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Profile: Richard A. Serrano

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Richard A. Serrano was a participant or observer in the following events:

Timothy McVeigh, a white supremacist engaged in plotting to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), drives to the Murrah Federal Building with his friend, bookkeeper and part-time gun dealer Michael Fortier (see February - July 1994 and October 21 or 22, 1994); McVeigh tells Fortier that he intends to bomb the building (see September 13, 1994). [Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810; Serrano, 1998, pp. 82-83; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Concealing Blasting Caps, Going to Pick Up Stolen Weapons - McVeigh comes to Fortier’s Kingman, Arizona, home from New Mexico, and meets the Fortiers at the local Mohave Inn. Lori Fortier wraps two boxes of blasting caps stolen by McVeigh (see October 4 - Late October, 1994) in Christmas wrapping paper. The plan is for McVeigh and Michael Fortier to drive to Oklahoma City in McVeigh’s car to scout the Murrah location, then drive to Council Grove, Kansas, to pick up weapons McVeigh says his friend and fellow conspirator Terry Nichols stole to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994)—adding that he wishes Nichols had killed the victim of the robbery, Roger Moore, when he stole the weapons. In Council Grove, they will rent a car. Fortier will take the weapons back to Arizona in the rental and sell them. McVeigh will drive north with the blasting caps. Fortier will later say he is more interested in the weapons than he is in any bombing plot, as McVeigh says he can have half of the profits from their sale. Both Fortier and his wife later say that Fortier has no intentions of joining McVeigh in carrying out any violence.
Discussions of Bombing Plans - During the drive to Oklahoma City, McVeigh and Fortier pass a large Ryder storage truck, and McVeigh tells Fortier he wants to use a truck similar to that for the bombing, but a size larger. Nichols has already decided against targeting a federal building in Kansas, and McVeigh and Nichols have determined that no federal building in Dallas would serve as a good target, so the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City is the best choice, McVeigh says, in part because he believes (erroneously) that the building “was where the orders for the attack on Waco came from” (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). He also confides in Fortier that he believes his attack will mark the first shot in a general anti-government, white supremacist uprising similar to that depicted in his favorite novel, The Turner Diaries (see 1978). When they arrive at the Murrah Building, they drive around the building twice. Fortier observes that the elevator shaft in the building might stop it from collapsing entirely. They stop in the parking lot and look at the building from several angles; after about 20 minutes, a nervous Fortier tells McVeigh, “Let’s leave.” McVeigh says that he is considering remaining inside the truck after parking it outside the Murrah Building and setting the fuse. A shaken Fortier says that would amount to “suicide,” but McVeigh, Fortier recalls, replies that he may decide to “stay inside and shoot anyone who tried to stop him.” McVeigh shows Fortier an alley behind the YMCA building across the street in which he can hide a getaway car. He is also mulling over having their mutual friend Terry Nichols “follow and wait” for him, presumably to help him escape the scene of the blast. McVeigh shows Fortier the loading zone for the Murrah Building, a good place, he says, to park the bomb-laden truck. According to Fortier, McVeigh is also considering driving “the truck down the stairs and crash[ing] it through the front doors.” McVeigh complains about Nichols, whom he calls “the old man,” apparently showing signs of backing out of the plot. Nichols’s waffling is part of the reason McVeigh is interested in soliciting Fortier’s involvement.
Viewing the 'Stash' - After leaving Oklahoma City, McVeigh and Fortier drive to the storage shed in Council Grove, Kansas (McVeigh using back roads to avoid the major highways where, he says, the government has set up spy cameras, and staying overnight at a Junction City, Kansas, motel), where McVeigh and Nichols are storing explosive materials for the bomb (see November 7, 1994). McVeigh shows Fortier the “stash,” as Fortier will later call it. They drive to Manhattan, Kansas, where McVeigh rents a gray Chevrolet Caprice; they drive back to Council Grove, eat at a Pizza Hut, and load the Caprice with about 30 guns, also being stored at the shed. Fortier then drives back to Kingman in the Caprice; McVeigh drives back to Michigan in his 1988 Chevrolet Spectrum Turbo, where he is staying with a friend (see December 18, 1994), taking three of the stolen guns, some stolen ammunition, and the Christmas-wrapped blasting caps with him. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 5/13/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 83-85, 90-91, 97, 106] In 1998, author Richard A. Serrano will write that Fortier drove back to Kingman in a Ford Crown Victoria, not a Caprice, and that the two chose the Ford because of its generous trunk space, necessary for storing the guns. Serrano will write that Fortier rented the Crown Victoria at a Hertz rental firm in Manhattan. According to Serrano, Fortier drives west towards Kingman, not stopping for sleep until he pulls over at a rest stop on the Arizona-New Mexico border, while McVeigh drives his Chevrolet to Michigan. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 106-107]

Entity Tags: Murrah Federal Building, Lori Fortier, Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Michael Joseph Fortier, Richard A. Serrano

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Kevin Nicholas, a farmhand in Vassar, Michigan, receives a phone call from his friend Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). McVeigh is en route to Nicholas’s home to stay with him. From a truck stop in Saginaw, Michigan, McVeigh calls Nicholas and asks him to drive out to a Speedway service station near I-75. He needs a ride to Nicholas’s house because he has had an accident with his car; on his way back from Kansas (see December 16, 1994 and After), he was rear-ended, and just managed to get his damaged car to the truck stop. When Nicholas arrives, he helps McVeigh load belongings into his car, including two Christmas packages. McVeigh tells Nicholas to leave the packages alone. According to later statements by Nicholas: “I was just grabbing stuff, and just throwing it in the back of my truck, and Tim said: ‘Don’t handle them. I’ll take care of them two Christmas-wrapped packages there,’ because I was just tossing his other stuff in, you know, was in a hurry, wanted to get home.” Nicholas asks McVeigh what is in the packages and, according to Nicholas, McVeigh replies, “I’ll tell you later.” The two manage to pry the bumper of McVeigh’s car far enough to allow McVeigh to follow Nicholas to his home. McVeigh stores the packages in a shed near Nicholas’s house, and later takes them to Chicago, on a trip to visit David Paulsen, a gun and military surplus dealer. After the Chicago trip, according to Nicholas, McVeigh will tell him that the packages contained blasting caps that he had gotten “dirt cheap” (see October 3, 1994), though author Richard A. Serrano will later write that McVeigh told Nicholas about the “caps” later that same evening. Multiple sources agree that McVeigh never tells Nicholas that he is planning on using the caps to detonate a bomb in Oklahoma City. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 5/9/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 107-109] The blasting caps in the packages were wrapped by McVeigh’s friend Lori Fortier (see December 16, 1994 and After). McVeigh is thankful that the blasting caps did not explode when his car was hit. He later buys an old blue Pontiac station wagon from James Nichols, the brother of his co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988 and January 1 - January 8, 1995). [Serrano, 1998, pp. 107-109]

