Terre Haute Rakes in Cash

'Moronic marketing venture' or 'capitalism at its best'? Either way, people are making a killing off the McVeigh execution.

BY: Ron French
The Detroit News


TERRE HAUTE, Ind., June 8--Debbie Walker is going to Jamaica, courtesy of Timothy McVeigh.

From her Terre Haute tattoo parlor, Walker has been selling McVeigh T-shirts for months leading to Monday's scheduled execution. She's sold more than 28 dozen white T's bearing a screaming headline "DIE! DIE! DIE!" An equal opportunity peddler, Walker also has anti-death penalty shirts for sale, though most sit unsold in a box in the back of her shop.

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  • With the on-again, off-again execution looking on again--now that McVeigh has dropped his appeals--Walker is ordering more shirts to sell along city streets.

    "You think the people of Terre Haute aren't profiting already?" Walker said with a hoarse laugh.

    "This whole town is going to profit. I'm just taking my little piece of the pie."

    People are making a killing off the killing of Timothy McVeigh. From jacked-up hotel prices for journalists streaming into town, to McVeigh wall clocks for sale on eBay, the Oklahoma City bomber's execution brings an economic boon few want to talk about.

    A Colorado federal court ruling Wednesday denying McVeigh's bid to postpone his lethal injection led to a burst of activity in this Indiana town of 60,000. Many had assumed the execution would be delayed. Now, the city is being set upon by 1,500 reporters and an undetermined number of protesters.

    "I've got to make a bunch of sandwiches and get things ready," said Raoul David, who owns a grocery across the street from the federal prison. "This will mean big business."

    Residents near the prison are making thousands of dollars selling parking spots on their lawns. A rental company is charging $200 for bike rentals. A shuttle bus to the prison costs $60. A 6-foot table on the prison grounds for a reporter, with one phone line and one electrical outlet, costs $1,196.50. That includes a complimentary bottle of chilled water.

    The Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce avoided estimating how much the city's economy would benefit from the execution. But using the Chamber's standard figure of $70 spent per day per visitor, the city can expect to reap $500,000 from reporters, protesters, and out-of-town police assigned to crowd and traffic control.

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