[back] The Crimes of Mena: Military "Suicides"
[Part 2] The Crimes of Mena: Military "Suicides"
Part 1, 3, 4
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER "THE SUICIDE FILES" SECOND OF FOUR PARTS [INLINE] David Zucchino staff writer-------------------------------
were dead. personal effects were missing. when families tried to track
down the belongings, they came to question the military's entire
accounts of how the men had died.
the u.s. government allowed cpl. john maccaskill's heart and lungs,
his liver and intestines to be cut from his dead body and buried in an
unmarked grave after he died in el salvador, 2,400 miles from the home
he left on long island to become a marine embassy guard.
the army could not tell the mother of pvt. sean allison where his body
was until three days after he died in germany, then sent her a letter
referring to "your wife's remains."
the air force lost airman gar rosenleaf's bible and silver rosary,
plus the lighter from vietnam his father had given him-then sent his
mother his other belongings, which had been rifled after his death in
the navy discarded the clothes that electrician's mate william "tim"
harrison was wearing when he died in texas, then mailed his mother
someone else's clothing. along with harrison's broken furniture.
and the navy lost machinist's mate martin essary's class ring, wallet
and radio after he died aboard a ship docked norfolk.
for dozens of american families already in shock after being told
their sons had killed themselves, the mishandling of the dead men's
personal effects or remains added a painful new dimension to their
ordeal. their quest to find out what happened to their sons' bodies or
belongings eventually led them to question the millitary's entire
accounts of how the men died.
"if they can't even hold on to his personal belongings, you have to
wonder what kind of investigation they're doing," said kathleen koch,
the grandmother of airman rosenleaf, who the air force said hanged
himself in october 1992.
in many cases, families' doubts were triggered by small indignities: a
lost family photo, a missing diary, a wallet that came home empty. but
as the families began to ask questions, they encountered more puzzling
conflicting version of how and where their sons died. threatening
phone calls. unexplained bruises on their sons' bodies. missing or
mishandled evidence. tainted crime scenes. blanket denials by the
military. servicemen ordered not to speak to surviving family members.
in all, 40 families have told the inquirer that the military has given
them false or contradictory information about their sons' deaths-all
ruled suicides or accidentally self-inflicted. the newspaper's
seven-month review of the cases has found a pattern of contradictory
or incomplete investigations, raising doubts about the validity of the
four ex-military investigators who reviewed 19 of the cases said the
investigations did not fully support findings of suicide or
self-inflicted deaths. they characterized most probes as perfunctory
and contrary to established investigative procedures.
the former investigators said some suspicious military deaths were
prematurely ruled suicide by investigators under pressure to clear up
cases. calling such deaths suicides is a swift way of resolving the
cases and relieves investigators of the burden of finding evidence to
support prosecution of a murder case, they said.
among the 40 cases, contradictions abound. trying to reconcile them
has pitted the families against a military establishment they say
blocks them at every turn. many say they have lost not only their
children but their faith in the very military they had entrusted with
their sons' safety.
"i'm sorry, but my patriotism is shot."-said kathryn maddasion, who
say the army told her it either lost or destroyed some of the personal
effects of her son, guy maddasion, after his death in 1991. " i could
take the american flag and burn it in front of the federal building.
i'm so disgusted."
officials of the three military investigative services said
investigations into the 40 deaths were thorough and professional. they
said their agencies work with families to answer all questions and to
ensure that personal possessions are turned over to families by other
"our goals are the same as the families'-to find answers," said cmdr.
kevin mukri, a spokesman for the naval criminal investigative service
(ncis) . " as a parent, i sympathize with them. we realize that a
death in the service is a very, very difficult thing.....so trust is
paramount to us."
mukri said families of dead servicemen often become suspicious of the
military because it cannot, by law, reveal details of investigations
until they are completed. and the law also requires families to file
freedom of information act (foia) requests to receive investigative
reports, said robert j. finan 3d assistant director of the ncis .
on average, mukri said, it takes at least six months for a family to
receive an ncis investigative report.
