When Viktor Gunnarsson, a leading suspect in the assassination of Sweden's statsminister Olof Palme, was himself assassinated on, its seems, the night of December 3, 1993, only his murderer or murderers, and people working with them knew it had happened, and that his body had been disposed of in a very inaccessible place, Deep Gap, 110 miles away on an access road off U.S. Route 421, outside Boone, North Carolina. For the rest of the world, Gunnarsson had simply disappeared from where he lived in Salisbury.
For the people who murdered Gunnarsson, this limbo became almost immediately intolerable since it risked his body not being found soon enough to convict anyone of the crime - what would just compound the problems surrounding Palme's unsolved assassination. Börje Wingren had recently given cause for a wide variety of people wanting to kill Gunnarsson by writing Han Sköt Olof Palme, claiming that Gunnarsson had confessed to the killing in Stockholm. With Gunnarsson simply disappearing, though, the book, instead of putting the finishing touches on Palme's demise, would merely inflame conspiracy theories about the whole affair.
The plan to blame Gunnarsson's murder on former Salisbury policeman L. C. Underwood also hit an unexpected snag because he had an alibi for where he was when it apparently occurred. According to the sworn testimony of Rick Hillard and Shirley Scott at Underwood's trial, he was at home with Scott at 11:40 p.m. on the night of December 3rd, and he was still there when she left 45 minutes later. (Testimony, Vol. 1, p. 45) It would have taken Underwood another 15 minutes to go to Gunnarsson's apartment; some time to subdue the considerably bigger man, tie him up with tape, and bundle him silently out of the second-floor complex into his car; and drive two hours to Deep Gap where Gunnarsson was executed, and hide the body after another difficult struggle.
Around this time, beleaguered Bill Clinton was beginning to gain some respite from all his difficulties in the White House, especially those surrounding Vince Foster's suicide. Chief of the former Arkansas Governor's security BuddyYoung coerced the state troopers threatening to tell all about Clinton's immoral and illegal activites - especially in light of Luther 'Jerry' Parks's murder in September - into shutting up. David Hale, whose Small Business Administration loan to Clinton cronies Susan and Jim McDougal had permitted them to go ahead with the grandiose Castle Grande development, was indicted on September 23rd for making three false statements about it. Roger Altman, acting head of the Resolution Trust Corporation which was appointed to clean up the whole S and L scandal, alerted the White House of the referrals affecting the Clintons, and presided over their handling on October 14th in a way which least hurt them. (For details about all this, see James B. Stewart, Blood Sport, p. 168ff.)
Moreover, Clinton's bold approach for dealing with his enemies, - where nothing was ruled out, even murder - was beginning to have unexpected dividends. CIA's interest in getting rid of Gunnarsson stirred the Swedish police investigating Palme's assassination to question former officer, and friend of Gunnarsson's Bror Perä about their activities in the months leading up to the statsminister's shooting, what resulted in his committing suicide. Five days after Palme's killing, Penä had told friend Lars Lundberg, after he had been questioned by Danish police about the Stockholm shooting, that he had been involved. Up until then, investigation of this Nazi group had been left to the Swedish Security Service, Säpo, whose liberties with Palme's security, especially with Britain's MI5, had led to his undoing.
On August 15th, Jon Parnell Walker, a Resolution Trust Corporation investigator looking into the Clintons' involvement in the operation of Jim McDougal's bankrupt Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan, jumped or was pushed to his death from the balcony of his Arlington, Va. apartment. The RTC criminal referral in the Madison Guaranty case from the Kansas City office to the Justice Department in Washington had dropped the previous year's language that their involvement might mean something more than their being simply potential witnesses - what leaks to important reporters in the press about its mere existence resulted in the Justice Department's Criminal Divsion even dropping a criminal investigation of it in late October.
Then there was another suicíde when Gunnarsson's murder was being set up to take place - what greatly deflated all the conspiracy theories about Vince Foster's death. During the Clintons' pursuit of the White House, they attracted the attention of the Edward E. Willey, Jrs., the wife of whom became famous for her claims of groping by the President in the Oval Office after the Monica Lewinsky story broke. The husband was the son of a famous Virginia state politician who hoped to parlay funds he made in the S and L bonanza into an important appointed post. Of course, when the Clintons surfaced as real comers in the process, the Willeys latched on to them, even flying out specially to Little Rock after Clinton was elected President to celebrate.
