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Profile: Marife Torres Nichols
Marife Torres Nichols was a participant or observer in the following events:
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).
Terry Nichols, a shy loner and Army veteran (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990) in Michigan, moves to Henderson, Nevada, outside Las Vegas. He tells friends he wants to attempt a career as a real estate agent, a plan that fails to bear fruit. When his Filipino bride Marife joins him (see July - December 1990), she is six months pregnant with a child that is not his. Nichols may be troubled about the circumstances of the child’s conception, but he does not talk about it, and accepts the child, a son they will name Jason Torres Nichols, as his own. In the fall, Nichols takes his wife and son back to his home town of Decker, Michigan. [New York Times, 5/28/1995; New York Times, 12/24/1997] Nichols will later be convicted of conspiracy in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
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]
After federal legislation bans the ownership of certain assault weapons (see September 13, 1994), future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992, February - July 1994 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) decides that the government intends to launch more Waco-style raids (see April 19, 1993). He also decides that he is a likely target for violent government action. McVeigh begins stockpiling weapons and supplies at his Kingman, Arizona, home. His actions unnerve his friend Michael Fortier (see February - July 1994), who has joined McVeigh in experimenting with bombs, but apparently is unwilling to join McVeigh in his plans for more direct action against the government (see September 12, 1994 and After and September 13, 1994). [CNN, 12/17/2007] McVeigh will later tell his lawyers that it is around this time that he and co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, and (September 30, 1994)) begin training with weapons and explosives in preparation for the bombing. In December 1995, he will explain that for him, the assault weapons ban (see September 13, 1994 and After) was “the final straw.” He and Nichols decide that it is time to go on the “offensive,” he will later say. On September 15, Nichols asks his wife Marife to go back to the Philippines. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] A federal grand jury will later determine that September 13 is the “official” date that McVeigh begins his conspiracy to bomb the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see September 13, 1994). On this day, McVeigh is renting a motel room in Vian, Oklahoma, visiting white supremacist friends in nearby Elohim City, Oklahoma (see 1973 and After and August - September 1994), and probably taking part with other anti-government activists in paramilitary maneuvers (see September 12, 1994 and After). [Douglas O. Linder, 2006]
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).
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’s home in Herington, Kansas. [Source: Associated Press]White separatist Terry Nichols, conspiring with his friend Timothy McVeigh to bomb an Oklahoma City federal building (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, February - July 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), buys a $28,000 home in Herington, Kansas, near a ranch where he once worked (see (September 30, 1994) and November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). The house is located at 109 South Second Street, not far from where McVeigh and Nichols lived while stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990). Nichols also persuades his wife Marife to return from the Philippines with their daughter Nicole, and live together in the new house. His payment for the house is unusual; because he does not believe in paper transactions, he has set up a special account at a local bank in which he puts cash. The only reason Nichols was able to buy the house under such circumstances is because the former owner, Kenneth Siek, was desperate to sell it quickly. [New York Times, 5/28/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 122] Before finalizing the purchase, Nichols lives in the Sunset Motel in Junction City, Kansas, for approximately three weeks. He will not take actual possession of the house until March 11. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Marife Nichols (see July - December 1990 and November 22, 1993), the mail-order bride of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, February - July 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), joins her husband in their new Herington, Kansas, home (see (February 20, 1995)). She is returning from visiting her family in the Philippines, and brings with her $4,000 in cash and 10 gold coins (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). It is possible that Nichols uses some of this money to make two large purchases of fuel oil for the bomb (see April 15-16, 1995). [New York Times, 5/28/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
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]
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]
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]
White separatist Terry Nichols (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, November 5, 1994, and November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995), learning that the federal authorities have connected him to the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), decides to turn himself in to local authorities in Herington, Kansas (see (February 20, 1995)). [Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Nicole Nichols, 2003]
