Federal authorities Wednesday formally charged Terry Lynn Nichols with direct involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing and sent him back to Oklahoma to face hearings.
Nichols, 40, an Army veteran who had been held in Wichita, Kan., as a material witness in the case, becomes the second person officially connected to the April 19 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 166 people. The charge against Nichols, malicious destruction of a building resulting in death, is identical to that against his friend, Timothy James McVeigh, and carries a maximum sentence of capital punishment.
For weeks, federal investigators have been pulling together evidence in an attempt to link Nichols to McVeigh in allegedly planning the deadliest assault on U.S. civilians in modern history. An affidavit detailing the specific evidence against Nichols remained sealed Wednesday, but senior law enforcement officials offered a glimpse of the case.
Nichols, according to sources, in interviews with federal investigators acknowledged driving the Ryder rental truck, suspected of carrying the bomb, from Junction City, Kan., to Oklahoma City, although he maintained that he had nothing to do with the explosion.
Authorities searching his Herington, Kan., residence also recovered a receipt for a ton of ammonium nitrate - a key ingredient in the bomb - with one of McVeigh’s fingerprints on it. Investigators also believe that blue shrapnel taken from bombing victims’ bodies will match the blue plastic barrels on Nichols’s property. Bomb experts believe a volatile mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil was contained in 20 to 25 plastic barrels.
Authorities also believe that Nichols shared McVeigh’s intense hatred of the federal government and outrage about the federal government’s handling of the deadly confrontation with the Branch Davidians near Waco, Tex.
In an hour-long court session in Wichita, Nichols waived his right to a preliminary hearing on the charges in Kansas. In return, he was guaranteed not only a hearing in Oklahoma City but also another day in court to question why he is being retained
U.S. Magistrate Karen Humphries carefully explained to Nichols his rights. He remained silent except when asked questions by the court.