The only trouble with Ed Willey was that he could not play the game successfully. While he had all the right connections and many political positions to exploit, he, unlike Slick Willie, just went further and further in debt - what he tried to hide by borrowing from his friends and insurance policies, withholding rent payments in return for alleged legal services, and ultimately just stealing $255,000 from a client in a Richmond civil works project. Perhaps, the most embarrassing debt Willey incurred was the $52,000 loan from well-known Randolph Cosby, Sr. - what was only repaid because of action by the executors of his estate, and at the expense of a life insurance policy.
While the pattern reminds one of the Clintons in the State House in LIttle Rock, and at the Rose Law Firm, they at least had considerable sums coming in, and they did not live anywhere near as high on the hog as the Willeys - what the truly rich Smith Bagleys were able to afford. Elizabeth Frawley Bagley was shortly thereafter appointed US Ambassador to Portugal, a position like Kathleen Willey truly wanted.
When Willey's clients cheated out of their quarter million brought a suit against him before the Virginia Bar Association's disciplinary committee to disbar him, he decided to kill himself since his life was in ruins. By doing so, his worthless estate would be worth $350,000, and he would not have to suffer the indignity of disbarment. Earlier on the day Willey shot himself, his wife Kathleen had the appointment with Clinton in the Oval Office to convert her volunteer service at the White House Social Office into a permanent, paying position. Once it resulted in a commitment to a post in the White House Counsel's Office - what the groping charge was intended to cover up - Ed shot himself outside Richmond.
By showing that suicides, and S and L problems were not the difficulties solely of the Clintons, America's secret government was encouraged to take greater risks in the Gunnarsson debacle. The Oval Office and the CIA could not afford to wait for the possible discovery of his body. Perhaps, it would be chewed up by various carnivores beyond recognition It might well be spring before it was found, and by that time, any chance of connecting the murder to Underwood would have been lost.
North Carolina is a state, though, in which appeals of murder convictions would allow the probative introduction of nearly identical crimes, provided they apparently were committed by the same weapons, in the same manner, in the same time frame, and by the same suspect or suspects. It was, consequently, essential that a similar murder be conducted immediately, and that Gunnarsson's body be found shortly.
The recognition of taking advantage of this circumstantial pathway in the law in the botched Gunnarsson murder almost immediately surfaced. The killing was botched since no killers in their right mind would try to set someone up when he clearly had an alibi, and then compound the problem by disposing of the body in such a faraway, inaccessible place that the chances of finding it soon were practically nil.
It was only found five weeks later by state highway worker Jeff Winkler when he was making his rounds on January 7, 1994. The killers should have made it fairly obvious that foul play had occurred at Gunnarsson's apartment, and fairly quickly that Underwood had done it by disposing of the body nearby in a rather crude manner. The only unexpected thing about his apartment was that he was nowhere to be seen.
The killers showed their greatest unease over the matter when three men were seen by Kay Weden outside Gunnarson's apartment at 10 p.m. on December 5th. She was concerned about his whereabouts, and well-being, and she thought one of them might be Gunnarsson as he was wearing his brown leather jacket, though she was too far away to be sure. Inexplicably, she then withdrew without making sure or contact, though she did observe them leaving in a car, and without informing the police of possibly finding the missing Gunnarsson. (Trial, Vol. I, p. 169)
The day before, Clara Sowers and her daughter Mary Ann saw, it seems, Gunnarsson and his friend Wolfgang Nailing returning in an SUV from the area where the body was ultimately discovered, though before they could make positive identification of Gunnarsson, he had somehow disappeared from the now parked vehicle, leaving in his place, though, signs of blood, tape like Gunnarsson had been bound with, and a gun.
It seems most apparent that the killers had been in the process of retrieving Gunnarsson's gold watch which had been left in the apartment when he was bumdled out of it naked from the shower, and putting it on the corpse to make sure that he could be positively identified when found.