"while it sometimes hinders family members, ncis is bound by the foia
law requirements," finan said.
dozens of families say the military hides behind those requirements to
deny them essential information about the deaths of their loved ones.
some maintain that the military disregards evidence that their sons
possibly were murdered.
maddasion, for instance, contends that her son was killed shortly
after telling her had stumbled across illegal gun running at fort
bragg, n.c. she said he went absent without leave and came to stay
with her in florida, telling her: "ma, my life is in danger. don't
tell anybody. this is big."
the army and local police said maddasion shot himself in the head
inside a room where he was living not far from his mother's home. they
said no foul play was involved.
maddasion said her suspicions were heightened in may 1992 when she
says someone broke into her home in alta monte springs, fla. the only
items stolen, she said were her files on her son's case- although a
tv, vcr and jewelry were clearly visible.
maddasion also says soldiers at fort bragg told her that her son had
inadvertently overheard a group of soldiers discussing plans to
illegally sell military weapons.
other families say they began to question the military after being
given different accounts of how or where their sons died.
marenicola whittles, an accounting clerk from bloomfield, n.j. , said
she was given three versions of how her son died at a navy base in
1989. she said officers first told her that marine cpt. cornelius
whittles, 22 shot himself while playing russian roulette. later, she
said, she was told he had been cleaning his gun , and finally that he
had been toying with the gun as he compared it with another
"i was always a believer in, "if the military says it, then it's
true." not anymore," said whittles, who maintains that her son was
shot by someone else.
some parents cannot afford to hire investigators or experts to uncover
evidence that contradicts military findings.
most of the families say they waited months = and in some cases more
than a year- before obtaining investigative files through foia
requests. portions of those files arrived censored by the military.
in some cases, the reports contain information that literally is
a coast guard investigative report concluded that william m. short,
18, a coast guard crewman, had hanged himself aboard a ship docked in
cape may in february 1992. the death certificate described him as a
black man. short was white.
the autopsy report said there were no injuries to short other than to
his neck. but at his funeral, his parents said, they noticed a bruise
on his forehead, a contusion on his cheek and scrapes on his knuckles.
rick short, a department of defense auditor in lincoln, nebraska, and
his wife, kathy, say they now have doubts about the suicide ruling.
"when i read all these reports, it's like i'm reading about somebody
other than my son," said short, an air force veteran.
the coast guard says bill short, who was drunk when he died, left a
suicide note that read: upon arrival of my death, i (bill short) want
you to: call (his father and girlfriend)," followed by their telephone
the shorts say their son wrote the note months earlier and carried it
in case of an accident. it is written on a pamphlet titled "suicide
and how to prevent it," which was handed out at a suicide-prevention
seminar all crewmen were required to attend.
less than 12 hours before his son died, rick short said, he phoned
home to complete plans for home leave the coming week. short said bill
was his usual self, complaining about airline ticket prices and what
he had just paid for new underwear.
a coast guard official, lt. jan proehl, said: "we are satisfied with
the investigation and have no intention of reopening the case."
the shorts say they plan to exhume their son's body. they have hired a
lawyer and are considering a lawsuit.
"of all the nightmares i've ever had," kathy short said, "i never
thought i'd live through one like this."
another autopsy report, prepared nearly 20 years ago, still baffles
esther salem. it described her dead son, sailor gary glass, as
6-foot-2, with brown eyes and hair, she said. her son was 5-foot-7,
with blue eyes and blond hair.
salem said the navy told her that her son drowned accidentally near
charleston, south carolina, in 1974. his mother contends that glass,
18, was an expert swimmer who was beaten by shipmates angry that he
had turned them in for dealing drugs.
