Listen: After Investigators tie the name Robert D. Kling from a rental agreement for a Ryder Truck, the nationwide manhunt descends upon the Noble County, Oklahoma Jail, and a man arrested in a Mercury Marquis for failing to display a proper license plate. The world learned his name for the first time: Timothy James McVeigh. Who was he? Where did he come from? What does he stand for? Continue reading to find out, including a few pictures introduced at the trial.
Timothy McVeigh vs. The USA – Episode 2
With that description of Robert Kling in hand, Junction City became a new host to federal agents doing a good-old-fashioned neighborhood canvas. They fanned out across town asking whether anyone saw a man fitting that description driving a Ryder Truck. Eric McGowan was 19 years old, living on the edge of Junction City with his mother at the Motel they run called The Dreamland Motel located about 4.5 miles away from Elliott’s.
Had he ever seen the man matching the sketches with the Ryder truck? He replied that his mother rented room number 25 to him on April 14th. McGowan recalls having three encounters with him. Once he struck a conversation up because the man’s car had an electric trunk opener – something that struck the teenager as strange given how old the man’s car was. The next encounter happened because his mother told him to move the truck he was now driving because he had parked in a permanent resident’s spot. The truck? A large Yellow Ryder. The man politely moved it. The third time, McGowan noticed that the man was having trouble trying to close the back of the truck. When he retrieved the registration card for the man in room #25, investigators learned for the first time the name Tim McVeigh. The address listed on the registration card was 3616 N. Van Dyke, Decker Michigan; the vehicle was listed as a Mercury, with Arizona Plates, L2C-034.
When people get arrested in America, their names are to be listed with the National Crime Information Center. Other law enforcement agencies have access to this database and can run the information, checking on an arrestee’s criminal history. There was in fact one person arrested in America around that time with the name resembling the name listed on Dreamland’s registration. A “Timothy James Mcveigh” was arrested by Oklahoma State Highway Patrol Trooper named Charles Hanger about 70 miles north of Murrah on the morning of the bombing, April 19th. Investigators learned that McVeigh was still in the Noble County Jail, awaiting arraignment and a bail hearing on a weapons charge.
On the morning of April 19th, Trooper Hanger heard about the explosion in Oklahoma City and headed there, going south on Interstate Highway 35. Before he got to Oklahoma City, however, dispatch told him to stand down and maintain his patrol. Some time passed when he noticed a 1977 4-door Mercury Marquis, with a primer spot on the left rear quarter panel. There was no legal problem with the primer spot – it was the fact that there was no tag on the car that caught his attention. He turned around to pull the Marquis over. The driver complied, parking partially on the shoulder and the grass. Trooper Hanger was on high alert – not because of the bombing, but because another trooper had been recently shot nearby.
A white male exited the Marquis as Hanger explained the reason why he pulled him over – no tag. The man replied he had recently purchased the vehicle, so he wouldn’t have a bill of sale. When the man reached for his driver’s license, the hypervigilant Trooper noticed a bulge under his left arm: “What is that?” “I have a gun,” the man replied. Trooper Hanger retrieved the gun and threw it on the side of the Roadway. When asked why he had the gun, the man said, “I have a right to carry it for my protection.” The man also had a knife and a clip.
Trooper Hanger identified the driver by his license as a Timothy James McVeigh. He put McVeigh in his cruiser, retrieved the gun and knife, and put them in the trunk for safekeeping. He noted that the gun was loaded with a particularly destructive bullet called a Black Talon Round, designed to cause maximum damage to its target by expanding upon impact. The Trooper called in McVeigh’s name and identifying information to check for warrants, and to give the serial number of the gun in case it had been reported stolen. Overhearing this, McVeigh volunteered the serial number of the gun from his memory: VM769, he said. Though he was off by one letter – VW, not VM – Trooper Hanger thought it strange he committed the serial number to memory.
