Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.
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Tue, 14 Feb 2023 08:01
An explosion rips through downtown Oklahoma City. The FBI launches a nationwide manhunt.
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Hey, prime members, you can listen to American Scandal add-free on Amazon music, download the app today. A listener note, this episode contains graphic details and may not be suitable for a younger audience. It's the afternoon of April 25, 1997. Elena Garrett is standing at the front of a federal court room in Denver, Colorado. The place is packed with journalists, attorneys and members of the public, all sitting quietly waiting for Garrett to testify. Garrett knows that what she says today will be printed in newspapers across America. Her words will be scrutinized by members of Congress and people will probably talk about her testimony over dinner and at the water cooler. It's a lot of pressure, especially considering that she's about to lay bare the most painful memories of her life, a grief that's almost seemed boundless. So when Garrett raises her right hand and swears to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, her voice almost comes out in a whisper. The judge tells Garrett to speak up for the court reporter. Garrett swallows and answers the court bailiff again, louder this time, swearing to tell the truth. And as she settles into the witness box, Garrett can't help but look at the skinny man with a military-style haircut sitting at the defense table. He is the reason Garrett is here today in the federal court room. Two years ago, this man parked a truck in front of a federal building in Oklahoma City and set off a bomb that killed 168 people. Since then, he's been the subject of a national conversation about political violence and the rise of domestic terrorism. Everyone seems to have something to say about the tragedy in Oklahoma City. But Helena Garrett has tried to tune out all that noise. At this point, she can really only do one thing, bear witness to the truth and bring this man to justice for killing her baby. Garrett's son, Tevin, was only 16 months old. He was among 18 other children who were killed in the blast in downtown Oklahoma City. It's been two whole years since that day. The day her life changed and Garrett was plunged into endless grief. The federal prosecutors told Garrett that she could serve as a witness at the trial and that it could be one small way to get a measure of justice. So even though the national spotlight is now on her and even though she's still suffering from the pangs of loss, Garrett agreed to take the stand and give the strongest, most damning testimony possible. One of the prosecutor's stands and begins his questioning. Miss Garrett, thank you for being here. Takes a great deal of strength to come in and speak in front of a jury. So I want to just start out with a simple question. Where did you come in from? Oklahoma City. Miss Garrett, when you answer questions, could you please keep your voice up? Yes, I'm sorry. I'll ask again. Where did you come in from? Oklahoma City. And do you have any children? Yes, I had to. Miss Garrett, tell me about your oldest child. Her name is Shuranda. She's eight. And your other child. His name is Tevin. He was 16 months old when he died. The judge leans forward on the bench. I'm going to interrupt here. Could we bring in a microphone? I think that might make this easier. The prosecutor nods. Thank you, Your Honor. Garrett fidgets in her seat, suddenly feeling ashamed and embarrassed. She was already worried that she was going to be a bad witness. She's not used to this kind of public attention. And now somehow, she can't even manage to speak loudly enough for the court. The prosecutors are probably furious. They probably wish they never invited her to be a witness in the first place. Garrett tries to calm her racing thoughts. And as a clerk sets up the microphone, Garrett reminds herself that she just has to remain strong. All right, Miss Garrett. I think we've got you all miced up. Now, can you tell us how your son Tevin died? Tevin died in the bombing in Oklahoma City. He was crushed in the rubble. They had to use a fingerprint sample from our mirror to identify him. He was too unrecognizable. Miss Garrett, I'm so sorry for your loss. It's a tragedy. I don't think most of us could ever imagine. But could you tell us why was Tevin at a federal building in the first place? That's where he went today, care. My daughter used to go there, too, but thankfully she'd already started kindergarten. I see. Now Miss Garrett, this is going to be hard. But could you take us back to that day? Start at the beginning. What happened on the morning of April 19, 1995? Garrett nods, fighting back tears. She wishes she could forget that terrible day and just hold on to the happy memories of her son. But the jury has to understand what happened. And if that means reliving the day in excruciating detail, then she's willing to do it. So Garrett leans forward and begins telling her story. About a spring day in Oklahoma City in 1995, a day that had started out so normally, but which quickly became a nightmare. American scandal is sponsored by Dell Technologies, whose president's day event is here, with deals to power all your passions. The savings start now on selects leak XPS laptops and more powered by 12th gen Intel