On the night of 18/19 July 1969, twelve people attended a no-spouces party (Meyer Macon Morehouse et al.) on Chappaquid*censored*, a small island off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Two of the partygoers fell victim to a continuous deception. Mary Jo Kopechne who would have not lost her life but for the inexcusable misconduct of Ted Kennedy. The other partygoer, Senator Ted Kennedy, lost his chance of ever reaching the White House due to his web of lies.
Bobby Kennedy’s Presidential campaign had been ably assisted by the Boiler room girls. A team of young women who were completely dedicated to the Kennedy cause. They were: Mary Jo Kopechne, Rosemary Keough, Nance Lyons, Mary Ellen Lyons, Susan Tannenbaum and Ester Newburgh. More than just secretaries, the girls’ commitment made their role vital to the campaign. In June of 1968 Bobby was assassinated and grief overwhelmed the Kennedy family and the Boiler room girls. It had not even been five years since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Almost every summer, members of the Kennedy family had traveled to Martha’s Vineyard to participate in the Edgartown regatta. 1968 would to be an exception. Bobby’s murder was a massive blow to the family and those close to them, but in
particular to Ted. The Boiler room girls switched their attention to closing up Bobby’s files and his campaign office.
A keen sailor, Ted would participate in the regatta aboard a boat that once belonged to his brother Jack (McGinniss 534). Also participating was Ross Richard’s a personal friend of Ted’s (McGinniss 535), later to be an important witness in the Chappaquid*censored* plot. Robert Kennedy’s son, Joe, was also on the island.
As a thank-you for all their hard work on Bobby’s Presidential campaign, a party had been planned to which the Boiler room girls were invited. (Oppenheimer 375) The party was to be at a cottage, also known as the Lawrence cottage, a short distance from both the ferry landing and the bridge which would later prove to be important. The cottage had been rented from the Lawrence family by Ted’s cousin, Joe Gargan. (YTedK)
Kennedy himself arrived on Martha’s Vineyard at roughly 1:00 p.m. on Friday 18 July, 1969. He then took the ferry across to Chappaquid*censored* Island, chauffeured by Jack Crimmins. After racing his boat in the regatta, he returned to Chappaquid*censored* and went to the Lawrence cottage at about 7:00 p.m. By this time he had been driven over the Dike Bridge twice by Crimmins in Kennedy’s black Oldsmobile.
At about 8:00 p.m., Paul Markham arrived at the Cottage, followed roughly half an hour later by Mary Jo Kopechne and the rest of the partygoers in a rented white Valiant. (YTedK) Moderate, but not excessive drinking took place at the party. The Boiler room girls testified at the Inquest in 1970 that Mary Jo had not been drinking that night, and indeed was not a drinker. Ester Newburgh testified that Kopechne had been completely sober at the party and that: ? Mary Jo was not a drinker. Five or six drinks would have been completely out of order with the way she lived. And if a girl who didn’t drink had that much to drink you would certainly be able tell if she was more jovial than normal, and she was not. (YTedK) (Blood tests on Mary Jo’s body showed .09% of alcohol, equivalent to 5 or 6 80-90 proof drinks). (McGinniss 583)
At roughly 11:15 p.m. Kennedy mentioned to Kopechne that he planned to leave and return to his hotel in Edgartown. Mary Jo also wanted to return to her Edgartown hotel. Despite the fact that Crimmins drove Kennedy on practically every occasion (McGinniss 585), Kennedy asked Crimmins for the keys to the Olds to drive himself. Crimmins testified at the inquest that He told me that he was tired and that he wanted to home and go to sleep ? He told me that he was going to take Miss Kopechne back; that she wasn’t feeling well. (YTedK)
According to Kennedy and Crimmins, Kennedy and Mary Jo left the party in his car at 11:15 p.m. to head for the ferry crossing. In his official police statement, made on the morning of Saturday, July 19, Kennedy stated: I was driving my car on Main Street [also known also Chappaquid*censored* Road and Schoolhouse Road] on my way to get the ferry back to Edgartown. I was unfamiliar with the road and turned right onto Dike Road instead of bearing left on Main Street. After proceeding for approximately a half mile on Dike Road I descended a hill and came upon a narrow bridge. The car went off the side of the bridge ? (McGinniss 545) In his statement Kennedy then went on to describe how he could not remember getting out of the car, and how he made repeated rescue attempts to see if the passenger was still in the car. Unsuccessful in the attempts and exhausted from them, Kennedy then returned on foot to the Lawrence cottage.
