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Profile: Todd David Bunting
Todd David Bunting was a participant or observer in the following events:
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).
Federal officials state that the circulation of a sketch identified as “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), a man once believed to have had some connection with accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), was a mistake. The person, described as short, stocky, thick-necked, and olive-skinned, was misidentified by a witness who gave an incorrect recollection to federal investigators. Prosecutors say that while the possibility exists that others besides McVeigh and Terry Nichols were involved in the bombing, they have no physical descriptions to give to the public. Prosecutors identify the man in the “John Doe No. 2” sketch as Private Todd Bunting, an Army soldier stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, near Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh rented a Ryder truck used in the bombing (see April 15, 1995). Bunting entered the same Ryder rental office on April 18, a day after McVeigh entered the office. The sketch is based on the recollections of Tom Kessinger, a mechanic in the truck rental office. He and two other employees identified McVeigh from the sketch, but Kessinger’s recollection of “John Doe No. 2” as a man accompanying McVeigh was not supported by the others. McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones says that because of the misidentification of Bunting, all the identifications of all the Ryder clerks must be thrown out. “I don’t think any of those identifications are now safe,” Jones says. Bunting is 5’11”, 200 pounds, muscular and stocky, with dark brown hair, a wide, square chin, and relatively dark skin. On April 18, he accompanied Sergeant Michael Hertig, another Fort Riley soldier, to pick up a truck that Hertig had reserved five days before. Prosecutors believe Kessinger, pressured by investigators, became confused in his recollections and mistakenly identified Bunting as accompanying McVeigh and not Hertig. On November 22, 1996, Kessinger positively identified Bunting as “John Doe No. 2.” He also says he is now unsure that McVeigh was with anyone when he came to rent the Ryder truck. The other Ryder clerks, Vicki Beemer and Eldon Elliott (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995), have said that they believe McVeigh was with another man, but cannot recall what that man looks like. [New York Times, 1/30/1997]
Two prosecution witnesses in the Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) testify under oath that the person who rented the Ryder truck used to carry the bomb was accused bomber Timothy McVeigh. Eldon Elliott, the owner of Elliott’s Body Shop, the Ryder rental outlet in Junction City, Kansas, and body shop employee Tom Kessinger both say that “Robert Kling,” who paid $280 cash and said he did not need insurance because he was a careful driver, was, in fact, McVeigh (see Mid-March, 1995 and April 15, 1995). Defense lawyer Stephen Jones questions their credibility, saying that because of Kessinger’s misidentification of another person as having accompanied McVeigh to the store to rent the truck (see January 29, 1997), both Elliott’s and Kessinger’s identifications must be thrown out. The defense is expected to argue that “Kling” was someone else and not McVeigh. Kessinger admits that he misidentified Army Private Todd Bunting as “John Doe No. 2,” whom federal investigators have considered a likely accomplice until recently. Kessinger stands by his identification of McVeigh. In court, Kessinger says he was sitting in the back of the truck rental office, taking a break at about 4:15 p.m. on Monday, April 17, 1995, when he saw two men come into the shop. They stood at the counter and began speaking with Vicki Beemer, who handled the paperwork that day. Kessinger remembers McVeigh because of something McVeigh said, which is not disclosed in court. He watched McVeigh and the second man—not Bunting—for about 10 minutes. He met with FBI agent Scott Crabtree at 4:45 p.m. on April 19, the day of the bombing, and met with an FBI sketch artist at 3:30 the next morning, he says, to start work on the composite sketches of the bombing suspects. He was then asked not to watch television news accounts of the bombing or to read the press coverage. “They told me to rely only on my own memory,” he says. Jones elicits that Kessinger watches “a lot of MTV, a lot of Discovery Channel,” but does not watch network television news or local news. He says he never saw a photograph of McVeigh until FBI agents showed him a group of photographs on April 30, 1995. Kessinger identified McVeigh as the man he saw in the body shop. Asked by Jones if McVeigh was accompanied by someone else, Kessinger responds: “I don’t know. I want to say yes, but I don’t know who that individual was.” The transaction with McVeigh was short and businesslike, Kessinger recalls, noting that McVeigh turned down the offer to purchase insurance because, Kessinger recalls, “he said ‘I’m not going very far, I’m used to driving trucks out of Fort Riley [an Army base near Junction City], and I’m a careful driver.’” [New York Times, 2/19/1997]
The defense in the Terry Nichols bombing conspiracy trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) presents an array of witnesses who say they saw convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) in the company of someone besides Nichols in the days before the bombing. The defense intends to portray the still-unidentified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 15, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, and April 29, 1995) as McVeigh’s accomplice, and not Nichols. Government officials have long claimed that “John Doe No. 2” was a misidentification by witnesses of a person who had no involvement in the bomb plot, Private Todd Bunting of Fort Riley, Kansas (see June 14, 1995). Prosecutors say that those witnesses who claim to have seen “John Doe No. 2” might have seen Bunting or other Fort Riley soldiers with other Ryder trucks aside from that used by McVeigh to deliver the bomb (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), or were influenced by the wanted poster.
