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Profile: Tom Kessinger

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Tom Kessinger was a participant or observer in the following events:

Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City. Two Ryder trucks similar to the one rented by McVeigh are visible.Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City. Two Ryder trucks similar to the one rented by McVeigh are visible. [Source: Luogocomune (.net)]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) rents a Ryder panel truck from Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City, Kansas. McVeigh uses the alias “Robert [or Bob] Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995). [CNN, 5/9/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 132; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] McVeigh wants a one-way rental of a 20-foot Ryder and a hand truck. He says he intends to drop off the Ryder and the hand truck in Omaha, Nebraska. McVeigh pays in cash. He pays the entire rental fee of $280.32 instead of a mere deposit, so he will be able to get in and out of the store quickly on April 17, when he intends to pick up the truck, and is adamant that he needs the truck by 4:00 p.m. He declines insurance, telling store owner Eldon Elliott he does not need it because he is a truck driver for the Army. Elliott gives McVeigh two days free because he believes McVeigh is in the military. McVeigh will later tell his lawyers that the employee who rents the truck to him, presumably Elliott, is “a dumb guy,” though he could be referring to Elliott’s employee Tom Kessinger, who is also involved in the transaction. McVeigh drives back to the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, and returns the oil filter he bought from WalMart the day before. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 1/13/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 133] A chronology prepared by McVeigh’s lawyers will later state that McVeigh buys a car battery, not an oil filter. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] The New York Times will later erroneously report that McVeigh uses the alias “William B. Kling” to rent the truck, not “Robert Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995). [New York Times, 4/23/1995] An unidentified man, later designated as “John Doe No. 2” by federal authorities (see April 20, 1995), is apparently with McVeigh. The man will later be described as being of medium build and having a tattoo on one arm. Authorities will not determine his identity, and will remain unsure if this man was actually with McVeigh or merely another customer. [New York Times, 4/26/1995; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810]

Entity Tags: New York Times, Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Eldon Elliott, Tom Kessinger

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A large Ryder truck similar to that rented by Timothy McVeigh.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

Federal, state, and local authorities begin hunting for clues in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995). The FBI has been named the lead investigative agency (see After 9:02 a.m., April 19, 1995). It begins by tracking the Ryder truck that delivered the bomb. At the bomb scene, veteran FBI agents James L. Norman and James Elliott examine the truck axle that had crushed a nearby car; Norman finds a partial vehicle identification number, PVA26007. Elliott begins a database search for the truck through the National Insurance Crime Bureau, and by 2:15 p.m. the FBI learns that the vehicle is registered to a Ryder rental firm in Miami, and the rental agreement is traceable under its registration number, 137328. A quick check with the Miami office shows that the truck, a 1993 Ford with a 20-foot body, was rented from a Ryder rental firm in Junction City, Kansas, for a one-way trip to Omaha, Nebraska (see April 15, 1995). The identification is confirmed by the Florida license plate on the remains of the Ryder truck, NEE26R, which matches the Ford rental truck. The renter is listed as “Robert Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995).
Confirmation of McVeigh as 'Kling' - FBI agents call the Junction City shop; owner Eldon Elliott (no relation to the FBI agent) answers, and the agents tell him to pull the Kling paperwork for them. At 4:30 p.m., Federal agent Scott Crabtree, the resident agent in nearby Salina, Kansas, arrives at the Junction City shop to gather information on the rental and on “Kling,” and to get the documents forwarded to FBI headquarters as soon as possible. Crabtree interviews Elliott, office manager Vicki Beemer, and mechanic Tom Kessinger. They tell him about “Kling,” and about a second man that might have been with “Kling.” From their descriptions, Crabtree gathers enough information to put an FBI sketch artist to work on drawings of two suspects who rented the truck (see April 20, 1995). The artist’s renditions are hampered by discrepancies and confusion among the three’s descriptions. They cannot agree on details about “Kling“‘s height, weight, the color of his eyes, or the look of his face. Their recollections of the second man are even more confusing and contradictory, but all three insist that there was a second man. The FBI quickly learns that the driver’s license used to rent the truck, issued to “Kling,” is false. The issue date of the Kling license is April 19, 1993, the date of the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). The next day, interviews with Lea McGown, the proprietor of the Junction City Dreamland Motel (see April 13, 1995 and 3:30 a.m. April 18, 1995), reveal that “Kling” is a man McGown identifies as “Tom McVeigh.” She will also remember his Ryder truck parked in her lot. Shortly afterwards, the FBI learns via a national crime computer check that Timothy (not Tom) McVeigh is in custody in nearby Perry, Oklahoma, on unrelated weapons and vehicle charges (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995), and that McVeigh’s description closely matches that of “Kling.” [New Yorker, 5/15/1995; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 188-191, 195; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Plethora of False Leads - After the sketches are released, the FBI office in Oklahoma City is bombarded with phone calls by people who claim to have seen the person, or both persons, in the sketch before the bombing. A motorist claims he saw a man running across the street near where the Ryder truck had been parked in front of the Murrah Building, and says he had to hit his brakes to keep from running into him. A woman says she saw a man strongly resembling “Kling” at the Murrah Building a week before the bombing, and “possibly again” a few days later. A meter maid tells an agent, and later a USA Today reporter, she nearly ran into the Ryder truck, and claims that the truck was going at an extremely slow speed and made her think the driver was going to stop and ask directions. A man claims to have seen “two individuals” in the Ryder truck 20 minutes before the bombing, and says one resembled the sketch of “Kling.” Another witness claims to have seen a car “speeding” away from the site of the blast, “obviously in an effort to avoid the bomb blast”; the witness is sure two people were in the car, and their testimony is later presented in evidentiary hearings by the FBI. The manager of a Texaco mini-mart in Junction City says the two men in the sketch had been hanging around his store for four months, visiting twice a week and stocking up on cigarettes and sodas. A bartender at the Silverado Bar and Grill in Herington, Kansas, where co-conspirator Terry Nichols lives (see (February 20, 1995)), says he remembers McVeigh and Nichols (both of whom he later identifies) coming into his bar every weekend for the last month, shooting pool and drinking beer. Many witnesses describe McVeigh as “polite,” and some say he comes across as a bit “funny.” At least one says the two smelled bad, as if they had just come from a pig farm—this detail comes after news reports inform citizens that the bomb had been composed of fertilizer. The FBI takes all the tips seriously, but most are quickly proven to be baseless. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 184, 224; Serrano, 1998, pp. 193-194]