In his police statement Kennedy also stated that There was a car parked in front of the cottage and I climbed into the back seat. I then asked for someone to bring me back to Edgartown. I remember walking around for a period of time and then going back to my hotel room. When I fully realized what happened this morning, I immediately contacted the police. (McGinniss 545)
In his TV statement directed at the voters of Massachusetts on July 25, Kennedy’s story had a new feature. The rescue attempt of Joe Gargan and Paul Markham: ? I walked back to the cottage where the party was being held, requested the help of two friends, Joe Gargan and Paul Markham, and directed them to return immediately to the scene with me (it then being sometime after midnight) in order to undertake a new effort to dive down and locate Miss Kopechne. Their strenuous efforts, undertaken at some risk to their own lives, also proved futile ? Instructing Gargan and Markham not to alarm Mary Jo’s friends that night, I had them take me to the ferry crossing. The ferry having shut down for the night, I suddenly jumped into the water and impulsively swam across, nearly drowning once again in the effort, returning to my hotel around 2:00 a.m. and collapsed in my room. I remember going out at one point and saying something to the room clerk. In the morning with my mind somewhat more lucid, I made an effort to call a family legal adviser, Burke Marshall, from a public telephone on the Chappaquid*censored* side of the ferry, and then belatedly reported the accident to the Martha’s Vineyard police. (Oppenheimer 592)
In these two statements there were many inconsistencies and impossibilities. First was Kennedy’s statement that he was unfamiliar with the road. Judge Boyle concluded in the inquest, however, Earlier on July 18, he [Kennedy] had been driven over Chappaquid*censored* Road three times, and over Dike Road and Dike Bridge twice. Kopechne had been driven over Chappaquid*censored* Road five times and over Dike Road and Dike Bridge twice. (YTedK)
It should be noted at this point that Chappaquid*censored* Road/Main Street was a asphalt road, and Dike Road a dirt road. Either Kennedy or Kopechne, given the number of times they had been driven over the roads and Bridge that day, would have recognized they were going the wrong way when they realized they were on a dirt road. At the inquest Kennedy testified that by the time he realized he was on a dirt road he had driven off the Bridge. At the speed Kennedy stated he was driving, 20 mph, this seemed unlikely.
Furthermore, there was no hill near the Bridge for Kennedy to have descended. Inconsistencies also arose in Kennedy’s account of Gargan and Markham’s rescue attempt. When Gargan and Markham returned to the cottage, at about 2:15-2:30am according to inquest testimony, no one appears to have noticed if their hair was wet or anything else unusual about them. They mentioned to no-one what had just happened, their understanding being that Kennedy would report the accident, and that they were
not to alarm the girls.
On their return to the cottage, according to the inquest testimony of Mary Ellen Lyons, Gargan and Markham told the girls that they had been down at the ferry slip looking for boats to get the party back to Edgartown. They said they were unable to find any, and that the group would have to stay on the island. Gargan told Lyons that Kennedy had swum across, and that he and Kopechne were now back at their own hotels, the Shiretown Inn, and the Katama Shores in Edgartown. The girls were not told about the accident until sometime after 9 am on the Saturday morning, and even then not of her death. All that was said was We can’t find Mary Jo. (YTedK)
After their failed rescue attempt, Kennedy told Gargan and Markham that he would take care of it which they took to mean he would report the accident. He then impulsively jumped into the water, fully clothed, wearing a back brace, and in the middle of the night, and swam 500 yards to Edgartown. (YTedK) With Ted being so exhausted after his rescue effort and possibly injured in the car accident, it seems unlikely that he could have swum so far in so short a time wearing a back brace. Kennedy arrived back at his hotel at around the same time Gargan and Markham arrived back after driving to the cottage which was hardly any distance from the ferry point.
On reaching his hotel, where no one saw him arrive, Kennedy testified that he went to his room, changed clothes and collapsed on his bed, exhausted. At 2:25 am, according to the office clock of Russell Peachey, (YTedK) the hotel manager, Kennedy had complained to him about noise from a party next to his room. Kennedy also asked the clerk what time it was because he was unable to locate his watch. (McGinniss 536)
In his inquest testimony, Kennedy had gone into detail about trying to reach doorknobs, feeling for an open window and even knowing that he was upside down in the car. Farrar noted that it would be very unlikely that Kennedy would have been so composed and have been able to locate the door handle. (YTedK) Damage to the car windshield conflicts significantly with Kennedy’s testimony about being in the car. At the inquest he said: There was complete blackness. Water seemed to rush in from every point, from the windshield, from underneath me, above me. The car windshield, though extremely cracked, still had safety film holding the glass in place, this made it impossible for water to come in through it. (YTedK) The precision in details that Ted had regarding the doorknobs seems questionable when he was incorrect with such an important aspect as the windshild.
