Documents Reveal Interference in Investigation of the Death of Journalist Danny Casolaro

Not Just Incompetence – Something Was Covered Up

When the DOJ examined the death of the journalist Danny Casolaro and dismissed it as a suicide, they overlooked important facts like the main person of interest lying about his alibi and downplayed others or presented them in a misleading light. One of the most straightforward examples of this is in their analysis of Danny Casolaro’s death, and the conclusion that it was a suicide with “no signs of struggle.” A review of the medical examiner’s report, the Bua Report and newly released documents reveals that in addition to several crucial discrepancies and facts that were overlooked, there was DOJ interference in the supposedly independent Bua Report and that the expert analysis was tainted.

The Immaculate Toxicology

The simplest and most straightforward problem with the report is apparent the total lack of alcohol in Danny Casolaro’s blood. This finding was important to the DOJ and the Martinsburg Police because the presence of alcohol in his blood would open the door to him being partially or fully incapacitated. Several of the reports mention explicitly that the blood alcohol content was 0.00% and the urine alcohol content was 0.04%. This is problematic given the presence of the open bottle of wine and the DOJ’s statement that Casolaro supposedly poured himself a glass before he “probably” killed himself. The bottle of wine was half empty, and there was an empty can of Milwaukee’s Best in the tub where his body was found. Despite this, the official reports all remain adamant that there was no alcohol in his system.

No Sign of Struggle?

When the official report described the scene of the bloody death scene and the broken glass it simultaneously concluded that there was no sign of any struggle.

Next to the bathtub, on the bathroom floor, there was a broken drinking glass and a half-full bottle of “Caves Alliance,” a Portuguese white wine. There was a bloody towel on the floor next to the tub. There were bloodstains on the tile around the tub, on the bathroom floor and on the toilet seat. Some bloody water had splattered across the small bathroom to the sink area.
. . .
There was no sign of any struggle having occurred inside the bathroom.

Additional signs of struggle were also discounted. The autopsy report notes numerous bruises and signs of contusions on Casolaro’s body. These are variously dismissed as taking place several days before his death or being post-mortem bruises, caused by the embalming process. Embalming is known to worsen bruises but does not necessarily cause them. However, the possibility that they were caused by embalming process takes on a larger significance in the light of newly released documents that show DOJ blocked criticism of the illegal embalming in the supposedly independent Bua Report.

DOJ Interference

As part of a Special Access Review (still ongoing), I received two boxes from John C. Dwyer’s archived files on the Inslaw matter. In addition to these files exposing the unexplainable inconsistencies (discussed in the article linked above), these files show the Department of Justice interfered with the supposedly independent Bua Report.

Supposedly Independent Bua

With many more boxes yet to be reviewed, it’s unclear how far the interference goes. However, one of the folders undeniably demonstrates the presence of DOJ interference in the supposedly independent Bua Report. The folder labeled “DOJ Report On Daniel J. Casolaro” contains, among other things, two partial drafts of the Bua Report. The drafts contain numerous handwritten notes and annotations, likely written either by John C. Dwyer or Steven Zipperstein neither of whom are listed as being on Bua’s team or contributing to the Bua Report. One of the most strenuous objections the DOJ had was to a passage that criticized the embalming and raised concerns about it.

Deleted Passage

The reviewer objected strongly to Bua and his team of six Assistant United States Attorneys raising concerns over this violation of the law and standard procedure (although it was also argued elsewhere that this violation of the law was actually standard procedure). Significantly, the concern of Bua’s team was one of the lines specifically underlined, with “NO!!” written next to it and underlined twice. The entire passage is missing from the final version of the Bua Report, which simply states that the embalming process did not have an “adverse impact” on the subsequent autopsy. This claim is unreliable in the light of the fact that the reports say the embalming process “may” have been responsible for the bruises found on Casolaro’s body.

In the draft version of the report? It said “severe impact” – but the DOJ reviewer objected.

The Tainted Blood Splatter Analysis

Returning to the finding of “no signs of struggle” by the Martinsburg Police and the Department of Justice, the Bua Report and DOJ files cite the expert opinion of Dr. Henry C. Lee who was “the Chief Criminalist at the Connecticut State Crime Laboratory and a nationally recognized blood spatter expert.” The Bua Report’s description of his analysis is quoted below (emphasis added).

Based on the pattern of the blood found in the bathroom, Dr. Lee theorized that Mr. Casolaro filled the tub with an amount of water; poured himself a drink of wine, and sat the glass on the side of the bathtub; sat down on the side of the bathtub; cut his wrists with the razor blade; and then sat inside the tub. Mr. Casolaro then probably got into the bathtub and placed one of the white hefty bags over his head as added insurance that he would die.

Dr. Lee theorized that Mr. Casolaro next submerged his wrists into the water and bled into the water for a few moments. According to Dr. Lee, he probably became extremely uncomfortable with the bag over his head and pulled it off, flinging bloody water across the floor and to the sink opposite the bathtub. Mr. Casolaro then attempted to stand up in the tub, bracing himself against the tile wall. By that time, however, he had lost too much blood.

According to Dr. Lee, he probably become woozy and slumped back into the tub, causing bloody water to slosh over the side of the tub and onto the bathroom floor. As he fell back down into the tub, Casolaro’s arm knocked the drinking glass onto the floor, where it broke. His right arm hung outside the tub as he slumped against the side of the tub. His head came to rest on the side of the tub.

Dr. Lee concluded that the blood spatter analysis he had conducted established that Casolaro’s death was “not inconsistent with a suicide.”

The Bua Report reveals, however, that the startling specificity of his analysis doesn’t come from blood splatter alone – he was provided with “a videotaped reenactment of the death the [Martinsburg] police had prepared with Dr. Frost’s assistance on December 12, 1991.” (emphasis added) This “reenactment” certainly tainted his analysis. Even with the best intentions, the “reenactment” was made over four months after Casolaro’s death – hardly while the details of the scene were fresh in the minds of the Deputy Medical Examiner and the police.

Concluding Thoughts

The mounting evidence of DOJ interference is hardly surprising given the formerly SECRET document from the FBI which stated that questioning the investigation or the finding of suicide was tantamount to risking one’s career. Documenting this interference is a small but significant step in understanding what really happened in Casolaro’s death and the Inslaw affair itself. So far, there is a great deal of evidence of a coverup relating to his death after it occurred, but very little evidence of a planned coverup. The working theory is that his death was intentional but unplanned, or at least uncoordinated. Alternatively, it was unintentional but the investigation into it had to be short-circuited in order to prevent a full investigation into the Inslaw affair. Whatever the purpose of the cover-up, however, it’s becoming increasingly undeniable that there was a cover-up.


The help this continued investigation and the release of additional documents, please consider signing the letter of support for the FOIA project on MuckRock. You can also read the cited documents below.


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