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McVeigh Held in Conjunction with Oklahoma City Bombing

By Paul Duggan and Pierre Thomas
The Washington Post

A federal magistrate in Oklahoma Thursday said there was "an indelible trail of evidence " linking Timothy James McVeigh to last week's bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building as investigators developed a more complete picture of the bomb McVeigh is accused of planting.

The magistrate, Ronald L. Howland, ordered McVeigh to be held without bail after listening to four hours of testimony from FBI special agent John Hersley in which he described eyewitness accounts of a yellow Mercury with McVeigh and another man inside speeding away from a parking lot near the federal building. Throughout the hearing, held in a makeshift courtroom set up at El Reno Federal Corrections Center, McVeigh, his handcuffed wrists shackled to his waist, showed no emotion.

McVeigh, 27, is the only suspect arrested so far in the investigation of the bombing, which left 110 people dead and 90 missing.

While federal prosecutors were describing their case against McVeigh, law enforcement sources said the 4,800-pound bomb that caused the explosion probably required at least two to three people to construct and considerable patience and planning. Building such a device "would be extremely labor-intensive," said one official, noting that the bomb components included 20 to 25 55-gallon barrels filled with a volatile mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil.

The bombers used a high-explosive strong enough to cut through a steel beam to make sure the volatile mix stored in the barrels ignited, sources said. In addition, to increase the fireball and burning power associated with the blast, the bombers placed metal cylinders full of hydrogen or possibly acetylene within the explosive package.

Experts believe the package likely was detonated by a simple safety fuse, portions of which have been recovered in the rubble. The Ryder rental truck that is believed to have been used to transport the bomb was parked outside the Alfred P. Murrah building in downtown Oklahoma City for only about four minutes before it exploded. The safety fuse burns at a rate of 1 foot per 30 seconds, suggesting that the bombers used about eight feet of the material. The bomber or bombers likely heard the blast while driving away from the scene.

Explosive experts from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are working to piece together all fragments of the truck and bomb recovered from the blast site. In addition, for McVeigh's trial, these experts plan on videotaping a similar Ryder truck loaded with non-explosive material to re-create how the bomb was delivered.

The focus of the investigation Thursday continued to center on friends, relatives and associates of McVeigh, the only person officially charged in the bombing, said senior law enforcement officials. In Oklahoma City, FBI spokesman Weldon L. Kennedy said investigators were still trying to identify John Doe No. 2, a man who accompanied McVeigh when he rented the Ryder truck in Junction City, Kan.

"The only description we have is the composite sketch which has been widely publicized," Kennedy said. He discounted new reports that the FBI believes the man spoke with a foreign accent.

"We urge citizens to consider only that sketch and not any other descriptive information," he said. "We can't verify any additional description at this time." He also said investigators were searching for an Arizona license plate-LZC 646 - that apparently fell off or was removed from the yellow, 1977 Mercury Marquis that McVeigh was driving when stopped by a state highway patrol officer in Perry, about 70 miles north of Oklahoma City.

Kennedy said witnesses told FBI agents they saw the yellow car parked near the federal building before the explosion, with a note saying the vehicle had an engine problem and should not be towed. Authorities have theorized that McVeigh may have left the Mercury near the building and used it as a getaway car after parking the truck bomb.

As hundreds of investigators continued the search for "John Doe No. 2," David Paulsen, who runs a military supply store in Antigo, Wis., has come under intense scrutiny.

Investigators discovered a business card with his first name and telephone number on it in the patrol car in which McVeigh was held after his arrest. The card made reference to needing five more sticks of high explosive by May 1 - likely TNT, senior law enforcement officials said. "We are trying to find out who he is and everything we can about him," said one source about Paulsen. A woman answering the telephone at Paulsen's store declined to comment Thursday.