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Prosecutors Try to Tie Nichols To Purchase of Bomb Material

By Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 7, 1997; Page A02

DENVER, Nov. 6—Prosecutors today presented evidence allegedly linking Oklahoma City bombing defendant Terry L. Nichols to the purchase of two tons of ammonium nitrate -- the main ingredient used to build the massive truck bomb that blew open the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people.

Employees of a farming supply company in McPherson, Kan., today identified two cash receipts for the fertilizer, bought under an alias allegedly used by Nichols. Robert Nattier, president of the Mid-Kansas Co-op, told a federal jury here that most customers purchase just a few bags of ammonium nitrate for lawns, but that "Mike Havens" purchased 80 50-pound bags in fall 1994.

Two other employees, each of whom said they sold "Havens" one ton of the fertilizer, testified that they were certain the man who purchased it was not Timothy J. McVeigh, Nichols's Army buddy who was convicted and sentenced to death in June for the bombing.

But neither Frederick Schlender Jr. nor Jerry Showalter was asked whether the purchaser was Nichols, 42. Schlender had testified at a pretrial hearing that he could not be sure it was Nichols. The employees did say that they offered "Havens" a less expensive, more efficient alternative to the ammonium nitrate -- which the buyer declined.

An FBI agent called by the prosecution testified today that she found one receipt for the fertilizer wrapped around gold collector coins in Nichols's drawer during a search of his house. Another FBI agent who analyzed the co-op's receipts testified that only a country club and a pipeline company bought similar amounts in the 16 months before the bombing.

Prosecutors spent most of the day attempting to link Nichols to the fertilizer, to the storage lockers where the government alleges it was surreptitiously kept -- and to McVeigh, 29. Nichols faces the death penalty if convicted of conspiracy and murder.

Sharri Furman, a former bookkeeper at Boots-U-Store-It in Council Grove, Kan., said she rented two storage lockers in fall 1994 to a "Joe Kyle" and a "Ted Parker" -- both aliases the government contends Nichols used. In court today Furman identified Nichols as "Parker," and both the defense and the prosecution agreed the contracts were in his handwriting.

Tim Donahue, a Kansas rancher for whom Nichols once worked, today said that the last time he saw Nichols, the defendant was with McVeigh. Donahue said it was Sept. 30, 1994, Nichols's last day of work and the day the first ton of fertilizer was purchased.

Donahue on Wednesday testified that Nichols told him he thought the government was getting "too big and too powerful" and should be overthrown.

Under cross-examination today, Donahue acknowledged that the conversations, held as the men rode around the ranch in Donahue's pickup truck, were casual and similar to those people might have in a coffee shop. Under questioning from Nichols's attorney Michael Tigar, Donahue also said that Nichols never advocated the use of violence when the two men spoke.

"You didn't say, 'Get out of my pickup truck, you revolutionary,' did you?" asked Tigar. "You didn't say, 'I think you're a crazy man,' did you?"

"Nope," said Donahue.

On redirect, prosecutor Larry Mackey asked Donahue whether he had ever heard anyone talk about overthrowing the government in a coffee shop. Donahue said he had not.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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