Entity Tags: Michael Joseph Fortier, David Paulsen, James Nichols, Lori Fortier, Timothy James McVeigh, Richard A. Serrano, Kevin Nicholas

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

According to a 1998 book about the Oklahoma City bombing, One of Ours by Richard A. Serrano, 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), obtains a new Kansas driver’s license, takes out insurance on his blue pickup truck, and orders state license plates. After considering a number of new career ventures, such as organic blueberry farming, he has decided to start a business selling military-issue surplus MREs (meals ready to eat). He has labels and business cards printed up for the new venture, and purchases $3,250 worth of military surplus items he intends to sell, mostly weaponry and accessories such as laser sights, blowguns, and air rifles, all scheduled to arrive on April 20. He reserves two sales tables at an upcoming gun show in Hutchinson, Kansas. Nichols will later insist that he has had little real contact with McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), and is trying to build a new and peaceful life with his family. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 135-136] According to a chronology of events compiled by McVeigh’s lawyers, Nichols is either in Michigan for a round of gun shows or en route. This is confirmed by motel receipts and other evidence later gathered by FBI investigators. It is hard to reconcile Serrano’s claim, most likely sourced from dubious statements given to the FBI by Nichols after the bombing (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995), with the FBI evidence.

Entity Tags: Richard A. Serrano, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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

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

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Terry Nichols, involved in the upcoming Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) with his friend and co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see April 15, 1995), purchases an unknown amount of diesel fuel from a Conoco service station in Manhattan, Kansas. The diesel fuel will become an essential ingredient in the bomb. [New York Times, 5/12/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] In his 1998 book One of Ours, author Richard A. Serrano will say that Nichols visited a Conoco station in Junction City, Kansas, not Manhattan. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 134]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Richard A. Serrano

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A large Ryder truck similar to that rented by Timothy McVeigh.A large Ryder truck similar to that rented by Timothy McVeigh. [Source: RevGalBlogPals (.com)]Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, April 13, 1995, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) stays in his room at the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas, for most of the day. Around 3:00 p.m., he walks to a convenience store and calls a taxi. The taxi drops him off at a McDonald’s restaurant on the corner of I-40 and Washington Street. A security camera films McVeigh buying a fruit pie and walking out of the restaurant around 3:57 p.m. McVeigh walks from the McDonald’s to Elliott’s Body Shop, where he has reserved a 20-foot rental Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995). It is raining; McVeigh has no hat. A young man in a Pontiac Fiero picks up McVeigh and drives him to Elliott’s. The manager, Eldon Elliott, is in the shop, along with an employee, Vicki Beemer. Beemer asks McVeigh for his driver’s license number, and he gives her the number he has memorized from the fraudulent license he has made for “Robert Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995). The information he provides is: Bob Kling, Social Security Number 962-42-9694, South Dakota driver’s license number YF942A6, home address 428 Malt Drive, Redfield, South Dakota. The listed designation is 428 Maple Drive, Omaha, Nebraska. While McVeigh is waiting for the transaction to process, he makes small talk with Beemer about Easter and paying taxes; Beemer will later remember smiling at McVeigh, and after seeing the birth date of April 19, 1972 on the Kling license, telling him, “I’ve been married longer than you’ve been alive.” McVeigh had asked for a dolly, but the shop has none to provide him; instead, Beemer calls Waters TruValue Hardware and reserves a dolly for him. McVeigh takes possession of the Ryder truck, and drives to the hardware store to pick up the dolly, in the process making an attempt to avoid being filmed by the store’s security camera. He is given the dolly, throws it in the truck, and drives back to the motel. By now it is around 5:00 p.m. He sees Eric McGown, motel owner Lea McGown’s son, who tells him he cannot park the truck near the swimming pool. Instead, McVeigh parks the truck in front of the motel against the sign. He returns to his room, where he stays the night. During the evening, according to one source, he destroys the Kling ID by peeling back the plastic and burning the paper, then throwing the ashes and the plastic in the toilet. [New York Times, 4/26/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 148-149; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] (When McVeigh is arrested, he apparently presents the Kling driver’s license to the state trooper who pulls him over—see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995. Either the reports that McVeigh destroys the Kling driver’s license are incorrect, or McVeigh destroys another Kling ID.)
Garbled Recollection of Taxi Drive - Taxi driver David Ferris takes McVeigh to the McDonald’s. It is a short drive, and the fare is only $3.65; McVeigh gives Ferris no tip. Ferris will later be questioned by FBI agents, and the taxi driver will tell a garbled, contradictory story. At first, he breaks down and tearfully denies ever seeing McVeigh, saying, “I never picked up McVeigh.” Later he will change his story and tell of taking a man strongly resembling McVeigh, wearing a white T-shirt and Levis, from the convenience store to the McDonald’s. He will recall the man as having a military bearing and a crew cut, and being very polite. Asked if it was McVeigh, Ferris will say, “In all probability, yes.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 148]
Second Man Sighting Begins 'John Doe No. 2' Controversy - Residents and visitors to the motel later testify to seeing McVeigh and another, unidentified man with the Ryder truck well before 5:00 p.m, a man described as lantern-jawed, with a tattoo on his upper arm, and wearing a baseball cap; it is this sighting that begins the controversy of “John Doe No. 2,” McVeigh’s supposed accomplice (see 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995). Beemer and Elliott later tell investigators that they believe McVeigh is in the company of a second man, though they will be unable to provide a description of any kind. Elliott will later say: “There was another gentleman standing there in the corner. I just barely glanced at him as I walked by.” Beemer will say: “I don’t know who he was. It was just another man. They just came straight to the counter. They were both in the office.” Another shop employee, Tom Kessinger, will later say he, too, saw the second man, remembering the blue-and-white baseball cap and the tattoo, but Kessinger will fail to provide an accurate description of McVeigh, saying that he was wearing “military camo” and khaki pants, both of which are inaccurate. FBI investigators will later tell Robert Millar, the leader of the white supremacist community living at Elohim City (see 1983, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, August 1994 - March 1995, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, February 1995, March 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 5, 1995, and April 8, 1995), that McVeigh calls the community on April 18, in an effort to tie the “John Doe No. 2” sighting to someone in the community. It is possible the FBI mistakes that alleged call for one McVeigh makes to an old Army buddy (see April 17-21, 1995). [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 149] Author Richard A. Serrano will later note: “The FBI was able to show that McVeigh had ridden alone in a taxi that afternoon from the Dreamland Motel to a McDonald’s restaurant near the Ryder agency. And at the McDonald’s, McVeigh was caught on camera—again alone. From there, the FBI assumed, he walked along the frontage road to the Ryder shop. Why would he need anyone with him at all?” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 260]