Core processors. Don't forget special pricing on the latest monitors, docs and accessories plus free shipping on everything and monthly payment options with Dell preferred account. Just call 877 Ask Dell for these limited time president's day deals. That's 877 Ask Dell. Hey y'all, it's your girl Kiki Palmer. I'm an actress, singer and entrepreneur. On my new podcast, Baby This is Kiki Palmer. I'm asking friends, family and experts the questions that are in my head. Like, it's only fans only bad. Where did memes come from? And where's time for MySpace? Listen to Baby This is Kiki Palmer on Amazon Music or wherever you get your podcast. From Wondery, I'm Lindsay Graham and this is American Scandal. In American democracy, citizens enjoy a wide range of political powers and rights. We vote in elections. We choose new members of Congress and new presidents and we elect leaders at the state and local level. The Constitution gives Americans the right to peacefully protest. And everyday people can publish skating critiques of the government and journalists have the freedom to expose politicians' wrongdoings leading to change in our political system. These are some of the central features of America's democracy, giving citizens the freedom and power to influence the shape of their own government. But built into these political rights is the expectation that Americans will take action peacefully and agreement that some Americans have chosen to violate. On April 19th 1995, a moving truck was left in front of a federal building in downtown Oklahoma City. It was packed with 4,800 pounds of explosives. When the bomb detonated, it killed 168 people, becoming the deadliest act of terrorism to occur on US soil at that time. At first, both the American public and law enforcement believed the attack was the work of international terrorists. But the evidence in Oklahoma City led investigators toward an unexpected and chilling conclusion. The bombing appeared to be the work of domestic terrorists, driven by an extreme ideology and a desire to wage war on the federal government. This is Episode 1. April 19th. It's 7.46 a.m. on Wednesday, April 19th 1995, two years before Helena Garrett gives her testimony in a federal courthouse. On a wide street in downtown Oklahoma City, Garrett is driving her old hatchback through morning traffic. She's trying to make good time already the morning has gotten away from her. But as Garrett approaches an intersection, the traffic light turns from yellow to red and Garrett has to hit the brakes. She groans in frustration. She was late leaving the house, but now she's somehow hitting every single red light. It's like she's cursed. Garrett can see her destination on the next block, the Alfred P. Murrah federal building. This nine-story structure looms against the morning sky, almost taunting her at so close. Garrett sits waiting for the light to turn and steals a quick glance in the rearview mirror. Her 16-month-old son, Tevin, is strapped into his car seat. He's smiling and babbling to himself, his dark eye shining in the morning light. Helena grins that she gazes at her son. He's so innocent, so happy and untrumbled. Garrett wishes she could just enjoy the time together with her son, not worry about being late. But Garrett is a clerk for the Oklahoma Regents of Higher Education, the state agency that oversees the state colleges. It's a busy office, and Garrett's boss is a stickler about being on time. And Garrett can't do anything to jeopardize her job. She's a single parent, and her two children depend on her. So even if she'd rather spend the morning playing with her toddler, Garrett has to hurry and get her son to daycare in the federal building, which is just a block away from her office. The light finally turns green, and Garrett drives forward. Soon she pulls into the parking lot of the federal building and stops the car. Garrett looks at the clock. It's 7.48 am. Getting to work by 8 is going to be tight, but as long as she hustles, she'll make it. Garrett opens the back door and scoops Tevin into her arms. Her son begins fussing, saying he wants to walk. But Garrett says she's sorry, they don't have the time. Her son keeps protesting, crying out that he wants to walk. But Garrett knows she can't give in, not if she wants to make it to her job on time. So when they arrive at the daycare on the second floor, Garrett lets out a sigh of relief. She loves this place. It's full of bright colors, and feels open and safe. She knows Tevin is in good hands. So Garrett signs her son in for the day, and then sets him on a rainbow-colored rug, where several other toddlers are playing with toy cars. Garrett greets each child by name. She's known most of them since they were just a few months old. Then she bends down and kisses Tevin goodbye. She'll see him later. Garrett is almost at the door. When she hears her son start to wail, Garrett turns, finds Tevin with his back to her, his little shoulders heaving with sobs. Garrett bites her lip, wishing she had a little more time. But she knows these were the trade-offs of being a single mother. She can't risk losing her job. And anyway, she can make it up later, and give her son a big squeeze when she picks him up at the end of the day. So Garrett hustles back to her car and starts the engine. She checks her watch. It's 755. If she moves fast, she'll still be able to make it to work on time. About 30 