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Leg Found at Bomb Site Hikes Mother's Fears

August 20, 1995|RICHARD A. SERRANO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — As forensics research continues in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, an indigent woman said Saturday she believes that a severed leg found in the debris of the federal office building could belong to her drifter son.

Roberta Bennett, 60, said in an interview from an Oklahoma City shelter that she fears her 29-year-old son, Sidney Aaron McCallum, was killed the morning of April 19 when he visited the Social Security office at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Bolstering her fears, Bennett said she last saw her son dressed in military-style boots and a camouflage outfit, clothing that matches that found on the severed leg.

Bennett said it wasn't until several days after the bombing that she learned her son was at the building the day of the blast. But she said she did not immediately notify authorities because he was being sought on several arrest warrants and she did not want her son, an ex-convict, to return to prison.

"But now I'd just like to find out if it was my son and put it to rest," Bennett said. "And then I'd like to be left alone a little bit. This is upsetting."

Officials in the county medical examiner's office declined to comment, saying they most likely will make a statement Monday.

Identifying the leg is considered crucial because defense attorneys for bombing suspect Timothy J. McVeigh contend it could belong to the "real" assailant.

A total of 167 victims have been positively identified in the blast, and one rescue worker also died. Even though the leg remains officially unidentified, the medical examiner has not yet opened a 169th homicide file.

Local authorities are waiting for the results of FBI tests. Those tests include DNA sampling as well as hair and tissue research to narrow and hopefully reveal the origin of the leg specimen.

But the FBI tests might not be completed for several weeks, sources said. A series of blue dots around the kneecap might have been caused by bomb debris or might be signs of bone disease or decay.

The medical examiner's office has said there is a 75% probability that the leg was from a man younger than 30, light-skinned with dark hair, about 5 feet, 5 inches tall.

Bennett described her son as 5 feet, 7 inches, 160 pounds, of Anglo and Native American descent, with brown-black hair and a small mustache. He had a rabbit tattoo on his forearm.

"About three weeks before the bombing was the last time I saw my son, in front of Jesus House," she said. "He was wearing this all-military camouflage outfit, with pants tucked in the boot and the whole thing. He was in this whole entire uniform. And he seemed to be so proud to be in it.

"But that's not like him. He doesn't wear clothes like that. He was never in the Army. I asked him again why he was in that clothing."

She said he did not respond and left with a man in a business suit who appeared to be Middle Eastern.

A few days after the bombing, her son's friends told her they had dropped him off at the federal building the morning of the blast.

Bennett said she watched the newspaper and checked with the Red Cross as the victim list grew.

"They ended with 168 people and that was it, and his name wasn't on the list," she said. "I thought he must not have been there. But then they found this leg and they said the word military . . . . So now I think possibly it might be him. But I'm still hoping not."

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