By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The recovery of the pickup, fingerprint evidence and Ellis’ statements about the APB did not come up during the federal trials of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Defense attorneys say they were never given the material. Neither Stephen Jones, McVeigh’s lead attorney, nor co-counsel Robert Nigh recalls getting that information. And Michael Tigar, Nichols’ counsel, says he doesn’t remember seeing it either.
This time around, it likely will be different. Oklahoma State Judge Steven Taylor has given Nichols’ defense the green light to present evidence of other conspirators. Taylor will then decide if the jury hears it. The judge also warned prosecutors that he would dismiss the case if state or federal governments have withheld important material from the defense that could help show the defendant’s innocence. State prosecutors have assured the judge that all relevant material was turned over.
Despite that assurance, the Weekly turned up a signed declaration, provided by Nichols’ current prosecutor, Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Sandra Howell-Elliot, in January 2000, stating that the FBI had denied defense teams and the state “intra-agency memoranda between the FBI and a host of other agencies.”
Howell-Elliot filed her declaration in opposition to a freelance writer’s unsuccessful bid to access evidence not introduced in the federal trials. She also claimed the release of these memos would interfere “with our pending enforcement action [Nichols’ trial].”
U.S. District Judge Wayne Alley, who wanted to deny the request, but left the final decision up to the trial judge in McVeigh and Nichols’ case, also noted, “The FBI’s list of responsive materials from its Oklahoma City Field Office includes numerous other videotapes dated April 19, 1995, from several sources.” None of these tapes were released.
According to news reports, FBI agents tried unsuccessfully to interview McVeigh on death row in the hope he would fill in the blanks about the case — for instance, McVeigh’s whereabouts the night before the attack. Officially, they remain a mystery.
But a number of witnesses at an Oklahoma City motel tried to help the FBI answer that question back in 1995. The two-story motel, with its 50 Holiday Inn–style rooms, sits atop several acres, some seven miles from downtown Oklahoma City.
The motel’s co-owner and one current and one former employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, insist McVeigh and some of the Iraqis investigated by former TV reporter Davis were there on April 18. The owner says McVeigh arrived late that afternoon. The motel owner says he was doing maintenance in one of the rooms when the stench of diesel fumes hit him. (The truck bomb was a mixture of diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate.) “I walked outside to see where it was coming from and discovered it was the Ryder.”
McVeigh had parked in an area reserved for recreational vehicles. The owner intended to tell McVeigh to move it. But the truck had disappeared by the time he checked back on it. After the bombing, the owner learned the Ryder truck had been seen at a gas station next to the motel. The attendant told him a Middle Eastern man had bought a lot of diesel. He gave Davis a signed affidavit stating that the driver “paid $120 cash for 100 gallons of diesel fuel.”
The attendant remembered the sale because his customers mostly use credit cards. He told Davis he “scrutinizes” his customers’ faces because he’s been robbed once at gunpoint. He also identified the man from a photo lineup (supplied by KFOR-TV).
The owner says his employees found the Ryder “parked on a gravel-covered area behind the motel the next morning.” The owner also says a brown sport utility vehicle arrived at the same time as the Ryder truck and parked beside it. Two Middle Eastern–looking men were inside. A Mercury Marquis turned up on April 16 and drove on and off the lot until the morning of April 19. (A highway patrolman stopped McVeigh on the interstate shortly after the attack for driving his Mercury Marquis without a license plate. He was arrested for possession of a concealed weapon.)
The owner says McVeigh was with several Iraqis. He and several of his employees picked out their faces from a photo spread provided by Davis and KFOR-TV. The owner insists he also matched one of these men to the FBI’s John Doe No. 2 profile sketch. It was the same man identified by the station attendant. One of the Iraqis, Hussain Alhussaini, later came forward and identified himself as the person being fingered in Davis’ reports as John Doe No. 2.
The rooms have been redecorated since 1995, says the owner. “But the room McVeigh used still has two double beds, a small bathroom and vanity. Back then it also had tan striped wallpaper, a white ceiling and gray carpet. But that’s all changed,” he adds. “It was ugly.”
The morning of April 19, McVeigh and John Doe No. 2 drove the Ryder out shortly before 8 a.m. The Mercury Marquis and the SUV followed them out, the owner continues. “About a half-hour after the bombing, the SUV came back. It raced onto the property and drove to a drainage ditch at the far end of the lot,” he adds. “I was standing with my maintenance man, and we stared at it because it seemed strange.”
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city