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For The Record  

FTR#1301 Who Killed Terry Yeakey?

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FTR#1301 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Okla­homa City Bomb­ing
Pho­to Cred­it: Wikipedia

Intro­duc­tion: This pro­gram inves­ti­gates the sus­pi­cious death of Ter­ry Yeakey, an Okla­homa City police­man who was one of the first respon­ders in the Okla­homa City bomb­ing of 1995. Crit­i­cal of the offi­cial ver­sion of the sto­ry, he was found shot in the head–an alleged sui­cide. His death may very well have been a mur­der.

Key Points of Dis­cus­sion and Analy­sis: Ter­ry Yeakey’s belief that the offi­cial ver­sion of the bomb­ing was a cov­er-up; His own inves­tiga­tive efforts; Appar­ent efforts to thwart his inves­ti­ga­tion; The dis­ap­pear­ance of key reports crit­i­cal of the offi­cial ver­sion of the bomb­ing; Numer­ous wit­ness accounts of a sec­ond per­son in the Ryder truck car­ry­ing the bomb; Appar­ent sur­veil­lance  of indi­vid­u­als crit­i­cal of the offi­cial ver­sion and and break-ins at their res­i­dences; Indi­ca­tions that Ter­ry Yeakey may have been tor­tured and hung; Thwart­ing of the efforts of oth­er first respon­ders whose accounts dif­fered with the offi­cial ver­sion; Recap of the alle­ga­tions against Andreas Strass­meier by ATF infor­mant Car­ol Howe; Links between the OK City bomb­ing and oth­er ter­ror­ist inci­dents.

1.   “Why Did This Cop Turn Up Dead?” by Thomas Lake; CNN; 3/3/2023.

The bomb­ing memo­r­i­al is a somber and beau­ti­ful place, framed by two mon­u­ments called the Gates of Time.

The 9:01 Gate com­mem­o­rates the inno­cence before the explo­sion, which hap­pened at 9:02 a.m. and became known as the dead­liest act of domes­tic ter­ror­ism in U.S. his­to­ry.

The 9:03 Gate rep­re­sents “the moment heal­ing began.”

But some sur­vivors nev­er healed. With time, their suf­fer­ing only got worse.

This sto­ry is about one of those peo­ple. His name was Ter­ry Yeakey. He was an Okla­homa City police offi­cer and a mil­i­tary vet­er­an. Yeakey saved at least three peo­ple from the ruins of the Alfred P. Mur­rah Fed­er­al Build­ing on April 19, 1995, the day a ter­ror­ist attack killed 168 peo­ple and injured hun­dreds of oth­ers.

Some­thing hap­pened to Yeakey in those hours in the wreck­age. He was bad­ly shak­en, and his world­view seemed to change. In time, he grew sus­pi­cious and afraid. He ran afoul of his super­vi­sors. He went on secret mis­sions, with­hold­ing his motives and plans from fel­low offi­cers. He seemed to be con­duct­ing his own inves­ti­ga­tion.

And then, 385 days after the bomb­ing, his body was found near some trees in a field off a coun­try road.

His wrists were cut.

His neck was cut.

He’d been shot through the head.

The author­i­ties said it was sui­cide. But among those who knew Ter­ry Yeakey, not many believed he had killed him­self.

In a recent inter­view, his sis­ter Lashon Har­grove said this:

“I think they mur­dered Ter­ry because he knew too much.”

The sun ris­es behind the Gates of Time at the Okla­homa City Nation­al Memo­r­i­al. The gates frame the moment of the explo­sion and mark the for­mal entrance to the memo­r­i­al. (Nick Oxford for CNN)

Despite his brav­ery that day, Yeakey did not see him­self as a hero

Even among those who dis­agree on how Ter­ry Yeakey died, there is lit­tle or no dis­pute on these two points:

  1. The Okla­homa City Police Depart­ment planned to give him a medal of val­or for his actions on the day of the bomb­ing.
  2. Yeakey did not want the medal of val­or.

Much of this sto­ry hinges on why he didn’t want the medal. But by any rea­son­able stan­dard, he deserved it.

Not long after the explo­sion, a main­te­nance work­er lay under the rub­ble, will­ing him­self to stay con­scious. His name was Randy Ledger. Bro­ken glass had pierced his carotid artery and his jugu­lar vein. Part of his face was miss­ing.

Ledger had been clean­ing light fix­tures in the fed­er­al building’s child-care cen­ter a few min­utes before the bomb went off. Now, trapped by debris and bleed­ing to death, Ledger felt a strange weight on his low­er body. He was buried so deeply that some­one had stepped on his legs with­out know­ing he was there. That some­one turned out to be Yeakey, the police offi­cer who was about to save his life.

