Authors: Gary Hastings
“That’s too bad. So, this is an older case?”
“Yes sir, 2001.”
“Okay. Tell me about the case, Patrick.”
“The victim in this case was Forrest
Butelli. He retired from the NYPD in 1998 and was working as a private investigator. My office became involved in the case after his widow came to see me and shared her concerns.”
“What were her concerns?”
“She just couldn’t accept it and could think of no reason he would’ve harmed himself.”
“That’s common, but have you discovered any valid reasons why the case may not be a suicide?”
“There are some concerns. The crime scene is a little strange and may have been staged. We have ballistics looking at the photographs and evidence. We may get some answers there.”
“The actual forensic crime scene work is not my specialty. I look at the psychological aspects.”
“That’s what Maggie was telling me.” Pat said.
“In my research I’ve examined thousands of known suicides and looked for common denominators that existed in many of the cases. I look for triggers which may initiate suicidal behavior. The common ones are health issues, past threats of suicide, financial disasters, relationship issues, and career issues. I looked at past mental health issues and medications, as well as things like anger management and religious beliefs. I think it’s essential to re-create the pre-event mental state of the victim prior to the suicidal behavior. I’ve coined the term
, which refers to the examination of these and many other factors.”
“I’ve certainly heard of this, and it really makes good investigative sense to me, Doc.”
“This has to start with the police. It’s so easy for an investigation to quickly become jaded and a murder can fall through the cracks. I recommended to the police here in Washington that they totally eliminate the call type of suicide in order to prevent the responding cops from getting it stuck in their minds it was a suicide, when it might not be the case. However, I’m sorry to say it’s not been firmly established.”
“Policemen are creatures of habit.” Pat said.
“Yes they are, Patrick, and they also love to take little shortcuts, which are never good.”
“That is probably what happened in this case.”
“Maybe so or maybe it’s a suicide. I’ve developed an investigative instrument with 50 questions to be asked in a suspected suicide. Some questions are answered by the crime scene itself, while others must be answered by friends, family members and acquaintances. It seems to be about 85 percent accurate, but does help to identify some
that are inconsistent with suicide. Once you answer the questions in the booklet, send it back to me and I can tell you if the psychological autopsy is consistent with a likely suicide.”
“That sounds great, Doc. I think this may help to get our hands around the
Butelli family’s concerns.”
Pat and Dr. Cooper discussed the case until noon when Maggie Parker tapped on the door and came in.
“How’s it going guys? Ready for lunch?” Maggie asked.
Dr. Cooper answered apologetically. “I’m sorry, but I have a speaking engagement over at John Hopkins this afternoon, and I need to organize my thoughts. I’ve really enjoyed talking with Chief O’Connor, and I hope I’ve been of some benefit to him.”
Pat nodded in agreement. “You certainly have and I’ll have the instruments you’ve given me completed. I’ll get them back to you as soon as possible.”
“Very good, and I’ll be happy to give you my opinion based on the information.”
“Thank you very much, Dr. Cooper and if you’re ever in New York City, please call me.”
Pat and the doctor exchanged business cards and Pat and Maggie left.
“Would you like to grab lunch, Pat? I’ll take you to one of my favorite Washington secrets. It’s near the White House.”
“I’ll fill you in on my morning’s adventure at headquarters, and I want to know what you and Dr. Cooper came up with. Let’s go, we can walk.”
Tuesday, February 1 - Day 14
The Capital City Grill - 100 Jefferson Street
at and Maggie walked the few blocks to the Capital City Grill. Thankfully, it had warmed up a little in the last couple of hours. This out-of-the-way restaurant was located on the second floor of an office building and the White House could be seen from a window. The restaurant was famous for its steak sandwiches. What looked like a chopped steak was actually made of ground beef tenderloin and melted in your mouth. Maggie insisted Pat try it, and he gladly accepted.
“I know you’ll love this sandwich, Pat.”
“I’m looking forward to it, and I’m hungry. How was your morning?”
“The Assistant Director is concerned for my safety and wants to assign a small protection detail to me, but I’m trying to convince him I can protect myself.”
“No doubt, but it might not be a bad idea. I’m kind of fond of you.”
“I’ll take precautions. You did a pretty good job of protecting me last night.”
“Among other things!”
Maggie blushed and changed the subject.
“So, did the doctor help?”
“I think so. He’s going to help me get into
Butelli’s head with an instrument called a psychological autopsy. It should help us gain some insight as to whether his death was a likely suicide or not.”
“I’m pleased we could help.”
“I hope your bosses don’t mind, since this is not really a Secret Service case.”
“My bosses are well aware of how much the Secret Service depends on the NYPD in both our protective and investigative operations in New York. They also know you’re at the center of that cooperation, along with a lot of other top-notch professionals.”
“That’s nice to know. I’ve always been treated with a lot of respect by the agents, and they’ve earned my highest respect. It’s a two-way street. I can’t really say the same for the boys at the Bureau. It is more of a one-way street except for Mike Wilson, Angie’s husband.”
“There are others too, Pat, but I admit, not many.”
