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Nichols’ Wife Says She Didn’t Understand Search Consent Forms

June 29, 1996

DENVER (AP) _ Federal prosecutors shuttled the wife of Oklahoma City bombing suspect Terry Nichols from motel room to motel room for more than a month while they searched Nichols’ home for evidence. They said she had no other place to go.

Marife Nichols, Nichols’ 23-year-old mail-order bride, testified Friday that she wanted to go home, but couldn’t because prosecutors had her money. She also said she didn’t understand the forms they kept giving her to sign so they could search her husband’s property.

``At that time, I was mainly confused, I did not know what to do. I felt I’d been abandoned,″ she told a packed courtroom.

The prosecutors moved her to eight cities over 37 days after her husband was detained as a material witness two days after the April 19, 1995 bombing.

Nichols’ defense attorneys want the judge to throw out key evidence found at Nichols’ Kansas home, including bomb-making ingredients. They also want statements Nichols made to FBI agents and the clothing co-defendant Timothy McVeigh was wearing when he was arrested excluded from the trial.

The evidence suppression hearing before U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch was to continue today.

Nichols and McVeigh could face death if convicted of the bombing of Oklahoma City’s federal building. The blast killed 168 people and injured more than 500.

On Friday, defense attorneys tried to portray Mrs. Nichols as a young woman with little understanding of American law who signed search consent forms without knowing what they were.

Prosecutor Joe Hartzler said Mrs. Nichols acknowledged during testimony that she ``felt free to sign the consent forms and agents said she had the right to refuse.″

He also said prosecutors kept Mrs. Nichols in their custody because she was stranded in this country, pregnant and without friends or money.

Hartzler said Mrs. Nichols ``saw a crisis raining down ... and the government offered her an umbrella.″

Speaking in broken English, Mrs. Nichols testified she couldn’t leave even though she had wanted to return to the Phillippines because federal agents wouldn’t give her $5,000, along with precious metals she had stashed in her bed. Agents told her they needed to test the money for McVeigh’s fingerprints.

She said she and her daughter accompanied Nichols to the police station in Herington, Kan., two days after the bombing when he heard on television that he was wanted for questioning.

She remained in a windowless room while Nichols was interviewed for nine hours. Agents eventually asked her to sign the search consent forms. Mrs. Nichols said she asked them to get permission from her husband, which they said they would, but they told her they needed her signature, too.

Later, the agents told Mrs. Nichols her husband would not be leaving with her because ``he is a material witness,″ she said.

Mrs. Nichols said she came to think of FBI agents as her friends and regarded one agent, Eugene Thomeczek, as a father.

She was released a day after meeting with one of her husband’s attorneys for the first time. The agents returned $4,800 of her money.

Mrs. Nichols now lives in the Phillippines with her two children, Nicole, 2 1/2, and Christian, 6 months. The couple were married in 1990.

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