What Happened in the Fort Marcy Parking Lot?

post by Unknowns · 2012-12-27T19:42:13.647Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 3 comments

On July 20, 1993, deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster was found dead at Fort Marcy Park in Virginia. Various investigations concluded that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, entering through the mouth. Leaving his death aside for the present, it is interesting to consider the evidence and testimony concerning the cars in the parking lot that afternoon.

Note that Foster's car was a gray 1989 four-door Honda Accord LX with Arkansas license plates RCN-504.

According to Ken Starr’s report, “Between about 2:45 and 3:05 p.m., a citizen driving outbound on GW Parkway saw ‘a dark metallic grey, Japanese sedan’ occupied by a single, white male abruptly enter Fort Marcy Park.”

According to the FBI, this witness “once again reiterated the fact that the license plate he observed had the name of the state located in the lower right hand corner of the plate, further stating that since the Arkansas plate has, in bold letters, the name of the state at the top of the plate, he would have clearly remembered the identification of the state... [The car he saw was] definitely not [the one in the] photo of car [he was] exhibited. The license plate [was] definitely not the same.”

Patrick Knowlton said that at 4:30 PM he saw a “rust brown colored car with Arkansas plates” in the Fort Marcy parking lot. He said that there was a man who “looked like he had an agenda” in the car. When the FBI shoed Knowlton photos of Foster’s Honda, Knowlton said that it was not the car he had seen, specifying that he had seen a brown car rather than a gray one such as Foster’s, and that he thought the car was approximately five years older than Foster’s 1989 vehicle. When the FBI had him select the color of the car from a panel of colors, he picked out a brown color offered by Honda only in the years 1983 and 1984.

A couple drove into the Fort Marcy Parking lot at about 5:00 PM and remained in their car, a white four-door 1992 Nissan with Maryland plates, until about 5:30 or 5:45, when they left the lot and entered the woods. They told the FBI that “the only vehicle in the parking area was a relatively old (mid-1980’s) Honda, possibly a Honda Accord.” The FBI interview notes indicate that they described it as a “tannish/dark color”, as “a small station wagon or hatchback model, brownish in color”, and also as a “brown car.” They also reported that there were two men in and around the car, one man in the driver’s seat and the other outside, having put the hood up.

The Park Police interview of the couple describes the car as the “deceased’s vehicle.” When the woman was shown her Park Police interview, the woman told the FBI that it did not accurately reflect what she had said about the cars in the parking lot.

Another witness, the man who officially discovered Foster’s body at about 5:45 PM, “described this vehicle as a compact Japanese made sedan, color possibly light blue or tan...” in his first FBI interview. In his second interview he described it “as light tan or light brown Japanese vehicle which could have been a Nissan, Toyota, or possibly a Honda.” When shown photographs of Foster’s Honda, he told the FBI he did not recognize it. Later he described the vehicle under oath as “light brown or cream colored Japanese made car,” and as “brown or cream colored”.

Another witness arrived perhaps around 6:00 PM, her blue Mercedes having broken down on the George Washington Parkway and stopped on the exit ramp to Fort Marcy. There is some confusion about how she described the vehicle. According to the handwritten notes of her Park Police interview on August 5, 1993, she said that it was “a lighter gray or silver.” However, she told a reporter, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard that it was “tannish brown,” and when Evans-Pritchard said “Are you sure?” she responded, “Oh yes, quite sure.”

Two Fairfax County Fire and Rescue department vehicles arrived at 6:10 PM, with the Park Police arriving immediately afterwards. The “Narrative Report” from the lead paramedic stated, “As we entered the park (Fort Marcy) we passed a light blue Mercedes w/its hazards on. No occupant in view. Went further up into the park and saw two other vehicles. Brwn Honda AR Tags. And a white Nissan w/MD tags. No other people in the area. We split our crews...”

The second Park Police officer to arrive said that “A gray/brown Nissan 4dr with Arkansas Registration RCN504 was parked in the 4th space from the front of the parking lot.”

The FBI interview of one paramedic said that “upon arriving at Fort Marcy Park, noticed an unoccupied brown car with the engine running in the parking lot. He noted that the car was not parked in a space.” He did not remember whether the car was still there when the paramedics left at 6:37 PM.

According to the interview of another emergency worker, “Upon entering Fort Marcy Park, recalls seeing one car in the parking area with its hazard lights on. Remembers that the engine was running, noting that the car was unoccupied.”

Still another paramedic interview said “Car (red?) with hazard lights in park... Red [?] car gone when he left.”

The Park Police shift commander who came into the parking lot at about 6:25 PM made a note about a vehicle in the lot, “Engine warm on vehicle.”

The report written by a Park Police investigator arriving about 6:35 PM reports the presence of “a 1989 gray Honda Accord, 4 door, with Arkansas license plates RCN-504.”

A number of the Fairfax Country Fire and Rescue Department personnel said that the Honda in the parking lot was found locked when they examined it, sometime before 6:35 PM.  The official Reports indicate that the Honda was found unlocked over an hour later when it was officially searched. There is no record of a discovery of the car keys in the intervening period; no keys had been found when the body was first searched.

So what exactly happened in the Fort Marcy parking lot that afternoon of July 20, 1993?



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comment by tim · 2012-12-27T20:49:37.123Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is the purpose of this post just to present a case study on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony? I don't think there is any way for less wrong to actually answer the question as posed.

comment by TimS · 2012-12-27T19:55:01.804Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Context for non-Americans. Foster was a senior aide in the Clinton administration. His suicide is considered evidence of something by political opponents.

Essentially, an object lesson that Politics is the Mindkiller.

comment by Manfred · 2012-12-27T21:23:36.485Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If people only dig into the eyewitness testimony when they think there's a conspiracy, does that result in a bunch of people who think the normal state of eyewitness testimony is evidence of a conspiracy? Seems like an example of positive bias (not looking for similar cases where the eyewitness testimony should be consistent).