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Tue, 07 Mar 2023 08:01
The FBI prepares to make an arrest. Bill McVeigh issues a final plea.
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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 morning of April 19, 1995 in Perry, Oklahoma. At the front desk of the Noble County Jail, Marsha Moritz stares up at a TV trying to make sense of the news coming out of downtown Oklahoma City. There are reports of an explosion at the Murrah Federal Building. The nine-story structure is now a smoking tangle of rebar and debris and nearly half the building is gone. The newscaster reports that there was a daycare inside the Federal Building and at this point it's only a matter of time before they learn how many children died in the blast. Moritz wipes her eyes, forcing herself to look away from the sights of carnage and horror. She works here at this county jail, which is only 60 miles from the site of the explosion. And she can't believe something like this could have happened in her own backyard. But Moritz also knows that when she's on the job, she has to maintain her composure. She can't let any of the prisoners see her crying. So Moritz tries to tune out the news on the television set. But as she gets back to a stack of paperwork, the door to the jail suddenly swings open. A highway patrol officer walks in escorting a tall young man with a military-style brush cut. The officer explains that he pulled this guy over for driving without a license plate. But he also found the man was he legally carrying a firearm. Nothing major, but he has to be booked. Moritz looks to prisoner up and down. And there's something about him. He seems cold and emotionless, like something human about him is missing. So Moritz gets curious about this guy's backstory. Why his expression is so vacant? Who is this man deep inside? But Moritz is a jailer, not a therapist. She just needs to book the new guy in and get him into a cell. Moritz tapped a few keys on her keyboard and waves the prisoner forward. Full name? Timothy James McVeigh? Data birth? April 23rd, 1968? Who should I put down as emergency contact? McVeigh pauses, seeming to avoid the question. Sir, we need someone to contact in case you get sick or something else happens while you're in custody. I don't know. Can we skip that? Look, it doesn't have to be a blood relative. Just as someone we can contact. Alright, put down James Nichols. McVeigh gives an address and phone number in Michigan. Moritz enters the information into the file. Okay, now empty your pockets. You're going to place all the items in this plastic tray. We're going to catalog your possessions in front of you. And then you're going to sign this list, affirming that everything I wrote down is correct. Understand? Yes, ma'am. Alright, go ahead. Put everything right here. Moritz slides forward the plastic tray. McVeigh reaches into his pockets and sets down a jumble of small items. Okay, we've got a one bottle of aspirin, a wallet with $255 in cash, and two gold coins. What are these? It's a tribute to the American Revolution. I carry them wherever I go. Now, history buff, huh? I like to remind myself of the freedoms Americans used to fight for. Moritz looks down and notices a cluster of bullets. And what about these? $45? It's another tribute. I like to remember our constitutional right to bear arms. I see. Not just a history buff, but a constitutional scholar. I guess so, ma'am. Well, that's about it. Okay, now we're going to take your photo. If you look over here, what as Moritz turns, she notices the television again. And momentarily, she's distracted. Oh, I'm sorry. Just news out of Oklahoma City. Moritz looks at McVeigh, who is staring up at the television. But he remains silent, not seeming to register a single emotion about the bombing. Moritz still can't get a read on this guy. She doesn't understand how someone could keep a blank expression in the face of such a terrible tragedy. But Moritz snaps back into the moment. Okay, sorry. Go over to the wall, hold up this sign, look straight at the camera, and please don't say cheese or anything else. McVeigh walks over to the other side of the room, and for a moment, Moritz is distracted again by the news. They're releasing the first descriptions of a suspect. He's a white or middle eastern man, somewhere between 5'9 and 6'9". Then she looks out at the jailhouse. That description applies to a fair number of the guys locked up here. But this is a county jail. They've only got a few dozen inmates. Guides with DUIs and missing license plates, just loners and losers, bending a few nights in a small town, northern Oklahoma county jail. There are no bodies. Certainly not. One of the most violent terrorists in American history. 