Entity Tags: Eric McGown, Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), David Ferris, Eldon Elliott, Vicki Beemer, Waters TruValue Hardware (Junction City, Kansas ), Timothy James McVeigh, Robert Millar, Richard A. Serrano, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lea McGown, Tom Kessinger

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) wakes up near Ponca City, Oklahoma (see Noon and After, April 18, 1995), and at about 7:00 a.m. begins driving toward Oklahoma City in a rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995) containing a massive fertilizer bomb (see 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). McVeigh will later tell authors Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, who will write his authorized biography American Terrorist, that he has cold spaghetti for breakfast. “Meals ready to eat… are meant for high intensity. I knew I was going through a firestorm and I would need the energy,” he will say. He will tell the authors that he made an “executive decision” to move up the timing of the blast several hours; he will also tell them that he drives to Oklahoma City alone. He wears a T-shirt with a drawing of Abraham Lincoln in a “Wanted” poster and the words (shouted by John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin) “SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS” (“thus ever to tyrants”); the shirt also features the Thomas Jefferson quote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” and a picture of a tree dripping with blood. McVeigh takes Interstate 35 to Interstate 40 to Interstate 235, and takes the Harrison/Fourth Street exit. According to Mike Moroz, a service manager at Jerry’s Tire in downtown Oklahoma City, two men in a large Ryder truck stop between 8:25 a.m. and 8:35 a.m. to ask directions to Fifth and Harvey Streets, the location of the Murrah Building. Moroz will later identify the two men as McVeigh and an as-yet unidentified man, shorter, darker-skinned, and wearing a baseball cap; he later tells a USA Today reporter that McVeigh gets out of the driver’s side of the cab and walks over to speak with him, while the other man remains in the cab. Moroz’s version of events will remain unverified. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Denver Post, 6/3/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Three witnesses later say they see McVeigh near the Murrah Building around 8:40 a.m. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
Alternate Versions of Events - An alternate version of events has McVeigh traveling to Oklahoma City with white supremacist Michael Brescia (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995 and April 8, 1995) in the passenger seat, which would explain why Moroz sees McVeigh and another man with him. And another version of events is later given by Ed Kirkpatrick, a local structural engineer, who will claim to see McVeigh and “a white guy” in his thirties or forties meeting a Middle Eastern man at a downtown McDonald’s around 8:30 a.m. According to Kirkpatrick, McVeigh sends the white man for coffee while he talks to the Middle Eastern man sitting in a Dodge Dynasty with a blue tag. The white man becomes upset, Kirkpatrick will say, and McVeigh leaves him at the McDonald’s. Kirkpatrick says he witnesses the white man throw a .45 handgun into a nearby dumpster. Yet another version of events will be provided by an unnamed mortgage company employee, who says he sees the Ryder truck being followed by a yellow Mercury at Main and Broadway; the employee will claim he sees McVeigh driving the Mercury. This version of events is echoed by a statement given by lawyer James R. Linehan, who will say that he sees McVeigh driving erratically in a battered yellow 1977 Mercury that matches the description of McVeigh’s getaway car (see April 13, 1995), first spotting the Mercury stopped beside him at a red light on the south side of the Murrah Building. He will describe the driver as hunched over the wheel and with his face obscured, either by a hood or by hair (McVeigh’s hair is close-cropped and McVeigh is not wearing a hooded pullover). No one is in the car with him, Linehan will say. The Mercury suddenly “peels out” and runs the red light, Linehan will say, then circles the building, drives around the Murrah Building, and then drives into its underground building. Linehan will remember the car as having no rear license plate. Before the car disappears into the underground parking garage, Linehan gets a better look at the driver, and Linehan will say he has a sharp nose, no facial hair, a sharp chin, and smooth features. Linehan will say that when he sees news footage of McVeigh’s yellow Mercury on television, he leaps to his feet, points at the TV screen, and yells: “That’s the car! That’s the car!” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 251; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Linehan’s version of events will be reported by Los Angeles Times reporter Richard A. Serrano in an August 1995 story. Linehan will be interviewed by the FBI, but will not testify before the grand jury investigating the bombing. He will also be interviewed by lawyers representing McVeigh. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 251-252]

Entity Tags: James R. Linehan, Jon Hansen, Ed Kirkpatrick, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jerry’s Tire (Oklahoma City), Timothy James McVeigh, Murrah Federal Building, Richard A. Serrano, Lou Michel, Mike Moroz, Michael William Brescia

