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Residues Said to Link McVeigh to Bombing

Terrorism: Prosecutors contend that substances on clothing, possessions relate to Oklahoma City attack that killed 168. Legal brief also boosts Nichols' role.

June 11, 1996|RICHARD A. SERRANO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement officials revealed Monday that residues found on Timothy J. McVeigh's clothing and other possessions appear to link him to the Oklahoma City bombing, and they also said that he warned a friend shortly before the blast last year to "watch what you say" because the "G-men" might find out.

The new allegations are included in court papers prosecutors filed in Denver asking a federal judge to deny defense requests to suppress critical evidence at the trial in the bombing of McVeigh and co-defendant Terry L. Nichols.

Investigators said that evidence found at Nichols' home in Kansas is considered crucial to the government's case because, they said, it portrays him as playing a greater role in the bombing than that of a friend of McVeigh who was not in Oklahoma City at the time of the blast. They said they found a fuel meter and white barrels with blue plastic lids, all of which could have been used in preparing the bomb.

"An unprecedented crime of terror had occurred in Oklahoma," government lawyers said Monday, and FBI agents "had reason to believe that Kansas may have been the staging ground and that Nichols may have facilitated McVeigh's efforts in building the bomb."

In their court brief, the government declared that all of the critical evidence was taken during legal searches of the defendants' homes, vehicles, post office boxes and clothing. Investigators even analyzed McVeigh's hair and searched under his fingernails.

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"There is no basis for suppressing any evidence seized in connection with the searches," the prosecutors said.

But defense attorneys contended that the searches were done illegally by zealous FBI agents desperate to make quick arrests in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killed 168 people and injured 600.

Attorneys for McVeigh said that the FBI improperly seized his personal possessions for analysis even before he was told that he was a suspect in the bombing. Lawyers for Nichols suggested that he was interrogated by the FBI before he was advised of his right against self-incrimination.

McVeigh was arrested in Perry, Okla. "Forensic laboratory testing performed upon McVeigh's clothing and possessions has revealed the presence of residues relevant to this prosecution," prosecutors said in their legal brief.

However, they did not disclose the type of residue, or whether it matched the ammonium nitrate and other components believed used in the bomb. The government also said that forensic tests of hair samples from McVeigh's head, forearms and pubic area, along with scrapings from underneath his fingernails, "proved negative" for explosives residue.

Another new piece of government evidence is a March 25, 1995, letter that prosecutors said McVeigh wrote advising against sending anything to his post office box in Kingman, Ariz. The letter warns a friend not to mail anything after April 1, 1995, and to "watch what you say" because "the G-men might get it out of my box."

Nichols made voluntary statements to the FBI after surrendering in Kansas, prosecutors said, adding that he agreed to allow agents to search his home and belongings.

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