Pat and Maggie enjoyed the sandwiches and Maggie shared stories of some of the famous politicians she had seen in the Capital Grill. She even acknowledged that on more than one occasion, she had picked up an executive order for a steak sandwich to be delivered to the West Wing. Maggie bought lunch, and they started walking back toward H Street. Maggie received a call on her cell phone, and seemed concerned. She handed the phone to Pat.
“This is Chuck Carter, Pat. He needs to talk to you.”
“Hi Chuck. It’s Pat O’Connor.”
“Yes sir, Chief. This has turned into one big mess. First of all, the New Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Force has declared this a possible terrorist act, and the damn halls are crawling with FBI Agents. They claim the Secret Service has no original jurisdiction, and they’ve also relieved the New Jersey State Police of their investigation, claiming exclusive FBI jurisdiction.”
“That’s just stupid.” Pat said.
“I know and it’s been hard to get information. However, important for you is the fact that they found some internet pictures of you in the car from the NYPD website. They also found a pad with some notes on it indicating you were going to DC on Monday to talk with someone about the case. It seems like you may have been the target, not the boss. I thought that I’d better give you a heads up.”
“I appreciate it, Chuck. Do we know who the dead suspect is?”
“Yes sir. He’s a former New York Court Officer, Harry Pittsford. He lived in Brooklyn. I’ll get you all the particulars as soon as I find someone who will talk to me.”
“You’re welcome, Chief. Keep your guard up, and I’ll call you as soon as I get more details.”
Pat handed the phone back to Maggie and then brought her up to date on the latest.
“Who would want to kill you?”
“I guess we’ll try to figure that out on our way back to the city tonight.”
“Now I’m worried about you, Pat. Will the city give you protection?”
“I can handle myself okay.”
“No! I’m serious, honey. You may need organized protection.”
“Let’s just wait and see how long it takes the good old FBI to let me know that I may be in danger.”
Tuesday, February 1 - Day 14
United States Secret Service Headquarters - 950 H Street
aggie and Pat returned to Secret Service Headquarters. Maggie briefed an Assistant Director on the information supplied by Chuck Carter. Although they seemed relieved Maggie was not the target, they offered their assistance to Pat. He declined, but thanked them and reminded them he had access to over 35,000 cops in New York. The Assistant Director thanked him for his assistance in New York, and they said a cordial good-bye.
It was 1500 hours when Maggie let Pat know she was ready. “Are you ready for an uneventful trip back to the city?” Maggie asked.
“I suppose I am, my dear. I guess we have to walk back to the Capital Hotel garage?”
“No. Actually, they moved the Suburban into the garage under this building, to make sure there weren’t any tracking devices put on it. The EOD team swept it first.”
“That’s good, you guys don’t mess around.”
“And neither should you, tough guy.”
“You worry too much.”
“That’s what I’m paid to do.”
“I suppose in a manner of speaking you’re right.”
Pat and Maggie were escorted to the parking garage. When Pat stepped out, he was shocked. It was not because Maggie’s car was washed, cleaned and ready to go, but because it was parked in front of the Presidential Limousine and some Secret Service SUV’s.
“Wow! Maggie, we’re in good company.”
“Yep. As many times as I’ve seen that car, I still get a lump in my throat.”
“I understand that. I feel the same way about Air Force One or just riding by the White House. It’s a part of history. I still get goose bumps.” Pat said.
“It’ll make great stories in my old age, Pat.”
“Yes and you’ll still be a knockout.”
“I’m glad you think so.”
Maggie signaled for the garage door to be opened, and they were soon dumped into DC traffic. Pat got on his cell phone and called Bryan Flannery.
“Manhattan North Homicide, Captain Flannery.”
“Good afternoon, Bryan. It’s Pat O’Connor.”
“You just can’t stay out of trouble, can you, Chief?”
“We’ve had quite an adventure. Bryan, I need you to set up a meeting in the morning with Angie Wilson, Dickie Davis and yourself at One PP at 0900. I would also like for you to get Detective Karla Adams from the U. S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force to attend.”
“I’ll take care of it, Chief. Are we putting something together?”
“It’s likely, but I’ll decide for sure after the meeting. Also, you should know that the inside scoop says that I was the target, not Maggie.”
“Really? What do we need to do?”
“Nothing yet, but I need to ask you a question. Did you tell anyone that I was going to DC to talk to someone about a case?”
“No sir, not a single person. Why do you ask?”
“A note was found in the suspect’s car with that information on it. When you talk to Dickie and Angie make sure they didn’t talk to anyone and just let me know.”
“Yes sir, Chief. I’ll handle it and let you know. Stay safe!”
“I’m being driven by a dignitary protection expert, who apparently has already saved my life once this week.”
“Good for her. I’ll talk to you soon.”
Maggie looked at Pat detecting his concern.
“What are you thinking, Pat?”
“The only other person I told about this was Margaret Butelli, Forrest Butelli’s widow. If she didn’t tell anyone, her phones may be tapped, which would definitely tip the scales toward his death being a murder.”
“What’re you going to do?”
“I don’t know, but I’ve got at least four hours to think about it.”
“Unless we’re chased by hit men with silencers again. This is like something out of a movie, Pat.”
“I hope this was a one-time experience.”
“Time will tell.”
Tuesday, February 1 - Day 14