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Oklahoma Highway Patrolman Charles Hanger.Oklahoma Highway Patrolman Charles Hanger. [Source: The Oklahoman]Timothy McVeigh, who has just detonated a massive fertilizer bomb that has devasted the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), gets into his Mercury Marquis getaway car (see April 13, 1995) and flees north out of the city (see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995). At 10:17 a.m., while driving north on I-35 outside of Billings, Oklahoma, about 60 miles north of Oklahoma City, McVeigh is stopped for having no license plates on his vehicle by Oklahoma Highway Patrolman Charles Hanger, a trooper nicknamed “The Hangman” for his zeal in pursuing violators. According to later testimony, there is a radio blackout in force because of the bombing, allowing police to keep the airwaves clear. Hanger had been ordered to go to Oklahoma City, but then had those orders countermanded and was told to resume his duties.
Roadside Stop - Hanger stops McVeigh’s car and calls his office on a cellphone to check the car, but forgets to activate his dashboard camera, so no video record of the arrest is made. Hanger later says he was apprehensive because another trooper had been shot on the same highway two weeks earlier. McVeigh, cooperating with Hanger’s directions, exits the vehicle and begins walking towards Hanger, hands empty. “I stopped you because you weren’t displaying a tag,” Hanger says. McVeigh looks at the rear of his car, clearly unaware that he lacks a license plate. He says he has not had the car long and that is why he lacks a plate. Hanger asks to see a bill of sale, and McVeigh tells him the paperwork is still being drawn up. Hanger does not believe this statement, and asks to see McVeigh’s driver’s license. McVeigh reaches into his back pocket and takes out a camouflage-colored billfold. As he does so, Hanger notices a bulge under McVeigh’s windbreaker. Hanger asks McVeigh to pull open his windbreaker. McVeigh says calmly, “I have a gun.” Hanger orders, “Get your hands up and turn around.” McVeigh complies. Hanger puts the muzzle of his gun to the back of McVeigh’s head. He orders McVeigh to walk to the back of his car. “My weapon is loaded,” McVeigh says. “So is mine,” Hanger replies. He then tells McVeigh to place his hands flat on the trunk of the Mercury and spread his legs. McVeigh complies. Hanger removes the pistol from McVeigh’s shoulder holster and tosses it onto the shoulder of the road, well out of McVeigh’s reach. McVeigh tells Hanger he has another ammunition clip on his belt, and Hanger removes this as well. “I also have a knife,” McVeigh says. Hanger removes the blade from a brown leather sheath and throws it to the roadway. “Why the loaded firearm?” Hanger asks. “I have a right to carry it for protection,” McVeigh replies. Hanger handcuffs McVeigh, walks him to his squad car, and puts him in the front passenger seat, belting him in. He then goes back to pick up the gun, the ammunition clip, and the knife. McVeigh, at Hanger’s request, recites the serial number of the Glock. Hanger comments, “Most wouldn’t know the serial number on their weapon,” and McVeigh replies, “I do.”
Arrest and Booking - The dispatcher reports over the radio that Timothy James McVeigh has no outstanding warrants, and there is nothing in the system on the Mercury or on McVeigh’s pistol. Hanger arrests McVeigh for having no vehicle registration, no license plates, and carrying a concealed weapon—a loaded 9mm Glock semiautomatic pistol (see August 16, 1991). According to prosecutors and Hanger’s own recollections, McVeigh is very polite and cooperative with Hanger, answering questions, “yes sir,” and “no sir,” and saying he has served in the military and as a security guard. “No, sir, I did not intend to break your laws,” he tells Hanger. “I just carry the gun for protection.” Hanger later says he interviews McVeigh in the car, but will say: “I didn’t take any notes. It was just friendly chit-chat.” McVeigh tells Hanger that he just bought the car from a Firestone dealership in Junction City. Hanger has his dispatcher call for information on the car. Hanger searches the Mercury, finding nothing of immediate interest, but when he walks back to his car, he notices McVeigh fidgeting in his seat (see April 21, 1995). Hanger asks if McVeigh wants his car towed into town (at his own expense) or left on the road; McVeigh tells him to leave it where it is. Hanger locks the car and drives McVeigh to Perry, Oklahoma. During the trip, McVeigh asks Hanger again and again when he can get his gun back. Sometime around 11:00 a.m., McVeigh is booked and lodged in the county jail in the Noble County Courthouse in Perry. He is given prisoner number 95-057, photographed, and fingerprinted. Except for one brief demand to know when he will go to court, courthouse officials remember McVeigh as polite and soft-spoken. Hanger has no idea who he has caught; he takes his wife to lunch before turning in the gun and ammunition he confiscated from McVeigh. [Washington Post, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 4/22/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 4/29/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 176-180; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003; Fox News, 4/13/2005; University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 2006] McVeigh has a permit to carry the gun, but is in violation of the law because he is carrying it concealed, and because he has another weapon, the knife, also on his person. [New York Times, 4/23/1995] Later, Assistant District Attorney Mark Gibson says that Hanger, suspicious by nature anyway, had trouble with McVeigh’s story. “Particularly with his story that he was always on the road, he just didn’t believe,” Gibson will say. “And when he grabbed his gun and there was no reaction, no shock, that didn’t seem right, either. Neither did his story. Charlie said, ‘If you were in the military, when were you a security guard?’ and he said when he was on vacation. So things didn’t really jibe.” [New York Times, 4/23/1995] McVeigh’s gun is later found to be loaded with at least one Black Talon “cop-killer” bullet capable of penetrating body armor. [New York Times, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 4/22/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 177] Pat Livingston, a pawn shop owner in Ogden, Kansas, will recall selling McVeigh’s friend Terry Nichols two Glock semiautomatic pistols in February 1995. He also recalls selling McVeigh a similar Glock in 1991, and a Tec-9 assault pistol in 1993 (see February - July 1994). Livingston later says he remembers McVeigh well: “I knew that name as soon as I saw it on TV. That guy McVeigh, he wrote me a hot check for the Tec-9 in 1993.” [New York Times, 4/23/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] Author Richard A. Serrano will later report that the pistol McVeigh is carrying is a .45-caliber Glock military assault pistol, Model 2.1. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 177] Left in McVeigh’s car are a blue baseball cap and a legal-sized envelope, sealed and stuffed with documents and clippings. Some of the documents include an excerpt from the racially inflammatory novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978), quotes from Revolutionary War figures, and newspaer clippings. [New York Times, 4/29/1997]
False Driver's License Leads to Clues - Though he presents a false driver’s license, in the name of “Robert Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995 and April 15, 1995), McVeigh gives his home address as 3616 Van Dyke Street, Decker, Michigan. The address is the farm of James Nichols, the brother of Terry Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988). This information leads federal agents to both the Nichols brothers (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) and later to McVeigh himself as a suspect in the bombing. [Washington Post, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 6/3/1997] McVeigh lists James Nichols as his “next of kin.” [New York Times, 4/23/1995] Some versions of events have McVeigh destroying the Kling driver’s license (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995), giving Hanger his real license, and citing the Decker, Michigan, address as an emergency contact. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 178-180] McVeigh empties his pockets at the jail: the contents include $650, four rounds of ammunition, his billfold, keys, yellow coins, a roll of antacids, and a set of earplugs, which will later be tested for explosive residue. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 191; Serrano, 1998, pp. 181]
Oddities - Later, the FBI speculates that the Arizona license plate, bearing the number LZC646, the Mercury once bore fell off sometime between the time McVeigh bought the car and the time Hanger pulled him over. It is also possible, the FBI will say, that McVeigh or his accomplice moved the license plate to another car after the bombing (see April 29, 1995). The license plate was originally registered on February 1, 1995 to a 1983 Pontiac station wagon owned by McVeigh (see January 1 - January 8, 1995), who then gave a mail drop in Kingman, Arizona (see February - July 1994), as his address. Press reports later claim that McVeigh traded the Pontiac and $250 in cash for the Mercury, and put the Pontiac’s license plate on the Mercury (a later press report states that McVeigh may have forgotten to transfer the Pontiac’s license plate to the Mercury—see May 16, 1995). A statement by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) says the Kingman mail drop address was used by a “T. Tuttle” (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994 and December 1993) in 1993 to advertise a “LAW launcher replica,” which the advertisement said fired “37 mm flares,” for sale in The Spotlight, a publication of the anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby. A LAW is a “light anti-tank weapon.” [New York Times, 4/27/1995]