Yeakey was 29 years old, tall and mus­cu­lar, well-known among col­leagues for his strength and deter­mi­na­tion. On his way to back up a part­ner on a bur­glary-in-progress call one day, his patrol car broke down. It was over 100 degrees out­side, but Yeakey got out and ran the rest of the way. Anoth­er time, when an angry crowd sur­round­ed Yeakey and a col­league, and the ring­leader tried to grab the oth­er officer’s badge, Yeakey picked up the sus­pect, “wadded him up like a paper nap­kin, and threw him on the ground,” the oth­er offi­cer, Lar­ry Spruill, recalled. The rest of the mob quick­ly dis­persed.

Yeakey was one of the first offi­cers in the ruins of the fed­er­al build­ing after the explo­sion, and he’d already saved at least two oth­er peo­ple before he stum­bled upon Randy Ledger. Yeakey called for oth­er res­cuers, and togeth­er they dug Ledger out and helped him onto a back­board. Ledger drift­ed out of con­scious­ness. Min­utes lat­er, in the ambu­lance, he saw Yeakey again. Now Yeakey was get­ting treat­ed too. He’d fall­en and hurt his back while car­ry­ing Ledger to safe­ty.

Ledger need­ed 12 pints of blood and mul­ti­ple surg­eries to repair his face. He recent­ly turned 66, and he still thinks of the bomb­ing almost every day. Lit­tle things bring the mem­o­ry back: a musty smell, a news report, a yel­low truck on the high­way. And when Ledger recalls the bomb­ing, he some­times thinks of Ter­ry Yeakey. He feels grat­i­tude, and sad­ness.

Randy Ledger’s sis­ter, Lin­da Hal­ford, watch­es as he writes a note from his bed in the inten­sive care unit of Pres­by­ter­ian Hos­pi­tal in Okla­homa City in April 1995. (Pat Sullivan/AP)

As for the offi­cial sto­ry that Yeakey killed him­self, Ledger finds it uncon­vinc­ing.

“There’s too many unan­swered ques­tions,” he said recent­ly.

Bran­don Spann, now an admin­is­tra­tive assis­tant at the Cana­di­an Coun­ty Sheriff’s Office, played bas­ket­ball with Yeakey and knew many of the same peo­ple Yeakey knew. He said that in the Black com­mu­ni­ty of El Reno, a town north­west of Okla­homa City where Yeakey grew up, the offi­cial sto­ry nev­er took hold.

“No one believed that he killed him­self,” Spann said.

Three of Yeakey’s fel­low Okla­homa City police offi­cers also shared their doubts in inter­views with CNN.

Jim Ram­sey won a medal for brav­ery on the day of the bomb­ing and had pre­vi­ous­ly patrolled the streets with Yeakey. Here’s how he respond­ed in late 2022 when asked if he believed what the author­i­ties said about Yeakey’s death.

“No,” Ram­sey said. “I guess I don’t.”

“I still don’t believe Ter­ry did it,” said Steve Vas­sar, one of Yeakey’s clos­est friends on the force. “I have just a hard time believ­ing that Ter­ry would take his life.”

Don Brown­ing served the Okla­homa City PD for 28 years and helped with Yeakey’s ini­tial police train­ing. Here’s what Brown­ing said about Yeakey:

“I still think he was mur­dered.”

They found blood in Yeakey’s car. But no autop­sy was con­duct­ed on his body.

A CNN inves­ti­ga­tion found sev­er­al anom­alies sur­round­ing Yeakey’s death, along with a lack of trans­paren­cy by the author­i­ties.

Although Yeakey appar­ent­ly died from a gun­shot wound to the head, no autop­sy was per­formed. Med­ical exam­in­ers can some­times choose not to per­form an autop­sy when sui­cide is sus­pect­ed and the cause of death is not in dis­pute, accord­ing to Dr. Joyce de Jong, pres­i­dent of the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Med­ical Exam­in­ers. But three for­mer law-enforce­ment offi­cials famil­iar with the Yeakey case said they thought an autop­sy should have been done.

When asked why there was no autop­sy on Yeakey, an Okla­homa City Police Depart­ment spokesman, Mas­ter Sgt. Gary Knight, referred a reporter to the state med­ical examiner’s office, whose direc­tor of oper­a­tions, Kari Learned, wrote, “Our office does not answer case spe­cif­ic ques­tions.”

The Okla­homa City Police Depart­ment took over the inves­ti­ga­tion of Yeakey’s death even though his body was found out­side the city lim­its, in adja­cent Cana­di­an Coun­ty, to the west. When CNN asked what gave the city’s police depart­ment legal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to take over the case, Knight wrote back that he didn’t know.

The pre­cise loca­tion where Yeakey’s body was found has nev­er been pub­licly dis­closed, and basic infor­ma­tion about the death scene is unclear. The police depart­ment declined mul­ti­ple requests to release its full inves­tiga­tive report on the case. The redact­ed two-page report released by OCPD in response to CNN’s records request does not say whether a gun was found at the scene, much less what kind of gun killed Yeakey or whether it was sub­ject­ed to fin­ger­print­ing or bal­lis­tics tests.

Both Knight and Police Chief Wade Gour­ley declined to be inter­viewed about Yeakey’s death.

