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July 2000 - April 2003

BACKGROUND: Efforts to have the case reopened, detailed in Pitzer:An Update (published April 1999), resulted in Special Agent David M. DiPaola, Death Investigations Squad Leader at the Naval Criminal Investigations Service making a commitment (in August 1998) that documentation for the Pitzer case would be sought and reviewed by their Cold Case Squad.

July 2000

An e-mail from Special Agent DiPaola, dated July 21, 2000, was as follows:

Copies of the autopsy report that were obtained by the NCIS from the JAG Office and from the FBI had no accompanying face sheets or photographs. One photograph, taken at the scene (mentioned in Pitzer: An Update), was obtained from the JAG Office.

There follows an e-mail exchange with SA DiPaola that took place on July 11:

AE "...the single critical issue is: does the photograph show a wound in the left temple that bears muzzle marks and powder burns? If it does, then, in my opinion, you are obliged to reopen the investigation."

DDP "...Most disappointing is the perspective of the photograph taken from about 3 to 4 feet above floor level and about 5 to 6 feet away from Pitzer's head. It does show what appears to be blood on the left side of the head from the area of the described exit wound, but it was not taken close enough to display sufficient detail of the wound to the left side of the head."

AE "Please clarify: the wound to the left side of the head, is it slightly behind the ear or in the temple area forward of the ear?"

Mr. DiPaola did not respond to this question; the next e-mail received from him, 10 days later, was that shown above.

My request to view the photograph was refused by Mr. DiPaola on jurisdictional grounds. Because the photograph belongs to the Office of the JAG of the Navy, a decision on its further dissemination would be their bailiwick. My FOIA request for a copy of this photograph was denied about eighteen months ago.

On July 29, I sent a request to the Office of the Judge Advocate General, as follows:

"...I continue to try to understand the circumstances of LCDR Pitzer's death, and realize that you cannot release a copy of the photograph to me because I have no familial ties with the deceased.

The purpose of this letter is to seek your approval for my visiting your office so that I may simply view the photograph in question."


I received a telephone call on August 16 from the JAG Office to the effect that release of a copy of the photograph and "eyes only" viewing are, by law, equal. Therefore, the request to see the photograph was denied.


Special Agent David DiPaola telephoned on October 4 in response to my e-mailed request for a copy of the report on the reexamination of the available documents on the Pitzer case. We talked for an hour and twenty minutes and discussed many aspects of the case.

There is no official report because the request for the document-review came from Mr. DiPaola--an interoffice request--not from me.

SA DiPaola said that the absence of autopsy photographs makes it impossible to precisely interpret and reconcile the verbal descriptions of Montgomery County Medical Examiner (ME) and of the Navy ME with the autopsy report. Likewise, without autopsy photographs, it is impossible to interpret the defect in the left temple of the skull bone that is described in the autopsy report. It is possible that the MEs were in error in their descriptions of a wound in the left temple with powder burns and muzzle marks. The autopsy report should be given much more weight. The autopsy report did not describe a wound in the left temple, therefore it is likely that no such wound was there and the MEs were mistaken (*footnote). The only available photograph taken at the scene was too far from the body to be useful; he was unable to determine whether or not there was a wound in the left temple.

I asked Mr. DiPaola if he could offer an explanation for the fact that the large defect in the skull bone at the left temple, which is described in the autopsy report, appeared to have no corresponding lesion in the overlying skin or the underlying brain. He stated that the pathologists may have had an explanation but were negligent in not expressing it in the autopsy report. Again, if photographs of the defect were available, a plausible explanation may be deduced.

He agreed that there are inconsistencies in the available information, but then there are discrepancies and inconsistencies in most cases.

He feels that the suggestions that Lt. Cmdr. Pitzer was depressed and having personal problems should be given weight. Pitzers uncharacteristically unkempt appearance, described by one witness shortly before the shooting, may indicate acute depression. However, he made plain that the review carried out by the NCIS did not permit any conclusion about the manner of death.