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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 from my space? Listen to Baby This is Kiki Palmer on Amazon Music or wherever you get your podcast. From Wondery, I'm Lindsey Graham, and this is American Skin. On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh detonated a bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrow Federal Building, killing 168 people, including 19 children. Hundreds more were injured. Federal law enforcement around the country immediately began searching for a suspect. And within a day, they believed they had found their man. But identifying the Oklahoma City bomber was only half the battle. Federal agents still needed to track him down and bring him into custody. This is Episode 4. Last Goodbye. It's early evening on April 20, 1995, at FBI headquarters in Washington. Inside the Strategic Information and Operations Center, FBI Director Louis Fri flips through a file, catching himself up on the latest out of Oklahoma City. Fri is sitting at the center of the FBI's war room, and the agents working the phones and glaring at computers all look like they've been through a battle. Their eyes are bloodshot and their cheeks are sunken. And Fri knows he doesn't look much better. It's been about 36 hours since the attack, and like almost everyone in the bureau, Fri has barely stopped working. There's a widespread fear that another attack is imminent, and Fri knows that if they want to save lives, he and his men are going to have to move fast to catch the Oklahoma City bomber before he has a chance to strike again. But Fri has felt encouraged by a few developments in the case. Just yesterday, the FBI learned that the truck that housed the bomb was rented from a body shop in Junction City, Kansas. Asian Scott sketches of the two men who rented the truck, and a motel owner identified one of the men as a customer named Timothy McVeigh. The woman said McVeigh had spent several nights in her motel, and listed his address as a farm in Decker, Michigan. Records showed the farm was owned by two brothers, Terry and James Nichols. Both apparently had a history of radical anti-government beliefs. Those discoveries were a major break in the case, and Fri can sense their closing in on their suspects. But the FBI director knows he has to be cautious. His agents are getting impatient, they want to make an arrest, but the bureau doesn't have ironclad evidence that McVeigh or the Nichols brothers were behind the attack. If they move prematurely, the bureau could waste precious time on the wrong men and leave the country vulnerable to another attack. Nearby, a fax machine begins humming with the sound of an incoming document. One of Fri's agents hops up to take a look. After quickly skimming through it, he calls out to the room. Hey, listen up. We just finished questioning the X-Wife of James Nichols. We got the report. Director Fri rises from his chair and heads over to the agent. Oh, this is good. What'd she say? She confirmed that both Terry and James have long opposed the government, and she said they actually renounced their American citizenship. They claim the federal government has no authority over them. And we'll see about that. Any evidence they were planning a violent action? It doesn't sound like she heard anything like that. But she does say the brothers and their friend Timothy McVeigh, these guys experimented with making ammonium nitrate bombs on their property. No, same kind of explosive. Director Fri, I'm speaking frankly here, but this is the evidence we've been waiting for, isn't it? We've got to issue warrants. No, no, we're not there yet. Why not, sir? We have everything lined up. Well, look, it is unhinged and dangerous, and irresponsible to build and blow up a bomb on your property. But we don't have anything tying them to Oklahoma. It's a promising lead, but we need more. But sir, the motel owner said she saw Timothy McVeigh with a writer moving truck. Same kind of truck. Yeah, but that truck was in Kansas, not Oklahoma. And our sketch of John Doe No. 2 looks nothing like either of the nickels brothers. We can't place any of these men at the scene of the crime. We don't have a motive for McVeigh. I mean, he got a bronze star serving in the Gulf War. No criminal record. How do you go from decorated veteran to attacking his own country? Yeah, I understand. Free looks around the war room, now addressing all of the agents. Hey, listen everyone. I want to make an arrest just as badly as you do. And I agree, McVeigh is a strong person of interest, but unless we can place this guy in Oklahoma on the day of the bombing, we just cannot move forward, all right? The room goes quiet for a moment. But the agent who was speaking with free looks anxious and determined. A director? I've got an idea. It's a long shot. I know, but we got to pursue it. That's fine. Long shots are okay. Let's hear it. All right. Well, we know McVeigh doesn't have a criminal record, but that doesn't mean he's never been detained or pulled over. Let's call up the National Crime Information Center. See if anyone else has been looking at his criminal record. And what would that do? Well, let's just assume McVeigh is our man, all right? If that's the case, go back to the morning of the attack. Maybe he sets off the bomb, drives away. Maybe a little too fast. He's amped up full of nerves, speeding on the highway. Maybe he gets pulled over. Local law enforcement runs his name and plate. Now, even if it's just a speeding ticket and he gets let loose, we've got evidence. We can place McVeigh in Oklahoma the morning of the attack. Free nods. It is a stab in the dark. And doing this kind of manual search would probably take hours. But it's the best they've got at the moment. So free nods gives the order. In the meantime, they'll keep looking into the nickels brothers, seeing whether McVeigh had an accomplice. Someone who might have slipped up somewhere along the line. The next morning, Timothy McVeigh sits staring