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Context of 'August 7, 1995: Unidentified Leg Found in Oklahoma City Bombing Rubble; Defense Lawyer Says Leg May Belong to ‘Real Bomber’'

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The Alfred P. Murrah Building after being bombed.The Alfred P. Murrah Building after being bombed. [Source: CBS News]A truck bomb destroys the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people in America’s worst domestic terrorist attack. Timothy McVeigh, later convicted in the bombing, has ideological roots both in the Patriot world and among neo-Nazis like William Pierce, whose novel, The Turner Diaries (see 1978), served as a blueprint for the attack. [Washington Post, 4/20/1995; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; Clarke, 2004, pp. 127] Initially, many believe that no American set off the bomb, and suspect Islamist terrorists of actually carrying out the bombing (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Their suspicions prove groundless. Investigators will find that the bomb is constructed of some 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, carried in 20 or so blue plastic 55-gallon barrels arranged inside a rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995). The bomb is detonated by a slow-burning safety fuse, most likely lit by hand. The fuse is attached to a much faster-burning detonation cord (“det cord”) which ignites the fertilizer and fuel-oil mixture. [New York Times, 4/27/1995] The Murrah Federal Building houses a number of federal agencies, including offices for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF); the Social Security Administration; the Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture departments; and the Secret Service. [Washington Post, 4/20/1995] It encompasses an entire city block, between 5th and 4th Streets and Harvey and Robinson Streets, and features a U-shaped, indented drive on 5th that allows for quick pickup and delivery parking. The entire building’s facade on this side is made of glass, allowing passersby to see into the offices in the building, as well as into the America’s Kids day care center on the second floor, which by this time is filling with children. It is in this driveway that McVeigh parks his truck. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 99-102]
Entering the City - McVeigh drives into Oklahoma City, entering around 8:30 a.m. from his overnight stop in Ponca City, Oklahoma; the details reported of his entrance into the city vary (see 7:00 a.m. - 8:35 a.m., April 19, 1995). At 8:55 a.m., a security camera captures the Ryder truck as it heads towards downtown Oklahoma City [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] , a sighting bolstered by three people leaving the building who later say they saw the truck parked in front of the Murrah Building around this time. At 8:57, a security camera captures an image of McVeigh’s Ryder truck being parked outside the Murrah Building in a handicapped zone. One survivor of the blast, Marine recruiter Michael Norfleet, later recalls seeing the Ryder truck parked just outside the building next to the little circle drive on 5th Street leading up to the main entrance of the building. Norfleet had parked his black Ford Ranger in front of the Ryder.
McVeigh Lights Fuses - McVeigh drives the Ryder truck west past the Murrah Building on NW Fourth Street, turns north on a one-way street, and turns right on Fifth Street. He pulls the truck over and parks near the Firestone store, next to a chain-link fence. He then lights the five-minute fuses from inside the cab (see 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), sets the parking brake, drops the key behind the seat, opens the door, locks the truck, exits, and shuts the door behind him. A man later claims to have hit his brakes to avoid someone matching McVeigh’s description as he crossed Fifth Street around 9:00 a.m. McVeigh walks quickly toward a nearby YMCA building where he has hidden his getaway car, a battered yellow Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995), in the adjoining alleyway, crossing Robinson Street and crossing another street to get to the alleyway. He begins to jog as he approaches his car. He later says he remembers a woman looking at him as she is walking down the steps to enter the building; he will describe her as white, in her mid-30s, with dirty blonde hair. According to McVeigh’s own recollection, he is about 20 feet into the alley when the bomb goes off. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 184-185; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 158; Douglas O. Linder, 2006; The Oklahoman, 4/2009]
Truck Explodes - At 9:02 a.m., the truck explodes, destroying most of the Murrah Building and seriously damaging many nearby buildings. Eventually, it will be determined that 168 people die in the blast, including 19 children. Over 500 are injured. The children are in the second-story day care center just above the parking space where McVeigh leaves the Ryder truck. McVeigh will later tell his biographers that he is lifted off his feet by the power of the blast.
Devastation and Death - When the bomb detonates, the day care center and the children plummet into the basement. The building, constructed with large glass windows, collapses, sending a wave of flying glass shards and debris into the building and the surrounding area. The oldest victim is 73-year-old Charles Hurlbert, who has come to the Social Security office on the first floor. Hurlbert’s wife Jean, 67, also dies in the blast. The youngest victim is four-month-old Gabeon Bruce, whose mother is also in the Social Security office. One victim, Rebecca Anderson, is a nurse who runs towards the building to render assistance. She never makes it to the building; she is struck in the head by a piece of falling debris and will die in a hospital four days after the blast. Her heart and kidneys will be transplanted into survivors of the bombing. [Denver Post, 6/3/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 153-154; Oklahoma City Journal