Drives to Police Station - It is unclear if Nichols knows that his ex-sister in law has cooperated with authorities (see April 20-21, 1995). He suspects that he is being watched, but does not realize that a team of three FBI agents from the mobile command post at Fort Riley is surveilling him, a single-engine FBI airplane is circling overhead, and a larger surveillance team is en route. The first agent to arrive is Stephen E. Smith, who learns little about Nichols from Police Chief Dale Kuhn except that the address they have for him in Herington is accurate. Smith then meets two other agents from the command post and they drive to Nichols’s home on Second Street. Nichols, who is listening to radio reports about the investigation, picks up a broken fuel meter from his garage, tells his wife Marife (see July - December 1990) he is going to “do something about” the meter, gives her $200, and loads her and their young daughter Nicole into his truck. Unbeknownst to Nichols, he and the family are being followed by Smith and the two agents, who saw him pulling out of his driveway. (At this moment, the FBI is more interested in Nichols’s brother James—see April 20-21, 1995. Smith’s primary assignment is to compile background information on James Nichols.) When a second car joins Smith’s car in tailing Nichols, he realizes he is being followed. Nichols waves at the cars. He then turns into the driveway of the local Surplus City store, steps out, then thinks better of it and re-enters his truck. Instead, he goes to the Herington Public Safety Building, which houses the local police station. He tells Marife that if agents ask her about his whereabouts on Easter Sunday (see April 16-17, 1995), she should tell them that he went to Oklahoma City, not Omaha as he had told her that day. The two FBI cars pull into the building parking lot close behind. [New York Times, 7/2/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 200-202]
'I Want to Talk to Somebody' - At 3:05 p.m., Nichols walks into the police station with his wife and their young daughter Nicole. Nichols is carrying his daughter in his arms; the FBI agents assume incorrectly that he intends to use her as a shield for possible gunfire. Marife Nichols will later describe her husband as “scared [and] anxious to know what’s going on.” According to Assistant Chief Barry W. Thacker: “He said: ‘My name is Terry L. Nichols. I just seen my name on television. I want to talk to somebody.’ I said: ‘Come on in. I think I can find somebody for you to talk to.’” Nichols, seemingly angry and agitated, says: “I’m supposed to be armed and dangerous. Search me.” Marife Nichols takes Nicole from her husband, and he removes his green jacket while Kuhn attempts to calm him. Outside, Smith and the other agents huddle together in the parking lot, worrying that Nichols may be attempting to take hostages in the police station. They call their supervisors in Kansas City; meanwhile, Kuhn reassures them that Nichols is not being belligerent. Shortly thereafter, Smith and the other agents enter the station. Nichols demands of them, “Why was my name on radio and television?” Smith explains they want to talk to him because he “is an associate of Timothy McVeigh.” The agents, along with some of the local constabulary, take Nichols to the basement and begin a lengthy interrogation session, led by Smith and fellow agent Scott Crabtree. Kuhn will testify that his officers tell Nichols three times that he is free to leave if he chooses. Instead, Nichols chooses to stay, telling one officer that “he was afraid to leave” and return to his home. From Washington, lead FBI counsel Howard Shapiro advises the agents to keep Nichols talking. [New York Times, 4/24/1995; New York Times, 7/2/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 202-203] FBI agents will interrogate Nichols and his wife Marife for nine hours (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) and search Nichols’s property (see Evening, April 21, 1995 and After).
Entity Tags: Howard Shapiro, Dale Kuhn, Barry W. Thacker, Herington Public Safety Building (Kansas), Federal Bureau of Investigation, Timothy James McVeigh, Stephen E. Smith, Terry Lynn Nichols, Scott Crabtree, Nicole Nichols, James Nichols, Marife Torres Nichols
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
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
Marife Nichols, the wife of suspected Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) who has accompanied her husband to voluntarily submit to questioning by law enforcement authorities (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995), is questioned for six hours by the FBI. Though she has requested to be present during the FBI’s search of her home, she is not present during that search, though she, like her husband, signs a form giving permission to let agents search the home. Marife Nichols later claims she does not understand her legal rights as explained to her during questioning (see June 28, 1996). The agents who question her tell her that while she has the right to a lawyer, the only reason she needs one is if she intends to lie to the investigators. During the interrogation, agents refuse to let her leave to get diapers for her young daughter Nicole from the truck. She is unaware that the agents are worried that Terry Nichols may have wired the truck to explode if it is tampered with; also, they want to examine the truck for evidence. Instead, an agent goes to a nearby store and gets fresh diapers for Nicole. She will be allowed to return to their house for brief periods over the next days, always escorted by police or FBI agents; one thing she wants to do is retrieve the $5,000 in cash and nine gold coins she has hidden under her bedroom mattress. When she finally gets the chance to attempt to retrieve the cash unobserved, she will find that the FBI has already found the cash and coins and confiscated them. An FBI supervisor will tell her that the cash and coins will be returned to her once they are examined for fingerprints at the FBI lab. Days after the interrogation, she will call one of Nichols’s lawyers, Ron Woods, and leave a phone message telling him that the FBI will “not let her leave.” The FBI will later contend that Marife Nichols was never held against her will, and use a telephone conversation she has with her father-in-law as proof (see April 30, 1995). In late May, the FBI will return all but $200 of the cash, which they will say needs to be retained for further lab tests. [New York Times, 7/2/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 204, 227-230]