“There is absolute­ly no hard or phys­i­cal evi­dence what­so­ev­er to sup­port Yeakey was mur­dered,” Knight, a police-acad­e­my class­mate who con­sid­ered Yeakey a friend, wrote in an email to CNN. “Any­one who sug­gests the Okla­homa City Police Depart­ment par­tic­i­pat­ed in the coverup of the mur­der of one its most pop­u­lar offi­cers is engag­ing in fool’s fol­ly.”

Yeakey’s car, a maroon Ford Probe coupe, was found aban­doned near Fort Reno Road in Cana­di­an Coun­ty around 6 p.m. on May 8, 1996, accord­ing to a sheriff’s report. The car was locked and the win­dows were rolled up. A deputy looked inside and saw a Bible, an emp­ty gun hol­ster, a razor blade, and a “large amount of blood.”

Yeakey’s body was even­tu­al­ly found about half a mile away, the police said. A med­ical examiner’s report not­ed “mul­ti­ple super­fi­cial incised wounds” to Yeakey’s wrists, neck, and ante­cu­bital fos­sa, the inner crook of the arm. Although there was no autop­sy, the report list­ed a prob­a­ble cause of death: GUNSHOT WOUND TO HEAD.

If the pre­vail­ing nar­ra­tive is cor­rect, Yeakey cut his own wrists, arms and neck with razor blades, bled heav­i­ly in his car, and then walked or ran about half a mile into either a field or a grove of trees, where he shot him­self to death. There was no sui­cide note.

The absence of a note was among sev­er­al rea­sons peo­ple won­dered what might have pushed Yeakey toward sui­cide. In state­ments to the news media after his death, the police had two answers for that.

One pos­si­ble fac­tor was tur­moil in Yeakey’s per­son­al life. He had been mar­ried, with two young daugh­ters, but he and his wife, Tonia, divorced in late 1995. In court records, Tonia wrote that Ter­ry had beat­en her, choked her, and threat­ened to shoot her, him­self, and one of their daugh­ters.

She had repeat­ed­ly applied for pro­tec­tive orders against him, and in Feb­ru­ary 1995, about 15 months before Terry’s death, a judge had ordered Ter­ry to have no con­tact with Tonia, “except regard­ing vis­i­ta­tion and the wel­fare” of their daugh­ters.

Did the reper­cus­sions from domes­tic vio­lence play a role in Yeakey’s death? Yeakey’s friend and col­league Steve Vas­sar told CNN he once read Okla­homa City Police Department’s full inves­tiga­tive report on Yeakey’s death. Accord­ing to Vas­sar, the report said Major Steve Upchurch called Yeakey short­ly before his death, told him Tonia had report­ed him for vio­lat­ing the pro­tec­tive order, told Yeakey he was being placed on admin­is­tra­tive leave, and told Yeakey anoth­er offi­cer was com­ing to take away Yeakey’s gun and badge.

But even if Vas­sar cor­rect­ly remem­bers what was in the report — which has nev­er been released — those details are con­test­ed. Major Upchurch told CNN in a phone inter­view he had no rec­ol­lec­tion of mak­ing such a call to Yeakey. He said he didn’t remem­ber Yeakey hav­ing any trou­ble with his ex-wife before his death. And he said he didn’t remem­ber any­thing about Yeakey being in trou­ble with his supe­ri­ors.

Besides that, Tonia vehe­ment­ly denied report­ing him for a pro­tec­tive-order vio­la­tion in 1996. In inter­views with the author Craig Roberts, the tapes of which were reviewed by CNN, Tonia Yeakey said she and Ter­ry Yeakey were on good terms before his death. She said they reg­u­lar­ly saw each oth­er, and he had recent­ly asked her about get­ting remar­ried. She had not said yes, but she had not said no.

If Yeakey’s death was unre­lat­ed to a trou­bled rela­tion­ship, or to fears of los­ing his job, that left anoth­er poten­tial cause put forth to the news media by the police depart­ment: Yeakey was depressed about the bomb­ing. News cov­er­age after Yeakey’s death depict­ed a man haunt­ed by what he’d seen in the rub­ble and wracked with guilt that he couldn’t save more lives.

“There are some peo­ple that like to be heroes and some that don’t,” one of Yeakey’s super­vi­sors, Lt. Joe Ann Ran­dall, said, as quot­ed by the Asso­ci­at­ed Press in 1996. “He was not one that want­ed that.”

Why didn’t Ter­ry Yeakey want the medal of val­or? There was anoth­er pos­si­ble rea­son. And for those who said he was mur­dered, that rea­son was a cru­cial part of the sto­ry.