Record, 3/29/2001] Sherri Sparks, who has friends still unaccounted for in the building, tells a reporter in the hours after the blast, “Oh, I can’t stand the thought of… those innocent children, sitting there playing, thinking they’re safe, and then this happens.” The explosion leaves a 30-foot-wide, 8-foot-deep crater in the street that is covered by the wreckage of the building’s upper floors. The north face of the nine-story building collapses entirely. [Washington Post, 4/20/1995; Washington Post, 4/22/1995] Mary Heath, a psychologist who works about 20 blocks from the Murrah Building, says the blast “shook the daylights out of things—it scared us to death. We felt the windows shake before we heard the noise.” In a neighboring building, a Water Resources Board meeting is just commencing; the audiotape of the meeting captures the sound of the blast (see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995). [Washington Post, 4/20/1995; The Oklahoman, 4/2009] Norfleet, trapped in the Marine Corps office, is thrown into a wall by the explosion. His skull is fractured, and a shard of glass punctures his right eye. Three separate arteries are pierced, and Norfleet begins bleeding heavily. Two supply sergeants in the office are far less injured; Norfleet asks one, “How bad am I hurt?” and one replies, “Sir, you look really bad.” One of the two begins giving Norfleet first aid; Norfleet later recalls: “He immediately went into combat mode and started taking care of me. He laid me on a table and he started looking for bandages to administer first aid. And while I was laying on that table, I just knew that I was losing strength and that if I stayed in the building, I would die.” Norfleet wraps a shirt around his head and face to slow the bleeding, and the two sergeants help him to the stairs, through the fallen rubble, and eventually out. Norfleet will later say that he follows “a blood trail of somebody that had gone down the steps before me” to get outside, where he is quickly put into an ambulance. He loses almost half his body’s blood supply and his right eye. He will never fly again, and will soon be discharged for medical incapacity. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 161-162] Eighteen-month-old Phillip Allen, called “P.J.” by his parents, miraculously survives the blast. The floor gives way beneath him and he plunges 18 feet to land on the stomach of an adult worker on the floor below, Calvin Johnson. Landing on Johnson’s stomach saves P.J.‘s life. Johnson is knocked unconscious by the blast and by the impact of the little boy falling on him, but when he awakes, he carries the toddler to safety. P.J.‘s grandfather calls the child “Oklahoma’s miracle kid,” and media reports use the label when retelling the story of the miraculous rescue. P.J. is one of six children in the day care center to survive the blast. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 275-277] Some people later report their belief that the Murrah Building was rocked by a second explosion just moments after the first one, the second coming from a secure area managed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) that illegally stored explosives. Law professor Douglas O. Linder will later write, “Both seismic evidence and witness testimony supports the ‘two blast theory.’” [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] That theory is later disputed (see After 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
Explosion's Effects Felt Miles Away - Buildings near the Murrah are also damaged, seven severely, including the Journal Record newspaper building, the offices of Southwestern Bell, the Water Resources Board, an Athenian restaurant, the YMCA, a post office building, and the Regency Tower Hotel. Two Water Resources Board employees and a restaurant worker are killed in the blast. The Journal Record building loses its roof. Assistant Fire Chief Jon Hansen later recalls, “The entire block looked like something out of war-torn Bosnia.” Every building within four blocks of the Murrah suffers some effects. A United Parcel Service truck 10 miles away has its windows shattered by the blast. Cars in parking lots around the area catch fire and burn. Millions of sheets of paper, and an innumerable number of glass shards, shower down for hundreds of feet around the building. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 28-30]
Truck Axle Crushes Nearby Car - Richard Nichols (no relation to bomber Timothy McVeigh’s co-conspirator Terry Nichols), a maintenance worker standing with his wife a block and a half away from the Murrah Building, is spun around by the force of the blast. They throw open the back door of their car and begin taking their young nephew Chad Nichols out of the back seat, when Richard sees a large shaft of metal hurtling towards them. The “humongous object… spinning like a boomerang,” as Richard later describes it, hits the front of their Ford Festiva, smashing the windshield, crushing the front end, driving the rear end high into the air, and sending the entire car spinning backwards about 10 feet. Chad is not seriously injured. The metal shaft is the rear axle of the Ryder truck. Later, investigators determine that it weighs 250 pounds and was blown 575 feet from where the truck was parked. Governor Frank Keating (R-OK) points out the axle to reporters when he walks the scene a day or so later, causing some media outlets to incorrectly report that Keating “discovered” the axle. The scene will take investigators days to process for evidence. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 32; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 187-189]
First Responders Begin Arriving - Within minutes, survivors begin evacuating the building, and first responders appear on the scene (see 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995).
McVeigh's Getaway - McVeigh flees the bomb site in his Mercury getaway car (see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995), but is captured less than 90 minutes later (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995).

