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Eyewitness Gives Differing Account Of McVeigh's Movements before Blast

By Richard A. Serrano
Los Angeles Times
OKLAHOMA CITY

In a development that could complicate prosecution in the Oklahoma City bombing, a local attorney has given an eyewitness account of the movements of defendant Timothy J. McVeigh minutes before the explosion that seem incompatible with the government's present scenario of events.

In the account the government has laid out, McVeigh parked a Ryder rental truck laden with explosives at the north side of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building the morning of April 19 and then fled in a nearby getaway car before the bomb exploded.

However, James R. Linehan, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, said that shortly before the blast he saw McVeigh driving erratically in a car - not the Ryder truck - around the federal building and then suddenly disappearing into its underground parking area.

Linehan's description of the car matches the battered yellow 1977 Mercury Marquis that McVeigh was driving when he was arrested the day of the blast.

Linehan, 39, has been interviewed by the FBI and other investigators but was not called to testify before the grand jury that indicted McVeigh and alleged accomplice Terry Nichols earlier this month.

While the government account portrays McVeigh as the central figure directly responsible for putting the bomb in place, Linehan's version appears to cast him more as a possible getaway driver or in some other secondary role.

Linehan specializes in representing federal employees in Social Security and workers' compensation claims. On the morning of April 19, he was driving from his Midwest City, Okla., office to a hearing downtown when he pulled up to a red light directly on the south side of the Murrah building.

"That's when I notice a yellow vehicle beside me," he said. "The driver of this vehicle is hunched over the wheel. It's a white person because there's a white hand showing.

"I cannot see a face because there's either hair or a hood covering his head and because the driver is hunched over the wheel and looking up at the Murrah building."

"The next second this vehicle just peels out," Linehan said. "Peels out across this intersection. I thought I'd missed the light but the light was still red."

Linehan noticed the rear of the Mercury. "All I remember is I don't see a tag," he said.

When McVeigh was arrested near Perry, Okla., about 70 minutes after the bombing, his Mercury Marquis did not have a rear license plate.

Linehan then noticed that the driver had slowed and swerved far into the left lane in order to crane his neck and look up at the Murrah building.

Linehan said it forced him to pull into the oncoming traffic lane to avoid hitting the Mercury.

At this point, Linehan could see into the Mercury again.

"The person driving it is leaning over the wheel so much trying to look at the Murrah building," he said.

"What I saw was either a hood or hair or something dark that covered the left eye completely. All I could see was the end of a sharp nose, no facial hair and a kind of sharp chin. It was smooth features."