at a clock inside the Noble County jail in northern Oklahoma. It's almost 10 a.m. and McVeigh can't understand why he's still waiting, why no one's taking him to the courtroom for his arrangement. McVeigh has already been in custody for about 48 hours. He was arrested for some minor highway violations and was supposed to face the judge yesterday. So McVeigh figured it would all be over quickly. He'd post bail and get back on the road. But the judge delayed the hearing. And McVeigh has remained stuck in jail, where he's badly exposed. Because McVeigh knows it's only a matter of time before federal agents discover his identity. And make contact with law enforcement in Oklahoma. If that happens, while McVeigh is still here locked up, he'll be out of luck. FBI agents will swarm in, and he'll never again be a free man. But so far, no one at the county jail seems to be giving McVeigh a second thought. So he just has to keep his calm. If he can get through the local criminal justice system without raising anyone's suspicions, he'll be fine. McVeigh glances at a TV outside his jail cell. The local news is still covering the bombing and showing yet another image of a fireman carrying a dead baby out of the building. McVeigh knows this might have been his biggest mistake. He was targeting federal employees, but now all anyone is talking about is the children. No one has raised the possibility that this was a morally justified strike against government tyranny. McVeigh continues watching the news report, which cuts away from images of dead children, to show the criminal sketches the FBI has been spreading across the country. It's not a perfect drawing by any means, but McVeigh will admit it does kind of look like him. And when he glances over across the cell, McVeigh notices another inmate, has churned from the TV, is now staring at him, scrutinizing. McVeigh tries to keep his cool. He knows he can't reveal an ounce of fear, or do anything else to raise suspicions. But the inmate keeps looking back and forth, squinting at McVeigh, and then turning to the TV. McVeigh's anxiety begins to crest. He has to get out of this jail as soon as possible. He can feel it. Something bad's about to happen. But as if answering a prayer, a deputy approaches, embarked out his name, saying it's time to head downstairs to the courtroom. McVeigh's arrangement is going to be starting soon. McVeigh breathes aside relief. This ordeal is about to come to an end. McVeigh has only been charged with two misdemeanors, and has no prior record. If all goes according to plan, the judge will set a small bail. McVeigh should be back on the road in less than an hour. Several minutes later, federal agent Mark Mahalek approaches a group of his colleagues at the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The agents are locked in a tense discussion about the Oklahoma City bombing. Mahalek has found himself at the center of the debate. As an ATF agent himself, Mahalek has been handed the job of reviewing leads for the case, going through mounds of evidence, and trying to find that silver bullet that could help make an arrest. Everyone is operating with a sense of urgency, and deciding which evidence to pursue has become an all-consuming task. But for Mahalek, finding the Oklahoma City bomber is about more than just protecting the country, it's become deeply personal. Mahalek can still remember the plume of smoke that drifted into the horizon after the attack. He can hear the voice of his best friend, calling out over the radio, saying he was trapped on the ninth floor of that building, and couldn't get out. Mahalek called out over and over to his fellow agent and friend, telling him to hang on, he's going to be okay. And in the end, his friend did make it out. But many of their colleagues at the ATF were not so lucky. They died in the attack, and left behind friends and family who are now crushed with grief. And for his part, Mahalek has never felt so helpless in his life. But as he's gathered himself back together, he realized he could channel the pain, and use it as motivation to help catch the man responsible for it all. In his gut, Mahalek knows the man's Timothy McVeigh. But before they can make an arrest, federal agents still need more evidence. They also have to figure out where McVeigh is hiding out. As Mahalek and his colleagues continued their discussion, the phone rings. Mahalek heads to his desk and picks up. When he answers, he's greeted by a man who identifies himself as an FBI agent in Washington, and says he has what could be a break in the case. The Bureau ran a search to see if any local law enforcement had pulled information on Timothy McVeigh. The idea was to figure out whether McVeigh had been anywhere near Oklahoma City the day of the bombing. And it turns out that 90 minutes after the attack, a highway patrol officer in Noble County, Oklahoma ran a check on Timothy McVeigh. Mahalek cradles the phone against his ear and walks over to a state map that's pinned to the wall. He begins looking for Noble County, and when he finds it, his heart nearly skips a beat. Noble County is probably only 60 miles north of Oklahoma City. It's on a direct path to the border of Kansas, a clear indication that McVeigh was fleeing and trying to make his way to another state. This is the evidence the FBI has been looking for, proof that McVeigh was in Oklahoma the morning of the