Friday, August 17, 2007

Trentadue Who?

I can remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was at work; I had just walked in the front door. Customers and employees were gathered around the tv; a friend of mine, almost in tears, told me what had happened. On the screen, medical personnel were running away from the site of the attack as the announcer explained the discovery of a second bomb inside the building, and later a third. It was April 19, 1995. The north façade of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was a pile of rubble. I remember thinking that people still trapped in the wreckage might die if help could not arrive in time. I also remember thinking something even worse — that the other bombs were set specifically to kill rescue workers.

Suspicion immediately fell upon Muslim extremists. After all, hadn’t they bombed the World Trade Center in 1993?* The Oklahoma story, however, took an unexpected turn when a state trooper stopped a car without a license plate. The driver admitted that he had a gun and a knife and he surrendered them. Why? He was Timothy McVeigh, a veteran of Desert Storm and definitely not a Muslim. Earlier that morning, he had become the worst mass-murderer in U.S. history. Presumably, he was making his escape; but he wasn’t speeding. Why did he give up his gun? Why didn’t he just shoot the cop and drive on?

And then there was the question of John Doe #2. A sketch of him based on witness accounts (below left), received wide media coverage. Another sketch of him (below center) became evidence at McVeigh’s trial. John Doe #2 had a muscular build and a dragon tattoo on his left arm. But McVeigh’s accomplice, a farmer named Terry Nichols (below right), wasn’t muscular and didn’t have a dragon tattooed on his arm, raising an obvious question. Who was John Doe #2?

Evidently, he was nobody. The hunt for him ended when authorities determined that the JD2 story didn’t pan out. There was no John Doe #2.

McVeigh and Nichols were convicted in separate trials. In 2001, McVeigh was executed. Then, very quietly, the hunt was on again; and the F.B.I revealed that Nichols had agreed to help identify the previously non-existent John Doe #2.

Whoever John Doe #2 was, he wasn’t the man on the left, Kenney Trentadue. Trentadue was stopped at the Mexican border on June 10, 1995, for driving on a suspended license. He was also wanted for parole violations. On August 18, he was transferred to Oklahoma City. Three days later, he seemingly committed suicide in his cell.

Reporter James Ridgeway, writing for Mother Jones magazine, presents the story of Kenney’s brother, Jesse Trentadue, a lawyer in Utah. Kenney’s body was covered by bruises, with slashes on the throat. Jesse wanted to know why. Several Freedom of Information Act filings and a dozen years later, Jesse has pieced together enough details of his brother’s death to put it in context. The evidence is not encouraging.

It was murder by interrogation. Kenney fit the description of John Doe #2; the Bureau tried to get information out of him that he didn’t have. And he wasn’t the only JD2 match to die in custody. Worst of all, federal informants apparently had relayed information about the bombing before the attack.

The John Does who bombed the Murrah Building are at large, and the truth about the bombing remains hidden from the public. Jesse Trentadue has exposed part of the cover-up, but it is likely to be a long time before full disclosure is compelled.

* An excellent question. See A Higher Reason, The Chair-Herding Pictures, June 30, 2006. The bomb used in the 1993 attack on the Trade Center was built by a F.B.I. informant named Emad Salem. Salem recorded his telephone conversations with the targets of the investigation and with his F.B.I. handlers. He couldn’t understand why the Bureau failed to prevent the attack.

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