When asked about the missing plate, McVeigh told the trooper he purchased the car in Junction City, Kansas from a Firestone dealer named Tom for $250, and consented to the search of his car. Hanger told him that he was under arrest for unlawfully carrying the handgun, and gave McVeigh the option to leave the car there on the side of the road, or have it towed where it would be impounded, and the contents catalogued. McVeigh opted to leave the car on the side of the road. After the 18-20 minute transport to the Noble County jail, he escorted McVeigh inside to be booked in. His clothes and personal property were collected and catalogued and stored in a bank bag. Included in McVeigh’s property was a set of earplugs. On his white t-shirt was a drawing of Abraham Lincoln on top of the words: “Sic Semper Tyrannis.” The Latin phrase means bad outcomes will befall tyrants, or “Death Unto Tyrants.” Officially, he was arrested for unlawfully carrying a weapon, transporting a loaded weapon in a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle without a license tag. These misdemeanor charges carried a potential sentence of up to a year in the county jail. McVeigh was booked in without incident, and Hanger eventually left for the day to go home.
One his way home, as is his common practice, Hanger looked through his car to make sure there was nothing laying around that could be used as a weapon against him by another arrested person. He discovered and collected a crumpled business card on the floor behind the seat McVeigh used that read, “Paulsen’s Military Supply Store.” On the back it read, “Dave…TNT at $5 a stick, need more. 708-288-0128 – Call after 1 May, see if I can get some more.”
In studying Charles Albright’s case in Season 1, we identified the step by step process investigators walk that lead to a particular defendant as the “Homicide Chain.” By connecting the VIN number on the axle to a Ryder Truck rental agreement for Robert Kling at Elliott’s body shop in Junction City, to a neighborhood canvass that included the Dreamland Motel, which uncovered a man using a Ryder Truck who rented room number 25 named Tim McVeigh, who was coincidentally arrested for a weapons charge, FBI agents had consistent links from the bombing in Oklahoma City to the man in the Noble County Jail. But just a few days after the explosion, they knew very little about him. Investigators obtained a search warrant for the Marquis still sitting on the grass and gravel of I-35, thus beginning the process to learn more about Timothy McVeigh.
The Motive that Befell Murrah
After the suspect is developed, the homicide chain becomes a working hypothesis that evidence gathered during the course of the investigation either proves or disproves. Links are either fortified or broken along the way. In Season 1, we studied the People of California v. Charles “Tex” Watson in the “Tex and Charlie” series. Tex and the rest of the Manson family told the world their motives by writing it in blood on the refrigerator: “Helter Skelter.” Tying this unique or idiosyncratic motive to Tex Watson became a prominent circumstance of guilt – link – against him in that trial. Discerning and then tying the unique motive expressed in the crime that befell Murrah could likewise become a prominent circumstance of guilt against McVeigh.
Motive is the force which instigates human conduct. It is the spring of all human action, including crime. Although some motives are hard to detect or pinpoint with certainty, an instigating reason for every crime always exists. Is it a good enough reason? Perhaps not to you or me, but that isn’t the test. Since the instigating force that springs the suspect into action is necessarily subjective and personal, the test is always whether the suspected motive provided a good enough reason to the person suspected of committing the crime. Once a motive is identified in the crime, and once a suspect is developed, the quest for investigators becomes twofold. First, to discern the instant in time if and when the apparent motive was born or awakened in the mind of the accused. We’ll refer to this as the “rule of inception.” Second, to determine whether the mind and character of the suspect is capable of being sprung into action by that particular motive. We’ll refer to this as the “rule of imprinting.”
We’ll begin by discerning the motive from the appearance of the crime scene. The use of a weapon of the size big enough to cause as much damage as was caused that April morning implies a certain amount of planning, skill, and knowledge. It also requires the collection, storage and delivery of a number of unique and sizable components. Although impossible to say with precision, the plan must have existed for some sufficient amount of time to allow for the instrument to be created and dispatched. Second, the scale of the bomb and the damage makes it unlikely that the murderous animosity was directed against a singular individual. Nothing about the crime seemed to reciprocate pecuniary gain, either. Instead, the bomber appears to have desired mass destruction and indiscriminate mass casualty. This means the motive must have been driven by the desire to gratify some broader unlawful desire, perhaps fame, revenge, or redress.
