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Whitewater: The Foster Report
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VIII. OTHER ISSUES

Several other issues have arisen and been examined by the OIC.

A. Gun Observations and Ownership

The OIC conducted investigation and analysis with respect to the gun, both as to observations of the gun at the scene and ownership of the gun.

1. Observations of Gun at Scene

According to the testimony of the first three official personnel to find the body (Park Police Officer Fornshill and FCFRD personnel Hall and Gonzalez), the gun was in Mr. Foster's hand when they found the body (although Officer Fornshill himself did not see or look for it, but rather was told of it by the others). Those statements contrast with the testimony of C5, the individual who first saw Mr. Foster's body and did not see a gun. Careful evaluation of all of the circumstances and evidence leads to the conclusion that C5 simply did not see the gun that was in Mr. Foster's hand.

First, when questioned by the OIC, C5 agreed with a statement attributed to him in an interview report that "there was extreme dense and heavy foliage in the area and in close proximity to the body, and the possibility does exist that there was a gun on rear of hand that he might not have seen." That is supported, moreover, by the testimony of several witnesses establishing that the gun was difficult to see in Mr. Foster's hand when standing in a position above the head on the top of the berm. That is further confirmed by Polaroids taken from above the head that reveal the difficulty of seeing the gun from that angle.

The forensic evidence and analyses outlined above also support the conclusion that the gun was in Mr. Foster's hand when C5 saw him. As explained by the pathologists and Dr. Lee, Mr. Foster's DNA was consistent with that on the muzzle of the gun, traces of blood evidence were derived from the gun, residue was on his hand, and residues were on his shirt. In addition, an indentation mark on his thumb suggests that the gun was in the hand for some period of time. The totality of the evidence leads to the conclusion that the gun recovered from Fort Marcy Park was in fact in Mr. Foster's hand when C5 happened upon the body, but that C5 simply did not see it.

There are discrepancies in the descriptions of the color and kind of gun seen in Mr. Foster's hand. However, the descriptions provided by the first two persons to observe the gun, as well as of numerous others, are consistent with the gun retrieved from the scene and depicted in the on-the-scene Polaroids. That gun was taken into evidence by Technician Simonello on July 20, and has been maintained by law enforcement since then.

2. Ownership of Gun

One follow-up investigative issue concerning the gun relates to its ownership. Virtually all theories that the manner of death was not suicide rest on an assumption that the gun did not belong to Mr. Foster. But testimony, circumstantial evidence, and forensic evidence support the conclusion that the gun did in fact belong to Mr. Foster.

Mrs. Alice Mae Foster, Mr. Foster's mother, stated that Mr. Foster, Sr., died in 1991. He had kept a revolver in a drawer of his bedside table, in addition to other guns in the house. In 1991, when Mr. Foster, Sr., had been ill and bedridden for a period of time, Mrs. Alice Mae Foster had all the handguns in the house placed in a box and put into a closet. Subsequent to the death of Mr. Foster, Sr., in 1991, Mrs. Alice Mae Foster gave Mr. Foster, Jr., the box of handguns.

Mrs. Lisa Foster similarly recalls that her husband took possession of several handguns from his parents' house near the time of his father's death. She recalled that, after they moved to Washington in 1993, some guns were kept in a bedroom closet. She recalled what she described as a silver-colored gun (she also has referred to it as a "cowboy gun" ), which had been packed in Little Rock and unpacked in Washington. She also recalled a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. She said she found one gun in its usual location on July 20, 1993, the .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. She did not find the other gun on or after July 20, 1993.

On July 29, 1993, Mrs. Foster was shown a photograph of the gun retrieved from the scene and, according to the Park Police interview report, was unable to identify it from the photograph. On May 9, 1994, she was shown the actual gun that was recovered and said, according to the interview report, that the gun "may be a gun which she formerly saw in her residence in Little Rock, Arkansas" and that "she may have seen the handgun . . . at her residence in Washington." She stated to the OIC in November 1995, when viewing the gun recovered from Mr. Foster's hand, that it was the gun she unpacked in Washington but had not subsequently found, although she said she seemed to remember the front of the gun looking lighter in color when she saw it during the move to Washington.

Webster Hubbell stated that, on the night of Mr. Foster's death, Lisa Foster went upstairs in the Foster house with him. While there, she looked into the top of a closet, pulled out a "squared-off" gun, and said, according to Hubbell, that one of the guns was missing. To Hubbell's knowledge, the "other gun" was never found at the Foster house.

