Prison officials did take photos of Kenney's body, though when the family asked for copies, they said they couldn't find them; the photos reappeared in the fbi's files years later. Kenney's clothes vanished between the time he was found hanging in his cell and the time his body was turned over to the medical examiner. Other evidence, including his bedsheets, boxers, and fingernail clippings, disappeared for several weeks; investigator Rowland would later suggest they had been in the trunk of an agent's car. Kenney's cell was cleaned by 2 p.m. the day of his death, before legally required examinations of the site had been made. And even though the medical examiner's office had given orders to preserve the cell, the walls—including a pencil scrawl that prison officials called Kenney's "suicide note"—were painted over, leaving only photos whose "lack of detail," according to the fbi crime lab, rendered it "doubtful if this hand printing will ever be identified with hand printing of a known individual."
Other key evidence was simply omitted from or buried in the official reports: fbi and state Bureau of Investigations officials later testified, in a lawsuit brought by the Trentadue family, that a second person's blood had been found in Kenney's cell, and that there were no cut marks on the noose from which he was, according to prison officials, "cut down." According to an internal fbi memo, a prison guard told his neighbor that Kenney had been killed, and then hung in his cell as a cover-up; an inmate who reported hearing similar statements from a second guard said he was warned to keep silent and then sent to isolation. Another inmate, Alden Gillis Baker, would later give Jesse's lawyer a note describing an incident during which, he said, Kenney got into an altercation with a guard. Eventually, he wrote, additional officers entered the cell, there was "a lot of physical violence going on," he heard "faint moaning," and later the sound of bedsheets being torn. (He would repeat this account in a deposition in connection with a lawsuit brought by Jesse, but a judge ruled that Baker, a convicted robber and sex offender, was not a reliable witness. In 2000, Baker was found hanging in his cell in a California federal prison.)
Government accounts of the incident relied heavily on reports from a different set of inmates. One claimed that during his two days at the prison, Kenney had seemed angry and agitated. Another claimed he was acting "upset, paranoid, and weird in general," and thought everyone was talking about him having aids. (The Bureau of Prisons transcript of Kenney's conversation with Jesse's wife reads, "It's that aids stuff," not, as Rita insists he said, "that jet age stuff." According to medical records, Kenney was hiv negative.) And then there were the words scrawled in pencil on the wall—"My Minds No Longer It's Friend" and "Love Ya Familia!" Oddly, the bop investigator who took the pictures shortly after Kenney's death wrote in a caption that the scrawl read, "Love Paul."
The fbi agent who investigated the case immediately following Kenney's death did not even look at the cell. He did visit the prison, but spoke only with officials, interviewing no inmates and collecting no evidence except for the photos of the cell. The case languished for months, until complaints from the medical examiner's office reached the Department of Justice in Washington. In early 1996, the department's Civil Rights Division took over supervising the investigation and decided that the case should be presented to a federal grand jury, which would determine whether to issue an indictment.
On July 6, 1996, more than 10 months after Kenney's death, the grand jury was convened. Justice officials from Washington went to the trouble of commuting to Oklahoma City to oversee the proceedings. It was an election year, and President Clinton's attorney general, Janet Reno—still under a cloud for her handling of the Waco siege three years earlier—was preparing to try McVeigh and Nichols. The last thing the doj needed was a trial, in Oklahoma City, accusing its employees of murder and obstruction of justice.
But to put the case to rest, federal officials would have to find a way around Fred Jordan, the Oklahoma chief medical examiner who had refused to classify the death a suicide. Within a few months, the local fbi office was calling Jordan—a man with a long and distinguished career, who had achieved near-heroic status in Oklahoma City for his effective and sensitive handling of the bombing victims' remains—a "loose cannon."
In December 1995, Jordan told an fbi official that the bureau had urged him to hold off on releasing an autopsy report until the fbi could complete its investigation. He also told the U.S. attorney's office in Oklahoma City, according to correspondence from that office, that Kenney had been "abused and tortured"; later he would tell them, according to a bop lawyer, that "the federal Grand Jury is part of a cover-up." In a memo to his own files, Jordan wrote that it was "very likely this man was killed."
In search of a second opinion, doj officials asked Bill Gormley, a forensic pathologist at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, to review the case. In May 1997, Gormley called Kevin Rowland, the chief investigator in the Oklahoma medical examiner's office, who wrote a memo to his files noting that Gormley "was troubled that [the doj] only seemed interested in him saying it might be possible these injuries were self inflicted." In fact, Rowland wrote, Gormley had grown convinced that "this man was murdered."