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Whitewater: The Foster Report
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A. Mr. Foster's Background and Activities on July 20, 1993

Vincent W. Foster, Jr., was born on January 15, 1945, in Hope, Arkansas, to Alice Mae and Vincent W. Foster. He had two sisters, Sheila and Sharon. He was graduated from Hope High School in 1963 and from Davidson College in 1967. He married Elizabeth (Lisa) Braden in 1968, and they had three children, two boys and a girl. Mr. Foster was graduated first in his class from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1971, where he was Managing Editor of the Law Review. He joined the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock in 1971 as an associate, and he became a Member of the Firm in 1974. Mr. Foster left the Rose Law Firm and moved to Washington in January 1993 to serve as Deputy White House Counsel. He initially lived in Washington with his sister Sheila Anthony and her husband Beryl Anthony. Mrs. Lisa Foster moved to Washington in early June 1993, and the family lived in a house in the Georgetown section of Washington.

On the morning of Tuesday, July 20, 1993, six months into the Clinton Administration, Mr. Foster drove his gray Honda Accord to the White House from the house in Georgetown where he and his family were living. After dropping off his older son and his daughter on the way to work, Mr. Foster arrived at the suite on the second floor of the White House's West Wing where White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum and Mr. Foster had offices. Three assistants (Mr. Nussbaum's assistants Betsy Pond and Linda Tripp and Mr. Foster's assistant Deborah Gorham) and an intern (Thomas Castleton) had desks in the outer office of the suite.

According to the testimony of a number of witnesses, Mr. Foster attended the morning Rose Garden ceremony announcing the nomination of Louis J. Freeh to be Director of the FBI. According to Ms. Tripp and Ms. Pond, at about 12:00 or 12:30 p.m., Mr. Foster asked them for lunch from the White House mess.

After eating lunch in his office, Mr. Foster left the Counsel's suite. He was seen leaving by Ms. Tripp, Ms. Pond, and Mr. Castleton. The OIC, like the other investigative bodies before us, has not learned of or located anyone who definitively saw Mr. Foster from the time he left the White House until near 6:00 p.m., at which time a private citizen found Mr. Foster dead in Fort Marcy Park.

B. Fort Marcy

Fort Marcy was constructed as a Civil War earthwork fortification. It is located between the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GW Parkway) and Chain Bridge Road in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., approximately 6.5 miles by car from downtown Washington. The GW Parkway, on which there is virtually constant automobile traffic, runs along the Virginia side of the Potomac River from Mount Vernon to the Capital Beltway. Several bridges connect the Parkway (or roads leading
to the Parkway) to Washington. A parking lot for the park is adjacent to the outbound side of the GW Parkway. Inside the park, as of July 1993, were two cannons – one closer to the GW Parkway and a second (the one near which Mr. Foster was found) closer to Chain Bridge Road. That second cannon is approximately 200 yards from the parking area.

Thirty-one witnesses, 19 of whom observed Mr. Foster's body, have provided relevant testimony about their activities and observations in and around the Fort Marcy Park area on July 20, 1993. They include:

6 private citizens (one of whom discovered and observed Mr. Foster's body);

13 Park Police personnel (9 of whom observed Mr. Foster's body);

11 Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department (FCFRD) personnel (8 of whom observed the body); and

Dr. Haut, the doctor representing the Medical Examiner's Office who responded to the scene and examined the body.

Between about 2:45 and 3:05 p.m., a citizen (C1) driving outbound on GW Parkway saw "a dark metallic grey, Japanese sedan" occupied by a single, white male abruptly enter Fort Marcy Park. C1 said in his initial 1993 statement to the Park Police that the license plate was from Ohio or Arkansas.   Months later, on April 18, 1994, during Mr. Fiske's investigation, C1 was shown photographs of Mr. Foster's car. C1 stated that the car in the photographs looked "similar" to the car he recalled, but that the license plate on it differed from that which he recalled.

Another citizen (C2) drove his rental car into the Fort Marcy parking lot at approximately 4:30 p.m. While there, C2 saw one unoccupied car, which he described as a "rust brown colored car with Arkansas license plates." C2 also saw another nearby car; that car was occupied by a man who exited his car as C2 exited his own car. C2 described this man as having "a look like he had a ... an agenda," although "everything I based my observation of this guy, was from my gut, more than anything else." C2 and the man did not speak to one another. C2 went into the park to urinate, and the other man had reentered his car by the time C2 returned to the parking lot. C2 then left the park in his car.

