Wayne Madsen Report

The Trump-Scarborough homicide feud: Mutually assured destruction
May 27-28, 2020 -- The Trump-Scarborough homicide feud: Mutually assured destruction
publication date: May 27, 2020

It's Murder, They Wrote.

May 27-28, 2020 -- The Trump-Scarborough homicide feud: Mutually assured destruction

Washington, Fort Walton Beach, and Atlantic City

A Twitter-based feud between Donald Trump and MS-NBC morning co-host Joe Scarborough over the 2001 death of Scarborough's constituent services aide in his Fort Walton Beach district office has resulted in allies of the right-wing former Republican congressman from Florida's First District digging up dirt on the suspicious deaths of three Trump Organization executives and their two pilots in a helicopter crash just north of Atlantic City in 1989. For Democrats, this should represent a case of mutually-assured destruction since the competing "cold case" scandals might result in new law enforcement investigations of the deaths that could spell the end of the careers of both Trump and Scarborough.

WMR investigated both of these cases and our reports pointed to suspicious inconsistencies in the investigations of the deaths of Scarborough's aide, 28-year old Lori Klausutis, [right] and Trump's three Atlantic City casino executives, Stephen Hyde, Mark Grossinger Etess, Jonathan Benanav, and the two chopper pilots, Robert Kent and Lawrence Diener.

On May 12, Trump tweeted the following: “When will they open a Cold Case on the Psycho Joe Scarborough matter in Florida. Did he get away with murder? Some people think so. Why did he leave Congress so quietly and quickly? Isn’t it obvious? What’s happening now? A total nut job!”

Trump’s tweet was preceded by another on May 4: “’Concast’ should open up a long overdue Florida Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough. I know him and Crazy Mika well, used them beautifully in the last Election, dumped them nicely, and will state on the record that he is “nuts”. Besides, bad ratings! #OPENJOECOLDCASE”

WMR’s report on the Klausutis death is as follows [Updated information on both the Klausutis cold case and that involving Trump and the helicopter crash deaths of five individuals in 1989 that may be tied to Trump and his mob activities is contained in brackets]:

Scarborough was “Mr. Date Rape” on campus

January 20, 2010 -- Warming up a "cold case" -- the suspicious death of Lori Klausutis. On July 20, 2001, the intern constituent services coordinator for then-U.S. Representative Joe Scarborough (R-FL), Lori Klausutis, was found dead in Scarborough's district office in Fort Walton Beach, Florida [located at 48 Miracle Strip Parkway, an office park]. The 28-year old Klausutis, who hailed from Niceville, Florida and was married to an engineer who worked on U.S. missile targeting systems, was a marathon runner who was reportedly in excellent health. The immediate conclusion of medical examiner Michael Berkland prior to an autopsy was that Klausutis, whose body was discovered by some visiting constituents [a man and his wife seeking assistance in an immigration matter] may have suffered from "prior health problems." Berkland had previously served as a medical examiner in [Jackson County] Missouri but lost his medical license in that state after he was found to have made false statements in inquests.

There are inconsistencies about when Klausutis arrived at the office. Some reports stated she was found by the constituents at 8 am and may have either arrived at the office a few minutes earlier or had been in the office overnight.

Berkland eventually concluded that Klausutis died from an "undiagnosed heart condition" that resulted in her fainting in the office, hitting her head on the side of the desk, thus resulting in "an acute subdural hematoma, or a blood clot, that resulted from a closed head trauma." In fact, Klausutis suffered two massive skull fractures. The police agreed with Berkland that there was no foul play involved in Klausutis's death.

However, a mail carrier who visited Scarborough's office on Thursday, July 19, said Klausutis, who was normally so upbeat she was called "Little Miss Mary Sunshine," appeared nervous and that she said she was not feeling well. The only reported prescription drug Klausutis was taking was acne medication. [Other reports claimed that Klausutis, who had a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia, was upbeat over a potential job offer from a local radio station].

[Other details about Klausutis included her being an active member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Niceville, where she sang in the choir and was also a cantor. She was a former president of the Young Republicans and was serving as their treasurer at the time of her passing. She was also a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority. She performed in “Wild Wild Women” with the Stage Crafters. She was also on the boards of the Fort Walton Beach Youth Symphony and a member of the Fort Walton Beach Jaycees.]

Within hours of Klausutis's death, Scarborough was trying to convince Pensacola TV stations that his aide suffered from a history of strokes and epilepsy. Scarborough revealed the information to the TV stations even before Klausutis's parents [Larry and Linda Bolterstein of Marietta, Georgia] had been notified of their daughter’s death.

