Grieving mother's testimony brings jurors to tears
Apr. 26, 1997
DENVER (AP) _ In wrenching testimony that brought two jurors to tears, a mother sobbed Friday as she described how Oklahoma City bombing rescuers carried out dead children as she anxiously waited for her son.
``They started bringing our babies out in those sheets and they laid them by my feet,'' said Helena Garrett, who ran to the federal building's day-care center after the bombing. ``They started making a line of them.''
Then came out more dead children, wrapped in sheets and placed on the ground atop broken glass.
``I said, `You guys don't leave our babies on the glass. We don't want our babies on the glass,''' she said. ``I didn't realize that those babies they was lying down was already dead.''
Her own 16-month-old boy, Tevin Garrett, was later found among the dead. She said he was identified by a fingerprint sample lifted from a mirror that he used to look at and kiss.
A woman juror cried into a blue tissue. A man on the panel soon joined her in tears. Many spectators in the courtroom also wept quietly. At a break, two women prosecutors were weeping in the hallway.
Timothy McVeigh, who could face the death penalty if convicted of murder and conspiracy in the April 19, 1995, bombing, showed no emotion. He sat at the defense table with his hand on his chin covering his mouth.
In a picture of horror, pain and courage, nine bombing survivors and rescuers recounted how a typical day turned into a swirl of flying glass, blood and screams. The bombing tore apart the nine-story building, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more.
There was testimony of acts of heroism, small and large: a TV cameraman who gave coats to a shivering couple looking frantically for their baby _ who was later found dead _ rescuers freeing dust-covered babies from the rubble, a female office worker who carried a badly injured man down eight flights of stairs to safety.
One gripping story came from a former Marine Corps recruiter who told how he walked past the parked Ryder truck on his way into the building and the bomb blew up soon after he got to his sixth-floor office.
With a chunk of glass in his head, he stumbled down a debris-strewn stairwell.
``All I remember is following the blood trail from somebody before me. That was like the yarn leading me out of there,'' said Michael R. Norfleet, a decorated flyer during the Gulf War who lost an eye in the blast and was forced to retire from the military.
Jurors watched with rapt attention as prosecutors played a short news videotape showing the bloody, bandaged children strewn amid the rubble, panicked bystanders and paramedics scrambling to pull people out.
Another powerful display came when prosecutors played an audiotape of the blast recorded by a lawyer who had just started a meeting in a building across the street.
``Basically there are four elements I have to receive information regarding'' she said dryly, and then came a BOOM!
Chairs can be heard falling and a voice yells, ``Everybody out of here now!'' Another person screams: ``What's going on? What's going on?''
``I thought the whole building was coming down on us,'' recalled attorney Cynthia Lou Klaver. ``I didn't know if we were going to get out.''
An office worker, Susan Hunt, an employee for the Department of Housing and Urban Development on the eighth floor, spoke of all the people she talked to that morning: the new employee looking for index cards, a woman talking about getting flowers for her wedding, a man who offered her candy, two co-workers talking near the coffee pot.
All of them were killed.
``I heard what I thought were the floors falling,'' Hunt said. ``We didn't know what happened except that everything fell on us.''
As the carefully planned day of government testimony neared its end, Ms. Garrett took the stand.
She told how she dropped her son off at the day-care center at 7:50 a.m. The bomb exploded at 9:02 a.m., damaging her building nearby and forcing her to evacuate through a debri-covered stairwell.
She made her way to the federal building and fought back police officers to get near the day-care center. There, she stood and watched as child after child was brought out, first the live ones, including a little girl who ``looked like she was dipped in blood.''
She described four more children being brought out. Then she broke into tears while talking about a 2-year-old boy, Colton Smith, whose body was placed next to her. A doctor said, ``There's nothing I can do.''
Sobbing, she added: ``I didn't leave Colton. I was looking for my own baby, but I didn't leave him.''
Ms. Garrett then completely broke down on the stand, crying so much she could barely be understood, as she spoke about a nurse who arrived on the scene. ``She started tagging our babies!''
She composed herself just briefly, then cried some more in talking about the funeral for her son, Tevin, who had to be placed in a partially closed casket because his head was so badly crushed.
The hands on the child's body were still blackened by the fingerprint dust used for identification, she said.
``I kissed his feet and I kissed his legs and I couldn't go any higher.''