This ties into another lesson we learned in Season 1, this one from Jud Ray in the Eyeball Killer case: victimology. The term refers to the need to gain a complete understanding of the identity and status of the victim in order to help investigators determine how and why the paths of the victim and suspect crossed. Murrah’s formal title – The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building – adorned the face of the building, and confirmed it belonged to the United States Government. It housed a number of federal agencies, including the FBI and ATF. Murrah appeared to be the lone target that morning, the victim of one mid-range velocity device, whose bite marked wound and corresponding dispersion pattern indicated that the blast was directed into the building. Since the perpetrator apparently directed his murderous intent at the building itself, Murrah’s wound is most consistent with a suspect’s desire for revenge or redress against what the building represented to the suspect himself.
Now that the motive was potentially identified from the appearance of the crime scene, and Timothy James McVeigh, the man in the Noble County Jail, was tied with some force to the Ryder Truck axle that landed 575 feet away from Murrah’s bite mark, investigators had to answer two questions, the second building on the first: 1) Did he possess a motive against Murrah and what it stood for or represented (the rule of inception)? 2) Was he the type of person that could actually commit the crime of dispatching a weapon of mass destruction in an American city, indiscriminately killing numerous people (the rule of imprinting)? In order to uncover these answers, investigators started with the man himself: Who was he, where’d he come from, where was he going, and what did he have with him. We’ll start with where he came from.
Flawless Devotion to Duty
The man Trooper Hanger pulled over on I-35 on April 19th, 1995 at 10:20 AM was born on April 23, 1968 in Lockport, New York, son of William and Mildred McVeigh. He has a younger sister by six years named Jennifer, and another sister Patricia, two years his senior. Tim’s dad, William “Bill” McVeigh, had been an auto worker since 1963. His mother Mickie worked most frequently as a travel agent.
McVeigh grew up in upstate New York. He started the first grade in September of 1974 in Lockport, a small town just outside of Buffalo, and continued all of his schooling there. During his senior year, he got an “Honor Pass Award,” given to students who exhibited above average academic performance and initiative. He graduated from Star Point High School in June of 1986. Although he was awarded a small regents scholarship to a state university in New York, he never went to college. He first started working at Burger King in the fall of 1986, a job he held until the spring of 1987. He next worked as an armored car driver for Burke’s Security in Buffalo until he joined the United States Army in May of 1988.
His permanent station became Fort Riley, Kansas. He became a gunner for a Bradley fighting vehicle, repeatedly throughout his Army service achieving a Top Gun ranking. In fact, he ranked first among 93 other Bradley gunners. He achieved extraordinary advancement in the enlisted ranks from a private E1 to a sergeant E5 in less than three years.
When Operation Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm, he served in the Kuwait/Iraq operations. He was literally on the front line and made one of the first invasions into the enemy area. During this service in the military, he earned one of our Nation’s highest awards, the Bronze Star because his, “flawless devotion to duty truly exemplified the finest traditions of the military service.” He also earned the Army Commendation Medal for, “meritorious achievement with valor during Operation Desert Storm while assigned as an infantryman to Team Alpha Task Force on February 25th, 1991 in Southern Iraq. He inspired all members of his squad and platoon by destroying an enemy machine-gun placement, killing two Iraqi soldiers and forcing the surrender of 30 other enemy soldiers in dug-in positions.” His unit was chosen to be the inner perimeter guard at the site where General Norman Schwarzkopf and his opposite number in the Iraqi army arranged the terms of the armistice that ended the war. After the war, he returned to the United States, intent on joining into the Special Forces. Although he had been given the opportunity to postpone trying out for the special forces, he went for it. The problem was that he had lost a considerable amount of weight while in the desert he wasn’t physically fit enough to succeed. He dropped out on the second day. He went back to Fort Riley, stayed in the service and then eventually got out in 1992. It was a regretfully disappointing end to his once-promising Army career.