Mr. DiPaola opined that it is surprising that the FBI do not have photographs and a face sheet in conjunction with the autopsy report. He had hopes also that the Bureau would have possession of the report on the NIS investigation. If FOIA requests had been submitted in 1990 or early 1991, i.e. within 25 years of William Pitzers death, there would have been a full record at the USN archives. The Pitzer files were routinely destroyed after 25 years had passed; however, that ruling has been rescinded and records are now preserved for 75 years.

I thanked Special Agent DiPaola for his time, for sharing his insight, and for having provided the possibility of a new investigation of the death of William B. Pitzer.

Summary: Without the autopsy photographs, or photographs taken at the scene showing significant detail, the necessary heartbeat is missing that would lead the NCIS to reopen the case.


*It is noteworthy, however, that in the twelve FINDINGS OF FACT (1-4 5-9 10-12) that constitute the body of the US Navys Report of the Informal Board of Investigation into Lt. Cmdr. Pitzers death (dated 13 February 2000), weight is given to the opinion of the Montgomery County Deputy Medical examiner in Item 10: That John G. Ball, M.D., examined LCDR Pitzers remains at about 2330, 29 October 1966, and that on 2 November 1966, Doctor Ball advised NIS agents it was his professional opinion that the cause of death was suicide by gunshot, the brain having been lacerated by a bullet.

It is reasonable to deduce that Dr. Balls opinion was based on the muzzle marks and powder burns that he observed on the left side of the head.

The only reference in the FINDINGS OF FACT to the postmorten examination is in Item 9, simply: That an autopsy was performed on 30 October 1966, at the Naval Hospital, Maryland, which disclosed the cause of death to be a gunshot wound in the head.



Requests under the Freedom of Information Act were made to the FBI (for the results of the finger-print tests tests on the revolver and cartridges) and to the US Navy (for documents generated during the review by the Cold Case Squad of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service).


Board Certified Forensic Examiner Wayne N. Hill, Sr., very kindly agreed to read the FBI and USN documents that contain the autopsy report, aspects pertaining to ballistics, and statements made by the autopsy doctors and the medical examiners. He also read the JFK/DPQ articles.

In a telephone conversation on December 5, he described the material as fascinating, and stated that the story has all the makings of a conspiracy. However, in the absence of photographs, he made the point strongly that it is impossible to connect the dots.

Because the powder charge in the .38 S&W cartridge would have been just a little over 50% of that in a .38 Special cartridge, it may explain why there was no tattooing around the wound in the right temple. He said also that the .38 S&W could have been used so as to make as little noise as possible. He wonders whether the FBI tests (showing that the revolver had to have been held at a distance of at least three feet) were rigorously done with exactly the right cartridge type.

The .38 S&W cartridge was obsolete in 1966, and would have been difficult to obtain from a gunshop.

He finds the description of the left temple wound in the autopsy report strange. The fact that the defect was comminuted shows that it was fresh - not a congenital defect of the skull, for example.

Without photographs taken at the scene and at the autopsy, the statements by the autopsy doctors and medical examiners are open to interpretation. Although he thus cautioned against taking their words literally, he confirmed the validity of my interpretation that the left-temple defect described in the autopsy report is the same as the left-temple wound described by the US Navy Medical Examiner and the same as the wound bearing muzzle marks and tattooing described by the Montgomery Count Deputy Medical Examiner, although other interpretations are possible.


In response to a request to the National Personal Records Center seeking information on Lt. Cmdr. Pitzer's closed-circuit television work during the year 1963/64, on December 18 I received the following (part of a form letter) signed by Ms. Earlean Jarmon, Archives Technician:

"The veteran's military record was removed from the file area in order to respond to a prior inquiry. Although we have conducted an extensive search, we have not been able to locate the record. We will continue to do all that is possible to locate the information. The file area has been marked and upon locating the record, a copy will be furnished to your constituent as expeditiously as possible."

In view of the references to "veteran" and "constituent," I telephoned Ms. Jarmon to verify that this letter was not intended for someone else. Indeed, the Pitzer records are unavailable, and she was unable to say if they are lost or have been misfiled. I will call her again in two months or so.

January 2001

A request under the Freedom of Information Act was made to the FBI for details of the "muzzle-to-cloth" test, the results of which indicated that the revolver found by William Pitzer's body would have had to have been held at least 3 feet away to preclude powder tattooing around the entry wound in the right forehead.