Entity Tags: James L. Norman, Eldon Elliott, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), James Elliott, Vicki Beemer, Tom Kessinger, Timothy James McVeigh, Scott Crabtree, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Insurance Crime Bureau, Lea McGown, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The sketches of “John Doe No. 1” and “John Doe No. 2” as released by the FBI.The sketches of “John Doe No. 1” and “John Doe No. 2” as released by the FBI. [Source: The Oklahoman]The FBI releases sketches of the two men believed to be responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing the day before (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). The men are identified as “John Doe No. 1” and “John Doe No. 2.” [Indianapolis Star, 2003; The Oklahoman, 4/2009] The sketches are based on interviews with witnesses in Oklahoma City and in Kansas (see April 15, 1995). FBI agent Raymond Rozycki speaks to three employees at Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City, Kansas, who give him most of the details used to compile the sketches (see April 13, 1995 and April 15, 1995). [Fox News, 4/13/2005] Additionally, Attorney General Janet Reno announces a $2 million reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of the bombers. [Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 809] The sketches are released on the authority of lead FBI agent in charge Weldon Kennedy (see After 9:02 a.m., April 19, 1995). In the following days, updated sketches are released, showing “John Doe No. 2” in profile and wearing a baseball cap with lightning streaks on the side. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 193, 261]
One Identified within a Day; Second Never Identified, May Not Exist - Within a day, “John Doe No. 1” is identified as Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995). Lea McGown, the owner of the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas, speaks to FBI agents and recognizes “Robert Kling” as “Tom McVeigh,” a man who stayed in the motel the week before (see April 13, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). McVeigh had checked into Room 25 on Friday, April 14, she says, and stayed through the weekend. She also remembers McVeigh driving a large Ryder truck to the motel. “John Doe No. 2,” described as a stocky, swarthy man with a lantern jaw and a tattoo on his arm, will never be conclusively identified (see June 14, 1995). Agents seal off Room 25 and begin going over it for forensic evidence. [New York Times, 4/24/1995; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 194; Indianapolis Star, 2003] In 1998, author Richard A. Serrano will characterize “John Doe No. 2” as the man who “either got away with the biggest crime in US history or is a man who never lived.… Discounting the crank or ‘hysterical’ sightings (see February 17, 1995 and After, April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, April 15, 1995, 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 9:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, April 18, 1995, and (1:00 a.m.) April 19, 1995), only three people ever saw John Doe No. 2. Eldon Elliott, Vicki Beemer, and Tom Kessinger, the three Ryder employees (see April 13, 1995 and April 15, 1995), would recall only minor details about the man, and their recollections were as shadowy as his face.” Beemer will later say: “They were both in the office. I really don’t recall what the other guy—he was in there, but I don’t really recall where he was standing exactly.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 259-260]
False Sightings - Bogus sightings and detentions will abound after the sketches of “John Doe No. 2” are released. In Georgia, motorist Scott Sweely is stopped by a local sheriff and ordered to crawl out of his car window and lie facedown on the asphalt. Someone at a gas station told local police that Sweely looked like the sketch of Doe No. 2. Sweely is taken into custody and grilled by federal agents for four hours before being released. In Minnesota, a man resembling Doe No. 2 is arrested at gunpoint at the Mall of America. In California, a man AWOL from the US Army is rousted from his home and transferred to Los Angeles, where crowds scream and demand “justice” be carried out against him. A former Army friend of McVeigh’s, Roger L. Barnett (see January - March 1991 and After and January - March 1991 and After), is considered a possible Doe No. 2. Barnett resembles the descriptions of the supposed accomplice—he is stocky and has a skull-and-crossbones tattoo on his arm. He also lives near the Arkansas state line, close to the gun dealer whom alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols robbed to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994). However, time cards from his workplace show Barnett was at work the entire week of the bombing, and he passes a lie detector test. Another Army friend, Ray Jimboy, now working as a fry cook in Okemah, Oklahoma, is briefly considered a possibility, but a lie detector test clears him. For a time, Joshua Nichols, Terry Nichols’s son, is considered a possible Doe No. 2, though Joshua is 13 years old. The FBI is bombarded with calls; one husband even tells agents that the Doe No. 2 sketch is his wife. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 260-262]