Res­cue per­son­nel con­verge on the bombed Alfred P. Mur­rah Fed­er­al Build­ing in Okla­homa City. The blast killed 168 peo­ple and injured hun­dreds more. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

‘They’re not telling the truth,’ Yeakey said

In a brief phone con­ver­sa­tion last Novem­ber, Yeakey’s ex-wife, Tonia, told CNN she still believed Yeakey had been mur­dered. Then she stopped answer­ing the reporter’s calls. But Tonia’s sto­ry was cap­tured in 1998 in two record­ed inter­views with Craig Roberts, a for­mer police offi­cer who was research­ing the Okla­homa City bomb­ing. One was a pri­vate phone inter­view, and the oth­er was for a radio broad­cast. After review­ing the tapes, CNN found cor­rob­o­ra­tion for some of Tonia’s claims.

On the day of the bomb­ing, Tonia said, she got a phone call. It was some­one at Pres­by­ter­ian Hos­pi­tal, telling her Ter­ry was there. His back was injured when he fell while car­ry­ing Randy Ledger, and now Ter­ry need­ed some­one to pick him up. So Tonia picked him up from the hos­pi­tal. And in the car, she says, he start­ed to cry.

“Tonia, it’s not what they’re say­ing it is,” he told her. “They’re not telling the truth. They’re lying about what’s going on down there.”

Ter­ry was dis­turbed by what he’d seen in the ruins of the fed­er­al build­ing — and not just because he’d walked into an unfath­omable human tragedy. Ter­ry was con­vinced there was more to the sto­ry of the bomb­ing, some oth­er piece the author­i­ties were with­hold­ing. He was not the only one who believed this.

Fed­er­al author­i­ties said Tim­o­thy McVeigh, a 26-year-old Army vet­er­an who hat­ed the gov­ern­ment, caused the explo­sion by park­ing a rent­ed Ryder truck near the fed­er­al build­ing and set­ting off timed fus­es that det­o­nat­ed a bomb made of “agri­cul­tur­al fer­til­iz­er, diesel fuel, and oth­er chem­i­cals.” Two more men, Ter­ry Nichols and Michael Forti­er, were also pros­e­cut­ed in con­nec­tion with the case.

FBI agents and local police escort Tim­o­thy McVeigh from the Noble Coun­ty Cour­t­house in Per­ry, Okla­homa, in April 1995. He was even­tu­al­ly sen­tenced to death after being con­vict­ed on 11 counts of mur­der, con­spir­a­cy and using a weapon of mass destruc­tion. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

In the months and years that fol­lowed, a stub­born con­tin­gent of skep­tics pur­sued oth­er angles to the sto­ry. Some of them had either sur­vived the bomb­ing or lost loved ones because of it. They insist­ed that gov­ern­ment offi­cials were some­how cul­pa­ble. It was a botched sting oper­a­tion, they said, or per­haps the gov­ern­ment per­mit­ted or even orches­trat­ed the bomb­ing for polit­i­cal advan­tage.

The gov­ern­ment denied these alle­ga­tions, of course, and still does.

“This was prob­a­bly the FBI’s finest moment,” Bob Ricks, who was spe­cial agent in charge of the FBI’s Okla­homa City field office in 1995, said in a recent inter­view, refer­ring to the bomb­ing inves­ti­ga­tion.

Still, there is some­thing about the case that makes peo­ple want to keep inves­ti­gat­ing. There were mul­ti­ple reports of pri­or warn­ings giv­en to some fed­er­al employ­ees. Of an uniden­ti­fied sec­ond sus­pect in the Ryder truck. And of addi­tion­al explo­sives that alleged­ly con­tributed to the blast.

Ricks said those reports were false and start­ed laugh­ing when a reporter asked about them. But in 1997, more than 10,000 Okla­homa Coun­ty res­i­dents signed a peti­tion to con­vene a grand jury to exam­ine the bomb­ing. Even after the grand jury dis­missed alle­ga­tions of addi­tion­al sus­pects and pri­or knowl­edge by the gov­ern­ment, a band of cit­i­zens kept dig­ging into the mys­tery. Led by for­mer Okla­homa State Rep. Charles Key, the Okla­homa Bomb­ing Inves­ti­ga­tion Com­mit­tee issued its own report, which filled more than 500 pages and told a sto­ry at odds with the one that emerged at McVeigh’s tri­al.

Explo­sives experts, includ­ing retired Air Force Brigadier Gen­er­al Ben­ton Partin, reviewed the case and said McVeigh’s bomb alone could not have caused that much dam­age.

“There is strong evi­dence that demo­li­tion charges were in the build­ing,” Partin wrote in a let­ter to a pros­e­cu­tor in 1997, “irre­spec­tive of the size of the truck bomb.”

An Okla­homa City fire­fight­er walks past dam­aged cars out­side the fed­er­al build­ing after the attack. (Jim Argo/The Dai­ly Oklahoman/AP)

For his part, Ter­ry Yeakey believed some gov­ern­ment employ­ees had lied about their where­abouts dur­ing the bomb­ing. Asso­ciates said Yeakey was sur­prised to see so many fed­er­al agents, appar­ent­ly dressed in riot gear, on the scene moments after the blast. And he had ques­tions about the source of the explo­sion. Accord­ing to his sis­ter Lashon Har­grove, “you know how they said the truck bomb blew in? He saw evi­dence of blow­ing out,” or signs of a blast that appeared to have come from inside the build­ing.

