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Authorities Consider Charging Nichols in Oklahoma Bombing

By George Lardner Jr. and Pierre Thomas
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

Federal authorities are considering charging Terry Lynn Nichols, a close friend of Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy James McVeigh, with direct involvement in last month's terrorist act.

Nichols is being held in Kansas as a material witness in the case, but so far has been accused only of conspiring with McVeigh and Nichols's older brother, James, to build explosives at their farm in Michigan over the last several years.

The April 19 explosion at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killed 176 people, and a nurse was killed by falling debris during the rescue effort.

"There's an awful lot of stuff pointing to his (Terry Nichols's) being involved," one law enforcement official said Monday. Evidence includes a receipt for a ton of ammonium nitrate that was found at Terry Nichols' Herington, Kan., home with one of McVeigh's fingerprints on it.

FBI lab experts have been comparing bits of blue plastic recovered from the bodies of some of the victims with blue plastic drums found at Nichols' home. A second law enforcement official said Monday that the results were likely to be that the fragments are "consistent" with the plastic drums, but nothing more conclusive.

In an interview Monday night on the syndicated TV program "American Journal," Nichols's ex-wife, Lana Padilla, said he gave her a package last November with instructions not to open it unless he failed to return in 60 days. He said he told her he was leaving the country for a visit to the Philippines, where his current wife is from.

Padilla, a Las Vegas businesswoman who was married to Nichols for 10 years, said she opened the package the next morning and found a letter addressed to her, another addressed to McVeigh and keys to a Las Vegas storage unit.

According to a partial transcript provided by publicists for "American Journal," she said the letter to her contained instructions on how to distribute his assets if he died. The letter to McVeigh stated in part: "You're on your own. Go for it! As far as heat, none that I know." Padilla said she never delivered the letter to McVeigh, but did inspect the compartment at a Las Vegas storage firm and found "silver bouillon and gold bouillon," as well as tools, camouflage gear, pipes, pantyhose and masks.

"Could your ex-husband have robbed a bank?" she was asked on the program.

"I don't think so," she replied.

Padilla said the package with the letters and the keys also contained stock certificates, bonds and a life insurance policy. Neither she nor a Padilla family spokesman could be reached for comment Monday, but she has said she expects to be called to testify before a federal grand jury meeting at Tinker Air Force Base outside Oklahoma City this week.

During the interview, Padilla said that she recently learned that her and Nichols' 12-year-old son, Josh, told the FBI his father taught him how to make bombs from pop bottles. "I was shocked, very surprised," she said.

In assessing the evidence against Terry Nichols, 40, FBI experts are also examining blue paint chips found at a state park where they think the bomb may have been stored in a rental truck. They are comparing them with paint from a blue pickup truck owned by Nichols.

Little has surfaced to link older brother James Nichols, 41, to the bombing. He is being held without bond in Michigan but is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Friday.

"He seems way out at the perimeter at best," one law enforcement official said.

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Volume 115, Number 24.
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