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Cracks Open In Baxter Case
By Reed Irvine and Cliff Kincaid
May 23, 2002

Some major cracks have opened in the case of Cliff Baxter, the former Enron executive who allegedly killed himself. Our suspicions about his suicide note have been confirmed by Dan Nagao, a long-time friend of Baxterís who got letters from him every Christmas. He tells us the letters were always written in longhand. He canít see Baxter printing a suicide note in block letters. An even more important discovery is evidence suggesting that Baxter had ingested so much Ambien, a potent, hypnotic sleeping tablet, that he could not have committed suicide because he would have been incapable of driving his car. The police say he drove it to the spot where his body was found.

Baxter picked up a prescription for 30 tablets of Ambien two days before he was found in his car with a gunshot wound in his head. The instructions were to take no more than one tablet a day, but five were missing from the bottle instead of only two. We surmise that he took one tablet on the first day, but on the night of his death he ingested the other four, not all of his own volition. Those taking Ambien are told to go to bed after taking only one tablet and are warned not to drive. Doctor Ron Graeser, a forensic pathologist who is familiar with Ambien, says that if Baxter took four tablets he could not have driven his car anywhere.

We are forced to speculate that he took four because the Report of Analysis released by the office of the Harris County chief medical examiner, Joye Carter, shows that Ambien was present in his blood and stomach, but it does not give the quantities. If it did, it would be possible to determine how many he took and if he was too heavily drugged to have driven his car.

Doctor Carter called Baxterís death a suicide before the toxicology report was completed. We have talked to her and others on her staff, trying to find out if they failed to calculate the quantities or if they just neglected reporting them. The chief toxicologist who signed the report said the calculations were not done, but a technician who also signed it said, "I believe we did. I thought that we did." When told that the report did not include quantities for Ambien, she said that was probably because it had already been determined to be a gunshot suicide. She said they donít normally look for drugs in those cases, but if they do, they donít always give the quantities because it isnít necessary.

When we told her the quantity might prove that it was not a suicide, she replied, "Thatís probably the reason we didnít quantitate it." A very revealing slip of the tongue! Her boss, Joye Carter, would have been embarrassed if the report had proved that her suicide ruling was wrong.

Those familiar with her record would not be surprised if the numbers were omitted to avoid that. Harris County had paid dearly to settle a suit for wrongful dismissal filed by an employee fired by Carter because she had reported cases of suppression and destruction of evidence. We have asked the county commissioners to have the blood analyzed for the quantity of Ambien and the police to rigorously check the evidence of forgery of the suicide note. They may find that Baxter was murdered.

Reed Irvine can be reached at ri@aim.org