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Profile: Eric McGown
Eric McGown was a participant or observer in the following events:
Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), having finished buying a getaway car for the upcoming bombing and arranging to rent a Ryder truck to deliver the two-ton bomb (see April 13, 1995), checks into Room 25 of the Dreamland Motel just outside of Junction City, Kansas, off of I-70, the connecting highway between Fort Riley and Junction City. He fills out a registration card under the name “Bob Kling,” then reconsiders, throws that registration card away, and fills out another card under his own name, giving his address as 3616 N. Van Dyke, Decker, Michigan, the Nichols family farm (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). He writes the license plate number for his Mercury, but it is illegible, according to motel employees. He rents the room for four days, through April 17. Motel owner Lea McGown will later say that McVeigh talks her into reducing the room rate from $28 to $20, and will recall: “He’s a talker. He paid attention to his appearance. He was a very neat person. The feeling was he just washed his pants and put them on.” She will also remember him driving the Mercury, which she says has Arizona license plates, and remembers him later parking a Ryder truck behind the motel (see April 15, 1995), a recollection that conflicts with records indicating McVeigh does not pick up the truck until April 17 (see April 16, 1995 and 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995). Lea’s son Eric McGown, who does maintenance work around the motel, will recall talking with McVeigh about the car, the Arizona plate, and the desert heat. [New York Times, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 4/30/1995; New York Times, 12/3/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 131-132; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Recollections of Ryder Truck - Both Lea McGown and her son Eric later claim to have seen the Ryder truck at the motel before April 17. Eric McGown will be quite clear, saying he sees McVeigh with the truck twice, once when he asks him to move it to a different parking space and again when he sees McVeigh having some difficulty closing the rear door of the truck. He will also tell investigators, “Once I saw the Ryder truck, I never saw that Marquis again.” A Junction City resident, Herta King, whose son David lives in Room 24 of the motel, will also claim to have seen the Ryder truck at the motel on April 16. She will say that she comes to the motel around 12:30 p.m. to visit her son because he is depressed and to bring him an Easter basket. “I saw a yellow Ryder truck sitting right there, and I could not see my son’s car because the Ryder truck blocked the view,” she will say. When she visits her son again around 7:00 or 8:00 p.m., she will say, the Ryder truck is gone. In 1998, author Richard A. Serrano will write: “If the McGowns [and King] are right, then there was a second truck and McVeigh played some sort of role with that truck, too. And perhaps with someone other than Nichols. But if the McGowns are mistaken, if they are innocently caught up in the rush of hysteria that came with the search for the Oklahoma City bombers, then their recollections were nothing more than fodder for conspiracy theorists and defense lawyers hoping to confuse a trial jury.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 146]
Witnesses See Unidentified Man with McVeigh - Two witnesses later say they see another man who may be with McVeigh. Helicopter mechanic Shane Boyd, also staying at the motel, will tell investigators that he sees a bushy-haired man who resembles sketches of the so-called “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995) in the parking lot near McVeigh’s room. Boyd will remember the man as smiling. Junction City resident Connie Hood drives into the parking lot shortly after midnight to visit David King; she sees a man throw open the door of Room 23, next to King’s room, as if he is expecting someone. He then closes the door. Hood later describes the man as being stocky, having thick, dark, brushed-back hair, and an olive complexion. She will say he resembles the sketches of “John Doe No. 2” but is not identical. The description does not match Nichols’s appearance. The FBI will dust Room 23 for fingerprints; McGown will confirm that Room 23 is not rented this evening, though it is possible, she will say, that someone might have taken a key to have a look at the room and is coming out when Hood arrives. [New York Times, 12/3/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
A large Ryder truck similar to that rented by Timothy McVeigh. [Source: RevGalBlogPals (.com)]Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, April 13, 1995, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) stays in his room at the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas, for most of the day. Around 3:00 p.m., he walks to a convenience store and calls a taxi. The taxi drops him off at a McDonald’s restaurant on the corner of I-40 and Washington Street. A security camera films McVeigh buying a fruit pie and walking out of the restaurant around 3:57 p.m. McVeigh walks from the McDonald’s to Elliott’s Body Shop, where he has reserved a 20-foot rental Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995). It is raining; McVeigh has no hat. A young man in a Pontiac Fiero picks up McVeigh and drives him to Elliott’s. The manager, Eldon Elliott, is in the shop, along with an employee, Vicki Beemer. Beemer asks McVeigh for his driver’s license number, and he gives her the number he has memorized from the fraudulent license he has made for “Robert Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995). The information he provides is: Bob Kling, Social Security Number 962-42-9694, South Dakota driver’s license number YF942A6, home address 428 Malt Drive, Redfield, South Dakota. The listed designation is 428 Maple Drive, Omaha, Nebraska. While McVeigh is waiting for the transaction to process, he makes small talk with Beemer about Easter and paying taxes; Beemer will later remember smiling at McVeigh, and after seeing the birth date of April 19, 1972 on the Kling license, telling him, “I’ve been married longer than you’ve been alive.” McVeigh had asked for a dolly, but the shop has none to provide him; instead, Beemer calls Waters TruValue Hardware and reserves a dolly for him. McVeigh takes possession of the Ryder truck, and drives to the hardware store to pick up the dolly, in the process making an attempt to avoid being filmed by the store’s security camera. He is given the dolly, throws it in the truck, and drives back to the motel. By now it is around 5:00 p.m. He sees Eric McGown, motel owner Lea McGown’s son, who tells him he cannot park the truck near the swimming pool. Instead, McVeigh parks the truck in front of the motel against the sign. He returns to his room, where he stays the night. During the evening, according to one source, he destroys the Kling ID by peeling back the plastic and burning the paper, then throwing the ashes and the plastic in the toilet. [New York Times, 4/26/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 148-149; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] (When McVeigh is arrested, he apparently presents the Kling driver’s license to the state trooper who pulls him over—see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995. Either the reports that McVeigh destroys the Kling driver’s license are incorrect, or McVeigh destroys another Kling ID.)