"it's a frightening experience that tears you apart," said salem, of
butler, pennsylvania, who said she gave up after 11 years of trying to
have the cause of death changed.
two autopsy reports were sent to sara and michael marusa in homer
city, pennsylvania, after the death of their son in 1989. the navy
ruled that seaman michael marusa, 20, accidentally fell from the uss
charleston and drowned while the ship was docked in rota, spain.
the first autopsy report, by a spanish medical examiner, said marusa
died of head trauma, not drowning. his report noted hematomas on both
sides of marusa's head and a skull fracture, which he attributed to
blows to the head. an american physician's assistant who attended the
a subsequent autopsy report, by two american pathologists with the
armed forces institute of pathology (afip), said the cause of death
was drowning. it said no hematomas were found, and it noted that a
small crack in the skull was caused by the spanish autopsy.
the navy's investigative report concluded that the afip autopsy was
"more credible," it rejected the spanish autopsy because "it is
inconsistent with the afip results."
the official navy report of casualty, dated eight days after marusa's
death, combined the two. under "cause and circumstances," the report
said: "head trauma/drowning."
* arlene ball was shocked by something she read in a navy
investigative report she received eight months after the death of her
son, marine private james gardner, in oct 1991.
although the report said gardner shot himself with a browning 9mm
pistol, it also noted that the blood-spattered weapon was found with
its safety on.
ball hired a weapons expert to test fire a browning 9mm. the expert
concluded, she said that the guns design made it virtually impossible
for gardner to have somehow knocked the safety into the on position
after shooting himself, ball, of enoch, utah, said the navy has been
unable to explain the discrepancy.
frederick r. mcdaniel, a former army investigator and supervisor with
the army's criminal investigation command (cid) who reviewed the
gardner case, said investigators should have considered the
possibility that gardner was murdered.
"he killed himself and put the safety on? that's unbelievable," said
mcdaniel, a retired kansas city police captain.
arlene ball said she has not ruled out the possibility that her son
killed himself. "but the navy still hasn't explained to me how or
why," she said.
in other cases, it has been something that was included among a dead
son's possessions that triggered a family's skepticism.
richard carnevale is still puzzled by a large, smashed black onyx ring
the navy sent him with his son's belongings. the navy ruled that
marine cpl. richard carnevale jr., drunk and despondent over a breakup
with his girlfriend, hanged himself with a necktie in his room in
north carolina in 1982.
carnevale, of clifton heights, said the ring was not his son's. he
said he suspects it belonged to someone with whom his son struggled as
he was being choked.
"my son loved to fight, especially when he was drinking," carnevale
said. "i think he gave somebody some lip and they killed him."
some evidence suggests a struggle. the navy investigative report said
carnevale had been involved in two drunken fistfights hours before he
died. it also notes that furniture in carnevale's room had been over
turned and other items had been disturbed.
"there are just too many questions that weren't answered," said
carnevale's former girlfriend, debbie johnston, who said they had
reconciled by the time he died.
kay allison says she spent three frantic days in july before the army
finally found her son's body and casket. in an august letter, an army
colonel blamed bureaucratic glitches and said: "i can only apologize
for the anxiety caused to you."
allison has since made up a photo collage and mailed it to army
officials and her congressmen. it shows photos of her son sean at ages
2 and 4, at 19 in combat fatigues --- and lying dead at 20 in a coffin
wearing his dress blues.
"please help me," allison wrote next to the casket photo. "this is all
i have to remember my son by now."
allison says the army has told her only that sean died of "unknown
causes" at ansbach army base in germany after consuming "an unknown
amount of alcohol and depressants."
"i sent them my only son and he comes back dead," she said. "and they
won't tell me why."
for many families, there is no closure. instead of grieving over their
sons' death and then getting on with their lives, the lingering
"it's a hole in your life you never really learn to live around," said
cassandra alleyne, whose son paul mamby died in 1990 while serving in
the navy in beaufort, south carolina.
with each inconsistency they encounter in the information doled out by
the military, families say, their pain intensifies.
