McALESTER, Okla. – The former neighbor of the star prosecution witness in bombing conspirator Terry Nichols' (search) state trial testified Tuesday that Michael Fortier received a cache of weapons before the deadly explosion.
Prosecutors have alleged that Nichols stole weapons from an Arkansas gun dealer and transported them in bomber Timothy McVeigh's (search) car to Arizona.
James Rosencrans, a Kingman, Ariz., resident who took the stand as a defense witness, said he remembers watching Nichols unload duffel bags from McVeigh's car and carry them into Fortier's house.
Nichols' lead attorney, Brian Hermanson, questioned Rosencrans at length about McVeigh's relationship with Fortier and their activities before the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Prosecutors have charged Nichols with 161 counts of first-degree murder in connection with the blast that killed 168 and injured more than 500 others.
A federal jury convicted him in 1997 of conspiracy and the involuntary manslaughter of eight federal agents killed in the bombing. He was sentenced to life in prison.
The 161 counts he faces now cover the other 160 victims and the death of one victim's fetus. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
McVeigh was sentenced to death after being convicted of murder and weapons counts, and was executed in June 2001.
Rosencrans said he recalled McVeigh being "pissed off" about the government siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. He recalled McVeigh saying at one point that someone should do something.
"I told him to put up or shut up," Rosencrans said. "I told him it would take a lot more than just him."
Fortier and McVeigh sometimes put on backpacks and carried weapons into nearby canyons and did target practice for hours at a time, Rosencrans said.
He also recalled McVeigh offering to pay him $300 or $400 to drive him to an airport or a bus station three or four months before the bombing, but not telling him where he was going.
Rosencrans testified that after the bombing, Fortier gave him two bags and asked him to get rid of them. He said he didn't know the bags contained ammonium nitrate fertilizer until he opened them.
Rosencrans then became upset when he realized what Fortier asked him to do, he said.
"I'm not stupid. I know what it can be used for. He's basically asking me to dump explosives," Rosencrans said.
Prosecutors allege that the bomb was a mixture of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and fuel oil.
Fortier also asked Rosencrans to hide hand grenades and other explosives in the desert, he said.
Rosencrans said he was reluctant to testify in the case.
Hermanson repeatedly showed him transcripts of his testimony from the federal trials of McVeigh and Nichols to remind him of what he said.
"About 10 years I've been trying to forget," Rosencrans said.
He said he received two weapons from cache that Fortier received, including a .357-caliber Magnum handgun and a .22-caliber Hornet pistol.