A few days after the bomb­ing, Tonia said, Ter­ry asked her to dri­ve him back to the fed­er­al build­ing. He want­ed to go at night, when he couldn’t be seen as eas­i­ly.

“We did go down there, prob­a­bly between 9:30, 10:00, and he said that we were going to go look under­neath where the day­care had been,” she said. “There was some­thing he want­ed to see over there and get a pic­ture, if pos­si­ble. As we went down there, we were stopped and I can’t remem­ber which per­son­nel it was, but I know def­i­nite­ly it was either ATF or FBI … And Ter­ry had attempt­ed to badge his way through, and the guy told him no … And he said some­thing a lit­tle more spe­cif­ic, like, you know, ‘You’re not sup­posed to be back down here.’ … (It) made me real­ize the two of them rec­og­nized each oth­er and the inter­ac­tion was very antag­o­nis­tic. I think had I not been with Ter­ry, he would have said a lit­tle more to the man and maybe been a lit­tle more force­ful about get­ting through. But it seemed like he thought bet­ter about it since I was with him. And we left.”

Tonia says Ter­ry wrote a detailed report for the police depart­ment, per­haps nine pages long. She didn’t know what was in the report. But one day he came to the house, furi­ous, telling her the report had dis­ap­peared. And now his supe­ri­ors were telling him to write anoth­er report, only one page long, leav­ing out most of what he’d writ­ten before. About two weeks after the bomb­ing, she says, she got a phone call from one of Terry’s super­vi­sors.

“And she was being pret­ty hos­tile, pret­ty aggres­sive, and asked me where Ter­ry was,” Tonia said. “…She said, ‘You tell Ter­ry that if he doesn’t get that oth­er report in, that he’s going to be rep­ri­mand­ed.”

Did an officer’s report on the bomb­ing dis­ap­pear? A spokesman for the Okla­homa City Police Depart­ment declined to answer this or oth­er ques­tions on an exten­sive list sent by CNN. Knight said most of the ques­tions on the list were requests for mate­ri­als that were “not an open record.”

But Tonia’s account is con­sis­tent with a sto­ry anoth­er Okla­homa City police offi­cer told.

Steve Vas­sar said he was down­town a few min­utes before the bomb­ing and saw the infa­mous Ryder truck. Offi­cial­ly, Tim­o­thy McVeigh was alone when he drove the truck to the fed­er­al build­ing. But oth­ers have said he had an accom­plice that morn­ing, and Vas­sar said he saw anoth­er per­son in the truck.

“I’m going to tell you right now,” he said, “as God is my wit­ness, there were two peo­ple.”

Vas­sar says that although he wrote this account in one of his sup­ple­men­tal reports on the bomb­ing, no inves­ti­ga­tor ever ques­tioned him about what he’d seen. Years lat­er, he searched for his reports in the Okla­homa City police department’s com­put­er sys­tem. He says he saw hun­dreds of oth­er reports about the bomb­ing and its after­math. But he couldn’t find his own reports.

“They were gone,” he said. “They were not in the sys­tem, as if I nev­er was there.”

On the day he died, Yeakey said he was on his way to a mys­te­ri­ous meet­ing

In his final weeks, Ter­ry seemed afraid. Tonia said he showed up at her house at odd hours, try­ing to make plans.

“He want­ed me to leave in the mid­dle of the night with him,” she said. “Right then. He said, ‘We need to get remar­ried. Don’t ask me ques­tions. This is the only way I can make sure you and the girls are tak­en care of in the event that some­thing hap­pens to me.’”

Tonia says she report­ed his behav­ior to the police. He did not appear sui­ci­dal, and she did not accuse him of vio­lat­ing a pro­tec­tive order, she said, but she was wor­ried about him because he’d been say­ing his days were num­bered. One day in May 1996, he showed up at her house and put a VCR in her car with­out explain­ing why. The VCR had a tape in it, but she didn’t get a chance to watch it. Ter­ry was talk­ing about insur­ance papers. He left and said he would be back. She nev­er saw him again.

Short­ly before his death, Ter­ry also vis­it­ed his sis­ter Vick­ie and her hus­band, Glen, in El Reno, the town north­west of Okla­homa City where Ter­ry and Vick­ie grew up. Vick­ie and Glen have both died since then, but anoth­er sis­ter, Lashon Har­grove, said they told her about the encounter.

Ter­ry was exhaust­ed, upset, cry­ing. He said he need­ed to sleep, and they encour­aged him to take a nap there, which he did. After­wards he calmed down, but he was talk­ing about the bomb­ing, and the offi­cial sto­ry with which he dis­agreed. Accord­ing to Lashon, he told his sis­ter and broth­er-in-law, “It’s just not what they say it is.”

They asked him to tell them more, but he said he couldn’t.