A man (C3) and woman (C4) pulled into the Fort Marcy parking area in C4's white Nissan at about 5:00 p.m. and were still at Fort Marcy when police and rescue personnel arrived shortly after 6:00 p.m. While C3 and C4 were at Fort Marcy, another citizen (C5) drove his white van into the parking lot to urinate. C5 said that he exited his van, and while walking through the park, found Mr. Foster's body near the second cannon, the cannon closer to Chain Bridge Road. C5 then left Fort Marcy and drove approximately 2.75 miles further outbound on the GW Parkway to a parking area near GW Parkway Headquarters; there, C5 reported the dead body to two off-duty Park Service employees who called 911. Numerous Park Police and FCFRD personnel then responded to Fort Marcy Park.

In the initial response, two groups of FCFRD personnel, as well as Park Police Officer Kevin Fornshill, arrived at Fort Marcy Park at approximately the same time – about 6:10 p.m. They then split into teams to search the park. Officer Fornshill and FCFRD personnel George Gonzalez and Todd Hall composed one group; FCFRD personnel Richard Arthur, James Iacone, Jennifer Wacha, and Ralph Pisani formed the other. The Fornshill-Hall Gonzalez group first reached the body of Mr. Foster, and the other group joined them soon thereafter.

Twelve additional Park Police personnel subsequently arrived at Fort Marcy Park. Officer Franz Ferstl was the responding beat officer and, as such, was responsible for preparing the incident report. He responded to the scene at the same time as Officer Julie Spetz. Sergeant Robert Edwards, the District supervisor, also arrived on the scene. Ferstl, Spetz, and Edwards arrived before approximately 6:15 p.m., according to the report of Officer Christine Hodakievic, who arrived at approximately 6:15 p.m. and recorded the names of those officers already on the scene (Fornshill, Ferstl, Spetz, and Edwards). Lieutenant Patrick Gavin arrived in a supervisory role at roughly 6:30 p.m., according to his recollection.

According to their reports, Investigators Cheryl Braun and John Rolla, the lead Park Police investigators, arrived along with Investigator Renee Abt at about 6:35 p.m. They received investigative assistance from Officer Hodakievic, who was an investigator in training at that time. Peter Simonello, the Park Police identification technician responsible for gathering physical evidence, arrived shortly thereafter.

At the scene, Park Police investigators and the Park Police identification technician conducted interviews, examined the body and Mr. Foster's car, made notes, took photographs, and collected evidence. Later, five of the Park Police personnel prepared typed reports: the responding beat officer (Ferstl), the two lead investigators (Rolla and Braun), Officer Hodakievic, and the identification technician (Simonello). Several evidence receipts were prepared to record physical evidence obtained at the scene.

When the Park Police and rescue personnel found Mr. Foster's body, he was lying on his back on a berm in front of the  second cannon, the cannon nearer Chain Bridge Road.   He was dead and had a gun in his right hand (with his thumb trapped in the trigger guard). Gunshot residue-like material was observed on his right hand.   When the Park Police lifted and turned over the body later that evening, they noted a wound out the back of his head, and blood on the ground underneath his head and back.   They observed no signs of a struggle.

Park Police also found a gray, 4-door Honda Accord with Arkansas plates in the parking lot; that car, the police discovered later that evening, was registered to Mr. Foster.   The two lead Park Police investigators (Braun and Rolla) photographed and examined the car and, during that examination, found Mr. Foster's White House identification. The car was towed to a Park Police impoundment lot that night.   The next day, the car was further photographed and examined at the impoundment lot.

Dr. Haut, the medical examiner's representative, arrived at Fort Marcy Park at approximately 7:40 p.m. on July 20 and confirmed the death. The body was then transported by FCFRD ambulance personnel to a morgue at Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia.

The witnesses' recollections of precise details at Fort Marcy Park vary in some respects (the differences will be explored below). Nonetheless, the evidence from the scene – including the gun, the apparent residue, the nature of the wound, the blood, the lack of any signs of a struggle -- points to the conclusion that death resulted from suicide by gunshot. A final determination of the manner of death depends on a variety of further investigative steps – most importantly, those associated with forensic science.

Foster Report Table of Contents

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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