Terry Nichols Biography

Terry Nichols was one of the conspirators of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.


Terry Nichols was born in Michigan on April 1, 1955. Nichols joined the U.S. Army in 1988, where he met co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh. After being discharged from the military, a disdain for the government began to fester, which was compounded by similar sentiments felt by McVeigh. Their hatred for the country eventually led to the duo conspiring to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Early Life

Convicted murderer and conspirator Terry Lynn Nichols was born on April 1, 1955, near Lapeer, Michigan. Nichols became one of America’s most infamous domestic terrorists for his role in the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people. He grew up on a family farm in Michigan, but his parents divorced around the time he graduated high school.

After a brief stint at Central Michigan University, Nichols worked a variety of jobs. In 1980, he met a real estate agent named Lana Walsh while buying some land near Decker, Michigan. They soon became a couple and married the next year. Their son, Josh, was born in 1982. Nichols proved to be a sensitive and caring husband and father, spending most of his time taking care of the cooking and cleaning and caring for Josh.

Military Service

Professionally, Nichols floundered. In 1988, despite being at least a decade older than most recruits, he joined the U.S. Army. He went to Fort Benning in Georgia for basic training where he met Timothy McVeigh. The two were later stationed together at Fort Riley in Kansas. But Nichols’ military career did not last long. His marriage had already fallen apart, but the couple became involved in a conflict over childcare. The army granted Nichols a hardship discharge and he returned home to look after Josh in 1989.

Nichols made a second attempt at marriage the following year when he wed a Filipino woman he met through a mail-order bride service. She was only 17 years old. Over the years, Nichols began to develop some antigovernment sentiments -- sentiments he shared with friend and Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh. The two had stayed in touch and, sometime after McVeigh left the army in 1991, they went into business together selling military surplus.

In 1992, Nichols was upset enough by the federal government that he tried to relinquish his citizenship. The following year, along with McVeigh, he was also disturbed by the government’s assault of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas. In 1995, the two vented their anger by committing one of the deadliest acts of domestic terrorism in American history -- blowing up a federal building in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City Bombing

On the morning of April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh drove a rental truck to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and parked it outside. The vehicle contained a 4,000-pound bomb made of fertilizer, diesel and racing fuel. It went off shortly after 9 a.m., a time when most people had already arrived for work. The results of the blast were catastrophic -- 168 people died, including 19 children who attended school at a daycare center in the building, and hundreds of others were injured. The building was completely destroyed.

Nichols surrendered to police in Herington, Kansas, two days later. He was interviewed for nine and a half hours and later charged as co-conspirator to the bombing. The authorities found several incriminating items during a search of his Kansas home, including a receipt for 2,000 pounds of ammonium-nitrate fertilizer, blasting caps and plastic barrels similar to those used in the bombing. Another piece of evidence linked him to a 1994 robbery of a gun dealer, which involved the theft of cash, gold and silver. Some have theorized that the proceeds from that crime may have funded the bombing.


In 1997, Nichols went on trial in Denver, Colorado, for federal charges related to his role in the attack. (McVeigh was tried first and sentence to death. He was executed in 2001.) He was convicted of conspiracy and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter and received a life sentence without the possibility of parole, according to a CNN.com report. His brother James told reporters after the sentencing that Nichols was “upset because he’s innocent. He’s been convicted of a crime he didn’t commit.”

In the state trial, the jury in Oklahoma disagreed with Nichols, convicting him of 161 counts - for 160 victims of the attack and an unborn child - of first-degree murder. He again escaped the death penalty because jurors were deadlocked over the issue and received life in prison. Nichols is serving his sentence at a federal penitentiary in Colorado.

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