Published January 13, 2015
Timothy McVeigh counted down his final hours Sunday in a stark isolation cell, described as confronting death in good spirits and confident he is the "victor" in his twisted one-man war against the government.
McVeigh spent the day in the 9-by-14 foot cell, a short walk from the execution chamber, phoning family and writing letters as he awaited death by chemical injection at 8 a.m. EDT Monday.
McVeigh was sentenced to die for the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building that killed 168 people, including 19 children -- the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil.
"He once told me that in the crudest of terms, it's 168 to one," Lou Michel, co-author of "American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & The Oklahoma City Bombing," said Sunday on ABC's This Week.
"He feels he is the victor," said Michel, who will be one of McVeigh's witnesses. "He has made his point, and he's now going on to whatever is the next step."
Attorney Nathan Chambers, who talked with McVeigh on Saturday and planned to meet with him Sunday, also appeared on the ABC show and described his client as in "very good spirits."
"He was upbeat ... He is at peace with the decision he's made," Chambers said, referring to McVeigh's halting his appeals last week.
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.
"Watching the video of him being moved was surreal," Chambers said in an interview outside the prison. "Look around us, all those people gathered to watch someone die."
In a Sunday service at St. Margaret Mary Church, the Rev. Ron Ashmore told about 80 parishioners to pray for the families who lost loved ones in the bombing. He also asked them not to condemn McVeigh.
"If we approach people with harshness, if we approach people with violence -- whether it's the violence of Oklahoma, or whether it's the violence of what we reinstated in our country, capital punishment ... we create violence in our world," he said.
McVeigh, 33, a decorated Gulf War veteran, will be the first federal inmate executed in 38 years.
Dan Herbeck, co-author of the McVeigh book, said Sunday that the FBI's recent disclosure that it didn't hand over nearly 4,500 pages of documents to the defense confirmed McVeigh's suspicions about the government.
"If a man can smile on death row, Tim McVeigh was smiling these last few weeks," he said in an interview outside the prison. "He always believed they were withholding documents, and it turns out he was at least partially right."
Chambers said McVeigh is "sorry that 168 people died. He takes no joy in that. But in his view, in his opinion, in pursuing his goal, it was necessary."
McVeigh has 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.
In one excerpt from letters to The Buffalo News released Saturday, McVeigh called the bombing "a legit tactic."
Herbeck said McVeigh wrote his co-author about a month ago, saying he was halting communications with the media and would limit his conversations to a small group of people, including his lawyers.
"I'm shutting down operations," he wrote, according to Herbeck.
After more than 75 hours of interviews with McVeigh, Herbeck said he remains struck by two strikingly different sides to McVeigh's personality.
"He can be such a pleasant and nice person, and I know that's hard to believe," he said. "But then when you hit one of his nerves, like when you mention the U.S. government, he becomes a completely different person."
"His rage at the government was so strong that he would actually boast about the bombing at times," Herbeck added.
Herbeck also said that for the past two years, McVeigh received from 50 to 100 letters a week, most of them favorable. "Very seldom did a letter come that actually agreed with the bombing, but many of these letters agreed with his political views," he said.
In one of the letters to the Buffalo newspaper, McVeigh talked about his afterlife.
For McVeigh, "death is part of his adventure," Herbeck said on ABC. "And he told us that when he finds out if there's an afterlife, he will improvise, adapt, and overcome, just like they taught him in the Army."