WASHINGTON - A university professor of forensic
science, suspecting foul play in J. Edgar Hoover's death, has been granted
access to the District of Columbia medical examiner's records to
reinvestigate how the former FBI director died.
George Washington University Professor James
Starrs believes the records may clarify the circumstances around Hoover's
1972 death at age 77, which was attributed officially to a heart attack.
No autopsy was performed.
Starrs says nothing in Hoover's medical history
would suggest he was a candidate for a heart attack. Without an autopsy,
other causes of death are still open, he said.
"Everything thus far indicates there was
nothing of sufficient medical history to write this off as a heart
attack," Starrs said yesterday in a telephone interview. "Hoover
had numerous enemies from all walks of life; the man's life was marked for
death by all kinds of people."
Hoover's death will be the subject of a panel
at the upcoming American Academy of Forensic Science meeting on Feb. 13 in
San Francisco, Calif. Starrs will join experts such as renowned forensic
pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, a witness in the O.J. Simpson case, and
handwriting expert Dr. Duayne Dillon, who examined papers believed to
belong to John F. Kennedy.
Starrs says his longheld interest in the Hoover
case has been compounded by various suspicious details people have
reported through the years.
One theory suggests that burglars on the Hoover
premises might have poisoned his toiletries, which could have triggered a
heart attack, Starrs said. According to another report, a neighbor saw
someone moving a body back to the house the day of the death, Starrs said.
While the professor is not advancing views on a
motive or suspect, he notes that plenty of peoplemight have wanted Hoover
"The main suggestion was that it was part
of the Watergate scene in the '70s," Starrs said.
Starrs already has obtained some FBI records on
Hoover, which he will use to compare notes with the medical-examiner
papers. He is particularly interested in details such as when the funeral
home embalmed the body and who the doctor was that Hoover had an
appointment with the day of his death.
"This is not a cold fishing
expedition," he said. "I know what I am looking for."
The various experts at next month's meeting
will consider whether Hoover could have been poisoned, as well as whether
there were any signs of a heart condition in Hoover's profile. A former
federal prosecutor will listen to the collected material at the event and
determine whether there is enough evidence to form a case. The former
prosecutor's opinion, however, will have no official weight.
Starrs says he and other skeptics will not call
for the exhumation of the body until they have amassed enough proof to
"I'm conscious of the fact that the public
thinks there are a group of people who are graverobbers," Starrs
said. "We have to do significant investigation to prove the merit for
Several years ago, Starrs dug up infamous
outlaw Jesse James. He also has asked to exhume the remains of famed
explorer Meriwether Lewis to determine whether his death in 1809 was a
murder or suicide.