minutes later, Susan Gail Hunt croaps for her coffee mug as she sits entering data into a spreadsheet. With her eyes trained on the screen, Hunt lifts her mug and takes a big gulp of coffee. Then nearly spits it out on the keyboard. It's cold. Hunt rises from her desk and begins making her way to the break room. Hunt works for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD as most people call it. The agency oversees federal housing programs, including loans for home buyers, and Hunt manages a 124-person office in the Alfred P. Murrow Federal Building. As the office manager, Hunt has an endless supply of administrative tasks. But the job involves much more than just entering data into spreadsheets. Hunt believes it's her job to look after the emotional and physical well-being of the entire staff. People in this office are employed by US taxpayers and work to serve the American people. Of course, taking care of a 124 employees requires a lot of work, and to do our job well, Hunt has to remain focused. And that requires a steady stream of caffeine. Cold coffee won't do. So Hunt belines it to the break room. As she passes the desk of Tony Reyes, her fellow employee holds out a bowl of candy. It's a running joke between them. Hunt never eats breakfast, and Reyes always offers a piece of candy instead. Hunt keeps walking through the office and says good morning to legal assistant Kim Clark. Clark is about to get married, and Hunt is arranging the wedding bouquets. She promises Clark that she'll get the flowers this weekend, so everything will look beautiful the day of the wedding. Clark beams, offering her gratitude for what she knows has been a ton of work. And it's true, helping a colleague plan her wedding has taken time. But Hunt doesn't mind. This is what she loves most about her job, the feeling of camaraderie, a being part of a family. A moment later, Hunt reaches the break room and grabs the coffee pot. But as she pours herself a cup, she realizes the filter must have broken. Her mug is filled with soggy grounds. Hunt shakes her head. It's time to make a fresh pot. As she preps the coffee maker, Hunt thinks about the busy morning ahead of her. She's got a lot to do. But if she can get some fresh coffee, everything should be smooth sailing. About 15 minutes later, Marine Captain Michael Norfolk pulls his black pickup truck into a parking spot in front of the Alfred P. Murrow building. It's a lucky break. It's not easy finding a good parking spot at the Federal Building. Norfolk needs to just pop in and join a celebration for one of the sergeants who works in the Marine's Central Recruitment Office. The young man is about to be promoted to officer, and Norfolk wants to be there when he gets the news. Norfolk himself works as a Recruitment Officer for the Marine Corps over at the University of Oklahoma campus. He's not taking the day off. So it'll have to be a quick in and out thing and then off to work. As Norfolk begins walking into the building, he notices a yellow moving truck parked behind him in the loading zone. A gangly young man in a black baseball cap is walking away from the truck. He crosses the street, hurrying away from the Murrow building. Norfolk feels a flicker of concern. It's not unusual to see moving trucks around the Federal Building. Inside, there are several military offices and soldiers driving these kind of trucks often stop in to meet with their command. But if that's what this man is doing, he should be heading into the Federal Building, not walking the other way. But Norfolk just shakes his head. It's probably nothing. He's served in the Gulf War, and then in South America, helping to fight the drug war. Those kind of experiences will do something to a person, leave you with a few scars and feeling itchy about things that don't feel right. But Norfolk has nothing to worry about. He's not deep in the jungle. He's back home in downtown Oklahoma City, and it doesn't get any safer than this. Norfolk exits the elevator on the sixth floor of the Federal Building, and walks into the Marine Recruitment Office and Command Center. An American flag and a Marine flag stand in the entryway. And when Norfolk turns a corner, he runs into Ben Davis, the sergeant do for promotion. Oh, hey, Norfolk, I'm glad you're here, because I gotta tell you, I'm starting to sweat. I haven't heard anything. You think that's a bad sign? No, I think it's barely 0900 hours, Davis. Relax, you're gonna be made officer. Davis nods, but Norfolk can see the young man is still worried. Look, I'm sure you were up all night, right? Waiting for this moment. Do you want me to call over to HQ, see if the approval came through? Is that too much to ask? Not at all. It's no problem. Norfolk steps into the operations room and picks up a beige telephone. He dials the number for Marine headquarters. I can't manage to get through. So Norfolk hangs up and returns to the young sergeant. Sorry, lines busy. I'll call him back in five. Can you wait that long? I can try. Good. I'm gonna go check in with some of the other guys, but I'll be back. Norfolk begins to walk past Davis, making his way to the other end of the office, and then stops. Hey, Davis, you know, you're a good man. You're gonna get this promotion. I promise you. Thanks, Norfolk. I appreciate it. Norfolk walks to the other end of the office, and he's about to say hi to one of the guys he served with in Desert