Two drifters taken into custody as possible witnesses in the Oklahoma City bombing, including one who bore a passing resemblance to the elusive “John Doe 2,” were released by early today.
On Tuesday, The FBI arrested Gary Allan Land and Robert Jacks, whose lives paralleled that of the chief suspect in case.
A trail of motel receipts indicated that Land and Jacks had crossed paths with Timothy James McVeigh before and after the bombing, but federal officials did not present evidence linking them to the crime Tuesday.
Land and Jacks, who has told acquaintances he is Land’s uncle, surrendered with their hands on their heads at dawn when federal agents ordered them out of their room in a small motel in the southwest corner of Missouri, about 200 miles from Oklahoma City.
Bomb squad members attached ropes to luggage in their car trunk and gingerly pulled bags from a safe distance across a parking lot. There was no explosion.
Although some motel managers said Land resembles the target of the manhunt known only as John Doe 2, much about Land is at odds with the artist’s sketch of the suspect.
John Doe 2 is depicted as short-haired, cleanshaven and tattooed, while Land wears his dark hair long, has a mustache and has no tattoo on his arm.
FBI spokesman Dan Vogel cautioned that Land had not been positively identified as the man seen with McVeigh.
In other developments Tuesday, the number of dead in the explosion reached 140, including 15 children.
The rescue effort was suspended for the night because the southeast corner of the shattered building was so unstable. The cutback in hours and a reduction in the number of people searching the building indicated what authorities have been acknowledging for the last several days: None of the 37 people still believed to be in the rubble are expected to be found alive.
Meanwhile, a federal magistrate judge in Milan, Mich., ordered that James Nichols be held without bond pending trial on a charge of conspiring with McVeigh to make bombs on his 160-acre Michigan farm. Nichols’ brother, Terry, is being held on the same charge.
McVeigh’s association with Land and Jacks is less clear-cut.
The two men have led peripatetic lives, moving around the country from one cheap motel and trailer park to another, paying their bills with cash despite having no visible source of income and displaying a penchant for drinking cases of beer. But their only known connection to McVeigh is that they often have ended up in the same towns at the same time.
Land and Jacks lived for five months in a Kingman, Ariz., motel across the street from two motels where McVeigh stayed in February and April. The morning of the Oklahoma City bombing, a car with Land’s license plate reportedly was videotaped near the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building just before the blast. And later that day, the two men checked into two Oklahoma motels about 100 miles apart, including one in the town where McVeigh had been arrested that morning.
By the time the FBI picked up the trail of the two last weekend, they already had checked out of their Oklahoma motel room. So late Monday, the FBI put out a nationwide alert for their car and released their names.
If they were on the lam, Lands and Jacks did nothing to disguise their identity after checking into the Kel-Lake Motel in Carthage about 4 p.m. Monday. Manager Wanda Jackson said they registered under their own names and listed their car, a white Thunderbird with the Arizona license plate the FBI had announced it was looking for.
Jacks listed a Spokane address in 1988, The Associated Press reported.
In court documents located in Sacramento, Jacks listed no permanent address, but was using a Spokane post office box. A check of court records showed Jacks wasn’t arrested while he was in Spokane.
At the hearing in Michigan for James Nichols Tuesday, FBI agents testified about a conversation Nichols had with one of his neighbors, who has become a confidential witness. One FBI agent said the witness placed the conversation between 1987 and 1990, and said Nichols told him that “technology exists to build a superbomb … one that could blow up a federal building.”
The witness also related an anecdote from five to eight years ago, when he smelled diesel fuel at Nichols’ farm, and James Nichols explained to him that “my brother and an old Army buddy were here over the weekend making bombs.”
Terry Nichols and McVeigh went through boot training and were posted at Fort Riley, Kan., together.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Virginia Morgan ordered James Nichols held for a May 12 preliminary hearing.
Also Tuesday, federal agents canvassed gun dealers around Kingman to determine what weapons McVeigh friend Michael Fortier had purchased.
An employee of one local pawnshop said records showed Fortier bought a Charter Arms .38-caliber Magnum and a Mini-14 assault rifle in 1993.
His mother, Irene Fortier, said her son had given the FBI permission to search his trailer on the outskirts of town. Agents who searched the white trailer for about four hours emerged Monday night with about a dozen cardboard boxes. Among other items, they removed a Denver Broncos banner from Fortier’s wall.