Baxter case still open

Baxter case still open

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

Police in Sugar Land, Texas, have not yet closed the case of the death of Enron executive John Clifford Baxter. Baxter, 43, was found dead in his Mercedes just half a block from his $700,000 home early on Jan. 25.

He had been shot once in the head with a handgun, which was recovered at the scene. Harris County Medical Examiner Dr. Joye Carter promptly ruled his death a suicide.

“Even with the ruling from the medical examiner’s office, Sugar Land detectives will continue to thoroughly investigate the death of John Baxter,” said Police Chief Ernest Taylor.

“We are not in any way saying we disagree with the medical examiner’s findings. We are simply saying we want to make sure we cross all the ‘T’s and dot all the ‘I’s in order to be absolutely sure that nothing is overlooked in this investigation,” Taylor said.

The New York Post reported the department’s top homicide investigator, Billy Baugh is not certain it was a suicide. He was tracing Baxter’s movements in the days before his death and also went over the car checking blood spatters and fingerprints and running ballistics tests on the gun. Guns are not registered in Texas. Baugh was trying to find out who bought the gun and when.

Dr. Carter ruled the death a suicide, even though she had no answer as to whose gun was used. Police are not saying whether Baxter’s fingerprints and blood were found on the weapon they took from his hand.

Baxter was killed by a blast of rat shot, tiny pellets used for shooting rodents and snakes. Police have not disclosed whether any of this ammunition was found in Baxter’s home.

When the body was found police concluded it was suicide and a police captain ordered the body taken to a Houston funeral home. A justice of the peace, however, had second thoughts and ordered an autopsy.

Police said a suicide, note was found, in the car but have not disclosed the contents. The note reportedly was in Baxter’s briefcase. CNBC reported, that the note stated Baxter was greatly disturbed about Enron’s collapse and the prospect of testifying before Congress against former colleagues and friends.

But Reed Irvine, chairman of Accuracy In Media, said he has learned the note made no mention of Baxter’s wife and children and said nothing about suicide.

His family and friends do not believe he killed himself. He had made more than $35 million selling his Enron stock at its peak value and was enjoying life with his family, including trips on his 70-foot yacht.

Michael Moran, a friend of Baxter and former general counsel for the Enron gas pipeline group, said: “As long as I’ve known Cliff, I never knew him to be a person who was depressed, who would bring it to taking his own life. He was an idea guy in very substantial jobs.”

Former Congressman John LeBoutillier, who went to Harvard with Baxter, told The National Enquirer: “He knew where all the Enron bodies were buried, and he was apparently ready to talk. The evidence for foul play is pretty strong. Here’s a man who had everything to live for children he loved and a comfortable future. He’s lying in bed in the middle of the night when he suddenly gets up, dresses, gets into his car, drives a short distance and blows his brains out. It doesn’t make sense.”

Dr. Carter, it turns out, has a checkered past. She was chief medical examiner for the District of Columbia. She also was Chief Physician and Forensic Pathologist for the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps and served as Deputy Chief Medical Examiner at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

In 1993, Washington lawyer Paul Wilcher was found dead in his apartment. He had been probing the events at Waco at the Branch Davidian compound. Dr. Carter was the medical examiner. No cause of death ever was found in the case, and no autopsy report was released.

Dr. Carter was fined $1,000 in February 2001 and nearly was fired when it was discovered she had permitted an unlicensed pathologist to perform about 200 autopsies in the Houston area.

The county also had to pay out sizeable damages in two lawsuits —$325,000 in one case—brought by members of her staff who alleged official misconduct during her time in Houston.

A retired former senior detective commented: “The fact that the police investigation is still going on tells me that despite what the medical examiner says, the detectives on the ground haven’t ruled out murder.”

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