Storm. Suddenly, Norfolk is thrown forward with a terrifying force, slams into the wall. In every direction, glass windows shatter, splintered shards come flying into the office like a swarm of bees. Norfolk is thrown to the ground. His vision goes blurry, and a moment later the whole world goes black. When Michael Norfolk comes to a sprawl against a wall, blood is pouring down his face. His head and nose throb with pain, and he can't see out of his right eye. Norfolk looks down. There are pieces of glass sticking out of his left arm. Blood is gushing from his wrist, and something is piercing his forehead. Norfolk reaches up. It's more glass, and a large piece by the feel of it. Norfolk isn't sure what happened, or how long he was unconscious. All he knows is that he has to get medical attention, and quickly. So Norfolk begins staggering through the office. Up ahead, he can just make out his friend. We had just walked over to greet. Sergeant Tad Snediker looks confused in a state of shock, but when he sees Norfolk, he springs into action. Snediker clears everything off his desk and orders Norfolk to lie down on top of it. He says he's going to find bandages, and stop the bleeding. Norfolk does as he's told, and lies down on top of the desk. But as he waits, it feels like his life is seeping out from him. Norfolk starts to panic and pushes himself up on his elbows. The world is swimming in front of him, a hazy, confusing mess. But Snediker comes rushing back, ordering Norfolk to lie down. But Norfolk refuses. He says he needs to get to a hospital. He's going to die if he doesn't. Snediker hesitates, but says he might be right. They have to get out of here. Snediker then wraps his arm around Norfolk and begins helping his fellow soldier make it to the staircase. As they round a corner, Norfolk suddenly feels the wind whipping his face. He stops for a moment, confused. When he finally takes it all in, Norfolk realizes what he's seeing. The entire North wall of the building is gone. The whole section of the recruiting office looks like it's been hit by a wrecking ball. Even the stairwell is blocked by rubble. It's going to be hard to make it past all the debris, but they don't have any choice. They just have to keep going. So the two men climb over the obstructions, and then begin descending the six stories, step by step. When they reach the bottom, Norfolk stumbles outside. The spring air is shockingly cold. The sirens are wailing, and all around him people are crying and screaming for help. Norfolk is immediately tended to by a highway patrol officer, and then begins making his way to an ambulance. But Norfolk stops, looks back at the Murrow building. It's hard to see with all the blood clouting his vision, but there's no mistaking the scale of the explosion. The entire front of the building has caved in. The floors are pan-cooked on top of each other. Mangled furniture and jagged rebar are spilling from the rubble, as black smoke billows into the air. Norfolk's vision begins to blur again. He's been to war, and he knows that tragedies like this happen all around the world. Still, this does not feel real. This is not supposed to happen in America, not here, at home, not in downtown Oklahoma City. 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And now discover special offers for a limited time at your local sleep number store or at sleepnumber.com slash AS. That's sleepnumber.com slash AS. American scandal is sponsored by Audible. Okay, listen up. That's it. That's the ad. Listen up. Because with Audible and their premium plus catalog, there's an almost boundless world of audio entertainment waiting for you and me to listen to. You've got all the classics and bestsellers, but there's a lot more to a giant selection of podcasts like this one. Add free. There's a bunch of audible originals too. Audio entertainment you can't find anywhere else, including a whole series of stories, soundscapes and meditations to lull you to sleep. And for when you wake back up, there's even audio guided fitness programs. Audible members get full access to all of these and more. And the Audible app makes it easy to listen anywhere anytime while traveling, working out, walking, doing chores, whenever you need to listen up. And like all Audible members, I get one credit every month. Good for any title in the entire premium selection of bestsellers and new releases regardless of price to keep forever. I'm looking forward to listening to Myth America co-edited by one of my favorite historians, Kevin Cruz. Listen with me. New members can try Audible free for 30 days. Visit audible.com slash AS or text AS to 500-500. That's audible.com slash AS or text AS to 500-500. It's the morning of April 19th, 1995 in the Washington headquarters of the U.S. Department of Justice. Merrick Garland is reading a transcript of a deposition when there's a ding on his computer. Garland stops what he's doing and puts on his glasses. When he clicks over to his inbox, Garland sees a message with a subject urgent report. It's not unusual for Garland to receive a message screaming for attention. As chief of the criminal division, he's one of the top officials in the federal Department of Justice and oversees an enormous number of cases. Garland has earned a reputation as meticulous legal strategist, one who can handle both complex litigation and a sprawling department. And while he has to be careful about