Entity Tags: Janet Reno, Vicki Beemer, Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Federal Bureau of Investigation, Eldon Elliott, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Tom Kessinger, Timothy James McVeigh, Weldon Kennedy, Scott Sweely, Raymond Rozycki, Lea McGown, Ray Jimboy, Richard A. Serrano, Joshua Nichols, Roger L. Barnett, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Defense lawyers in the Oklahoma City bombing case (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) seek to suppress the testimony of nine prosecution witnesses. Some of these witnesses are publicly identified for the first time, disclosed in court papers filed by the lawyers for defendants Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. McVeigh’s trial is slated to begin in March. Some of the newly identified witnesses are:
bullet Fred Skrdla, who worked at a gasoline station in Billings, Oklahoma, some 80 miles north of Oklahoma City, on the day of the bombing. Skrdla remembers a man driving a large Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995) buying gasoline between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m (see (1:00 a.m.) April 19, 1995). The man paid cash. Skrdla says he was busy and does not remember if the man was alone or had company. When he saw composite drawings of “John Doe No. 1” and “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), he recognized one of them as the man who bought the gasoline. When he saw television coverage of McVeigh being “perp walked” out of the Noble County Courthouse in Perry, Oklahoma (see April 21, 1995), he became sure that the man he saw paying for the gasoline was McVeigh.
bullet William Dunlap, who took his wife to work in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing. Minutes before the bomb detonated in front of the Murrah Federal Building, Dunlap told FBI investigators, he drove past the building and noticed a Ryder truck parked in front of it. Dunlap said he saw a white man get out of the truck and walk to the rear of it. Dunlap said the man wore jeans, was in his mid- to late 20s, had “clean-cut” hair, a “medium” complexion, a slight build, and was between 5’8” and 5’9” tall. McVeigh is 6’2”. Dunlap told investigators he thought the man might have been McVeigh, but he was not certain.
Stephen Jones, McVeigh’s lead lawyer, says the “saturation” news coverage of the crime and the arrests has “tainted” the ability of Skrdla, Dunlap, and the other witnesses to make accurate identifications of the person or persons they believe they saw. Jones cites information given to the FBI by David Ferris, a Junction City, Kansas, taxi driver who talked about a passenger he had on April 17, two days before the bombing. In early interviews, Ferris did not say that any of the passengers he had looked like McVeigh, and denied taking any passengers to the McDonald’s restaurant on South Washington Boulevard that day, where the investigators are sure McVeigh went (see May 9, 1997). Interviewers’ notes show that Ferris became emotional during the questioning, and tearfully said he “never picked up McVeigh.” The next day, however, Ferris changed his story, saying he took a man resembling McVeigh to the McDonald’s in question between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. on April 17. Ferris told agents that he had seen McVeigh’s picture on television and was “scared and panicked” after realizing who he was. Jones also contends that identifications of McVeigh by Eldon Elliott and Tom Kessinger, who rented the truck to McVeigh, were tainted by television news coverage of McVeigh; by the time Elliott and Kessinger made their identifications, Jones says, McVeigh’s face was so familiar “monks living on the mountainside in Tibet could have made the same identification.” Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael Tigar, is attempting to suppress identification by an unnamed witness or witnesses who worked at the Mid-Kansas Cooperative in McPherson and, prosecutors say, sold fertilizer to McVeigh and Nichols (see September 23, 1994, September 30, 1994, and October 18, 1994). [New York Times, 1/13/1997] Judge Richard P. Matsch refuses to bar the witnesses’ testimonies. [New York Times, 2/21/1997]

