Your description of the injury required to create a stellate wound is
not entirely correct. In fact, a standard firearm, when pressed tight
to the skin, will produce a stellate rupture. This is because the skin
is burst outwards by the expanding gasses which follow the course of the
bird shot pellets, which you suggest as the actual projectile, would not
produce a stellate wound, and would instead cause multiple individual
puncture wounds instead.
By Thomas S. Mulligan and Miguel Bustillo
Times Staff Writers
Published July 5, 2006, 3:37 PM CDT
The death this morning of Enron Corp. founder Kenneth L. Lay ended his
pursuit of one of his last public goals: clearing his name of the fraud and
conspiracy charges of which a Houston jury convicted him six weeks ago.
"I firmly believe that I am innocent of the charges against me, as I have
said from day one," Lay said in a statement posted on his personal Internet
site after the May 25 verdict. He added: "I will continue to work diligently
with my legal team to prove that."
Legal experts said the appeal Lay was preparing was a long shot and that he
likely faced more than 20 years in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for
Lay was pronounced dead at 3:11 a.m. at an Aspen, Colorado hospital about
two hours after officers and an ambulance were dispatched to his home in Old
Snowmass for a "medical emergency," according to the Pitkin County Sheriff's
Department. A coroner's autopsy results were expected to be available later
Lay and his wife, Linda, who lived in Houston, were visiting Colorado for
the week when he died of a "massive coronary," according to a statement
issued by Pastor Steve Wende of First United Methodist Church of Houston and
reported by Associated Press.
A statement issued by family spokesman Kelly L. Kimberly said that "Ken Lay
passed away early this morning in Aspen. The Lays have a very large family
with whom they need to communicate. And out of respect for the family, we
will release further details at a later time."
The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment on Lay's death, leaving open
the question of whether sentencing will go forward as scheduled in October
for Lay's co-defendant, former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey K. Skilling.
The Justice Department said in a recent court filing that it planned to
pursue $43.5 million in assets from Lay to help compensate former Enron
employees and stockholders who lost millions of dollars in the energy
trading company's 2001 collapse.
During the trial, the usually outgoing and courtly Lay was expected to make
a more positive impression on jurors than Skilling. But on the witness
stand, a testy and impatient side of Lay emerged. He sparred vigorously with
federal prosecutor John C. Hueston and even showed flashes of irritation
under questioning by his own defense lawyer.
Two jurors said during a post-trial press conference that Lay's credibility
was damaged by evidence that he quietly sold $70 million of Enron stock back
to the company during 2001.
"That just defined the word 'intent' for many of us," said juror Doug
When the trial began in late January, many Houstonians said the city had
moved beyond the feelings of anger and betrayal that accompanied the
downfall of what had once been one of the city's biggest business success
But beneath the surface, hard feelings continued to fester, as shown by the
reaction of some callers to news radio KTRH 740 AM in Houston scant hours
after Lay's death. More than one caller expressed doubts that Lay really was
dead and wondered whether the reports of his demise weren't part of an
It was a tawdry send-off for a Missouri preacher's son who had long been
known as Houston's "go to guy" for important civic and philanthropic
Lay, more than any other individual, was credited as the driving force
behind the construction of Reliant Stadium, home to pro football's Houston
Texans, and of Minute Maid Park, home to baseball's Houston Astros. Minute
Maid Park is the current name of what originally was known as Enron Field.
Some of Lay's friends spoke out in his behalf this morning, hoping to remind
people of his contributions.
"Some people will say he was as guilty as sin and this was God's judgment,
but I for one will choose to remember the positive things about Mr. Lay,"
the Rev. William Lawson, founding pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in
Houston, said this morning.
Lawson, who had testified as a character witness for Lay during the trial,
said he had spoken to him last week.
"I think he internalized a lot of the grief," Lawson said. "He was a chin-up
type on the outside, but on the inside he was in a great deal of pain."
Enron's implosion was one of the most infamous corporate scandals in U.S.
history. The energy company's failure wiped out more than 4,000 jobs and
billions of dollars of stock market value. It also led to sweeping
regulations and legislation — particularly the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Law —
meant to curb corporate wrongdoing and restore confidence in companies'
Lay and Skilling became the targets of a massive crackdown on corporate
wrongdoing that also resulted in charges against executives of such
companies as WorldCom, Adelphia Communications, HealthSouth and Tyco
Government prosecutors said that Lay and Skilling lied publicly about the
energy company's financial health and condoned the use of accounting tricks
to boost reported earnings and to hide debt.
The jury rejected the defense that Lay and Skilling were unfairly targeted
by a government bent on making them the scapegoats for the company's
Lay's main defense was that, despite possessing a doctorate in economics, he
was a true figurehead in the last few years of his tenure. Skilling, a
former McKinsey & Co. consultant with a master's of business administration
degree from Harvard, took over as president and chief operating officer in
early 1997 and basically ran the company from then until his surprise
resignation Aug. 14, 2001, barely six months after he had become chief
Most of the charges against Lay stemmed from the period after Skilling
resigned and Lay had to resume the CEO's role. He was accused of lying on
several occasions, including a Sept. 26, 2001 online conference when Lay
assured Enron employees that "the third quarter is looking great. We will
hit our numbers."
He said this despite knowing that the company's finances were unraveling,
the government said.
Lay grew up poor, living for a time in a house in rural Missouri without
indoor plumbing. He earned a doctorate in economics, learned the ways of the
government during a spell at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and
began working in the heavily regulated world of natural gas pipelines.
Envisioning a deregulated natural gas industry in which the market would set
gas prices, Lay left government service in 1974 to work in the energy
industry. In 1984, Lay became head of Houston Natural Gas, which soon after
merged with Omaha-based InterNorth. The merged company was renamed Enron.
During Enron's peak in the late 1990s, Lay was heralded for transforming a
sleepy utility into a highly profitable energy trader. Enron climbed to No.
7 on the Fortune 500 list in 2000 and claimed $101 billion in annual
Charming and well liked, Lay was a popular figure in corporate and political
circles. Lay was close to former President George H.W. Bush and his son,
President Bush, who dubbed the executive "Kenny Boy."
"Just about everyone who met Lay for the first time liked him, from world
leaders to the ministers from Houston's poorest neighborhoods," Enron
whistle-blower Sherron S. Watkins wrote in a memoir. "The crowds parted for
him with something like awe, and he, in return, shook every hand and knew
every name, and business could proceed with a feeling of the very best
Times staff writers Jesus Sanchez and David Streitfeld and Times wire
services contributed to this story. Bustillo reported from Houston and
Mulligan from New York City.
The Sugar Land Sanction
"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
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
"A gunshot wound, a suicide note, and a revolver at his side."
A statement released by the Sugar Land Police Department that morning broke
"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
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
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 Technicians)."
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
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
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
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'