After two and a half months of sophisticated scientific testing on a severed leg found deep in the rubble of the federal building here, investigators are preparing to officially add one more body to the toll of 167 dead in the bombing.
"We have no idea who it is," Dr. Fred B. Jordan, the state medical examiner, said Wednesday.The announcement that the leg, clad in a black combat boot, belongs to someone whose existence was previously unknown to the public is only awaiting a last set of DNA test results from the FBI, expected back in the next few days.
But Jordan explained that the tests were only a kind of final double-check to make sure there were no errors in the extensive testing already done. Those tests found that the leg did not belong to any of the known 167 victims of the April 19 truck bomb blast. One other person, a nurse, died later in the rescue effort.
There has been speculation that the leg could have belonged to a person responsible for the bombing because of its location and the dramatic nature of the injury.
The leg was found May 30 in the bottom layers of rubble in the center of the building, below the orange-painted layers of debris that covered the bodies of the last three previously known victims. This area absorbed the first force of the blast, creating a kind of void into which the rest of the building collapsed.
Only one man, Timothy Mc-Veigh, has been charged with actually driving the truck bomb up to the building and touching it off. A second man, Terry Nichols, is charged with conspiring with McVeigh in the deadly plot and helping to make the bomb.
The DNA tests, Jordan explained, can be used only to match one tissue sample with another. Thus, the remaining test would be unlikely to provide an identity but rather would confirm a negative: that the leg does not match any known victim.
"We are not going to know who it is because we have nothing to compare it with," Jordan said.
An additional mystery about the severed leg, Jordan said, is a group of about a half a dozen tiny blue-gray dots - each dot about the size of a pinhead - on the bone near the knee.
"I've never seen anything like it before," said Jordan, who has been a pathologist for 25 years. "And there is nothing like it on any of the other victims."
The extensive investigation of the severed leg was led by Dr. Clyde Collins Snow of Norman, Okla., a forensic anthropologist with an international reputation as one of the leading experts in the field.
Snow said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the leg could have belonged to someone involved in the planting of the bomb or that it could also have been someone who happened to be near-by when the bomb went off.