Entity Tags: Mark Gibson, James Nichols, Charles Hanger, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Timothy James McVeigh, Richard A. Serrano, Pat Livingston, Noble County Courthouse (Perry, Oklahoma), Anti-Defamation League, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The sketches of “John Doe No. 1” and “John Doe No. 2” as released by the FBI.The sketches of “John Doe No. 1” and “John Doe No. 2” as released by the FBI. [Source: The Oklahoman]The FBI releases sketches of the two men believed to be responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing the day before (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). The men are identified as “John Doe No. 1” and “John Doe No. 2.” [Indianapolis Star, 2003; The Oklahoman, 4/2009] The sketches are based on interviews with witnesses in Oklahoma City and in Kansas (see April 15, 1995). FBI agent Raymond Rozycki speaks to three employees at Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City, Kansas, who give him most of the details used to compile the sketches (see April 13, 1995 and April 15, 1995). [Fox News, 4/13/2005] Additionally, Attorney General Janet Reno announces a $2 million reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of the bombers. [Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 809] The sketches are released on the authority of lead FBI agent in charge Weldon Kennedy (see After 9:02 a.m., April 19, 1995). In the following days, updated sketches are released, showing “John Doe No. 2” in profile and wearing a baseball cap with lightning streaks on the side. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 193, 261]
One Identified within a Day; Second Never Identified, May Not Exist - Within a day, “John Doe No. 1” is identified as Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995). Lea McGown, the owner of the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas, speaks to FBI agents and recognizes “Robert Kling” as “Tom McVeigh,” a man who stayed in the motel the week before (see April 13, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). McVeigh had checked into Room 25 on Friday, April 14, she says, and stayed through the weekend. She also remembers McVeigh driving a large Ryder truck to the motel. “John Doe No. 2,” described as a stocky, swarthy man with a lantern jaw and a tattoo on his arm, will never be conclusively identified (see June 14, 1995). Agents seal off Room 25 and begin going over it for forensic evidence. [New York Times, 4/24/1995; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 194; Indianapolis Star, 2003] In 1998, author Richard A. Serrano will characterize “John Doe No. 2” as the man who “either got away with the biggest crime in US history or is a man who never lived.… Discounting the crank or ‘hysterical’ sightings (see February 17, 1995 and After, April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, April 15, 1995, 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 9:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, April 18, 1995, and (1:00 a.m.) April 19, 1995), only three people ever saw John Doe No. 2. Eldon Elliott, Vicki Beemer, and Tom Kessinger, the three Ryder employees (see April 13, 1995 and April 15, 1995), would recall only minor details about the man, and their recollections were as shadowy as his face.” Beemer will later say: “They were both in the office. I really don’t recall what the other guy—he was in there, but I don’t really recall where he was standing exactly.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 259-260]
False Sightings - Bogus sightings and detentions will abound after the sketches of “John Doe No. 2” are released. In Georgia, motorist Scott Sweely is stopped by a local sheriff and ordered to crawl out of his car window and lie facedown on the asphalt. Someone at a gas station told local police that Sweely looked like the sketch of Doe No. 2. Sweely is taken into custody and grilled by federal agents for four hours before being released. In Minnesota, a man resembling Doe No. 2 is arrested at gunpoint at the Mall of America. In California, a man AWOL from the US Army is rousted from his home and transferred to Los Angeles, where crowds scream and demand “justice” be carried out against him. A former Army friend of McVeigh’s, Roger L. Barnett (see January - March 1991 and After and January - March 1991 and After), is considered a possible Doe No. 2. Barnett resembles the descriptions of the supposed accomplice—he is stocky and has a skull-and-crossbones tattoo on his arm. He also lives near the Arkansas state line, close to the gun dealer whom alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols robbed to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994). However, time cards from his workplace show Barnett was at work the entire week of the bombing, and he passes a lie detector test. Another Army friend, Ray Jimboy, now working as a fry cook in Okemah, Oklahoma, is briefly considered a possibility, but a lie detector test clears him. For a time, Joshua Nichols, Terry Nichols’s son, is considered a possible Doe No. 2, though Joshua is 13 years old. The FBI is bombarded with calls; one husband even tells agents that the Doe No. 2 sketch is his wife. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 260-262]

