- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2001

OKLAHOMA CITY — Those who watched the death of Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City via a live closed-circuit television feed said that he had a message for them, even though he never said a word.
"He didnt need to make a statement. He had a look of defiance, and he was telling us that if he had the chance, he'd do it all over again," said Larry Whicher, whose brother Alan died in the bombing. "That stare I mean, he stared directly into that video camera, and that stare spoke volumes."
"There was no remorse."
Mr. Whicher, 39, was one of 232 survivors and relatives of those killed in the Oklahoma City bombing who watched the execution from the federal transfer center here. That was about 100 fewer than the 326 witnesses the Federal Bureau of Prisons had been expecting, leading to speculation that many decided as the hour of the execution approached that they had qualms about watching a man being put to death.
"I think it was fear — maybe they decided they didnt want to watch," said Raymond Washburn, 54, a bombing survivor.
Those who did attend received a surprise visit from Attorney General John Ashcroft before the execution began at 7 a.m. CDT. According to witnesses, Mr. Ashcroft gave a comforting, personable statement about his compassion for the victims and his gratitude to their relatives for helping bring McVeigh to justice.
Mr. Ashcrofts remarks earned him a standing ovation from survivors and relatives, who said later they were grateful to him for making it possible for them to view the execution. They also said that he left the room before the live feed began.
"He told us why he worked on getting this set up for us and how sorry he was that we had to go through this," said Oneta Johnson, 34, who lost her mother, Norma Jean Johnson, in the bombing. "I never got to see my mothers body after this — I was told it would be better that way … So I'm so thankful that Ashcroft did this."
Many of the survivors and relatives who spoke to reporters afterward went out of their way to offer their condolences to McVeigh's father, William McVeigh, exhibiting once again the grace and generosity for which they became known in the bombings aftermath.
"I understand how it feels to lose a family member," said Kathleen Treanor, who understands better than most: She lost her mother, father and 4-year-old daughter in the bombing. "My heart grieves for [William McVeigh] as well."
The Oklahoma City witnesses were 600 miles away from the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., where the execution took place, but they saw McVeigh, 33, strapped to the gurney, from the chest up, from the vantage point of a camera lodged almost directly above him. His upper body filled the big-screen TV, allowing them to observe every move of his eyes, every facial tic and every breath.
"We had a better view than the people at the execution — I mean, we were right on him," said Gloria Buck, whose uncle, Gary Tomlin, was killed in the bombing.
The television was blank, and then McVeigh suddenly appeared on screen at about 7:04 a.m. Many said they were startled to see him up so close, although prison officials had warned them beforehand.
What struck most of them was the cold, defiant look in his eyes. They said he deliberately raised his head to look into the camera, knowing they were watching, and gave them a chilling glare.
"When we first saw him, it was a shock, because he had such a cold look on his face," said Shari Sawyer, 30, whose mother-in-law, Dolores Stratton, died in the bombing.
Her husband, Jay Sawyer, said McVeigh had the same rigid expression on his face as he did during his infamous "perp walk" as he left the jailhouse in Perry, Okla., wearing an orange jumpsuit and surrounded by officers.
"His teeth were clenched, his lips were pursed, he had this blank stare," said Mr. Sawyer, Mrs. Stratton's son. "He got the final word without saying a word."
Mrs. Buck, who flew in from Chesterfield, Mo., to view the execution, said McVeigh's expression was impossible to forget. "He turned his head a little to the left and just stared. It gave me the chills; it gave me the creeps. That look — I will never forget that look. It was almost like the devil was inside of him."
Others thought McVeigh might have shown a trace of fear after receiving the first injection. They said his chin trembled slightly, his eyes widened and his eyebrows jumped. He blinked a few times and repeatedly blew air out of his mouth.
"I saw his jaw quiver and I expected him to say something," said Miss Johnson. "But I think he thought that if he said something, he wouldnt be as manly as he could be — he might have had a tremor in his voice. So all he did was stare."
Victor Chavez, 19, whose 3-year-old nephew Zackary was among the 19 children who perished in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, agreed. "His chin moved like he was going to cry," he said.
McVeigh's eyebrows moved as he fought to stay awake, according to some witnesses, then his eyes closed about halfway as he finally succumbed to sleep. When the coroner declared him dead at 7:14 a.m., his eyes remained half open, they said.
His death left the Oklahoma City witnesses with mixed emotions, but they were virtually unanimous in agreeing that his death was too peaceful, too gentle, for someone who had wrought such devastation.
"We put our dogs to sleep like that because we love them and its the humane thing to do," Mrs. Buck said.
Jay and Shari Sawyer said they couldn't help but compare McVeigh's death to that of Mr. Sawyers mother, a secretary in the Army recruiting office on the fourth floor. She was terrified of heights, they said, and her body was found lying in the street in front of the building, meaning that she had fallen four floors to her death.
"He did the worst thing that he could ever have done to her," Mrs. Sawyer said.
"It seems so unfair. So many people suffered. For him to go to sleep is just unfair," Mr. Sawyer said.
McVeighs death brought justice to his victims, said witnesses, but it didnt necessarily ease the pain of those who survived. Mrs. Treanor, 38, who said she spent the year after her daughters death looking into the faces of little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls, hoping one might be Ashley, spoke for many witnesses when she said shell never have closure.
"I don't think anything can bring me peace," said Mrs. Treanor. "Ill feel this to the day I die. When I die and they lay me in my grave, then Ill have closure."
But Kathy Dutton, 25, who lost her nephew Zackary in the blast, said the execution had helped her cope with the pain of the past six years. "[McVeigh] being dead isnt going to bring back my nephew. But justice was served," she said. "I feel a little better. I feel like were coming to an end."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide