The image of Timothy McVeigh — the stone-faced killer — would
fade in the wake of court appearances and media interviews, as Stephen Jones
sought to portray his smiling and chiding client as the simple boy next
The enigmatic figure of Terry Nichols, however, would haunt public
perception, as his attorney jealously guarded the mysterious, brooding figure
from prying eyes.
It was the older, quiet, bespectacled Nichols, some theorized, who was
the "brains" behind the bombing, guiding his young friend in the sinister and
Nichols' ex-wife, Lana Padilla, doesn't agree. "I believe that Terry
bought his home, brought his family there… truly, truly… wanted to
have a family and just get on with his life. I just don't think this man could
have done this… I just don't think with any knowledge he could have done
Neighbors Bob and Sandy Papovich, long-time friends, wrote the press
that Terry Nichols is a "kind, gentle, generous man absolutely incapable of
violence." As Papovich told the author, "I've known Terry for over 15 years,
and I've never heard this man utter the word "hell" or "damn".… Terry
doesn't want to hurt anybody.… And all these people want me to believe
that this man is capable of murdering hundreds of innocent people. It ain't
Terry Nichols told Federal Public Defender Steve Gradert, "Heck, I've
got kids, too," in response to the bombing. A peaceful person, Nichols reportedly
loved children, including his son Josh, whom he maintained a close relationship
with. One day, the astute thirteen-year-old told his mother he had to call the
FBI. He was frantic. "I've got to tell them!"
"What do you got to tell them, Padilla asked?"
"I've got to tell them that my dad wouldn't do that. He loves children.
He wouldn't do that to those children."
Yet the press would paint Terry Nichols with the same broad brush that
they had used to paint Timothy McVeigh — focusing on the fact that Nichols
came from a broken home, had dropped out of college, worked a series of odd
jobs, and was anti-government. Like McVeigh, the media, anti-militia activists,
and scores of pseudo-experts would do their best to cast Nichols in the same
extremist mold — a man, authorities claimed — capable of killing 169
The third of four children, Terry Nichols grew up on a farm near Lapeer,
Michigan. His father, Robert — quiet and soft-spoken — labored hard
on the family's 160-acre farm. Like his son, he also worked a series of odd
jobs, doing construction, selling encyclopedias, and putting in shifts at the
Pontiac and Buick plants, in an effort to keep the family afloat in a county
where farming had become less and less prosperous.
His mother Joyce was a sharp contrast. Hard-drinking, often violent with
explosive fits of temper, she had once rammed Robert's tractor with her car,
and had threatened the local sheriff with a chain-saw. After 24 years of
difficult marriage, the couple finally divorced. Padilla said Terry took it
Nichols dreamed of going to medical school but his grades weren't good
enough for most pre-med programs. He enrolled at Central Michigan University,
but after his parents' divorce in 1974, he dropped out at the request of his
mother, who needed help on the family farm in Decker. However, Nichols told
friends he would never be a farmer.
Yet, like McVeigh, Nichols was an intelligent man. He passed a difficult
test for a securities license with a minimum of study and preparation, but told
friends he was bored with college, which he found no more challenging than
While in Decker, Nichols met his first wife, Lana Padilla, and they
married in 1981. Two years later, they had a baby boy, Joshua. Shortly
thereafter, Padilla's sister Kelli married Terry's brother James, and the four
lived together at James's Decker, Michigan farmhouse.
Not satisfied with farm life, Nichols tried a number of different
occupations. He delved into penny stocks, went on to sell insurance and real
estate, managed a grain elevator, and worked occasionally as a carpenter.
Nothing held his interest.
"No matter what he tried to do, every time he tried to break away, he
ended up back on the farm trying to help his mother and James," said
While Padilla devoted time to building her real estate career, Nichols
cooked, cleaned house, and cared for the kids. Yet he grew increasingly
restless and depressed.
"Terry got real down on life," said his father. "He didn't care what he
had done…. He lost his vitality."
One afternoon Padilla brought home pamphlets from the local Army
recruiting office, and laid them out on the table. When she came back, the
pamphlets were gone. Like many men uncertain about their future, Nichols
decided to try a career in the military.
"He was just searching for a career, something he enjoyed," Nichols'
friend Sandy Papovich told the Dallas Morning News. "He thought he would
It was an unusual career move for a 32-year-old man with children. Yet
Nichols hoped he would be able to rise quickly through the ranks, and Padilla
thought the experience would strengthen Terry and save their marriage.
On May 24, 1988, Nichols was assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia for basic
training. "He said the government had made it impossible for him to make a
living as a farmer," recalled assistant platoon leader Glen "Tex" Edwards. He
hated the United States government. I thought it strange that a 32-year-old man
would be complaining about the government, yet was now employed by the
government. Nichols told me he signed up to pull his 20 years and get a
Because of his age and maturity, Nichols was quickly made platoon
leader. The obvious discrepancy in years earned him the nickname "Old Man."