The home, pickup truck, and property of suspected Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, 2:00 p.m. and After, April 21, 1995, and 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) are searched by federal authorities while FBI agents are grilling Nichols and his wife Marife, both of whom are in police custody in Herington, Kansas. Agents are also involved in searching the Decker, Michigan, home and property of Nichols’s brother James, as bomber Timothy McVeigh listed James Nichols’s residence as his home address (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). Initial searches of both sites turn up bomb materials, including five 60-foot safety fuses with blasting caps, Primadet explosive, five gasoline cans, a fuel meter, several containers of ground ammonium nitrate fertilizer, three empty bags of ammonium nitrate, a receipt for the purchase of the ammonium nitrate, four white barrels with blue lids made from material resembling the blue plastic fragments found in the bomb debris, and weapons that may be illegal to possess, including an anti-tank weapon. In searching Terry Nichols’s home and property, agents also find a cache of documents, many concerning the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) and espousing sometimes-violent anti-government sentiments, and a hand-drawn map of the Murrah Federal Building and its environs (see September 7-8, 1996). They find a spiral notebook that seems to be a combination phone book and diary, including dates and amounts for storage locker rentals, notations of the aliases used to rent the lockers (including the aliases “Ted Parker” and “Joe Kyle”), notes about “Tim” and “places to camp,” and some notations by Nichols’s wife Marife that describe quarrels she has had with her husband. And they find a telephone card whose number was used by McVeigh to make calls in his hunt for bomb-making materials (see August 1994). The weapons, map, and materials found may tie either or both Nichols brothers to the bomb plot. [New York Times, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 4/23/1995; New York Times, 4/26/1995; New York Times, 5/12/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 229; Indianapolis Star, 2003; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Nine of the guns found in Nichols’s home—a Savage .30-06 rifle, a Remington .30-06 rifle, a Ruger carbine, a Ruger Mini-30 rifle using 7.62-millimeter ammunition, two Ruger Mini-14 rifles, a Winchester 12-gauge Defender shotgun, a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun with a pistol grip, and a Smith & Wesson 9-millimeter pistol—are similar to those stolen from an Arkansas gun dealer some six months ago (see November 5, 1994). Prosecutors believe Nichols, or perhaps Nichols and bombing suspect McVeigh, carried out that robbery to help fund the bomb plot. Of 33 weapons listed as found in Nichols’s house on the FBI’s Evidence Recovery Log, six rifles, two shotguns, and a pistol appear to be the same models as stolen weapons on the Garland County Sheriff’s office record of the robbery. They also find a safe-deposit key they believe was taken during the robbery (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). [New York Times, 6/17/1995] Nichols is told during the interrogation that agents have found a number of large plastic drums or barrels in his garage. He says he bought these at a dump in Marion, Kansas, and used them to haul trash. Agents also found a large fuel meter in the garage; Nichols says he bought this from a sale in Fort Riley, and says it is broken. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 212-213] A relative of the Nichols brothers tells the FBI that “James Nichols had been involved in constructing bombs in approximately November, 1994, and that he possessed large quantities of fuel oil and fertilizer,” according to an affidavit filed with the court. “Terry Nichols was in Decker, Mich., on or about April 7, 1995, visiting his brother, James Nichols, and may possibly have been accompanied by Tim McVeigh.” James Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988) is currently held in the Sedgwick County jail in Wichita, Kansas, as a material witness to the bombing (see April 21, 1995 and After). [New York Times, 4/23/1995]
Marife Nichols, the wife of suspected Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see April 30, 1995), is being held in FBI custody, ostensibly on a voluntary basis, though she will later contend she is being held against her will (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). She is allowed to make phone calls. She calls Terry’s father Robert Nichols in Michigan, and has a conversation which is recorded by the FBI, apparently with her knowledge. Robert Nichols asks about his son James, currently in FBI custody as a third suspected conspirator (see April 25, 1995), along with his brother Terry and Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995). Robert then asks Marife how she is doing, and how Nicole, the young daughter of Terry and Marife, is doing. She answers: “Oh, we’re doing fine. Everything is okay. I mean, they give us anything that we need here, and we’re fine.” She says she wants to return to her home country of the Philippines (see July - December 1990). “It would be a lot better for me to, uh, since you know I, I need to talk to my parents,” she says. “I wanted to go home, too. Uh, but I think they need to ask me a lot of, uh, questions about activities that we did ever since I got back here from Philippines.” Of her husband, she says: “I, I only talked to him once, on the telephone, and uh, he mainly just want me to go home. He, um, same as, as, you been watching the news?” Robert Nichols says he has, and she continues, “Yeah it’s, it’s all the same as, uh, James is, has, you know he’s just a material witness.” She asks if James has ever spoken to his father about any bombing plots, but Robert Nichols has no intention of passing along any potentially incriminating evidence against either of his sons. “No, it’s all news to me,” he says. Author Richard A. Serrano will later theorize that Marife is trying to flatter the FBI into letting her go with her repeated assurances that she and her daughter are being treated well. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 230-231]
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]
Marife Nichols, the wife of suspected Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, is finally released from FBI custody after being held for over a month (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). She has reassured her father-in-law Robert Nichols that she and her daughter Nicole are being treated well (see April 30, 1995), put up in an Oklahoma City hotel for the duration of her stay. Before she leaves FBI custody, she receives a Mother’s Day card signed by five female agents from the Kansas City field office. The card’s handwritten message reads in part: “We all hope the best for you. Please don’t believe that the government workers are the bad guys no matter what anyone tells you. We are here to help you. We have all fallen in love with Nicole. We all wish the best for you and your new baby. Don’t let all this latest news (see May 9, 1995, May 10, 1995, May 11, 1995, May 22, 1995, and May 25 - June 2, 1995) affect you. We are all here for you. If you ever are lonely, if you ever want to talk, if you ever want to cry, just call us. We’ll be here for you.” They pencil in a phone number and sign it “Love,” followed by their signatures. Marife will eventually return to her home country of the Philippines (see July - December 1990). [Serrano, 1998, pp. 231-232]