Sharon Bowman, one of Mr. Foster's sisters, recalled that her father kept a black revolver in a drawer of his bedside table. She said that she had retrieved various handguns from her parents' house, placed them in a shoebox, and put them in her mother's closet (and Ms. Bowman said they later were given to Mr. Foster, Jr.) During the 1993 Park Police investigation, John Sloan, a family friend of the Fosters, wrote a letter to Captain Hume of the Park Police, stating that he had shown Sharon Bowman a photograph of the gun. According to the letter, Ms. Bowman stated that it "looked like a gun she had seen in her father's collection," and particularly pointed out the "'wavelike' detailing at the base of the grip." Ms. Bowman was later shown the revolver recovered from Fort Marcy Park. She indicated that it looked like one that her father kept in the house in Hope, but she could not positively identify it.

Mr. Foster's other sister, Sheila Anthony, said she had no personal knowledge about the gun found in Mr. Foster's hand at Fort Marcy Park. She recalled, however, that her sister, Sharon Bowman, and her brother had removed guns from their father's house near the father's death.

Mr. Foster's older son said he knew his father had an old .38 caliber revolver. He saw it being unpacked at their house in Washington when they moved there. Mr. Foster told his son that he had received this gun from his father (Vincent Foster, Sr.). The older son did not know where the gun was kept in Washington. The son was unable to conclusively identify the gun recovered on July 20, 1993, from Mr. Foster's hand as the one he had previously seen.

Mr. Foster's younger son stated that he saw one or two handguns in a shoebox along with a number of loose bullets while unpacking in Washington. The younger son stated that these items came from his grandfather's house. He described his grandfather's guns as a small, pearl-handled gun, and one or two revolvers. He believes his father placed the guns in a closet in Washington.

Mr. Foster's daughter stated she recalled someone unpacking a handgun at the house when they initially moved to Washington, although she never saw any other guns in their Washington house.

To sum up, the testimony establishes that, near the time of his father's death, Mr. Foster took possession of some handguns that had belonged to his father. The testimony also establishes that guns, including (according to the older son) a .38 caliber revolver, were taken to Washington by the Foster family in 1993. Mrs. Lisa Foster said that she recalls two guns in a bedroom closet in Washington, one of which was missing when she looked in the closet after Mr. Foster's death, and that the missing gun was the one found at the scene. Ms. Bowman has said the gun found at the scene looks like a gun previously kept by her father.

In addition, forensic examinations of Mr. Foster's pants pocket and the oven mitt support the conclusion that Mr. Foster carried, and thus possessed, a gun at a time close to his death. As explained above, that evidence tends to link Mr. Foster to the gun recovered from his hand.

This combination of testimonial, circumstantial, and forensic evidence supports the conclusion that the gun found in Mr. Foster's hand belonged to Mr. Foster.

B. Briefcase

There are some discrepancies in statements regarding whether a briefcase was in Mr. Foster's car at Fort Marcy Park.

Mr. Foster's black briefcase was in his office on July 22 when documents in the office were reviewed by Mr. Nussbaum in the presence of law enforcement officials. Four days later, a torn note was reportedly found in that briefcase by an Associate White House Counsel. To determine whether a briefcase (and perhaps that black briefcase) was in Mr. Foster's car at Fort Marcy Park, five related questions must be considered:

1. Did those who saw Mr. Foster leave the White House on July 20 see him with a briefcase?

2. Was a briefcase observed in Mr. Foster's car at Fort Marcy Park?

3. Did the Park Police return a briefcase to the Secret Service that evening?

4. Was a briefcase in Mr. Foster's office at the White House after his death?

5. How many briefcases did Mr. Foster use?

1. Mr. Foster's Departure From the White House

Linda Tripp, Betsy Pond, and Tom Castleton – all of whom worked in the Counsel's suite of offices – said they saw Mr. Foster leave the Counsel's suite on July 20. They were interviewed separately by the Park Police on July 22, 1993.

The Park Police report of the interview with Ms. Tripp states:

Ms. Tripp makes it a habit to notice what the staff members are taking with them when they leave the office in order to determine for herself how long she may expect them to be away from the office. Ms. Tripp was absolutely certain that Mr. Foster did not carry anything in the way of a briefcase, bag, umbrella, etc. out of the office. Ms. Tripp confirmed to the OIC that this report accurately reflected her recollection.

