Federal investigators have located a diary in which Timothy McVeigh and associates outlined plans for simultaneous bombings in Phoenix; Omaha, Neb.; and Oklahoma City, a Texas newspaper reported late Wednesday.
The suspects concentrated only on the last site when they ran out of time to acquire enough explosives for all three, sources told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Wednesday night.
Two high-ranking federal officials said they were told that the so-called “McVeigh diary” details the bombing strategy and indicates that the buildings had been “cased,” suggesting that the bombers knew that a daycare center was in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
As rescue efforts continued Wednesday, officials significantly decreased their estimate of how many more bodies, especially those of children, they expected to find in the wreckage.
The officials said they thought five children would be found in the ruins of the America’s Kids day-care center, in addition to the 13 young bodies already found. All but two of the young victims were from the day-care center.
More than a dozen children have been treated for injuries from the blast, with several of them still hospitalized. Some of the injured children were from a day-care center down the street from the federal building.
Melva Noakes, director of the America’s Kids center, said she thought 20 children were there at the time of the blast.
And while earlier accounts suggested that 130 people or more were still unaccounted for, the revised estimate Wednesday stood at 97.
The discrepancies were blamed on double-counting of some missing people because several relatives had inquired after them, and on the fact that some people who were reported missing in the chaos of the first few days had, in fact, escaped, and the authorities were never notified.
Still, even current estimates mean that the death toll in the bombing would more than double the 97 victims who have been recovered.
Also Wednesday, Newsday said Federal agents are pursuing the possibility that explosives from the U.S. military supply system were involved in the massive blast.
The New York City newspaper said the widely sought “John Doe No. 2 had been identified as an Army buddy of McVeigh.
According to senior federal officials, dozens of agents were looking through records and files at Fort Riley, Kan., checking the base’s inventory of TNT and plastic explosives as well as blasting caps and other detonators.
Investigators also were seeking information on John Doe No. 2, who a reliable source told Newsday had been identified as a former soldier who had served with McVeigh in Charlie Company, part of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Division - “The Big Red One” - based at the fort near Junction City, Kan.
Sources told Newsday that soldiers from Fort Riley have identified a soldier in Charlie Company as having the tattoo that witnesses said John Doe No. 2 had on his left arm. They also said the man was a close associate of McVeigh.
John Doe No. 2 is believed to be the man with whom McVeigh rented the truck used to carry the bomb. Sources told The Associated Press that witnesses saw both men near the building just before the blast.
Wednesday’s revelations surfaced as Terry Nichols, one of two brothers held as a material witness in the Oklahoma City explosion, was quoted in a Wichita, Kan., federal court as saying that three days before the bombing, McVeigh told him, “Something big is going to happen.”
McVeigh, who officials say is John Doe 1 in another sketch, was arrested during a traffic stop 90 minutes after the bombing but was not linked to it until two days later.
Since then, “a diary has been discovered, a McVeigh diary, that lays out a plan,” an unnamed source told the Star-Telegram. “The plan involved, actually, simultaneous bombings in Omaha, Phoenix and Oklahoma City.
“But they were running out of time to perform the job and gather all the materials they needed for that day. So they just decided to focus on the one in Oklahoma City,” according the report.
The diary, the source said, “also suggests that the individuals had cased the places … and were aware of all the tenants in those buildings at all three locations.”
Questioned about the diary and its contents, a second federal official said, “I can’t deny what you’ve just told me.”
Dan Vogel, the designated FBI spokesman in Oklahoma City, declined to comment.
“I’m not going to confirm or deny that report,” he said.
The FBI in Washington also declined to comment, and officials with the Justice Department could not be reached Wednesday night. A Treasury Department official said the agency had no report of a diary.
Officials with the U.S. attorneys’ offices in Omaha and Phoenix also declined to comment or said they knew nothing about a diary.
The Federal Protective Services in recent days sent additional officers from Kansas City, Kan., to guard the federal building in Omaha, an official there said. The agency in Phoenix declined to comment on any matter related to the bombing.
U.S. Attorney Randy Rathbun revealed the “something big” conversation between McVeigh and Nichols at a hearing to determine whether Nichols, jailed in Wichita, will be transferred to Oklahoma City. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot initially ordered the transfer but then delayed it until May 5 to allow defense attorneys time to appeal.
Belot also ordered Nichols held without bail after Rathbun said evidence links him to “one of the most heinous, vicious and cowardly crimes we’ve ever seen in this country.”
A federal law enforcement official was quoted Wednesday by The Associated Press as saying that three witnesses saw McVeigh in front of the federal building minutes before the explosion and before arrival of the truck carrying the bomb.
A handwritten note found in McVeigh’s vehicle after his arrest mentioned car trouble, suggesting a theory that he put it there so it would not be towed and would be available for a getaway after the bombing, wire service reports said.
The New York Times reported in today’s editions that federal officials are checking reports from witnesses that McVeigh and his associated often carried lots of money but seldom worked.
One theory, law enforcement officials said, is that the bombing might have been financed through criminal activities. The authorities are examining recent bank robberies, including six unsolved heists in Kansas City and elsewhere in the Midwest where two men used explosives in the robberies.
Authorities have said that at least four people, but possibly many more, may have been involved in the bombing plot.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: BOMBING NOTES Wednesday’s developments in the Oklahoma City bombing. The scene. Wind gusting to 32 mph hampered recovery of bodies from unstable debris. The death toll rose to 98, including a nurse killed in rescue efforts. There were 97 people reported missing, including five children from the day care center. Moment of silence. Oklahomans and others around the nation observed a moment of silence at 9:02 a.m. CDT, precisely a week after the detonation. The victims. Several funerals were held Wednesday, including one in the Washington suburb of Rockville, Md., for Secret Service agent Alan G. Whicher, 40, who left the White House detail seven months ago for a less hectic pace in Oklahoma City. President Clinton was among the mourners. The investigation. A federal judge in Wichita, Kan., ordered Terry Nichols moved to Oklahoma City as a material witness, then delayed the transfer for until May 5 so defense attorneys may appeal. The case. A federal magistrate in Oklahoma rejected motions by McVeigh’s attorneys to withdraw from the case and to grant a change of venue.