There was some­one else Ter­ry saw near the end: Romona McDon­ald, whom he’d met in the rub­ble of the fed­er­al build­ing. This account is drawn from an inter­view she gave CNN in Jan­u­ary, as well as a taped inter­view with the author Craig Roberts in 1998. McDon­ald even­tu­al­ly left Okla­homa City and changed her name, a deci­sion she attrib­uted in part to trau­ma relat­ed to the bomb­ing and to Yeakey’s death.

McDon­ald was a busi­ness­woman who’d been down­town when the bomb went off. She helped pub­lish a book, Angels Over Okla­homa City, that named and hon­ored hun­dreds of first respon­ders from around the coun­try who con­verged in Okla­homa City after the bomb­ing.

A fence at the memo­r­i­al site is cov­ered in trib­utes from vis­i­tors. (Nick Oxford for CNN)

While vol­un­teer­ing in the res­cue and recov­ery effort, McDon­ald also met sur­vivors who ques­tioned the offi­cial sto­ry. Her home became a meet­ing place for those peo­ple, and a clear­ing­house for pic­tures and oth­er evi­dence they gath­ered. She said that evi­dence includ­ed a copy of Ter­ry Yeakey’s full report from the day of the bomb­ing — the one his super­vi­sors had alleged­ly sup­pressed.

Accord­ing to McDon­ald, two men came to her house some­time after the bomb­ing. She believed they were fed­er­al agents. They said they were with a task force that was inves­ti­gat­ing the bomb­ing, and they spent hours exam­in­ing her col­lec­tion of pic­tures.

The last day McDon­ald saw Yeakey, she says, they sat down and had cof­fee togeth­er. He was talk­ing about an appoint­ment. From his descrip­tion of the men he was sup­posed to meet, she believed they were the same two men who’d been at her house. The men from the task force seemed keen­ly inter­est­ed in the evi­dence about the bomb­ing. They want­ed Ter­ry to bring what he’d gath­ered: pic­tures, video, doc­u­ments.

Yeakey seemed con­flict­ed about whether to go meet the men. He sensed dan­ger, and these mis­giv­ings led him to take a strange pre­cau­tion. McDon­ald said Yeakey went to the meet­ing unarmed, so no one could use his own gun against him.

On the oth­er hand, if the men real­ly were inves­ti­gat­ing the bomb­ing, this could be Yeakey’s big chance. Final­ly, some­one with author­i­ty was going to lis­ten to him. He decid­ed to bring them the evi­dence, McDon­ald said. The men want­ed to meet Yeakey in El Reno, at or near the fed­er­al prison.

Yeakey left McDonald’s house, appar­ent­ly on his way to the meet­ing. She nev­er saw him again. It was lat­er that day when some­one called to say he was dead.

His body was found west of El Reno, about two miles from the fed­er­al prison.

It is a lone­ly, windswept place, with tall grass under a big sky. Past the barbed-wire fence off Fort Reno Road, where Yeakey’s car was found, a stream runs north and east toward a grove of trees and an old grave­yard. Tonia said Ter­ry would nev­er have gone there will­ing­ly. He knew that land, and it made him afraid.

“I remem­ber him at one point in time say­ing that lots of bad things went on over there,” she said. “… He wouldn’t have been caught — Oh, excuse me. I was get­ting ready to say he wouldn’t have been caught dead there. But I guess he was.”

‘Mama, they exe­cut­ed him’

Ter­ry Yeakey’s body was found on a Wednes­day night. By Thurs­day morn­ing, an Okla­homa City police cap­tain had already told the Asso­ci­at­ed Press it appeared Yeakey had killed him­self. That was almost 27 years ago. Ever since then, Yeakey’s death has been offi­cial­ly called a sui­cide.

Tonia said she met with the police chief and told him she dis­agreed with that con­clu­sion. She said she tried, with­out suc­cess, to arrange for an autop­sy. She said local attor­neys refused to take her case. She said one told her “it’d be best for me and my fam­i­ly just to leave it alone.”

Lashon Har­grove said that when she and her sis­ter met with a police detec­tive and raised ques­tions about their brother’s death, the detec­tive sug­gest­ed they need­ed psy­chi­atric help.

Don Brown­ing, one of the offi­cers who ques­tioned the cir­cum­stances of Yeakey’s death, was espe­cial­ly dis­turbed by the lack of an autop­sy. “How dare you not do an autop­sy on an unat­tend­ed death — on a police offi­cer?” he said. Accord­ing to Brown­ing, he appeared before the grand jury inves­ti­gat­ing the bomb­ing and con­front­ed a pros­e­cu­tor about the strange details of Yeakey’s death. Brown­ing said the pros­e­cu­tor dis­missed him and appar­ent­ly took no action in the case.

Craig Roberts, a for­mer Marine sniper who lat­er became a Tul­sa police offi­cer and book author, stum­bled upon the Yeakey case while look­ing into the Okla­homa City bomb­ing. He wrote let­ters ask­ing the Okla­homa City Police Depart­ment to open a new inves­ti­ga­tion into Yeakey’s death. “Though it was orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten up as a sui­cide,” he wrote in 2006, “I feel the evi­dence and facts point to a torture/homicide.”

