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Nichols's defense focuses on others

Witness says he saw a man with McVeigh

McALESTER, Okla. -- Attorneys for bombing conspirator Terry Nichols questioned a prosecution witness yesterday on a key element of Nichols's defense -- that executed bomber Timothy McVeigh had help from others as he planned the Oklahoma City bombing.

Suggestions of a wider conspiracy surfaced at Nichols's state murder trial with the testimony of Eldon Elliott, who operated the truck rental agency where McVeigh leased the Ryder truck later packed with explosive material.

The homemade bomb destroyed the Oklahoma City federal building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people.

Elliott said McVeigh was accompanied by another man when he picked up the truck two days before the bombing. He said the man was not Nichols.

Prosecutors have suggested that McVeigh walked about a mile to Elliott's shop, but Elliott said it was raining the day McVeigh picked up the truck and neither man appeared to be wet.

He said that the second man's skin "was a little darker" than McVeigh's and he wore a cap set off with blue lightning streaks, a design he had never seen before.

Descriptions of the man were used to create a composite sketch known as John Doe No. 2, a shadowy figure that people reported seeing with McVeigh before the blast.

Nichols's defense attorneys maintain that McVeigh had substantial help from other conspirators while collecting components for the homemade bomb and that Nichols was set up to take the blame.

Prosecutors have said the man in the sketch was an Army soldier not involved in the bombing who rented a truck the day after McVeigh rented one. In other testimony, a former FBI agent testified that tracks found outside a Herington, Kan., storage shed matched the tires on Nichols's pickup truck.

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