"The drill sergeant said that because Nichols was older than the rest of
us, he would hopefully be more mature and able to lead the younger guys in the
unit. He also had some college background and came into the Army as a PFC,"
It was at Fort Benning that Nichols would meet Timothy McVeigh. The two
men had enlisted on the same day. According to an account in the
William "Dave" Dilly, who was McVeigh's roommate for about a year in the
service, said McVeigh and Nichols "hit it off from the start, like Terry was
his big brother. Tim was real frail and unsure of himself. Terry was the oldest
guy and real sure of himself."
But the two men found they had a lot in common. McVeigh too came from a
broken, blue-collar home and had an abiding interest in firearms and far-right
politics. Both men fancied themselves as survivalists, and both loved to spend
time on the rifle range. Both were looking for lifetime careers in the service.
They quickly became friends.
Another one of their friends was Michael Fortier, who joined Nichols and
McVeigh at Fort Riley. The three would spend free time together, going fishing,
shooting, and sharing their political beliefs.
Yet while McVeigh would rise quickly through the ranks, Nichols' Army
career stalled. It seemed his platoon leadership status had been rescinded due
to a prank he and McVeigh had pulled.
Around the same time, Padilla filed for divorce, and made plans to move
her real estate business to Las Vegas. On May 15, 1989, after 11 months in the
service, Nichols put in for a hardship discharge due to a "family emergency"
that was never publicly explained. Yet it apparently had nothing to do with his
divorce. He told Padilla it was to take care of his son Josh. As Padilla later
wrote, Nichols already had Josh with him at Fort Riley, where the pair lived in
a house off-base. As Padilla wrote in her book, By Blood Betrayed:
I've always wondered just why he was released, less than a year after
enlisting, and have always been told it was because he had to take care of
Josh. But this theory never washed with me because he'd had Josh with him all
along. I really believe that Josh was just a convenient excuse and that Terry
had become disillusioned with the Army because he believed he would never rise
through the ranks.
Perhaps Nichols' "hardship discharge" was similar to Lee Harvey Oswald's
"hardship discharge" from the Marines that never was explained. And that of
Thomas Martinez, the FBI infiltrator into the Silent Brotherhood (The Order),
who was given an honorable discharge during basic training, which was never
Even more interesting is the parallel to McVeigh's discharge after
"failing" his Special Forces try-out in April of 1991. McVeigh's sudden and
mysterious departure from the Army, like Nichols', was never fully explained.
As suggested previously, McVeigh's sudden decision leave a brilliant military
career behind may have resulted from his being "sheep-dipped" as an
Yet mainstream media psychojournalists insisted that Nichols' departure
from the Army was nothing more than the inevitable result of a consistent
string of life-long failures.
Glen "Tex" Edwards put a slightly different spin on the matter. Edwards
said that shortly before he left the Army, Nichols invited him to be part of a
"private army" he said he was creating. "He told me he would be coming back to
Fort Riley to start his own military organization," recalled Edwards. "He said
he could get any kind of weapon and any equipment he wanted."
Nichols also said he intended to recruit McVeigh, Fortier, and others.
"I can't remember the name of his organization, but he seemed pretty serious
about it," Edwards said, adding that he reported Nichols' offer to the FBI
shortly after the bombing.
In spite of the flamboyant tales about recruiting a private army,
Nichols returned to his old life in Michigan, working for a time as a
carpenter, then moving back to the farmhouse in Decker. In spite of his short
career in the Army, or perhaps because of it, Nichols developed a deep distrust
of the Federal Government.
It was a feeling that was shared by his brother James, who, as a farmer,
had suffered through the worst of the floods of the late '70s and early '80s,
and blamed the Federal Government for failing to provide adequate disaster
relief. Nichols, along with his Sanilac country neighbors, witnessed dozens of
farm foreclosures as a result. It was the Federal Government's policies that
led to the rise of such far-Right groups as the American Agricultural Movement
and the anti-tax Posse Comitatus. As the Post writes:
Many residents around Decker said they share Terry and James's angry
politics, but are less vocal because they fear government retribution. "Much of
what the Nichols brothers believe is not that different or radical from what
lots of people around here think," said local truck driver Jack Bean. "We feel
our liberties and freedoms are being chipped away at and we want all this
authority off our backs. The difference between the Nichols and others in this
community is that they are just not afraid to say what they think, to challenge
what is wrong."
In spite of their differences, Terry and James had a lot in common. Both
were fathers, had married sisters, and had suffered through difficult divorces.
Both shared an ideological distrust of the Federal Government.
James studied the Constitution, Black's Law Dictionary and the Uniform
Commercial Codes. He read the works of Jefferson and Paine and was particularly
inspired by Jefferson's maxim, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time
to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Perhaps not coincidentally,
this passage was discovered in McVeigh's car upon his arrest. It would later be
read into evidence at his trial.
