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Bomber silenced forever

By Nolan Clay, Penny Owen and Ed Godfrey Published: June 12, 2001
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. Timothy McVeigh was executed Monday morning silenced forever after passing up his last chance to apologize for the Oklahoma City bombing.

NEW: Priest believes McVeigh asked for forgiveness
NEW: Quiet returns to city that hosted execution
Survivors see evil in final, icy stare
No tears from victims
Witnesses see bomber take his final breaths

"Inmate McVeigh died at 7:14 a.m. Central Daylight Time. This concludes the execution, Warden Harley Lappin told witnesses inside the death house at the U.S. Penitentiary here.

McVeigh's final written statement - the 1875 British poem, "Invictus."

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The announcement came four minutes after McVeigh was injected with the first of three drugs that put him to sleep, halted his breathing and stopped his heart.

McVeigh, 33, was punished for the deadly April 19,1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil. He said nothing when the warden asked if he had any last statement.

Instead, McVeigh left behind a handwritten final statement, quoting in full the 1875 British poem, "Invictus. Its lines include: "My head is bloody, but unbowed and "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.

He signed his initials, "T.J.M., and dated it June 11, 2001.

The choice disappointed Paul Howell, 64, of Oklahoma City, who was one of 10 victims witnessing the execution from behind a darkened window.

"I really wanted him to say something ... because when a person speaks, he also gives some facial expressions, and that was what I was looking for, said Howell, who lost his daughter, Karan Howell Shepherd, in the attack.

"What I was hoping for ... was (that) we could see some sort of, maybe, I'm sorry' ... but we didn't get anything from his face.

Outside the penitentiary, death penalty supporters cheered and clapped after learning of McVeigh's death. Protesters wept.

McVeigh wanted to die, preferring that over a life spent in prison, his attorneys said. He confessed publicly this year to the bombing but described himself as a soldier making a military-like retaliatory strike against a federal government run amok.

He timed his attack using a 7,000-pound bomb packed in a Ryder truck for the second anniversary of the deadly federal raid on the Branch Davidians religious compound near Waco, Texas.

The bombing in downtown Oklahoma City left 168 dead, including 19 children.

"I am sorry those people had to lose their lives. But that's the nature of the beast, McVeigh wrote in one of his final letters from prison.

After the execution, McVeigh attorney Rob Nigh said he felt bad that he "could not successfully help Tim to express words of reconciliation that he did not perceive to be dishonest.

But Nigh, of Tulsa, condemned the U.S. government for carrying out the execution the first of a federal inmate since a hanging 38 years ago.

"There has been a movement in the states to celebrate the dignity of human life and to start a moratorium on executions. It did not come soon enough for Tim McVeigh, but it can come soon enough for others. Where we go from here is a question of critical importance, Nigh said.

"If there is anything good that could come from the execution of Tim McVeigh, it may be to help us realize sooner that we simply cannot do this anymore. I am firmly convinced that it is not a question of if we will stop, it is simply a question of when.

McVeigh spent his final hours in a holding cell in the execution facility, just west of the main building.

His transfer from death row to the execution facility was completed at 4:30 a.m. Sunday. There, he watched TV on a black-and-white set, wrote good-bye letters, visited with his attorneys and slept.

His "official final meal came at noon Sunday two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream bought outside the prison.

McVeigh again met with two of his attorneys, Nigh and Nathan Chambers, Monday morning, finishing at 5.

McVeigh showed little emotion while strapped to the gurney, beyond gulping once. Government officials told The Oklahoman that McVeigh who had described himself as agnostic was administered last rites, known as the Roman Catholic sacrament of the annointing of the sick, while on the gurney by a prison chaplain.

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