how he divides his time, Garland decides to hit pause on the current case in front of him and take a quick look at the message in his inbox. The message is from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oklahoma City. It's composed with staccato sentences and has several typos, signs that it was written fast. As Garland scans the text, it becomes quickly apparent that a crisis is unfolding in Oklahoma. According to the message, there's been a huge explosion at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Several government agencies housed inside the building are already reporting casualties. Garland forgets all about the deposition for the other case and hurries next door to the office of his direct superior, Deputy Attorney General Jamie Garellick. She's sitting at her desk, staring at her own computer monitor with a similar look of shock. Apparently the top three floors of the Murrah Building were blown right off. Small explosions are continuing along the gas line. There's even damage to the U.S. courthouse across the street. Whatever happened in Oklahoma City this morning is turning into a disaster. Garland's mind races as he processes the details and tries to figure out a plan. It's possible that the U.S. courthouse was the target. There have been reports of a defendant in a federal drug trial making threats. But Garellick thinks that's a lot of assumptions. All they know is that there was an explosion. It could have been an accident with a gas main. They don't know for sure this was an attack. Garland nods, but either way the DOJ has to respond right away. Garellick picks up her phone. Then she dials her boss, Attorney General Janet Reno. Garellick puts the Attorney General on speakerphone. Reno doesn't mince words. She tells them to alert FEMA and to make sure the agency is coordinating a response right away. Top priority is to protect the people on the ground. Reno also wants the FBI overseeing the investigation. Federal agents should take over from local authorities. Then Reno says she's going to brief President Clinton. She'll call back in 15 minutes. In the meantime, Garellick and Garland should continue trying to figure out what happened. After the call with the Attorney General, Merit Garland races back to his office, continuing working to gather more information about the explosion. Garland finds another report in his inbox. This one clarifies that the entire north side of the building was blown away. The report goes on to indicate that there was a daycare center inside the building. And as of now, the fate of the children is unclear. Although some are reporting, several are dead. Garland sits staring at the report. He's the father of a preschooler himself. Reading such a horrifying account, Garland's mind flashes to his daughter's bright eyes and infectious laugh. Could someone really be sick enough to blow up a building housing a daycare? Garland turns on his TV to see if anyone has footage from the scene. He flips through several channels until he finds coverage of the event from CNN. The Iran screen is live footage from Oklahoma City. Staring at the images, Garland almost feels sick. Nearly the entire front half of the federal building is gone. Down on the street, you can see the inside of the building. The offices with collapsed ceilings and overturned furniture, computer monitors scattered in the street. It almost looks like a mangled diorama. Garland has only once seen something like this before. That was back in 1983, when a suicide bomber attacked a Marine Barrett's in Beirut. And while gas line explosions can be destructive, there's nothing like this. Deputy Attorney General Garellek warned Garland not to jump to any conclusions. Seeing the wreckage in savagery in Oklahoma, Garland knows there is only one explanation. The federal government has just come under attack. And whoever is responsible may not be finished. It's a little after 9.30 a.m. in downtown Oklahoma City. Outside the Murrah federal building, Susan Gail Hunt is walking in what feels like a trance, passing through an endless sea of chaos and destruction. Injured people are sprawled on the ground. Law enforcement agents are digging through rubble, barking orders. Overhead, there's a loud constant drone of helicopter circling in the sky. Hunt turns to one of her colleagues from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Hunt has always taken care of her co-workers, and now isn't any different. Hunt is helping her colleague walk through the rubble. He has a large gash in his head and can barely put weight on one of his feet. Suddenly, Hunt's colleague begins to tremble and sag. Hunt spots a police officer about 50 feet away and yells for him to come over. The officer at first doesn't hear the call, so Hunt yells again using all of her remaining strength. The officer finally registers her voice and comes running over to help, wrapping her colleague in a blanket and helping him down to the ground. As they wait for an ambulance, Hunt asks the officer where the rest of her co-workers are. Hunt had been knocked unconscious when she came to, she and several of her colleagues got out of the building as quickly as they could, but there were 124 Hunt employees working on the 7th and 8th floors. Looking around now, Hunt can only see a handful. The policeman avoids making eye contact, but tells Hunt her co-workers are probably still inside. Hearing this, Hunt