On a business trip to Washington, DC, I took the opportunity to visit Arlington National Cemetery.


A letter was received from John M. Kelso, Jr. (Chief of the Freedom of Information - Privacy Acts Section at the FBI) in response to a FOIA request submitted in January 2001 for details of the "muzzle-to-cloth" test, as described above.

Mr. Kelso's letter reads as follows:

This is in response to your most recent letters... for additional information relating to the death of William Bruce Pitzer.

To date, all information that is available for release has been provided to you under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

I trust this information will asssist you in this matter.

Sincerely yours, etc.

The obvious thought: what information is held by the FBI that is unavailable for release?


In response to my FOIA request to the US Navy for documents generated during the review by the Cold Case Squad of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (see 'November' above) I received a large package from Commander R.J. Tuider at the Office of the Judge Advocate General. However, I was disappointed to find that the package contained the materials that Robin Palmer and I had sent to the navy in March of 1998 (detailed in Pitzer: An Update). I appealed the lack of response to the initial request.


In response to a telephone voice mail message and a fax, Ms. Earlean Jarmon (at the National Personnel Record Center, St. Louis, MO; see 'December' above) telephoned and said that she would examine the files to determine if Lieutenat Commander Pitzer's records had turned up. As of July 13, I have heard nothing further from her.


A request was submitted to the FBI a year ago for the full results of the fingerprint tests, including the results of examination of the revolver, the cartridge case in the revolver, the round in the revolver, the blank in the revolver, the envelope that contained three blanks, the eye glasses, four notebook pages, and a pencil. I also requested a copy of the photograph of the partial heel print found at the scene.

Another letter was received from John M. Kelso, Jr. (see 'April' above) as follows:

This is in response to your most recent request dated July 14, 2000 requesting a copy of the latent fingerprints and heel prints relating to the death of William Bruce Pitzer...

To date, all information that is available for release has been provided to you under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

I trust this information will asssist you in this matter.

Sincerely yours, etc.

I think I am getting the message.


A second follow-up request was made to the Office of the Judge Advocate General for release (under the provision of the Freedom of Information Act) of files generated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service during the recent review of documents pertaining to the investigation of the death of William Pitzer. Previous requests for these files are mentioned above under April 2001 and December 2000.


I called Ms. Earlean Jarmon at the National Personnel Records Center (see May and December, above). She said that my recent faxes are filed, and her reason for not getting back to me is that the Pitzer records are still missing.

Intervening Period: Crime-scene photograph obtained.

I first made contact with Robert Bruce Pitzer, son of Lt. Cmdr. William Bruce Pitzer, in June of 2000, and suggested that he attempt to obtain possession of the photograph taken at the scene by means of a FOIA request. (My request under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act for a copy of this photograph had been denied on the basis that I have no familial ties with the deceased. A formal request to view the photograph at the JAG Office was similarly denied.) Eventually Mr. Pitzer did obtain a copy of the photograph, and, subsequently, I received a copy of it from him.

The monochrome photograph is an 8x10, a poor-quality scan of rather poor definition and excessive contrast. The camera was about 3' from the floor and about 6' from the body, the left side of which is towards the camera; it is visible to the upper thigh. He is lying on his stomach with the right hand just visible at the hips. The left arm is flexed with the hand close to, and possibly touching, the mouth. The left side of the face is visible to the left nostril. The left shoulder obscures the lower part of the cheek to the lower part of the left earlobe. The upper part of the head, from approximately the ear-hole, is under a step-ladder. Blood is spattered on the upper surface, and is smeared on the vertical surface, of the lowest step of the ladder. The head is right-side down in a large pool of blood. Blood is spattered on the floor between the body and the camera. Blood is oozing from two contiguous dark oval areas in the left temple, each approximately half-an-inch in the shorter dimension; one narrow trickle of blood passes over the left cheek onto the upper lip and is then obscured by the left hand, the other narrow trickle of blood from the left temple goes over the left eyebrow, onto the nose and then is obscured by shadow. Immediately above these marks, from above the left ear to the forehead is a broad tract of blood; also there is a broad tract of blood behind the left ear. The origin of these broad tracts is not visible because of the curve of the head, but presumably they come from the exit wound, stated in the autopsy report as being in the hair above and behind the left ear. There are small spots and irregular black marks on the left cheek and left ear, which could be powder burns -- but that is totally speculative given the quality of the print.