The relevant portion of the Park Police report of Ms. Pond's interview of July 22, 1993, does not address what Mr. Foster carried when he left the office. In a later interview, Ms. Pond stated that "I think I remember his jacket swung over his shoulder" and said "[n]ot that I recall" to the question whether Mr. Foster was carrying a briefcase.

The Park Police report of Mr. Castleton's interview of July 22, 1993, does not address what Mr. Foster carried when he left the office. When questioned over eight months later, Mr. Castleton recalled Mr. Foster carrying a briefcase, and Mr. Castleton has said that it "looked very much like the one" that was in Mr. Foster's office on July 22.

The testimony of Ms. Tripp, Ms. Pond, and Mr. Castleton thus conflicts as to whether Foster carried a briefcase when he left the Counsel's suite -- two saying that he did not and one saying that he did.

2. Mr. Foster's Car at Fort Marcy

The Park Police officers who searched Mr. Foster's car at Fort Marcy Park (Braun and Rolla) stated there was no briefcase in the car. The Park Police technician who inventoried the car on July 21, E.J. Smith, stated that no briefcase was found. The Polaroids of the interior of Mr. Foster's car taken at Fort Marcy Park, and the photographs taken the next day at the impoundment lot, do not show a briefcase in the car. (The photos from Fort Marcy show a white canvas bag in front of the rear seat on the driver's side of the car.)

In addition, four other persons at Fort Marcy Park specifically recall looking into Mr. Foster's car but do not recall a briefcase. Officer Fornshill of the Park Police stated that he looked into the car (although not closely) but did not see a briefcase. Wacha, Iacone, and Pisani of the FCFRD also said that they did not recall seeing a briefcase.

Four other persons have varying, but imprecise, degrees of recollection of a briefcase in somecar at Fort Marcy Park.

Todd Hall of the FCFRD stated in a March 18, 1994, interview and in a January 5, 1995, statement to the OIC, that he recalled a briefcase of uncertain color in the car with Arkansas plates. However, in a July 20, 1994, Senate deposition, he stated "We saw a suit coat and I think his briefcase, something like that. . . . All I know for sure I saw was his suit coat. And I thought I may have seen, he may have had a briefcase or something in there."

George Gonzalez of the FCFRD said in one statement that he saw a black briefcase/attache case in the car with Arkansas plates. In a later statement, however, Gonzalez stated, "I can't say if I saw a briefcase or papers. I can't correctly say whether I saw it or not. . . . I think the tie was in there and the jacket was in there. That's what I remember. That's all I can really remember." He also said that what he recalled could have been a canvas bag that was found in Mr. Foster's car. Gonzalez was not present when the Park Police entered the Honda.

C5 testified that he "would just about bet" that a "brown briefcase" was in the car, although he "wouldn't bet [his] life on it." C5's statements and a reenactment conducted with C5 at the scene by investigators reveal, however, that C5 was describing the car of C4, not Mr. Foster's car, when he referred to the briefcase.

C2 testified that he saw a briefcase – as well as wine coolers – in a car with Arkansas plates that was parked in the parking lot. He stated: "I looked and I saw the briefcase and saw the jacket, saw the wine coolers, it was two of them. I remember exactly how they were laying in the back seat of the car." (There is no other evidence that wine coolers were in Mr. Foster's car. )

3. Park Police Communications With Secret Service

An official Secret Service report prepared at 10:01 p.m. on July 20 states in relevant part:

SA Tom Canavit, WFO PI squad, advised that he has been in contact with US Park Police and was assured that if any materials of a sensitive nature (schedules of the POTUS, etc.) were recovered, they would immediately be turned over to the USSS. (At the time of this writing, no such materials were located). 4. Mr. Foster's Office at the White House

White House employee Patsy Thomasson testified that she saw Mr. Foster's briefcase by the desk in Foster's office on the night of July 20 and indeed looked into the top of that briefcase for a note. As noted above, the testimony of White House, Department of Justice, FBI, and Park Police personnel confirms that Mr. Foster's black briefcase was in his White House office on July 22, two days after his death, during the review of documents in Mr. Foster's office.

5. Mr. Foster's Briefcase

The OIC is aware of only one briefcase used in Washington by Mr. Foster, the black briefcase that Ms. Thomasson observed in Mr. Foster's White House office on the night of July 20 and that a number of other witnesses observed there on July 22.

6. Summary: Briefcase

Based on careful consideration of all of the evidence, the conclusions significantly supported are: (a) Mr. Foster's black briefcase remained in his office when he left on July 20; and (b) neither it nor another briefcase was in his car at Fort Marcy Park.