"if they would just tell me what happened i could accept his death,"
alleyne said. "but they don't. it just drags on and on."
the navy ruled that mamby hanged himself with a rope tied to a metal
hook on a telephone pole in his back yard. it's investigative report
says "no single precipitating event" prompted the suicide. it cited a
combination of job stresses and a post-mortem psychological evaluation
that found evidence of a "passive -aggressive, obsessive compulsive"
alleyne wonders whether her son's death is related to persistent
complaints he had made about racial harassment at his base. the report
concluded that mamby, who was black, had fabricated the complaints.
that conclusion is based largely on a brief interview with a
supervisor mamby had accused.
the navy report also seemed to discount statements from friends that
mamby was in good spirits hours before he died. neither does it
explain how mamby hanged himself with his feet touching the ground.
alleyne said she began questioning the navy's story after she noticed
a large bruise on her son's forehead at his funeral. the navy report
speculates that mamby's head banged against the telephone pole as his
body swung from the rope, causing a bruise 5 inches wide.
"it was a big bruise , a really bad bruise," alleyne said. "isn't that
a sign of a struggle that warrants at least some investigation?"
alleyne, of south coventry, pennsylvania, said she will not stop
pressing the navy until it reinvestigates her son's death.
"in the privacy of my heart," she wrote recently, "i have been
apologizing to my son for my inability to defend this injustice
in some cases, families' suspicions were aroused when they received
their sons' personal diaries with pages removed.
william and donna digman, a california couple who contend that their
son was murdered, said they received his journal with most of the
pages crudely cut out. both civilian and navy investigators ruled that
marine capt. jeffrey digman, 30, shot himself in the head in january
1989 while on home leave in california.
lucy garcia, digman's girlfriend in puerto rico, where he was based,
said she found the journal there when a team of marines was helping
her pack digman's belongings. she said it contained names, numbers,
addresses and notations.
"i gave it to one of the marines, and he listed it on the inventory
list and packed it up," garcia said.
also missing from their son's possessions, the digmans said, was a
small safe jeffrey had kept hidden inside a desk at the california
house where he died. they said the desk door had been removed and the
three months before he died, donna digman said, her son had shown her
papers locked inside the safe ---- documents he said were drug-testing
results from his job as a marine substance -abuse control officer.
"he said he was saving them to cover his a--," donna digman said.
later, the digmans said, they learned that jeffrey had told friends
that someone had been tampering with test results to change positive
tests to negative.
the digmans said the navy has not explained what happened to the
journal entries. they said local authorities told them they had no
idea what had happened to the safe.
in another case, the mother of a sailor whose gunshot death in guam in
september 1991 was ruled self-inflicted by the navy said several
journals her son kept were never returned. robyn hall, of louisville,
kentucky, said her son had told her he was keeping journals on alleged
thefts and corruption at his navy base in guam.
" he told me he was going to blow the whistle when he got back to the
u.s.," hall said her son, navy security officer michael j. leslie,
told her a superviser had instructed him to keep the journals as proof
of wrong doing.
leslie,25, was found shot inside his security vehicle. one of his
hands was handcuffed to the steering wheel.
after his death, hall said, she recieved only one journal, with most
of its pages cut out. she says the navy is covering up the
circumstances of her son's death.
"its so disillusioning." she said. "i never, ever thought the military
would lie to me.
this is the united states.
several families say they began to doubt the military's initial
version of events at their son's funerals.
nadine gilmore , of wichita, kansas said she decided to inspect her
son's body after recieving a notice from the navy telling her the
remains were "not suitable for viewing." she said the navy had told
her that her son christopher "mike " varrientos, 19, had hanged
himself aboard the uss cape cod after it left hawaii on jan 20---his
son's first birthday.
when gilmore looked into her son's casket at the funural home in
wichita, she said she was horrified by what she saw: a knot on his
forehead. another on the back of his neck. an abrasion on his left
cheek. bruises on his chest, ribs and collarbone.
"he looked like he'd been beaten up," gilmore said. "i know it sounds
ghoulish, but we took one look at him and decided to take photos
because we didn't believe one word of what the navy was telling us."
gilmore said she was also troubled by what she didn't see: ligature
marks around his neck from the loading strap the navy said he used to
hang himself. the photos she took do not clearly indicate any marks on
the autopsy report prepared by the military said ligature marks were
present on varrientos' neck. and the navy's investigative report said
the bruises on his upper body were caused by resuscitation attempts by
medical personnel. the navy has not explained the other injuries,
on feb. 13, the navy's investigative report concluded: "the evidence
shows that varientos committed the act of suicide alone and
gilmore insists her son did not kill himself, she said he was upbeat
when she spoke with him by phone 16 hours before he died.
four postcards, all postmarked the day varrientos died, were received
by his family. each seems cheerful and light-hearted.