Both Terry and James also held a view shared by many beleaguered
farmers: that the Federal Reserve was not empowered to coin money, and that
U.S. currency printed after 1930, when the nation went into debt, was
valueless. Following the advice of financial books that warned of an imminent
crash, the brothers put their money into precious metals such as silver and
Yet their activities took still more dramatic turns. In 1990 James tried
to renounce his citizenship, and plastered his car with anti-government and
Second Amendment bumper stickers.
Terry purchased a pick-up truck and decided not to register it, instead,
making his own tag and placing it on front. Both men renounced their driver's
In March of 1994, Terry sent a dramatic affidavit to the Evergreen
Township claiming himself to be a "Non-Resident Alien" private citizen not
bound by the laws of the U.S. government. (See Appendix) He also renounced his
voting rights due to "…total corruption in the entire political system
from the local government on up through and including the president of the
United States of America, George Bush."
While he may have been right in principle, his activity was not condoned
by the local authorities. In 1992, Chase Manhattan Bank went after Nichols for
racking up $17,860 in unpaid credit card debts. The largely out-of-work farmer
had spent over $35,000, using Chase and First Deposit National Bank cards, on
farm equipment, personal effects, and airline tickets.
He attempted to pay off the debts with his own "Certified Fractional
Reserve Check," a bogus check distributed widely among farmers by a group
called Family Farm Preservation. He signed the check, "Explicitly reserving all
my rights, Terry L. Nichols." He then sent the bank a letter retroactively
revoking his signature from the credit card contract.
"There are two sides to that man, maybe many more," said Dennis Reid, a
Sandusky, Mich., lawyer who has observed Nichols and his brother, James, during
court proceedings in Michigan. "Jim to me I really expect is kind of a sissy.
He was always shaking when he'd go into the courtroom and spout off," attorney
Dennis Reid said. "Terry seemed to be more level-headed. He was still saying
things that were strange, but he was certainly more cold and more
Terry definitely didn't seem "level-headed" when he went to court to
answer the lawsuit by Chase. He refused to come before the bench, shouting to
Judge Donald Teeple from the back of the room that the court had no
jurisdiction over him. During the hearing, the bitter and sarcastic defendant
accused the bank of fraud. "They knowingly and willingly know how to make
credit out of nothing and make interest on it and actually steal people's hard
earned money," he told the Judge. "They gave me valueless nothing for something
they want to take from me that has value. That's not right, is it?"
He claimed to have determined that the bank's business was based upon
"fraud and misrepresentation, collusion, color of law, conspiracy, enticement,
inducement, seduction, duress, coercion, mistake [and] bankruptcy," and he
filed a counterclaim against First Deposit and its attorneys for $50,000 or
14,200 ounces of silver. Nichols charged the bank with "mental and emotional
damage, loss of happiness and the unjust destroying of credit history… by
wanton acts when no probable cause existed."
The judge was not impressed. He accused Nichols of playing with words
and ordered him to pay the debt. Nichols didn't pay.
When FBI agents questioned Lana Padilla after Nichols' arrest, they
asked her a curious question: Did Nichols ever dye his hair? The Bureau had
been investigating a string of bank robberies throughout the Midwest. One of
the robbers had dyed his hair, and was Nichols height and weight.
The group, known as the Midwest Bank Bandits, had robbed over a
quarter-of-a-million dollars from more than 22 banks between January, 1994 and
December, 1995 in a spree that took them across six states, including Kansas.
The bandits were tied to a group of men who made their temporary home at Elohim
City, a far-Right religious compound in Southeastern Oklahoma. McVeigh and his
friend Michael Fortier were known to have visited the compound. Some of the men
were also seen in Kansas with the bombing defendants. (See Chapter 4)
If the FBI's question came as a shock to Padilla, she would turn pale
when she opened her ex-husband's storage locker on December 15, 1994, and
discovered wigs, masks, and pantyhose. The Mid-West Bank Bandits had worn
Could Nichols have been robbing banks? "Not the Terry I knew," said
Padilla. "I was just speculating, but everything that has come out about that
side of Terry was a total… maybe I just turned my face and never noticed
it, never wanted to notice it, but… I never thought of him… of course
I never would have thought of him sleeping with a gun under him either."
Yet considering Nichols' hatred of banks and his rallying cry against
the monetary system, it would not be too far-fetched a scenario. Such
speculation is bolstered by the fact that McVeigh sent his sister a letter in
December of '93 informing her that he was part of a group that had been robbing
banks. Although he himself didn't admit to taking part in any of the robberies,
he asked her to "launder" three $100 bills that "they" had stolen.
McVeigh returned to Decker, Michigan in the Spring of 1993 to see his
old Army friend Nichols. Just back from Waco, where he had witnessed the
carnage inflicted upon the Branch Davidians, McVeigh was instilled with a new
sense of urgency and rage. At the Nichols farm, he would find like-minded souls
who shared his frustration.
By the Fall of '93, McVeigh was living at the farmhouse, helping with
the chores, and reportedly urging the Nichols brothers onto more militant
activities. The men practiced target shooting and setting off small bombs on
"You know how little boys like to play with things that blow up?"
recalled [neighbor Phil] Morawski. "That was what they were like. And
everything they mixed out there in the cornfields seemed to work."