The Murrah Federal Building is demolished.The Murrah Federal Building is demolished. [Source: The Oklahoman]The wrecked hulk of the Murrah Federal Building, destroyed in the Oklahoma City bombing a month ago (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), is brought down in a planned demolition. The demolition consists of 150 pounds of dynamite placed in 300 carefully selected locations, and costs the federal and state governments around $404,000. The entire demolition takes about eight seconds. Retired highway department employee Lawrence Glover says: “You can’t stand to look at something like that forever. It’s like when a family member dies and your heart is broken, but you’ve got to bury them and try to get back to the land of the living. Even when you don’t think you ever can.” Linda West of nearby Yukon says: “I had stayed away before now because I felt guilty. I felt like I was intruding somehow. Now that it’s all over, I need some sort of—it’s not closure, because there is no closure on this thing, but it’s like going to the cemetery after the funeral. I was listening to a radio talk show about how most people didn’t know why they came here, they just felt like they had to. I’m like that. I don’t know why, but I had to.” Hundreds of spectators watch the demolition in almost complete silence. Afterwards, many cry, hug one another, and slowly leave the scene. Many at the scene believe a memorial to the dead, and to the responders and rescue workers who saved so many from the rubble, should be erected on the site; others say a children’s playground or library would be fitting. Onlooker Bruce Ligon says, “It doesn’t really matter what they choose, because nobody in this town, or in this country either, is ever going to forget what happened.” [Washington Post, 5/24/1995; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Authorities had considered using cranes and wrecking balls instead of explosives to bring the building down, in concern that a second explosion, no matter how controlled, might further traumatize city residents. “The psychological ramifications were a real consideration of everyone involved in the decision,” Douglas Loizeaux, vice president of Controlled Demolition Inc, whose firm handles the demolition process, said last week. “There was a serious discussion about whether we would be traumatizing people even more by having another explosion. But by using implosion, we can bring the building down weeks sooner than by using a crane, and so the mending process can begin that much quicker.” Dusty Bowenkamp, a psychological nurse from Los Angeles who is coordinating the emergency mental health services of the American Red Cross in Oklahoma City, agreed with Loizeaux’s assessment. The building, she said last week, is “a magnet for people with grief.” She said she and her colleagues had discussed the ramifications of a second explosion, and talked with dozens of people who helped bring the dead and injured out of the rubble and others who carried blast victims into hospitals or the morgue. A few, she said, thought imploding the building was a bad idea: “it’s too much like what happened before—too much like the bomb.” The city residents were informed well in advance of the planned demolition so it would not “retrigger more fear.” The lawyer for accused bomber Timothy McVeigh, Stephen Jones (see May 8, 1995), had filed a motion to delay the demolition so he could examine the building for evidence, but that motion was denied. [New York Times, 5/16/1995; New York Times, 5/16/1995] Two days ago, a team of people hired by Jones did examine the building for clues; that team included an explosives expert, an architect, and a camera crew. Jones explained that he wanted to understand “the dynamics of the bomb” and “the physics of the explosion.… There needs to be a separate record from that of the government. There is a criminal litigation and civil litigation. All sides will need a record, and the government’s record wouldn’t necessarily be available.” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 222-223] A brick wall from another damaged building stands nearby. Written on it in dark red paint is:
bullet 4-19-95.
bullet We Search for the Truth.
bullet We Seek Justice.
bullet The Courts Require it.
bullet The Victims Cry for it.
bullet And GOD Demands it! [Serrano, 1998, pp. 174]