bombing. Mahalek feels a sense of momentum building, a feeling that things are going to start moving fast. He hangs up with the FBI agent and dials the locals in Noble County. Mahalek is connected with the highway trooper from the report and asks if he remembers pulling over a man named Timothy McVeigh. The trooper says he remembers McVeigh. He arrested him, and as far as he knows, McVeigh is still sitting in the Noble County jail. Mahalek is stunned. McVeigh is in jail right now. The trooper says he thinks so, but McVeigh might have been arraigned. They usually only hold minor offenders for about a day. Mahalek thanks the trooper and hangs up and immediately dials the Noble County Sheriff. As he waits for the sheriff to answer, other federal agents begin to gather around. There's an electric energy in the room, a collective feeling that they're about to get a big break. Finally, the sheriff picks up and Mahalek asks if they have Timothy McVeigh in custody. The sheriff takes a minute to check and then comes back saying that McVeigh is in the courtroom, his arrangement is supposed to start any minute. Mahalek loses his calm and shouts that McVeigh is the Oklahoma City bomber. The sheriff has to pull him out of court, put him back in the jail cell. He cannot be arraigned and allowed to walk free. The sheriff mutters a curse that says he's on it. He's running to the courtroom now. Mahalek turns to his colleagues, shares the news, and then waits. This could be it. They might have just tracked down the man responsible for all those lives lost in that smoldering ruin in downtown Oklahoma City. American scandal is sponsored by BetterHelp. I just turned 49 last week and here's the thing. Yes, I can certainly complain about getting older. My body is just not what it used to be. 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Learn more and save 10% off your first month at BetterHelp.com slash AS. That's BetterHelp, H-E-L-P dot com slash AS. American scandal is sponsored by Audible. Spring is around the corner and with it, weather warm enough that I can't procrastinate on all the projects I've been meeting to get to stacked up in that unheated garage. But I don't mind getting to all of them. The new closet door, the dining room table, I want to refinished. Because that's all blissful me time that I used to listen. I've got a lot to choose from with Audible. There's the classics and bestsellers, but a lot more too. A giant selection of podcasts like this one and add free. There's a bunch of Audible originals, audio entertainment, you can't find anywhere else. And like all Audible members, I get one credit every month, good for any title and the entire premium selection of bestsellers and new releases regardless of price to keep forever. Audible members get full access to all of these and more and the Audible app makes it easy to listen anytime, anywhere, while traveling, exercising, working in the garage. So maybe I'll listen to The Big Garage on Clear Shot by Tom Baudet. Listen with me. New members can try Audible free for 30 days. Visit audible.com slash AS or text AS to 500-500. It's April 21st, 1995 in Perry, Oklahoma. In a conference room in the Noble County Jail House, an FBI agent takes a seat across from Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh has a blank expression, and every time he speaks, he keeps his voice flat and monotone. The agent can't get a read on McVeigh. They ask for it to him out of the Noble County courtroom just an hour ago. And while he confirmed his name and age, when the agent began asking about the bombing, McVeigh went silent. He said he refused to answer anything else without an attorney. By now, nearly everyone in the FBI is convinced that McVeigh is the one responsible. Getting a confession would make the case. So they're going to have to try to break McVeigh, again talking. The agent begins laying out photos of babies that died in the daycare inside the mirror building. Photos of gruesome. The agent is hoping the graphic imagery will stir some sort of emotion in McVeigh and convince him to start talking. But McVeigh remains silent, unmoved by the photos. The agent decides to try again, laying out another horrifying image, and telling McVeigh that with a crime so unthinkable, he'll probably get the death penalty unless he starts talking. But McVeigh only repeats that he wants a lawyer. The agent looks at his partner. After giving each other a curtain odd, they come to an unspoken agreement. In interrogation is over. There's no use trying to get McVeigh to talk. So the two agents rise from the table and exit the room. As they step out into the hallway, they begin discussing next steps. It's looking like they're not going to get a confession. So the case is going to have to rely on the FBI's work on the ground. It's going to be painstaking work. But if these last two days are any indication, the Department of Justice should be in a good position. And Timothy McVeigh is going to face justice in court. Later that afternoon, Terry Nichols pulls his truck into the driveway in Harrington, Kansas. The pickup comes to a stop with a screech. Nichols throws open the door and begins sprinting toward the house. Nichols needs to move fast. Just minutes ago, he was out on the road driving when he heard a report on the radio. The news anchor said Nichols was a suspect in the bombing in Oklahoma City, along with his