Accused Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator 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 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) tells a legal researcher that he does not know the man identified only as “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995 and June 14, 1995) who is suspected of being involved in the bombing, says he is not sure that accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995 and April 24, 1995) was involved in the bombing, and denies any personal involvement in the bombing or the conspiracy. He also denies being as close to McVeigh as media reports and prosecutors have asserted (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, November 1991 - Summer 1992, April 19, 1993 and After, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, November 22, 1993, (September 30, 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, (February 20, 1995), March 1995, March 17, 1995, April 13, 1995, April 15-16, 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Nichols speaks to anti-government legal researcher and lecturer Karl Granse, the leader of the anti-government legal group Citizens For a Tax-Free Republic. Granse later tells a reporter that Nichols says if he were not in jail, he would be looking for “John Doe No. 2” himself. He also says he is angered that FBI investigators attempted to question his 12-year-old son (see May 9, 1995), and refused to allow him to speak to his wife, Marife, for a month after the bombing. Nichols initiated the conversation, telephoning Granse from prison, and asked for legal advice. Granse is a self-taught legal researcher and holds no legal degree. It is the first time that Nichols has spoken to an outsider about his relationship with McVeigh. Granse says he knows Nichols’s brother James (see May 22, 1995) from a lecture James Nichols attended in December 1994; investigators have found audiotapes of Granse’s lectures in James Nichols’s belongings. Granse says he has been questioned by FBI investigators regarding his relationship with the Nichols family and denies any but the most casual knowledge of the family. He says he has never met McVeigh and does not know the identity of “John Doe No. 2.” Granse says he has no intention of joining Nichols’s legal team. He has produced a video about the bombing that suggests the US government actually carried it out. [New York Times, 6/24/1995]
Lawyers for Terry Nichols, accused of conspiring with Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and June 23, 1995), say that the government’s case against Nichols is built on a series of innocent coincidences, and accuse the FBI of unfairly pressuring Nichols’s family for information. Nichols’s lawyer Michael Tigar and others on the defense team meet with US Attorney Patrick Ryan and Justice Department officials to argue that the government should not seek the death penalty against their client (see July 11-13, 1995). After the closed-door meeting, Tigar tells reporters that the FBI improperly recorded over 20 conversations Nichols had, including telephone conversations with his wife and mother, after his arrest (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). “We’ve already seen the results of the government’s search warrants, the many tape-recorded conversations that were surreptitiously recorded without his knowledge,” Tigar says. “In short, we’ve seen it all. And we didn’t see anything in there that says the government has evidence that Terry Nichols did this.” Nichols, Tigar says, is an innocent victim of circumstance.
'Reasonable' Explanations - Tigar says that Nichols has reasonable explanations for using false names to rent two storage units in Kansas in the months before the bombing. According to these explanations, Nichols left his job as a farm worker in Marion, Kansas, on September 30, 1994 (see (September 30, 1994)), and had nowhere to live. He needed somewhere to store his household goods until he could find another place to live. He stored some of his goods in a storage unit rented under the alias “Shawn Rivers”; though authorities say Nichols rented the storage unit under the alias, Nichols says that McVeigh rented the unit (see September 22, 1994; Nichols may have rented a separate unit for his goods). Nichols kept his furniture and other items in that locker until October, when he rented two units in Council Grove, Kansas, under the names “Joe Kyle” (see October 17, 1994) and “Ted Parker” (see November 7, 1994). Nichols, according to Tigar, used the false names because he had an outstanding civil judgment on his credit card debts and wanted to prevent seizure of his possessions. Tigar also has an alternate explanation for a letter Nichols left behind him when he traveled to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995): the letter, which was to be opened only in the case of Nichols’s death, instructed McVeigh to clean everything out of one unit and liquidate the other. But Nichols’s lawyers now say these instructions contained an additional phrase, not previously disclosed by the government: “or you will have to pay extra months rent.” Nichols, according to Tigar, wanted McVeigh to sell his goods and give the proceeds to his family if for some reason he did not return from the Philippines. Instead, Nichols removed the goods from the unit when he bought a house in Herington, Kansas, in early 1995 (see (February 20, 1995)). Tigar says that Nichols had grown disaffected with McVeigh, and the more he learned of McVeigh’s proclivity towards violence, the less he wanted to have dealings with him. Nichols wanted to go into business as a gun dealer for himself, Tigar says: He had business cards and mailing labels printed in his own name, rented a mailbox under his name, registered with the state of Kansas so he could collect sales tax, and bought a license plate and insurance for his truck (see May 25 - June 2, 1995). Everything found in Nichols’s home and garage, Tigar claims, was for use in Nichols’s business. The fuel meter found in Nichols’s home, described by investigators as a device that “could be used to obtain the proper volume of diesel fuel to ammonium nitrate for a bomb,” did not work, Tigar says, and could not have been used to mix bomb ingredients. The anti-tank rocket found in Nichols’s home was, Tigar claims, an empty throw-away tube that such a rocket is packed in. The bags of fertilizer in the house were to be divided for resale in 8- and 24-ounce bottles at gun shows. The diesel fuel he bought in the days before the bombing (see April 15-16, 1995) was to fuel the diesel pickup truck he used to drive to Oklahoma City and pick up McVeigh (see April 16-17, 1995). The plastic barrels found on Nichols’s property are often used for storage and are thusly unremarkable. [New York Times, 9/7/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
