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Prosecutors Offer Evidence of Huge McVeigh Fertilizer Buy

May 03, 1997|RICHARD A. SERRANO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DENVER — Prosecutors in the trial of Timothy J. McVeigh presented evidence and testimony Friday that suggested McVeigh and Terry L. Nichols made two large purchases of highly explosive ammonium nitrate fertilizer in the months before the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

Using sales receipts and testimony from an official at a Kansas grain cooperative, the government showed that there were two large cash transactions in the fall of 1994 in which they contend McVeigh and Nichols used an alias to obtain as much as 4,000 pounds of the highly explosive fertilizer.

Robert Nattier, president and general manager of the Mid-Kansas Co-Op, said that a man who called himself Mike Havens purchased 40 bags of ammonium nitrate weighing 50 pounds each at the co-op's McPherson, Kan., branch for $228.74 on Sept. 30, 1994. On Oct. 18 he bought 40 more bags for the same price.

Prosecutors contend that the name Havens was used as an alias as the two former army buddies began collecting bomb components. On April 19, 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was destroyed by a large truck bomb allegedly carrying a mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. The bombing killed 168 people and injured more than 500.

McVeigh is on trial now. Nichols is to be tried later. Both have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they could receive the death penalty.

Also testifying Friday was Timothy Donahue, who helps run a large family farm near Marion, Kan. Nichols worked as a hired hand there between March and September 1994. Nichols also lived on the farm and during that time, Donahue said, McVeigh visited him at least twice.

Donahue testified that on Sept. 30, 1994, the day of the first purchase of ammonium nitrate, McVeigh and Nichols were gone for much of the afternoon. When they returned, he said, McVeigh was replacing a camper shell on Nichols' pickup truck--a suggestion that the men had used the bed of the truck to haul the ammonium nitrate.

Testimony also was heard from Al Radtke, a driller and blaster at the Martin Marietta rock quarry near Marion. Prosecutors allege that McVeigh and Nichols broke into the quarry in early October 1994 and stole blasting caps and dynamite.

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