"hey, beautiful...," he wrote his wife on a card in which he described
hawaii. "it's beautiful, but it will never compare to your beauty...
remember, i'm being good."
on another card, varrientos wrote: 'you know i miss you(and my truck)
but i miss you more, gotta go. love, mike."
nadine gilmore says the young man who wrote those cards was not a man
planning to kill himself.
"all i know is, i have lost a son and i'm hurting badly," she said.
"and the navy either lies to me or refuses to answer my questions."
after the october 1992 death of her son in netherlands, kathleen
rosenleaf became skeptical of the air force account that he had hanged
himself after a night of drinking. she showed the autopsy report and
investigative file to a physician near her home town of butte, mont.
in an interview, physician mark zilkoski said marks on airman gar
rosenleaf's skull and abdomen were not explained in the military
autopsy. in addition, zilkoski said, he believed rosenleaf's high
blood-alcohol level would have left him too incapacitated to hang
himself in the manner described in the air force report: with a
bedsheet suspended from electrical conduit wiring.
"i found a lot of questions that were't answered. or weren't even
addressed, " zilkoski said. "i can't say whether it was suicide or
homicide, but it appears they concluded suicide before ruling out
as for rosenleaf's bible, coin collection and other missing items, the
air force acknwledged in a letter in march that they had been lost
when his possessions were apparently rifled.
"the air force regrets and apologizes for the loss of the personal
effects," the letter said.
in the weeks after their son was found dead aboard the uss wasp docked
at norfolk in june 1990, gladys and virgil essary say, curious things
they noticed two men in a blue car following them as they went about
their daily affairs in rural beebe, ark. they began phoning, warning
them to stop asking questions about their son's death. the navy had
told the essarys that their son, martin essary, 21, had hanged himself
while drunk. it said he was depressed over a breakup with a girlfirend
and a recent conviction for helping a friend break into a car.
the essarys say their son had phoned his mother the day he died to say
that "something was down" between him and alleged drug dealers aboard
ship. they say martin told them he had found drugs hidden in the
amphibious assault ship's air ducts and had flushed them down a
"he said he couldn't go the ship captain and tell him, " said essary's
mother, gladys essary. "he said: 'if you fink, you're dead...' and he
said if something happened to him not to believe the navy."
the essarys' daughter, who lived in norfolk, said she began tracing
martin's movements on the day he died, shortly after questioning a
bartender who had served martin hours before his death, she said, she
was attacked at her home by two men.
the woman said she was punched and slightly injured. she said she did
not report the assault to police. she asked that her name be withheld
from this article because she fears another attack.
the essarys say a navy dog tag with a serial number but no name was
found at the site where their daughter was attacked. and a few days
later, the daughter said, she was visited by a navy officer who told
her to stop asking questions about essary's death.
in the following weeks, the family said, the navy told them they could
not find martin's class ring, wallet, military personal items.
"the whole thing just doesn't add up, " said essary's father, virgil
essary. "they made a prejudgment that it was suicide and that's the
story they're sticking with ."
the navy's report said there was no evidence of durg dealing aboard
the ship or that essary had found drugs. it quoted gladys essary as
saying, when told of her son's apparent suicide, that she was not
surprised because martin had a lot of problems.
essary said she told agents she wasn't surprised martin was dead
because of problemshe had described with alleged drug dealers.
the report cites two pieces of evidence that point to suicide: an
apparent suicide note found near essary's body, and a life insurance
agent who said essary had asked him four days before his death whether
his policy would pay out in the event of suicide.
according to the report, the insurance agent told essary that full
death benefits could not be paid in the event of a suicide within two
years of taking out a policy. he said essary laughed in response. he
described essary as seeming "very sound of mind" and a
the essarys say the handwriting on the apparent suicide note is not
martin's. the navy report said a handwriting analysis was inconclusive
because the cursive writing was 'not comparable" to available samples
of essary's printed writing.
