ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Several Marion County residents have appeared as witnesses at the ongoing trial of Terry Nichols, who has been accused of being an co-conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
At least one Marion County resident who received notice he might be called last winter but has not been.
Rocky Hett, Marion, said he was surprised to receive notice he might be called for the defense. As an owner of the land the Martin-Marietta rock quarry operates on, he was asked earlier about the theft of explosives from the quarry. Hett said he thought his responses contributed more to the prosecution of Nichols.
Hett never has been notified to make the trip to Oklahoma City, and he doubts he will be.
“I don’t know why they’d call me,” he said.
Tim Donahue, Lincolnville, on the other hand, can realize why he was called to testify for the prosecution, which he called “probably the winning team in this trial.”
Nichols’ attorneys have sought to prove that Nichols took the blame for others who helped Timothy McVeigh.
McVeigh, Nichols’ alleged co-conspirator, already has been executed for the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building that killed 161 persons April 19, 1995. The State of Oklahoma wants Nichols sentenced to death for first degree murder in this trial.
“Nichols worked for me here (on the Hayhook Ranch) six months in the fall of 1994,” Donahue said. “He was one of the politest guys you’d ever met. If you gave him something, he’d always thank you for it.
“He was clean-cut, much more so than the average worker. He was a pretty willing good worker, and likeable enough.”
But prosecutors wanted Donahue to talk about the things that went beyond Nichols’ “nice guy” appearance.
He said, “Nichols had strong, anti-government views. He had some hard, hard rhetoric, crazy stuff.
“Everybody will gripe and moan about paying too much taxes, and stuff like that. But they know where to draw the line, where to quit. He would go way beyond that, and keep talking about it. He’d quote Thomas Jefferson about how it was the duty of the people to overthrow the government if it got too big and oppressive, kind of spout off about it.
“I’d also seen McVeigh come here a couple of times to see Nichols.
“Nichols also told me in conversations that he knew how to make fertilizer bombs. He said he and his brother used to use them to blow out tree stumps in Michigan. I suppose that was kind of important testimony.”
Donahue said after talking to investigators, and testifying at the federal trial, going for one day to the state trial wasn’t a big event. It was “more like reading from the same old script you’ve already been through.
“It was a lot more unorganized than the federal trial, and the courtroom didn’t have hardly any people in it. The defense didn’t question me much. I just told what I knew. I think by now everybody knows what you have to say.”
Ed Davies, Marion, also was called by the prosecution, but he said he wanted to be cautious about what he said about the trial for fear of a judge calling a mistrial. This is the final case to put behind him from his days as sheriff so he can finally really be peacefully retired, he said.
Davies left office as Marion County sheriff in 1997, and took retirement. But before he left, he was the primary local official to investigate the theft of explosives from the Martin-Marietta quarry at Marion that allegedly were used in the Oklahoma City bombing.
“The investigation was done well with a good working relationship from federal people down to state and local,” Davies said.
He was called to talk about all the information that came out of that investigation at both the federal trial in Denver and the state trial in Oklahoma.
“There are so many people from so many different areas called as witnesses-each of us with just one little piece of information that contributes to the whole case,” he said.
Although the substance taken from the quarry commonly is referred to as dynamite, Davies said it actually a more modern explosive called blastlite. Quarries follow regulations carefully in storing and caring for explosives, he said.
He didn’t want to discuss details of the burglary, or whether he had met Nichols until the defense is done and a verdict rendered.
Bud Radtke, Marion, who also was called as a prosecution witness because of his work at the quarry, like Davies, declined to discuss details of the burglary.
He said the trial “was a closed deal.”
“There weren’t any reporters allowed in the courtroom,” he said. “From what they said, I don’t feel like the witnesses should be saying much about it until we hear the news that it’s all over with.”
Although Radtke already testified the end of March, he was told he could be called back anytime from mid-March to mid-June.
Radtke said he became friends with a retired FBI agent who had been active during the investigation. The retired agent said that for witnesses, the Nichols case is coming to an end.
There could be appeals, Radtke said, “but that will be a deal between lawyers and judges. The witnesses will be done, I guess.”
Radtke feels the defense attorneys probably are fighting an uphill battle, “doing what they are paid to do.” He said most people believe the verdict will favor the prosecution.
Radtke said his experience with the case would merit being part of a book ranging “from the nerve racking to the hilarious.”
Most of the area witnesses seemed to favor a sentiment best expressed by Davies. 0″I just hope it’s resolved to the satisfaction of everyone so they can put it behind them.”