But notice that they are now telling us in the Reuters story below that both the note and the gun were beside him in the car. In the initial Houston Chronicle story the note was found in some undisclosed other location and the gun was in his hand.
Does this suggest that the police were not able to come up with a plausible alternative discovery spot, so they decided just to go with the car seat? And perhaps someone showed them my posting in which I asked why the gun did not fly out of the hand.
The Reuters article also contains the additional information that Baxter died of a "penetrating gunshot wound." That means that it was not a "perforating" gunshot wound, or, in layman's terms, the bullet did not exit from his head. They do not indicate what type of ammunition was in the .38 revolver, but I believe that it would be unusual for the bullet from such a weapon not to pass all the way through the head.
Saturday January 26, 6:40 pm Eastern Time
HOUSTON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - The death of former Enron Corp. Vice Chairman J. Clifford Baxter, who died of a gunshot wound to the head, has been ruled a suicide, the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office said on Saturday.
Baxter, who before his resignation last year complained about questionable financial deals that led to the company's bankruptcy and was sought by congressional investigators, was found in his Mercedes Benz with a .38- caliber revolver and a suicide note at his side early on Friday in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land.
Medical examiner Joye Carter conducted an autopsy on Baxter's body on Friday and found the cause of death was suicide by ``penetrating gunshot to the head,'' a spokeswoman told Reuters.
Her ruling confirmed an earlier finding by Fort Bend County Justice of the Peace Jim Richard, who at the scene ruled the death a suicide but ordered an autopsy out of what he said was ``an abundance of caution.''
Baxter, 43, resigned from Houston-based energy trader Enron in May, just seven months after his promotion to vice chairman, for what the company said was a desire to spend more time with his family.
But an Aug. 14 memo from Enron whistle-blower Sheron Watkins to Chairman and Chief Executive Ken Lay indicated Baxter had feuded with then-Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling about off-balance sheet deals the company was using to hide billions of dollars in debt.
Disclosure of those deals last autumn shattered the company's credibility and sank its credit ratings, which forced it into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December.
The contents of Baxter's suicide note have not been released, but it supposedly contained references to Enron. One news report said it indicated that Baxter could not take the pain of his former company's collapse.
His death came a day after the start of congressional hearings in Washington on Enron's fall and the role of its auditor, Big Five accounting firm Andersen. Congressional investigators sought to interview Baxter last week while they were in Houston looking into Enron.
Baxter was also a defendant in lawsuits targeting Enron's top executives, accusing them of cashing in on insider information.
Court records and securities filings show he sold more than half a million Enron
shares for $35 million between October 1998 and early 2001.
Jan. 25, 2002, 5:02PM
Ex-Enron exec who questioned company's finances dies in suicide Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle staff and wire reports
A former Enron Corp. executive who challenged the company's questionable financial practices and resigned last May was found shot to death in a car in Sugar Land today in what was ruled a suicide, authorities said.
Enron officials confirmed the death this morning of J. Clifford Baxter, 43, former vice chairman of the embattled Houston company.
His body was found at 2:23 a.m. today inside his black Mercedes Benz S500 sedan, parked between two medians in the 5200 block of Palm Royal, near his home in an upscale residential area in Sugar Land.
He was in the driver's seat of the vehicle and a police officer stopped to check on him after noticing the parked car. Police broke out the rear window to get inside.
Police said a note was found at another location, but did not provide details.
The officer discovered what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Baxter's head. Police did not reveal the contents or nature of the note and said there appeared to be no foul play.
Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Jim Richard of Fort Bend County ruled Baxter's death a suicide mid-morning today. Richard said the car was locked and Sugar Land police had to break a window to get in. He said Baxter's body was in the driver's seat with a pistol in his hand.
Richard initially decided the death was an obvious suicide and there was no need for an autopsy and the body was taken to a nearby funeral home. About noon, however, he indicated there would be an autopsy.
"We don't have any other indication other than it being suicide," said Sugar Land police Capt. David Marcaurele.
Baxter was vice chairman of Enron when he resigned in May 2001, several months before the energy company's collapse.
"We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our friend and colleague, Cliff Baxter," said an official company statement today. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."
Enron spokesman Mark Palmer had no additional comment.
Baxter was identified by name in the explosive warning that Enron executive Sherron Watkins wrote last August to company chairman Ken Lay.
"Cliff Baxter complained mightily to (then-CEO Jeff) Skilling and all who would listen about the inappropriateness of our transactions with LJM," one of the partnerships that kept hundreds of millions of dollars in debt off Enron's books.
Watkins identified Baxter in a section of her letter stating there is "a veil of secrecy around LJM and Raptor," another entity involved in the partnerships.
Watkins' letter to Lay stated that "we will implode in a wave of accounting scandals" unless the company halted practices that eventually sent it into bankruptcy.
Baxter's complaints targeted the LJM and LJM2 investment partnerships managed by then-Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow, who earned $30 million for that work in addition to his Enron salary.
Fastow declined to comment through a representative. A Skilling spokeswoman said he "was devastated by the loss of very dear friend." He would have no other comment, she said.
