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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols called former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker's office two days before the bombing to complain about the deadly end of the Branch Davidian standoff in Texas, an aide to the former senator testified Monday.

"He was very stern and told us about his thinking on the matter," said Lee Ellen Alexander, who worked for the former Kansas senator.

She said Nichols also complained about gun laws and former Attorney General Janet Reno. Alexander heard days later that Nichols, who was living in Kansas at the time, was a suspect in the bombing. The April 19, 1995, bombing came on the second anniversary of the fiery end of the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas.

"Oh, my God, I was literally surprised and shocked," she said.

Alexander's testimony came at the start of a preliminary hearing that will determine whether there is enough evidence to try Nichols on 160 counts of first-degree murder.

Another witness, Nichols' former wife, Lana Padilla, testified that Nichols was a "house husband" during their marriage. She denied making statements to the FBI that described Nichols as an anti-government, secretive survivalist.

A prosecutor showed her transcripts of her previous testimony, and State District Judge Allen McCall reminded her that she was under oath, saying, "It's my opinion that you are being evasive and not truthful with your answers."

Another witness, Sheryl Pankratz, who works at the court clerk's office in Marion, Kan., testified that in March 1994 a man who identified himself as Terry Nichols turned in a document at the office that renounced his U.S. citizenship.

Nichols, 48, was previously convicted on federal conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter charges for the deaths of eight law enforcement officers in the bombing, which killed 168 people. The state charges involve victims who were not part of Nichols' federal trial.

Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty and say a state conviction is needed to eliminate the possibility that he could ever successfully appeal his federal case and gain freedom. They met twice this year with Nichols' attorney in attempts to settle the case, but no settlement was reached.

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Martha Ridley said she has waited eight years for Nichols to be prosecuted for the death of her daughter, Kathy Ridley.

"These people deserve justice," Ridley said. "He wasn't given the death penalty and these people are just as dead today as they were April 19. And they will never come back."

Prosecutors say that Nichols and co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh worked together to prepare a 4,000-pound fuel-and-fertilizer bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Nichols was at home in Herington, Kan., the day the bomb exploded. But prosecutors accused him of helping McVeigh deliver a getaway car to Oklahoma City and of working with McVeigh to pack the bomb inside a Ryder truck on the day before.

McVeigh was convicted on federal murder charges. He was executed in June 2001.

Copyright © 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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