April 25, 1995 in Nation/World

Feds Hunt Suspects; City Buries Victims Oklahoma City Death Toll Rises To 83; More Than 100 Missing

Philadelphia Inquirer
 

As Oklahoma City began burying its dead Monday, federal agents continued their hunt for suspects and rescuers continued their hunt for bodies - and, they hope, survivors - in the nation’s bloodiest terrorist attack.

Despite an inundation of tips, investigators had yet to apprehend the second man identified as a suspect in the bombing.

Federal law enforcement sources said they had come up with “several” names in their search for the tattooed companion of suspect Timothy James McVeigh, who has been charged with the bombing.

“There was a big high when we got the first guy so quickly and now we’re discovering that it takes a lot of hard work to find the other,” one source said.

The number of dead increased to 83 and as the families of the more than 100 people still missing continued their wait, hope began to falter.

“People here now are clearly in the stages of grief,” counselor Dan Nelson said at a Red Cross shelter at a church where many families have gathered. “Reality is sinking in.”

That reality is the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah federal building where Wednesday’s blast shattered the facade, sending the building’s material and human contents tumbling. No one has been recovered from the debris alive since Thursday.

Monday, searchers pulled the body of a uniformed Marine from the rubble. The 28-year-old captain had worked in a recruiting office, and as rescuers carried out the body bag they draped an American flag over him.

Military personnel at the site formed an honor guard and the rescuers doffed their helmets. “For 15 seconds everything stopped,” said Paul Maniscalco, an emergency worker who helped find the body.

Then the work quickly resumed, for there was much to be done.

By the end of the day, authorities finished their search of the building’s top seven floors, marking each with an American flag as it was completed. Today, they said they hoped to reach the day-care center and the Social Security office, where they expect to find many more bodies.

Thirteen of the dead are children, and Ray Blakeney, a spokesman for the state Medical Examiner’s Office, said, “I think we still have an additional 13 to 15 children missing.”

Tuesday, the federal building re sembled a giant ant farm as firefighters in bright yellow and orange protective gear scurried through its layers. They shored up the structure with timber and steel beams and, working by hand and with jackhammers, dumped tons of concrete into bins that were swept away by three cranes.

Public response to the tragedy has been awe-inspiring. The rescue workers have been treated like heroes in Oklahoma City. And Monday, the Red Cross reported that contributions had totaled more than $4 million, which it said would pay for its efforts here.

The FBI has reported a similar gush of responses in what it needs: tips for its investigation.

More than 9,000 calls have poured into the FBI’s tip line, and agents throughout the nation are involved in the probe, using computers to keep track of the flood of information.

In Oklahoma City, Weldon Kennedy, the agent leading the investigation, said FBI lab experts had focused on the videotape from a surveillance camera at business near the federal building, saying “it may depict the Ryder truck” agents believe contained the bomb. He asked any other businesses with cameras in the vicinity to forward their tapes to the FBI.

Kennedy said agents were continuing their hunt for a square-jawed man they are calling John Doe 2, who is a prime suspect in the bombing.

On Friday, authorities charged McVeigh, 27, whom they said was “John Doe 1,” with the bombing. Investigators got their biggest break when McVeigh was arrested on a traffic violation just 90 minutes after the bombing.

He was still sitting in a rural county jail near Oklahoma City when they developed the information that led them to connect McVeigh to the attack.

Reportedly calling himself a “prisoner of war,” McVeigh has not been cooperating with investigators.

Monday, his two court-appointed attorneys asked to be taken off the case. One of them, John W. Coyle III, said his family had been threatened. He also said a friend of his had been killed in the blast. Both lawyers have also asked the court to move the case out of Oklahoma.

“We have fair judges, fair jurors,” Coyle said. “But this is too much to ask of any grand juror, any trial juror.”

Sources in Washington said the number of people directly involved in the bombing conspiracy was likely to be about five.

“If this was a large conspiracy, then we would have an easier time picking up some of these leads,” a source said.

Federal sources said at least one of two brothers now in custody as material witnesses in the case would likely be charged in connection with the bombing within the next day or two, but cautioned they were not certain. Those brothers are Terry Nichols, 40, who was arrested in Kansas over the weekend, and his brother James Nichols, 41, who was arrested in Michigan.

One Graphics: 2nd floor: Day care center (This graphics containes an ariel photo of the building)


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