It is also important to establish that when Kennedy asked Gargan and Markham for the rescue attempt, he did not state that he had been the driver. According to Gargan’s testimony, all Kennedy said was The car has gone off the Bridge down by the beach and Mary Jo is in it.
Stranger still is that there was no conversation between the three on the way to the Bridge, and that neither Gargan nor Markham appeared to have looked at Kennedy to see if he needed medical treatment. (When he had told Ray LaRosa to get Gargan and Markham, Kennedy was sitting in the back of a rented white Valiant, outside the Lawrence cottage). He remained in the back seat for the drive to the Bridge.
Many investigators have questioned whether the vast amount of damage to the car, including dented passenger doors, dented roof, bent steel roof bar, scratches on the hood, damage to the left rear view mirror and a cracked windscreen, could all have been caused by the car going off the bridge into the water. Author Kenneth Kappel said: ? There is a specific crease in the metal at the middle of the roof brim. That crease would require a direct downward localized force (some specific object) which simply could not have been created by entry into water. Because of the angle of the car’s entry into the water a direct localized downward force was impossible. The major point is that you can’t have both the bent roof bar and the deep side door dents from entry into water. (YTedK) The bottom of Poucha Pond was soft due to the fact it had been recently dredged, so this couldn’t have caused the roof damage either.
Kennedy stated he walked back to the Lawrence cottage to get Gargan and Markham to help. On his way back to the cottage Kennedy would have passed at least two buildings with lights on, Dyke House (the cottage leased by the Malms), and another house across Dike Road. Furthermore, the fire station was near the Lawrence cottage. Why wouldn’t Kennedy have stopped for help? Kennedy stated that he saw no lights on his walk back to the Lawrence cottage. These lights may have been an oversight due to a hastily-constructed cover-up story. As the brother of a President and an Attorney General, Kennedy had a reputation to uphold. He was and is ?a devoted and effective public servant?. (Adams and Crimp 180)
The testimonies of Sylvia Malm, Christopher Look, and Ross Richard’s also throw doubt on Kennedy’s time frame and whether he was even in the car. Sylvia Malm’s daughter had been reading in her bedroom under an open window on Friday July 19. The window faced directly towards the Bridge, and was roughly 200 yards away from it . At about 11:15-11:45 p.m. on the Friday night she had heard a car ‘going fairly fast’ on Dike Road, but nothing else. (YTedK) If a car had gone off that Bridge, Sylvia Malm’s daughter would have heard it. What of the possibility that the car went off the Bridge after Mrs. Malm’s daughter was asleep? Sheriff Christopher Huck Look’s testimony would seem to support this.
Look had been on duty at Edgartown Yacht Club on Friday night. Leaving the club at 12:25 on what was now Saturday morning he began to make his way home. Look had reached the intersection of Chappaquid*censored* Road, Dike Road and Schoolhouse Road. He estimated the time when he had arrived to be approximately 12:45 am. He then noticed a dark car coming towards him near the bend of the road and slowed down. The car passed directly in front of Look and drove into Cemetery Road, a dirt road. In his revealing hearing testimony Look said: There was a man driving, a woman in the front seat, and either another person or some clothing, a sweater, or a pocketbook in the back seat what appeared to be a shadow of some kind. (McGinniss 565) Look thought that the driver was lost and walked up to the car to offer help. The car reversed towards him, however, and drove off at speed down Dike Road. Look remembered the car’s Massachusetts number-plate as beginning with L7 and ending with another 7. (YTedK) This was Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s car. The same car he saw in Poucha Pond the next morning. What of Look’s strange testimony that there could have been another person in the back seat of the car? Either there was another person in there or there wasn’t. The vagueness of Look’s testimony was difficult to understand.
Look’s testimony, however, does undermine Ted Kennedy’s chronology, for at the time he saw Kennedy’s car it was supposed to have been on the bottom of Poucha Pond for over an hour. (YTedK) Ted Kennedy’s inquest testimony yet again throws doubt on the fact that he was driving the car:
Q. Did you at any time drive into Cemetery Road?
Kennedy: At no time did I drive into Cemetery Road.
Q. Did you back that car up at any time?
Kennedy: At no time did I back that car up. (YTedK)
So just who was driving the car? And was there another person in the back seat? We may never know the answer.