begins to tremble. She imagines her friend, Tony Reyes, with his bowl of candy lying somewhere in pain. She picturesque Kim Clark, trapped under concrete, never making it to her wedding day. The images are haunting, but Hunt knows she can still do something. It's her job to take care of these people. So Hunt goes charging back into the ruined building, ignoring the protest from the police officer. She climbs over piles of debris, her hands scrape against broken concrete, and her feet crunch on broken glass. Hunt is sweating and gasping for breath, but she keeps going because there's a chance she could save some of the people she loves. Minutes later, Helena Garrett sprints around the side of the mirror building, desperately looking for a way in. Her voice has grown horse from screaming. She pin at work only a block away when she heard the blast. Immediately, Garrett raced over, began fighting to get inside the building so she could find her 16-month-old son, Tevin. The police tried to keep her out, but Garrett wouldn't be turned away. She even tried climbing a pile of debris that towered over her head, but her search still hasn't turned up her son, and Garrett doesn't have any answers. So as she reaches another police barricade and finds two men standing guard, Garrett begins screaming again for help. She yells at the man that there's a daycare on the second floor, her son is inside. Other children are inside. The men have to help her find them. The two men exchange a look of horror and then rush into the building. As she stands waiting, Garrett feels a trickle of hope. Finally, someone is helping her. Tevin could still be alive. Several minutes later, one of the men emerges from the building, carrying a small body. It's limp and still. Garrett freezes panicking. But as the man gets closer, Garrett sees the child has straight blonde hair. Tevin has dark, wispy curls. It's not her son. But even though she should feel some measure of relief, Garrett grows even more panicked. She knows this boy too. His name is Colton. He's only two years old. She saw on this morning, playing on the rug in the daycare. When Garrett looks over at the other end of the plaza, she sees another group of men carrying out more small bodies. And laying them down, one next to another, half swaddled in sheets. A nurse begins attaching tags to the feet of each of the bodies. For a moment, Garrett stands watching the silent procession in a days of incomprehension. And then it hits her. They're dead. All of the babies are dead. Something primal suddenly takes hold of Garrett, piercing whale erupts from her chest. They're all gone. All of them, including her beautiful son Tevin. She never even got to hug him goodbye. Later that morning, Merrick Garland strides down a hallway inside FBI headquarters in Washington. Garland pushes open a heavy door and enters a room buzzing with frenzy activity. Fones are ringing off the hook, and groups of federal agents are huddled together in tense conversation. This is the FBI's war room. And as a top official at the Department of Justice, Garland knows the smell of adrenaline, the propulsive energy of a quickly developing case. Federal agents now believe the explosion in Oklahoma City was an attack. Someone detonated a truck bomb, and everyone in this room has the task to catch whoever is responsible. Garland weaves the road desks. It makes this way to the other end of the office, where FBI director Louis Free and other senior advisers are hunched over a table, studying a map of the United States. As Garland approaches, the FBI director looks up. Merrick, appreciate you coming so quickly. We need all hands on deck. Well of course, what do we know? What's the latest? We've got bomb threats being reported at federal buildings in Delaware, Alabama, Nebraska, and that's just a start of it. So far, it appears none of these are credible, but we're on high alert. But no one's claiming responsibility for Oklahoma City? Now we're still dealing with issues of credibility. The news channels are reporting the nation of Islam is taking credit, but that's unconferent. Still attracts with our best theory. This looks a lot like the truck bomb at the World Trade Center back in 93. You know that was al Qaeda's doing. Well there is an unmistakable resemblance in the two attacks. But sir, why would foreign terrorists go after a non-descript federal building in the middle of the country? You think they want to attack something with symbolic value, a place like the World Trade Center? We don't know why the Murrah building was targeted, but it's still early. Well of course, it's only been a few hours, but do we have anything else? We did get multiple reports of a man leaving the scene in a black tracksuit, or searching passenger manifests for young men traveling alone to the Middle East. Anyone who fits the profile will question them and search their luggage. Garland Nodz, it's a good plan, but he also wonders if there are any angles the FBI hasn't yet considered. Well sir, I admit that I'm not an expert in foreign terrorism, but are we sure this wasn't something domestic? An American citizen? It's a real possibility. America, I appreciate the idea, and we're not ruling out anything. But the bomb tech say this explosive was too sophisticated for an amateur. All the domestic groups just don't have the skills. So until we get more updates, we're operating on the theory of