Entity Tags: Janet Reno, Vicki Beemer, Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Federal Bureau of Investigation, Eldon Elliott, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Tom Kessinger, Timothy James McVeigh, Weldon Kennedy, Scott Sweely, Raymond Rozycki, Lea McGown, Ray Jimboy, Richard A. Serrano, Joshua Nichols, Roger L. Barnett, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Suspected Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh is transported from an Oklahoma jail cell to a helicopter, surrounded by police.Suspected Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh is transported from an Oklahoma jail cell to a helicopter, surrounded by police. [Source: The Oklahoman]White supremacist Timothy McVeigh, held in the Noble County Courthouse in Perry, Oklahoma, for misdemeanor weapons charges (see After 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995), is identified as the FBI’s prime suspect in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995), as “John Doe No. 1” depicted in police drawings (see April 20, 1995). According to Assistant District Attorney Mark Gibson, if the local judge had not been busy with a divorce case, McVeigh would have been arraigned and released the day before. “In most cases this guy would have been bonded out yesterday,” Gibson tells a reporter. “God was watching us.” Gibson learns of McVeigh’s status as the bombing suspect from Noble County Sheriff Jerry Cook, who is informed over the telephone by a BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agent in Washington, and is incredulous that the person being hunted throughout the nation (see After 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995) is in his own rural courthouse. McVeigh is waiting outside a courtroom for his bail hearing and release; instead, Gibson escorts him back to his cell in an upper floor of the courthouse to await federal authorities. Cook shuts down the jail telephones and implements a security perimeter around the building. Judge Danny G. Allen, aware that McVeigh will soon be taken into federal custody, provides McVeigh a hearing on his traffic and weapons charges, and after listening to McVeigh denying ever doing anything illegal, sets McVeigh’s bail at $5,000 and sends him back to his cell. Shortly after noon, a group of FBI agents arrives in Perry via helicopter, with more on the way. By this time, many people in and around the courthouse are aware that McVeigh is the bombing suspect, and reporters are beginning to gather outside the courthouse. McVeigh attempts to telephone a local lawyer, but because Cook has shut the phones off, he is unable to get through. He angrily slams the phone down in its cradle, prompting jailer Farrell Stanley to later reflect that this moment is the only time anyone at the courthouse sees McVeigh display any emotion. (According to One of Ours, a 1998 book written about McVeigh and the bombing by Richard A. Serrano, McVeigh privately worries that he will be taken into FBI custody, tortured, and made to disappear without a trace.) [New York Times, 4/22/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 1-10]
Final Wait - Two FBI agents, James L. Norman Jr. and Floyd M. Zimms, arrive to take McVeigh into custody. One of them asks McVeigh if he knows why they are here, and McVeigh responds: “Yes. That thing in Oklahoma City, I guess.” McVeigh asks for a lawyer, and says he will give no more information save for name, age, and other routine information. “I will just give you general physical information,” he says. He refuses to respond to any further queries, instead listening to the increasingly loud and angry sound of the swelling crowd outside. He asks the agents, “Take me out the roof,” and explains that he wants to be taken out of the building via the roof. “Jack Ruby,” he says. “You remember what happened with Jack Ruby.” McVeigh is referring to the man who shot President Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. McVeigh believes the Dallas police allowed Ruby to get close to Oswald, and does not want the same thing to happen to him. The agents refuse, but promise he will be well guarded, for his safety and that of his escorts. Senior FBI agent James Adams decides to take McVeigh out by a courthouse entrance, with the sheriff’s van backed up near the door. McVeigh and the surrounding agents and other officials will only be exposed to the crowd for a few minutes. Adams later says that he never thought to put a bulletproof vest on McVeigh. After another agent takes McVeigh’s fingerprints, McVeigh is brought back to his cell for one last, brief stay. On the way back, he sees news coverage of the crowd gathered around the courthouse. He tells fellow inmate Tiffany Valenzuela that he did not bomb the Murrah Federal Building, and says the sketch being circulated of the bombing suspects (see April 20, 1995) does not look like him. He asks Valenzuela to look out of her window and see if she can spot federal agents “on the roof” or “outside.” She advises him to relax, saying, “I’m sure they got the wrong man anyway.” He admits to being “kind of paranoid” because “everybody’s out there.” FBI agents take possession of McVeigh’s mug shot, his fingerprint card, booking receipts, clothing, and the mattress he slept on in his cell; the fingerprint card and other belongings will be tested for explosive residue.
Meeting with Local Lawyer - Local lawyer Royce Hobbs, who has been trying without success to meet with McVeigh, finally gets the meeting he has asked for after filing a petition with Judge Allen alleging that McVeigh is being held incommunicado. Allen allows the two to meet briefly, and Hobbs tells McVeigh to keep his mouth shut. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 191; Serrano, 1998, pp. 1-10]
Perp Walk - Federal agents take McVeigh out of his cell, place him in handcuffs and leg irons, and escort him out of the building. “I’m not scared,” McVeigh mutters to himself. “I’m not scared now.” He is escorted into the parking lot to the sheriff’s van. The crowd spots him and begins screaming imprecations: “Baby killer!” “Burn him!” “Rip his head off!” “Killer!” “Murderer!” and “B_stard!” McVeigh does not react, and shows no emotion during the brief “perp walk” to the van. He is taken to a helicopter and flown to Tinker Air Force Base outside of Oklahoma City. News broadcasts later show photographs and video of McVeigh being “perp walked” in an orange jumpsuit, surrounded by FBI agents as the crowd jeers and screams; these images are replayed thousands of times over the following days and months. [Washington Post, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 4/22/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 179; Serrano, 1998, pp. 1-10; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] One onlooker, Darrin Rucker, tells a reporter, “They should give him a taste of his own medicine and put him inside a bomb and blow it up.” [Washington Post, 4/22/1995] McVeigh later says he was focused on looking for snipers in the crowd, moving his eyes in the Z-pattern he had learned in the Army. He later says he wasn’t afraid to die, but was intent on surviving to tell his side of the story. [CNN, 12/17/2007] He also later says he twice asked for a bulletproof vest, but was “ignored” by the jailers. His sister Jennifer McVeigh will express her anger at the media’s response to her brother’s appearance. “What would they have said about any look he had?” she will ask. “I mean, what do they want? You want him to walk out with a big smile on his face? What would they say about that? What kind of look do they expect from someone who has just been accused of a crime like that? I think the sun was shining in his eyes, first of all. He was squinting. I think that was part of it.… How would you like it if a bunch of people were staring at you, screaming ‘Baby killer!’ I don’t think you can assume a reason for everything. You can’t assume a reason for the way somebody looks at all times.” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 178-179] McVeigh will be arraigned in a federal court hearing at Tinker Air Force Base (see April 21, 1995).

Entity Tags: US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Farrell Stanley, Tinker Air Force Base, Floyd M. Zimms, Darrin Rucker, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Danny G. Allen, Tiffany Valenzuela, Timothy James McVeigh, Richard A. Serrano, Royce Hobbs, James L. Norman, Jr, James Adams, Jerry Cook, Jennifer McVeigh, Murrah Federal Building, Noble County Courthouse (Perry, Oklahoma), Mark Gibson

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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]

