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McVeigh jury hears blast, sees aftermath

McVeigh Latest developments:

April 25, 1997
Web posted at: 8:14 p.m. EDT (0014 GMT)

DENVER (CNN) -- On their first day of hearing testimony, jurors in the Oklahoma City bombing trial of Timothy McVeigh got first-hand accounts of the bloody blast that sheared off the front of the Oklahoma City federal building, killing 168 people.

The government opened its case with the testimony of several people who either saw or heard the April 19, 1995, blast. The first witness was Cynthia Lou Klaver, who provided an audiotape that captured the sound of the explosion and chaos immediately afterward.


A L S O
Trial transcript of morning session - 156K

Klaver, an attorney for the Oklahoma City Water Resources Board, was at a meeting in a building across the street from the Alfred P. Murrah federal building.

She recorded the meeting, and the tape, which includes the sound of the explosion, was played in court.

Her voice can be heard, followed by sounds of concrete and metal being ripped apart.

Klaver's Audiotape

Text of tape (Poor audio quality)
icon(42 sec./898K AIFF or WAV sound)
"Basically there are four elements that I have to receive information regarding .....BOOM!"

Chairs can be heard falling and Klaver yells, "Everybody, let's get out of here now!"

Klaver screams: "Watch the electricity line...Watch the line. Watch the line!"

"Everybody get out. Out the back door. All the way to your right...hurry!"

"I thought the whole building was coming down on us," she testified Friday. "I didn't know if we were going to get out."

Klaver

"There was debris, lights, wires hanging all over. Everyone was very bewildered."

Klaver was followed by Randy Norfleet, a former Marine recruiter who says he saw the Ryder truck that contained the bomb parked outside the building just before it exploded.

After passing the truck, Norfleet went to his sixth floor office, and had just arrived when the explosion occurred. Shrapnel tore out Norfleet's right eye. He said two Marine sergeants guided him to emergency stairs.

"I was amazed at first that the stairs were even there, because the rest of the building was gone," Norfleet said. "I remember following a blood trail of somebody who went down before me."

Under cross-examination, defense attorney Cheryl Ramsey asked Norfleet if he saw McVeigh in Oklahoma City that morning.

"No, I did not," he replied.

'Can you help me?'

Later, a 4 1/2-minute videotape of the immediate aftermath of the bombing was shown in court. The scenes were shot by Phil Monahan, a photographer for CNN affiliate KOCO-TV.

Monahan said that as he was shooting video of the carnage, a woman tapped him on the shoulder and said, "My baby is in the day care. Can you help me?"

Tears interrupted the testimony of Susan Hunt, office manager for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which lost 35 of its employees -- the highest death toll of any federal agency.

Hunt said she had just exchanged morning greetings with many of those victims; she escaped by walking down an emergency stairwell with six other survivors. She tearfully read for the court the names of those who died, having to stop at times because she was crying so hard.

Jurors listened intently throughout the graphic and emotional testimony, as did McVeigh, who was seated at the defense table wearing a long-sleeve white shirt.

McVeigh is being tried in the deaths of eight federal workers. He will be tried separately in the other deaths.

Witness dropped

A planned prosecution witness whose description of the man who rented the Ryder truck helped lead to McVeigh's arrest has been dropped, CNN learned Friday.

Tom Kessinger, a mechanic at Elliott's Body Shop in Junction City, Kansas, gave investigators the description that led to the suspect sketches called John Doe No. 1 and John Doe No. 2. Authorities later matched McVeigh to the John Doe No. 1 sketch.

The man depicted in the sketch of John Doe No. 2, sought as an accomplice in the case, turned out to be another customer who had been in the store on a different day. He was later ruled out as a suspect in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Although that was a case of mistaken identity, Kessinger's contention that another man was with McVeigh when he rented the truck is still an unresolved aspect of the case.

Also, Kessinger has a criminal record and has had several run-ins with the law. Recently he was in court in a dispute with his landlord.

Instead of using Kessinger to identify McVeigh as the man who rented the truck, the prosecution will rely on Eldon Elliott, the owner of the rental office, sources tell CNN.

Elliott says he saw McVeigh when he came to reserve the truck and later when he picked it up.

Before court resumed Friday, CNN learned that Lori Fortier, wife of government informant and star witness Michael Fortier, may testify as early as next week. She will take the stand under a grant of immunity.

Correspondents
Tony Clark and Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

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