a foreign attack. Garland is about to continue pressing his case when another agent arrives with an update. The team in the field just found a vehicle axle near the explosion site. They believe it's from the truck that housed a bomb, and it still has a legible serial number. The FBI director pounced the desk, saying this could be a major break. A serial number could lead them to whoever carried out the bombing. But they have to move fast. Whoever did this is already on the run. The FBI has a small window of opportunity. But if they do this right, and follow the evidence wherever it takes them, they should soon have their suspect in custody. In 1991, Bakersfield, California, two boys stumble upon a grizzly discovery, the body of a young woman. In the shadows, the new podcast from Wondering Plus follows the ensuing 32-year ordeal to uncover those responsible and bring them to justice. It was a mystery that riveted a desert town for years. Police immediately zeroed in on her long-time boyfriend, a beloved star athlete. Despite national attention and several trials, a conviction of the perpetrator remained elusive, and many thought it would never be solved. During the investigation of In the Shadows, several individuals revealed shocking information previously unknown to authorities. Ultimately, this new insight turned everything on its head, and will bring you one step closer to deciding who's responsible for the murder. You can listen to In the Shadows ad- It's before dawn on April 20, 1995, at the Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City. It's still dark outside, as FBI Special Agent Weldon Kennedy stepped out of the airport terminal, begins making his way to a black sedan waiting at the curb. Kennedy throws open the door and greets one of his fellow agents, sitting in the driver's seat. Kennedy eases himself into the front passenger seat, and after he buckles up, the other agent asks Kennedy where he'd like to go first. There's a lot to do, a lot of intelligence to gather and people to interview. Kennedy was tapped by the FBI director to take over the investigation in Oklahoma City, and now the Kennedy has arrived, the enormity of the mission is sinking in. It's been less than 24 hours since the federal building in downtown came under attack. Scores were killed in the blast, including children at a daycare center. It's turning out to be the most deadly act of terrorism on US soil in the nation's history, but so far the FBI hasn't made any arrests. So the clock is ticking, and with responsibility to spearhead the investigation on the ground, Kennedy is feeling the pressure. He and his fellow agents are going to have to move quickly and dig up whatever intelligence they can so they can find the people responsible for the attack. But Kennedy also knows he first has to get his bearings. Before he does anything else, he needs to head to the Murrow Federal Building and get to know the damage firsthand. As the sedan speeds down the highway, Kennedy turns to his fellow agent. Alright, so what's the latest? I was out of pocket while traveling. While I'm guessing you heard about the man on the black tracksuit, leaving the site? Yeah, I've heard that much. While our guys also detained at Palestinian-American from Oklahoma City, he was traveling alone to Jordan. When the agent searched him, they found a bunch of wires and electronics in the suitcase. He also had black sweatpants. Oh, and what came with the questioning? Well, not much. I didn't confess to anything, and so far we haven't found any real evidence linking him to the bombing. Well, it's a lead. What else we got? We ran tracing on that axle we found. It's from a rider truck, a rental. Rider, huh? What came up? Well, this axle came from a truck rented in Junction City, Kansas. Two men rented the vehicle. One of them signed the rental contract with the name Robert Kling. We got descriptions and drawings from a sketch artist. You'll want to take a look. They're over there in the briefcase behind my seat. Kennedy grabs the briefcase and pulls out two composite sketches. One labeled Robert Kling shows a young man with thin lips and a short military-style haircut. The other drawing is of a man who's more squat with thick dark hair and a wide jaw. It's labeled John Doe number two. Kennedy studies the drawings as brow furrowed. Neither of these guys looked Middle Eastern. Well, well, you know I witnesses. They get things wrong, but the Middle East theory is the best we've got so far. But Robert Kling, that's not Middle Eastern. Well, we ran the name and it seems to be an alias, so it doesn't matter. It's just made up. And the witnesses, did they say any of these guys had accents? No sir, but no, no, no. That's too many butts. Look, we don't go searching for evidence just to prove a theory. And from everything I've heard, these men don't sound like four nationals. Come on, sir. You really think an American would do this? I don't want it to be true any more than you do. But we have to go where the evidence takes us. All right, copy that. Well, Agent Kennedy. The car comes to a stop. Here we are. Kennedy steps out of the sedan and gazes at the ruins of the Alfred P. Murrow Federal Building. It's been almost a full day, but smoke is still rising from the broken concrete. There are cranes pushing aside the debris as rescue workers continue searching for survivors. Kennedy has been briefed on the details. He