Brothers hold anti-government views

April 22, 1995|By Knight-Ridder News Service

DECKER, Mich. -- Even before yesterday's raid on the family farmhouse in Decker, the Nichols brothers were known for their radical beliefs about politics and farming.

"They're definitely anti-government," said Dan Stomber, a neighbor. "Everybody here knows that. . . . They seemed decent enough, just a little weird."

Terry Nichols, 40, turned himself in late yesterday afternoon to authorities in Herington, Kan., and was being questioned. Authorities were trying to determine whether he was the man identified as John Doe No. 2, the second suspect in the Oklahoma City bombing.

The FBI descended on the Decker farm yesterday in search of evidence but would not say whether they seized any items. They interviewed James Nichols, but did not arrest him.

How or where the Nichols brothers might fit into Michigan's complicated structure of anti-government extremist groups was uncertain.

It was unclear whether the brothers belonged to the paramilitary group called the Michigan Militia.

Militia member John Simpson said that Terry Nichols attended one meeting, at which he complained about the government, but never came to another.

Elgie Zerod, a retired registered nurse in Bay City, Mich., is a member of the Michigan Militia and the For The People Club, an anti-government group in Caro, Mich. She said the Nichols brothers also are members of the club, which meets in the afternoons on the first and third Saturday of every month.

However, Russ Bellant, a Detroit-area writer and expert on right-wing political activity, said the two had never come to the attention of those who monitor such activity.

"If they are involved, they are way underground," Mr. Bellant said. "Usually only federal agents have anything on anybody at that level."

The brothers grew up in Lapeer, Mich., and later moved to Decker after their mother bought a 160-acre farm there in 1975.

"He was just as normal as you could be," said Bill Miller, who graduated from Lapeer High School with James Nichols in 1972.

"We'd go over to his folks' house and have hay rides and just kind of do the things you do when you're a teen-ager."

The white farmhouse in Decker was the scene of a tragedy on Nov. 22, 1993, when Terry's 2-year-old son Jason suffocated there. County records show that the death was ruled accidental.

Neighbors said they believed Terry and his wife divorced after the boy's death. Terry left the area about a year and a half ago, they said.

James Nichols, also divorced, was known throughout the county for his experiments in organic farming. He believed in fertilizing his fields with lime, molasses and other natural substances instead of chemicals.

Friends and neighbors described James Nichols as a tax protester who tried to avoid all government bureaucracy. He attended meetings of an anti-tax group, avoided paying income taxes and turned in his driver's license.

"It's a principle with him," said Frank Kieltyka, a gun dealer and friend of James Nichols. "He doesn't want his name on any list."

Bill Brown of Vigoro Industries in Cass City, Mich., a fertilizer supplier, said James Nichols marks all his money with a stamp that explains that he is not responsible for backing up its value.

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