Scarborough, who now co-hosts the "Morning Joe" program with Mika Brzezinski on MS-NBC, had announced he was resigning his House seat in June 2001 after being elected to his fourth term in November 2000. Scarborough's reason for resigning was the standard "spend more time with my family" excuse any time a politician is caught up in a scandal. Scarborough's resigned from the House on September 5, 2001, just six days before another event would overshadow that the cause of Klausutis's death was far from what Berkland concluded. In fact, Berkland later revealed that both a scratch and a bruise had been found on Klausutis's body [her head]. [There were widespread rumors shortly after Klausutis’s death that suggested she was murdered by Scarborough. Some were advanced by Michael Moore and Daily Kos. Moore even registered the domain name JoeScarboroughKilledHisIntern.com. Also, a Democratic Congressman, Gary Condit, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, was being investigated for his role in the disappearance in Washington, DC of another intern, Chandra Levy.]

Scarborough was said to have been in Washington when his aide died in Florida. [Scarborough claimed he] was traveling back to Florida late on July 20, a Friday night. [His press secretary, Miguel Serrano, said Scarborough flew from Washington, D.C. to Pensacola on Friday afternoon, but Serrano said that flight was planned before Klausutis’ death]. The House had been in session during Friday. Scarborough had no immediate comment on the death of his aide who had worked for him since May 1999 in his Fort Walton Beach office. In April 1999, Scarborough's divorce from his wife Melanie [Hinton] was finalized. {Scarborough and Hinton had two sons. Scarborough’s resignation from the House took effect on September 5, 2001. Scarborough married Susan Waren, a former aide to Florida Governor Jeb Bush, on October 2001. They were divorced in January 2013. On November 24, 2018, Scarborough married his MS-NBC cohost, Mika Brzezinski. They live in New Canaan, Connecticut.]

Case closed on Scarborough? Not quite.

Scarborough attended the University of Alabama from 1981 to 1985, where he eventually ran for student body president as the anti-fraternity and sorority candidate who vowed to abolish student government if he won. Scarborough lost but his story about his student days in Tuscaloosa are not exactly correct, according to those who attended the University of Alabama the same years that Scarborough was a student.

"Scarborough drove around campus in a Jeep that belonged to his frat house and he was definitely the 'big man on campus,'" recalled one former classmate who spoke to WMR. Scarborough's public aversion to sororities also apparently did not extend to his sexual interests. WMR has learned that Scarborough was well known as someone who dated sorority members and was known by many to be "rough" at sex. The stories about Scarborough's "well-endowed" attribute were known to a number of sorority sisters but so were his threats if those he dated complained about his being rough and forcing himself in what could now be construed as "date rape." "Scarborough threatened my sorority sisters who said they would report him to the university officials," said one former University of Alabama sorority member who was a student at the University of Alabama at the same time Scarborough attended and who requested anonymity. Scarborough, according to the source, would tell distressed women who he had been rough with, "what are you going to do about it?"

Allegations of possible foul play surfaced in 2006 when Florida Republicans were urging Scarborough to enter the U.S. Senate primary race against Representative Katherine Harris, who was considered a sure-bet loser against Democrat Bill Nelson. The Miami Herald reported that Harris was overheard telling Collier Merrill, a Pensacola developer, that if Scarborough entered the primary race against her, he would have problems when "they start asking questions about that dead girl," a reference to Klausutis. In fact, it was also reported that Harris told more than one GOP donor her opinion of Scarborough entering the primary, "I don't know what he's thinking when he's got this whole issue of a dead intern on his hands."

On May 29, 2003, Scarborough appeared on the Don Imus radio and TV program, the latter then aired by MS-NBC, which had hired Scarborough as a host. Imus said Scarborough had told him that he was not in Congress any longer because he "had sex with the intern" and then "had to kill her." Scarborough replied to Imus, "Yeah, well, what are you gonna do?"

Sounds familiar? Based on the information from co-eds at the University of Alabama from 1981 to 1985, there is a clear need to reopen the "cold case" on the suspicious death of Lori Klausutis. Even the long-forgotten Katherine Harris, if she knows something as she previously alleged about Scarborough, could help in uncovering what could have been a major criminal cover-up by a then-sitting member of Congress.

