One man’s quest to explain his brother’s mysterious jail cell death 19 years ago has rekindled long-dormant questions about whether others were involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
What some consider a far-fetched conspiracy theory will be at the forefront during a trial set to begin on Monday in Salt Lake City. The Freedom of Information Act lawsuit was brought by a Salt Lake City attorney, Jesse Trentadue, against the FBI. He says the agency will not release security camera videos that show that a second person was with Timothy McVeigh when he parked a truck outside the Oklahoma City federal building and detonated a bomb, killing 168 people. The government claims McVeigh was alone.
Unsatisfied by the FBI’s previous explanations, US district judge Clark Waddoups has ordered the agency to explain why it cannot find videos from the bombing that are mentioned in evidence logs, citing the public importance of the tapes.
Trentadue believes the presence of a second suspect in the truck explains why his brother, Kenneth Trentadue, was flown to Oklahoma several months after the bombing, where he died in a federal holding cell in what was labelled a suicide. His brother bore a striking resemblance to the police sketch that officials sent out after the bombing based on witness descriptions of the enigmatic suspect “John Doe No2”, who was the same height, build and complexion. The suspect was never identified.
“I did not start out to solve the Oklahoma City bombing, I started out for justice for my brother’s murder,” Jesse Trentadue said. “But along the way, every path I took, every lead I got, took me to the bombing.”
The FBI says it cannot find anything to suggest the videos exist, and says it would be “unreasonably burdensome” to do a search that would take a single staff person more than 18 months to conduct.
Jesse Trentadue’s belief that the tapes exists stems from a secret service document written shortly after the bombing that describes security video footage of the attack that shows suspects – in plural – exiting the truck three minutes before it went off.
A secret service agent testified in 2004 that the log does, in fact, exist but that the government knows of no videotape. The log that the information was pulled from contained reports that were never verified, said Stacy A Bauerschmidt, then-assistant to the special agent in charge of the agency’s intelligence division.
Several investigators and prosecutors who worked the case told the Associated Press in 2004 they had never seen video footage like that described in the Secret Service log.
The FBI has released 30 video recordings to Trentadue from downtown Oklahoma City, but those recordings do not show the explosion or McVeigh’s arrival in a rental truck.
If he wins at trial, Trentadue hopes to be able to search for the tapes himself rather than having to accept the FBI’s answer that they don’t exist.