Garbled Recollection of Taxi Drive - Taxi driver David Ferris takes McVeigh to the McDonald’s. It is a short drive, and the fare is only $3.65; McVeigh gives Ferris no tip. Ferris will later be questioned by FBI agents, and the taxi driver will tell a garbled, contradictory story. At first, he breaks down and tearfully denies ever seeing McVeigh, saying, “I never picked up McVeigh.” Later he will change his story and tell of taking a man strongly resembling McVeigh, wearing a white T-shirt and Levis, from the convenience store to the McDonald’s. He will recall the man as having a military bearing and a crew cut, and being very polite. Asked if it was McVeigh, Ferris will say, “In all probability, yes.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 148]
Second Man Sighting Begins 'John Doe No. 2' Controversy - Residents and visitors to the motel later testify to seeing McVeigh and another, unidentified man with the Ryder truck well before 5:00 p.m, a man described as lantern-jawed, with a tattoo on his upper arm, and wearing a baseball cap; it is this sighting that begins the controversy of “John Doe No. 2,” McVeigh’s supposed accomplice (see 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995). Beemer and Elliott later tell investigators that they believe McVeigh is in the company of a second man, though they will be unable to provide a description of any kind. Elliott will later say: “There was another gentleman standing there in the corner. I just barely glanced at him as I walked by.” Beemer will say: “I don’t know who he was. It was just another man. They just came straight to the counter. They were both in the office.” Another shop employee, Tom Kessinger, will later say he, too, saw the second man, remembering the blue-and-white baseball cap and the tattoo, but Kessinger will fail to provide an accurate description of McVeigh, saying that he was wearing “military camo” and khaki pants, both of which are inaccurate. FBI investigators will later tell Robert Millar, the leader of the white supremacist community living at Elohim City (see 1983, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, August 1994 - March 1995, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, February 1995, March 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 5, 1995, and April 8, 1995), that McVeigh calls the community on April 18, in an effort to tie the “John Doe No. 2” sighting to someone in the community. It is possible the FBI mistakes that alleged call for one McVeigh makes to an old Army buddy (see April 17-21, 1995). [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 149] Author Richard A. Serrano will later note: “The FBI was able to show that McVeigh had ridden alone in a taxi that afternoon from the Dreamland Motel to a McDonald’s restaurant near the Ryder agency. And at the McDonald’s, McVeigh was caught on camera—again alone. From there, the FBI assumed, he walked along the frontage road to the Ryder shop. Why would he need anyone with him at all?” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 260]
Entity Tags: Eric McGown, Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), David Ferris, Eldon Elliott, Vicki Beemer, Waters TruValue Hardware (Junction City, Kansas ), Timothy James McVeigh, Robert Millar, Richard A. Serrano, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lea McGown, Tom Kessinger
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Eyewitness Eric McGown tells the jury in the Timothy McVeigh Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) that he saw McVeigh in the parking lot of the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas, three times during the weekend before the bombing (see April 13, 1995). McGown’s mother Lea owns and manages the motel. McGown says he first saw McVeigh in a 1977 Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995), then backing up a Ryder rental truck, and finally closing the tailgate of the truck. McGown becomes flustered under cross-examination by McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones, and admits that he is not sure whether he saw the truck on April 16 or April 17, the day prosecutors say McVeigh rented the Ryder truck that carried the bomb. [New York Times, 5/9/1997]
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