Rancher: Nichols Railed About Waco Seige

A rancher who once employed bombing conspirator Terry Nichols testified Thursday that Nichols railed about the siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, and said citizens should overthrow the government.

Tim Donahue, whose family ranch and farm is near Marion, Kan., said Nichols worked as a farmhand between March and September 1994, and seemed upset when he discussed the government siege in April 1993.

Prosecutors in Nichols' state murder trial believe the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building two years later was a plot to avenge that siege. The bombing killed 168 people.

"I recall his disagreement with the government, getting involved in people's lives — they should have left them alone," Donahue said. "He would get somewhat angry about it. There was a lot of discussion of anti-government stuff."

Under cross-examination, Donahue said Nichols never advocated the violent overthrow of the government.

Donahue also testified Nichols introduced him to Timothy McVeigh, although he did not know McVeigh's last name at the time, describing him as tall, slim, with a beard and dressed in cutoffs.

"Looked a little bit sloppy," he said.

Prosecutors allege Nichols and McVeigh worked together to gather components for the fertilizer and fuel oil bomb and build it.

Donahue said Nichols quit his job and said he was going to work with McVeigh at gun trade shows, and that he would make twice the $300 a week Donahue paid him.

"You were surprised that this man could pay him twice what you did?" defense attorney Creekmore Wallace asked.

"It crossed my mind, yes," Donahue said.

Prosecutors allege a man who identified himself as Mike Havens, an alias linked to Nichols, bought 2,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer from an agriculture co-op in nearby McPherson, Kan., on Sept. 30, 1994 — Nichols' last day on the Donahue ranch.

The fertilizer was a key ingredient in the bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Prosecutors also allege Nichols burglarized a quarry near Marion, Kan., about 25 miles from his home, on Oct. 3, 1994, taking blasting caps and detonation boosters like those used in the bombing.

Earlier Thursday, Fred Dexter, assistant deputy director of the FBI (news - web sites), said a team of government investigators connected calls to a Ryder truck rental agency in Kansas to a prepaid calling card owned by Nichols.

Dexter said he did not know who placed the calls or what was said. But prosecutors allege the calls were made by McVeigh on April 14, 1995 — five days before the bombing — to lease the truck that delivered the bomb.

Nichols is already serving a life prison sentence for the deaths of eight federal law enforcement officers in the bombing. The state charges are for the other victims.

McVeigh was executed in 2001.