by Virginia McCullough


The death of investigative reporter Gary Webb on December 10, 2004 generated  hundreds of "murder conspiracy" articles on the Internet juxtaposed with articles critical of the treatment he received from the "legitimate" press.  Countless authors have offered myriad explanations of Gary Webb's demise.  The majority of these articles were well written and thoughtful and examined reporters' sources, the human psyche, motives for murder, the newspaper industry and law enforcement's determinations, among other matters.  Once writers made their own statements, they interrupted each other's conclusions and wrote once again about the tremendous loss they felt when Gary Webb died.

The deep respect fellow journalists felt for Gary Webb was inspired by his passionate desire to find the truth about a subject and his determination to tell that truth to his readers regardless of what that effort might cost him personally.  This was a man totally dedicated to his profession and a man who believed in his own professionalism.  He worked hard to get it right and that is exactly what made him dangerous to organized crime and corrupt government.

On December 27, 2004 author Charlene Fassa had published on the website Sightings her article entitled Was Gary Webb 'Suicided" To Kill New Book? (  In this tome Fassa references a McCullough article entitled Investigative Reporter Gary Webb - 1955-2004 RIP published by NewsMakingNews.Com on December 14, 2004 (Click. )  Ms. Fassa asks questions and advances speculation about Webb's death, in several sections of her article quoted below  followed by my comments.  Ms. Fassa wrote:

  Another gem mentioned in the McCullough piece is that Gary Webb was working on a book!  That's right a BOOK, according to Luis Gomez, a fellow investigative reporter associated with the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism.  Luis had worked with, learned from, and admired Gary.  Here's a quotation from his heartfelt eulogy to Webb, full text:

Chief Gary, pardon this digression, but did you finish that book you were working on?  I remember that a few months ago everything was up in the air while you looked for work, but when you wrote to me again for the last time, you were already a reporter again.  So I suppose that it is finished because a journalist does not leave work hanging, and you were one of the best that I've known, that I've read.  Now I hope it gets released, so that we can find out what you were doing these last few months because I really don't know, and that ignorance makes me cry, chief.

Fassa then asks:

  So where's the manuscript?  Why are the "confirmed suicide" mongers stridently asserting that Gary wasn't working on anything before he died?  Who benefits from this lie?  This begs the question if Gary was indeed working on a new book, what kind of book was it?  Well, we know he had evidence laying around about the CIA, the Contras, drug trafficking, etc.  I think we're safe in speculating this book probably would have been related to this subject matter in some way.

This type of speculation by Fassa is valid and it raises important questions.  Another researcher Lisa Pease had also heard that Gary Webb was working on an expose book about the Bush dynasty and she asked several authors about this possibility at Webb's memorial service.  This author, like many others, had not heard that rumor and was unable to verify it in any way.  But when Pease asked the question it opened up the possibility and became grounds for further research just as did the speculation raised by Fassa.

To help her answer this question, Fassa extends her hand to "my friends at the Liberty Lobby Forum".  She says the rumor mill is "churning hot and heavy" and at Liberty Forum, Webb's death was addressed with an attention-grabbing post: Did the Israelis Pay a Visit to Webb?"  Fassa continues:

  To summarize: allegations are made that Webb was working on a new book exposing the hidden Jewish element that is the controlling factor behind drug trafficking in South America.  Apparently, a huge drug war in South America is about to erupt.  It's characterized as a massive power grab against South American Jewish-drug-lords.  According to this scenario, Hugo Chavez is playing the foil, and is planning to clean-up drug trafficking in his neighborhood, or at least look as though he is by militarily moving against Columbia.  The prize is control over the illicit $50 billion cocaine and marijuana market.  According to this speculation, Webb was "suicided" by Mossad because he was getting ready to break this story via his new book.

Is the statement cited above true?  I have no idea.  I have not been involved with any research about South American drug trafficking.  But I do know and it has been reported that Chavez has purchased MIG-29's from Russia.  And at this point, it's anyone's guess as to what Gary's alleged book contains.  One thing is for sure, this sort of material would be his bailiwick.  Does this information merit further investigation?  I think it does, although some may disagree.  I'm merely bringing this to the attention of serious researchers and truth seekers.  It's up to them to decide if the material merits more study.