Roberts wrote that Yeakey’s entrance wound sug­gest­ed the pres­ence of a silencer. He wrote that the bullet’s tra­jec­to­ry “would be con­sis­tent to one fired ‘exe­cu­tion style’ into the skull of a kneel­ing vic­tim…” He wrote, “There were mul­ti­ple cuts on his wrists, inner elbows, and jugu­lar veins. If he was going to shoot him­self, why would he cut him­self so many times?”

About a month lat­er, Police Chief William Cit­ty wrote back to Roberts, “I find noth­ing in the investigator’s case files or from the infor­ma­tion you have pro­vid­ed that changes the find­ing of sui­cide.” The chief did not answer the ques­tions Roberts raised in his let­ter, includ­ing whether a gun was found at the scene, whether it was Yeakey’s gun, whether the fatal bul­let was ever found, or whether any bal­lis­tics tests were done to link the bul­let and the gun.

The Roberts let­ter also raised the ques­tion of what hap­pened to Ter­ry Yeakey’s doc­u­ments after he died. Tonia said Ter­ry kept some doc­u­ments from his inves­ti­ga­tion at a stor­age unit in King­fish­er, a small city north­west of Okla­homa City, but “what­ev­er was there is not there any longer.” Roberts said the doc­u­ments were not in Yeakey’s car when it was found by the road­side.

“It would appear that this trag­ic event cen­ters on what Ter­ry Yeakey had in his files,” Roberts wrote to the police chief, “and who want­ed to make sure those files were nev­er dis­cov­ered.”

After Terry’s death, Tonia said she saw signs of a bur­glary at her home. She noticed var­i­ous items out of place. Ter­ry had left a VCR for her, but it dis­ap­peared. She nev­er got a chance to see what was on the tape.

The sun sets behind the Okla­homa City Police Depart­ment. (Nick Oxford for CNN)

Like­wise, Romona McDon­ald said her house was bur­glar­ized after Yeakey’s death. Much of her bomb­ing-relat­ed evi­dence was tak­en.

When Terry’s fam­i­ly vis­it­ed his apart­ment after his death, it looked as if it had been ran­sacked. There was paper scat­tered around, his sis­ter Lashon said, and “you could tell…somebody had been in there, like, look­ing for some­thing.”

Both Lashon and Tonia believed they were under sur­veil­lance after Terry’s death. They said they were shad­owed by strange vehi­cles, and they heard click­ing sounds when they talked on the phone.

Short­ly after Terry’s death, sev­er­al rel­a­tives went look­ing for the place his body had been dis­cov­ered. Lashon says they found it near some trees in a field past a barbed-wire fence off Fort Reno Road. There were signs of activ­i­ty on the ground, as if this had been a crime scene, but they noticed some­thing strange. Some of the earth was fresh­ly dis­turbed, appar­ent­ly by shov­els, as if what­ev­er had been on the sur­face was now buried.

Most trou­bling of all was the con­di­tion of Terry’s body. Although the avail­able med­ical examiner’s reports described only a gun­shot wound to the head and super­fi­cial cuts else­where, Tonia said sources with­in the law enforce­ment com­mu­ni­ty told her Terry’s body showed evi­dence of hav­ing been either tied or hand­cuffed, and of hav­ing been dragged across the ground. She said she was told Ter­ry had bruis­es on his wrists, rope burns on his ankles, dirt and grass in his wounds.

CNN asked the Okla­homa City Police Depart­ment about these details, but a depart­ment spokesman declined to answer the ques­tions.

Lashon Har­grove said her moth­er viewed Terry’s body at the funer­al home. She said a funer­al direc­tor tried to dis­cour­age her from look­ing at the body, but her moth­er said, “No, I need to see my baby.”

On the day of his funer­al, Yeakey posthu­mous­ly received the medal of val­or. (Mark Perlstein/Getty Images)

Her moth­er, who has since died, lat­er told Lashon that Terry’s head was enlarged and dis­fig­ured. And he didn’t just have cuts on his arms and neck. Lashon said her moth­er report­ed see­ing what appeared to be lig­a­ture marks. Lashon tried to imag­ine what that meant. It seemed to her that Ter­ry had been tor­tured, hanged, put on his knees, and shot to death.

“Mama,” she recalled say­ing, “they exe­cut­ed him.”

Sgt. Ter­rance Yeakey was buried the same day he posthu­mous­ly received the medal of val­or he did not want. Among those at his funer­al was Richard Williams, a man whose life he saved.

After the bomb­ing Williams was trapped in the rub­ble, with only his arm stick­ing out. Yeakey came by, felt for a pulse, did not detect one, and moved on to look for oth­er sur­vivors. Lat­er he returned, real­ized Williams was alive, freed him from the wreck­age and brought him to safe­ty. Then he went on to his next res­cue.

