I've read the Wilcher letter,
And it's got me quite well chilled
To learn that you can know the truth
And the truth can get you killed.
The most chilling, and telling, thing about the mysterious death of scandal investigator, Paul Wilcher, is that, to this day, nothing about it has been reported in The Washington Post. That goes Danny Casolaro one better. At least they reported his death in a bathtub in a hotel in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where he had gone to meet a potential source, though The Post hardly challenged the ridiculous suicide verdict.
Wilcher's body was found seated on the toilet of his Capitol Hill apartment on June 23, 1993. A few days later The Washington Times had a frontpage article about the backlog of cases in the Washington coroner's office. Wilcher was mentioned, almost in passing, as was the fact he had been investigating the "October Surprise." The Times never had a follow-up. Even the letter writer below seemed to be unaware of the fact that Wilcher had just delivered to Janet Reno a 100-page letter on the fruits of his investigation. Wilcher, a liberal, had great hopes that things would be different in the Clinton administration.
His confidence in Reno might have been fatal, though I don't necessarily believe that Wilcher's name belongs on the list, where it is frequently seen on the Net, of the many mysterious deaths of people connected in one way or another to Bill Clinton. What Wilcher was trying to expose predated the Clinton presidency and did not much deal with Arkansas corruption.
The best treatment I have seen of the Wilcher death is in Rodney Stich's book, "Defrauding America." The following letter, written less than a month after the apparent murder, is a good primer:
FROM: Garby Leon
10202 W. Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
July 14, 1993
TO: The Honorable Janet Reno
Dear Madame Attorney General,
I am writing because I feel the death of Paul Wilcher deserves your most serious attention, and should be investigated by your most trusted officials in the Department of Justice.
Paul Wilcher, like Danny Casolaro, was investigating possible government involvement in a variety of questionable activities, including the controversial October Surprise allegations and the INSLAW case, his researches leading him into areas that Casolaro had covered earlier. In his quest Wilcher made himself known in and around Capitol Hill as a persistent gadfly, trying to spur inquiries into possible government malfeasance in several areas. He had contacts with, among others, Lee Hamilton, William Webster, Elliot Richardson and Ross Perot.
By late May, Wilcher said his information had gone beyond Casolaro's and he felt this made him a danger signal. In three weeks, he was dead.
I feel that the two deaths, Casolaro's and Wilcher's, offer disturbing parallels, outlined below.
On the 23rd of June, 1993, the body of Paul Wilcher was discovered in his Washington DC apartment. This is not a certainty, since to my knowledge no evidentially identification--no fingerprint or dental x- ray matching-- was made before the body's reported cremation two weeks ago.
Present at the scene after Wilcher's death was noted White House correspondent Sarah McClendon, who knew Wilcher well and who had alerted authorities that he was missing. McClendon was unable to identify the body as Wilcher after viewing the remains.
McClendon has been told that preliminary autopsy results have found "no natural cause of death, and no other cause of death to explain Wilcher's demise. Given that Wilcher, in his 40s, was in apparent good health, this seems fairly astonishing.
A much larger issue is also implied here: if critics of our government are found dead in their bathrooms from obscure causes, and the government itself doesn't take steps to find out why, then our freedoms themselves are threatened--as well as the activities that protect those freedoms.
If individual investigation and criticism of government activities is chilled or intimidated into silence, then democracy loses its most important protection.
To put it another way, if Danny Casolaro's death was a message of some kind, then Wilcher's death is an even grimmer message--it suggests that Casolaro's death was not a fluke. Anyone inspired to follow Casolaro or Wilcher's path now has a strong added reason to fear doing so.
And a real investigation into Wilcher's death might not be an academic exercise. One person who is extremely close to and knowledgeable about the Casolaro case has said in private that the mystery of Casolaro's death could be resolved by a Grand Jury investigation, with sworn testimony, subpoena power, etc. This suggests Paul Wilcher's death may not have to remain a mystery either.
Paul Wilcher was an acquaintance of mine. He was not a perfect person; he made mistakes like anyone else but he was also, at times, a man of unusual energy and altruism. A seminary student who considered becoming a priest, he later became an attorney is his efforts to accomplish some good in this world.
Overall, I fell he was a good man. He didn't deserve to die.
Personally, I don't believe he died of natural causes.
In the following pages are brief remarks regarding A) disturbing parallels between the Casolaro and Wilcher cases; B) Police, FBI and CIA presence at the scene; C) other information about Wilcher's death; and D) possible further forensic investigation.
Mme. Attorney General, I feel the death of Paul Wilcher offers too many questions and inconsistencies to be ignored. I am writing because I feel this matter deserves your most serious attention, and hope this letter will bring some action on your part to answer some of the many, very troubling questions raised by Paul Wilcher's death.
Both were investigating possible government involvement in illegal activities.
Each was acting on his own, with dogged persistence, over a long time period.
Both Casolaro and Wilcher expressed fears, shortly before their deaths, that their lives were in danger because their investigations had led into sensitive territory. Casolaro was known to have received direct phone call threats, and told his brother shortly before he died, "If something happens to me, it won't be an accident."
As stated, Wilcher told at least one other person at the end of May that he feared he'd become a "danger signal" because his information on government malfeasance had gone beyond Casolaro's. In three weeks he was dead.
Both decedents' bodies were found in bathrooms, in bizarre circumstances (Casolaro a supposed suicide though forensic evidence cast substantial doubt on this; Wilcher, a man in good health, propped up on a toilet but showing no discernible cause of death).