On December 9th, there was a surreptious entry of the home of Kay Weden's mother, Catherine Miller, and she was executed in gangland style with two .38 caliber bullets shot into her head at close range. There was a feeble attempt to make the murder look like the result of a robbery, with plastic cards from her wallet scattered nearby, but nothing of value had been stolen from her residence. Mrs Miller's deceased husband had owned a lucrative hardware store in Salisbury, and all his property had been willed to his wife. Kay Weden was the sole beneficiary in her mother's will.
The Miller killing recalled what the Mafia-infested Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) - whose president Arthur Coia had been so instrumental in securing Clinton's election (For more, see my article in the Archive about why old Democrats dread the publishing of his memoirs.) - did to squealers, and to hitmen who messed up their silencing, provided that it is put in the proper national security context. The Gunnarsson and Miller murders seem to have been ones Clinton helped arrange for the Agency's sake and his own.
The precedent for them was provided in 1983 when the head of LIUNA's Local # l in Chicago Vincent Solano arranged the murder of Ken Eto for fear that he might squeal about all its illegal operations. Two hitmen, consequently, shot him three times in the head, but Eto somehow managed to survive, resulting in his doing what Solano only suspected and feared. Five months later, the hitmen were slowly tortured to death, "a warning to other mobsters not to flab their assignments." The killers of Gunnarsson and Miller showed that they needed no reminding to do their duty but they tailored the latter one too much to suit Underwood's apparent capability, using, it seems, his .38 caliber pistol after he had turned it in when resigning from the force in November.
Actually, Gunnarsson was killed because he was threatening more than ever to squeal about the Stockholm shooting, thanks to Börje Wingren's libelling him. The morning of his murder, he had taken friend Daniel Johansson to the Charlotte Airport for his flight back to the Swedish capital, and by the time Johansson left, he had gotten an earful of what Gunnarsson planned to do with those who would make him a scapegoat for a world-threatening murder, or put words in his mouth. His killers had no doubt about what he was up to - putting him bound, gagged, and naked in the trunk of a car for a two-hour drive to his site of execution, where it was carried out by dragging him up to 50-foot high ridge, shooting him twice around the head, and dumping him down the deep gap. It was far more terrifying than most state-sponsored executions.
Mrs. Miller's murder, of course, had a tonic effect upon Kay Weden too. Right after it occurred, she told Rowan County Sheriff's officers that she was the one who was upset over the breakup with Underwood when she saw him with another woman a few days later; that an officer of the State Bureau of Investigation, Mike Culnan, tried to get her to implicate Underwood in some trouble at her house the previous March; that it was Underwood's friend, Danny Hilliard, who had caused most of the trouble when she had had dinner with David Sumner in November; that the last time she and Underwood talked before the murder "...ended up on good terms"; and that she "...does not believe L. C. Underwood killed her mother." (Case No.: 1-93-003336 ROWAN COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE, Witness Statement, 12-09-93)
Salisbury Post Jonathan Weaver still wrote a most provocative article about Underwood for that day's edition, volunteering that he claimed that he hadn't killed Mrs. Miller though no one had asked him if he had. Mrs. Weden told Weaver that she was concerned that Gunnarsson had not called, as they were planning to find a tree together to celebrate the Christmas holidays, and that relatives in Sweden had called because they had not heard from him for a few days since Johansson's return. "I felt," Weden told Weaver, "that if something happened (to Gunnarsson), it was connected to L. C."
By the time Gunnarsson's body was found five weeks later, Mrs. Weden, increasingly afraid that she would be suspected of the murder which finally solved all her financial problems unless another suspect quickly surfaced, completely changed her story. In a series of articles in the Salisbury Post, mostly written by Weaver, she volunteered that the connection between Gunnarsson's murder and her mother's was L. C. Underwood. Then she added to her statement about getting jealous with Underwood when she saw him with another woman at Spencer's Restaurant on December 6th that before her friends had arrived, he had told her that her mother "...had ruined their relationship and that he wished something would happen to Miller so Weden would know what he felt." (No. CO A98-648: State of North Carolina v. Lamont Claxton Underwood)
Then the attempt by SBI officer Culnan to set up Underwood in some kind of plot at Weden's house the previous March because someone was sending her anonymous, threatening letters, and damaging its garage doors was made out to be all her ex-lover's conniving: "L. C. had convinced me that there was a conspiracy to get him off the police force, to fire him, and for some reason that I never understood that the SBI had it in for him." (Jonathan Weaver "A body found...," Salisbury Post, January 7, 1994)
In fact, by the end of January, claims of Underwood's murderous activity had become so commonplace that the Watauga County Sheriff's Department, led by Sgt. Paula Townsend, put together a 10 and 1/2-page affidavit dealing with them - what resulted in the issuance of a warrant to search his house which was unprecedentedly published in the newspaper. On February 1st, while Underwood was away, his house was searched by a team led by SBI detective Don Gale, and its most important find were lengths of electrical tape, attached to the water line behind the washer and dryer, which were consistent with those which had bound up Gunnarsson's body. Apparently, Underwood, to avoid suspicion in Gunnarsson's murder, had hidden the tape in a most awkward way behind the appliances rather than simply dump it in the trash.