Entity Tags: Fred Skrdla, Federal Bureau of Investigation, David Ferris, William Dunlap, Tom Kessinger, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Michael E. Tigar, Eldon Elliott

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Federal officials state that the circulation of a sketch identified as “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), a man once believed to have had some connection with accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), was a mistake. The person, described as short, stocky, thick-necked, and olive-skinned, was misidentified by a witness who gave an incorrect recollection to federal investigators. Prosecutors say that while the possibility exists that others besides McVeigh and Terry Nichols were involved in the bombing, they have no physical descriptions to give to the public. Prosecutors identify the man in the “John Doe No. 2” sketch as Private Todd Bunting, an Army soldier stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, near Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh rented a Ryder truck used in the bombing (see April 15, 1995). Bunting entered the same Ryder rental office on April 18, a day after McVeigh entered the office. The sketch is based on the recollections of Tom Kessinger, a mechanic in the truck rental office. He and two other employees identified McVeigh from the sketch, but Kessinger’s recollection of “John Doe No. 2” as a man accompanying McVeigh was not supported by the others. McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones says that because of the misidentification of Bunting, all the identifications of all the Ryder clerks must be thrown out. “I don’t think any of those identifications are now safe,” Jones says. Bunting is 5’11”, 200 pounds, muscular and stocky, with dark brown hair, a wide, square chin, and relatively dark skin. On April 18, he accompanied Sergeant Michael Hertig, another Fort Riley soldier, to pick up a truck that Hertig had reserved five days before. Prosecutors believe Kessinger, pressured by investigators, became confused in his recollections and mistakenly identified Bunting as accompanying McVeigh and not Hertig. On November 22, 1996, Kessinger positively identified Bunting as “John Doe No. 2.” He also says he is now unsure that McVeigh was with anyone when he came to rent the Ryder truck. The other Ryder clerks, Vicki Beemer and Eldon Elliott (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995), have said that they believe McVeigh was with another man, but cannot recall what that man looks like. [New York Times, 1/30/1997]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Eldon Elliott, Michael Hertig, Timothy James McVeigh, Stephen Jones, Tom Kessinger, Todd David Bunting, Vicki Beemer

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Two prosecution witnesses in the Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) testify under oath that the person who rented the Ryder truck used to carry the bomb was accused bomber Timothy McVeigh. Eldon Elliott, the owner of Elliott’s Body Shop, the Ryder rental outlet in Junction City, Kansas, and body shop employee Tom Kessinger both say that “Robert Kling,” who paid $280 cash and said he did not need insurance because he was a careful driver, was, in fact, McVeigh (see Mid-March, 1995 and April 15, 1995). Defense lawyer Stephen Jones questions their credibility, saying that because of Kessinger’s misidentification of another person as having accompanied McVeigh to the store to rent the truck (see January 29, 1997), both Elliott’s and Kessinger’s identifications must be thrown out. The defense is expected to argue that “Kling” was someone else and not McVeigh. Kessinger admits that he misidentified Army Private Todd Bunting as “John Doe No. 2,” whom federal investigators have considered a likely accomplice until recently. Kessinger stands by his identification of McVeigh. In court, Kessinger says he was sitting in the back of the truck rental office, taking a break at about 4:15 p.m. on Monday, April 17, 1995, when he saw two men come into the shop. They stood at the counter and began speaking with Vicki Beemer, who handled the paperwork that day. Kessinger remembers McVeigh because of something McVeigh said, which is not disclosed in court. He watched McVeigh and the second man—not Bunting—for about 10 minutes. He met with FBI agent Scott Crabtree at 4:45 p.m. on April 19, the day of the bombing, and met with an FBI sketch artist at 3:30 the next morning, he says, to start work on the composite sketches of the bombing suspects. He was then asked not to watch television news accounts of the bombing or to read the press coverage. “They told me to rely only on my own memory,” he says. Jones elicits that Kessinger watches “a lot of MTV, a lot of Discovery Channel,” but does not watch network television news or local news. He says he never saw a photograph of McVeigh until FBI agents showed him a group of photographs on April 30, 1995. Kessinger identified McVeigh as the man he saw in the body shop. Asked by Jones if McVeigh was accompanied by someone else, Kessinger responds: “I don’t know. I want to say yes, but I don’t know who that individual was.” The transaction with McVeigh was short and businesslike, Kessinger recalls, noting that McVeigh turned down the offer to purchase insurance because, Kessinger recalls, “he said ‘I’m not going very far, I’m used to driving trucks out of Fort Riley [an Army base near Junction City], and I’m a careful driver.’” [New York Times, 2/19/1997]

Entity Tags: Scott Crabtree, Eldon Elliott, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Timothy James McVeigh, Todd David Bunting, Tom Kessinger, Stephen Jones

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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