Dishwasher Resembled Sketch - Darvin Ray Bates, the former mayor of Waurika, Oklahoma, says in May 1995 he hired a drifter to work as a dishwasher in his Duncan, Oklahoma restaurant. The drifter resembled the sketch federal officials circulated of “John Doe No. 2,” Bates testifies. He says, “I could never pronounce his name, and he said, ‘Just call me John’.” Bates says the man told him he was from Kingman, Arizona, the same town where McVeigh lived. In the days after the bombing, Bates testifies, he told “John” that he looked like the sketch of “John Doe No. 2,” and the man never returned to work. Bates informed the FBI of the encounter, but, he says, an agent told him “they had the two arrested that they needed in the case, and if they needed additional information they could call me.” No one from the FBI contacted Bates again.
Saw Man Accompanying McVeigh One Hour before Bombing - Morris John Kuper, Jr, a computer specialist, testifies that on April 21, two days after the bombing, he told FBI agents that he saw two men getting into an old car across the street from his parking lot at the Kerr-McGee Corporation in Oklahoma City about an hour before the April 19 bombing. One man looked like McVeigh, he testifies, while the other resembled “John Doe No. 2.” Kuper says it took months for FBI agents to contact him about his sighting. Obstetrical nurse Mary Martinez has already testified about seeing McVeigh and “John Doe No. 2” in a Ryder truck in Junction City, Kansas two days before the bombing; prosecutors were able to cast strong doubts upon her story (see December 2-3, 1997).
Sightings of Man At Motel - Hilda Sostre, a maid at the Dreamland Motel, where McVeigh stayed for four days before the bombing, testifies she saw a man resembling “John Doe No. 2” at the motel on April 17, two days before the bombing. She says she saw him walking towards a large Ryder truck. If accurate, Sostre’s sighting conflicts with the prosecution’s assertion that McVeigh did not bring the truck to the motel until much later that day. Shane M. Boyd, who was staying at the Dreamland, testifies that he saw a man resembling “John Doe No. 2” at the motel on Saturday, April 15. Boyd says he passed the man while walking back to his room (see April 13, 1995).
Store Worker Saw McVeigh, Man Together - Rose Mary Zinn says that on April 17, she was working alone in a store in Lincolnville, Kansas, when two men came in. “One was blond and white, and the other one was a dark-complected guy,” she testifies. “The dark-colored guy looked mean. So I know this might sound silly, but I thought, uh-oh, I’m going to be robbed.” Instead of robbing her, they bought cigarettes and soda and left. She says she watched them get into a large Ryder truck. She cannot testify to the men’s features, and says the blond man was shorter than his companion; McVeigh is described as being significantly taller than “John Doe No. 2.”
Father and Son Saw Two Men at Lake - Raymond Siek, who was returning from a funeral on the afternoon of April 17, says he noticed a Ryder truck at Geary State Fishing Lake, the place where prosecutors say the bomb was built on April 18. Siek testifies that he saw two men, and turned to his son, Kevin Siek, and observed, “I wonder what those idiots are doing down there in the rain.” Kevin Siek also testifies: his story is that he saw three men that day, with the third being shorter and perhaps an adolescent.