The government would focus heavily on this activity later on.
According to Michigan Militia members, the Nichols brothers also began
attending meetings, but the militia found their rhetoric too strong. Michigan
Militia member John Simpson recalled: "Terry came to one of our meetings and
wanted to talk about a tax revolt, having to have a drivers license and
eliminating the government. We did not believe in his tactics —
particularly the stuff about a revolt." James reportedly talked about the
"necessity" of taking on police officers, judges and lawyers. Apparently,
McVeigh accompanied Nichols to some of the meetings.
According to Time magazine, McVeigh and the Nichols brothers went
on to organize their own militia:
…the three men formed their own cell of the "Patriots," a
self-styled paramilitary group that James Nichols had been affiliated with
since 1992 when he began attending meetings in a nearby town. The trio decided
to recruit members and establish other cells around the area, but determined
that for security reasons no unit should grow larger than eight members.
If this account is accurate, it would tend to jive with what Nichols
told Army buddy Glen "Tex" Edwards about "recruiting" his own private army.
Perhaps one of Nichols' recruits was Craig O'Shea, who lived just off Highway
77 in Herrington. A friend of Nichols who was kicked out of the service, O'Shea
used to work for Barbara Whittenberg, who owns the Sante Fe Trail Diner in
Herrington. Whittenberg described O'Shea as a "demolitions expert," and said
she saw him occasionally with Nichols. "He's a very violent man," said
Whittenberg, who said O'Shea had once threatened to kill her and her
In March of '94, Nichols took a job at the Donahue ranch in Marion,
Co-worker Tim Donahue recalled that Nichols worked long hours, sometimes
six days a week, without complaint and appeared to enjoy his job, which he did
well. Nichols would grouse about taxes and the government conspiring to seize
people's firearms. One day when Nichols and Donahue were talking about the use
of fertilizer in farming, Nichols mentioned that he knew how to make a
Four months later, in August of '94, Nichols gave Donahue 30 days
notice. His dream of setting up a private army metamorphosized into simply
supplying that army. He told Donahue he was going into the army surplus
business with a friend. On September 30, that friend — Timothy McVeigh
— showed up to help him pack.
It was during this period that his ex-wife began picking up strange
signals from her former husband.
Earlier in the month, he had called her from Kansas. "He was very
upset," she said. "He was very emphatic. He talked about Waco and that shooting
at the White House (where a Colorado Springs man fired a gun toward the White
House). He said, 'You know, that guy wasn't all wrong. There's going to be some
civil unrest in this country.'"
During one of his frequent visits to Padilla's house in Las Vegas,
Nichols displayed his Glock .45. "I never knew him to carry a gun," Padilla
told the Denver Post. "He liked guns and collected them, but this was
new. He acted like he was afraid for his life. He slept with it on."
Traveling the gun show circuit with McVeigh, Nichols was now a virtual
nomad, living out of his pick-up. His few remaining possessions were stored in
a locker in Las Vegas. He also told Padilla that he was he was switching the
beneficiary of his life insurance policy from her to his new wife, Marife.
A 17-year-old Filipino mail-order bride, Marife Torres met Nichols
through Paradise Shelton Tours, of Scottsdale, Arizona. The young woman looked
forward to leaving her life of poverty in Cebu City, Philippines, where the
unemployment rate often topped 40 percent. After a year of exchanging heartfelt
letters, they married on November 20, 1990 in a small restaurant in Cebu City.
Yet it took over four months of bureaucratic hassles and red tape to arrange
Marife's entry into the U.S.
"That one episode soured Terry on government," his father recalled. "He
originally told me it would take six weeks for her to come here… but it
was red tape, red tape, red tape."
At first the newlyweds tried life on the Decker farm, where Jason,
Marife's son by a former boyfriend, was born on September 21, 1991. Yet Marife
found herself "working like a maid," cooking and cleaning for "three husbands,"
Terry, James, and Tim, who often stayed at the house. She wrote her friend
Vilma Eulenberg that she thought the place was haunted, and resented McVeigh,
who she thought was a bad influence on her husband.
The couple eventually moved to warm, sunny Las Vegas, but Marife missed
her Philippine home. To accommodate his new wife, Nichols moved to Cebu City.
But the noise, heat and smog was too much for him, and in mid-1993, after
barely a month in the Philippines, they moved back to the States, shuttling
back and forth between Michigan and Nevada.
Nicole, their first common child, was born on August 1, 1993.
Two months later, on November 22, tragedy struck, when 26-month-old
Jason accidentally suffocated to death in a plastic bag. While Marife wondered
if Terry was capable of killing a child, Padilla assured her he was not, then
hinted darkly in her book that McVeigh may have been responsible for the
death.She neglected to mention the fact that McVeigh and James had
tried to revive the youngster for nearly half-an-hour, then called the
A month later, the couple moved to Las Vegas, where they rented a
condominium for $550 a month. It was during this period that Marife began
traveling to the Philippines to finish her physical therapy degree. According
to Padilla, Terry also traveled to the Philippines about four times a year over
a four year period. She wrote that he sometimes traveled to Cebu City without
taking Marife, whom he occasionally left behind.
