Evidence cited tying McVeigh to Okla. bomb Prosecutors ask judge to deny defense bid to suppress material

June 11, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Federal law enforcement officials revealed yesterday 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 of McVeigh and his co-defendant, Terry L. Nichols.

Evidence investigators found at Nichols' home in Kansas is considered crucial to the government's case against him because they say it portrays him in a other than as merely a friend of McVeigh's 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 yesterday, 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 its court brief, the government argued strenuously that all of the critical evidence was taken during legal searches of the suspects' homes, vehicles, post office boxes, and clothing. Investigators even analyzed McVeigh's hair and searched under his fingernails.

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

But defense attorneys contend that the searches were carried out illegally by zealous FBI agents desperate to make quick arrests in what because 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 the FBI improperly seized his personal possessions for analysis even before he was told he was a suspect in the bombing. Lawyers for Nichols suggest 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, along with scrapings from underneath his fingernails, "proved negative" for explosives residue.

Another new piece of government evidence is a March 25, 1995, letter prosecutors say 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.

In fact, the government said, Nichols turned himself in to authorities after "he sensed he was being followed and he did 'not want another Waco.' " The phrase referred to Nichols'

anti-government feelings and the FBI raid on a religious cult in Waco, Texas.

Later this month, government and defense lawyers will square off in a hearing in Denver to argue further which evidence should be admitted during the trial.

Pub Date: 6/11/96

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