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McVeigh Spends Final Hours in Death Chamber

Aired June 10, 2001 - 10:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's shift gears and move back to our other top story that we're following this morning: Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy McVeigh.

The man responsible for killing 168 people in the Oklahoma City bombing is nearing the end of his own life. McVeigh is scheduled to be executed tomorrow morning in Terra Haute, Indiana.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is on the grounds of the federal penitentiary there.

Hello, Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Miles.

For four-and-a-half hours now, Timothy McVeigh has been getting used to the surroundings where he will be spending the remaining hours of his life. He is now in a holding cell measuring 9 by 14 feet, just a few steps away from the death chamber.

McVeigh was moved in the wee hours of the morning in an elaborate and deliberate, very secure procedure, transferred in a van surrounded by armed guards, three in the front, four in the rear. This video shot by the Bureau of Prisons, you will never see McVeigh.

The move was described as uneventful, and McVeigh was described as cooperative.

In today's editions of "The Buffalo News," McVeigh's hometown paper, the Oklahoma City bomber makes what his biographers call a hollow apology for his deadly attack. He says: "I am sorry these people had to lose their lives, but that's the nature of the beast. It's understood going in what the human toll will be."

McVeigh also insisted, as he has repeatedly, that he and three other people, Terry Nichols, Michael and Lori Fortier, were the only ones who knew about the deadly attack in advance.

Let's take a look back now at that fateful day in Oklahoma City, now more than six years ago, and a very important clue that helped crack the case that tracked down Timothy McVeigh.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CANDIOTTI (voice-over): On the morning of the bombing, Bertha Nichols drove downtown to meet her husband at the apartment house where he worked. That's her car pulling up, caught on the building camera.

As she waited, a Ryder truck stopped across the street.

BERTHA NICHOLS: I do somehow remember thinking, oh, somebody must be moving.

CANDIOTTI: It was Timothy McVeigh, pausing to light the fuse that would snuff out 168 lives.

B. NICHOLS: Little did I know, I was parked right across the street from him.

CANDIOTTI: The truck moved on. Mrs. Nichols came inside to get her husband, Richard, to drive their nephew to the doctor.

As they reached their car, the bomb went off.

RICHARD NICHOLS: I seen this big object coming through the air and it was huge. And it was just spinning like a top.

CANDIOTTI: The blast sent the truck's back axle flying a full block away.

R. NICHOLS: Woosh, woosh, woosh, coming through the air.

CANDIOTTI: The FBI gave them this photo.

R. NICHOLS: The axle hit from the passenger side door, across the windshield and dash, across the hood, and up to the left front headlight. You can still see the impression of the axle, the heavy part, the center of the axle, hitting here.

CANDIOTTI: Richard Nichols pulled his wife to safety and looked back at the axle.

R. NICHOLS: And I turned around and I told her there was a -- somebody -- it was a car bomb.

CANDIOTTI: He looked up the street.

R. NICHOLS: The wind or what had just moved the smoke and debris and it was just clear, you could -- the whole front of the Murrah Federal Building was gone.

CANDIOTTI: That 250-pound axle became the clue that cracked the case. Within a day, it would lead to McVeigh. An Oklahoma City bomb detective brushed away the grime on the axle to find a serial number.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what we needed to get to find out the trail that it took, who rented the truck or whose truck it was.

CANDIOTTI: The detective traced the truck to this Ryder outlet in Junction City, Kansas. But the driver left a fake name behind.

(on camera): He didn't use his own name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

CANDIOTTI: He used the name...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bob Klain (ph).

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Across town at the Green Light Motel, the owner identified an FBI sketch as the man who had registered there under his own name, Timothy McVeigh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I looked at the back of the car, there was no tag.

CANDIOTTI: Oklahoma trooper Charles Hanger stopped a driver with that name an hour after the bombing because his car had no license tag. He took McVeigh to jail, where the FBI would find him two days later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And come to find out, he was in the process of being released, probably 15, 20 minutes away.

CANDIOTTI: From McVeigh's father, the FBI heard about ex-Army buddies Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier. In Terry Nichols house, agents found bomb-making ingredients and receipts. Fortier and his wife became key witnesses, telling how McVeigh planned the attack for half a year.

Terry Nichols went to prison for life for helping build the bomb.

R. NICHOLS: When I heard that axle turning and coming down...

CANDIOTTI: Richard Nichols, no relation, still hears the woosh of that flying axle that led to McVeigh.

R. NICHOLS: I'll always see that axle. I'll always hear that axle. Him dying is not going to change it. Quite honestly, I'll probably forget the day that he dies. I'll remember his name. I won't remember the day he died.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI: In about three hours from now, Timothy McVeigh will be served his last meal and it will be one of his choice. Now, either he can choose something to be prepared by the prison chef, or he can order takeout. The cost must be less than $20 and he has asked that the prison not reveal what he has until after the execution.

Later on this day, he will be visiting with his lawyers as well. And then, in less than 22 hours, he will be put to death -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Susan Candiotti, reporting to us live from Terra Haute, Indiana.

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