Klausutis had no health issues

[The Northwest Florida Daily News reported the following concerning Klausutis’s health on July 21, 2001: Police have found no evidence of foul play in the death of Lori Klausutis. By JEFF AYRES | Daily News Staff Writer. Klausutis’ former neighbor, Barbara Cromer, said Klausutis and her husband lived near her before they moved to Niceville several months ago. She said she wasn’t aware of Klausutis having any serious health problems.

“She was a runner,” Cromer said. “Every morning, I would see her run while I walked. We’d wave to each other as we passed.

“I loved Lori so much. She was wonderful. She was a kind, generous person, so sweet.”

Paul Lux, director of public relations for Emerald Coast Young Republicans, also spoke well of Klausutis, who resigned her position as president of the group last month to devote more time to her education. Lux said she was an energetic leader and “a joy to work with.”

“She was always very upbeat and positive about everything,” Lux said.

“Even when things got argumentative, she always stayed on the upside of the argument and would never resort to getting dirty or cruel.”

Klausutis stayed with the group as treasurer. Lux said he believed that Klausutis was in good health and “if she wasn’t working or in school, she always seemed to be out running.”

“I assumed she was in good health, and if she had any kind of debilitating injuries or illnesses, she didn’t share them with us,” he continued.]

Questions abound in intern death

[This is excerpted from the Northwest Florida Daily News on July 28, 2001: Aide's death still a mystery. Blood test results and an autopsy were unable to reveal Lori Klausutis' cause of death. By AMBER BOLLMAN, Daily News Staff Writer. An autopsy and blood tests have not revealed why 28-year-old Lori Klausutis died, Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Berkland said Friday. Nothing in the blood tests showed how Klausutis died seven days ago, Berkland said. The autopsy also was not conclusive, though the medical examiner did say that there was no evidence of foul play.

"This turns over several puzzle pieces in the case of her death and reveals more of the picture," Berkland said. But it still does not reveal the entire scenario. Klausutis, of Niceville, was an aide to U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough and was found dead in the congressman's Fort Walton Beach office on July 20. Berkland said the next step in determining the cause of Klausutis' death will be to examine and run tests on tissue samples under the microscope.

He said his office has received many of Klausutis' medical records, some from out of state, but has not yet had a chance to examine them in detail.

Klausutis was involved in a serious traffic accident as a teenager, Berkland said.

"She had a past medical history that was significant, but it remains to be seen whether that played a role in her death," Berkland said. "It may be a contributory factor or it may mean nothing."]

Berkland could not speculate Friday about when further examinations would be complete or when a cause of death might be established.]

Klausutis father-in-law attacked the wrong messenger

[The Northwest Florida Daily News published the following letter from Norm Klausutis, Lori’s father-in-law. He takes issue with the medical examiner’s suggestion that Lori suffered from seizures and the official police response that ruled out any outward signs of suicide. The paper merely reported what the M.E. and police chief had stated to them]:


Adding to our pain

On behalf of Lori Klausutis’ entire family, I want to thank the Northwest Florida Daily News for adding to this family’s pain over Lori’s loss.

Losing Lori was the most painful event in my life of 62 years. It was far more painful for her husband.

Lori was a loving, healthy and dynamic person. She gave of herself to her community, her church and even perfect strangers She was extremely happy with her life, job and family.

For those who knew Lori, the thought of suicide, as your published reports suggested, is absolutely unthinkable. Suicide was contrary to her faith and being. She did not suffer from seizures, nor did she have a history of medical problems.

For your newspaper to print such unsubstantiated misinformation was unethical and uncaring for the people in our community. It was my understanding that journalists had to verify facts for their stories, unless their material appeared on the editorial page. One can only wonder what motivated your reporter to write as she did. Again, thank you for adding to my family’s pain.]

The editor of the Northwest Florida Daily News rejects official explanation of Klausutis death

[On July 29, 2001, the editor of the newspaper, Ralph Routon, responded to the criticism by Klausutis’s father-in-law and others in a Daily News editorial:

We have even been accused of sensationalizing the Klausutis story and being influenced in some perverse way by the mystery of Washington intern Chandra Levy’s disappearance and her ties to U.S. Rep. Gary Condit of California.

Those accusations are unfortunate and unfounded.

As regular Daily News readers should know, we have avoided joining the tidal wave of media that turned the Levy-Condit story into an obsession. As developments have merited, we have run wire reports, usually buried deep in our news sections.

In my role as editor, deciding what stories go on our front pages, I’ve made it a point to play down Levy-Condit.

The TV networks have done more than enough to make up the difference, and still do every night.

