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Prosecutors try to link Nichols’ drill to quarry break-in

November 7, 1997

DENVER (AP) _ A drill bit found in Terry Nichols’ home made markings similar to those found on a padlock at a quarry where he is accused of stealing explosives used in the Oklahoma bombing, an FBI expert testified Friday.

Jurors watched intently as the expert, James Cadigan, displayed pictures comparing markings on the padlock with those he created with the bit found in Nichols’ basement. Cadigan used a light pencil to draw green lines between the markings.

But lead defense attorney Michael Tigar successfully prevented Cadigan from telling jurors he believed the drill bit markings were identical to those found on the padlock.

Cadigan, who is a tool mark expert, stated that conclusion when he testified at Timothy McVeigh’s trial, but Tigar claimed it should be left up to jurors to decide whether the marks matched.

``What is permitted here is to show what he saw through the microscope,″ U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch said, stopping Cadigan in mid-sentence.

Cadigan’s testimony is part of the government’s efforts to connect Nichols with the acquisition of components for the ammonium nitrate and fuel bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people.

During the first week of the prosecution’s case, 29 witnesses testified, ranging from bombing victims and victims’ relatives to a Kansas rancher who once hired Nichols.

Nichols, 42, is accused of robbing an Arkansas gun dealer to raise money to carry out the April 19, 1995, bombing, the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil.

He also allegedly purchased about two tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, the main ingredient in the bomb, and stole explosives from a rock quarry near Marion, Kan., in either September or October 1994.

The padlock was on a trailer containing bags of a mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel, said Bud Radtke, a quarry employee.

Earlier Friday, FBI agent Mary Jasnowski testified that agents found ammonium nitrate fertilizer on the white steps of Nichols’ two-bedroom frame home in Herington, Kan., three days after the bombing.

Nichols has said he spread ammonium nitrate fertilizer on his lawn shortly after the bombing.

Agents also found guns, ammunition, a Michigan license plate linked to Nichols’ aliases and a fuel meter, Jasnowski said.

A fuel meter is used to regulate how much fuel is added when making an ammonium nitrate bomb, authorities have said. During pretrial hearings, FBI agents acknowledged the fuel meter found in Nichols’ home was dismantled.

On cross-examination, Jasnowski also said there was a box containing Nichols’ business cards, a big collection of shovels, picks and saws.

Defense attorneys have told jurors that Nichols was opening up a gun show business before he was indicted.

While prosecutors maintain that Nichols and McVeigh were motivated by lethal hatred of the government, defense attorneys have tried to show that Nichols is an average citizen, asking agents about other books in the home, including one called ``Homeopathic Primer.″

Nichols could be sentenced to death if convicted of murder, conspiracy and weapons charges. McVeigh, 29, was convicted of identical charges in June and was sentenced to death. His appeal is pending.

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