Unreasonable Pressure - Tigar says that the pressure brought to bear on Nichols’s family members was improper and unreasonable. “To lie to Terry Nichols’s mother and say he’s not cooperating, and then to take her to the FBI office and record her as she talks to her son, I think is an outrage,” Tigar says. “To hold his wife for 34 days incommunicado and to tell her that the only way out for her husband is if she calls him up and reads to him a script written by FBI agents, I think is an outrage. Then to send his wife a Mother’s Day card signed by FBI agents saying they’re her only friends in the world and saying she should call the Kansas City field office if she ever needs to cry. What in the world are we coming to here?” The FBI also sent a Mother’s Day card to Nichols’s mother, Joyce Wilt of Lapeer, Michigan. Tigar gives reporters a copy of that card, which reads: “Please don’t believe that the government workers are the bad guys no matter what anyone tells you. We are here to help you. We are all here for you. If you are ever lonely, if you ever want to talk. If you ever want to cry, just call us. You are very special to us. You are a young girl caught up in something you don’t deserve to be in. We’re on your side. Think only about yourself and your kids.” [New York Times, 9/7/1995; Associated Press, 7/2/2005]
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) ask the court to throw out evidence garnered against their client. Their reason: his wife, Marife Nichols, now claims she did not understand her legal rights at the time she let federal agents search her family’s home and car in Herington, Kansas. Investigators found a receipt for 2,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, the fertilizer used in the bomb, bearing the fingerprints of Nichols’s co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see May 1, 1995), guns stolen in a robbery investigators believed was carried out to finance the bombing (see Before July 3, 1995), and other evidence. Nichols’s lawyer Michael Tigar says, “All consents obtained from Mrs. Nichols were tainted by oppression, coercion, intimidation, and duress.” Marife Nichols now says she spoke with FBI agents for about six hours once she and her husband went to the police station. She says she tried to cooperate with the agents because she wanted to end the questioning and go home. One of the agents, Eugene N. Thomeczek, “told me I had to tell the truth,” she says, and the other told her that if she answered, “Mr. Thomeczek will not ask questions again and again.” She says she could not go home, in part because her house was being searched, and later because she feared being harassed by reporters. She says she also wanted to retrieve $5,000 in currency, and nine gold and three silver coins she had hidden in the box springs of her mattress. All were kept in evidence and later returned to her. She and her daughter Nicole were taken to a hotel, and over the next 37 days they were moved from one hotel to another. During that time, she learned she was pregnant with her son Christian. “I felt confused,” she says. “I didn’t know what to do.” She says she did not realize that wives do not have to testify against their husbands and that she had the right to a lawyer. The lawyers also want to throw out Terry Nichols’s statements he made to the FBI during nine hours of questioning after he took his wife and young daughter to the Herington Public Safety Building (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Nichols was not adequately appraised of his rights, Tigar argues, and says that the information gleaned from Nichols during the interview was obtained through illegal coercion. All information obtained from Terry Nichols, Tigar argues, is “fruit of a poisoned tree” and must be thrown out. Nichols had agreed from the outset to speak to FBI agents without a lawyer present. [New York Times, 6/29/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 256-257] Judge Richard P. Matsch will not throw out the evidence (see August 14, 1996), saying that defense allegations of “coercion” and duplicity are false. [New York Times, 8/15/1996]
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]
Judge Richard P. Matsch denies a bid by lawyers for accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) to disqualify US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan from serving in the trial. Ryan, the US Attorney from Oklahoma City, might cry during Nichols’s trial, Nichols’s lawyers argue, as he did during the trial of Nichols’s alleged co-conspirator, Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), and thus unduly influence the jury. Ryan wept during his questioning of a witness who was testifying about the death of a little girl in the bombing (see May 3, 1997). Ryan says of the questioning: “I recognize my voice quivered. I stopped for about 10 seconds to try to regain control.” Matsch asks Ryan, “Do you believe you can participate in the trial of Terry Nichols with the necessary detachment required of a trial advocate?” Ryan says that he can, and pledges “proper decorum” during the trial; Matsch then denies the request. Matsch does grant a defense request to hold a hearing about what use the FBI made of correspondence it had seized belonging to Nichols. Defense attorney Michael Tigar presents testimony that shows officials of the Bureau of Prisons made copies of Nichols’s correspondence with his son, Josh, his wife, Marife, his mother, and some close friends in Michigan. Tigar says he protested the handing over of that correspondence to the FBI. Prosecutor James Orenstein tells Matsch that prison officials had the authority to give copies of the correspondence to the FBI, but admits the correspondence gave them nothing useful. Matsch rules: “We’re entitled to find that out. We’re going to hold a hearing and find out what was done with the mail.” [New York Times, 8/14/1997]
Michael Fortier, a friend of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see May 19, 1995, August 8, 1995, and May 12-13, 1997), testifies against McVeigh’s alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997). Fortier tells the jury that Nichols and McVeigh took him to an Arizona storage locker filled with explosives seven months before the bombing (see October 4 - Late October, 1994). Fortier has pleaded guilty to four felonies related to the bombing.
