) is charged as a co-conspirator in connection with the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Prosecutors say that Nichols, though he did not participate directly in the bombing, played a direct and central role in carrying it out with accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995). Nichols is charged in a criminal complaint that is filed under seal with the court; a lawyer involved in the case says the prosecution may be trying to keep some undisclosed details of the evidence it is providing out of the public eye for the time being. Nichols’s lawyer, public defender David Phillips, says he expects Nichols to be indicted at any time. Nichols is being held in custody in Wichita, and will likely be moved to Oklahoma City soon. Prosecutors may be pressuring Nichols to turn state’s evidence against McVeigh, and lead them to others who may have been involved in the plot, particularly the elusive “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995). Nichols insists that he had no idea McVeigh planned to bomb the Murrah Federal Building, but prosecutors believe otherwise. One witness who may testify against Nichols is his former wife, Lana Padilla. In an interview Padilla recently gave to a tabloid television show, American Journal, she said Nichols gave her a package in 1994 that contained a key to a storage locker; the locker contained thousands of dollars in gold and silver bouillon (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). In previous interviews with reporters, Padilla had not mentioned the locker. Investigators also believe that their 12-year-old son, Joshua Nichols, may have been at the rental office in Junction City where the Ryder truck containing the bomb was rented (see April 15, 1995). Some witnesses in Herington, Kansas (see (February 20, 1995)), say they saw Joshua Nichols in town the same day that McVeigh rented the Ryder truck in Junction City; a supermarket manager recalls seeing Nichols and his son on April 17, when they rented three film videos and bought a can of peanuts. “They browsed around about 30 minutes,” the manager says. “He came up to the clerk and said he was a new customer. She asked for his driver’s license and he said he didn’t have one. She asked for his Social Security number, and he just told us a number.” [New York Times, 5/9/1995; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Joshua Nichols tells reporters for ABC News that he was not with his father as the supermarket manager has stated. Prosecutors say Padilla put her son on a plane for their home in Las Vegas on April 17. [New York Times, 5/10/1995] Nichols is formally charged the following day (see May 10, 1995).
Federal prosecutors charge Terry Nichols, a suspected co-conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and May 9, 1995), with conspiring to carry out the bombing along with accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995). If convicted, Nichols could face the death penalty under federal anti-terrorism laws. Nichols is escorted under heavy guard into the Wichita, Kansas, federal courthouse; a woman in the crowd screams at him, “Baby killer!” Nichols is charged with being a direct participant in the “malicious damage and destruction” of a federal building, and charged with aiding and abetting the attack. Prosecutors have not yet revealed the evidence they have against him. The charges faced by McVeigh and Nichols are likely to be augmented or replaced entirely by a broader conspiracy indictment, federal officials say. Nichols’s public defender, Steven Gradert, refuses to speculate on whether the prosecutors are attempting to pressure Nichols into cooperating with their prosecution of McVeigh. “I don’t know,” Gradert says, and adds that he believes “the government is not quite sure what the theory of this case is.” Nichols is being transported to Oklahoma, where he will be incarcerated at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center, the same facility that currently houses McVeigh. Nichols’s ex-wife Lana Padilla and their son Joshua Nichols are in Oklahoma City to testify before a grand jury empaneled to hear evidence about the bombing. The FBI is also pressuring another friend of McVeigh’s and Nichols’s, Michael Fortier, to give more information (see April 23 - May 6, 1995, May 1, 1995 and May 8, 1995). Nichols has been held in the Sedgwick County, Oklahoma, jail since April 22 as a material witness to the bombing. He is accompanied by his two public defenders, Gradert and David Phillips. Gradert calls his client “scared… upset, and… nervous.” [New York Times, 5/10/1995]
The lawyer for accused Oklahoma City co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995) asks Federal Judge David L. Russell to release his client without bail. Defense lawyer Michael Tigar calls the government’s evidence against Nichols “lamentably thin,” and says Nichols’s actions, particularly in connection with accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995, and April 24, 1995), were innocent and typical of a “peaceable, law-abiding person.” Tigar, along with co-counsel Ronald G. Woods, is apparently following a strategy of attempting to distance Nichols from McVeigh, claiming that Nichols and McVeigh had a “falling out” in February 1995 over plans to work gun shows and swap meets together. According to court papers filed by Tigar, Nichols had printed up his own business cards and other material for a new business trading in military equipment that had no place for McVeigh. Tigar also assails the government’s investigation, accusing FBI investigators of withholding evidence from the defense, of holding Nichols’s wife Marife (see July - December 1990) “virtually incommunicado and without counsel” for “33 days of continuous interrogation,” and of refusing to interview witnesses