Stolen weapons linked to Okla. bombing suspects

July 03, 1995|By New York Times News Service

Federal investigators have linked weapons stolen in a robbery in rural Arkansas last November to suspects in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April.

Several of the 66 rifles and shotguns and eight handguns stolen from an Arkansas gun collector have been matched to weapons seized in a search of the Herrington, Kan., home of Terry L. Nichols, one of two suspects being held in the bombing, officials say. That search, conducted shortly after the bombing, netted 33 weapons.

And, in a fortuitous twist to the case, a rare rifle from the robbery has been discovered in a gun shop in Kingman, Ariz., the main haunt of the prime suspect in the bombing, Timothy J. McVeigh. The gun shop's owner has told federal agents that he bought the rifle from one of Mr. McVeigh's few known associates in Kingman.

The robbery last November of Roger Moore, a gun collector in Royal, Ark., assumed prominence in the investigation last month when documents in federal court in Detroit revealed that a key to a bank safe-deposit box taken during the robbery had been found in the search of Mr. Nichols' house.

Mr. Moore, who says he lost about $60,000 worth of guns, jewels, silver bars and gold coins in the robbery, has told the FBI that he believed that Mr. McVeigh was involved in the robbery.

He had met Mr. McVeigh several times on the gun show circuit, Mr. Moore told investigators, and the bombing suspect had occasionally stayed at his house during his frequent travels.

Last Monday, two FBI agents in the tiny high desert town of Kingman -- more than a hundred agents were there at one point -- were in the A&P pawnshop, casually discussing weaponry and coyote hunting, when the owner, Jim Fuller, mentioned an unusual rifle he had just bought.

The weapon was described as a Winchester Model-43 .22-caliber Hornet rifle, which was manufactured in relatively limited quantities, and was said to be further identified by a custom-made walnut stock with rosewood trim.

Mr. Fuller has told investigators that he bought the weapon for about $300 from James Rosencrans, the next-door neighbor and close friend of Mr. McVeigh's old Army buddy, Michael Fortier.

On Saturday, neighbors said, a half dozen cars carrying FBI agents pulled up to Mr. Rosencrans' trailer and began a search, emerging with at least one box of material.

Mr. Fortier, federal officials said, is negotiating with prosecutors over the possibility of testifying against Mr. McVeigh in exchange for leniency.

He has reportedly told them that the traveled to Oklahoma City with Mr. McVeigh before the explosion to study the building and that Mr. McVeigh had confided his plans for the bombing.

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