Saw Nichols in McVeigh's Company, Changes Testimony Previously Identifying Nichols as Co-Conspirator - He says he saw Nichols three times in Kingman, Arizona, the town in which McVeigh resided; two of those times, Nichols was in the company of McVeigh. Fortier testifies that he met both Nichols and McVeigh when they were Army soldiers stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990); Nichols, he says, was his platoon leader, but not his friend. Fortier says McVeigh sent him a letter saying that he and Nichols planned some sort of “positive offensive action” against the government (see September 13, 1994), and later McVeigh told him the “action” was the bombing of a federal building, to take place on the anniversary of the Branch Davidian massacre (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He told me… that they were planning on bombing a building,” Fortier says. When asked by a prosecutor who was the “they” that McVeigh was referring to, Fortier replies, “He didn’t say specifically,” a drastic change from his testimony in the McVeigh trial, when he told the jury that McVeigh was referring to himself and Nichols. [Washington Post, 11/13/1997; New York Times, 11/13/1997; Washington Post, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/17/1997; Denver Post, 12/24/1997]
Says McVeigh Told Him Nichols Robbed Gun Dealer - Fortier does identify Nichols as the man who robbed Arkansas gun dealer Roger Moore to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994); Fortier says that McVeigh told him, “Terry did Bob,” meaning “Bob Miller,” the name Moore used at gun shows. [New York Times, 12/16/1997]
Says He Refused to Take Active Part in Bombing, Says Nichols Withdrew - Fortier testifies that McVeigh asked him to rent a storage unit under a false name, but Fortier did not do so. He also testifies that McVeigh asked him to join him and Nichols in the bombing, but Fortier says he refused (see October 21 or 22, 1994). Later, Fortier says, McVeigh told him that Nichols “no longer wanted to help him mix the bomb” (see March 1995), testifying: “Tim told me that Terry no longer wanted to help him mix the bomb. He told me that there was some problem between—or the problem had to do with Terry’s wife, Marife. I asked Tim what he was going to do if Terry didn’t help him. I made a joke and said: ‘What would you do? Would you kill him if he doesn’t help you?’ And he answered me seriously and said he would not do that. And he went on to say that Terry would have to help him because he’s in it so far up till now.” Fortier identifies a length of explosives brought to his home for safekeeping by McVeigh as being from one of the Arizona storage lockers; an FBI expert, testifying immediately after Fortier, identifies a fingerprint on the wrapper for the explosives as belonging to Nichols.
Defense: Fortier a Lying Drug Addict - In cross-examination, Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael Tigar, elicits that Nichols never mentioned anything to Fortier about bombing a building. As defense lawyers did in McVeigh’s trial, Tigar depicts Fortier as a drug user and self-admitted liar who has admitted to lying to FBI investigators about his knowledge and involvement in the bomb plot (see April 23 - May 6, 1995), and to planning to use his knowledge of the bomb plot to wangle profitable book and movie deals. Fortier admits that Tigar’s depictions are essentially accurate. Tigar asks, “Was there ever a time in your life where Mr. McVeigh and you and Mr. Nichols were standing side by side… when Mr. McVeigh said, ‘My friend Terry and I are going to blow up a building with people in it and kill people?’” Fortier replies, “No, sir.” [Washington Post, 11/13/1997; New York Times, 11/13/1997; Washington Post, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/17/1997; Denver Post, 12/24/1997] Legal experts later say that Fortier’s testimony against Nichols is much less compelling than his testimony against McVeigh. Fortier did not know Nichols well, and had comparatively few dealings with him. [New York Times, 11/17/1997] The Washington Post describes the defense’s cross-examination of Fortier as “withering.” One of the defense’s contentions is that Fortier was far more involved in the bomb plot than his testimony indicates, and that he may have been more involved than Nichols. [Washington Post, 11/14/1997]
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]
Marife Nichols (see July - December 1990), the 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), gives what analysts call a powerful defense of her husband during trial testimony. Her testimony is combined with that of three others to cast doubt on the prosecution’s assertions that Nichols conspired with convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) to build and detonate the bomb that killed 168 people. The defense, already having attempted to establish that an unidentified person and not Nichols conspired with McVeigh (see December 2-3, 1997, December 4, 1997, and December 9, 1997), now tries to allege that McVeigh was a member of a much larger conspiracy that federal law-enforcement officials never seriously explored. The indictments against both McVeigh and Nichols say that “persons unknown” may have assisted McVeigh and Nichols in the bomb plot. The Washington Post observes that while the others’ testimonies may have helped Nichols, Nichols’s wife’s testimony may have “done more harm than good.” The New York Times agrees, saying that her testimony “seemed to confirm some of the strongest evidence against him.” [New York Times, 12/11/1997; Washington Post, 12/12/1997; New York Times, 12/12/1997]
Mechanic Testifies to Seeing Five Men at Bomb Building Site - Charles Farley, a mechanic from Wakefield, Kansas, testifies that on April 18, 1995, around 6:00 p.m., he came across five men and four vehicles, including a large Ryder truck and a farm truck laden with bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, at Geary State Fishing Lake, near Herington, Kansas. Prosecutors believe that McVeigh and Nichols alone built the bomb at the state park sometime on the morning of April 18 (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Farley says he later saw one of the men, an older man with gray hair and a beard, on television. A photo of the man is shown to the jury, but the man is not identified. Sources say the man is the leader of a Kansas paramilitary group.
BATF Informant Testifies - Carol Howe, a former informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF—see August 1994 - March 1995), then testifies, linking McVeigh to white supremacist Dennis Mahon and a group of Christian Identity supremacists living at Elohim City, Oklahoma (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). Howe says in the spring of 1994, Mahon took a call from a man he identified as “Tim Tuttle,” a known alias of McVeigh’s (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994). Howe says she never told BATF or any other federal agents about the conversation because she did not know “Tuttle” was McVeigh. Howe also says she saw McVeigh at Elohim City in July 1994, in the company of two Elohim City residents, Peter Ward and Andreas Strassmeir. She says at the time she did not know McVeigh. After the bombing, Howe testifies, she told FBI investigators that Ward and his brother might be “John Doe No. 1 and No. 2,” the suspects portrayed in composite sketches circulated in the days after the bombing (see April 20, 1995). She testifies that in the days following the bombing, BATF agents showed her a videotape of McVeigh, and she told the agents she had seen McVeigh at a Ku Klux Klan rally.
