Timothy McVeigh’s missing Arizona license plate appears on a mystery vehicle in a videotape taken just before the Oklahoma City bombing, and authorities believe the elusive “John Doe 2” may have used that vehicle for his getaway, a source told The Associated Press on Friday.
Police in Santa Monica, Calif., said late Friday they were holding a man arrested on suspicion of car theft for the FBI because he closely resembled the drawing of the suspect.
“There is no evidence other than a close likeness to the composite of John Doe No. 2 that will connect him with the bombing,” Santa Monica Police Chief James T. Butts said.
A federal law enforcement official in Washington said a videotape taken just before the bombing shows Timothy McVeigh’s Arizona license plate LZC 646 on another car, not McVeigh’s yellow Mercury to which it was registered. Authorities think John Doe No. 2 may have used the second car, which the official would not describe, for his getaway.
In Michigan, meanwhile, a hearing in which McVeigh’s friend James Nichols sought release from pretrial detention was adjourned until Tuesday with no decision.
Nichols and his brother Terry, both close friends of McVeigh’s, were charged Tuesday in Michigan with conspiring to make and explode numerous bombs with McVeigh at James Nichols’ northeast Michigan farm in recent years.
Those charges did not allege the Nichols brothers participated in the Oklahoma attack. But on Wednesday in Kansas, prosecutors urged that Terry Nichols remain in custody there as a material witness because his contact with McVeigh days before the Oklahoma bombing “relates Nichols to this crime.”
In Oklahoma City Friday, rescue work hit a disheartening slowdown for weary workers. After speeding up efforts to remove victims’ bodies and clear out debris Wednesday and Thursday - including hauling away 500 tons in one 24-hour period - officials Friday all but halted work after a vast concrete slab slipped and a gusty storm moved in last evening.
The death toll rose to 121 Friday in what has become America’s worst mass murder and worst terrorist attack.
But the death toll may not go as high as once feared. Oklahoma officials Friday sharply lowered the previous estimate that 97 people were unaccounted for in addition to the 118 confirmed dead. State medical examiner’s spokesman Ray Blakeney said 73 were unaccounted for; assistant city fire chief Jon Hansen said 79.
Fire Chief Gary Marrs said it was possible, as emergency workers get closer to the bottom of the rubble where the estimated bomb went off, they may be unable to find identifiable corpses. “Those ones you still don’t know about. You just do the best you can,” Marrs said.
Firefighters and other rescuers, flagging after more than a week of 12-hour working days, seemed frustrated by the latest delay but still dedicated. “We will remain hopeful that we will have a miracle” and find a living survivor in the debris, said Dr. Peter Maningas, medical director for city emergency medical services.