Timothy J. McVeigh denied a widespread conspiracy was behind the Oklahoma City bombing, as a recent report alleges.
Timothy J. McVeigh went to his grave in June 2001 insisting that no widespread conspiracy was behind the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, but also predicting that some people would continue to believe that a larger conspiracy existed.
“For those die-hard conspiracy theorists who will refuse to believe this, I turn the tables and say: Show me where I needed anyone else,” McVeigh wrote in a letter to The Buffalo News a few weeks before his execution. “Financing? Logistics? Specialized tech skills? . . . Show me where I needed a dark, mysterious “Mr. X.’ “
An Associated Press story originating in Washington on Wednesday alleged that McVeigh “tried to recruit additional help” in the days before the April 19, 1995, bombing.
The news service said the FBI had found possible links between McVeigh and members of a white-supremacist bank robbery gang. It quoted a former member of the gang and a former FBI agent who supervised the bombing investigation.
In addition, a convicted killer who served time with McVeigh on death row has written a book saying McVeigh confided to him that he was involved with the bank robbery gang.
McVeigh, though, was bothered that many Americans refused to believe that he was able to commit the horrific crime without more help.
During more than 70 hours of interviews for the book “American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing,” McVeigh anticipated and discussed several of the issues that arose in this week’s AP story:
He said he was aware of allegations about his involvement with a bank robbery gang but denied them.
He admitted that, in the days before the bombing, he contacted two white supremacist groups, hoping they might help him find a hide-out after the bombing. McVeigh said he never got any help from the groups.
He predicted that David Paul Hammer, another death row inmate, would write a book about him but said it would be full of lies.
The latest conspiracy allegations caused concern in Oklahoma City, where 168 people were killed and more than 500 injured in the bombing, and in Pendleton, where the convicted bomber’s father, retired factory worker William McVeigh, still lives.
McVeigh said he believes his son told the truth in interviews for “American Terrorist.” The book, detailing Timothy McVeigh’s claim that he planned and carried out the bombing with help from former Army buddy Terry L. Nichols, was published two months before the bomber was executed.
Asked about the newest conspiracy theory, the elder McVeigh said: “I don’t believe any of that. I think it’s false.”
Skeptics and believers
William McVeigh said he tries to avoid the spotlight but has resigned himself to the fact new theories about the bombing will keep surfacing. “It’s going to be here forever,” he said.
In Oklahoma City, reports about McVeigh and the bank robbery gang drew a skeptical reaction from a man whose stepdaughter was killed in the 1995 bombing.
Businessman H. Tom Kight attended the federal trials that led to convictions against both McVeigh and Nichols. Kight said he has heard many conspiracy theories since the death of his stepdaughter, Frankie Ann Merrell.
If others were involved in the bombing, Kight asked, why wouldn’t the FBI have arrested them? “If there were others involved, why didn’t it come out in Nichols’ federal trial?” Kight said. “I personally don’t believe, after attending both trials and seeing all the evidence that was presented, that there were others involved. It isn’t there.”
Kight said he wonders if the latest theory is part of a defense strategy to divert attention from Nichols’ responsibility in the bombing.
Nichols is serving a life term in prison on his federal conviction. In a state trial scheduled to begin next week, Oklahoma prosecutors are seeking to have Nichols put to death.
“Knowing my partner is already convicted and sentenced to death, I’m going to do everything I can to save my bacon,” Kight suggested, talking of Nichols.
But others in Oklahoma disagree with Kight. Many do not believe it would be possible for McVeigh and Nichols alone to commit such a major crime.
“I’ve always believed there was a conspiracy,” said Jannie Coverdale, whose two young grandsons, Aaron and Elijah, died in the bombing. “I’ve been asking questions for 81/2 years.”
In the AP story, Peter Langan, a former member of the white supremacist bank robbery gang, said another gang member once told him he had been involved with the bombing.
In addition, Dan Defenbaugh, a former FBI agent who supervised the bombing investigation, told the AP the probe should be reopened.
Coverdale said many people who lost loved ones in the blast were calling each other Wednesday and discussing the latest news reports. She said many Oklahomans believe there should be extensive congressional hearings to find out if anyone else was involved in the crime.
“McVeigh had ties to Elohim City, a white supremacist compound in eastern Oklahoma,” Coverdale said. “And I’ve talked to eyewitnesses who saw McVeigh with another man in Oklahoma City on the morning of the bombing.”
Since the bombing, the theories have included allegations that Osama bin Laden and terrorists from the Philippines or Iraq were behind the crime, that American neo-Nazis were involved, and that federal agents knew about bombs planted in the basement of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
“I believe the government had prior knowledge of the bombing,” said Gloria Chipman, an Edmond, Okla., woman whose husband, Robert, died in the blast. “I also believe the government covered up and destroyed evidence . . . to cover their mistakes.”
Chipman said she sent more than 100 e-mails out about the latest reports. “All of the information links (McVeigh) to bank robbers,” she said. “We heard about it at the beginning, but it never came out at the trial.”
Public speculation that McVeigh had been involved with a bank robbery gang surfaced as early as May 1995, a couple of weeks after the bombing. During the marathon interviews for “American Terrorist,” McVeigh said there was no truth those reports.
McVeigh denied getting help
McVeigh also denied that anyone from Elohim City provided any assistance to him. He confirmed that he called Elohim City a few days before the crime, looking for someone who might help him find a place to hide out after the bombing. He said he also called a national neo-Nazi organization, the National Alliance, for the same purpose. But McVeigh said he never got help from either group.
In 2000, McVeigh repeatedly warned that Hammer, a fellow death row inmate, would someday write a book about him. Calling Hammer “The Thorn,” McVeigh said he believed Hammer befriended him in prison so he could gather information for his book.
McVeigh predicted that Hammer’s book would be filled with false, sensational stories, and that it would be published after McVeigh was dead and no longer able to rebut anything Hammer wrote. Hammer’s book is reportedly scheduled to come out next month, and he is scheduled to be executed in June.
McVeigh said he bombed the Murrah Building to retaliate against federal law enforcement officers’ deadly attack on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, and enforcement of federal gun laws he believed were repressive.
In one way, McVeigh said, he took delight in the prospect of new conspiracy theories sprouting up long after his death.
“If people want to keep saying there was a big conspiracy, that could be useful to me,” McVeigh said. “If the government is worrying that other bombers might still be out there somewhere, on the loose, that’s good. It could keep the government on its toes.”