We had a totally different response, and viewpoint, after Lori Klausutis’ death. We saw it as a 28-year-old local woman working for this area’s congressman, dying without immediate explanation at her office and being found the next morning.

By all accounts, she was healthy and vibrant, much loved by everyone who knew her. Because the circumstances were so unusual, combined with Klausutis’ job on Scarborough’s staff being government-funded and her death happening in the taxpayer-funded office where she worked, that gave us ample reason to seek answers.

It might not be something we enjoy. It’s simply doing our job. Her grieving family members, understandably distraught in trying to deal with their loss, have been less than pleased with our coverage.

It troubles me when people think of us as being coldhearted, overzealous, cynical monsters. We aren’t. We care. A lot.

We also aren’t asking questions just for ourselves. We’re asking them on behalf of our readers and their right to know. From the moment we first heard of Lori Klausutis’ death, all we wanted and hoped for was a definitive explanation that would bring the story to an end. We could report it, move on and not bother the Klausutis family again.

Not hearing from the medical examiner by the time when he had told us to expect a report admittedly caused us frustration. We feel as much sympathy as anyone for the families of Lori Klausutis and Cody Landsverk (a local boy who died from a mosquito bite). But we still have to do our job, which is largely built around serving our readers’ interests. Every story, every day.”]

The local paper fights back

[The Daily News was still not satisfied with the explanations from the M.E., Scarborough, and the police. On August 8, 2001, it ran the following editorial:


Death probe leaves vexing questions

For a little over two weeks, it was a real-life puzzle worthy of a mystery novel. A popular Florida congressman suddenly announces he’s giving up his seat and withdrawing from the Washington scene.

Less than two months later, a 28-year-old female aide is found dead in his Fort Walton Beach office. The aide had seemed perfectly healthy. Initial autopsy results raise only more questions.

The story fired imaginations.

This newspaper received numerous inquiries about the case, from Massachusetts and Oregon and dozens of places in between. Some of the writers had dug into the backgrounds of the individuals involved.

“People are waiting and watching,” one said. Those who were waiting and watching likely were disturbed by the news we reported Tuesday. We certainly were.

Associate Medical Examiner Michael Berkland said Monday that the aide, Lori Klausutis, suffered a heart condition-- previously unsuspected and undiagnosed-- that caused her to collapse in U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough’s office on the afternoon or evening of July 19.

She fell and hit her head on a desk, he said, and a resulting blood clot caused her death. The fall left “a scratch and a bruise,” Dr. Berkland said.

That seems to conflict with previous official statements that the aide’s body bore no sign of trauma. Dr. Berkland acknowledged as much. He said the original denials were intended to prevent public speculation about the aide’s death.

“The last thing we wanted to do was answer 40 questions about a head injury,” he said. Now, of course, there are deeper questions.

“That we’ has got nothing to do with me,” Fort Walton Beach Police Chief Steve Hogue told us Tuesday, referring to Dr. Berkland’s explanation that “we” wanted to keep the head injury quiet.

“I have never lied to the news media. I would never mislead the media for any reason.”

Chief Hogue said he “never looked at the body” after it was discovered July 20.

“I never heard anything about a scratch,” he added, although Dr. Berkland did tell him there was a small bruise on the aide’s head. The chief said that when he told reporters there was no trauma to the body, he meant that a preliminary examination had uncovered no major trauma. And he said he is satisfied with Dr. Berkland’s work.

We’re not.

This story has raised serious questions from the beginning and continues to confound. Now, because of Dr. Berkland’s statements, our questions are not just about a 28-year-old woman’s death but also about the investigation of her death.

Who, exactly, decided the head injury would not be disclosed? Can we depend on authorities to be honest about the progress of future investigations? What else, if anything, might the medical examiner have kept under wraps? Nobody ever got in trouble by keeping his mouth shut, the saying goes. Maybe not, but nobody ever won the public’s trust that way, either.]

Berkland a corrupt medical examiner

WMR had a follow-up story on the disgraced M.E., Michael Berkland, on September 11, 2012:

“September 11-12, 2012 -- Medical examiner suspected in earlier cover-up of murder arrested.

Dr. Michael Berkland, the former medical examiner for District 1 in Pensacola, Florida, was arrested on September 7 for storing decaying human body parts in a rental storage unit. The human remains were from autopsies conducted by Berkland between 1997 and 2007. Berkland was fired by Pensacola in 2003 for failing to complete autopsies and he lost his license as a Florida medical examiner. Earlier, in 1996, Berkland was fired as a medical examiner for Jackson County, Missouri for incomplete autopsies and his medical license was revoked in Missouri. Berkland's license as a Florida Medical Examiner was suspended in 1999.

