Published June 12, 2001
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Timothy McVeigh, the cold-hearted mass murderer of 168 people, was put to death Monday in the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind.
McVeigh, 33, remained silent and non-repentant as he was executed by the government he despised.
He was killed by lethal injection for the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. Nineteen children were among his victims. Hundreds of others were injured in the worst terrorist act ever on American soil.
A source close to McVeigh told Fox News that the Oklahoma City bomber was given his last rites — the Catholic sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick — by a prison chaplain at about 6:00 a.m. EST, just two hours before he was put to death.
Two hundred and thirty-two survivors and relatives of McVeigh's victims watched the execution on closed-circuit television in Oklahoma City. It was the first federal execution since 1963.
President Bush, in a statement at the White House, said McVeigh had been given "not vengeance, but justice," and that the killer had "met the fate he chose for himself six years ago."
At 8 a.m. ET, McVeigh was strapped to a gurney. He did not speak, but he did provide a written statement — a copy of the 1875 poem "Invictus," which concludes with the lines: "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul."
Then a sequence of three deadly drugs was injected into his right leg. Sodium thiopental was administered to render him unconscious; pancuronium bromide was used to stop his breathing and paralyze the body; finally, potassium chloride was injected to stop his heart. Each drug alone was administered in a lethal dose.
Fourteen minutes later, at 8:14 a.m. ET, McVeigh was declared dead. Warden Harley Lappin said he had remained calm throughout the process.
One source told Fox News that McVeigh's lawyer Rob Nigh expected to take posession of the bomber's remains within the next few days.
Among those who witnessed the execution in Terre Haute were 10 victims' representatives, 10 news media members, including Fox News' Shepard Smith, three of McVeigh's lawyers and Buffalo News reporter Lou Michel, who co-wrote a recent book on the bomber.
McVeigh looked pale as he awaited death. His hair was cropped short. A white sheet was pulled up to his chest as he lay on the gurney.
Smith said McVeigh's eyes were wide open and his lips were tight before the drugs were administered, as if he was trying to control his environment. When the first drug was administered, he let out a couple of deep breaths, then a fluttery breath. Smith said McVeigh's eyes rolled up into his head before he died.
In Oklahoma City, Kathleen Treanor, whose 4-year-old daughter, Ashley, and her husband's parents died in the bombing, watched the execution on closed-circuit TV. Afterward, she held up a picture of her daughter and said: "I thought of her every step of the way." She said there was no display of emotion in the room as the execution took place.
She said some of the victims were chuckling that they knew McVeigh was dead before the hordes of media outside did.
Treanor said the scene at the broadcast was quiet and respectful. But Karen Jones, whose husband was killed in the attack, said she heard a few people clap after it was over, and a few cried.
Several of those who witnessed the execution, either in person or on television, complained that death by injection was too easy a way out for McVeigh.
"He didn't suffer at all. The man just went to sleep, or as I said, the monster did," said bombing survivor Sue Ashford, who watched in person. "I think they should have done the same thing to him as he did in Oklahoma."
Larry Whicher, the brother of a bombing victim, said McVeigh looked straight into the camera with a cold, blank stare in the moments before he died — "and that stare said volumes." The camera was suspended from the ceiling and pointed at an angle at his face.
"He had a look of defiance and that if he could, he'd do it all over again," Whicher said. He added: "I don't think he gave himself to the Lord. I don't think he repented and personally I think he's in hell."
Jay Sawyer, who also watched via TV, said: "Without saying anything, he got the final word, absolutely. His teeth were clenched, just like when they showed him coming out of that facility when he was first arrested. His teeth were clenched, his lips were pursed and just a blank stare."
Janice Smith, whose brother Lanny Scroggins died in the bombing, prayed with her children at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, then left after getting word that McVeigh was dead.
"It's over," she said. "We don't have to continue with him anymore."
Nigh somberly reminded reporters that the government not only executed the Oklahoma City bomber, but also a decorated Gulf War veteran, a son and a brother. He said there was "nothing reasonable or moral about what we did today."
"If there is anything good that can come from the execution of Tim McVeigh, it may be to help us realize sooner that we simply cannot do this anymore," Nigh said.
At McVeigh's request, no members of his family traveled to Terre Haute. His father, Bill, left his home in Pendleton, N.Y., near Buffalo, over the weekend for an undisclosed location. Reached by a Buffalo News reporter, the elder McVeigh said he watched TV coverage of his son's execution and was "all right" when it was over.
McVeigh requested that his body be cremated and that the ashes be distributed at an undisclosed location. Sources told Fox News that McVeigh had shared with others three possible locations that were his favorite spots: The desert in Arizona, the woods and lakes in Michigan or a place he always wanted to see — the pyramids of Egypt.
McVeigh spent the final hours of his life in a stark isolation cell, where he was described as confronting death in good spirits, confident he was the "victor" in his one-man war against the government.
He spent Sunday in the 9-by-14 foot cell, a short walk from the execution chamber, writing letters of appreciation and goodbye to friends, sleeping, watching TV and meeting with his attorneys.
He was served his "last meal" — two pints of mint-chocolate chip ice cream — at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.
Sources said McVeigh spent his last two days in the process of letting go physically and psychologically. They described him as eating very little, detaching himself more and more from the physical realm.
They said although he'd expressed regret that people had to die, he still believed his action was right and felt he had to kill people to get the government's attention.
Six years ago, McVeigh parked a rented Ryder truck filled with explosives outside the Murrah building, lit the fuse and walked away without looking back. He maintained he planted the 7,000-pound bomb to teach the government a lesson for its out-of-control behavior, particularly the disastrous federal raids at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and near Waco, Texas.
Before the execution, Nigh conveyed McVeigh's regrets about the people he killed, but stopped short of offering an apology, saying his client has "struggled with that mightily."
He has "tried to express as best he can that he is sorry for the deaths that occurred," Nigh said. "That is not to say that he doesn't believe that he was right."
"I don't think there's anything that he could say that would ever make it any better or would ever reduce the suffering," Nigh added.
McVeigh was transferred from his 8- by 10-foot cell at the U.S. Penitentiary to the holding cell at 5:10 a.m. EDT Sunday and secured 20 minutes later. He was cooperative and the move occurred without incident, U.S. Bureau of Prisons officials said.
"He was able to look up in the sky and see the moon for the first time in a number of years," Nigh said.
McVeigh's original execution date was May 16, but it was delayed after the FBI disclosed it had withheld more than 4,500 documents from the defense during McVeigh's 1997 trial. The Justice Department said nothing in the documents cast doubt on the bomber's guilt.
Defense attorneys sought an additional delay but were turned down. McVeigh then decided to halt all appeals.
Officials at the Terre Haute prison — which houses the remaining 19 federal death row inmates — now turn their attention to another execution: Drug kingpin and murderer Juan Raul Garza is scheduled to die June 19.
Fox News' Rita Cosby and The Associated Press contributed to this report.