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Nichols brothers charged in probe

By BY MICHAEL KIRKLAND

WASHINGTON, April 25, 1995 (UPI) -- An investigating FBI agent has supplied a lengthy affidavit to support a criminal conspiracy complaint filed in a Michigan federal court Tuesday against two brothers who were being held as ''material witnesses'' in the Oklahoma City bombing.

James Nichols, 41, and his brother Terry, 40, are charged with conspiring ''with each other and with other persons, including Timothy McVeigh'' to possess illegal ''destructive devices.''

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''All the (alleged) offenses took place in Sanilac County, Eastern Michigan,'' according to a Justice Department official, who added that no official connection has been made to the Oklahoma City bombing in Tuesday's charges.

However, the affidavit also says a large quantity of supplies was found at the farm that could be used to make explosive devices. The supplies include fertilizer containing ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, which investigators earlier said was used to make the Oklahoma City bomb.

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Special agent Patrick Wease, the 16-year FBI veteran who filed the complaint, said in his supporting affidavit that the charges cover the period ''from 1992 through 1995'' at the family farm in Decker, Mich.

James Nichols was interviewed in Decker two days after last Wednesday's explosion, Wease said, and ''denied that he had ever purchased ammonium nitrate (the fertilizer allegedly used with fuel oil to make the Oklahoma City bomb), and stated that he had no knowledge that Terry Nichols or Timothy McVeigh ever purchased any.''

Those assertions were later proven false during a search of the farm, the affidavit said, when FBI agents found in a shed 28 pounds of fertilizer containing ammonium nitrate, a 52-gallon drum of fuel oil, ''large quantities of 35 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide,'' and one-half pint of aluminum powder.

Agents found ''large fuel tanks, which appeared to contain fuel oil.'' Also, the FBI found in the farmhouse ''a supply of non-electric blasting caps, pyrodex (black powder), and safety fuse.

In addition, in a field located in the vicinity of the farm buildings,' 'Wease said, ''the agents found jagged-edged metal fragments, which appear to be shrapnel from the detonation of explosive devices.''

''During this interview (last Friday), James...stated that he is the brother of Terry Nichols and is a friend of Timothy James McVeigh,'' the affidavit said.

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McVeigh, 27, has been directly charged in the bombing and is being held at Tinker Air Force Base outside Oklahoma City. James told the FBI that McVeigh both visited and lived at the Nichols farm over the past several years, and that he had seen his brother and McVeigh making bottle bombs -- bottles using brake fluid, gasoline and diesel fuel as explosives -- in 1992, according to Wease's affidavit.

McVeigh moved out of the farm last spring, James told the FBI. Last year, James told the FBI, he himself ''made small explosive devices using prescription vials, pyrodex, blasting caps and safety fuses,'' Wease said.

The affidavit quotes several neighbors of Nichols farm as saying the brothers experimented with explosives and made derogatory comments about the federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993, and about the federal government in general.

Wease also quotes ''a cooperating individual'' who told the Sanilac County sheriff of an odd incident in Marlette, about 20 miles from Decker, in December 1993. Two unidentified individuals, ''white males, approximately 20 to 30 years of age,'' entered a hobby store in Marlette and tried to buy ''100 percent liquid nitro model airplane fuel'' and 200 heavy-duty Ziplock bags. The airplane fuel can be made into an improvised explosive with the addition of hydrogen pyroxide. Store employees offered to order the fuel for them, but when the two returned they were told that the order could not be filled. The men ''stated that this was OK, that they had found another source for the fuel,'' the affidavit said.

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One of the men left the name ''Terry Tuttle'' at the store, along with a telephone number only one digit different from that of the Nichols farm, according to the affidavit. ''Terry Tuttle'' and ''Timothy Tuttle'' are known aliases of McVeigh's, Wease said. McVeigh has been identified by the FBI as one of two ''John Does'' who allegedly rented the truck that carried the explosive to the federal building in Oklahoma City. The other ''John Doe,'' who has not yet been identified or captured, is also described as a young white male.

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