However, Berkland's suspension was later lifted by Dr. Stephen Nelson, the Chairman of the Medical Examiners Commission. Nelson was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush.

Berkland was the Okaloosa County Associate Medical Examiner who concluded in 2001 that Lori Klausutis, the 28-year old legislative aide to then-U.S. Congressman Joe Scarborough, died as a result of cardiac arrhythmia that rendered her unconscious, resulting in her striking her head on a desk in Scarborough's Fort Walton Beach district office. Berkland concluded that a blood clot formed in Klausutis's brain after she struck her head on the side of the desk and that the clot caused her death.

Klausutis was in Scarborough's office the evening of Thursday, July 19, 2001 and it is believed she fell between 4:45 pm, when she phoned "an associate," and the office closing time of 5:00 pm. Klausutis's body was not discovered until 8 am the next morning, July 20, by two constituents who had an appointment.

Berkland originally told the media that there were no signs of trauma on Klausutis's body. However, on August 6, he changed his story and admitted that a "scratch and bruise" were discovered on Klausutis's head. Berkland said he earlier denied evidence of trauma because he did not want to help generate speculation about Klausutis's death. Berkland told the Northwest Florida Daily News, "The last thing we wanted was 40 questions about a head injury."

Klausutis's parents, Larry and Linda Bolterstein of Marietta, Georgia, also had to fend off published rumors from "anonymous" sources that their daughter had committed suicide in Scarborough's office. They insisted that Lori's religious faith -- she was Roman Catholic -- would have never driven her to taking her own life. Klausutis's family also rejected Berkland's conclusion that Klausutis died as a result of a heart condition. The very athletic Klausutis, a member of the Northwest Florida Track Club, had just run in an 8K race with a decent finishing time. Klausutis, who was married, was a former president of the Young Republicans and served as their treasurer at the time of her death. Klausutis, who lived in Niceville, Florida, graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism and was working on an MBA from the University of West Florida.

The two people who originally proffered the notion that Klausutis had a chronic medical condition that resulted in her fall were Scarborough and his press aide, Miguel Serrano. Scarborough claimed he was in Washington when Klausutis died and was traveling back to Florida late on the night of Friday, July 20.

It is clear that Berkland, whose judgment as a medical examiner resulted in sanctions from two states -- Missouri and Florida -- was covering up for Scarborough, a rising star in House Republican ranks.

On May 25, 2001, Scarborough announced that he would be resigning from Congress to "spend more time" with his two sons. Scarborough, who was divorced, had been awarded custody of his two sons. As WMR reported on January 20, 2010, Scarborough's resignation was effective on September 5, 2001, just six days before another event would overshadow rumors that the cause of Klausutis's death was far from what Berkland concluded.]

Klausutis medical examiner later arrested

[On November 14, 2012, the Northwest Florida Daily News, which was correct in its initial reservations about Berkland’s findings in the Klausutis death, reported:

Former Associate Medical Examiner Michael Berkland has been charged with stealing some of the more than 100 body parts found in August in a storage unit he rented.

The state attorney’s office on Wednesday added four misdemeanor theft charges to previous charges of creating a public nuisance and felony improper storage of hazardous waste, which were filed in September.

The organs and body parts, several still intact, were found in a unit at Uncle Bob’s Storage in Pensacola.

The gruesome discovery was made when the contents were auctioned off after Berkland stopped paying rent for the unit.

Berkland, who performed the bulk of the autopsies in Okaloosa and Walton counties from 1997 to 2003, rented the storage unit in 2009.

Berkland performed autopsies after he was fired from the medical examiner’s office.

The body parts Berkland took the time to label as samples indicated they came from autopsies performed between 1997 and 2007. Other items were unlabeled and stored in containers that included plastic soft drink cups.

The new charges allege Berkland illegally possessed organs or body parts of four people.

“We will be arguing that while in some cases Dr. Berkland may have been authorized to perform autopsies, the body parts or organs he kept without the permission of the family constitutes theft,” said Greg Marcille, chief assistant state attorney.

Marcille said because there is no way to put a value on a body part or human organ, the latest theft charges against Berkland are second-degree misdemeanors carrying a maximum sentence of 60 days in jail.]

