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The bullet hole that should have shaken Washington
Posted By Jack Cashill On 05/10/2004 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
Editor’s note: This column is the ninth segment of a new 11-part exclusive WorldNetDaily series excerpted from Jack Cashill’s shocking new book, “Ron Brown’s Body.” “At the end of day,” says Cashill who began the project a skeptic, “it is not irresponsible to talk about murder.” Today, Cashill shows why there is no innocent explanation for what happened to Ron Brown.
On Easter Sunday, 1996 – four days after the crash of Ron Brown’s plane – Chief Petty Officer Kathleen Janoski and her colleagues at the AFIP (Armed Forces Institute of Pathology) went to work at the huge mortuary of the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Janoski was the chief of the photography team. She can still picture Brown on the table in front of her. For all the savagery of the crash, the body was fully intact. Janoski could see the chemical burns to Brown’s torso and face and the lacerations on the front and sides of his head as well as on the top, but none of these injuries, she believed, would have been lethal.
Janoski at the White House
Janoski proceeded to test the exposure system on her Nikon F4. By some providential stroke, she did so by shooting Brown’s X rays, which were posted on the light box. When ready, she mounted a stepladder and began to photograph the body starting at the head. She had scarcely begun when she saw something that took her breath away.
“Look at the hole in Brown’s head,” she exclaimed. “It looks like a bullet hole.”
Col. William Gormley, the pathologist examining Brown, instinctively shushed her, but a buzz quickly ran through the room. U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Hause left his examining table to take a look. “Sure enough,” he remembers saying, “It looks like a gunshot wound to me, too.” He would later add that the wound “looked like a punched-out .45-caliber entrance hole.”
Gormley consulted with the other pathologists present, and they all agreed it looked like “an entrance gunshot wound.” Yet despite this consensus, Col. Gormley did not do the obvious. He did not call in the FBI. He did not inform the Brown family or ask permission for an autopsy. Nor did he take the opportunity to look for an exit wound or test for gunshot residue.
These oversights perplexed Janoski at the time, but she was hardly in a position to challenge Gormley. The next day, April 8, when Lt. Col. Steve Cogswell, a doctor and deputy medical examiner, arrived at St. John’s Peak in Croatia, Col. Gormley called with a request. He wanted Cogswell to look for an object that might have punched a “.45 [inch] inwardly beveling, perfectly circular hole in the top of [Brown's] head.”
“Open him up,” Cogswell told Gormley. “This man needs an autopsy. This whole thing stinks.” As they both knew, what Gormley described sounded like a wound from a .45 caliber weapon. Even more suspicious, Brown was the only person on the plane with a hole in his head.
On the scene in Croatia, Cogswell dutifully searched for a rod or bolt that might have caused the hole. Those that were appropriately round he measured and had photographed. None matched the hole.
Back at Dover, the AFIP crew got another shock that Monday, April 8. The man responsible for the Cilipi Airport’s navigation system, maintenance chief Niko Jerkuic, had been found with a bullet hole in the chest two days before the Air Force was to question him. The New York Times would report that a “failed romance” had left the 46-year-old bachelor despondent. Janoski and her colleagues had seen enough suicides to know that the chest was an unlikely place for an individual to deposit a fatal bullet.
Some time later, Janoski was standing in the hallway of the AFIP annex, talking to a Naval criminal investigator when Col. Gormley happened by. As was her habit, Janoski started ribbing Gormley about the hole, and he, flustered, stuttered out some vague response and kept on walking. After Gormley passed, the investigator volunteered an extraordinary bit of information.
“Did you know the first set of Brown’s head X-rays were destroyed?” she said conspiratorially. When Janoski asked why, the investigator confided that they showed a “lead snowstorm” – the pattern of metal fragments one might see after a gunshot wound. The investigator then offered another stunning tidbit: “They took a second set of X rays and made them deliberately less dense.”
Janoski found the conversation unnerving. Immediately afterward, she went back to her office to see if she could find the 35 mm color slides of Brown’s X-rays she had casually taken at Dover to help calibrate her camera. Eureka!
Janoski got hold of the one person she most trusted at the AFIP, Lt. Col Steve Cogswell. He put the images in his projector and flashed them up on the wall. There it was. Even in a photo of the X-ray, they could see the “lead snowstorm.” Always careful, Cogswell did not claim that these whitish specks in the front of Brown’s skull were bullet fragments. But they certainly deserved more attention than they had gotten.
Later, Janoski went to the AFIP library and pulled Brown’s X-rays. When she laid them out, she came to still another unnerving realization: the head X-rays were missing, even the “less dense” X-rays that had been discussed.
No word of the hole in Ron Brown’s head had yet reached the media. Janoski did not feel like she was in a position to say anything, and the culture of the military did not at all encourage whistle-blowing.
For his part, Cogswell took a more active role. In charge of training for the AFIP, he had added the Ron Brown case to a slide-show he presented at professional conferences. He called the presentation, “Mistakes and Failures in Forensic Pathology.”
Brown’s was one among many cases Cogswell featured. But Brown’s was the most provocative, the one that would eventually catch the attention of the media and cost Cogswell, Janoski and two other honest AFIP officers their careers.
Tomorrow: Part 10
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