C. Notification

According to Secret Service records, the Secret Service was notified of Mr. Foster's death at about 8:30 p.m. Eastern time on July 20. The records reflect that various White House officials were then contacted.

An Arkansas Trooper has stated that, while on duty at the Arkansas Governor's Mansion, he was notified of Mr. Foster's death by Helen Dickey, at the time a 22-year-old personal assistant of the Clintons who lived on the third floor of the White House Residence. The trooper described Dickey as "hysterical" and "very upset" when she called. The trooper, who was working a shift until 10:30 p.m. Arkansas time that night, stated that Dickey called him before 7:30 p.m. Arkansas time (8:30 p.m. Eastern time); according to the interview report, he said "he could possibly be mistaken about the time the call from Dickey was received. The call could have been as late as 8:30 PM, Arkansas time. However, he still felt his best recollection was that the call was received sometime between 4:30 PM and 7:30 PM [Arkansas time]."

Helen Dickey stated that she was first notified of Mr. Foster's death by an employee of the White House Usher's Office at about 10:00 p.m. and that she became very upset. (The Dickeys had lived next door to the Fosters in Little Rock when Helen was younger. ) She then contacted her mother in Virginia and her father in Georgia from a phone on the second floor of the White House Residence. Dickey stated that she later called (from a different phone) the Arkansas Governor's Mansion and talked to the trooper at approximately 10:30 p.m. Eastern time.

There are two other pieces of relevant evidence with respect to Ms. Dickey's statement. First, Ms. Dickey's diary entry for July 20 (written within a few days of the event) states in relevant part:

I watched [Larry King Live] and about 10:30 [the Usher's Office employee] came up and told me they had found Vince Foster's body and that he'd killed himself. I waited for the punchline and lost it. I called Mom and Dad . . . . We went to Lisa's, and everyone was there . . . Second, the Usher's Office employee confirmed that he notified Ms. Dickey of Mr. Foster's death shortly after 10:00 p.m. and said that Ms. Dickey immediately became hysterical, started screaming and crying, and ran downstairs. The Usher's Office employee "firmly believes he was the first to inform Dickey of the news of Foster's death because of her extreme reaction to the news."

The totality of the evidence – including the diary entry, the testimony of the Usher's Office employee, and the lack of any other evidence that White House or Secret Service personnel had knowledge of Mr. Foster's death at a time earlier than when the Park Police first notified the Secret Service -- does not support a conclusion that Ms. Dickey knew about Mr. Foster's death at some earlier time.

D. Search for Bullet

During the Park Police, Fiske, and OIC investigations, searches were conducted of Fort Marcy Park for the bullet that caused Mr. Foster's death.

On July 22, 1993, four Park Police personnel (Hill, Johnson, Rule, and Morrissette) searched with a metal detector the immediate area where the body was found. Their search for the bullet was unsuccessful.

Investigators in Mr. Fiske's Office conducted a search in the area where Mr. Foster's body was found. Their search for the bullet fired from Mr. Foster's gun was unsuccessful.

With the assistance of Dr. Lee, the National Park Service, and a large number of investigators, the OIC organized a broader search of Fort Marcy Park for the fatal bullet. The search was led by Richard K. Graham, an expert in crime scene metal detection. The search plan was devised utilizing information obtained through ballistics tests performed by the Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland.

The search did not locate a bullet fired from the gun recovered from Mr. Foster's hand. That the search did not uncover the fatal bullet does not affect the conclusion that Mr. Foster committed suicide in Fort Marcy Park. Because a search covering the maximum range estimates "would have included a vast area . . . , a search which was limited in scope to the highest probability areas, closer to the minimum range estimates, was undertaken." In other words, while the OIC search covered a broader area than previous searches, "the maximum range estimates" predicted the possibility that "the bullet could have cleared the tree tops in Ft. Marcy and landed well outside the park." Moreover, although lines ultimately were laid out within the park along the outer limits of a 90 degree arc to a distance of 175 meters, which represented the "highest probability areas," a full search of even the 90 degree-175 meter range would have included areas outside the park that were not searched. In addition, because "dense foliage and trees surround the area where Foster's body was discovered, and since there is a . . . cannon approximately 12.5 feet directly behind the location where the body lay, there is a distinct possibility the bullet's trajectory was altered due to its striking or ricocheting off a natural or man-made obstruction." Another variable is that "Foster's head could have been turned to one side or the other when the shot was fired."

Foster Report Table of Contents

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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