with information favorable to Nichols. According to Tigar’s timeline of events, Nichols, knowing little to nothing of a specific bomb plot (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994, April 19, 1993 and After, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, September 13, 1994, September 30, 1994, October 3, 1994, October 4 - Late October, 1994, October 17, 1994, October 18, 1994, October 20, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, November 5, 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, November 7, 1994, March 1995, April 13, 1995, and April 15-16, 1995), met with McVeigh on April 16 in Oklahoma City and drove him to Junction City, Kansas (see April 16-17, 1995). Prosecutors have stated that the day before, McVeigh told Nichols that “something big is going to happen,” impelling Nichols to ask if McVeigh planned on robbing a bank (see April 15, 1995). In Tigar’s timeline, this exchange never happened. Instead, Tigar’s timeline recounts a lengthy story of McVeigh calling Nichols on April 16 complaining of car trouble; McVeigh, Tigar claims, had a television set with him that belonged to Nichols’s ex-wife Lana Padilla that Nichols wanted for his home in Herington, Kansas (see (February 20, 1995)). Nichols drove to Oklahoma City to get the television set. Tigar says that the Nichols family used the television set to watch a videotape of The Lion King and two other movies on April 17. In the days before the bombing, Tigar says Nichols took his family to a restaurant, picked up new business cards and labels, and, on the day of the bombing, visited a local hardware store and a military surplus dealer to discuss selling or trading Army tools, possibly for roofing shingles, and worked around his house. Tigar says Marife Nichols has confirmed this version of events. Tigar also says that prosecution allegations that Nichols used his pickup truck on April 18 to help McVeigh load fertilizer into the rented Ryder truck McVeigh used for the bombing (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995) are false, and instead Nichols had loaned McVeigh his truck, and not accompanied McVeigh to the loading site at Geary Lake in Kansas. Tigar also says that a fuel meter owned by Nichols and believed by the prosecution to have been used to measure the bomb ingredients was broken the entire time Nichols owned it. [New York Times, 5/19/1995; New York Times, 5/25/1995] Later press reports will show that Tigar’s information about the supposed “falling out” between McVeigh and Nichols comes from Padilla. According to Padilla: “He said, ‘Tim and I are going to go our separate ways and I am going to the shows myself.’ That surprised me. They were going to go their own ways and it was because Terry was going to buy his own house and have his wife and baby come out. I don’t think that Tim could stand that. Terry also said that Tim didn’t like kids.” [New York Times, 8/6/1995] The prosecution counters with a request to hold Nichols without bail, citing evidence seized from Nichols’s home that implicates him in the bombing conspiracy (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995), and a series of letters he wrote to the IRS and other federal agencies repudiating his citizenship and asking to be exempted from paying federal taxes (see April 2, 1992 and After). Prosecutors say the letters demonstrate Nichols’s repudiation of “roots to this country and its sovereign states” and that he therefore should be denied bail. “Nichols poses a danger to the community and an unreasonable risk of flight against which no conditions of release could adequately guard,” the prosecutors argue. Russell denies Nichols bail and orders him to remain in custody. Tigar says he will appeal the ruling. Russell also orders that Nichols be allowed to sleep without lights beaming into his cell 24 hours a day, and that prison officials not allow any more mental health professionals to interview Nichols without the court’s approval. Tigar has called a visit by a previous counselor “unwanted” and intrusive. [New York Times, 6/2/1995; New York Times, 6/3/1995]
Lawyers for accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995) reveal that a family member who cooperated with the government’s investigation (see April 20-21, 1995) is the ex-wife of Nichols’s brother James (see May 22, 1995). Kelly Langenburg is also the sister of Terry Nichols’s ex-wife Lana Padilla. This information is disclosed during the course of a hearing that reviews a defense request to throw out evidence against Nichols and accused co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh. The news of Langenburg’s cooperation answers a question observers have long asked as to how the FBI knew to search James Nichols’s farm even before Terry Nichols was taken into custody (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). [New York Times, 6/27/1996]
Legal observers say that the guilty verdict against Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997) does not mean that the trial of McVeigh’s accused co-conspirator, Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), will proceed as smoothly for the prosecution. The prosecutors in the Nichols trial will likely have to use witnesses and evidence the McVeigh prosecutors left out of McVeigh’s trial (see May 21, 1997); those witnesses and evidence were considered “shaky” or potentially confusing for the McVeigh jury. For example, the prosecution chose not to present evidence that McVeigh and Nichols assembled the bomb at Geary Lake State Park in Kansas (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), apparently because prosecution lawyers were uncertain over their witnesses’ credibility on that subject. The Geary allegation is a central element of the Nichols indictment. Similarly, the McVeigh prosecutors chose not to mention the robbery of an Arkansas gun dealer, which they believed was used to finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994), but the Nichols prosecutors will undoubtedly use that robbery as another key element of their case against Nichols. Michael Fortier, a friend of McVeigh’s who has extensive knowledge of the bomb plot, testified against McVeigh (see May 12-13, 1997); he will also testify against Nichols, but his testimony is expected to be less effective against Nichols. Perhaps the most powerful argument for the Nichols defense is the allegation that Nichols broke with McVeigh a month before the bombing and did not take part in the bombing itself (see March 1995), an allegation supported not just by Nichols, but by his ex-wife Lana Padilla and by Fortier. [New York Times, 6/3/1997]