With his murder being firmly fixed on suspect Underwood - and one can just imagine the discomfort and fear he felt for having apparently committed such hateful murders in the community - CIA finally moved to arrest its Rick Ames for spying for the Soviets. During the past four months, the joint CIA-FBI mole hunt had come up with all kinds of new evidence of his spying, but had been unable to catch him passing it on to the Russians, or being paid for it, though it was not for want of trying. Efforts to catch him servicing dead letter drops, and meeting Soviet handlers always failed because of some unexpected slipup or mishap, not all of its own doing. Ames seems to have known that he was under the most intense surveillance.
The only disturbing new evidence it had found was the torn-up note in Ames's trash on October 6th, indicating that he, for some inexplicable reason, had been working not only with the KGB but also with the Russian Federal Ministry for Security (MBRF), the primary organization conducting counter intelligence investigations in the USSR. The Bureau seemed to think that the Soviet system was like the American one, with only the MBRF having a role in domestic counter intelligence cases.
Actually, the KGB's Directorate K was concerned with counter intelligence, as was dramatically demonstrated when it was rewarded profusely after the Stockholm shooting was not chalked up at Moscow's expense. (David Wise, Nightmover; p. 327, n.) When the FBI shortly learned of this oversight, it so pursued the Agency for more spies, resulting in Brian Kelly being placed on permanent leave on suspicion of spying, and helping the Bureau's spy, Robert Hanssen, escape disclosure for another eight years.
During February, the American intelligence community's leadership played cat-and-mouse with Ames in a way to crush him as best it could, while making President Clinton come out smelling like roses. (For details, see, e.g., Wise, p. 248ff.) With NSA Tony Lake now briefing Clinton daily on the state of the spy's exposure and capture, though the President, of course, did not know the individual's name to show that it apparently had neither a political nor a political motive, the CIA prepared Ames for his scheduled visit to Turkey, Romania, and the USSR where he would consult with his Russian handlers about how to deal with the growing narcotics trade at a drug conference, while the joint mole hunt closed in on him.
To fire Ames's hopes and ambitions, it was even suggested that he would brief the President himself on his mission, but it was reduced to several agents, including Ames but without revealing what he was, briefing various senior members of the NSC about what was in the works, insuring that the Preisdent was still insulated from what was going on. "Lake," Wise added, "approved the bogus briefing, which took place at CIA headquarters." (p. 250) In addition to the bogus briefing, DCI Woolsey made it seem that Ames would definitely be going to Moscow - what threw the molehunters into a panic until deputy CI chief Paul Redmond gave the thumbs-up for Ames's immediate arrest. This correctly occurred on President's Day, the federal holiday on February 21, the day before his scheduled departure.
The whole process had worked like a charm, with the biggest troublemakers disposed of in various ways, the President coming out of the crisis without a scratch, and the Agency finally showing some get-up-and-go when it came to its problems, especially internal ones. The lesson would be well learned by Prime Minister Tony Blair when he had to dispose of a similar troublemaker, Dr. David Kelly, turning all the dirty bits over to Campbell, Powell, Scarlett, and Dearlove when the time came, though President George W. Bush characteristically made a bit of a hash of the bit with Ambassador Joe Wilson and agent Valerie Plame when his time came.
Still, the CIA and the President had much left to do in the Ames case, as we shall see in subsequent articles.