Monday, July 25, 2011

Did the FBI Bury Oklahoma City Bombing Evidence?

In 2007, Mother Jones was the first national media outlet to tell the full story of Jesse Trentadue and his quest for the truth, which began four months after the attack on Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killed 168 people. It was then that Trentadue, a Salt Lake City lawyer, learned that his brother, a construction worker and one-time bank robber, had died in a federal prison in Oklahoma City.

Prison officials said the prisoner had hanged himself. But Kenney Trentadue, who had never revealed any suicidal inclination, was shipped home for burial with bruises all over his body and lacerations on his face and throat—suggesting something more sinister. Even Oklahoma City's chief medical examiner would later say, publicly, that it was "very likely he was murdered." But the most compelling evidence in the case was altered or turned up missing. Jesse Trentadue was never able to prove what had actually happened to his brother—though he did win a $1.1 million civil suit for "emotional distress" to his family, based on the way the government had handled the aftermath of Kenney's death.

Trentadue had all but given up, when, in the spring of 2003, he got a call from a small-town newspaper reporter in Oklahoma named J.D. Cash. Cash told him that Kenney very much resembled the police sketch of John Doe No. 2, whom the FBI initially believed to be a second bomber in the Oklahoma City attack. Cash also pointed out that both Kenney and John Doe No. 2 resembled Richard Lee Guthrie, a notorious figure on the racist far right. In 1994 and 1995, Guthrie and his gang, which called itself the Aryan Republican Army (ARA), had carried out 22 bank robberies across the Midwest, netting some $250,000 to support their white-supremacist movement.

Could Kenney Trentadue have been beaten to death in an interrogation gone bad?

Might federal officials have believed that Kenney Trentadue was in fact Richard Lee Guthrie, and that Guthrie was John Doe No. 2? Could he have been beaten to death in an interrogation gone bad? That theory provided what Jesse believed might be a missing motive for his brother's murder, and he set about learning all he could about the federal investigations of the bombing and the Aryan Republican Army.