Around this time, two events pitting the United States government against its own citizens unfolded. Both significantly shaped McVeigh’s worldview. The first happened in August of 1992, in an Idaho town 40 miles away from the Canadian border called Ruby Ridge. United States Federal Marshals were engaged in an 11 day standoff with a former United States Army Engineer named Randy Weaver. It all began because Weaver was under indictment and awaiting trial for illegally purchasing 2 sawed off shotguns from undercover agents. The trial date was moved, and a letter was sent to him alerting him of the new trial date. However, the new date as listed in the notification letter was incorrect. When he missed his court date, a warrant was issued for his arrest, and agents were dispatched to serve the warrant. On August 22, an FBI Sniper fired two shots at Weaver thinking Weaver was going to shoot at an FBI helicopter. The first hit Weaver in the arm; the second hit Weaver’s wife in the face, killing her. Weaver surrendered, and was charged with a host of crimes, including Murder. The fallout from the ordeal was immense, viewed by many like McVeigh as a deadly, tyrannical exercise of power by the United States Government against its own citizens.
A few months later, FBI agents obtained search warrants for the Branch Davidian Compound 13 miles outside of Waco, Texas. The group was suspected of stockpiling weapons illegally. When agents went to serve the warrant, a gunfight ensued. Several Agents and Branch Davidians were killed, and the warrant remained unexecuted. A 51 day-standoff followed. On April 19th, 1993, the FBI initiated the execution of the warrant with tear gas, and stormed the compound. Fires broke out, igniting the entire structure. In all, 76 Branch Davidians were killed that day, including their leader David Koresh. Michelle Rauch was a journalism student from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. During the standoff, she traveled to Mt. Carmel just outside of Waco looking for a story. By pure happenstance, she decided to interview a man sitting on the hood of his car. He was selling bumper stickers, some of which read, “Politicians love gun control,” and “A man with a gun is a citizen, a man without a gun is a subject.” It was Tim McVeigh, and he agreed to be interviewed: “The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. [It] is continually growing bigger and more powerful, and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.”
McVeigh concluded that the federal government unjustifiably killed its own people in Waco and Ruby Ridge and was covering it up. Both were strong indications, if not direct proof, of an oppressive, anti-democratic government. McVeigh also believed the United Nations was trying to form a one-world government. In order to accomplish this, they had to disarm the American public. “Waco could be the start of the government coming house to house to retrieve the weapons from citizens.” He called this the New World Order – an elite group within the United Nations looking to form a single government to control the world. Americans didn’t see what was happening around them.
McVeigh’s hunger for literature and information of this sort was insatiable. He had a subscription to a magazine called the Patriot Report, a media outlet that talked a lot about this New World Order, and the perceived takeover of America by the United Nations. He read the Spotlight News Magazine, put out by the Liberty Lobby – “All the news that the mainstream media won’t print.” It is, according to its founder William Sweet, a populist conservative magazine that is anti-NAFTA treaties, anti-abortion, and Pro-Gun, but not anti-government.
McVeigh earned money during this time buying, selling and trading guns, ammunition and other gear at gun shows across the country. When he came home to upstate New York to visit his sister Jennifer in November 1994, he was totally immersed and preoccupied with his anti-government sentiment. He brought a video with him to share with her called “Day 51.” He told her he held the ATF and the FBI responsible and felt that someone should be held accountable. He also used her word processor to type some letters, some of which were later recovered by the FBI. One letter in particular was addressed to the American Legion and read, “We members of the Citizen’s militias do not bear our arms to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow those who pervert the constitution, if and when they once again draw first blood – The ATF are a fascist federal group infamous for depriving Americans of their liberties as well as other Constitutionally-guaranteed inalienable rights, such as one’s right to self-defense. Citizen’s militias will hopefully ensure that violations of the Constitution by these power hungry storm troopers of the federal government will not succeed again. After all, who else would come to the rescue of those innocent women and children at Waco? One last question that every American should ask themselves: Did not the British also keep track of the locations of munitions stored by the colonists, just as the ATF admitted doing? Why? Does anyone even study history anymore???” Another letter he wrote on his sister’s word processor was titled “ATF- Read:”
A New Grievance
William Eppright works for the evidence response team for the FBI. His task was to search and collect any evidence from McVeigh’s Mercury Marquis. The car was towed from the side of I-35, and taken in for processing. Inside, Eppright found a cardboard sign, with a note handwritten in large letters: “Not abandoned. Please do not tow, will move by April 23 – needs battery and cable.” He also found an envelope in the car which contained writings on papers and articles, copies of books and pamphlets.
