McALESTER, Okla. – A day before the Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy McVeigh (search) walked into a salon with a dark-skinned man who resembled an FBI suspect sketch released early in the investigation, two hairstylists testified at the trial of conspirator Terry Nichols (search).
Their testimony Monday was part of Nichols' defense strategy to suggest that others helped McVeigh plan and execute the 1995 bombing and that Nichols was set up to take the blame.
As the investigation began, the FBI released the sketch of a dark-skinned man, known only as John Doe No. 2, believed to have helped McVeigh rent the truck that blew up outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building (search) on April 19, 1995.
The man was cleared after he was identified as an Army private who had been in the rental shop the day after McVeigh. But Nichols' defense contends that John Doe No. 2, who does not resemble Nichols, was someone else.
Kathy Henderson, who worked in a hair salon in Junction City, Kan., testified Monday that the sketches of McVeigh and John Doe No. 2 look "almost exactly" like the men who came into the salon together.
Tonia Rumbaugh, another employee, said the unidentified man appeared to be Hispanic, with thick, gray-tinged dark hair. McVeigh stood at the door while the other man asked for a haircut, but there were no open appointments, Rumbaugh said.
Also Monday, the defense called witnesses to show that Nichols was trying to build a life and a business at the time, not a bomb.
James Shirley said he met Nichols a month before the bombing at a gun show in Manhattan, Kan., where Nichols bought a pistol, holster and other accessories for $600 or $700. Nichols had a table at the show where he offered rifles, shotguns and ammunition for sale, said Shirley, who lives in Sierra Vista, Ariz.
On cross examination, Shirley said he saw a lot of anti-government literature at the show, including hats and T-shirts critical of the government's siege at the Branch Davidian (search) compound in Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993. Prosecutors allege the bombing was a plot to avenge the Waco siege.
Patricia Gragg of Topeka, Kan., a gun show promoter, testified that Nichols paid a $75 deposit for two tables at another gun show planned for the last weekend of April 1995. Nichols, arrested as a material witness two days after the bombing, did not show up, Gragg said.
Testimony was to resume Tuesday.
Nichols, 49, is serving a life prison sentence on involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy counts in the deaths of eight federal law enforcement officers in the bombing.
In Oklahoma, he faces 161 counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of the other 160 victims and one victim's fetus.
McVeigh was convicted on federal murder charges and executed in 2001.