Pathologist, FBI go way back By Christopher Ruddy FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW Dr. James Beyer, 79, the pathologist at the center of the controversy involving young Tommy Burkett's death, also has played a pivotal role in the Foster case. Though Beyer is employed by the state of Virginia, new information indicates he has strong links with federal authorities, particularly the FBI. Authorities have assiduously asserted Foster's death to be a suicide, with primary evidence being Beyer's autopsy. Bureau officials may have good reason to back up Beyer's findings. For starters, Beyer has changed his story on significant aspects of the Foster case that could show the FBI played a greater role than admitted. In an interview Jan. 20, 1994 - just six months after Foster's death and before any real controversy arose concerning it - Beyer said that an FBI agent and a Secret Service agent, in addition to Park Police officers, were present when he conducted his autopsy on Foster. Yet the Park Police claim that only their officers were present, and Beyer has since recanted. The FBI has tried to distance itself from the handling of the initial death investigation by the Park Police, and has claimed FBI agents were not present at the autopsy or death scene. VIGOROUS SUPPORT Beyer's original recollection may also shed light on the lengths to which bureau officials have gone to absolve the Park Police of any wrongdoing. Since the controversy over the death, FBI agents have vigorously supported the suicide conclusion. FBI agents have also testified that the Park Police made no significant errors in their probe, though outside homicide experts have found many. Beyer stated emphatically in his unrehearsed interview in January 1994 that he had not ruled Foster's death a suicide, only that the death was "consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot." He said that in Virginia police authorities rule on the death. Beyer also stated he had never visited the death scene, did not review crime scene photos, and did not even know the caliber of the gun found in Foster's hand. Nor, he said, were any officers present who had been at the death scene; Pathologists usually like to ask police questions to see if the body's state is consistent with how it was found. (The Park Police also violated their own procedures by not having such an officer present.) The Park Police, and later Special Counsel Robert Fiske, relied heavily on Beyer's conclusions. During Senate hearings in 1994, Beyer again reversed his position 180 degrees, stating emphatically that he had ruled Foster's death a suicide. In an interview last week, Beyer again said FBI and Secret Service agents were not present at the autopsy. "I don't ever recall saying they were," he said. Beyer also backed off a bit from his 1994 Senate testimony, calling the determination of suicide a "combined decision" made by him and the Park Police. Asked how he could have reached that conclusion without the benefit of detectives who were at the scene, or photos of the scene, or even knowing the caliber of the gun at the time of the autopsy, he said he had several conversations with police after the death. Beyer also said the gun's caliber had "no bearing" on his autopsy. Other pathologists, including the former medical examiner of New York, Dr. Michael Baden, disagree, suggesting such information would be important for any determination. Another clue to understanding this puzzle of death may have been discovered by Miquel Rodriquez, former lead prosecutor on the Foster case under Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. Rodriguez resigned this year after his efforts to investigate the case were thwarted by higher-ups and FBI officials, the Tribune-Review has reported. Rodriguez discovered that Beyer, far from being just an impartial state pathologist, has a long association with the FBI and lectured for many years at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. Beyer confirmed that he has worked with the FBI for 10 years or more. He also has served as a consultant to the Pentagon. SELECTIVE AMNESIA Whether Beyer's connection with the bureau played a role in the FBI's handling of key cases is unclear, but the FBI's selective investigatory amnesia seems strange. In two recent cases - Foster's and the deaths of the two boys - the FBI has apparently made its own rules, even dismissing two credible autopsies that in the real world show evidence of murder. No matter, the press has shown little interest in the case. The FBI's secret investigations have now ended with secret reports. Likewise, in the Foster case, there has been no second autopsy. And key forensic evidence such as blond hairs and carpet fibers found all over Foster's clothing could have been from anywhere, one agent told a Senate committee. To explain the weird circumstances of Foster's death, the FBI has even suspended the laws of nature: inanimate carpet fibers "jumped" onto his clothing; "bouncing" eyeglasses came to be found 19 feet from where Foster's head lay; his "frictionless" shoes picked up not even a speck of soil or grass despite his supposed long walk in the park; and an "inverse gravity" allowed one stream of blood to flow uphill.
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