McVeigh's sister tells jury of warning letter

Published May 7, 1997|Updated Oct. 1, 2005

Timothy McVeigh's sister told a jury Tuesday that a few weeks before the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, her brother wrote her that "something big is going to happen" in "the month of the bull," an astrological reference to April or May.

Testifying for the prosecution for a second day, Jennifer McVeigh said her brother further instructed her to burn that letter, which she promptly did. She said he never told her what that "something" was _ and she never asked.

In 2{ hours of testimony, Jennifer McVeigh spoke matter of factly about her brother's anger at the federal government and his secretive demeanor in the months leading up to the April 19, 1995, blast that killed 168 people.

But under cross-examination by attorney Rob Nigh, she broke down in tears as she recounted how the FBI scared her into talking in the days after the blast.

"They told me he was guilty and . . . said that he was going to fry," said McVeigh, 23, who testified under a grant of immunity. Timothy McVeigh, 29, who has pleaded not guilty, faces the death penalty if convicted.

Jennifer McVeigh began crying as she described arriving for questioning at the FBI office in Buffalo, N.Y., and seeing an enlarged poster of herself on the wall next to one of her brother. Under the poster, she said, all the charges that could be brought against her were listed. She said that during the course of eight days of questioning agents showed her a copy of a statute on treason. Under it an agent had written the words "Penalty Death."

Timothy McVeigh has shown almost no emotion since the trial began. But as his sister wept, his face turned red. The two are known to be close, and Jennifer acknowledged Tuesday that she did not want to testify.

She nonetheless leveled some of the most damaging testimony against her brother Tuesday, which supported the government's contention that McVeigh blew up the federal building because of a hatred for the government and to avenge its 1993 assault on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.

Jennifer McVeigh said she turned over to the FBI a computer disc on which her brother had left a file, "ATF READ," referring to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. She said he instructed her not to destroy the file that read, "All you tyrannical (expletive) will swing in the wind one day for your treasonous actions against the Constitution and the United States. . . . Die, you spineless, cowardice bastards."

Before going on vacation to Pensacola _ before the bombing _ she said she packed up the political literature her brother routinely sent her and brought the box to a friend's house because "I thought something might happen while I was on vacation."

She said that after hearing of his arrest on the radio while she was in Florida, she burned passages from The Turner Diaries, an anti-government novel that prosecutors say was McVeigh's blueprint for the crime.