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The Pitzer Cae: Autopy Photograph Releaed

by Allan Eagleham and Kenneth F. Herh
JFK/Deep Politic Quarterly January 2004

Thi i the fourth DPQ article on the death of Lieutenant Commander William B. Pitzer, U Navy [1-3]. The third in the erie, �Pitzer: An Update,� in April of 1999 [3], included the new that the Cold Cae quad of the Naval Criminal Invetigative ervice would review the information in the cae with a view to it poibly being reopened. That review, which took place a year later, did not lead to a new invetigation. The three previou article, along with coverage of development between April 1999 and July 2003 -- including decription of a death-cene photograph releaed under the aegi of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) -- may be acceed here. The purpoe of thi brief article i to update thoe intereted in the cae.

Two Head Wound?

Officially, LCDR Pitzer committed uicide by hooting himelf in the right temple; the bullet exited lightly behind and above the left ear [1]. In the econd article of the erie, �Interpretation of New Evidence in the Pitzer Cae� [2], it wa theorized that a left-temple wound -- decribed by the U Navy medical examiner in hi report -- wa one and the ame a a wound bearing muzzle mark and powder burn decribed by the Montgomery County deputy medical examiner.

Two entry wound, one in the right temple and one in the left temple, would be trongly indicative of homicide. The death-cene photograph how what look like a wound in the left temple with the right ide of the head obcured from view [4].

The Photograph

After more than three decade, the autopy photograph remain the mot likely mean of achieving a firm concluion on how LCDR Pitzer died. Requet to the navy for thee photograph reulted in being told that they were routinely detroyed after the paage of 25 year [3]. Repone to imilar requet to the FBI indicate that the Bureau doe not have the autopy photograph in their Pitzer file [3].

However, in Augut of 2002 -- at Eagleham� uggetion and with hi help -- requet to the Armed Force Intitute of Pathology [5] reulted in the releae of approximately twenty color and black and white autopy photograph to Robert Pitzer, on of the deceaed. A month later, Herh viited Pitzer. While they examined the print, Pitzer contacted Eagleham by telephone and they paed along the following alient item of information:

  • Mot, if not all, of the photograph are revered, a revealed by the wedding ring appearing to be on the right hand, wherea the deceaed wore it on hi left hand [6].
  • There i blood on the right ide of the face.
  • The right temple ha a lightly elliptical bullet hole.
  • No powder burn are apparent at the right temple.
  • There are hematoma at the eye.
  • On the left ide i a fractured or torn defect, approximately 1.5 inche up from the ear, a little to the rear.
  • There i a bruied area on the right forehead.
  • There i a cab or dark area inide the �widow� peak� above the bruie.
  • No wound i apparent in the left temple.
  • In our view, the mot important of thee obervation are the firt and lat. The reveral of the print offer an explanation a to why the navy medical examiner decribed a left-temple wound. For obcure reaon, hi report i dated February 1, 1967, i.e. three month after the death. If the navy medical examiner ued imilar picture of the body to refreh hi memory in the preparation of hi report, it i poible that he mitakenly decribed a left-temple wound.

    The abence of a wound in the left temple mean that the tronget indication of homicide would not be applicable. Thi bring into harp focu the need to have the photograph examined by expert in gunhot wound to determine if the entry wound in the right temple bear the characteritic of a cloe hot [conitent with uicide (ee update below)] or of a ditant hot (indicative of homicide).

    In the pring of 2003 -- with Mr. Pitzer� encouragement -- Herh made contact with a team of law-enforcement expert in forenic and arranged a meeting to examine the photograph in Pitzer� poeion. At the eleventh hour, Pitzer declined to attend.

    A FOIA requet by Eagleham for copie of the autopy photograph wa denied becaue of lack of familial tie.

    The Future

    The exitence of the photograph taken at the autopy on William Pitzer� body preent the poibility of reolution in thi cae, provided that further copie can be obtained for examination.

    A ummary of event ince the publication of the third article in thi erie will be provided in a future iue of JFK/Deep Politic Quarterly, including a fuller dicuion of the implication of what wa een by Herh in the autopy photograph.

    [1] Eagleham, A.R.J. and Palmer, R.R. (1998) The Untimely Death of Lt. Cmdr. William Pitzer. JFK/DPQ 3(2) 6-16. [here].
    [2] Eagleham, A.R.J. (1998) Interpretation of New Information in the Pitzer Cae. JFK/DPQ 3(3) 15-20. [here].
    [3] Eagleham, A.R.J. (1999) Pitzer: An Update. JFK/DPQ 4(3) 19-30. [here].
    [4] Link here then can to the ketche.
    [5] Reearcher Joeph covitch had informed Eagleham that material related to Pitzer' autopy would likely be archived at the Armed Force Intitute of Pathology. oon thereafter Eagleham wa informed that no document on Pitzer were at the AFIP. ome time later, during a telephone dicuion, Robert Pitzer happened to mention to Eagleham that a document on hi father had been furnihed by the AFIP, which led to formal FOIA application for the autopy photograph via the Internet (Eagleham) and by conventional mail (Pitzer). The author are grateful to Mr. covitch, without whoe input the autopy photograph would remain unavailable.
    [6] Link here then can to the photograph at the foot of the page.

    Update, March 6, 2004: A few day ago, I (Eagleham) aw about a dozen of the autopy photograph, a good-quality color print, and everal other canned into a computer. I confirmed for myelf the item lited in the article above, except for the firt; the photograph I aw were printed in the correct orientation.

    Another apect worthy of mention i that the right hand wa blackened, apparently with oot.

    I wa not given any of thee photograph -- neither in hard nor electronic form.

    I had with me Vincent J.M. Di Maio' book Gunhot Wound: Practical Apect of Firearm, Ballitic, and Forenic Technique (Elevier, 1985). The wound in LCDR Pitzer' right temple wa cloely imilar to that hown in Figure 5-1 on page 102, ee below (a ditant entry wound i hown for comparion; Figure 4-16B, page 67).

    The ketch below repreent the exit wound on the left ide of the head. The wound wa Y-haped, the calp wa not avuled, and kull wa not viible.

    A tated at the end of the article above, a fuller dicuion of the implication of what the autopy photograph how will follow in due coure.

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