knew the attack had been bad, but seeing the devastation in person is something else entirely, a tragedy beyond imagination. Kennedy turns to the younger agent and gives him his first set of orders. The FBI needs to hold a press conference and get the sketches onto the news. The public needs to see the drawings of the men who might be responsible for the attack. And then Kennedy says he wants federal agents to swarm junction city Kansas with the men rented the truck. Law enforcement need to canvas every motel, every gas station, restaurant, and apartment complex. Someone saw the men who rented that truck. And if they get enough boots on the ground, sooner or later, they'll find the men who carried out this horrifying attack. Later that afternoon, FBI agent Mark Bootin steps into the dreamland hotel in junction city Kansas. It's a long, one-story building with a smattering of cheap cars parked out front. The lobby is full of shabby old furniture, and at the front desk, an older couple stands waiting for the woman behind the counter. It looks like she'd rather be anywhere but here. Bootin knows the feeling. He doesn't want to spend any more time than he has to in this dingy motel either. But the FBI agent was called in from the field office in Topeka and instructed to help find the suspects behind the Oklahoma City bombing. The two men rented a moving truck here in Junction City, and the FBI believes they may have stayed somewhere nearby. So Bootin has spent the entire day driving up and down the I-40 corridor, questioning owners of local motels. He's hit one dead end after another, and he's beginning to lose hope. But Bootin has to make sure he doesn't leave any stone unturned. So he pushes past the old couple at the front desk and whips out his FBI badge, announcing he needs to talk to the motel owner. The woman behind the counter gives him a slow and wary look. She says she's the owner. But Bootin is going to have to wait his turn. She's helping customers. Bootin scoffs at this. There are terrorists on the loose. Men who could strike again. There's no time for courtesy. So Bootin pulls out the sketches of the two suspects and tells the motel owner he needs her to set aside what she's doing and cooperate. Can she identify either of the men in these sketches? The woman pauses, giving Bootin another wary look. Then she sets down a pair of room keys and spends a moment looking at the drawings. The motel owner looks up and says one of the guys, the one with the military haircut, looks a little like a guest who stayed this last weekend. Bootin nods. This is a good start. He then asks the motel owner if she saw this guest driving a moving truck. And the motel owner says she did. The guest picked up a large yellow truck during his stay. He said he was moving to the area. Bootin's heart starts beating a little faster. And then he asks if she remembers anything else. The woman scratches her chin, thinking, and says now that he mentions it. There were a couple things she found odd. The guest really didn't want to show her his driver's license. And although the car he was first driving had an Arizona license plate, he gave her a Michigan address when he registered for the room. It was all a bit fishy. Bootin asks immediately if he can see the guest registration card. The owner reaches into a file drawer, pulls out the small card and places it on the counter. As Bootin studies it, his palms begin to sweat. He's not an expert in this kind of analysis, but the handwriting on the card seems to match the writing on the rental agreement for the rider truck. On both that agreement and the guest card, the handwriting slants to the left. The name on the card says Timothy McVey. So far, the FBI only has aliases to work with. So Bootin has no concrete proof that this is their man. Bootin has a feeling in his gut, telling him he's found their guy. The man who killed at least 100 people, a terrorist, unlike anyone in American history. So Bootin races out of the motel to go find a private phone. He has to call FBI headquarters. They now have a name and address for their prime suspect. And all that's left is to track down and capture Timothy McVey before he can carry out any more attacks. From Wondering, this is Episode 1 of the Oklahoma City bombing from American scamping in our next episode. Before the bombing, Timothy McVey was a dedicated member of the military, but he transformed into a disillusioned veteran. Convinced that the federal government is waging a war on American gun owners, McVey decides he needs to take action. If you'd like to learn more about the Oklahoma City bombing, we recommend the book's American Terrorist by Lou Michelle and Dan Herbeck. One of ours by Richard A. Serrano, Oklahoma City, what the investigation missed and why it still matters by Andrew Gumball and Roger G. Charles. In the documentary, American Experience, Oklahoma City, directed by Barrett Goodman, airing on PBS. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American scandal is hosted, edited, and executive produced by me, Lindsey Graham for Airship, audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Barrett, music by Lindsey Graham. This episode is written by Austin Racklis, edited by Christina Malsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Riven, executive producers, our Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Bachman, and Marsha Louis for Wondering.