Entity Tags: Nicole Nichols, Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Nichols, Richard A. Serrano, Marife Torres Nichols, Terry Lynn Nichols, Robert Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Stephen Jones.Stephen Jones. [Source: Associated Press]Attorney Stephen Jones is named by the court as the lead defender of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995). He agrees to work for a taxpayer-funded rate of $125 an hour, considerably less than his usual fee. Jones, who primarily represents large oil and insurance firms, is a Republican activist who failed to unseat Senator David Boren (D-OK) in 1990 and has represented a number of unpopular clients. He is joined by another prominent defense attorney, Robert Nigh Jr., a lawyer recommended to the case by Jones before he himself was chosen to represent McVeigh. Jones discussed the request from Judge David L. Russell with, among others, Governor Frank Keating (R-OK); Jones has done legal work for Keating in the past, and wished to ensure that his representation of McVeigh would not damage Keating’s reputation. Jones eventually accepted Russell’s request; when he accepted, Russell quipped, “I hope I haven’t signed your death warrant.” Jones replied, “That makes two of us.” To the media, Jones says: “My role is as old as the Constitution. Whether I perform professionally will be determined by how I conduct myself and whether my client is satisfied.… I did not seek or request the appointment or even encourage it in any way. I have been drafted. However, I will do my duty.… I will seek, for my part, to avoid the circus atmosphere that has prevailed in certain other well-known jurisdictional proceedings, which have included the self-promotion and self-aggrandizement of some individuals. I am a small-town county-seat lawyer.… I want to set a contrast to the O. J. Simpson [a former athlete and Hollywood celebrity recently acquitted of murdering his wife and another man in a sensational court proceeding] trial, which represents much of what is wrong with the legal process,” he says, referring to what he sees as “a lot of self-aggrandizement by all the parties: the witnesses, the jury, the judge, the lawyers.” He concludes with a warning to the press: “There is a well-recognized tension between the need for a free press and a fair trial, so I hope the ladies and gentlemen of the press will understand that I will defend this case in the courts of law.” Jones is working with McVeigh’s current lawyers, John Coyle and Susan Otto, who are preparing to leave the case (see April 24, 1995 and April 27, 1995). (When the media announces Jones’s naming to the case, one of Coyle’s staffers shouts: “You watch. He will make it all about himself.”) Jones is preparing McVeigh for a grand jury, which is being seated to hear evidence against him. McVeigh turned down the offered services of two lawyers (see May 3, 1995), but is willing to accept Jones’s services. [New York Times, 5/8/1995; New York Times, 6/15/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 231; Serrano, 1998, pp. 248-249; Douglas O. Linder, 2006; TruTV, 2/2009] “There’s no doubt in my mind that Stephen Jones views this to be a horrible crime,” Tony Graham, a former federal prosecutor who has often opposed Jones in court, will comment. “That he can go ahead and represent a person accused of that is the mark of a very professional lawyer.” Enid lawyer and former mayor Norman L. Grey will say: “With Stephen, you know you have a battle on your hands. I don’t think there’s a better legal mind in the area of criminal proceedings, state or federal.” [New York Times, 6/15/1995]
Conspiracy Theories, 'Necessity' Defense - Later, Jones will recall watching news footage of the bombing at his law office in Enid, Oklahoma, and remember his old elementary school being firebombed. “I recognized it as a bombing right away,” he will say. “And the minute I heard about the day care, I thought, ‘That’s it.’ Because I remembered the babies at Waco (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). And later that night I heard about old man Snell [executed white supremacist Richard Wayne Snell—see 9:00 p.m. April 19, 1995] and I thought, ‘Yes, that’s relevant too.’” Author Richard A. Serrano will later write, “Even on that first evening, Jones was thinking conspiracy theories.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 249] Though Jones is not forthcoming about the defense strategy he and McVeigh intend to deploy, legal observers speculate that they will base their defense on attempts to discredit government witnesses that the prosecution will use to build their case against McVeigh. Court observers say McVeigh is working actively with Jones on their defense. In the following days, Jones will begin interviewing people in Kansas, Oklahoma, and elsewhere, trying to undermine the credibility of the witnesses the prosecution is expected to bring into court. Jones is also expected to try to prove that the prosecutors’ evidence against McVeigh is largely circumstantial and therefore open to reasonable doubt. Observers doubt that Jones will try to use an insanity defense, because McVeigh is clearly competent to stand trial. They also doubt that Jones will try to allege that McVeigh was motivated by political opposition to the government, since innocent people, including children, were killed in the blast. No one feels that the prosecution will offer McVeigh any sort of plea deal. [New York Times, 5/11/1995] Researchers later learn that McVeigh wants Jones to present what some call a “necessity defense”—admitting to the bombing and justifying it by detailing what he considers the “crimes” of the federal government that his bombing was designed to prevent. McVeigh believes that if the jury hears about the government’s actions at Ruby Ridge, Idaho (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992), and at the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), at least some of the jurors will be sympathetic. More importantly, such a politicized trial would give McVeigh the opportunity to make his case against an overreaching federal government in the larger court of public opinion. Jones will resist presenting such a defense, in part because he believes that McVeigh has no chance of establishing, as he would be required to do to raise the defense, that the federal government put him in “imminent danger.” [Douglas O. Linder, 2006]
Third Lawyer to Join Jones, Nigh - Two weeks later, Russell will name Houston lawyer Richard Burr to join Jones and Nigh for the defense. Burr has extensive experience working with death penalty cases, and formerly directed the Capital Punishment Project of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “Any capital case, but particularly one of this magnitude, calls for our system of justice to perform as reliably, as fairly, and as humanely as it can,” Burr will say. “I feel honored to become a part of the defense team in Mr. McVeigh’s case.” [New York Times, 5/23/1995]

Entity Tags: David Boren, David L. Russell, John Coyle, Frank Keating, Tony Graham, Norman L. Grey, Susan Otto, Richard A. Serrano, Timothy James McVeigh, Richard Burr, Stephen Jones, Robert Nigh, Jr

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Law enforcement authorities call off the search for the so-called “John Doe No. 2,” believed to be another person involved in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 20, 1995). Officials say the sketch identifying the man is of an innocent person. The sketch has been “enhanced” twice to further aid in identification. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003] Government prosecutors say that the person believed to be depicted in the sketches is Todd David Bunting, an Army private from Fort Riley, Kansas; they say that Bunting has no connections to McVeigh or the bombing. A witness has told the FBI that he saw Bunting at Elliott’s Body Shop, a truck rental agency in Junction City, Kansas, on April 17, two days before the blast, either in the company of accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995 and April 24, 1995) or standing close to him while McVeigh rented the Ryder truck used in the bombing (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Authorities now believe that Bunting was at the rental shop on April 16, the day before McVeigh’s visit, or perhaps April 18, the day after. The FBI releases a statement that says in part: “That individual… resembles the sketch previously circulated as the second of two men who rented the truck on April 17 and who has been called John Doe No. 2.… [The FBI] has determined that individual who has been interviewed was not connected to the bombing.” Some investigators believe that the witness, the rental agent at the shop, became confused under pressure from investigators to recall the details of the second man he says he saw with McVeigh. [New York Times, 6/14/1995; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 811; The Oklahoman, 4/2009] Bunting will later say that it is his face depicted in the composite sketches of “John Doe No. 2.” [New York Times, 12/3/1995] He closely resembles the sketch, and has a Carolina Panthers baseball cap with lightning strikes down the sides, much like the cap Doe No. 2 was said to wear. He even has a tattoo on his right arm where one witness said Doe No. 2 has a tattoo. The press learns of the Bunting identification before the FBI can hold an official press conference announcing its findings, and reporters trek to Timmonsville, South Carolina, where Bunting is attending the funeral of his mother-in-law, to interivew him; some reporters even barge into the funeral home. Bunting will later stand before cameras and reporters in a press conference held in Fort Riley, where he says he was at Elliott’s Body Shop in the company of another man, Sergeant Michael Hertig, to rent a truck and pack up his belongings to transfer to Fort Benning. He talks of the FBI’s questioning of him, and of the chill he felt when he learned he was being connected to the bombing, however tenuously. Author Richard A. Serrano will later write that after repeated humiliating press reports of false identifications of Doe No. 2 (see April 20, 1995 and May 1-2, 1995), the FBI wants the problems of Doe No. 2 to “go away… dissolve from the nation’s consciousness.” Serrano will suggest that agents deliberately found an innocent man, Bunting, who bears a strong resemblance to the sketch, and decided to use him to end the speculation. If true, the FBI’s efforts will be fruitless: the speculation will continue for years, with a Web site, “John Doe Times,” posted by an Alabama militiaman, hosting anti-government postings and criticism of the ongoing investigation. The far-right “Spotlight” newsletter will say in 1996 that federal agents had employed “dupes” to bomb the Murrah Building, and that McVeigh and Doe No. 2 were mere patsies. The newsletter will claim that Doe No. 2, a government provocateur, lives in hiding on an Indian reservation in upstate New York. Others will speculate that Doe No. 2 is white supremacist Michael Brescia (see August 1994 - March 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 8, 1995, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), who bears a close resemblance to the sketch. Brescia later pleads guilty to crimes unrelated to the bombing and will deny any involvement. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 265-266] Author Nicole Nichols, an expert in right-wing domestic terrorism unrelated to accused co-conspirator Terry Nichols, will later speculate that Doe No. 2 is actually Andreas Strassmeir, a gun aficianado and member of the militaristic Elohim City compound along with Brescia (see 1973 and After). Press reports later state that McVeigh denies any involvement by Strassmeir (see February 28 - March 4, 1997). Prosecutors will later reiterate that Bunting is “John Doe No. 2” and reiterate that he has no connection to the bombing (see January 29, 1997).