"Sometimes he went when Marife was in Kansas. It didn't make sense, but
I never asked why."
Padilla subsequently told me in July of 1996, "I have not known him to
leave her here and just go to the Philippines. If he made a trip by himself, it
was because she was already there."
Whichever account is true, Nichols did travel to Cebu City in late
November to meet with "potential business partners." According to Padilla,
Nichols was making arrangements to bring back "butterflies."
"One time he brought back butterflies — little butterflies that
they make over there — he brought them back here to sell."
Butterflies. Curious merchandise for a man trying to set himself up in
the military surplus business.*
Then on November 22, 1994 Nichols made a final visit to the Philippines
to visit Marife. His parting words to Josh left the 12-year old convinced he
was never going to see his dad again. As he got into the car with Padilla after
dropping his father off at the airport, he started crying.
"What's the matter?" Padilla asked.
"I'm never going to see my dad again. I'm never going to see my dad
"Of course you will," Padilla said reassuringly. "He's gone to the
Philippines a lot of times. You know he always comes back."
"This time is different," he blurted through big tears.
Nichols called his ex-wife from Los Angeles several hours later. "Had a
little excitement at the airport after you left," he said, laughing. He told
Padilla that airport security had stopped him for trying to sneak a pair of
stun guns through the metal detector. They called the cop on duty who ran
Nichols' name through the computer. Although he had several outstanding traffic
warrants, the police let him continue on his way.
Just why was Nichols attempting to carry stun guns on an international
flight? According to Bob Papovich, Terry was afraid of the high crime rate in
poverty-stricken Cebu City. He also said that Nichols was afraid of Marife's
ex-boyfriend. Jason, her son by this man, had died while in Nichols' custody.
The ex-boyfriend had allegedly threatened to kill him should he return.
Yet Padilla doesn't think the story is credible. "I think it's something
they dreamed up," she said. Yet upon his return he told Padilla that he could
get "killed down there" and he was never going back.
Obviously, somebody was out to hurt Terry Nichols, possibly kill him.
When he departed for Cebu City, he left a mysterious package for his ex-wife,
saying, "If I'm not back in 60 days, open it and follow the instructions." At
first, Padilla did as she was told. But her instincts eventually took over.
"I was uneasy about his warning, and Josh's, 'I'll never see my dad
again' kept echoing in my brain."
Padilla had secured the package in her office safe. Now she slipped
quietly into the conference room, opened the lock, and laid the mysterious
brown paper bag on the table. It stared ominously back at her. As she ripped it
open, nearly a dozen keys slid out onto the table. She didn't recognize any of
There was Terry's life insurance policy with a note saying he had
changed the beneficiary from her to Marife, and two handwritten lists saying
"Read and Do Immediately." One of the lists directed her to a storage locker in
All items in storage are for Joshua. The round items are his when he
turns 21, all else now.…
The note also instructed her to remove a small plastic bag taped behind
a utensil drawer in Nichols' kitchen:
All items in plastic bag are to be sent to Marife, for Nicole, if for
any reason my life insurance doesn't pay her. Otherwise, half goes to Josh and
half to Marife.
She removed a letter to McVeigh's sister, Jennifer. Inside the letter to
Jennifer was another one stamped and addressed to McVeigh:
If you should receive this letter, then clear everything out of CG 37 by
01 Feb 95 or pay to keep it longer, under Ted Parker of Decker. This letter has
been written & sealed before I left (21 Nov 94) and being mailed by Lana as
per my instructions to her in writing. This is all she knows. It would be a
good idea to write or call her to verify things. [address redacted] Just ask
for Lana (card enclosed). Your on your own. Go for it!!
Also Liquidate 40
At the bottom it read, "As far as I know, this letter would be for the
purpose of my death."
"Why would he write that letter?" asked Padilla. "He has been there so
many times. Never — ever, has he written a letter like that. Never —
Two weeks later, on December 15, Padilla and her oldest son, Barry,
drove to Nichols' apartment. Following Nichols' instructions, Barry reached
behind the kitchen drawer and pulled out a plastic bag. It was crammed full of
twenties and hundreds — a total of $20,000 cash.
Already in a state of shock, the pair drove to the AAAABCO storage
facility and nervously fumbled with the lock. They were stunned when they
opened the door.
…there were wigs, masks, panty hose, freeze-dried food, and various
gold coins (obviously the "round" objects for Josh), along with gold
bars and silver bullion stacked neatly in boxes. There were also some small
green stones that appeared to be jade. I estimated at least $60,000 street
value in precious metals!
There was also a large ring with what appeared to be safe deposit box
Two months later, on January 16, Nichols returned from the Philippines,
alive and well. "Where's the package?" he asked Padilla.
