July 24, 1997 in Nation/World

Verdict Was A Relief To Victims

By The Spokesman-Review

The tears were not of sadness but of relief.

After three men were found guilty of a spree of robberies and bombings that terrorized the Spokane Valley last year, some victims cried. Others said they were happy. And some just kept working.

One U.S. Bank employee sat in the front row of the packed courtroom and clasped her hands in her lap. The woman, one of the few victims on hand to hear the verdicts, started crying as the word “guilty” sounded 24 times, like a drumroll.

“Thank you,” she told Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Harrington as she walked out of the courtroom, headed straight for a pay telephone. “Thank you so much.”

On April 1, 1996, The Spokesman-Review’s Valley office was bombed minutes before masked, gun-wielding terrorists robbed a nearby U.S. Bank branch, leaving a pipe bomb as a parting gift.

On July 12, 1996, the Valley Planned Parenthood clinic was bombed minutes before the same bank branch was again robbed.

On Wednesday, Gayle Ekins broke into tears when she learned about the verdicts. Ekins, Planned Parenthood board president last year, thought she was finished with the emotions from last year’s bombing.

“I’ve been sitting here crying since the verdict,” Ekins said about two hours after the decision. “I didn’t realize it would be such a relief. … I thought I was done, but I guess I wasn’t. Because I just cried like a baby.”

John Nugent keeps a copy of a threatening letter mailed by the terrorists in a folder at his desk at Planned Parenthood. Nugent looks at the letter once a week to remind himself of the punch in the stomach delivered by mail Sept. 11.

“We keep it as a reminder of those religious individuals who would like to impose their religion on others,” said Nugent, the new executive director of Planned Parenthood of Spokane and Whitman counties.

Planned Parenthood workers are glad the defendants now face life imprisonment for the crimes, he said.

At the Valley clinic, which just reopened last month, the attitude was all business. After being advised of the verdicts over the phone, workers returned to their jobs. They helped 20 patients Wednesday.

“Our clinic is completely redone,” the Valley nurse practitioner said, asking not to be named. “It’s not at all like it was originally. The only reminder of the bombing is the increased security in place.”

U.S. Bank and The Spokesman-Review also increased their security after the bombings.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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