the ncis interpreted the scribbled note to read: 'mom, i won't say i'm
sorry. i can't say why but i don't know. jacket."
the essarys said they are baffled by the word jacket, a term they said
they never heard martin use. a former military investigator who
reviewed the case for the inquirer suggested the word actually was
in march, the pentagon inspector-general agreed to review the essary
case. the review is still in progress, according to an official of the
the review came after the late vincent foster, an arkansas native who
was deputy counsel to president clinton, referred the case to the
pentagon. the case had been passed on to foster by clinton after an
arkansas reporter, sean harrison, told president-elect clinton of the
(foster died july 20 of a gunshot wound to the head. authorities said
he committed suicide.)
in the essary case, certain circumstances raise questions about the
the autopsy report noted unexplained "multiple abrasions" on essary's
the essarys say martin received a "dear john" letter from a girlfirend
four months before he died-not shortly before his death, as the navy
the sailor who saw essary aboard ship a few hours before he died
described him as "relaxed and jokig around." another sailor said
essary appeared normal when he saw him shaving at 3:30 a.m., two hours
before his body was found.
yet another sailor said he was convinced that essary had not killed
himself. he said essary had "many, many enemies" aboard ship.
several hours before martin died, the essarys said, he told them over
the phone that he planned to take out a truck loan the next day. he
also discussed plans for his father to drive to norfolk and take him
home on leave in 12 days, they said.
even with the inspector general's review, the essarys say they fear
for their daughter's safety.
"people just don't realize what the military can do to you," gladys
essary said. "they can really mess up your life."
for all the anguish that families of dead servicemen have endured,
none has battled the military for as long as jack mccaskill, a navy
veteran and retired new york police officer, and his wife, joanne. and
no family has had to confront something so macabre as the mutilation
of their son's body.
the maccaskill were in a state of shock on may 26,1988, the day two
marines walked into joanne's office on long island and said that her
son, cpl. john caccaskill jr., had shot himself. joanne remembers
being told that john was in critical condition in el salvador, where
he served as a marine embassy guard.
a cable from the u.s. embassy in el salvador to washington as john
clung to life was unequivocal: "attempted suicide, " it said.
three days later, john died in a san salvador hospital. he was 21.
feeling helpless in their grief, joanne and jack say they accepted
what the navy told them: john had committed suicide after a night of
heavy drinking at a bar called the "m" club.
assured that no foul play was involved, they say, they waived an
autopsy and asked that their son's body be returned home right away. a
navy investigator considered an autopsy unnecessry because it " would
not prove much, " according to a navy investigative report.
at the funeral, the family recalls, a marine buddy of john's confided
in them. "it didn't go down the way they said," they remember thim
that night, the entire maccaskill clan sat down at home in rockville
centre, n.y. each family member wrote a list of questions about john's
"there were so many questions that weren't answered. nothing made
sense,' jack recalled.
confused by what the military had told them, they decided two weeks
later to have their son's body exhumed for an autopsy. thy wanted
answers. what they got was a gutted body.
"they eviscerated him- his heart, lungs, liver, intestines,
everything." jack said. "we got a shell back instead of our son."
in a letter to the family in may 1990, the state department said the
gutting was "a normal procedure.....required by salvadoran law" as
part of the embalming process performed by a local mortuary. the
procedure cost the embassy $2. john's organs were never found.
the subsequent autopsy revealed something almost as shocking: the
damage to john's face and mouth was not extensive. to jack, who had
seen his share of gunshot victims in 22 years as a policeman, his
son's face was not that of a man who had been shot inside the mouth
with a .357 magnum.