Handwritten on the outside of an envelope: “Obey the Constitution of the United States and we won’t shoot you.” On another clipping, there is a reference to a key incident during the American Revolutionary period in Lexington, Massachusetts. The British sought to disarm the citizens. The citizens fought back. “They stood and fought on principle for their rights and for liberty. And once that historic day-long battle began, farmers and merchants from miles around came to join the fight against the government.” The date of this historic fight? April 19th, 1775. “How many of us thought about the brave stand at Lexington – the armed confrontation which started the war for independence and resulted in the creation of our beloved United States of America? Today, however, most people will not become concerned enough about their freedom to shut off their televisions and look out their doors until something affects them personally and directly.” Another handwritten note from the Mercury: “The recent 51-day siege and massacre of nearly 100 men, women and children in Waco, Texas, was a crime of the greatest magnitude. It was a cruel, sadistic, brutal crime. It was a crime which violated nearly every article of the Bill of Rights and every civil right of the rebellious religious group which lived at that facility. It resembled the burning and obliteration of Christian cities and the annihilation of their inhabitants by Mogul hordes in earlier centuries. There is no longer any doubt, THE US GOVERNMENT HAS DECLARED OPEN WARFARE ON THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. The enemies of freedom – who are the enemies of America – must be made to know that we will not only resist their evil agenda, their imposed decadence, and their oppression, but we will physically fight! They must know that we will not shrink from spilling their blood. The great Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States set the example for patriots when he said, quote, the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants, it is it’s natural manure.”
Finally, among the papers were copies of pages 61 and 2 Andrew MacDonald’s book “The Turner Diaries,” a passage from which had been highlighted: “But the real value of our attacks today lies in the psychological impact not in the immediate casualties. More important though, is what we taught the politicians and bureaucrats. They learned this afternoon that not one of them is beyond our reach. They can huddle behind barbed wire and tanks in the city, or they can hide behind concrete walls and alarms systems at their country estates.” The last portion was highlighted twice, bolder: “But we will find them and kill them.”
Investigators eventually discovered McVeigh’s keen fascination with The Turner Diaries. He discovered the book in the Army, sold copies on the gun show circuit, and shared copies with his sister Jennifer, personal friends Kyle Krause, David Darlak, Kevin Nicholas, and a fellow soldier named Michael Fortier. McVeigh believed that there could be another civil war in America if the government continued to take away guns and strong arm the public. The revolution in real life would resemble the revolution in the Turner Diaries. There, the new civil war was led by a group who had enough of the government. They wanted to strike back against it and at the people who made the laws that infringed upon their rights. They decided they were going to blow up the White House and a Federal building. How’d they do it in the book? A truck bomb made out of ammonium nitrate, nitromethane and anhydrous hydrazine.
The United States of America vs. Timothy James McVeigh
The trial styled the United States of America vs. Timothy James McVeigh was held in Denver, Colorado, Judge Richard Matsch presiding. The largest and deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the United States beget the largest investigation in the history of the United States, second only to the September 11 attacks. 28,000 interviews were conducted, tons – literally tons – of evidence were collected and analyzed. 13 different lawyers questioned 171 witnesses who took the stand, some more than once. Opening statements lasted 1 day. If convicted as charged, Timothy McVeigh faced the death penalty. –End of Episode 2-