January 30, 1997 in Nation/World

Daughter Believes She Saw Spokane Suspect In Atlanta Olympics Investigators To Review Evidence In Valley Bombings

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Copyright 1997, The Spokesman-Review

A law school student agreed with her architect father Wednesday, saying she believes she saw a Spokane bombing suspect shortly before the deadly blast at last summer’s Olympics.

“He does look like the guy that we saw,” the 23-year-old woman said as she watched Robert S. Berry’s picture on television.

The potential eyewitness saw Berry’s picture during a network news show before FBI agents were able to show her a photo lineup.

There was no immediate public explanation from the FBI.

CNN reported Wednesday evening that three investigators assigned to the FBI’s Olympics bombing task force are going to Spokane to compare evidence in the Atlanta bombing with that obtained after three bomb blasts in the Spokane Valley last year.

Three pipe bombs were left in a military-style backpack at the Olympics, and two similar bombs were tossed inside a door at the Planned Parenthood clinic in the Valley.

Berry, 42, and co-defendants Charles H. Barbee, 44, and Verne Jay Merrell, 51, all of Sandpoint, are set to appear in U.S. District Court in Spokane today.

They are charged with the April 1 bombings of The Spokesman-Review’s Valley office and a nearby U.S. Bank branch, which also was robbed.

They also are charged with bombing the clinic and robbing the same U.S. Bank branch on July 12 - two weeks before the Olympics bombing.

Federal prosecutors want a judge to approve the use of “reasonable force” to compel the three defendants to stand still and let FBI agents take their pictures.

They’re refusing, claiming criminal charges should be dismissed because they are “ambassadors from the Kingdom of Yahweh” and the government has no authority over them.

The three are refusing to comply with an order from U.S. District Judge Frem Nielsen allowing FBI agents to take full-body photographs.

The photos would be used for a computer-aided comparison with bank robbery surveillance photos. The defendants also are refusing to give handwriting samples to the FBI.

During today’s hearing, Nielsen will hear defense attorneys’ arguments to move the trial, now set to begin Feb. 10, to a different city.

Prosecutors Tom Rice and Stephanie Lister maintain there’s no evidence that pretrial news coverage would jeopardize the defendants’ right to a fair trial.

The Spokane case, which began with the defendants’ arrests on Oct. 8, is receiving extensive national media attention.

An ABC-TV news crew taped an interview with the Atlanta architect after he called the network’s Atlanta affiliate, WSB-TV, on Monday evening. He later called The Spokesman-Review.

In both interviews, the architect said he’s sure it was Berry that he saw heading into Centennial Olympic Park about an hour before the bombing that killed a woman and injured 111 people.

The witness and his daughter have asked that their names not be divulged for fear of retribution.

FBI agents interviewed the architect’s daughter on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., but didn’t show her photos to see if she could independently identify the “weird-looking stranger” she recalled seeing outside the park on July 27.

“I guess they had a little trouble getting a decent lineup together to show me,” she said.

As she and her family left Centennial Olympic Park, she recalled, she saw a man carrying a duffle bag, “bumping into people, looking like he was stoned or intoxicated.”

Berry and his friend, Charles Barbee, both were caught with marijuana when they were arrested in Kelso, Wash., in May 1995.

Barbee said he believes the Bible teaches that God gave man all “seed-bearing herbs” to use.

“Suppose the government made wheat illegal tomorrow, would you stop eating bread?” he said in a 1995 interview.

The architect’s daughter helped her father draw a sketch of the man after they returned home and learned a bomb exploded about an hour after they left the park.

Of Berry’s jail booking photo aired on the network news Wednesday, she said: “He does look like the sketch we drew. Yeah.”

They sent the sketch to the FBI in July and December, but weren’t contacted until Tuesday by agents. The man they drew is wearing a military-style backpack.

FBI officials weren’t commenting Wednesday on why they didn’t move more quickly in an attempt to show the witness a photo lineup.

, DataTimes MEMO: Hearing today Prosecutors want approval to use “reasonable force” to compel the three defendants to stand still and let FBI agents take their pictures. Defense attorneys will request that the trial be moved to a different city.

Hearing today Prosecutors want approval to use “reasonable force” to compel the three defendants to stand still and let FBI agents take their pictures. Defense attorneys will request that the trial be moved to a different city.


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