Not buying suicide at Baxter's club

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The MadCow
Morning News

Not buying suicide at Baxter's club

Security was tight around the Baxter family home in Sweetwater

"Like Chinatown, but set in Texas."

by Daniel Hopsicker
February 11--Houston Texas

An investigation in Houston Texas by the MadCowMorning News has uncovered
significant discrepancies in the official version of the death of former
Enron Vice Chairman Cliff Baxter. While Texas officials have been willing
to share only a few facts about the case, much of what they have
revealed, we have learned, is puzzling, misleading, or, amazingly, wrong.

Even more amazing is that -with billions at stake-the very real
possibility that Baxter might have been murdered has been completely
ignored in the press.

Early wire reports quoted Sugar Land Police Department spokeswoman
Patricia Whitty saying that Baxter was found inside his Mercedes early on
Friday with a gunshot wound to the head, a suicide note, and a revolver
at his side.

It was an impressive litany. Police appeared to have all of their ducks
in a row.

"A gunshot wound, a suicide note, and a revolver at his side."

A statement released by the Sugar Land Police Department that morning
broke the news...

"At 2.23 a.m. this morning (January 25) Sugar Land police officers on
routine patrol discovered John. C. Baxter, a Sugar Land resident, inside
a vehicle parked between two medians on Palm Royale Boulevard of an
apparent self-inflicted wound to the head."

"Baxter was dead at the scene and the sole occupant of the vehicle."

Sugar Land Police Sgt Truman Body told assembled reporters that the
discovery of Baxter's body happened during a "routine patrol. It's my
understanding that a deputy had seen (Baxter's) vehicle a few minutes
earlier and through his routine patrol had doubled back to see if he
could offer any assistance."

Even a  cursory examination of the facts reveals that very little of this
is true.

We uncovered this startling fact: Baxter's body had not been found by the
Sugar Land police, as they have been insisting...

And rather than being "dead at the scene" when authorities 'found' him,
Clifford Baxter had been still alive.

"Tell us one more time: which one of you found the body?"

S. H. "Hal" Werlein is the Constable for the county precinct encompassing
the posh Sweetwater development where Baxter lived. The Constable's
Office functions much like County Sheriffs' in many parts of the country,
he explained.

Contrary to the statements of the Sugar Land Police Department,  it was
not two Sugar Land police officers but one of Hal Werlein's Deputy
Constables who discovered the former Enron executive slumped behind the
wheel of his new Mercedes sedan, parked just inside the Sweetwater
development where Baxter and his family lived, in much the poshest part
of town.

"Our Constable's office has a contract deputy program which provides
private security guards for the Sweetwater homeowner's association, and
it was one of these men who discovered Mr. Baxter," Werlein told us.

"The report I got from my Deputy Constable there on the scene stated he
had come upon a Mercedes sitting parked in a turnout. He became
suspicious and  approached the vehicle, where he found Baxter still
alive. He then immediately called for EMT's (Emergency Medical

Why such critical discrepancies about the most crucial of details? We've
all watched enough TV cop shows to grill detectives with a simple
question that usually calls for a yes or no answer...

"Was the victim alive when you found him?"

On the day we visited the crime scene, there were no gawkers at the
turnout on Palm Royale Boulevard. But there is, nearby, a security kiosk
that has a sign across the front reading 'Constable Precinct Four.'

"I don't know why the Sugar Land Police Department is saying they found
Baxter, because it isn't true," continued Constable Werlein. "My Deputy
Constable found him."

Confronted with Constable Werlein's statement, Sugar Land Police
spokesperson Patricia Whitty admitted that Werlein was correct. The
police statement contained inaccuracies, she stated. But she offered no
explanation for how or why these critical errors or mis-statements had
occurred, nor why they hadn't been corrected earlier.

"Trust us. We're really really sure that he took his own life."

There was one thing the Sugar Land Police Department was absolutely sure
of:  Baxter was a "definite suicide," which they had already proclaimed
by 10:00 that morning.

Sugar Land police spokesmen didn't know the caliber of the gun, were
unsure of the make of the car, or if a bullet was found, or where the gun
was. But--and thank god!--they DID know that there were "no apparent
signs of foul play."

The police captain in charge of the immediate investigation concluded
that it was clear Baxter had taken his own life. He then ordered Baxter's
corpse taken to a local mortuary without an autopsy.

Incredulous, Cliff Baxter's family then reportedly called on a local
judge, who  intervened with a counter order insisting that the body
instead be taken to the county morgue for an official autopsy.

When the results of the autopsy were released last Thursday Clifford
Baxter became the second American so far this year to perish through
'suicide by zit.'

These days, explanations for mysterious suicides can apparently be found
as needed, as close at hand as the nearest medicine cabinet.

Take for example the lead from the Associated Press report on the Cliff
Baxter autopsy, calling attention to the fact that the former Enron Corp.
executive had taken "a pain reliever, an anti-depressant and a sleeping
aid" before "he shot himself to death after the company's collapse."

If you parse this sentence a bit-looking for a hint of an official
explanation for the death of the most important witness in what some are
calling the biggest scandal since Watergate-you end up with some pretty
twisted pretzel logic.

No mention in the AP story about the possibility Baxter may have been
murdered to prevent him from divulging incriminating information to
Congressional committees investigating the Enron scandal, even though one
such committee had been negotiating a deal with Baxter's lawyer's to get
him to testify on the very day he 'killed' himself.

