“For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” ― Noam Chomsky
Friends! We’re headed towards the holidays. But before then, I have a birthday on September 18. Yay, me! I hope you will help me celebrate by accepting a new short story titled “One of Those” as a reward for subscribing to my newsletter. On or around that date, I’ll send you a link to download your free eBook.
Speaking of gifts, how about the true crime story that keeps on giving? Have you heard of Chappaquiddick? No? How about Mary Jo Kopechne drowning in Senator Ted Kennedy’s car? Ah, yes, now you’re with me.
Senator Edward (Teddy) Kennedy, served seven, six-year terms, and aspired to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and run for President of the United States. But his play for the White House ended on July 18, 1969.
According to a 2018 documentary called “Scandalous: Chappaquiddick,” Teddy asked his cousin to rent two cabins for that weekend to throw a party for the workers who helped his re-election campaign for the Senate. Those who attended included five married men who advised the campaign, and six single secretaries (aka The Boiler Room girls) in their twenties.
Here are the highlights:
At 11:30 pm, Mary Jo Kopechne did not feel well and wanted to leave the party. Teddy, who also expressed exhaustion after the day’s activities, volunteered to drive her back to the ferry. However, for unknown reasons, he drove to Poucha Pond, where he lost control of his vehicle, swerved off the pier, and landed in the water. Later he would claim to have a concussion, and wander back to his cabin to rest, while Mary Jo suffocated and died.
Yet, weeks later, he changed the story and said that he dove underwater several times to rescue Mary Jo but failed to save her. Panicked, he walked back to the party and asked his cousin and assistant to help him fish Mary Jo out of the car. But all three men failed to retrieve Mary Jo, and she drowned.
The documentary noted that while trekking back to the cabin for help, Teddy passed several occupied homes, four of which had working telephones. Despite that, he made a beeline to the cabin for his closest confidants.
Teddy’s cousin pleaded for him to contact the authorities. Instead, the Senator found a payphone at the Chappaquiddick pier and made 17 phone calls (according to credit card records), but never summoned a law enforcement agency. To add to his bizarre behavior, Teddy threw himself into the waters and swam back to the hotel on Martha’s Vineyard, instead of riding on the ferry with the others.
Hours later, a fisherman located the vehicle and notified the authorities. The Diver for the Fire Department stated there was sufficient oxygen in the car for Mary Jo to survive a couple of hours. If help had arrived sooner, she would survive the crash.
Meanwhile, the police located a handbag inside the car belonging to another Boiler Room employee, Rosemary “Cricket” Keough, who swore she was not near the car at the time of the accident.
Court documents also show that the sheriff noticed a black Oldsmobile that evening, which matched Teddy’s vehicle description and license plate, parked on the dirt road. When he approached the car, the lights flicked on and backed toward the officer. The driver then sped off toward Poucha Pond.
Weeks later, rumors spread that Mary Jo and Teddy were having an affair, and the Senator had too much to drink. Teddy denied all of it and chalked it up to “poor decision making” that night.
In 2016, Donald Nelson, a retired physicist, examined the grand jury documents and hypothesized that Mary Jo fell asleep in the back seat before Rosemary and Teddy went for a ride. That would explain why they found Rosemary’s purse in the car.
Teddy would receive a two-month jail conviction for leaving the scene of an accident and a temporary driving ban. However, the court suspended his sentence, and Teddy never served a day in jail for his negligence.
If Nelson’s scenario is correct, and Teddy and Rosemary did not know of Mary Jo’s whereabouts, then they must have learned the truth when they returned to the party. It would also explain why Teddy and Rosemary did not help their friend out of the car when they exited the vehicle.
In the end, most investigators agree the Kennedys covered up the incident and used their name and politics to smooth things over.
Ah, I wish I could crawl into the archives and look at the data myself. Do you feel the same way?
Have a wonderful month. I’ll contact you soon with a link to your gift.