"I opened it," she stated boldly.
"Why?!" he exclaimed. "You betrayed my trust. I told you not to open it
for sixty days."
"Because I was frightened. I thought something terrible had happened to
you. I thought you were dead. And where did you get all that money?"
The couple then argued over finances, but Nichols wouldn't explain the
mysterious letters, or where he had gotten the cash, the gold, and the safe
deposit box keys. She didn't ask about the wigs, the masks, and the pantyhose,
and he didn't tell her. But she was worried nonetheless.
"I think those letters were written because there is somebody bigger
than any of us will ever know involved in this," said Padilla. "Why did he
change his beneficiary on his life insurance? It wasn't because her boyfriend
might take a pot-shot at him… and then he said in that letter not to say a
word to Josh until it's all taken care of… what the hell is he talking
about? It isn't the boyfriend."
If the boyfriend story is untrue, perhaps Nichols' "butterfly" partners
were out to get him.
Or perhaps it was someone else, someone bigger and more dangerous. Such
players aren't hard to come by in Cebu City, home to a number of terrorists
groups such as the Liberation Army of the Philippines, the Communist Huk, and
the Abu Sayyaf, an organization with close ties to the Mujahadeen and World
Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef.
Was Nichols meeting with terrorists in the Philippines? Incredibly, FBI
302 reports and investigations conducted by McVeigh's defense team indicate
that Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, Wali Khan Amin Shah, and several other
terrorists met in Davao, on the Island of Mindanao, in late 1992 or early 1993,
to discuss the Oklahoma City bombing plot.
One of the men at the meeting, recalled an Abu Sayyaf leader, introduced
himself as "a farmer."
When the "farmer" returned from his November, 1994 trip, and discovered
that Padilla had opened the package and read the letter, he turned "white as a
ghost," then immediately began making a series of desperate calls to a boarding
house in Cebu City.
Curiously, Nichols would call his party, have a brief 34-second
conversation, then hang up and immediately redial the number 14 consecutive
times, letting it ring each time. This he repeated on January 31, with nine
calls and one 14-minute conversation; then on February 14 he placed 22 calls
within a 40-minute time-period, with one 23-minute conversation; then on the
28th he made 31 calls within three hours, with no conversations; then finally
on March 7 and 14 he made two calls, speaking 24 minutes each.
Since Nichols didn't time-out these consecutive calls (as one would tend
to do if there was no answer or the line were busy), but made one call right
after the other, is it possible he was sending some sort of signal or
Helen Malaluan, who runs the boarding house, told me Nichols was
probably trying to reach Marife, who she said was staying there at the time.
Her brother Ernesto also said that boarders from the island of Mindanao often
stayed at the house. The Abu Sayyaf, coincidentally, is headquartered in
Mindanao. Was Nichols using Marife to send a message to someone else?
In February of '95, Terry and Marife moved to Herrington, Kansas, where
Nichols purchased a modest home for $25,000.
"We all thought he was just a little bit different," Herrington real
estate agent Georgia Rucker said. "We had to pry any information out of
In Herrington, Nichols appeared to settle down. He attended army surplus
auctions at nearby Fort Riley and tried to make a living selling army surplus
"He spent the morning of April 19, around Herrington, picking up
business cards, registering his truck with the state, and calling on a couple
of local shops, asking about their interest in buying government surplus," said
Padilla. "Those are not the actions of a guilty man."
But are they?
On September 30, the same day that Nichols quit the Donahue ranch,
someone using the name "Mike Havens" purchased 40 50-pound bags of ammonium
nitrate from the Mid-Kansas Co-op in McPhearson. Although employees never
positively identified Nichols as the customer, a receipt with McVeigh's
fingerprint was found in Nichols' home. The FBI asserts that the fertilizer was
kept in a storage shed in nearby Herrington, rented by Nichols under the alias
Then, that same weekend, 299 dynamite sticks, 544 blasting caps,
detonator cord, and a quantity of an explosive called Tovex were stolen from
the Martin Marietta Aggregates rock quarry just north of Marion. Marion County
Sheriff Ed Davies testified at McVeigh's trial that he found metal shavings and
tumblers on the ground in front of the magazines. FBI Agent James Cadigal, an
FBI firearms and tool marks identification specialist, said that a drill bit in
Nichols' home matched the signature of the hole drilled into the lock.
Finally, Lori Fortier, Michael Fortier's wife, testified that McVeigh
told them that he and Nichols had broken into the quarry.
On October 18, 1994, 40 additional 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate
were purchased from the Mid-Kansas Co-op by "Havens." Havens was reportedly
driving a dark-colored pickup with a light-colored camper top — the kind
owned by Terry Nichols. (Another version of the story has a red trailer
attached to the truck, which didn't appear to be Nichols') The FBI believed the
fertilizer was stored in a locker in Council Grove — number 40 —
rented the previous day by "Joe Kyle." This apparently was the "liquidate 40"
that Nichols referred to in his mysterious note to McVeigh.