brother James and his friend Timothy McVeigh. Hearing that, Nichols panicked. He returned home as quickly as possible, desperate to reach his family before anything could happen. Vanality's back, racing across his front lawn. Nichols is realizing how dire the situation has grown. Grass all around him is covered in small white crystals. Nichols had spread an entire bag of ammonium nitrate fertilizer trying to get rid of the materials used for the bomb. But seeing it now, Nichols realizes it was a spectacular mistake. His lawn is the only one on the block that looks like it's covered in snow. It's nothing short of an imitation to law enforcement to come raid his property. Nichols storms through the front door, looking for his wife, Mary Faye. Honey! Nichols steps into the dining room where he finds his wife, cradling their baby daughter. Terry, what is it? You heard the news? No? What's going on? They think me and Tim had something to do with that bombing. What? That's not funny, Terry. I'm not joking. It was on the radio. We got to get out of here. What do you... You didn't have anything to do with the bombing, right? Now don't be crazy. I was with you all Wednesday. How could I have bombed a building in Oklahoma City? But you know the feds. It's shoot first and ask questions later. I saw dark sedans just down the block. No, this is scary, but we gotta go. Terry, come on. Nichols' baby girl begins wailing at all the shouting. And Mary Faye rocks her gently trying to calm her down. Hey, it's okay. It's okay. We're gonna be okay. We'll be all right. Terry, this is crazy. It's not crazy. It's real. We need to go. Now, I can't believe we're even having this conversation. If we go on the run, we're just gonna make things worse. But if we stay here, we're sitting ducks. You saw what happened in Waco. Where would we go? I don't know. We'll figure it out. We need to get out of here. Nichols' wife remains cradling their infant, looking troubled. She admits that if what her husband is saying is true, that he's a prime suspect in the bombing, their family could be in danger. But going on the run is no option. Instead, she says the better choice is to go talk with local law enforcement. The local police might be able to protect the family and make sure the FBI doesn't do anything reckless or harmful. Nichols pauses, considering whether that's a good idea. He doesn't have any trust for federal law enforcement. There's no question about that. But Nichols does respect the local police. So the more he thinks about it, the more he realizes he should turn himself in. He could say his goal is to clear his name. And that could shield him from charges. It would also give him a chance to do a little digging and see what they know about McVeigh and the plot. Plus, his wife is right. If they're in the presence of local law enforcement, the FBI wouldn't dare try anything. So Nichols nods and says he agrees with the plan. They'll go to the police and soon all of this will be behind them. Later that afternoon, Bill McVeigh startles awake to the sound of his phone ringing. McVeigh looks at his clock and groans. He only went to bed a couple of hours ago after working his regular graveyard shift. He's exhausted and needs the shut eye. But the phone keeps ringing, so he grabs the receiver. The man on the other end of the line introduces himself as an FBI agent. He says he's calling from a pay phone just down the road and would like to come over for a talk. McVeigh rubs his eyes, feeling disoriented. He has no idea what this is all about. What is the FBI doing, waking him up? But Bill McVeigh has an abiding respect for law enforcement. So he tells the man sure come over. He only needs a few minutes to get dressed. The elder McVeigh stumbles out of bed and throws on some clothes. But when he looks out the window, he sees a black sedan already parked in the driveway. And up and down the block are several police cruisers. That's when it hits him that something must be terribly wrong. And it probably has to do with Tim. Bill doesn't have time to think about it though. He opens the front door and finds two agents with gray hair and dark suits. He invites the men into the house and offers them a seat. But one of the agents says there's no need to sit down for a long talk. They're looking for the suspects involved in the Oklahoma City bombing. And after taking out a composite sketch of a young man, the agent asks if this is Bill McVeigh's son. Bill glances at the sketch and shakes his head no. He's already seen the drawing in the newspaper and ruled out his son Tim. The man in the drawing looks older, has a face that's far too wide. They have a similar haircut, that's true. But plenty of people have brush cuts like that. The agent's exchange of knowing luck. And one of them says there's something interesting about his response. He ruled out his son Tim after seeing the sketch, but that also means he thought he was possible his son could have been involved. Bill McVeigh shakes his head again and says no, that's not what he meant. He had been worried about Tim. Hearing him get so worked up about the FBI raid on that religious compound down in Waco. But when he saw the police sketch of the Oklahoma City bomber, he realized he was just being paranoid. There's nothing to be concerned about. The agent's exchange and other glance. And one of the men asks if Bill is aware that Wednesday, the