Entity Tags: Lawrence Glover, Douglas Loizeaux, Dusty Bowenkamp, Linda West, Controlled Demolition Inc, Timothy James McVeigh, Bruce Ligon, Murrah Federal Building, Stephen Jones

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Stephen Jones, the attorney representing accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), says that an unidentified leg found in the rubble of the Murrah Federal Building might belong to “the real bomber.” [Indianapolis Star, 2003; Fox News, 4/13/2005] The leg and foot are clad in a combat boot. A medical examiner’s statement says in part: “This leg was clothed in a black military type boot, two socks, and an olive drab blousing strap. Anthropological analysis of this specimen reveals the individual to be light skinned, dark haired, probably less than 30 years of age, male (75 percent probability), and having an estimated height of 66 plus or minus three inches.” Examiner’s office official Ray Blackeney says that the leg was found on May 30, after the building was demolished (see 7:01 a.m. May 23, 1995). “I knew about it,” he says. “We all knew about it here at the Medical Examiner’s.” [New York Times, 8/7/1995; New York Times, 8/8/1995] Jones tells reporters: “There may be a logical explanation for the leg, but none comes to mind. There are no persons unaccounted for. It could have been a drifter nobody knows anything about. It could have been the individual that drove the vehicle used in the explosion. The third possibility is that this person was with the person driving [the vehicle].” [New York Times, 8/7/1995; Washington Post, 8/8/1995; New York Times, 8/8/1995] In late August, the examiner’s office will reveal that the leg belonged to an African-American female, contradicting portions of its earlier reporting. Frederick B. Jordan, the chief of the examiner’s office, will tell reporters, “DNA analysis by the FBI has shown conclusively that the left leg is not male but female.” Hair analysis has proven that the victim was African-American. Jones will tell reporters that the new information destroys any confidence one could have “in any of the forensic work in this case.” [New York Times, 8/31/1995] In February 1996, experts will determine that the leg belonged to a previously identified victim (see February 21, 1996 and February 24, 1996). [Fox News, 4/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Stephen Jones, Ray Blackeney, Murrah Federal Building, Frederick B. Jordan, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Prosecutors in the Oklahoma City bombing investigation (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) consider using an obscure charge, “misprison of felony,” to force others who may have knowledge of the bombing plot to come forward. Investigators are sure that only two men, Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) and Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and June 23, 1995), are primarily responsible for the bombing. However, they suspect that a number of friends and associates of the two men may have known something of the bombing plot before it was carried out. If someone did know of the plot, and failed to warn authorities beforehand, the charge may apply. One person close to McVeigh, state witness Michael Fortier (see August 8, 1995), faces the charge. The charge brings a three-year prison sentence and a $500 fine upon conviction. One person of interest is the alleged associate of McVeigh and Nichols who they believe actually carried out a November 1994 robbery in Arkansas (see November 5, 1994); the proceeds from that robbery were used to fund the bombing. Press reports say that while the FBI believes it knows who the robber is, the bureau lacks the evidence to bring charges. The question of the unidentified severed leg found in the rubble of the destroyed Murrah Federal Building (see August 7, 1995) also indicates that others may have been involved in the bombing. And investigators say they want to know more about a small trailer hitched to the Ryder truck McVeigh used to transport the bomb to Oklahoma City (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Former federal prosecutor Robert G. McCampbell says charging friends or acquaintances of suspects with misprision of felony would be highly unusual: “It is exceedingly rare that a charge of misprision of felony would be brought, but not unheard of,” he says. “But in a case of overwhelming importance, maybe you prosecute it.” Legal experts also believe that investigators may use the threat of the charge to compel cooperation. New York defense lawyer Michael Kennedy, who has represented Mafia members, says: “When the government casts this net, they’re saying, ‘We want to get everybody who knew about this.’ Their hope, in this regard, is that people will read about this, say to themselves, ‘I knew about it, and if I don’t come forward, it will be too late for me to improve my position.’ They hope that some others will come forward.… They say, ‘Tell us what you know, or we’re going to nail you.’ They attempt, by dint of their force, to make the guy come forward to tell what he knew.” Former New York Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, who oversaw the 1993 World Trade Center bombing investigation (see February 26, 1993), says, “It’s a standard investigative technique.” The threat of such charges “gets a very strong message out” to “prevent further acts like that.” [New York Times, 8/29/1995]