I regret that I am not at liberty to show the photograph on the Net or make copies. Interested parties can see it in Ithaca, NY, if they contact me beforehand [aeaglesh@twcny.rr.com].

Through the agency of my friend Robin Palmer, I took the photograph to Herbert L. MacDonnell, Professor of Criminalistics and Director of the Laboratory of Forensic Science, Corning, NY. Professor MacDonnell examined it closely along with an enlargement I had made of the head area. He was not surprised when told that the subject had been found to have committed suicide. However, he was surprised when I said that, officially, he had committed suicide by shooting himself in the right temple. Without prompting of any kind from me, Professor MacDonell had concluded from his viewing of the photograph and the enlargement that there was a bullet wound in the left temple.

William Pitzer was killed by a non-contact, possibly distant, shot to the right temple, with exit behind and above the left ear, A-B. The Navy Medical Examiner described a bullet wound in the left temple, in his report. The Deputy Montgomery County medical Examiner described a bullet wound with muzzle marks and powder burns apparently on the left side of the face. This sketch synthesizes these findings.
April 2002

Special Agent David M. DiPaola of the Naval Investigative Service (see, for example, the entry for July 2000) kindly agreed to see me in his office at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, MD. I wanted to discuss the photograph with him, and to inform him of Professor MacDonnell's opinion.

SA DiPaola stated that Professor MacDonnell is not justified in his opinion that the photograph shows a bullet wound in the left temple -- it could be pooled blood from the parietal exit wound.

SA DiPaola gave me three and a half hours of his time. He continues to feel that the available information is consistent with suicide and that, absent autopsy photographs, everything else is open to interpretation.

I agree with him inasmuch as elements of doubt will remain without the autopsy photographs. Efforts to obtain them continue.

[See March 2004 below re release of the autopsy photographs.]

June 2002

I faxed Ms. Earlean Jarmon at the military records center in St. Louis, MO, to provide my new address and stated: "Please let me know at your early convenience on the status of LCDR Pitzer's file..." [The Pitzer file at the records center has been missing since before December 2000 (see above). Ms. Jarmon has not responded (June 2003); presumably the file has not surfaced.]

April 2003

Page 211 of William F. Pepper's book An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King (Verso, London & New York, ©2003) has the following passage:

"After Orders to Kill was published, I received a call from Colonel Dan Marvin, a former Green Beret, who said that when he was at Fort Bragg, he was approached and asked to carry out an assassination of an American citizen with sensitive materials in the United States. He refused, saying that he had never signed on for that work inside the US. Marvin said he was a sniper and had no hesitation in plying his trade on foreign soil, but he drew the line when asked to kill Americans in the US. He knows another professional was approached and that the target died of an unexplained not long after."

Cover of An Act of State
The "target" in question was clearly LCDR Pitzer (see Interpretations of New Evidence in the Pitzer Case and scan down to the section titled "Dangerous Dan").

Robin Palmer and I wrote to Dr. Pepper about this, and I sent him two e-mails asking where the "unexplained heart attack" information originated. In a two-sentence e-mailed response he said that his recollection is that Dan Marvin was the source. When asked, in a post on the JFKresearch Forum, if he had told Dr. Pepper that Pitzer had died of a heart attack, Marvin wrote, "I sure didn't." I e-mailed Dr. Pepper on April 5 to ask that he check his source notes; he did not respond.

Allow me to spell it out: The information in the above-quoted passage -- from An Act of State -- is erroneous. William Pitzer did not die of a heart attack.

March 2004

The above discussion of a left-temple wound is now moot. The autopsy photographs, released under a FOIA request submitted to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, show NO WOUND IN THE LEFT TEMPLE.

For a description of the photographs, click here.

Portrait of William B. Pitzer

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