" the blast and the flame and the gases should have blown out his
teeth, his nostrils, his eyes, ripped out his cheeks, " maccaskill
said, "his teeth weren't even broken. john looked like he went to
jack and joanne maccaskill decided to investigate john's death
themselves. they embarked on a five-year crusade that would cost them
$30,000, produce two exhumations, and pit them against the military
and the state department.
they learned from the navy's investigative report that there was only
one witness to the shooting. a salvadoran woman, quoted in spanish in
a local police report, said she saw an american put a gun to his
mouth. it is not clear from her statement whether she saw- or only
heard- the shot.
the navy report said john was drunk and killed himself during an
alcohol-induced bout of depression. no blood-alcohol test was
performed to determine how much he had consumed.
the navy report contains contradictory statement's by witnesses, many
of whom were drinking at the time john died.
the report does not address the contradictions. a navy investigator
later was quoted in a report as saying he did not want to "badger"
"it was labeled a suicide from the get-go", jack maccaskill said, "so
even in the face of evidence to the contrary, they'be had to cover
their a----s and stick to their story."
the report contains conflicting testimony about two .357 magnum
revolvers brought int the bar-one by maccaskill and the other by a
fellow marine guard who was drinking with him and two women. the navy
says the marine lost his .357 magnum that night.
some experts hired by the maccaskills have expressed doubts about the
navy's conclusions. but one says evidence points to self-inflicted
the experts reviewed autopsy reports photos, exhibits and x-rays,
along with navy investigative reports.
a report by leslie lukash, chief medical examiner in nassau county,
n.y., said he found "no evidence of powder residue on the face, nose,
mouth" of maccaskill to indicate that a gun was fired in his mouth. he
concluded that the weapon had been fired at least 15 inches from
richard j. janelli, a firearms expert albertson, n.y., wrote in a
report: "it is 100 percent sure that the questioned firearm was not
held inside the mouth."
joseph h. davis, chief medical examiner for dade county, fla., wrote
that he could not determine how john died, largely because "this is a
poorly and inadequately investigated case."
davis added: "there is no need for federal governmental agencies to be
concerned about a tarnished image. it is too late for them to be free
edwin j. sanow, a ballistics specialist in indiana, wrote in a report:
"the weight of physical evidence taken all together strongly refutes
any possible scenario for suicide. no doubts at all exits."
armand gaudiosi, a pathologist's assistant who examined maccaskill's
body, said the death was more likely an accident or homicide.
"in 32 years of doing autopsies, and seeing maybe a thousand different
suicides with gunshot wounds. i have never seen on like this," he said
in a statement.
halbert e. fillinger, an arsenic pathologist in hesham, said he found
no evidence of powder residue or scaring after reviewing the original
autopsy report. "the possibilty of a somewhat more distan gunshot
wound must be enterained," wrote in 1988.
but during a 1990 autopsy fillinger said last week, found gunpowder
granules embedded in johns tongue. that meant the gun bar was in the
mouth, he said-evidence that john probably shot himself.
evin so, fillinger said, he believed that maccaskills were "abused" by
the navy and by the "distinct absence of a competent, high quality
the maccaskills say they still are not convinced that john committed
suicide because so many questions remain unanswered.
"these are common-sense questions before asked by ordinary people,"
jack maccaskill said.
a state department spokeswoman in washington declined to comment on
in 1990, the maccaskill said, the navy changed the manner of
maccaskill's death from "suicide" to "self-inflicted". but it did not
alter its original ruling that john fired the gun that killed him.
the pentagon's inspector general agreed last summer to review the
case, with a report expected early next year. the maccaskills say they
"we've been lied to for five years," joanne maccaskill said. " the
best we can hope for that we've made them more accountable for other
families in our situation."
after two exhumations, john's remains were buried in a cemetery in
westbury, n.y. not far from the home where he was raised. joanne and
jack remember him as a young man madly in love with the marine corp
smitten by its ideals of service and honor.
john died with the marine corps emlem tattooed on his right arm.
beneath it were the words semper fidelis and mom.
ten days before the fatal shot was fired at the "m" club, jack had
mailed his son an american flag that once belonged to johns
grandfather. john was making plans to fly over the u.s. embassy on
memorial day, one day after he died.
HOME INDEX FILE PAGE http://whatreallyhappened.com/RANCHO/POLITICS/MENA/suicide2.html