By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
One rumor going around after release of the Morning News' story was that Cash himself had slipped the document to Slover.
Cash says Stephen Jones told him Slover was pinning the blame for the leak on Cash, who, in turn, supposedly got the document from Reyna. (Slover refused to comment for this story. The Morning News, however, has never revealed Slover's sources.) The McCurtain Gazette responded to the rumor on Sunday, March 2, with a plainspoken front-page headline: "Cash: He's Not Source of Hoax in Dallas Newspaper."
"There is no fucking way I would give that guy anything," Cash says about Slover. "I've only met him one single time in my life. Once. I've never even talked to him on the phone."
Willingham proudly recites some of the highlights in Cash's clip file. His most recent triumph was a story on Carol E. Howe, a confidential Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms paid informant who supposedly warned ATF officials in writing months before the bombing that people in the white supremacist movement were targeting the Murrah building for destruction. According to Cash, the ATF had set up a sting to snag the bombers. "The ATF had a sting operation on this building, and it went sour," Cash explains. "And this, I assure you, will come out in the [McVeigh] trial."
Then there are Cash's reports on Elohim City, the white supremacist compound in eastern Oklahoma that Cash says serves as a training site for terrorists. "The Switzerland of the neo-Nazi movement--a terrorist training community--is just two hours north of here," Cash says, "and nobody figured it out. Even after the bombing, there were these glowing stories, saying 'Well, these people are a little bit different. But they're religious people, and we shouldn't pick on them.' But it's what's going on behind the scenes--that's what's important, as well as McVeigh's connection to Elohim City."
Cash's groundbreaking work on Elohim City has since been confirmed, in part, by several other media outlets, from Time magazine to the Tulsa World. These are striking accomplishments for a man who only became a journalist after the bombing, and whom many dismiss as an addled-brain conspiracy theorist--a term Cash calls a "cheap fucking shot."
"Early on, [Cash] was coming up with stuff nobody else was coming up with, and I'm personally verifying it, and it's accurate," Willingham says. "But nobody else is carrying it, and I can't understand why.
"He's so thorough in everything he does. He's aware that his work is going to be scrutinized a lot. All the interviews are tape-recorded; lots and lots of documents all the way through. Maybe the legal background is part of that."
Cash did, in fact, earn a law degree from the University of Tulsa in 1988, according to school records. He never sat for the bar exam or practiced law, though.
But details of Cash's life before he became a journalist are sketchy, and Cash himself doesn't offer much illumination. It's one of the faintly odd things about him--you spend hours talking to him, but still get the sense you don't know who he is.
A few pieces do emerge from conversations with Cash and some friends, most of whom he's gotten to know since the bombing: He's divorced, and has no children. He was raised in Oklahoma City and Tulsa; his father was in the oil business.
Cash says he's worked in banking and real estate, including serving, at the age of 19, as a loan officer for Tulsa's now-defunct Sooner Federal Savings and Loan. He moved to the tiny McCurtain County community of Battiest in 1992 to nurse his ailing father and still maintains a home there, in a mountain cabin.
Cash started sniffing around on news stories after meeting Glenn Wilburn, who dropped in his consciousness the intriguing tidbit that no ATF field agents were present in the Murrah building at the time of the bombing. (Cash believes they were purposely avoiding the building because of Howe's warnings.)
From there, Cash and the Wilburns began working in tandem, interviewing numerous witnesses to the bombing. The Wilburns' own loss of their grandchildren opened many doors to interviews, Cash says. "They walk in and say, 'look, we've paid the price, we buried our grandkids, the FBI didn't bury our grandkids. You need to talk to us, too.' And how can you say no?"
Cash has managed to develop an outstanding network of sources among journalists, witnesses, and even far right-wingers through his work for the McCurtain Gazette. What started as freelance work has now become a full-time pursuit, with Willingham offering Cash a spot on his news staff.
"If you've met some people who've been involved in covering the bombing, everyone will tell you it's like quicksand," Cash says. "You get into it, and there are just so many things. And it's just now getting interesting. I think the trial is gonna be dramatic."
But the hours of quality time Cash has spent with various fruitcakes have yielded a peculiar result: the odd note of sympathy that occasionally slips into his conversations about right-wing extremists such as Louis Beam and Jubilee editor Paul Hall.