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Timothy James McVeigh (April 23, 1968 – June 11, 2001),was convicted of eleven federal offenses and ultimately executed as a result of his role on the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing. The bombing, which claimed 168 lives, was the deadliest act of terrorism in American history until the September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attacks and remains the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism in the United States.
McVeigh was born in Lockport, New York, and raised in nearby Pendleton, New York. He was the middle child of three and the only male child. He earned his high school diploma from Starpoint Central High School. His parents, Mildred Noreen ("Mickey") Hill and William McVeigh, divorced when he was 10. McVeigh was known throughout his life as a loner; his only known affiliations were voter registration with the Republican Party when he lived in New York and a membership in the National Rifle Association while in the military.
After his parents' divorce, McVeigh lived with his father, and his sisters moved to Florida with their mother. He and his father were devout Roman Catholics who often attended daily Mass. In a recorded interview with Time Magazine he professed his belief in "a God", though he said he had "sort of lost touch with" Catholicism and "never really picked it back up." The Guardian reported that McVeigh wrote a letter claiming to be an agnostic, though his execution included a Roman Catholic ceremony.
In May 1988, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was a decorated veteran of the United States Army, having served in the Gulf War, where he was awarded a Bronze Star Medal. He had been a top scoring gunner with the 25mm cannon of the light-armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles used by the U.S. 1st Infantry Division to which he was assigned. He served at Fort Riley, Kansas, before Operation Desert Storm. His superiors and friends thought of him as a model soldier. At Fort Riley, McVeigh completed the Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC). McVeigh had always wanted to join the Green Berets, the Army's elite special forces.
After his return from the war, he entered the program for training to become a Green Beret but dropped out after the second day of an early phase due to blisters from new boots sustained on a 5-mile march. After this failure, for reasons not fully established, McVeigh decided to leave the Army entirely and received his early discharge on December 31, 1991.
McVeigh was given his final honorable discharge from the Army reserve in May 1992.
After leaving the Army, beginning in 1992, McVeigh's lifestyle grew increasingly transient. At first, he worked briefly near his native Pendleton, as a security guard. He also drove to Waco, Texas during the Waco Siege and sold bumper stickers. A few months before the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, he returned to Junction City, Kansas, outside Fort Riley.
Working at a lakeside campground near his old Army post, McVeigh constructed an ANFO explosive device arranged in the back of a rented Ryder truck. The bomb consisted of about 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) of ammonium nitrate (an agricultural fertilizer) and nitromethane, an explosive motor-racing fuel.
On April 19, 1995, McVeigh drove the truck to the front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building just as its offices and day-care center opened for the day. Prosecutors said McVeigh strode away from the truck after he ignited a timed fuse from the front of the truck. At 9:02 a.m., a massive explosion collapsed the north half of the building. In the explosion, 168 people died and 850 more were injured. The 168th victim, rescue worker Rebecca Anderson, died after the initial blast, when it is believed that the back of her head was struck by a piece of debris that had fallen from the building. Some of the victims were small children in the day-care center, which was on the ground floor of the building. (Later, McVeigh did not express remorse for these "collateral damage" deaths, but he said he might have chosen a different target if he had known the day-care center was there.)
According to the Oklahoma City Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT), more than 300 buildings were damaged, and more than 12,000 volunteers and rescue workers were involved in rescue, recovery, and support operations.
By tracing its serial number, the FBI identified the rear axle found in the wreckage as coming from a Ryder Rental Junction City agency truck. Workers at the agency assisted an FBI artist in creating a sketch of the renter who had used the alias "Robert Kling". The sketch was shown in the area and on the same day was identified by manager Lea McGown of the Dreamland Hotel as Timothy McVeigh.
Shortly after the bombing, while driving on I-35 in Noble County, Oklahoma, near Perry, Oklahoma, McVeigh was stopped by Charles J. Hanger, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper from Pawnee, Oklahoma. Hanger had passed McVeigh's yellow 1977 Mercury Marquis and noticed it had no license plate. He arrested McVeigh for carrying a loaded firearm. He was wearing a T-shirt at that time with the motto: sic semper tyrannis, the state motto of Virginia, and also the words shouted by John Wilkes Booth after he shot Abraham Lincoln. The translation: Thus ever to tyrants. Three days later, while still in jail, McVeigh was identified as the subject of the nationwide manhunt.
On August 10, 1995, McVeigh was indicted on 11 counts, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, destruction by explosives, and eight counts of first-degree murder. On October 20, 1995, the government filed notice it would seek the death penalty.
On February 20, 1996, the Court granted a change of venue and ordered the case transferred from Oklahoma City to the US District Court in Denver, Colorado, to be presided over by U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch.
McVeigh instructed his lawyers to use a "necessity" defense and to argue that his bombing of the Murrah building was a justifiable response to what McVeigh believed were the crimes of the U.S. government at Waco, Texas, during the 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian complex that resulted in the death of 76 Branch Davidian members. As part of his defense, McVeigh's lawyers showed the controversial video Waco: The Big Lie to the jury at his trial.
On June 2, 1997, McVeigh was found guilty on all 11 counts of the indictment.
On June 13, 1997, the same jury recommended that McVeigh receive the death penalty. The U.S. Department of Justice brought federal charges against McVeigh for causing the deaths of the eight federal officers leading to a possible death penalty for McVeigh; it could not bring charges against McVeigh for the remaining 160 murders in federal court because those deaths fell under the jurisdiction of the state of Oklahoma. After McVeigh's conviction and sentencing (and after the Terry Nichols trial), the state of Oklahoma did not file the state charges in the other 160 murders against McVeigh, since he had already been sentenced to death in the federal trial.