The ex-wife of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) testifies in Nichols’s trial. Lana Padilla, frequently breaking into tears during her stint in the witness stand, testifies that Nichols gave her a package that he told her not to open unless she heard that he had died; worried for his safety, she opened it anyway and found letters and evidence that prosecutors say tie Nichols to the Oklahoma City bombing. Nichols gave Padilla the package in the days before he left on a trip to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). He told her to wait at least 60 days before opening the package, but she opened it the day after he left. “I was concerned that there was something awful, that he was not coming back,” she says. Inside were two envelopes, one addressed to her and one addressed to Jennifer McVeigh, the sister of his alleged co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). The letter to Padilla explained how she could gain entry to a storage unit Nichols had rented in Las Vegas, Padilla’s home town, and how she could find a bag of valuables he had hidden in her kitchen. All of the items in storage, Nichols wrote, were for their teenaged son Joshua, while the items in the kitchen were for his daughter Nicole, whom he had with his second wife Marife, a Filipino native (see July - December 1990). A tearful Padilla reads from the letter: “There is no need to tell anyone about the items in storage and at home. Again only the three of us will know. I have the most trust in you here in the US to do as I’ve written.” Nichols, sitting at the defense table, puts his head down and weeps during the letter-reading. The envelope to Jennifer McVeigh contained a second envelope addressed to her brother that advised him to remove everything from a Council Grove, Kansas, locker and “liquidate” the contents of a second locker in that same town (see October 17, 1994), or failing that, to pay to keep it longer under the alias “Ted Parker” of Decker, Michigan. “Ted Parker” is an alias used by Nichols to rent one of the lockers (see November 7, 1994). The letter says Padilla “knows nothing” and concludes with the exhortation: “Your [sic] on your own. Go for it!! Terry.” Prosecutors believe that Nichols’s final exhortation referred to the Oklahoma City bombing. In December 1994, Padilla found the item Nichols had stashed in her kitchen: a WalMart bag filled with $20,000 in $100 bills. Padilla testifies: “My first reaction was surprise, because I didn’t really think—I mean, Terry was in between employment. His wife was away. I didn’t expect him to have any money.” Later that day, Padilla and her son Barry (from another marriage) went to the AAAABCO storage unit in Las Vegas that Nichols had indicated, and the two found a briefcase and a number of boxes. The boxes contained gold and silver coins, and a paper estimating their value at between $36,000 and $38,000; a bag containing a dark wig, panty hose, makeup, and a black ski mask; a cigar box containing jade stones; and other items. Many of those items will later be identified as proceeds from the robbery. When she saw the bag, she testifies: “I looked at the mask, and I thought that—I said: ‘What is he doing? You know, what is he doing? Robbing banks?’ And that was my reaction.” Prosecutors believe that the cash in the kitchen and the goods in the storage unit were obtained by a robbery Nichols had carried off days before (see November 5, 1994). Padilla also testifies that Nichols called her the day after the robbery, November 6, 1994, and spoke of the Branch Davidian debacle near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), and the possibility that the government would be destabilized by civil unrest (see November 6, 1994). “When I hung up the phone,” she testifies, “I realized that it was a very odd conversation. And I’m sorry to say that Waco didn’t enter my mind before the call and Waco didn’t enter my mind after the call. It was just something that seemed to be on Terry’s mind.” Nichols came to Padilla’s home in Las Vegas a few days later, she says, in order to visit Joshua before leaving for the Philippines. When Nichols returned from the Philippines on January 16, 1995, he stayed for a few days with Padilla before leaving for Kansas. Padilla testifies that on January 17: “Terry was standing in the kitchen. He looked at me puzzled. I knew the look was because he had gone behind the drawer” and not found the cash he had left. Padilla had taken the cash to her office for safekeeping, she testifies, and asked Nichols to give her some of it. He refused, she says, and she turned over $17,000 of the money to him. They agreed that she would put the remaining $3,000 in a savings account for Joshua, but she admits to not doing so. “Things changed in my household,” she testifies. She left her current husband, and, she says, “the money was used for the household.” [Washington Post, 11/19/1997; New York Times, 11/20/1997]
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