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Witness in Bombing Says McVeigh Drove Rental Truck

By Lois Romano
The Washington Post
DENVER

Two months before the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy J. McVeigh wrote a rambling letter in which he stated that he had shifted his mind-set "from intellectual to animal," a friend who saw the letter testified Thursday in federal court.

Another witness Thursday for the first time placed McVeigh behind the wheel of the same kind of Ryder rental truck that prosecutors say was packed with explosives and used to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Eric McGown, son of the owner of the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kan., testified that several days before the explosion he saw McVeigh with the truck at the motel, where McVeigh was staying. But under a contentious cross-examination by McVeigh's attorney, Stephen Jones, McGown said he could not be sure whether he saw the truck Sunday or Monday - the day the government maintains McVeigh rented it.

In the lengthy, handwritten letter, McVeigh also expressed anger at the FBI's handling of a standoff with a white separatist family at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in which Randy Weaver's wife and son and a deputy U.S. marshal were killed, saying he had written the FBI sniper "who blew Vicki Weaver's head off (telling him) what goes around comes around."

Prosecutors maintain that McVeigh blew up the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, to avenge the government's action at Ruby Ridge and its assault on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.

This was the second letter introduced into evidence by prosecutors in an effort to show McVeigh was moving beyond talk in his hatred for the government. Earlier this week, McVeigh's younger sister Jennifer testified that her brother had written to her that he was moving into the "action stage" in his animosity toward the government.

Kevin Nicholas, 33, a friend of McVeigh's from Vassar, Mich., said his wife's aunt received the letter from McVeigh in February 1995. He did not explain why McVeigh would be writing to the aunt.

Nicholas, who appeared nervous and at times had trouble understanding lawyers' questions, testified that McVeigh had lived with him in late 1994 and 1995 and that the two men had traveled to three gun shows during that period.

Nicholas' testimony also seemed designed to drive home the point that in the months leading up to the blast, McVeigh essentially lived the life of a homeless drifter, staying with friends and traveling to gun shows. The factory worker also described how he had picked up McVeigh at a Michigan truck stop after McVeigh had wrecked his car. There were packages wrapped like Christmas presents in the car, Nicholas said, which McVeigh later told him contained blasting caps.