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Profile: John Donne
John Donne was a participant or observer in the following events:
Federal investigators probing the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) visit Jennifer McVeigh, the sister of just-arrested bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995). She is visiting a high school friend, Dennis Sadler, in Pensacola, Florida (see April 7, 1995). As she later recalls, she was driving Sadler to pick up his paycheck when she heard the news of her brother being connected to the bombing come over the car radio; stunned, she pulled the car over and began chain-smoking. Sadler drove them home, where she called her father for news. Sadler will recall being in the car with her when the news of her brother’s arrest came over the radio. According to one of Sadler’s roommates, David Huckaby, she later said, “I can’t believe I was saying the other day, ‘Hang this person,’ and it’s my brother” (see Mid-December 1994).
She Destroys Evidence - Jennifer McVeigh took a sheaf of clippings her brother had given her, including copied excerpts from the violently racist novel The Turner Diaries (see April 7, 1995 and April 15, 1995) into the laundry room behind the garage, and burned them. “I was scared,” she later tells investigators. “I just heard Tim’s name announced, so I figured you would come around sooner or later to talk to me.”
She Is Questioned - The questioning is cordial, according to Huckaby, but, he will later recall, one of the agents tells Jennifer, “If you don’t help us we’ll charge you, too.” Two days later, agents return with a warrant to search the house and her pickup truck. The search turns up a cache of books, letters, and documents, many of them expressing anti-government and white supremacist ideologies, sent to her by her brother (see March 9, 1995 and April 15, 1995). Agents show the roommates some of the letters sent to Jennifer by her brother; one of them reads in part: “Be careful on the phones, because the G-Men are watching. Use the pay phone.” Another instructs her not to try to contact him after April 1, 1995, “even if it’s an emergency.… Watch what you say, because I may not get it in time, and the G-men might get it out of my box, incriminating you.” The agents begin questioning Jennifer again, and this time, Huckaby will recall, she tells them, “I’m not going to help you kill my brother.” Huckaby and the other rooommates later tell reporters about her burning her brother’s papers. “She did it out of panic,” Sadler will recall, adding, “It was nothing that would have been important anyway.” Another roommate, John Donne, will tell reporters that she watched news reports of the bombing on television with the rest of them. “You couldn’t peel her away” from the set, Donne will recall. At some point during the broadcasts, Donne will say, she said, “Whoever did that should fry.” Authorities also search the McVeigh family home in upstate New York. [New York Times, 8/4/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 236-237]
"Fear Tactics" - Later, Jennifer McVeigh will accuse the investigators of using “fear tactics” to frighten her into talking. “They played a lot of games with me, a lot of things to get me talking,” she will tell a reporter from Time magazine. “They totally broke me down. I thought I could handle it on my own. I guess I couldn’t.… I didn’t have time to think things out. It was constant pressure altogether.” She will add that in a later session in her New York home: “They showed me pictures of burned, dead kids. They put me and my mother in this room with all these huge posters with my name and a picture all blown up with all these possible charges against me… like life imprisonment, death penalty, and this and that. My mother was in tears when we walked away; they just crushed her.” [New York Times, 8/14/1995] Investigators have, with consent, searched McVeigh’s father’s home in Pendleton, New York. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
Did She Know of the Bomb Plot? - In 1996, author Brandon M. Stickney will write that Jennifer McVeigh may have returned to Pendleton days earlier than reported, and hidden from police and press at her friend Mary Butler’s apartment in Lockport. A mutual friend later says that Butler was acting “very strange, almost scared out of her mind” in the days after the bombing. Butler told the friend, “You do not know the whole story” of the bombing, leading the friend to believe “she knew something was going on.” The friend will assert that Jennifer McVeigh was indeed staying with Butler. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 182]
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