Prosecution’s Penalty Testimony Ends in Bombing Case


Kathleen Treanor lost her husband’s parents and her own 4-year-old daughter in the Oklahoma City bombing, and when she took the witness stand on Wednesday in the trial of Terry L. Nichols, she--more than any of the five dozen other victims who testified about their pain--spoke with a voice that will not soon go silent.

She screamed. She pounded her fist on the witness stand. She nearly stood up, and she stared with a look of hate at the tight, unmoving figure of Nichols sitting across the room.

“The next time I saw her was in a box!” she shouted, describing the funeral for her little girl, Ashley. “I had to bury her in a little white box!”


Her anger thundered across the courtroom. Judge Richard P. Matsch seemed stunned, unable to react. The jury sat transfixed. Nichols’ lead attorney Michael Tigar started several times to stand up, hoping to stop her, but then sat down.

“My little girl was taken from me!” she shouted, her eyes boring into Nichols. “She was taken from my family! It is gone! It was stolen from me!”

Three days of the most grueling testimony imaginable came to an end here Wednesday afternoon as prosecutors completed their case by using the stories of victims to try to persuade the jury that Nichols deserves nothing less than his own death.

On Friday, the defense will begin its campaign to save Nichols’ life, trying to counter a week’s worth of anguish with the tale of his life as told by those he grew up with in Michigan, soldiered with in the Army and lived with in Kansas.

To those who have sat through this trial--much like the earlier trial for co-defendant Timothy J. McVeigh--no task for the defense would seem any more impossible.

But for the defense there is hope. Last week, the jury returned a mixed verdict against Nichols, convicting him of conspiracy in the bombing but also finding him guilty only of involuntary manslaughter.


The apparent split among the seven women and five men on the jury could help the defense.

The jury will decide if Nichols should be given life in prison or sentenced to death. If they cannot reach a unanimous conclusion, Matsch will impose a punishment, probably a fixed number of years behind bars.

On April 19, 1995, a truck bomb exploded in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. It was the worst single episode of terrorism in the United States. One hundred sixty-eight people were killed; more than 500 were injured.

Treanor told the jury about her father-in-law, Luther Treanor, a Guthrie, Okla., milkman and farmer who that morning with his wife, LaRue, made a routine visit to the Murrah building’s Social Security office. They also brought their granddaughter, Ashley.

The Social Security office was on the first floor, next to the front of the building where McVeigh parked the truck bomb. Sixteen people in the office were killed; 24 were injured.

Kathleen Treanor told the jury that she and her relatives no longer act as one; each of them seeks their own way to deal with their sorrow.

“Since the bombing,” she said, “we haven’t been able to stay in the same room together.”

John Youngblood’s father, John Sr., was in his office at the Federal Highway Administration when the bomb went off. An only son, now 19 years old, he tried to describe the long days and nights that his father struggled in an Oklahoma City hospital until he died on May 5 of that year.


“He was always in control, and seeing him so helpless like that, it tore me up inside,” the young man said, adding that when his father did die, “it was so unexpected” it was like the family “lost him twice.”

Richard Dean, who worked in the Social Security office, talked about the blast and his search for bleeding and severely injured survivors. Some were in shock; some of his co-workers he did not even recognize.

For 16 years, Dean has lived with one of his co-workers, Barbara West, and that morning he found her in the darkness of the debris, lying in a fetal position, her face cut open.

On Wednesday afternoon, after Dean had testified, he and West, both 51 years old, announced outside a church near the courthouse that they had quietly gotten married here on Monday.

“There wasn’t any fate or divine intervention that brought us together,” Dean said, hugging his bride. “But there also just isn’t any way you can explain how we feel.”