April 26, 1995 in Nation/World

Brothers Charged In Explosives Plot Pair Accused Of Conspiracy To Make Bombs In ‘92 And ‘94

Sharon Cohen Associated Press
 

Two brothers were linked in conspiracy charges Tuesday with Oklahoma bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh, and a motel manager in Kansas said he recognized the man in a new FBI sketch of “John Doe 2” as a nervous guest with a foreign accent.

The fast-breaking developments in two states came as rescuers raked through the rubble for bodies and this grieving city continued to bury its dead. The pace of recovering bodies quickened and the death toll rose to 96.

In Michigan, federal prosecutors charged James Nichols, a 41-year-old farmer, and his brother, Terry, 40, with conspiring to make explosive devices. They were accused of conspiring with McVeigh, the 27-year-old Army veteran charged in the explosion that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building.

A court affidavit said James Nichols told FBI agents last Friday that McVeigh “had the knowledge to manufacture a bomb” and that the three men made “bottle bombs” in 1992. Last year, the Nichols brothers made small explosive devices, the court document said.

McVeigh was not accused in the Michigan case and the charges against the Nichols brothers are not related to the Oklahoma bombing, authorities said.

In addition to linking the Nichols brothers to McVeigh, the charges allow the government to continue holding the men, who previously were in custody as material witnesses.

James Nichols was charged in a brief hearing at the federal prison outside Detroit where he is being held. He said nothing publicly and showed little emotion until he hugged his sobbing mother. Terry Nichols is being held in Kansas.

They each face a maximum 20-year prison sentence and $500,000 fine on the counts.

In Washington, a federal law enforcement official said the vehicle McVeigh was driving when he was stopped for traffic violations shortly after the bombing showed traces of nitrates and high explosive, but that it was not yet possible to conclusively link them to the bombing.

The official estimated the bomb weighed 4,800 pounds, the highest figure yet.

The FBI released an enhanced sketch of the most wanted man in America, a square-jawed individual linked to the nation’s deadliest domestic terrorist attack here April 19.

It shows a man wearing a baseball cap and is otherwise very similar to the original picture of “John Doe 2”: a man with dark, heavy eyebrows, thick lips, short neck, slightly flared nostrils and square jaw.

In Junction City, Kan., the manager of the Great Western Inn was watching television with two reporters when the new sketch flashed on the screen. He said he recognized it as the man who stayed in Room 107 on April 17 - two days before the bombing.

“He spoke broken English. He was not 100 percent American,” said the manager, who is East Indian and himself speaks with an accent. The manager, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, said the man gave a foreign name and was driving a Ryder rental truck.

“He was scared. He didn’t want to talk to me too much,” the manager told The Associated Press on Tuesday. He couldn’t give the name the man registered under because FBI agents took away his log book.

The motel is one exit down Interstate 70 from the Dreamland Motel, where McVeigh stayed April 14-18.

The sketch was based on new interviews with witnesses who saw two men in Junction City on April 17 rent the truck allegedly used in the bombing, according to sources in Washington who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The manager also said a man who gave the name James Nichols registered at his motel April 7.

Broadcast reports quoted unidentified sources Tuesday as saying witnesses saw McVeigh driving the Ryder van in Oklahoma City, with a passenger, shortly before the bombing. NBC News said McVeigh was eight blocks from the federal building and asking directions.

Broadcasters also reported that McVeigh had chemical traces on his clothing linking him to the bombing.

In the Michigan case, the affidavit said Terry Nichols had “survival books” with information about making ammonium nitrate bombs, the kind used at the federal building. It also said materials that could be used in an “improvised bomb,” including 28 50-pound bags of fertilizer containing ammonium nitrate, were at his farm.

ABC reported that officials believe Terry Nichols may have stored bomb-making material at a storage locker near his home in Herington, Kan. The network said the FBI had matched tire prints at the locker with the type of truck used in the bomb.

The government document also quoted Daniel Stomber, a neighbor of James Nichols, as saying that the Nichols brothers frequently made “derogatory comments about the incident at Waco, Texas, and the federal government.”

Federal agents have said McVeigh was enraged by the government’s attack on the Branch Davidian compound exactly two years before the Oklahoma City bombing.

A hearing is scheduled Thursday at Tinker Air Force Base on a change of venue request made on McVeigh’s behalf.

The grim procession of funerals continued Tuesday.

Chase Smith, 3, and his brother, Colton, 2, were buried together in a single white casket, framed with pictures of the little boys. A woman sang “The Barney Song” and “Jesus Loves Me,” their favorite songs.

Gov. Frank Keating led 1,500 mourners who came to say goodbye to Mickey Maroney, a 24-year veteran Secret Service agent who starred on the Arkansas Razorbacks championship college football team in 1964.

Rescuers, meanwhile, continued to rake through the debris for bodies, sometimes crawling on their hands and knees, edging closer toward the bottom two floors of the building, where the Social Security office and day care center were located.

So far, 14 children have been found; all but one found Tuesday night have been identified.

Fire Chief Gary Marrs said rescue teams hope to finish their search by week’s end but are hampered by two concrete slabs dangling by reinforcing bars that must be secured. The slabs were on either side of the main search area.

“It’s like trying to dismantle a mountain with a 5-gallon bucket,” Keating said Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.”

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