Jennifer McVeigh later testified that when her brother visited Lockport
in November of '94, he confided to her that he had been driving around with
1,000 pounds of explosives. Could these "explosives" have been the ammonium
nitrate purchased at the Mid-Kansas Co-op?
Then on November 5, 1994, several masked men robbed gun dealer Roger
Moore. The 60-year-old Moore was surprised by two men carrying shotguns,
wearing camouflage fatigues and black ski masks, who bound him with duct tape.
They proceeded to ransack his house, making off with a large collection of
weapons, plus a number of gold and silver bars, and a safe deposit box key.
Interestingly, Moore (AKA: Bob Anderson) knew McVeigh, who once stayed
at his house. Moore had met McVeigh at a gun show in Florida in 1995.
For his part, McVeigh had a solid alibi. He was in Kent, Ohio on
November 5, at a gun show. Yet after the bombing, Fortier reportedly told the
FBI that McVeigh called him after the robbery and said, "Nichols got Bob!" Some
of the guns were later pawned by Fortier at the behest of McVeigh, according to
the FBI, which contends that the proceeds were used to finance the bombing.
Interestingly, Nichols was seen in Sedalia, Missouri on February 10 and
11, the same weekend that gun dealer William Mueller was robbed. Mueller's
Tilly, Arkansas home, 150 miles south of Sedalia, was burglarized of $40,000
worth of silver coins, gun parts, survival gear, and 30 cases of
What makes this even more interesting is that Nichols had checked into
the Motel Memory the evening of February 10, after a long drive from Kansas,
telling owner Phillip Shaw he was there for the gun show. Yet Nichols had
missed the first day of the two-day show.
The next morning, while Nichols was apparently at the show, Shaw's wife
Betty opened his room and saw dozens of boxes of ammunition scattered across
the floor. The presence of such a large quantity of ammunition puzzled local
investigators, who knew there was too small a profit margin in
legally-purchased ammo for gun show dealers to bother messing with it.
Moreover, if Nichols had planned on selling the ammunition, why had he
left so much of it in his room?
Tragically, Mueller, his wife, and their 8-year-old daughter, Sarah,
were found murdered on June 28, 1996. Their bodies were by pulled from the
Illinois Bayou after a fisherman discovered a portion of a leg. The family had
been handcuffed, their heads covered with plastic bags wrapped with duct tape.
They were found in 20 feet of water, tied to a heavy rock.
Unaccounted for was some $50,000 the Arkansas Gazette reported
the Muellers were believed to have received only days before they disappeared.
While Timothy McVeigh had known Roger Moore, his friend Michael Brescia,
and his friend and roommate Andy Strassmeir had met Bill Mueller at a
Fort Smith, Arkansas gun show earlier that year. As reported in the
…Mueller then told [Gene] Wergis that he remembered the two because
he believed they might be connected with his home's burglary — or even the
ATF. Wergis also reported that Mueller showed him a spiral notebook where the
exhibitor had gone so far — so great was his concern — as to write
down the two men's names.
Both Brescia and Strassmeir, who also knew McVeigh, lived at Elohim
City, the white separatist compound near Muldrow, Oklahoma. Two other part-time
residents of Elohim City, 24 year-old Chevie Kehoe and his brother Cheyne,
opened fired on police during a traffic stop in February of '97. The pair was
indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in Little Rock on murder, racketeering and
conspiracy charges, stemming from the Mueller murder.
Guns stolen from the Muellers wound up at a Spokane, Washington motel.
The manager told the FBI that he is 75 percent certain that McVeigh visited his
motel in late '94 or early '95 when Chevie Kehoe was living there. He said that
Kehoe showed up 45 minutes before the April 19 bombing with a request to watch
CNN, and seemed elated when he learned of the tragedy.
Michael Brescia was later arrested for his alleged role in the robbery
of a Madison, Wisconsin bank — part of the string of robberies committed
by the Mid-West Bank Bandits. As previously mentioned, some of the robbers made
their temporary homes at Elohim City.
After the bombing, the FBI questioned Padilla about the items found in
Nichols' home and storage lockers. Among those items were large quantities of
ammunition and a safe deposit box key belonging to Roger Moore. As of this
writing it is not known whether the FBI traced the ammo to Mueller.
Also found in Nichols' home, according to ATF Agent Larry Tongate, were
33 firearms, five roles of 60-foot Primadet detonator cord, non-electric
blasting caps, containers of ammonium nitrate, a fuel-meter, and four 55-gallon
blue and white plastic drums.
Not exactly the everyday stuff of an ordinary guy from a small town in
Similar items were found in James Nichols' farm, including blasting
caps, safety fuses, ammonium nitrate, and diesel fuel. Nichols, who was taken
into custody the same day as his brother, denied any wrongdoing, and
authorities dropped all charges. As for his brother, he commented, "My gut
feeling. I didn't do anything. He didn't do anything." When asked by a
reporter, "How about Timothy McVeigh? he replied, "I want to see some
Yet the facts against Terry seemed to be piling up.
