Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Did Joe Scarborough cover up the murder of Lori Klausutis? Was Jeb! involved?

Why has Lori Klausutis' Death Been Swept Under the Rug?

This article is the first in a series on t r u t h o u t which will present the known facts and raise some questions about this strange and tragic case.

Part I: Congressional Aide Found Dead in Congressman's Office
By Jennifer Van Bergen

t r u t h o u t | January 4, 2001 - Remember the news back in July that Lori Klausutis, an aide to U.S. Representative Joe Scarborough (R-FL), was found dead in the congressman's District Office in Fort Walton Beach, Florida?

If you don't, that's because the news came and went in the blink of an eye.

Wait. Did you get that? A congressman's aide. Dead. In the congressman's office. No witnesses.

And the media were all but silent.

While the Condit/Levy story ran rampant in the national press for weeks on end, the Scarborough/Klausutis story got barely nine lines in the Associated Press and only one line in The Washington Post.

Does it make you wonder?

Wait until you hear the rest of the story. It has all the elements of a good murder mystery.

* The congressman (an ardent and vocal supporter of G.W., by the way) resigns only six months after re-election, just prior to his aide's death. The reason: amid rumors of marital infidelity, the recently-divorced husband wants to spend more time with his sons.

* A medical examiner who had his license revoked in another state. Why? He lost it falsifying autopsies.

* The medical examiner's supervisor had contributed thousands of dollars to the congressman's election campaign.

* Contradictory reports about whether there is a visible head injury or not.

* A medical conclusion that contains several inconsistencies. First, that Mrs. Klausutis, who was a marathon runner, died of a cardiac arryhthmia. Second, that although she had suffered a fractured skull and a "contracoup" bruise on the opposite side of the brain, the injury could not possibly have been caused by a physical assault.

* Then there's the question of whether the office was locked and the lights were on. One report says the door was locked and the lights were off; another report says the door was unlocked and the lights were on.

* And if all this weren't enough, there's the scientist husband who does high level weapon design work for the Air Force.

These are only the more obvious elements of the case. And this is not newsworthy enough for the press?

To be fair, the local press, the Northwest Florida Daily News, thought it was newsworthy for a few weeks. They published several short but good pieces and made a public records request for the police and medical reports. However, after the paper published the autopsy findings -- which concluded that Lori Klausutis fainted, fell and hit her head on the desk -- which effectively closed the police investigation, the paper had little more to go on. Furthermore, some local citizens accused the paper of "sensationalizing" the story. So, the story died.

In fact, however, the news stayed alive on various message boards on the internet and two intrepid journalists did do some excellent research which was published online, but amazingly, no major paper or television network even mentioned the story. Why?

That question is perhaps unaswerable. But it should be raised, along with all the many other questions that arise in this case. This series intends to review the facts and raise these questions.

"Absolutely no evidence of foul play"

Mrs. Klausutis was found dead in Rep. Joe Scarborough's Fort Walton Beach office at about 8:10 a.m. on July 20 by Juanita and Andreas Bergmann, who claim they had an appointment that morning with Rep. Scarborough to facilitate Mr. Bergmann's application for a green card. Mr. Scarborough, however, was still in Washington, D.C. and flew home only later that day.

The day after Mrs. Klausutis was found, the police said there was no evidence of "foul play or trauma to her body." The following day, having performed his autopsy and while waiting for the results of blood tests, Dr. Michael Berkland, the medical examiner, told the press that there was "absolutely no evidence" that Lori was "a victim of 'foul play.'" By July 26, although Berkland had still not received the toxicology results, which he noted would likely play a key role in determining whether Ms. Klausutis had died of natural causes or accidentally, Berkland stated that he had "ruled out homicide." While he said he didn't think that suicide was a likely scenario either, he stated that he was also investigating it as a possibility.

Finally, on August 6, Berkland released the autopsy. Oddly, although the police had originally stated that there were no signs of trauma, Berkland acknowledged that Klausutis had sustained a "scratch and bruise" on her head which had been noted in the original death investigation. His explanation for having lied to the press was to "prevent undue speculation" about the cause of death.

Berkland determined that Lori, an avid runner who ran fivemiles a day, had a prolapsed mitral valve which caused a sudden cardiac arrhythmia -- an irregular heartbeat -- which in turn caused Lori to faint "in midstride," and hit her head on the desk. How Berkland came up with this theory is unknown since the medical report contains no description of the death scene, no diagram of the location of the body, or its posture or appearance as Berkland first observed it on the morning of July 20th..

Early on in the investigation, there were rumors that Ms. Klausutis had suffered from previous health problems, but her family issued a statement contradicting this.

Thus, in the very first chapter of this story, several questions arise. How could a healthy, physically fit, 28-year-old woman suddenly "faint" of a previously undetected heart problem? How could the police, with no witnesses, and knowing from the outset that Ms. Klausustis had sustained a bruise to the head, determine that there was no evidence of an attack? If Rep. Scarborough had an appointment with the Bergmann's, why was he still in Washington, D.C.? Or was he? Why did the police and medical examiner lie to the public about the existence of visible signs of head trauma? They lied to the public so easily. Could they have lied about other things, as well? Given their later reluctance to pursue the case or release any information whatsoever about it, this lie may indicate a less-than-honest handling of the case.

Next issue: Part II: "Regular Joe" and "Little Miss Mary Sunshine"

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