MAN WHO lost three relatives in bombing can't view McVeigh's execution

Friday, May 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Three of Dennis Hodges' relatives were crushed to death in the Oklahoma City bombing. Another lost her ear and was blasted with shards of glass. A fifth was trapped under rubble until doctors cut off her leg with a pocketknife.

But Hodges is not allowed to be among 300 people who will watch Timothy McVeigh's execution on closed-circuit television.

He didn't get his name on the list.

``It's like a slap in the face,'' said Hodges, 57, of Lawton.

In the months after the April 19, 1995, blast, the U.S. attorney's office began creating a database containing the names of about 3,000 survivors and victims' relatives, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Heaton.

The government tried to reach people by publishing notices in the Daily Oklahoman. Others made it on the list because they sought help at Project Heartland, the government's counseling service set up for those affected by the bombing.

Hodges said he was too busy grieving for his family to notice.

``We weren't even thinking about anything like that,'' he said. ``We try to deal with it as it comes.''

Hodges' stepmother and one of his sisters made it on the list. Nine other relatives, including his father, are not on it.

The U.S. attorney's office mailed letters to people on the list, asking them to respond if they wanted to watch the execution May 16.

Hodges' stepmother received an invitation, but she doesn't want to watch McVeigh die. She asked Hodges to go.

``She wanted me to represent the family,'' Hodges said. ``But the government won't let me. That doesn't make any sense. It's pretty upsetting.''

About 300 people requested a seat for the closed-circuit broadcast in Oklahoma City. Ten people were chosen by lottery to watch in person at the prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

The U.S. attorney's office would not comment specifically on Hodges, but Heaton said those who had no previous contact with the U.S. attorney's office cannot sign up to watch.

``The concern is if you, at this point in the process, open it up to anyone who may have a claim, it becomes a potential for problems,'' Heaton said.

One possible problem is that all those making requests would not fit in the room, he said. Heaton said he has had a few other inquiries from victims' relatives who are not on the list.

Five members of Hodges' family went to the Alfred P. Murrah Building the day of the bombing to get a Social Security card for his great-nephew, 3-month-old Gabreon Bruce. Gabreon and his 3-year-old sister, Peachlyn Bradley, were crushed and killed, as was Hodges' sister, Cheryl Hammons.

Hodges' niece, Falesha Bradley, lost an ear and had glass embedded in her back. The children's mother, Daina Bradley Bruce, was trapped before two doctors amputated her leg.

It was one of the most harrowing stories to emerge from the bombing. Doctors, fearing the building would crumble on top of them and Bruce, used several disposable knives that grew dull, then finally a pocketknife, to cut off her leg. She kicked and screamed during the 10-minute procedure.

She had lost so much blood before the amputation that doctors were unable to administer an anesthetic.

Bruce married and gave birth to a son on the eve of the first anniversary of the bombing. She has avoided publicity since the bombing and does not want to see the execution, Hodges said.