Entity Tags: Andreas Strassmeir, Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Federal Bureau of Investigation, Nicole Nichols, Michael Hertig, Todd David Bunting, Michael William Brescia, Richard A. Serrano, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995) presents evidence in one of the hearings conducted to consider a change of venue in the trial (see November 21, 1995). The hearing takes place at the Oklahoma City courthouse; McVeigh has been brought from his cell at the El Reno federal detention facility to take part, though he says nothing during the proceedings. The defense plays clips from television news broadcasts, some of which contain erroneous information; footage of tearful calls for McVeigh and his accomplice Terry Nichols to be executed; coverage of memorial services for the victims of the bombing; and promises by President Clinton, Attorney General Janet Reno, and Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating that the death penalty would be sought. In the back of the courtroom, victims’ family members begin weeping. An Associated Press report by Paul Queary notes that McVeigh “smiled” as the films were shown; Los Angeles Times reporter Richard A. Serrano will write that McVeigh “appeared relaxed and at ease in court.” The reports anger McVeigh’s sister Jennifer, who has driven from Pendleton, New York, to be with her brother in court. She later says: “He wasn’t smiling in reference to anything. He was smiling at me. And you know that if he wasn’t smiling, they’d criticize him and if he was smiling, they’d criticize him. You know what happened the last time when he wasn’t smiling.” She is referring to the iconic image of a grim-looking McVeigh squinting as he is “perp walked” on the day of his arrest (see April 21, 1995). Jennifer tells reporters after the hearing: “No matter what, he’s still my brother and I’m still going to be there for him. He’s just a normal person. He’s not this evil thing they’ve painted him.” She visits him at the city jail before returning to her hotel room and calling her father in Pendleton. She will begin the long drive back to Pendleton a few days later. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 268-270]

Entity Tags: Paul Queary, Frank Keating, Janet Reno, Richard A. Serrano, Jennifer McVeigh, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Stephen Jones, the lead defense lawyer for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see May 8, 1995), takes out a large ad in his hometown newspaper, the Enid [Oklahoma] News & Eagle. The ad features a photo of him marching into court in Denver (see February 20, 1996) and a “farewell message” from him to the people of Enid. The message is titled “To the people of Enid and Northwestern Oklahoma,” and reads in part: “It has been a year and a half since I was appointed by the United States District Court to represent Timothy McVeigh, charged with the greatest act of revolutionary terror and murder in American history, 168 dead, includiing one of Enid’s own sons, 500 injured, and a billion dollars’ worth of property damage. The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building forever altered the physical, intellectual, and emotional structure of Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma.” Before departing for Denver, he writes, he wants to speak “to you, my fellow townspeople. No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting, which I hope may only be temporary.… I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return, with a task before me greater than that which has ever rested upon any lawyer entrusted with the defense of someone where the decision on his liberty and life depends on 12 strangers sworn to find a fair verdict. Without the assistance of that Divine Being whoever attends any of us, those charged with responsibility in the matter of United States of America v. Timothy James McVeigh, whether the prosecution or defense, cannot succeed. With that assistance, we cannot fail and the truth will emerge. At this time of year I ask for your prayers, not only for those of us associated in any way with this case, the law enforcement personnel, prosecution, the court, the witnesses, but also the defense, and most importantly, the survivors and the family [sic] of those who perished.… I bid you an affectionate farewell with a grateful heart for your many acts of personal friendship, affection, and esteem.” Author Richard A. Serrano will later note that Jones cribbed much of his “farewell message” from addresses given by former President Abraham Lincoln. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 257-258]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Serrano, Timothy James McVeigh, Stephen Jones

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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

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

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The emotional testimony of a survivor of the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) brings a prosecution lawyer to tears in the trial of accused bomber Timothy McVeigh. The testimony takes place after a morning of tedious legal jousting over telephone records and arguments over McVeigh’s telephone card (see August 1994). Retired Army Captain Lawrence Martin, who worked in the Army recruiting station in the Murrah Federal Building on the day of the blast, tells of the seven colleagues who died that day. Martin’s testimony is handled by US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan, who begins to well tears as he elicits Martin’s testimony about Sergeant Bill Titsworth from Fort Riley, who brought his wife and two young daughters to the recruiting station. Titsworth was slated to join Martin and his colleagues in working at the station, and wanted to show his family around his new workplace. Martin says he survived being blown through the wall of his office, though his injuries were so severe that he was forced to retire from service. Ryan asks about Titsworth’s youngest daughter, three-year-old Kayla. “She died that morning on the floor?” he asks. Martin replies, “Yes, sir.” By this point, Ryan is openly weeping; others at the prosecutors’ table are shedding tears, as are some reporters and jurors. In the back of the courtroom, victims and family members are openly crying. According to author Richard A. Serrano, “McVeigh did not flinch.” Ryan concludes his questioning, and says to Judge Richard P. Matsch, “I’m sorry, your honor.” Then he walks back to the prosecutors’ table and buries his head in his hands. [Associated Press, 5/8/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 281-283]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Serrano, Bill Titsworth, Kayla Titsworth, Patrick M. Ryan, Richard P. Matsch, Lawrence Martin, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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