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10 Years Later, OKC Bombing Figure Walks Free

Michael Fortier serves less than 11 years for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Michael Fortier, the smirking Arizona hardware store attendant who watched with his wife as Timothy McVeigh used soup cans to demonstrate how he planned to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building, walked out of prison on Jan. 20, after serving less than 11 years for his role in the mass murder. His current lawyer, Mike McGuire, said Fortier now "owes nobody" and is "excited about his future."

And with that, Fortier, his wife Lori and their two children disappeared into the federal Witness Protection Program, according to the Dallas Morning News. The government will give the family new identities and provide them free housing.

The decision to cut a plea-bargain deal with Fortier was always controversial, but he and his wife were said to be crucial witnesses in the trials of McVeigh, who was executed in 2001, and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols, now serving a sentence of life without parole. Fortier pleaded guilty to failing to alert authorities to the plot, which resulted in the deaths of 168 people; lying to federal agents after the bombing; and selling stolen guns in order to help raise money to finance the attack.

Fortier's involvement was not minor. McVeigh told him of the plot nine months before the bomb went off on April 19, 1995. Later, McVeigh diagrammed how he intended to build the bomb, using soup cans in the Fortiers' kitchen to show how he would place barrels of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane racing fuel so as to cause maximum damage. Fortier even cased the federal building with McVeigh.

Later, as the FBI investigated him, Fortier bragged to friends over tapped phones of how he planned to make "a cool million" by selling his story for a movie, complained about his treatment by the media, and reminisced about smoking crystal meth. He also made sneering, foul-mouthed comments about those investigating the case.

Lori Fortier, who watched McVeigh build the bomb model and heard him discuss his planned attack, joined in, too. Using an iron at her home, she laminated the fake driver's license that McVeigh later used to rent the Ryder rental truck in which he assembled the bomb. Thanks to a provision of her husband's plea bargain, Lori Fortier was never prosecuted for her role in the Oklahoma massacre.