At this point, Fassa stretches the limits of credible research when she begins to tie together unrelated and unverified allegations linked only by rumors.  She states it is only speculation that "Webb was "suicided" by "Mossad", yet she raises this possibility that Webb did not die by his own hand but was "suicided" by the infamous Israeli Mossad.  These words are a volatile combination already replete with mental images in the minds of many readers.  It paints a picture hard to erase and it firmly serves as the foundation for further conjecture.

Fassa now turns to comments allegedly made by "Freeway" Ricky Ross, Gary Webb's source for much of the material in his Dark Alliance series and book.  Third parties have stated that Ross said Gary "knew he was being followed every time he drove somewhere (and) he said it was government people."  Ross also allegedly corroborated that Webb was working on a project and that Webb had been receiving death threats from government types.

Fassa asks the question:

  Doesn't it make you wonder - where the hell are Gary's papers and research documents, evidence, etc.?  I've heard nothing about them from the mainstream stenographers - have you?  Sam Smith is wondering too.  He's a "Scoop" reporter who wrote, The Gary Webb Case, full text:

One clue still to come: did Webb leave his files with anyone he trusted or have they disappeared?  It would have been highly unusual if he had left them for law enforcement officials to find, especially with the threat they might pose to sources.  In any case, somebody's got them now.

Fassa then comments:

  I have a hard time believing that Webb wouldn't have at least safely hidden his more sensitive information, etc. in case of a hit, at least to protect his sources if for no other reason.  I can't help but wonder if someone out there has safely stored some of Gary's stuff for him, or even a manuscript of his almost finished book?  It would be sad if those who got to Gary also got his materials.

Smith, the "Scoop" reporter only asks if someone Webb trusted has his papers or whether they have disappeared and he concludes with the innocuous statement that "somebody's got them now".    Fassa  then states: "I cannot help but wonder if someone out there has safely stored some of Gary's stuff for him".  She concludes by musing"  "It would be sad if those who got to Gary also got his materials."  Thereby she again reinforces the image that Webb did not die by his own hand but by "those" who might have also stolen his papers.

It is important that researchers, writers and readers keep an eye out in their search for the truth and maintain a place in their hearts for the hurt and pain their speculation can cause to those closest and most loved by the journalists the world has lost.  It is true that we have a responsibility to those who have died, but we also owe those who survive a responsible, respectful search for the truth.

At Gary Webb's memorial service his sons, his wife and his brother made it very clear that all of Gary Webb's papers and mementos had been packaged up by Gary in anticipation of the close of escrow of his home and that on the very day after his death his family and real estate person who worked for Gary Webb, moved the already packaged material to a storage container at an undisclosed location.  That immediate move was necessary so that the new buyers could move in and  complete the prearranged purchase.  This is what people do when they are moving either to another location or another realm.  In any case, there can be no question but that those Gary Webb loved most are now in possession of both his past work and any future work he might or might not have been working on. And that is as it should be.

Charlene Fassa does raise a very valid question about the conduct of coroners' offices throughout the United States.  She writes:

  And I can't help but wonder how we in America got stuck with such an absurdly low standard when it comes to pronouncing a death an official suicide.  A distinct possibility sounds more like another way of saying maybe!  Yet, that was the official statement made about Webb's death by Coroner Lyons.  It sounds more like an official pronouncement that's heard in a banana republic, not in a democratic republic.  Is this representative of the rule of law or the arbitrariness of a dictatorship?  What happened to "beyond a reasonable doubt"?  In England "beyond a reasonable doubt" is the standard used to declare a suicide or a murder, although it's not being applied to the Kelly case, another who was likely suicided.  Not having an independent investigation is an easy way to protect the guilty.

This statement by Fassa deserves additional research by writers and should be explored with an eye toward changing laws in the United States to make them conform with those in the United Kingdom.

When reporter Joseph "Danny" Casolaro was murdered at the Sheraton Inn in Martinsburg, West Virginia in 1991 his body was embalmed before his family was notified in violation of West Virginia law (Click.).  His death was immediately labeled a suicide despite extensive evidence to the contrary (Click.).