A broken clock is correct twice a day

Inasmuch as Trump is often flat out wrong with facts, figures, and other known truths, he is not far-off base to claim that there remain significant questions about Klausutis’s death. And The Washington Post and The New York Times are both flat out wrong in claiming questions that continue to haunt Scarborough over the death of his employee represent a “debunked conspiracy theory."

As for retaliation against Trump for his attack on Scarborough, that is taking the form of re-examining the 1989 helicopter crash that killed three of his Trump Organization executives who were due to testify in a money laundering case involving Trump’s casinos in Atlantic City.

WMR reported on the cold case on March 15, 2018:

On October 10, 1989, while Trump was being investigated for his mob ties to the already-operational Trump Plaza Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, three Trump Organization officials were killed in a suspicious helicopter crash in the Jersey Pinelands, off the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey. Killed were Trump's Atlantic City operations chief Stephen Hyde, 43; Mark Grossinger Etess, 38, the head of the yet-unfinished Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City [Trump leaving the Etess home in mobbed-up Margate, NJ, near Atlantic City, following the crash, left]; and Jonathan Benanav, 30, the vice president of Trump Plaza Hotel Casino. The pilot and co-pilot were also killed. Hyde, Etess, and Benanav were persons of interest to the FBI, Secret Service, and state law enforcement in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York in money laundering and counterfeiting probes. Etess was the former vice president and general manager of Grossinger's, the hotel in the Catskills owned by his family and where a number of “Borscht Belt” Jewish comedians got their start.

The helicopter was rented by the Trump Organization from Paramount Aviation, but the actual owner of the aircraft was FSQ Air Charter Corporation, one of many murky aviation-related firms incorporated in Delaware. Eyewitnesses claim they heard a loud “bang” before the chopper broke up in mid-air and plummeted to the ground. The rear rotor section was found almost a mile from the crash site near Forked River, New Jersey [in Ocean County]. The pilot, Robert Kent, had been in radio contact with the tower at nearby McGuire Air Force Base, but never indicated any problem with the aircraft. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) later ruled out foul play and said a main rotor blade failed due to "fatigue." Paramount later sued the Italian manufacturer of the helicopter Grupo Augusta and its American subsidiary Agusta Aerospace Corporation. There are still strong suspicions that the New Jersey helicopter crash was a "mob hit." Even more suspicious was Donald Trump’s last-minute change of plans just before the helicopter took off from the 60th Street Heliport on the East River in Manhattan. Trump was to have joined the three executives on the flight, but he said something had come up and he could not join them.

The three executives had flown to Manhattan to promote, along with Trump, the February 3, 1990 junior welterweight boxing match at the Atlantic City Boardwalk Convention Center between Hector Camacho, Sr. and Vinny Pazienza. [Trump and Ivana pictured right at the match] One of the targets of the FBI and state law enforcement in their investigations of Trump’s Atlantic City casino operations was illegal and mob-linked gambling activities surrounding boxing matches hosted by the Trump Organization.

[The Atlantic City Press reported on the crash on Oct. 3, 1989: 3 Trump execs, 2 pilots die as helicopter crashes in Parkway median By DEBBIE BORJA Staff Writer. LACEY TOWNSHIP -- Three of Donald Trump's top casino executives were killed when their helicopter plummeted into a wooded median of the Garden State Parkway in Ocean County Tuesday afternoon.

Stephen F. Hyde, 43, who bore responsibility for Trump's three Atlantic City casino properties, Taj Mahal top executive Mark G. Etess, 38, and Jonathan Benanav, 33, executive vice president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, were killed along with the craft's two pilots.

"I'm sick, just sick; it's unbelievable," repeated Trump several times, his voice cracking with emotion during an interview Tuesday.

"When I first heard about it, I prayed it wasn't true ... then I found out what happened. I can't find the words," Trump said, his voice trailing off.

"These were three fabulous young men in the prime of their lives. No better human beings ever existed," Trump said in a statement issued by the Trump Plaza. "We are deeply saddened by this devastating tragedy. Our hearts go out to the families."

Hyde's quiet ways pulled together many of Trump's Atlantic City deals. While Trump is brash and egotistical, Hyde was humane and humble, and known as the detail man who kept the casinos working.

Etess was recognized as Trump's point man for special sporting events and known as the man behind Trump's reputation as master of the super deals of sports and entertainment.

Benanav joined the Trump organization in 1986, coming from the Philadelphia Airport Hilton, where he was general manager. From June 1982 to July 1985, he was director of hotel operations and executive assistant manager for the Sands Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City.

Trump flew from New York and visited at least one of the executive's families in their Atlantic County home Tuesday night.