McVeigh's death sentence was delayed pending an appeal. One of his appeals was taken to the Supreme Court of the United States, which denied certiorari on March 8, 1999. He was ultimately executed by lethal injection at 7:14 a.m. on June 11, 2001, at the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. He had dropped all of his existing appeals, while presenting no reason for doing so. He was 33 years old.
McVeigh invited California conductor/composer David Woodard to perform a prerequiem (a Mass for those who are about to die) on the eve of his execution. He had also requested a Catholic chaplain. Ave Atque Vale was performed under Woodard's baton by a local brass choir at St. Margaret Mary Church, located near the Terre Haute penitentiary, at 7:00 p.m. on June 10, to an audience that included the entirety of the next morning's witnesses. McVeigh chose William Ernest Henley's poem "Invictus" as his final statement. His final meal consisted of two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream. McVeigh's execution was the first of a convicted criminal by the United States federal government since the execution of Victor Feguer in Iowa on March 15, 1963.
His body was disposed of by cremation in the retort at Mattox Ryan Funeral home in Terre Haute. The cremated remains were then given to his lawyer for disposition. McVeigh's remains were scattered in an undisclosed location.
McVeigh claimed that the bombing was revenge for "what the U.S. government did at Waco and Ruby Ridge." He visited Waco during the standoff, where he spoke to a news reporter about his anger over what was happening there.
McVeigh was considered by many as someone with a long background in the survivalist movement. He frequently quoted and alluded approvingly to the controversial novel The Turner Diaries, which describes acts of terrorism similar to the crimes that he was convicted of perpetrating. Photocopies of pages sixty-one and sixty-two of The Turner Diaries were found in an envelope inside McVeigh's car. These pages depicted a fictitious mortar attack upon the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
The Turner Diaries was written by Dr. William Pierce chairman of the White nationalist National Alliance. There is little evidence McVeigh considered himself a White nationalist. McVeigh tolerated his best friend's--Terry Nichols--interracial marriage to an Asian woman.
In a book based on interviews before his execution, American Terrorist, McVeigh stated he decapitated an Iraqi soldier with cannon fire on his first day in the war, and celebrated. But he said he later was shocked to be ordered to execute surrendering prisoners, and to see carnage on the road leaving Kuwait City after U.S. troops routed the Iraqi army. In interviews following the Oklahoma City bombing, McVeigh said he began harboring anti-government feelings during the Gulf War. Some question the veracity of this claim in light of McVeigh's attempts to become a Green Beret after returning from Iraq.
In addition to McVeigh, Terry Nichols was also convicted and sentenced in federal court to life in prison for his role in the crime. At Nichols' trial, evidence was presented indicating that others may have been involved. Several residents of central Kansas, including real estate agent Georgia Rucker and a retired Army NCO testified at the Terry Nichols federal trial that they had seen two trucks at Geary State Lake where prosecutors alleged the bomb was assembled. The retired NCO said he visited the lake on April 18, 1995, but left after a group of surly men looked at him aggressively. The operator of Dreamland Motel testified that two Ryder trucks had been parked outside her Grandview Plaza motel where McVeigh stayed in Room 26 the weekend before the bombing. Testimony suggested that McVeigh may have had several other accomplices, but no other individuals have been indicted for the bombing.
An ATF informant, Carolyn Howe, told reporters that shortly before the bombing she had warned her handlers that guests of Elohim City, Oklahoma were planning a major bombing attack. McVeigh was issued a speeding ticket there at the same time. However, other than this speeding ticket, there is no evidence of a connection between McVeigh and members of the MidWest Bank Robbers (Aryan Republican Army) at Elohim City.
In February 2004, the FBI announced it would review its investigation after learning that agents in the investigation of the Midwest Bank Robbers (an alleged Aryan-oriented gang) had turned up explosive caps of the same type that were used to trigger the bomb. Agents expressed surprise that bombing investigators had not been provided information from the MidWest Bank Robbers investigation. McVeigh was given a one week delay prior to his execution while evidence relating to the Bank Robbers gang was presented to a court.
McVeigh eventually declined any further delays and maintained until his death that he had acted alone in the bombing.
In the book, Others Unknown: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing Conspiracy, Stephen Jones, McVeigh's first, court-appointed lead defense counsel (prior to the death-penalty phase of the case), and Jones's co-author Peter Israel discuss several other possible suspects and continued to implicate Terry Nichols brother, James.
Jones and Israel suggest in Others Unknown that Terry Nichols had crossed paths with suspected Islamic terrorists during his frequent visits to the Philippines before the attacks. Nichols' father-in-law at the time was a Philippine police officer who owned an apartment building often rented to Arabic-speaking students with alleged terrorist connections. Former counter-terrorism adviser on the U.S. National Security Council Richard A. Clarke speculates on the improvement in Nichols's bomb-making techniques as a possible link to Philippines-based Islamist terrorists in Cebú and the southern islands, plus several telephone calls he made there long after he and his wife had come back to the U.S. together, in his 2004 account of the work he undertook for several administrations, Against All Enemies.
McVeigh's defense attorneys also submitted a theory to the court that Islamist terrorists and American Neo-Nazis conspired in the bombing. They pointed out that location and day of the attack indicated the possibility that those seeking revenge for the execution of Richard Snell may have been involved.
In presiding over the trial, Judge Matsch rejected these arguments and did not allow them to be presented as a defense. There remains no credible documented evidence of Islamist or other foreign links to the Oklahoma City bombings.
Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols claims that a high-ranking FBI official was directing Timothy McVeigh in the plot to blow up a government building and that the original target of the attack might have been changed, according to a new affidavit filed in US District Court. Nichols also claims that the government is protecting the official and other conspirators "in a cover-up to escape its responsibility" for the attacks.