Congressional investigators had sought to interview Baxter last week while they were in Houston talking to others about Enron, congressional committee source told Reuters today.
Baxter's name was mentioned repeatedly in discussions between investigators and those interviewed in recent weeks, the sources said.
Baxter was one of 29 former and current Enron executives and board members named as defendants in a federal lawsuit. Plaintiffs' lawyers said the executives made $1.1 billion by selling Enron stock between October 1998 and November 2001.
It said Baxter had sold 577,436 shares for $35.2 million.
His role at Enron, people familiar with his career there say, was primarily in mergers and acquisitions. He helped engineer the purchases to build up Enron's failed water venture, Azurix Corp., and of Oregon utility Portland General Electric in 1997.
According to the May 2001 press release, Baxter was to have continued working for the company as a consultant.
Baxter was born Sept. 27, 1958 in Amityville, N.Y., received a bachelor's of science from New York University in 1980 and an MBA from Columbia University seven years later. He was a captain in the U.S. Air Force, 1980-85.
Baxter had joined Enron in 1991 and was chairman and CEO of Enron North America prior to being named chief strategy officer for Enron Corp. in June 2000 and vice chairman in October 2000, the company said.
Baxter resigned from Enron months before the company imploded amid revelations of questionable financing and overstated earnings.
Enron's downfall began in mid-October with the release of a $618 million third-quarter loss and a $1.2 billion writedown of shareholder equity. Subsequent revelations of partnerships that allowed Enron to keep half a billion dollars in debt off its books and elimination of millions in profits with restated earnings since 1997 fueled the company's descent into the largest bankruptcy in history on Dec. 2.
In the May 2001 resignation announcement, Skilling said, "Over the past 10 years, Cliff has made a tremendous contribution to Enron's evolution, particularly as a member of the team that built Enron's wholesale business.
"His creativity, intelligence, sense of humor and straightforward manner have been assets to the company throughout his career. While we will miss him, we are happy that his primary reason for resigning is to spend additional time with his family, and we wish him the very best."
Here are my original questions, which still have no answers, except that number 4 now becomes, "Why can't they make up their minds where the gun and the note were found?"
1. Did the revolver they found in Baxter's hand belong to him? If the answer that may be eventually supplied is yes, how do they know? If the answer is no, what makes them think the gun was not simply planted in the hand? Even if it was his gun, how can the police be completely sure that it was not placed in his hand after death?
2. What is the nature of the wounds? Was there copious blood present?
3. Were Baxter's fingerprints on the gun and the revolver shells?
4. Is there an explanation for why the gun did not fly out of his hand?
5. Is it not a bit irregular to rule suicide before conducting an autopsy? Is a justice of the peace qualified to do so?
6. Is the "suicide note" in Baxter's handwriting? How do they know?
7. What does the "suicide note" say? How was it found? Where was it found?
8. What does the family have to say? Have there been any suspicious goings on around Baxter lately, other than the Enron bankruptcy, of course?
9. Why the haste in ruling suicide? How did they rule out murder? Aren't there some rich, powerful people with a very strong motive to murder him?
10. Might there be some even more powerful people than we yet know about endangered by Baxter's knowledge?
11. Would such people be powerful enough to effect a police and media cover-up?
12. If this were a genuine cover-up for sure, how would it look any different?
13. Why aren't our journalists asking these questions? If they are, where is the evidence of it? Why do I have to be the one to ask them? What good are the journalists, anyway?
What it all boils down to is that, up to now, we are being asked to take on faith the assertions of the Houston authorities that this man, who seemed to be a far more likely candidate for murder than for suicide, took his own life. But their performance so far has given us no reason to have any faith in them at all.
The biggest giveaway of all, though, is that our press is going along with them and has exhibited not the slightest bit of skepticism. Already they are quoting the ever-available psychologists to explain what seems to have no good rational explanation. It won't be long, probably, before they will be quoting Edwin Arlington Robinson's "Richard Cory." See www.llamas.org/corey .
But this time I'm going to beat them to the punch
Now, let us sing of the smooth Richard Cory,
The rich man in Edwin A Robinson's story,
Who went home for no reason anyone could explain
And fired a small bullet right into his brain.
This quaint little tale has been put to ill use
The message the public is supposed to receive
You know what bothers me most of all
Is those guys that never learn how to play ball.
I've known some real losers, but I think that the worst
Was that bum with the plant up on Fifty-First,
Good looking fellow, all polished and slim,
The jerk believed nothing could happen to him,
He thought all his money was enough to protect him,
His stupid self-confidence finally wrecked him.
What he didn't know was our guy was on top,
We had every pol and we had every cop.
The suckers don't know that we nailed him yet,
We had every hack at the News and Gazette.
We hired a good hit man, and the boss didn't know it,
But I even sprung for a slick-writing poet.
As soon as the boss seen how good that it went
He called it the very best dime that we spent.
Now youse have all heard my gospel-truth story.
Too bad what we done to that slick Richard Cory.
January 28, 2002
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