The pilot was tentatively identified as Capt. Robert Kent, of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., according to State Police Capt. Thomas Gallager. He said the co-pilot was Lawrence Diener of Westbury, N.Y.

Witnesses said the helicopter began spinning uncontrollably when its rotor apparently became detached from the body of the craft and crashed to the ground about 1:40 p.m. at Garden State Parkway milepost 71.5, about two miles north of the Barnegat toll plaza.

The Italian-made Agusta A 109A was bound for Atlantic City from the East 60th Street heliport in Manhattan, authorities said.

Police confirmed three bodies were found in the wooded area surrounding the helicopter within 10 feet of the aircraft and two were inside it when investigators arrived.

The helicopter rotor was found about a quarter of a mile north of the main body, police said.

"The main body was in one piece but the various sections are broken apart," said State Police Lt. John Neeld, operations officer with the Garden State Parkway.

Authorities said they did not know what caused the helicopter to crash.

"I heard the helicopter fly by. I turned to look because it was awfully loud and I heard a big bang and the rotor separated from the body of the helicopter," said Tom Murray, an eyewitness to the 1:40 p.m. crash.

"The rotor fell off and they just fell to the ground. It fell straight to the ground," Murray said. The 38-year-old Rhode Island resident said he was camping in a wooded area here about two miles west of the crash site.

"(I felt) a little bit of terror, horror, as I watched," he said.

Others heard the crash

Several employees at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station who were working outside around 1:45 p.m. about three-quarters of a mile from the crash site saw an explosion in the air and debris falling from the sky, company spokesman Karl Neddenien said.

He said Oyster Creek officials contacted the State Police.

"We heard the crash. It sounded like an explosion," said Vince Cannella, a Garden State Parkway employee who was working at the nearby Oyster Creek Rest Area.

Cannella said he was the first person on the scene, arriving just before the State Police. "I saw three bodies ... right where the cockpit was," he said.

More than two hours after the crash, state troopers began removing the five bodies from the woods. Rescue workers aided in extricating some of the bodies.

"We have no idea as to the cause," State Police Superintendent Col. Clinton L. Pagano said shortly after he arrived at the scene at about 4 p.m.

The flight was a charter service originating in northern New Jersey and destined for Atlantic City, Pagano said.

The Trump Organization chartered the aircraft from Paramount Aviation, which operates helicopter service between New York, northern New Jersey and Atlantic City, aviation officials said.

The Trump executives had been in New York for a news conference announcing the Feb. 3 World Boxing Organization bout between junior welterweights Hector Camacho and Vinny Pazienza at Trump Plaza.

Paramount executives would not respond to calls to their office in Lincoln Park, Morris County. A spokeswoman said the company would issue a public statement after more details became available from authorities.

The downed aircraft was not affiliated with the Trump Air helicopter service that shuttles passengers between Bader Field in Atlantic City and the West 30th Street heliport in Manhattan.

Investigators at site

Officials with the Trump Organization, as well as the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration, were on the site late Tuesday afternoon, Pagano said.

"Given this roadway, it could have been a lot worse," Pagano said, pointing out that the helicopter fell in the median and not along the roadway itself. "Five fatalities are bad enough."

Authorities kept the media away from the crash site, which appeared to be about 20 to 30 feet in from the Parkway's northbound lanes. Pagano said debris was scattered about "a very small area."

Traffic northbound on the Parkway was stopped several times while State Police helicopters landed in the roadway. Otherwise, one lane remained open throughout the afternoon, even immediately following the crash.

But traffic moved slowly as motorists alarmed by the many emergency vehicles and police and media helicopters overhead tried to discover what had occurred.

Initially authorities received reports that there had been a mid-air collision and they searched for a second aircraft for a short time until Murray arrived at the scene and told police what he had seen, Neeld said.

Emergency crews from various local and state agencies were on hand. They included the Waretown Volunteer Fire Company, the Forked River Volunteer Fire Company, the Lacey Township First Aid Squad, and the state Forest Fire Service.

Parkway crews were expected to work through the night clearing trees from the area. And state and federal investigators are to be back at the scene today.

The National Transportation Safety Board is the lead agency investigating the accident and will determine the probable cause of the crash. A representative of the Agusta company was expected to arrive today to assist in the investigation, said NTSB officials in New York.]

In addition to money laundering, the FBI and state law enforcement authorities in New Jersey and New York were investigating Trump for illegal sports betting, which was particularly rampant in boxing matches promoted by Trump.

