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Prosecutors bolster eyewitness identification of McVeigh

February 20, 1997

DENVER (AP) _ Prosecutors on Wednesday produced a photograph of a bearded Timothy McVeigh and a new height measurement of the Oklahoma City bombing suspect to back up eyewitness descriptions of him.

The developments came in the second day of a pretrial hearing to determine which witnesses will appear at McVeigh’s trial next month. McVeigh’s attorneys have challenged six prosecution witnesses, saying their descriptions were influenced by intense publicity about the case.

All six witnesses testified Tuesday that they met McVeigh at various places before the bombing, including at a shop where the Ryder truck used in the bombing was rented. They all placed his height at 5-foot-10 or 5-foot-11. Defense attorneys countered that their client is 6-foot-2.

Prosecutors last week obtained a court order to measure McVeigh in jail, and found out he was actually 6-feet, 1/2-inch.

``That cuts in half the discrepancy,″ prosecutor Scott Mendeloff said.

Another witness, Glenn Tipton, had testified earlier that a man with a scraggly beard resembling McVeigh had asked him about buying barrels of rocket and racing fuel at a Kansas race track in 1994. McVeigh’s attorneys noted their client is clean-shaven.

The photograph prosecutors introduced Wednesday shows McVeigh with a three- or four-day beard, standing outside co-defendant Terry Nichols’ home in Marion, Kan. Authorities seized the photograph during a search of Nichols’ home.

In other testimony Wednesday, a parade of FBI agents and sketch artists testified that eyewitnesses’ descriptions of McVeigh were remarkably similar.

FBI artist Raymond Rozycki said Tom Kessinger, a mechanic at the Ryder truck rental shop, took his time when he described the man later identified as McVeigh.

``He was very clear on his selections,″ Rozycki said, referring to facial features that Kessinger selected from a catalog.

Rozycki said his sketches strongly resembled a photo of McVeigh, showing prominent folds in his chin.

Kessinger testified previously in the hearing that he made a mistake when he gave the description of a man who was with McVeigh at the rental shop, a burly man who became known as John Doe 2. Kessinger admitted he had actually described a soldier who came into the shop the day after McVeigh. The FBI has cleared that man of any involvement in the bombing.

McVeigh and Nichols stayed away from the courtroom Wednesday, believing their presence could influence the eyewitnesses. They are charged with murder and conspiracy in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building that killed 168 people and injured more than 500.

In another development, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch said in a summons sent last week to 700 prospective jurors that they would likely have to serve for several months but would not be sequestered. McVeigh’s trial is set to begin March 31.

``Jurors will be free to be with their families and friends overnight and on weekends,″ he wrote.

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