A pic­ture tak­en that morn­ing shows the offi­cer in action. He has sweat on his brow, blood on his shirt, dust on his shoes. Ter­ry Yeakey is run­ning toward the dan­ger.

Andreas Strass­meier and John Doe #2: One and the same?

2.   We con­clude the pro­gram with a recap of a Food For Thought post on the 25th anniver­sary of the bomb­ing.

COMMENT: “Just the work of a cou­ple of ‘lone nuts.’ ” That is the unten­able offi­cial ver­sion of the Okla­homa City bomb­ing, the 20th anniver­sary of which is on April 19th of this year. As is the case with so much of recent Amer­i­can his­to­ry, the offi­cial ver­sion of the event obscures the fact that there was much more to this event than we have been told.

The Okla­homa City Bomb­ing is an event fea­tur­ing inves­tiga­tive path­ways lead­ing in a num­ber of direc­tions:

  • Although eye­wit­ness­es saw Tim­o­thy McVeigh in the com­pa­ny of anoth­er man–labeled in com­pos­ite sketch­es of the sus­pect as “John Doe #2”–that per­son has nev­er been for­mal­ly iden­ti­fied and has dropped from pub­lic con­scious­ness.
  • An under­cov­er ATF infor­mant named Car­ol Howe had infil­trat­ed the white-suprema­cist milieu to which McVeigh belonged and main­tained that the actu­al mas­ter­mind of the bomb­ing was Andreas Strass­meier, the son of Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Kohl’s chief of staff Gun­ther Strass­meier. Gun­ther Strass­meier was the archi­tect of Ger­man reuni­fi­ca­tion and the son of one of the char­ter mem­bers of the NSDAP under Hitler. Howe main­tained that Tim­o­thy McVeigh was a pro­tege of Andreas Strass­meier and passed a lie-detec­tor test to which her tes­ti­mo­ny was sub­ject­ed. Andreas Strass­meier was a for­mer Bun­deswehr intel­li­gence offi­cer and the secu­ri­ty direc­tor for Elo­him City, a white-suprema­cist com­pound in Okla­homa run by Robert Mil­lar. At right is a pic­ture of the com­pos­ite sketch­es of “John Doe #2” and pho­tographs of Andreas Strass­meier. The resem­blance is strik­ing.
  • In a report from 5/10/1995, the FBI not­ed that Strass­meier had attempt­ed to pur­chase a sur­plus 747 from Lufthansa. Was this in con­junc­tion with the plan­ning for the 9/11 attacks? A 747 would be of lit­tle use for smug­gling or oth­er clan­des­tine activ­i­ties, in that it requires large land­ing facil­i­ties.
  • McVeigh’s one acknowl­edged accomplice–Terry Nichols–has been placed in the Philip­pines at a meet­ing with plan­ners for the 1993 World Trade Cen­ter attack. One of the atten­dees was Ramzi Yousef, the main archi­tect of the 1993 attacks. Yousef was also plan­ning some­thing called “Oper­a­tion Bojinka”–a plan to blow up a num­ber of air­lin­ers over the Pacif­ic. “Bojin­ka” means “big bang” in Croa­t­ian. It is inter­est­ing and pos­si­bly sig­nif­i­cant that fun­da­men­tal­ist Mus­lim ter­ror­ists and Amer­i­can white suprema­cists would use a Croa­t­ian term for the code-name of a ter­ror oper­a­tion.
  • A 2002 account main­tains that so-called 20th hijack­er Zacarias Mous­saoui and Mohamed Atta were present at a motel that Tim­o­thy McVeigh had pre­vi­ous­ly vis­it­ed. The pos­si­bil­i­ty that the two World Trade Cen­ter attacks and the Okla­homa City bomb­ing may have been exe­cut­ed by an Under­ground Reich Islamist/Nazi milieu is one that has nev­er been prop­er­ly explored.
  • FBI agents prob­ing the 1994 AMIA bomb­ing found that Argen­tine secu­ri­ty offi­cers uti­lized at the oper­a­tional lev­el of the bomb­ing were affil­i­at­ed with Tom Met­zger’s White Aryan Resis­tance, with which Tim­o­thy McVeigh was alleged­ly affil­i­at­ed. (“AMIA Bomb Plot­ters’ Con­nec­tion;” La Nacion; 7/27/1997.)
  • Evi­den­tiary trib­u­taries run­ning between the 9/11 attacks, the 1993 World Trade Cen­ter bomb­ing and the Okla­homa City bomb­ing are explored fur­ther in FTR #456.


2 comments for “FTR#1301 Who Killed Terry Yeakey?”

  1. Thanks Dave, won­der­ing when some­one would piece some things together....have fun.

    Posted by Rease Warfield | July 4, 2023, 7:19 am
  2. Thanks for the kind words.

    Incalu­la­bly more mate­r­i­al is avail­able at Patre­on:


    Posted by Dave Emory | July 4, 2023, 3:08 pm

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