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

June 29, 1996

DENVER (AP) _ The wife of Oklahoma City bombing suspect Terry Nichols testified Friday she did not completely understand the forms she signed allowing federal agents to search her husband’s truck and house.

His defense attorneys claim evidence resulting from the search should be disallowed, arguing that the warrant was illegally obtained.

Marife Nichols said FBI agents told her it would take time to get a court-approved search warrant, and suggested she could expedite matters by signing the forms.

``I was cooperating mainly because I wanted them to know I had nothing to hide,″ said Mrs. Nichols, a 23-year-old native of the Philippines who met her husband through a mail-order bride agency.

``I said, `OK, I want to cooperate,′ hoping they will allow me to leave after that.″ But she said she did not entirely understand what she was signing.

Federal agents kept Mrs. Nichols in their custody for 33 days, shuttling her between eight cities, after she and her husband, now 41, reported to the Herington, Kan., police station.

Prosecutors said they were keeping her in protective custody because she was left stranded in this country, pregnant and without friends or money.

Mrs. Nichols ``saw a crisis raining down ... and the government offered her an umbrella,″ prosecutor Joe Hartzler said after the hearing.

Nichols and his friend Timothy McVeigh could face death if convicted of the April 19, 1995, federal building bombing, which killed 168 people and injured more than 500.

The defense has asked U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch to throw out key evidence gathered from Nichols’ home, including bomb-making ingredients. They also want to exclude statements Nichols made to FBI agents during a nine-hour interview, and the clothing McVeigh was wearing when he was arrested.

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

``He was scared,″ she said. ``He was pale. He’s just anxious to know what’s going on.″

Nichols was escorted to the basement and interviewed for nine hours while his wife remained in a windowless room with a member of the U.S. Army, she said. Other federal agents came and went until about 9 p.m., when they 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.

Earlier that day, FBI agent James Reightler said he had spotted plastic barrels through a ripped window shade in Nichols’ garage that resembled the containers believed used in the bombing.

The couple, who were married in 1990 in the Philippines, have two children, Nicole, 2 1/2, and Christian, 6 months. A 2-year-old son suffocated in a plastic laundry bag in 1993.

Defense attorneys sought to portray Mrs. Nichols as a young woman with limited knowledge of English and United States laws, who came to think of FBI agents as her friends during her time in custody.

She said she regarded Eugene Thomeczek, an FBI agent who was a near-constant companion, as a father.

At one point, she asked about seeking legal advice and ``they told me, `You’re OK. As long as you’re telling the truth, you don’t need a lawyer,‴ Mrs. Nichols said.

Mrs. Nichols said her priority was to get the government to return $5,000 they seized from beneath a mattress so she could buy a plane ticket to return to the Philippines where she now lives with her family. Agents told her they needed to test the money for McVeigh’s fingerprints.

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

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