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Fertilizer Receipts the Focus at Nichols Trial

The Nation

March 30, 2004|From Associated Press

McALESTER, Okla. — A man using an alias linked to Terry L. Nichols bought more ammonium nitrate fertilizer from a farmer's co-op in Kansas than almost anyone else in the year before the Oklahoma City bombing, an FBI agent testified Monday.

Such fertilizer was a key ingredient in the bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people.

A receipt for 2,000 pounds of the material, dated Sept. 30, 1994, was discovered in Nichols' Herington, Kan., home during a search by FBI agents three days after the bombing. It listed the purchaser as Mike Havens.

FBI agent Louis Michalko testified at Nichols' murder trial that he reviewed about 132,000 sales tickets from the Mid Kansas Cooperative Assn. to find others who bought fertilizer from Jan. 1, 1994, up to the date of the bombing.

"We wanted to see if this receipt that was found in Mr. Nichols' home was typical or was unusual in some way," Michalko said.

Michalko said his analysis determined that Havens bought a total of 4,000 pounds of fertilizer during the period, ranking him the third-largest buyer behind a local experimental field and a school district.

And, he said, Havens was the only major fertilizer purchaser who paid cash.

Nichols is on trial on 161 state charges of murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. He is already serving a life sentence on federal charges in the attack.

Prosecutors allege Nichols and Timothy J. McVeigh gathered components for the fertilizer-and-fuel-oil bomb and built it. McVeigh was convicted of federal murder charges and executed in 2001.

A worker at the co-op, Jerry Showalter, testified that he took part in the Sept. 30 sale to Havens. But neither Showalter nor Frederick Schlender Jr., who ran the co-op's branch in McPherson, Kan., and who testified Friday, could identify Nichols as the buyer.

Showalter said he asked the buyer how he planned to use the fertilizer, which is not generally used in agriculture in the area. The buyer said he planned to fertilize a field with a drill apparatus.

Prosecutors say Nichols stole blasting caps and detonation cord from a rock quarry -- items similar to those used in the bombing.

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