day of the bombing, was the anniversary of the fire at Waco. Bill barely manages to sputter out an answer, saying no, he had no idea. The agent then continues pressing. It's not just some similarities in the sketch. It's the uncanny timing with the anniversary of Waco. The FBI has additional evidence that Tim was involved in the attack. People even saw him with a truck that was used to bomb the building. Hearing these details, Bill McVeigh begins to feel like he's sinking into the ground. It doesn't make sense. Tim was a good kid. There are photos of him on the wall over there, back when he was in basic training for the Army. Tim couldn't have done this. Then the FBI agent leans in closer and tells Bill that his son Tim is right now under arrest and being held in Oklahoma City. He's going to be charged with crimes, and then he builds help. And Vey looks up at the agent's speechless. How could he possibly help the government prosecute his own son? But the agent explains that Tim would be in a better place if he just cooperated. Maybe Bill could talk to him, maybe get him to confess. Bill shakes his head, says that's not going to be possible. He and Tim aren't close. There's no way his son is going to talk to him about any of this. But the agent's insist, confession might be the only way Tim can avoid getting the death penalty. Bill could play a role in saving his son's life. Bill shuts his eyes for a moment, trying to close out the world. This is too much. Tim, his boy, is being called a terrorist, a mass murder. Doesn't seem real. But somewhere deep down, there's a voice whispering. Telling Bill McVey he knows his son is guilty. Over the years, he'd hoped his son would change, that he would renounce his file and dangerous beliefs. But Bill always knew that hope was naive. His son, the little boy in Little League, the young man who served his country, that person was never coming back. So without saying a word, Bill McVey nods. He'll help out. He'll do what he can to get his son to confess. A few days before Christmas, Janelle Matthews disappeared from her home. There were no signs of a struggle, no eyewitnesses, no DNA recovered. But what if the answer had always been there? What if a true crime fanatic had been talking about the case was more than just an obsessive fan? The groundbreaking true crime podcast Suspect is back, with a news story that attempts to separate fact from fiction and one man's true crime obsession from a motive for murder. He says, don't with me officer Edgerton, I've buried more people than you'll know. He's providing information that hadn't even been released to the news yet. He says it's a good liar that he can convince the juror that he wasn't involved. Follow Suspect wherever you get your podcasts. Hey, prime members, you can binge the entire series ad free on Amazon Music. Download the Amazon Music app today. It's late morning on April 23rd, 1995, four days after the bombing of the Murrah building. 30 miles west of Oklahoma City, Bill McVeigh is following a correctional officer down a long hallway. There are steps that go off the concrete walls and as Bill rounds a corner, he feels himself shaking. He's about to see his son for the first time since learning that Tim killed dozens of people. Bill agreed to help secure a confession from Tim because the FBI said it was the best way to help his son avoid the death penalty. But now that he's here, Bill can feel his heart breaking all over again. As he approaches a dark jail cell, he sees Tim sitting on a long wooden bench in an orange jumpsuit. There's a coldness in his eyes. A look of a young man who feels no remorse for his crimes. Bill is still having trouble grasping the basic facts of the situation. It still seems impossible that his own son is a terrorist. Someone capable of killing innocent people, even children. But pain as he might be, Bill is still a father, and it's his responsibility to do what's best for his son. The guard leads Bill into the jail cell, then steps outside, leaving the two alone. It's a dreary, small space with concrete walls and a flickering light overhead. But bad as the situation might be, Bill knows he has to project strength and care. So he sits down on the bench next to Tim and begins the conversation. How you doing? Are they treating you okay? I'm alright. Good. That's good. Look, Timmy, I came here because I had to see you, but I also wanted to do something to help. Now I think you should just tell the FBI what they want to know. It's going to be the best thing for you. Now I'm not here to pressure you, but if you want to help yourself, you're going to have to confess. That's not what I heard. My lawyer said I shouldn't say anything. Bill shakes his head. The stairs at the concrete floor. Tim, did you really do this? I'm not going to say anything. Okay, but I'm just trying to understand that. All those people, babies even. I know you were upset about Waco, but is that why you did it? I'm not talking about this. But what happened? Try and give me an explanation. Dad, I think it's time to say goodbye. I'll Tim, please don't shut down. Just say something. Talk to me. Not goodbye, Dad. See you later. TimmythemicVay signals for the guard. When the steel doors come sliding open, Bill admits to himself that it's all over. There's no more use trying. Tim isn't going to take his advice. All he can do now is show his love and care. So