Trump and the Atlantic City mob and hitmen

On February 11, 2020, WMR reported on the significant mob ties between Trump and notorious Mafia gangsters in Atlantic City, including hitmen:

Impeached President Donald John Trump’s legacy in Atlantic City as the proprietor of three casinos -- the Trump Plaza Casino and Hotel, the Trump Marina Hotel Casino, and the Trump Taj Mahal – reflects mob connections, language, tactics and life-style that characterize his presidency. Our report below draws on in-depth investigations of the New Jersey Organized Crime Commission and the memoirs of South Jersey mob underboss and confessed assassin Philip “Crazy Phil” Leonetti to illustrate why some of Trump’s disturbing actions as president reflect a South Jersey culture that every American should learn about. It includes the blueberry fields where future presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway labored as a youngster. And it includes the South Jersey Bartenders and Hotel Workers Union, Local 54, which ran the “skim” from all of the Atlantic City casinos, including Trump’s, and Teamsters Union Local 331, which covered the entire Atlantic City region. The skim, the transfer of a small percentage of a casino’s pre-tax profits to organized crime syndicates, was pioneered by Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky in Las Vegas. The skim arrived in Atlantic City at the same time as did the first casino opening. And controlling the Atlantic City skim was the boss of the Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and South Jersey rackets, Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo, and his nephew, lieutenant, and mob underboss, Philip “Crazy Phil” Leonetti. Scarfo hid the money from the skim by plowing it into newly-incorporated legitimate businesses and the buying of property through Scarfo’s primary business, Scarf, Inc. It was a business practice that Trump also knew very well in the method of creating thousands of limited liability corporations and other corporate shells all interwoven with the Trump Organization. It is clear that Scarfo and Leonetti had a close relationship with Trump in Atlantic City. Other mobsters, including the Gambinos, Genoveses/Gigantes, Patriarcas, Brunos/Stanfas, Colombos, and Luccheses, were helpful to Fred Trump, Sr. and, later, Donald, in construction projects in Manhattan. In 2013, Trump, appearing on the David Letterman show, praised the mob, saying of the Mafia, “They happen to be very nice people.” Trump’s experience with the Mafia resulted in him leaving Letterman with one last bit of advice, “You just don’t want to owe them money . . . Don’t owe them money.” When Trump’s casinos fell into the red and he declared at least four bankruptcies, he failed to follow his own advice. In order to be bailed out of financial ruin, Trump owed the mob money and lots of it. In 1990, Trump had lost a total of $1.3 billion on his casinos and $832.5 million in loans personally guaranteed by himself. Trump’s was financially saved by organized crime, including a small army of wealthy newly-arrived Russian oligarchs, who were setting up shop in New York and New Jersey. The three Trump executives were on schedule to be interviewed by FBI agents out of the Philadelphia office who were investigating Donald Trump’s ties to organized crime figures in Atlantic City. Did Trump arrange for his mob pals to do some “repair” work on the chopper? Vendetta Joe Scarborough is in tight with what is known as the “Dixie Mafia.” While every bit as violent as the Italian mob and Russian Jewish gangsters in New York, Trump’s old friends, the Dixie Mafia rules the rackets in the Florida Panhandle, Scarborough’s old turf. With a war breaking out between Scarborough (who is linked closely to the Bush enterprises in Florida run by Jeb Bush) and Trump, expect mutually-assured destruction. Both cold cases, Klausutis and the Atlantic City Five, if proven to have been murder, could spell the end of the careers of Scarborough and Trump. Let the games begin!


Articles from Wayne Madsen Report (WMR):
  • 2020-05-11: It is time to seriously consider the unthinkable
  • 2020-05-12: America faces blowback against failed mercenary invasion of Venezuela
  • 2020-05-19: Trump's Space Force flag resembles some troubling others
  • 2020-05-21: Covid-19: Preparing for second, third, fourth, and more waves
  • 2020-05-27: The Trump-Scarborough homicide feud: Mutually assured destruction
  • 2020-05-28: Barr's DOJ demanded and received access to WMR editor's email/iPhone account
  • 2020-06-01: Trump orders any group opposed to fascism and Nazism to be a designated as a terrorist organization
  • 2020-07-24: Mercenaries target American citizens in cities around the nation
  • 2020-07-28: De-Trumpification of America
  • 2020-08-03: Attacking local and state government: Trump’s Nazi playbook
  • 2020-08-10: Hezbollah's theory about the Beirut explosions
  • 2020-08-20: Trump assault on U.S. Postal Service is his second attack


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