White Supremacist Settlement Resident Testifies about Phone Call - Joan Millar, the daughter-in-law of Elohim City religious leader Robert Millar, testifies that on April 5, 1995, she believes she spoke to McVeigh on the telephone. Phone records show that McVeigh called a number in Elohim City on that date (see April 5, 1995). “When I answered the phone, it was a male voice,” she says. “He gave a name, but it wasn’t ‘McVeigh.’ He said that he had—he would be in the area within the next couple weeks and he wanted to know if he could come and visit Elohim City.” She says the caller was reluctant to explain how he knew of the settlement, then says he met some residents at a gun show. A man with “a very broad foreign accent” had given him a card with a telephone number on it, she says he told her. She asked if he had spoken to “Andy,” meaning Strassmeir, and the caller said that may be correct. Millar says the caller told her he would call again for directions, but never called back and never came to the settlement. Millar says that while Elohim City residents were angry and worried about the federal assault on the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), they planned no retaliation. Howe, however, testifies that she heard Strassmeir, Mahon, and Robert Millar advocate some sort of direct action against the federal government. Prosecutors have always maintained that Nichols and McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City to avenge the people who died at the Branch Davidian compound.
Testimony of Wife - Marife Nichols testifies that she heard her husband talk about the Davidian tragedy with McVeigh and his brother James Nichols, but says she “did not see Terry being so mad about Waco.” Marife Nichols walks the jury through the events of April 21, when she accompanied her husband to the Herington, Kansas, police station to give voluntary statements about the bombing (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). She describes her husband as “pale and scared,” and says, “He told me his name was in the news and James Nichols was in the news, and they’re supposed to be armed and dangerous.” Her husband worried that they were being followed by “a black car” on their way to the police station. When he said that, she testifies, “I asked him right then, ‘Are you involved in this?’ and he said, ‘No.’” She testifies that before he returned from a November 1994 trip to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995) he had told her that he was no longer having dealings with McVeigh (see March 1995). “I didn’t want Tim McVeigh in our life,” she says. [New York Times, 12/11/1997]
Cross-Examination Damaging to Defense Portrayal - Lead defense attorney Michael Tigar asserts that Marife Nichols’s testimony shows that “Terry Nichols was building a life, not a bomb.” However, under cross-examination, prosecutors quickly elicit details about the Nichols’s marriage that shows the two as distant and estranged, casting a new light on Marife Nichols’s attempt to portray their relationship as close and loving. She admits that for much of their seven-year marriage, they lived apart from one another, with her returning frequently to her home in the Philippines. She also admits that Nichols lied to her about breaking off his relationship with McVeigh, and that she suspected her husband was living a “secret life” that included numerous aliases and secret storage lockers, though she says as far as she knows, McVeigh was never in their home. She responds to questions about her husband’s shadowy activities by saying: “I don’t know. I didn’t ask him.” She recalls finding a letter to Nichols from McVeigh the week before the bombing, and though she says she did not understand the letter entirely, she remembers some phrases, including “shake and bake” and “needed an excuse for your second half.” US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan shows her a pink receipt found in the Nichols home for a ton of ammonium nitrate that prosecutors say was used to make the bomb, a receipt made out to “Mike Havens,” an alias used by Nichols to buy the fertilizer (see September 22, 1994 and September 30, 1994). The receipt was wrapped around gold coins found at the back of her kitchen drawer; federal analysts found McVeigh’s fingerprints on the receipt. Ryan places two gold coins on the receipt, fitting them precisely into two dark impressions left on the receipt, presumably by the coins. The coins belong to Nichols, and may have come from a robbery Nichols perpetrated to help finance the bombing (see November 17-18, 1997). On April 16, she says, Nichols told her he was going to Omaha, Nebraska, to pick up McVeigh, when in reality he went to Oklahoma City (see April 16-17, 1995). Prosecutors have said that Nichols helped McVeigh stash the getaway car to be used on April 19 after the bomb was detonated (see April 13, 1995). He admitted lying to her about the April 16 trip just seconds before turning himself in on April 21, she says. She admits that Nichols had used a mail-order bride service to find her, and says he once told her, “Young ones were easier to train.” Marife Nichols was 17 when she married Nichols in November 1990; after they married in Cebu City, Philippines, he left her there and returned to the US without her, only bringing her to America months later. She says that she could not remember the exact date of their wedding. She also admits that when she joined Nichols in July 1991, she was pregnant with another man’s child. That child was found in 1993 dead with a plastic bag wrapped around his head; his death was ruled an accident. The two have two more children together. She is unable to offer an alibi for Nichols’s whereabouts on the morning of April 18, when prosecutors say he helped McVeigh construct the bomb. In saying she knew nothing about the storage lockers rented under aliases, she seems to contradict Tigar’s previous assertions that the storage lockers were used for storing innocent items and Nichols chose to use aliases merely to avoid creditors (see November 3, 1997). She also contradicts Nichols’s statements to the FBI that he had not seen McVeigh for months before the bombing.
Defense Rests - After Marife Nichols’s testimony concludes, the defense rests. The Post observes: “The defense’s eight-day case was aimed at generating confusion among jurors by poking holes in the government’s scenario, with the specter of additional accomplices and a second Ryder truck. At times, it seemed like the defense was trying to put the mysterious suspect John Doe No. 2—who was never identified and never found—on trial, instead of Nichols.” Nichols does not testify in his own defense.
