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Archive for Monday, April 19, 2004

On anniversary of bombing, victims look for co-conspirators

April 19, 2004

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— For Jannie Coverdale, the search for suspects in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed her two grandsons and 166 other people did not end with the arrests of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

Nine years after the deadly bombing, Coverdale is among a resolute group of survivors and members of victims' families that is still searching for the enigmatic suspect John Doe No. 2 and evidence of a wider bombing conspiracy.

Coverdale and others believe the state murder trial of bombing conspirator Terry Nichols may be their last chance to prove what prosecutors argue is a leap of faith: that unknown others were involved in the plot to bomb the Oklahoma City federal building.

"I want to get to the bottom of it," Coverdale said.

Earlier this month, Coverdale sent a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller asking that the investigation into the April 19, 1995, bombing be reopened, citing the bureau's failure to share evidence of possible bombing co-conspirators with top bombing investigators. She said she has not received a reply.

Nichols' defense attorneys have built a case around documents and witness accounts they say show other co-conspirators helped McVeigh in the plot to bomb the Oklahoma City federal building and that Nichols was set up

Judge Steven Taylor is scheduled to take testimony on the motion when Nichols' trial resumes today, the ninth anniversary of the bombing.

Nichols, 49, was convicted on federal counts of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in Denver in 1997. He was sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of eight federal law enforcement officers in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

In Oklahoma, Nichols faces 161 state counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of the other 160 victims and one victim's fetus. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The day after the bombing, the FBI released sketches of two men drawn from descriptions provided by employees at a Junction City, Kan., body shop. Authorities said the truck used to deliver the Oklahoma City bomb was rented at the shop.

One sketch, known as John Doe No. 1, resembled McVeigh. The other, John Doe No. 2, depicted a dark-haired, muscular man with features that do not resemble Nichols.

Investigators identified the suspect as an Army private who was at the body shop about the same time and had nothing to do with the bomb plot. But Coverdale and others believe the sketch resembles a man of Middle Eastern descent.

Lawton and 13 other survivors and victims' relatives filed a federal lawsuit in 2002 against Iraq, claiming Iraqi officials provided money and training to McVeigh and Nichols. The lawsuit is pending.

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