Ross Richard’s, who was also staying at the Shiretown Inn, had been talking to Kennedy on the morning of Saturday 20 July, the day after the accident. They chatted about sailing and Richard’s had observed nothing out-of-the ordinary about the Senator’s speech or appearance. Kennedy hadn’t mentioned the accident, said Leo Damore. Richard’s testified at the inquest that Gargan and Markham arrived looking damp though in an earlier police interview he had said they were soaking wet. Gargan and Markham then accompanied Kennedy to his room and Richard’s overheard loud voices. (McGinniss)
Many questions that will never be answered ultimately hold the truth to May Jo Kopechne’s death. Why were Gargan and Markham wet or even damp at this time? Why had Kennedy been chatting in a normal fashion with no mention of the accident until they arrived? Was this the first Kennedy had heard of the accident? Had Gargan and Markham only just carried out their desperate rescue attempt instead of the previous night? Why wasn’t an autopsy demanded?
If this was the case it would certainly explain a lot. For one thing, it would explain why Kennedy waited until 9:45 a.m. on Saturday to report the accident. Kennedy, Markham and Gargan left the Shiretown Inn to catch the ferry across to Chappaquid*censored*, where Kennedy spent a considerable amount of time on a pay-phone at the landing there. Ferry operator Dick Hewitt and his assistant Steve Ewing were concerned that Kennedy was unaware of the accident and decided to tell him. Jack Olsen said: They walked briskly up the inclined ramp and across thirty or forty feet to the shack, and as they approached, Kennedy seemed to sidle away from his companions and drift toward a line of parked cars. While the senator was still within earshot, Hewitt said loudly, Senator Kennedy, are you aware of the accident? Kennedy disappeared behind parked cars, but one of the other men said, Yes, we just heard about it. (McGinniss 540)
A lot of the questions which arise about the accident would have been answered if the original doctor, Dr. Mills, had requested an autopsy. Ordinarily he would have done, but on advice from the district attorney’s office he was told it wasn’t necessary. Even without an autopsy, however, the state of Mary Jo’s body gave clues about what happened that night. First of all, the embalming mortician, Eugene Frieh, had noticed
that there was very little water in Mary Jo’s lungs, far less than would be expected in a drowning case. Secondly, forensic tests carried out on Kopechne’s shirt showed a huge amount of blood all over the back of it, and inside the collar. Death by drowning produces some blood, but certainly nothing like that amount.
No injuries were apparent when Kopechne’s body was examined, but having been immersed in salt water for hours, they could certainly have healed. Kennedy had no visible injuries, and Chappaquid*censored* Police Chief Jim Arena noted: I found it hard to believe the Senator had been in a major automobile accident. His face bore no traces of any marks. He never appeared in any kind of physical discomfort, or in shock, or confused.? (McGinniss 544) Leo Damore notes that Kennedy’s family physician later diagnosed that Kennedy had suffered concussion, contusions and abrasion of the scalp and acute cervical strain.
No one except Ted Kennedy knows what really happened that night on Chappaquid*censored*. Kennedy has consistently refused to deviate from his official version in interviews. The effect of Chappaquid*censored* on his political aspirations has been devastating due to ?his stand that there was no new information which frd doubts in voters minds.? (Chellis 144) When he ran for the Presidency in 1980, Kennedy’s campaign was still dogged by Chappaquid*censored*. In a campaign address to the nation he responded to critics of his testimony by saying: My testimony is the only truth I can tell
because that is the way it happened. That is the way what happened? This is a statement which says everything and nothing.
In the light of this, and all of the evidence above indicating that Kennedy may well not have been in the car, Kennedy’s original police statement, When I fully realized what had happened this morning, I immediately contacted the police, seems far more realistic than his later elaborate TV statement with its elaborate rescue attempts, and repeated statements of guilt. As stated earlier it would have been unusual for Mary Jo to have had so much alcohol in her blood. The position in which Mary Jo was found in the car indicated to John Farrar, the diver who recovered her body, that she had in fact not drowned, but rather had suffocated in her own carbon dioxide when an air pocket ran out.
I believe that Ted Kennedy may wanted Miss Kopechne dead. Kennedy may have felt that she knew too much from her hard work during brother Bobby’s campaign or maybe she was pregnant. In the event that the truth is ever told, justice can never make up for a life of a young woman that was so cruelly taken away.
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Kunen, James S., Dirk Mathison, S. Avery Brown, Tom Nugent. ?Up Front: Frustrated Grand Jurors Say It Was No Accident Ted Kennedy Got Off Easy?, People, July 24, 1989, Nov 6, 00,
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