Prosecutors Rebut Testimonies - The prosecution offers a brief rebuttal to the testimonies of witnesses who say they saw the Ryder truck at Geary Park earlier than April 17. State park employee Kerry L. Kitchener testifies that in April 1995, he was conducting a fishing survey at the park, and he saw no Ryder truck on April 10, 11, 13, 16, or 17, dates when defense witnesses said they had seen such a truck there. He testifies that he was not at the park on April 18, when prosecutors say Nichols and McVeigh built the bomb there in a Ryder truck. [Washington Post, 12/12/1997; New York Times, 12/12/1997]
Entity Tags: Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Charles Farley, Washington Post, Elohim City, Carole Howe, Andreas Strassmeir, Terry Lynn Nichols, Robert Millar, Timothy James McVeigh, Patrick M. Ryan, Kerry L. Kitchener, Joan Millar, Marife Torres Nichols, Michael E. Tigar, James Nichols, New York Times, Peter Ward
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The prosecution and defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) give their closing statements.
Prosecution: Nichols an Eager Participant - Prosecutor Beth Wilkinson tells the jury that even though Nichols was at home on the day of the bombing, he was an eager participant in the bomb plot, and shares the violent anti-government views of his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Like McVeigh, she says, Nichols wanted to strike back at the federal government for its role in the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He intended death, destruction, and chaos in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995,” she says. His favorite quote is from Founding Father Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” However, “Thomas Jefferson never bombed a day care center.” Nichols was involved in the plot from its inception in September 1994, when he left his job on a Kansas ranch “to begin gathering bomb components” (see September 13, 1994 and September 23, 1994), Wilkinson says. Nichols used aliases, such as “Mike Havens,” to purchase several tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a key component in the bomb (see September 22, 1994 and September 30, 1994). He took part in the robbery of a quarry to secure explosives and explosive components (see October 3, 1994), and took part in the purchase of three barrels of nitromethane racing fuel from a Texas dealer (see October 21 or 22, 1994). Nichols also robbed an Arkansas gun dealer to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994), a fact confirmed by testimony given by McVeigh’s friend Michael Fortier (see November 12-13, 1997) and by the FBI finding items taken in that robbery in Nichols’s possession (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Nichols and McVeigh had assembled most of what they needed by November 1994, she says, when Nichols went to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995); after that point, she says, “all they had to do was wait.” When Nichols returned from his trip, they resumed their activities, using sales of guns and ammonium nitrate at gun shows to give themselves alibis. In contrast to a claim made in the opening statement by Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael E. Tigar, she says Nichols was not building a life, “he was building a bomb, and he was building an alibi.” Wilkinson says that witnesses who testified they saw McVeigh with an unidentified person, and not Nichols, in the days before the bombing (see December 2-3, 1997, December 4, 1997, and December 9, 1997), were just plain wrong. Referring to the now-infamous “John Doe No. 2,” she says: “As a result of the media frenzy, sightings of John Doe 2 were about as common and credible as sightings of Elvis. No one is telling you Tim McVeigh was never with anyone else. The issue here is, who is on trial? John Doe 2 is not on trial. Tim McVeigh is not on trial. This is the trial of Terry Nichols.” Concluding the prosecution’s close, lead prosecutor Larry Mackey tells the jury, “It’s finally time—it’s time for justice” in what he calls “America’s most horrific crime.”
Defense: Nichols Victimized by Government - Tigar tells the jury that Nichols is the victim of a farrago of errors and circumstance; the evidence against him, Tigar says, is comprised of dishonest witnesses, sloppy investigation, and misleading circumstantial evidence. “It’s kind of like a stick on the ground, as Sherlock Holmes told Watson,” Tigar says. “If you stand here and look, it seems to point there. But if you walk around to the other side, it points in the opposite direction.” A fellow defense lawyer, Ronald G. Woods, attacks the government’s case, saying, “Anything that differs from the government’s theory, they discount, put aside, ridicule.” The witnesses who saw other men in McVeigh’s company during key moments in the bomb construction timeline were neither wrong nor mistaken, he says. Neither Tigar nor Woods refer at any length to the testimony of Nichols’s wife Marife, which is largely viewed as damaging to their client (see December 10-11, 1997). Tigar continues his previous attack on Fortier, saying: “Michael Fortier is the only witness who says he ever heard anyone say they wanted to bomb the Murrah Building. His testimony was bought and paid for, not with money but with a coin that only the government has the ability to print and hand out, and that is immunity from punishment.” Tigar says that Fortier was far more of a conspirator in the McVeigh plot than Nichols, and accuses the government of turning Fortier from a co-conspirator into a witness. Woods accuses the FBI of manipulating and fabricating witness testimony. Tigar concludes tearfully: “One hundred sixty-eight people died in Oklahoma City. We have never denied the reality of that.” But this is a nation that promises equal justice under law, he says, “rich or poor, neighbor or stranger, tax protester or not, someone who’s different from us, or not.… Members of the jury, I don’t envy you the job that you have,” he says, placing his hand on Nichols’s shoulders. “But I tell you, this is my brother. He’s in your hands.” [New York Times, 12/16/1997; New York Times, 12/17/1997]
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