This is probably just coincidence.

"A pain reliever, an anti-depressant and a sleeping aid"

All things considered, this sounds like a pretty typical day in Mayberry
circa 2002. But maybe the AP is intimating that under certain
circumstances-like just before testifying to Congress, for example-mixing
Prozac and Advil can lead abruptly and with no warning to a heavenly
choir serenading you with the final chorus to "Goodbye Cruel World."

This sounds like logic that could have been conceived, in point of fact,
by the very same people who brought us the word of Tampa teen Charles'
Bishops' acne-induced self-immolation.

"Suicide by Zit."

If it had been our last night in town before heading out for that Great
Roundup in the Sky, we don't think that just before falling on our sword
we would be making sure that we'd taken all our evening pills.

 Instead we might 'ingest' a little Jack Daniels to steel our nerve, or a
few shots of Stolichnaya to ward off the chill of cold gunmetal pressing
against our clammy forehead.

Because one thing we are not going to need, on this final night, is a
sleeping pill. Taking a sleeping pill just before committing suicide only
makes sense if you're going to have trouble nodding off even in the
Afterlife... It's redundant, right?

"You're already covered on that front."

In the wake of September 11th we think they need to run some kind of
disclaimer before the news. At least warn viewers of sticky wickets up

"You are entering the Twilight Zone."

 The 'news' of Baxter's List came hard on the heels of new developments
in the other currently-suspicious suicide, that of the Kamikazie Kid
pilot in Tampa.

Charles Bishop, the first American suicide bomber in history, committed
the only authentic terrorist attack in America since 9/11. Yet
authorities have still offered no explanation for his bizarre attack.

They were however forced to admit that young Charles Bishop showed no
traces of accutane, the previously little-known acne medication with
recently discovered suicide-inducing properties.

Clearly a steep price must be paid for a clear complexion in America

Or a clear conscience.

Was this misdirection? Disinformation?

Regardless, it helped forestall any closer examination of whether this
15-year-old boy-whose father is a mysterious half-Lebanese half-Sicilian
organized crime figure from Boston-might have overheard anything he
shouldn't have.

Instead, the young pilot was adjudged to be troubled, but not a
terrorist, a strange conclusion to reach about someone who has just flown
a plane into a skyscraper at 160 miles per hour.

Authorities seemed unconcerned that something similar had--and just

"Nothing to see here. Move along."

"Unconcerned" is also a good way to describe Texas law enforcement
officials after the Enron Scandal had claimed its first victim, even
though Cliff Baxter was an insider who was fixin' to talk.

Little wonder then that today even the relatively non-paranoid are
entertaining suspicions that  when they make the movie of  the Cliff
Baxter story, it won't play like a Lifetime Original about 'a Dad who
couldn't cope,' but like a high tech spy thriller:

"The Sugarland Sanction." 

Like "Chinatown," only set in Texas.

Whatever the ultimate truth of how he came to die in the middle of a
chilly late January night in Texas, the most immediate consequence of
Cliff Baxter's death is that Americans are now going to learn a lot less
about the Enron Scandal than if Baxter had managed to hang around long
enough to enter Witness Protection and get fitted for a bulletproof vest.

Baxter was talking of needing a bodyguard just 36 hours before he
committed suicide.

And here we thought you only need a bodyguard when you're trying to stay

Despite the blasť approach of the home-town Houston Chronicle to the
shocking death of the most important witness in the biggest scandal since
Watergate few in Houston we spoke to believe the former Enron Vice
Chairman took his own life.

After going, decisively, off the record, one long-time friend of Baxter's
explained it to us this way:

"What if, for example, they had 'gotten to' John Dean before his
testimony before the Watergate Committee made him a world-wide

"I'll tell you what would have happened. Nothing. The 'cancer on the
Presidency' gets covered with a big gauze bandage, and we'd have all been
none the wiser."

"Nobody would have seriously investigated the suicide of an obscure
mid-level Nixon staffer said to be despondent over having been called to
testify about misconduct in the Oval Office."

If you're talking cost-effective damage control, its hard to beat

At the Houston Yacht Club, where Baxter had taken to virtually living
aboard his 72-foot yacht Tranquility Base, one club executive told us:

"Cliff Baxter was not a person who I could ever believe would kill
himself. He had boundless energy, a positive attitude, and everything to
live for: a wife, kids, and the time and money to enjoy them. He was
anxiously awaiting, for example, the delivery of his sleek new boat,
which he was going to call Tranquility Base II."

This yacht club skipper, a man with relatively extensive business
dealings with  Cliff Baxter, stared for a long time at the slate-gray
water of Galveston Bay on a dreary February afternoon. Then he

"Maybe Cliff  just knew too much," he said. "That's what everyone around
here thinks, anyway."

An incredibly explosive political murder-if that's what it was-would seem
to be the very definition of Hard Ball.' You would think it would be the
the ideal topic for a special edition of the show of the same name.


It seems as if Mr. Matthews, along with most of his brethren in the
mainstream press, find themselves otherwise engaged.

What's going on right now in Houston Texas may eventually come to be seen
as the most blatant media clampdown since the death of Vince Foster.

Last word goes to Lily Tomlin, who said it best:

"No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up."

Daniel Hopsicker is the author of Barry & 'the boys:
The CIA, the Mob and America's Secret History.

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