On April 15, 1995, Barbara Whittenberg served breakfast to three men at
the Sante Fe Trail Diner: Terry Nichols, Tim McVeigh, and a third man with dark
features. She also recalled seeing a Ryder truck outside, and asked the men
where they were headed. Suddenly, she said, it was "as if ice water was thrown
on the conversation."
The men left before 7:00 a.m. Later that afternoon, as Whittenberg and
her son were driving to nearby Junction City, they saw the truck parked at
Geary State Fishing Lake — where authorities originally claimed the bomb
was mixed. The truck was still there when they drove past around 3:00 or 4:00
p.m. Whittenberg's son recalled seeing three men along with what he described
as a Thunderbird with Arizona tags.
Later that day Nichols visited a Conoco station in Manhattan, Kansas,
and a Coastal Mart in Junction City, and bought over 30 gallons of diesel fuel.
Nichols' pick-up has a diesel motor, according to his brother, and Nichols' had
been a regular diesel customer for over two months prior to the bombing,
according to Shan Woods of Klepper Oil Co., purchasing between $20 to $30 worth
of diesel fuel "two or three times a week." Receipts were again found in his
The next day, Nichols purchased an additional 21 gallons from the
Junction City Conoco station.
Then, on the evening of April 17, 1995, a Ryder truck was seen parked
behind Nichols Herrington home. A Ryder truck was seen that same week backed up
to a storage shed that Nichols rented.
On the morning of the 18th, several witnesses again saw the Ryder truck
parked at Geary Lake. Parked next to appeared to be Nichols' pick-up. When the
FBI subsequently inspected the area, they allegedly recovered bits of ammonium
nitrate and strands of detonator cord, and saw signs of diesel fuel.
That same day, or possibly the day before, a convoy pulled in for gas at
the Easy Mart in Newkirk, 100 miles north of Oklahoma City. It was a Ryder
truck accompanied by a blue pick-up with a camper top. Manager Jerri-Lynn
Backhous recalled seeing three men. The passenger in the pick-up was dark
skinned with black hair, average height, and had a "real muscular build," she
said. He was wearing a t-shirt and sun-glasses, and "looked just like the John
Doe 2 sketch."
Backhous also saw a reflection of the person in the Ryder truck. He was
a short man with close cropped, dark hair and glasses, she said. Employee
Dorinda J. "Wendy" Hermes waited on the third man — Terry Lynn Nichols
— who came into the store and bought food for the others. Hermes
particularly recalled Nichols' pick-up. "It caught me funny because it had
street tires on it, but it was all muddy," she said.
But perhaps most interesting was the recollection of Nichols' son Josh,
who accompanied McVeigh and his father on the ride back to Kansas that Sunday.
McVeigh asserts that he called Nichols from Oklahoma City because his car had
broken down, and asked Nichols to pick him up. On the way back, according to
Josh, McVeigh made his infamously cryptic remark: "Something big is going to
Nichols reportedly asked him, What, are you going to rob a bank?"
"Something big is going to happen," McVeigh stoically replied.
A curious statement. If McVeigh and Nichols had conspired to bomb the
Murrah Building, wouldn't Nichols already know that "something big" was
going to happen?
Or was the statement invented by Nichols to exculpate himself from the
plot in the eyes of investigators? Given the fact that the statement was
relayed to the FBI by Nichols' 12-year-old son, this seems unlikely.
And if Nichols was involved in the plot, there is evidence that
in November of '94 he wanted out. Among the documents prosecutors handed over
to the defense is testimony from Lori Fortier that McVeigh began to solicit
help from her husband because Nichols was "expressing reluctance."
It should be noted however that the FBI and the "Justice" Department is
infamous for framing people, and they brought enormous pressure on the
Fortiers, threatening them with knowledge of a terrorist plot, weapons
violations and other charges if they did not testify against Nichols and
McVeigh. Federal prosecutors subsequently coached Lori Fortier heavily before
McVeigh's trial, having her practice her testimony in two mock trials.
Yet if Nichols had no involvement in the plot, what was he doing with
large quantities of ammonium nitrate, blasting caps, detonator cord, and a
collection of 55-gallon drums? Why the purchases of diesel fuel? Were these
items planted by the FBI?
If Nichols was involved in the bombing, why didn't he make any attempt
to hide or dispose of these incriminating items before April 19, or even by the
22nd? Why would a man,who had allegedly just blown up a building, killing 169
people, plainly leave a receipt for the so-called bomb ingredient in his
In fact, Nichols didn't attempt to hide any of these items, before he
casually walked into the local police station on April 22, after hearing his
name on TV. Such do not seem like the actions of an intelligent, calculating,
But, then there were the mysterious trips to the Philippines. Those
trips, and Nichols' clandestine meetings with some mysterious players in Las
Vegas, would begin to intrigue a handful of journalists and investigators, as
the Oklahoma City bombing plot took them down an even darker and more insidious