Kingman reflects on McVeigh's impact

Not unlike a tumbleweed that blows across the desert, a young man drifted into town, made some friends, worked at odd jobs, and lived his life quietly before passing through into history.

His arrival touched a few but his departure affected a nation.

The execution of Timothy McVeigh for the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City took place Monday morning.

His first date with death on May 16 was postponed after the FBI failed to disclose more than 4,000 documents to his lawyers.

The April 19, 1995 explosion, which ripped apart the Alfred P.

Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 people, 19 of them children, still resonates through the town where McVeigh once lived and worked.

When McVeigh took his last breath in Indiana, many Kingman residents probably let out theirs, weary of the national media scrutiny focused on Kingman.

But ghostly reminders still haunt this town, people who knew him, and the places where he lived and worked.

McVeigh, 33, and a Gulf War veteran, was sentenced to death in June 1997.

He once worked at a local hardware store shortly before the bombing.

He also stayed briefly at several motels on Andy Devine Avenue before heading east into infamy.

Current residents of a mobile home outside Kingman and a small home in Golden Valley where McVeigh once lived want nothing to do with the memories of the infamous former occupant.

As much as most Kingman residents want the nightmare to fade away, the harsh glare of the world's spotlight could once again sweep across Mohave County.

Kingman resident Walter "Mac" McCarty taught McVeigh and Michael Fortier, who served with McVeigh in the 1991 Gulf War, a self-defense hand gun class in 1994.

McCarty said at the time he was impressed with the clean-cut, well mannered Army veteran.

He said he thinks McVeigh and Fortier sought him out since McCarty was known for wearing a handgun and shared their frustration with the federal government.

"I had a reputation as a radical," he said.

"Since I carried a gun, everyone thought I was a nut."

McCarty, a former U.S.

Marine, said McVeigh signed up for the gun class using the name Tim Tuttle, an alias he used elsewhere.

"I had no idea what they were up to," McCarty said.

"I would have started dialing numbers if I knew."

McCarty said he still thinks there was someone else with McVeigh that day in 1995.

The emotions of April 19 six years ago still well up for former District 1 county Supervisor Carol Anderson who said that Kingman has taken lemons and made lemonade out of the McVeigh tragedy.

"Despite the negative image, particularly by the media, people have banded together and proved to the victims that Kingman is actually a good place to live despite this one extreme exception," Anderson said.

After the bombing, city organizations, clubs and individuals raised money and gathered items for the victims' families, including a number of boxes of handmade quilts sent to Oklahoma City, she said.

Anderson, who was Kingman's mayor from 1984 to 1996, said she took an emotional trip to Oklahoma City after the bombing, visiting the site of the building.

It's a memory that even to this day brings tears to her eyes.

"We talked with the people and no one held Kingman responsible," she said, her voice catching with emotion.

"McVeigh was a drifter while Fortier was a just follower."

She said McVeigh's execution is justified.

"We're hoping that chapter of Kingman history is closed and a new chapter is opening," she said.

Kingman Chamber of Commerce President Beverly Liles said that there has been little impact from visitors in recent years.

"We don't hear anything about it anymore," she said.

"It has faded with the years."

She said there were several calls made shortly after the bombing asking if it was safe to travel to Kingman but hardly any concerns from visitors since.

She also said there was a positive, but unfortunate, economic impact from the hundreds of law enforcement officers who invaded the area in the days and months after the bombing in search of Fortier.

"But we don't want to see that happen again," she said.

Just two months before the bombing, McVeigh stayed at one of the rooms of a Kingman motel off Andy Devine Avenue from Feb.

12 to 17, 1995.

"He was just a quiet guy, nothing out of the ordinary," Hilltop motel owner Dennis Schroeder said.

"He'd say good morning in passing.

That was about it."

Searching the room for weapons a couple of days after McVeigh's arrest for the bombing, Schroeder said he did notice two passages in the room's Bible circled by a squiggling line in pen, which Schroeder believes was done by McVeigh.

The Bible had been replaced shortly before McVeigh's stay in the room.

Schroeder showed the FBI the encircled passages in the Bible, which they have yet to return.

One passage eerily read: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him."

Despite all the negative publicity aimed at Kingman, Schroeder, who has owned the motel since 1981, believes that 99.99 percent of Kingman residents are regular people and the town is not a haven for militias.

"They have their share of guns here, but that's no different than any other town," Schroeder said.

While living in Golden Valley off and on in 1994, McVeigh and another man attended a bingo event on two different occasions in July and again in October of that year.

Bob Holsinger, president of the board of directors of the Golden Paradise Land Owners Association, and a bingo caller on the night McVeigh showed up, remembered that both men wore handguns strapped to their belts.

Holsinger's wife asked McVeigh and his friend why they brought their guns to play bingo.

"He said that it was his right," Holsinger said.

The other man, whom Holsinger did not know, was the more talkative of the two that night, while McVeigh kept mostly to himself.

One local maintenance worker who befriended McVeigh was impressed with the clean-cut, well-groomed young man.

Marty Cadena had met McVeigh a couple of times through a mutual friend during the months before the bombing.

"He seemed to be a basically honest and hard working guy," Cadena said.

"He came across as very down to earth person.

I never thought he would do something that crazy.

He felt he was just blowing up a building.

I can't believe that he thought there were children up in that building."

Cadena also said that Kingman is not the hotbed of militia radicalism that is commonly portrayed in the media.

"He took that (the bombing) upon himself," he said.

The owners of the Kingman hardware store where McVeigh worked, as well Fortier's wife, Lori, refused to comment on McVeigh or his execution.

A local security company where McVeigh once worked also would not comment.

Roger Gautam, owner of the Imperial Motel where McVeigh stayed from March 31 to April 12, 1995, did not own the motel at the time of McVeigh's stay and also could not comment.