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Prosecutors begin building link between Nichols, bomb components

November 7, 1997

DENVER (AP) _ Prosecutors sought Thursday to link Terry Nichols to purchases of explosive fertilizer believed used in Oklahoma City bombing, introducing a receipt for one buy that was found in Nichols’ home, wrapped around two $50 gold coins and tucked behind some tea towels

Several witnesses testified a man named Mike Havens _ an alleged alias for Nichols _ made two, ton-load purchases of ammonium nitrate fertilizer from a Kansas farming cooperative about six months before the bombing.

The purchases _ each for $228.74 _ were made Sept. 30, 1994, and Oct. 18, 1994, at the Mid-Kansas Cooperative in McPherson, and the buyer refused to fill out a form that would have saved him $25 in taxes, said manager Frederick Schlender Jr. He noted that the man drove a dark-colored pickup similar to one Nichols has.

But in a setback for prosecutors, Schlender and clerk Jerry Showalter gave different descriptions of the buyer and neither was asked to identify him in court as Nichols. The men gave heights 5-foot-8 and 6-feet-tall, disagreed whether his hair was black or brown and neither recalled glasses, which Nichols wears.

Several jurors looked puzzled when Schlender tried to explain the discrepancy by saying a 5-foot-8 person appeared to him to be the same as a 6-foot-tall person. Nichols is 5-foot-9 with short brown hair.

FBI agent Joanne Thomas testified that a search of Nichols’ Herington, Kan., home two days after the April 19, 1995, bombing turned up a receipt for one of the fertilizer purchases in a kitchen drawer, wrapped around the gold coins and tucked behind tea towels.

Prosecutors said McVeigh’s fingerprint was found on that receipt. The other receipt was never found.

Authorities say the bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and killed 168 people was made of more than two tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, fuel and explosives. The components were packed into plastic barrels and delivered in the back of a Ryder rental truck.

Another McPherson cooperative manager, Robert Nattier, said customers who bought large quantities of ammonium nitrate fertilizer between January 1994 and April 19, 1995, included Havens, a school district, a country club, a pipeline company and an independent agricultural producer.

During cross-examination by attorney Ron Woods, Nattier acknowledged that the bags Havens purchased did not indicate whether it was low- or high-density fertilizer. Only low-density fertilizer can be used to make a bomb.

Lead defense attorney Michael Tigar leaned back in his chair and smiled during the questioning and Nichols chuckled as Nattier left the stand.

In other testimony, a man who employed Nichols to do odd jobs at his Marion, Kan., ranch said he saw Nichols and Timothy McVeigh at the ranch on Sept. 30, 1994. That’s the same day prosecutors allege Nichols stole explosives from a nearby quarry.

Rancher Timothy Donahue said McVeigh had a scraggly beard with hair that fell to about the middle of his ears, and ``looked a little bit shabby.″

Donahue acknowledged he heard Nichols say citizens should overthrow the government, but never heard him advocate violence.

``I didn’t hear him specifically say he wanted to commit violence,″ Donahue said, adding that Nichols was ``angry about government being too big and too powerful.′

Nichols, 42, 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.

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