Bill reaches out, gives his son a firm handshake. And after he steps back into the long corridor, steel doors close behind him. Bill McVay turns one last time to see his son and says goodbye. It's April 19th, 2015, 20 years later. Helena Garrett walks across a grass lawn in downtown Oklahoma City and steps up to a lectern. To her right is former president Bill Clinton. In front of Garrett is an audience of about a thousand people surrounding a large reflecting pool. And spread across the lawn or 168 bronze chairs. Every one of them commemorating a victim of the Oklahoma City bombing. The event today is a memorial on the 20th anniversary of the attack. And Garrett, along with the family members of every victim, has been invited to speak. Garrett is here to say the name of her son who died in the bombing. It's only a few syllables, a name she used to say every day in the morning and at night. But even though it's been two decades, and even though Garrett practiced all this at home, she looks out at the family still in mourning and she's hit with another wave of grief. Every day Garrett asks herself the same questions. If it hadn't happened, what would her son look like? What kind of music would he love? What would he think about art and sports and friendship and love? He'd be in college right now, ready to embark on a future with endless promise. Garrett doesn't know how you're supposed to move on from this kind of personal loss. She did find some measure of solace when Timothy McVeigh was put on trial. A court heard from a number of victims, including an office manager who described her last conversations with her colleagues. Marine Captain Michael Norfleet told a harrowing story of getting knocked unconscious and losing his eye in the blast. Even Garrett herself told the jury about her final mourning with her son and her last so ordinary goodbye. And although McVeigh's defense attorney is trying to pick apart the evidence, in the end McVeigh was found guilty on all counts and given the death penalty. After the form and read the verdict, courtroom erupted in cheers. People wept. A few others called out, we got him. But even with the guilty verdict, Garrett still felt flattened with grief and despair. No amount of punishment could ever bring back her boy, his bright smile, an infectious laugh. All these years later, Garrett's still looking for a measure of peace. Like at the trial, today's memorial isn't going to erase any pain. That might never happen. But she can bear witness to the tragedy and reconnect with the community of those who suffered too. So Garrett steps up to the microphone and gazes out of the crowd. She should move fast to say her son's name and makes base for the next person. But the words just don't seem to come out. And Garrett feels herself freezing up. Like in the day she testified in court. So just like that day, Garrett reminds herself she can do this and has the strength. She studies her nerves and leaning into the microphone. She says the name of her son, her baby, her boy, Tevin Deandre Garrett. On June 11, 2001, Timothy McVeigh was executed by lethal injection. He never expressed remorse for his actions in Oklahoma City. McVeigh's accomplice, Terry Nichols, turned himself into police and was interrogated by the FBI. Although he denied all knowledge of the bombing, Nichols eventually granted the FBI permission to search his home and truck. They found evidence including books on bomb making and receipts for large quantities of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. Nichols was convicted for his role in the bombing and is currently serving a life sentence. Michael Fortier testified against McVeigh and Nichols in exchange for a lighter prison sentence. He ended up serving 10 years before entering the witness protection program. The Oklahoma City bombing remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the United States history. But because the horrors of that day were eclipsed only six years later on September 11, 2001, the bombing has been called America's Forgotten Tragedy. But it remains relevant and foreboding. As polarization, conspiracy theories and political violence rise again in the United States, and as Timothy McVeigh becomes to some a martyr and a hero. From Wondry, this is episode four of the Oklahoma City Bombing from American Scamp. In our next episode, I sit down with Paul Barrett, author, journalist and deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. We'll discuss how social media has exacerbated political polarization and extremism. We'll also look at the steps lawmakers and tech companies should take to address the growing problem. 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, the documentary American Experience, Oklahoma City, directed by Barrett Goodman, airing on PBS. This episode contains reenactments and traumatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what we've said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American Scandal has hosted, edited and executive produced by me Lindsey Graham for Airship, audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Barrett's, music by Lindsey Graham. This episode is written by Austin Racklis, edited by Christina Mallsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Ribbon, executive producers, our Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Bachman, and Marsha Louis for Wondering.