In both cases, the scene of death was sealed off and made inaccessible, then cleaned, preventing any further official or independent investigation (the motel room where Casolaro was found was industrially cleaned the next day; Wilcher's apartment was sealed off and no one was allowed to enter; it was also cleaned the next day. I am unaware of any subsequent, serious investigation or crime report released to the public in either case).
In both cases, personal records, documents, computer files and/or other information belonging to the decedents are apparently not officially accounted for. Casolaro's briefcase and personal records were not found at the scene of his death. While Wilcher's family reportedly has taken possession of some personal belongings, the location of Wilcher's complete files, the result of years of hard work, is not publicly known.
In both cases, rapid alterations were made to the corpse making further forensic study difficult or impossible. Casolaro was embalmed shortly after death without family consent; Wilcher was cremated, as remarked above, without fingerprint or other evidential identification of the body, and without complete forensic examination to determine cause of death.
In both cases, forensic evidence relating to the corpses is scant.
In neither case was any kind of inquest held, no official testimony taken under oath, nor was any thoroughgoing official investigation undertaken (at least publicly). Nor has any official report been released in either case.
According to Mr. MASON O. LIDELL JR. (637 Third St. NE, Apt. B-03, DC 20002) superintendent of Wilcher's building, a Lieutenant and a Sergeant from the D. C. Police (with the help of firemen to force the door) entered Wilcher's apartment at about 11:30 AM on June 23rd. Three detectives from DC Police entered and found Wilcher's computer was turned on. When they read what was on the computer screen, they summoned the FBI. There is no further information on what the screen actually said.
After entering the apartment and getting a brief glance at the body and the apartment, Lidell was ordered to leave. The apartment was sealed off for the rest of the day, except for official personnel. The body was removed at about 12:30 according to Lidell (who didn't witness this), though he did mention that when he entered the apartment later, there was blood on the floor and on the commode which wasn't present earlier. He was told that this was because of measures taken to move the body.
At about 4:30 in the afternoon FBI Agents arrived. Sarah McClendon was also present, though not allowed in the apartment itself. She says two groups of four FBI Agents - eight FBI Agents in all - arrived and asked questions. McClendon checked their identification, which seemed convincing. According to Lidell at least three FBI Agents entered the apartment during the 4:30 to 7:30 time period.
Then, according to Lidell, one man appeared and said he was CIA (without offering identification). He joined the FBI agents in the Wilcher apartment during the 4:30 to 7:30 time period. More people could have entered during this time Lidell says he returned to his own apartment and didn't keep track.
Lidell says that an NBC camera crew was prevented from entering the apartment. Aside from firemen, medical personnel to remove the body and the above Government agents, no one was allowed in the apartment for the entire day - no reporters, friends, media crews, etc. This raises a question: why no other observers, since police okayed cleaning of the apartment the very next day?
Ms. McClendon phoned the FBI to ask about the presence of FBI Agents; later MR. JAMES V. DESARNO JR., Assistant Special Agent in Charge from the D. C. Metropolitan Office, arrived. Mr. Desarno also asked questions, but strongly denied that the FBI was interested in or involved in the case. "We are not interested in this case," he told McClendon, Lidell and others repeatedly.
This seems curious. If Wilcher was a "nobody" why the official presence and vehement expression of non-involvement, ironic with so many agents present? How could Desarno know the FBI would or wouldn't be involved without an investigation or known cause of death? Why all the secrecy and denial? Why the presence of the CIA?
Only a few slight pieces of information have filtered down about public officials and others involved in the Wilcher matter:
Two FBI Agents present at the scene were JAMES V. DESARNO, as remarked, and CRAIG OLSON, both of the D. C. Metropolitan Office: 1900 Half Street SW, Washington DC 20535. (202) 252-7801, both at same address and office.
The DC police officer in charge of investigating the Wilcher death is named BRIAN HENRY, (202) 727-4347.
Coroner for the government is a DR. KIM, who performed the autopsy, the results of which have not been released.
Building superintendent MASON LIDELL (202-543-2751) was questioned by Desarno and others, and has kindly provided information in this letter.
One friend of Wilcher's phoned apartment 302 in Wilcher's building (across from his) and got a taped answer message on the telephone intercom. The message said (paraphrasing) "This is a government telephone line, no longer in service" or words to that effect. Phone records, occupancy etc. from this address should be investigated.
Given the inconclusive autopsy results, further testing of the forensic evidence would seem to be crucial. Wilcher's body fluids, sent by the D. C. Medical Examiner to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at Walter Reed Hospital, haven't yielded any clue as to cause of death. Apparently coroner Dr. Kim is still in possession of Wilcher's heart.
Sarah McClendon is petitioning Dr. JOYE CARTER of the D. C. Medical Examiner's office to submit this forensic evidence for further study. Dr. Carter hasn't moved with alacrity to permit or facilitate this.
McClendon would like to submit the evidence to a DR. MASON, one of the top forensic toxicologists in the U. S. (Dr. Mason: 2300 Stratford Ave, Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, 215-657-4900). Dr. Mason feels it is extremely significant that no cause of death has been found, a rarity in his experience.
Perhaps, Mme. Attorney General, you can aid in investigating this
and other crucial aspects of Paul Wilcher's death. Thank you for any
consideration in response to this request.
GARBY LEON: BORN NEW YORK CITY, B.A. MARLBORO COLLEGE; M.A., PhD HARVARD UNIVERSITY; CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR DURING THE VIETNAM WAR AND ACTIVE IN THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT; CURRENTLY LIVES IN LOS ANGELES AND WORKS IN THE MOVIE INDUSTRY. FREQUENT PHONE & MAIL CORRESPONDENT WITH PAUL WILCHER.
See also New
Article on Baxter Death Case.
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