OKLAHOMA CITY, April 27, 1995 (UPI) -- A federal magistrate Thursday ordered Timothy James McVeigh, 27, held without bond in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building and found ''probable cause'' that the former Army sergeant had ignited the bomb which so far has killed 102 people and injured more than 400.
Magistrate Ronald I. Howland said federal authorities and others had produced ''credible'' evidence to connect McVeigh to the nation's worst terrorist attack. He said a ''trail of evidence'' linking McVeigh to the crime led from Junction City, Kan., ''to the front steps of the Murrah building.
"I think the evidence is highly credible,'' the court official said.
The day-long hearing was held under tight security in a makeshift courtroom at the El Reno Federal Correctional facility near Oklahoma City where McVeigh is being held. McVeigh had little to say during or after the arraignment, talking only briefly with his attorneys but staring straight ahead during most of the procedure.
FBI Agent John Hersley displayed a picture of the license tag recovered from the Ryder rental truck that carried the bomb, saying it was used to trace the truck to Junction City, where it was rented. McVeigh checked into a motel there where witnesses saw him in the truck at 4 a.m. on April 18, the day before the bombing, the agent said. A motel employee also positively identified him, he said.
The clothing that McVeigh was wearing when he was arrested by a state trooper only 90 minutes after the blast also tested positive for a chemical used commonly in explosives, Hersley testified.
McVeigh's attorneys, John W. Coyle III and public defender Jean Otto, asked that the trial be moved from Oklahoma because of the publicity and trauma the state had suffered. They also asked off the case for personal reasons.
Otto said she personally knew 10 people who died in the blast and she read their names to the court. ''We heard it. We smelled it. We lived through it. We were witnesses to the event,'' she said.
At Thursday's hearing, prosecutors needed to establish through presentation of evidence and witnesses that there is ''probable cause'' McVeigh committed the April 19 crime that has shocked the nation.
McVeigh, dressed in bright orange coveralls, was handcuffed to shackles tied around his waist during the hearing a visitor's room at the El Reno Federal Correctional Facility. He was quiet, stone-faced most of time. One of the few times McVeigh showed interest was when Otto read some headlines from newspaper accounts of the bombing, arguing for the change of venue.
He craned his neck to see the newspaper clippings. McVeigh and his associates, apparently angry at the federal government, also planned simultaneous bombings in Phoenix and Omaha, Neb., but could not find enough explosives to carry out the entire plot, according to sources quoted Thursday in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Two high-ranking federal officials told the Star-Telegram the so-called McVeigh diary indicated the buildings were ''cased'' and McVeigh and his associates knew there was a day-care center at the Oklahoma City facility. The Star-Telegram sources did not know when or where the diary was written or whether it mentioned anyone other than McVeigh, a decorated Desert Storm veteran who was discharged from the Army in 1991 after serving at Fort Riley, Kan. The FBI disputed existence of the diary.
Meanwhile, heavy equipment and more manpower were brought in to speed up the removal of bodies from the bombed-out Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. By late Thursday, 102 bodies had been removed, officials said. State Medical Examiner Ray Blakeney said about 90 remained unaccounted for, five of them children. The bodies of 15 children have been recovered, he said Thursday.
Weldon Kennedy, the FBI agent coordinating the federal probe, said John Doe No. 2 is still at large. He urged the public to consider only the composite sketch of the suspect and disregard news media reports of a tattoo.
''We are also seeking information about (Arizona) license plate number LZC646,'' he said. ''Anyone who may have information regarding this license plate is urged to call the FBI hotline. That plate was formerly attached to the Mercury Marquis driven by Timothy McVeigh and stopped by a trooper last week.''
Authorities believe the license plate was taken from the Marquis and placed on a car driven by a second suspect. Kennedy insisted reports that investigators have identified John Doe No. 2 are incorrect.
On Wednesday, Howland rejected a similar motion to move the trial out of Oklahoma, saying it was too early to consider the motion. He also rejected requests Otto and Coyle to be released as McVeigh's counsel.
''It is true that an extensive amount of media coverage has accompanied the bombing of the Murrah Building,'' Howland's order said. ''This circumstance alone, however, is insufficient to warrant a change of venue, especially at this preliminary, and narrowly focused, stage of the proceedings.''
McVeigh so far is the only one charged in the bombing. Investigators contend he was angry with government action against the Branch Davidians near Waco in 1993. The suspect, said to have refused to give any information other than his name, rank and serial number, was arrested in his car near Perry, Okla.
An Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper saw no tag on the car.
He also was carrying a concealed weapon and had no driver's license, authorities said. They later learned he was a suspect in the bombing.
In Wichita, Kan., Wednesday, a federal judge ordered Terry Nichols, 40, held without bond as a material witness in the Oklahoma bombing. A prosecutor said materials that could have been used in the bomb were found at a farm where Nichols lived near Herington, Kan.
Nichols has until May 5 to appeal the ruling or face transfer to Oklahoma. Nichols and his brother James, 41, are charged with conspiring with McVeigh in 1992 and 1994 to manufacture explosives in Michigan. James Nichols is detained in Michigan. He is also held as a material witness, but neither brother is charged in the Oklahoma City bombing.