The sister of Timothy J. McVeigh testified Monday that her brother grew increasingly angry about the 1993 FBI raid at Waco, Texas, started stockpiling explosives and decided that the time had come to stop talking and begin the "action stage."
The testimony of Jennifer McVeigh, 23, not only could help convict her brother, but also could send him to death row for his role in the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
Her courtroom appearance was all the more dramatic because she had long idolized her elder brother and shared many of his anti-government views. After his arrest, she once screamed at FBI agents that she wasn't going to "help you kill my brother!"
But in the courtroom Monday, she identified more than a dozen letters and other documents he had written or signed--many of them highly inflammatory in their anger toward the federal government. Then she detailed private discussions they had had together in the months before the bombing, discussions that appeared to show that he was ready to move to the next step in his evolution as a self-absorbed American revolutionary.
"At one point," she said, "he indicated he was not in the propaganda stage, passing out letters. He said he was now in the action stage."
Timothy McVeigh sometimes smiled, apparently glad to see his sister as she spoke clearly and with some confidence, her voice never breaking. But at other times, as she repeatedly characterized his changing psychosis, he would look away, furrowing his brow.
Stephen Jones, the lead attorney for Timothy McVeigh, said after Monday's court session that the two siblings met for a rare visit over the weekend. "They saw each other Sunday in the jail," he said. "They had a good visit."
The chief government attorney, Joseph Hartzler, had said in his opening arguments that Jennifer McVeigh would testify only after being granted immunity from prosecution. He noted that she "had some knowledge of (her brother's) plans and probably could have stopped this terrible crime."
The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killed 168 people and injured more than 500 others. The blast occurred on the second anniversary of the fiery raid at Waco.
Jennifer McVeigh began her testimony with details of a childhood in the Pendleton, N.Y., area, and she described her parents' divorce, which occurred when she and her brother were young. Timothy McVeigh is six years older, and after he left for the Army in the late 1980s, he wrote to her often.
She identified his handwriting in a series of documents that the government had obtained. They include a note he scribbled about looking to purchase dynamite, and a warning left in his car upon his arrest that said: "Obey the Constitution and we won't shoot you."
She said he sent her anti-government books, like "The Turner Diaries," and political literature lambasting gun control and the FBI raids at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco. He often highlighted portions he found interesting.
"Sometimes he would highlight a lot," she said. "He would highlight what he thought was important."
She said he described his "network of friends," including a man she knew only as "Terry"--an apparent reference to co-defendant Terry Lynn Nichols, who is to be tried later.
McVeigh also used aliases, she said, such as "Tim Tuttle," and told about his disguises, even dressing up as a biker once.
"He was very angry," she said, about the events that resulted in the deaths of 80 people, including women and children, at the end of the FBI siege at Waco. "He thought that the government murdered the people there. Basically gassed and burned them. . . . He felt somebody should be held accountable."
She said her brother visited her home in New York state in the fall of 1994, about five months before the bombing. He used her word processor to write a rambling, sometimes-disjunctive letter to the American Legion titled "Constitutional Defenders." It said, in part:
"Citizen's militias will hopefully ensure that violations of the Constitution by these power-hungry storm troopers of the federal government will not succeed again. After all, who else would come to the rescue of those innocent women and children at Waco!?
"We members of the citizen's militias do not bear our arms to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow those who PERVERT the Constitution; if and when they once again, draw first blood." He then put in parentheses: "Many believe the Waco incident was first blood."
Jennifer McVeigh described another incident in which her brother told her that while once hauling 1,000 pounds of explosives in the trunk of his car, he was nearly involved in an accident that could have set them off.
At another time, McVeigh warned his sister that he was being tailed by federal agents. He began the letter with "Oh, Jenny," and warned her "in case of an alert" to contact Michael Fortier in Kingman, Ariz.
"Let him know who you are and why you called," he wrote. "*Note--Forgot to tell you on the phone. If you must call him, Jenny, this is serious. No being lazy. Use a pay phone and take a roll of quarters with you! They will, without a doubt, be watching you and taping the phone. Use a pay phone!"
And in another, particularly poignant letter written before the bombing, McVeigh told his sister he "won't be back for . . . ever."
Jennifer McVeigh continues her testimony today.