Entity Tags: Michael Kennedy, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Michael Joseph Fortier, Robert G. McCampbell, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Raymond Kelly

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Lawyers on both sides of the upcoming Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995) agree to exhume the body of one of the 168 victims of the blast. The agreement to exhume the body of Lakesha Levy, an Air Force member killed in the explosion, is to determine whether the unidentified leg found in the rubble (see August 7, 1995) belongs to Levy. Defense lawyers for accused bomber Timothy McVeigh had at one time speculated that the leg might belong to “the real bomber,” but after DNA tests proved it belonged to an African-American female, those speculations ceased. Levy is buried in a New Orleans graveyard. Prosecutors say that their records show eight of the bombing victims were buried without their left legs. It is possible, they say, that Levy was buried with someone else’s leg. Levy’s body will be sent to an FBI forensics laboratory for investigation. [New York Times, 2/28/1996] The leg will be conclusively identified as Levy’s (see February 24, 1996).

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Timothy James McVeigh, Lakesha Levy

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The unidentified leg found in the rubble of the Oklahoma City bombing (see August 7, 1995 and February 21, 1996) belongs to Airman Lakesha Levy, according to DNA tests carried out by FBI forensic scientists. The FBI also uses footprints from the leg to identify it as Levy’s. Levy was buried with a severed leg belonging to another, as-yet-unidentified bombing victim. Stephen Jones, the lead defense attorney for indicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995), says that the prosecution’s forensic evidence “appears to be moving in different directions like a weather vane in an Oklahoma stormy spring.” State medical examiner Frederick B. Jordan says his office made three mistakes in identifying Levy’s remains: burying the wrong leg with her, erroneously reporting that the wrong leg was still attached to the body, and erroneously reporting that Levy was found with a combat boot on her left foot. Jordan says the errors may refer to Levy’s right leg, not the severed left leg. The FBI has not yet identified the victim whose leg was buried with Levy. [Associated Press, 2/24/1996] The leg buried with Levy will never be identified. In 1999, it will be buried with honors, along with an assortment of other unidentified fragments and tissue remnants from the bomb site, in a memorial garden on the Oklahoma City capitol grounds. [Amarillo Globe-News, 12/11/1999]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Frederick B. Jordan, Stephen Jones, Lakesha Levy

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The defense for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) opens with the suggestion that the “real” bomber was killed in the explosion. The assertion hinges on a severed leg found in the debris of the Murrah Federal Building (see August 7, 1995 and February 21, 1996). The leg has been identified as belonging to Airman Lakesha Levy, who died in the explosion, but medical examiners had put a leg not belonging to Levy with the rest of her body; that leg remains unidentified. McVeigh’s lead lawyer, Stephen Jones, opens with testimony from Dr. Frederick Jordan, Oklahoma’s chief medical examiner, who tells the jury that the left leg originally assigned to Levy remains unidentified. It had already been embalmed, he testifies, rendering DNA identification impossible. “We have one left leg that we do not know where it belongs,” he says. Jones then places Dr. T.K. Marshall on the stand. Marshall, the former chief medical examiner in Northern Ireland who has extensive experience with autopsies of bombing victims, says he believes that the leg belongs to a victim not yet identified; that victim’s body had probably disintegrated except for the leg, he says. “This is an extra left leg,” he says “Until shown otherwise, this must be a 169th victim.” For such a victim to have been almost completely disintegrated, he says, “you have to be near the bomb.” He cites a case from Northern Ireland where a terrorist carrying a bomb into a shed was nearly vaporized when the bomb accidentally detonated. Marshall says his experience with unidentified victims “is that somebody misses them. When nobody misses them, it reinforces the suggestion that the deceased was involved in the bombing.” [New York Times, 5/23/1997]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Frederick B. Jordan, Lakesha Levy, T.K. Marshall, Stephen Jones

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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