Other Sightings - On April 17, two people working at the body shop that rented McVeigh the Ryder truck, Eldon Elliott and Vicki Beemer, have said they saw McVeigh and another man in the shop, but neither can describe the second man. Estella Weigel, a health care worker, has already testified she saw a man who looked like “John Doe No. 2” driving an old Mercury similar in year and color to one owned by McVeigh sometime between 7 and 8 a.m. on April 17 (see December 2-3, 1997). [New York Times, 12/10/1997]
Entity Tags: Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Vicki Beemer, Estella Weigel, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Darvin Ray Bates, Todd David Bunting, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Shane Boyd, Mary Martinez, Kevin Siek, Eldon Elliott, Hilda Sostre, Raymond Siek, Rose Mary Zinn, Morris John Kuper, Jr
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Charles Key. [Source: Oklahoma City Sentinel]An Oklahoma County grand jury investigating alternative theories about the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and June 30, 1997) wraps up without naming any new suspects aside from convicted bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) and Terry Nichols (see June 4, 1998). After hearing 117 witnesses and weathering criticism that its work gave legitimacy to wild conspiracy theories surrounding the blast, the grand jury reports: “We cannot affirmatively state that absolutely no one else was involved in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. However, we have not been presented with or uncovered information sufficient to indict any additional conspirators.” [District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma, 12/30/1998; New York Times, 12/31/1998; The Oklahoman, 4/2009]
Findings - The jury reviewed documentation of a number of “warning” telephone calls to federal and local law enforcement agencies, and determined that none of them warned of a bombing attack against the Murrah Building, or any other attack. One such call came a week before the blast, a 911 call from an Oklahoma City restaurant that warned the operator of an upcoming bombing. The caller gave no more details. Police quickly looked into the call and determined it came from a mental patient who lived in a nearby care facility. The jury also investigated the numerous claims of sightings of a possible third bomber, “John Doe No. 2,” and determined that the information given by the witnesses was so disparate and general that nothing useful could be concluded. The jury reports that the sightings were most likely of Todd Bunting, an Army private who had no connection to McVeigh or the bombing (see January 29, 1997). “The similarity of… Todd Bunting to the composite of John Doe No. 2 [is] remarkable, particularly when you take into account Bunting’s tattoo of a Playboy bunny on his upper left arm and the fact that he was wearing a black T-shirt and a Carolina Panthers ball cap when he was at Elliott’s Body Shop,” the report states. Witness statements of “John Doe No. 2” fleeing the scene of the bombing in a “brown pickup truck” were erroneous, the report finds. A brown pickup truck did leave the area shortly before the bombing, driven by an employee of the Journal Record Building near the Murrah Building. The driver left the building shortly before the bombing after being informed that her child was ill. The jury finds no evidence that the bombing was orchestrated by the federal government, or that any agency knew about the bombing in advance. [District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma, 12/30/1998; Denver Post, 1/9/1999]
Journalist Indicted for Jury Tampering - The jury does bring an indictment against investigative journalist David Hoffman, who will plead guilty to jury tampering, admitting that he sent one of the alternate grand jurors a letter copy of a book on conspiracy theories about the bombing. In a sealed indictment, the jury cited Hoffman for “improper and perhaps illegal attempts to exert influence on the outcome of our investigation.” Hoffman will be given a suspended sentence and 200 hours of community service. Hoffman will later call the indictment “a sham charge by a corrupt government designed to silence me,” and will write a book, The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror, which says the government falsely accused McVeigh and Nichols of the crime, concealing the involvement of others, perhaps members of neo-Nazi groups with which McVeigh was involved (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994 and (April 1) - April 18, 1995). [New York Times, 12/31/1998; Vanity Fair, 9/2001; Lukeford (.net), 11/25/2002]
Report Denounced - Former Oklahoma State Representative Charles R. Key (R-Oklahoma City), who helped convene the grand jury, immediately denounces the findings. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001] Key has insisted that McVeigh and Nichols had unplumbed connections with Islamist terrorists (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, and 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After), and has insisted that what he calls “revisionist news reports” by the mainstream media have failed to show Islamist connections to the bombing. He has even implied that government officials were complicit in the bombing. [Charles Key, 3/12/1997] The grand jury reports, “We can state with assurance that we do not believe that the federal government had prior knowledge that this horrible terrorist attack was going to happen.” The jury findings are “a ditto of what the federal government presented in the McVeigh trial,” Key states. “It had huge, gaping holes.” Glenn Wilburn, who lost two grandchildren in the bombing, died in 1997 before the jury returned its findings. Key has set up a private non-profit group, the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, which also gathered information about possible witnesses and submitted their names to the grand jury and urged Congress not to let the federal investigation drop. Key says that group will issue a final report of its own that “will read quite differently than this report today.” [District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma, 12/30/1998; New York Times, 12/31/1998]
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