On November 1, 1992 America's last great asset in the middle east, spy and hostage negotiator Ian Stuart Spiro and his entire family were found dead in southern California.  Spiro was a key figure in the negotiations to release the American hostages held in Lebanon.  The bodies of Ian Spiro's wife Gail and their three children were immediately sent back to the United Kingdom for burial. (Click.) Ian Spiro's body was not sent with them.  Instead, his body became an international bargaining piece as the US and the UK exchanged heated letters about the cause and manner of his death.  Eventually Ian Spiro was put to rest next to the bodies of his beloved family.  This situation emphasized the need for a uniform investigative procedure to determine the manner and cause of death (Click.)

In her article, Fassa eventually focused on one of McCullough's sources in her 12-14-04 article regarding Gary Webb's death. Fassa stated: 

And here's another piece of illuminating information reported by Virginia McCullough, the reporter from in her piece about Webb's death: "The [moving] company's estimator, Steve had talked with the homeowner [Webb} recently, and he had felt that the man seemed saddened or depressed.  The homeowner had just sold the home for $321,750 and said that he would be moving in with his grandmother who lived nearby."

First, what strikes me as suspicious is how quickly Steve echoes the official spin that Gary seemed depressed.  And here's where Steve loses all credibility for me:  Steve, the moving company estimator, knows the EXACT amount of money Webb's house sold for?  Excuse me, but if a moving company employee asked you how much your house sold for, would you give them an exact dollar amount?  Instead, wouldn't you throw out a rounded up figure like in the 300's  or something more general?

As a researcher and writer, I have a problem with Fassa's analysis of that portion of my 12-14-04 article on Gary Webb's death.  I reviewed my article to make certain that the quotation marks contained in this line were not in my original.  And they were not!  I want to make it very clear that I believed the source I interviewed who worked for the moving company and I believe that the men who responded to Gary Webb's home that day were honest and that they were upset by what they encountered.  Fassa implies that my source from the moving company also supplied the sales price of Gary's home.  This assumption by Fassa is absolutely not true!

It is a simple exercise to do comprehensive and complete research and it does not take a great deal of effort.  You act on the information you are given, you research it and you expand upon it.  That is what I did in the case of Gary Webb's death and it is what I do in every story I research. 

I was given the name of the moving company by articles appearing immediately following Gary's death and I called the company.  I did not have, nor do I have now, any reason to not believe what my source there told me because it has been verified by more than two reliable sources separate and apart from law enforcement or other suspect sources.  My sources from the moving company and those who independently confirmed that information are not the same source that told me the sales price of the Webb home.

Again proper research is time consuming and sometimes expensive, but it is the only way to get believable results.  I must repeat that the moving company and my sources there and those who independently confirmed their information were not the source of the sales price of the Webb home.  To assume that because I happened to include the information in the same paragraph is a leap of faith (as in the Catholic religion or a conspiracy theory) and NOT an indication of good investigative research.

To obtain the sales price of the Webb home I simply called a Multiple Listing Salesperson in Sacramento, explained the situation and she/he looked it up on the computer and kindly gave me the selling price.  This is not rocket science.  It is simple investigative research.  When a researcher publishes their work they willing make it public, but that does not give the reader the right to misinterpret the writer's research and restate it to suite their own agenda.

Law enforcement and government officials are not the only ones who have a responsibility to do a thorough investigation, examine all the facts and come to a responsible conclusion.  The Sacramento Coroner's office came to an initial conclusion of suicide in the death of Gary Webb within days of his death.  The Sacramento Coroner also said the final report would be available in six to eight weeks.

We, the fellow members of Gary Webb's chosen profession, owe him a greater level of responsibility and a greater debt.  We absolutely owe him and those he loved complete investigations and our individual analyses of the truth.  If each and every one of us comes to different conclusion and a different truth -- so be it!  But we owe it to Gary Webb to be as careful and as diligent as he was before announcing our version of the truth to the public.  In his honor we owe Gary that much.

To that end, it is unfair to analyze my conclusions on Gary Webb's death without reading and including both of my articles on his death.  The article I wrote on 12-14-04 (Click.) did not include the information I later learned at Gary's memorial service attended by so many from so far away.  My second article on Webb's death appeared on 12-20-04 (
Click.).   If someone quotes my work, it is only fair that my complete work be quoted on any given subject.  This subject of this investigative journalism is after all, Gary Webb, who means so much to so many.

Virginia McCullough © 12-28-04