Chappaquid – Will The Truth Be Known On the night of 18/19 July 1969, twelve people attended a no-spouces party (Meyer Macon Morehouse et al.) on Chappaquid*censored*, a small island off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Two of the partygoers fell victim to a continuous deception. Mary Jo Kopechne who would have not lost her life but for the inexcusable misconduct of Ted Kennedy. The other partygoer, Senator Ted Kennedy, lost his chance of ever reaching the White House due to his web of lies. Bobby Kennedy’s Presidential campaign had been ably assisted by the Boiler room girls. A team of young women who were completely dedicated to the Kennedy cause. They were: Mary Jo Kopechne, Rosemary Keough, Nance Lyons, Mary Ellen Lyons, Susan Tannenbaum and Ester Newburgh.
More than just secretaries, the girls’ commitment made their role vital to the campaign. In June of 1968 Bobby was assassinated and grief overwhelmed the Kennedy family and the Boiler room girls. It had not even been five years since the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Almost every summer, members of the Kennedy family had traveled to Martha’s Vineyard to participate in the Edgartown regatta. 1968 would to be an exception.
Bobby’s murder was a massive blow to the family and those close to them, but in particular to Ted. The Boiler room girls switched their attention to closing up Bobby’s files and his campaign office. A keen sailor, Ted would participate in the regatta aboard a boat that once belonged to his brother Jack (McGinniss 534). Also participating was Ross Richards a personal friend of Teds (McGinniss 535), later to be an important witness in the Chappaquid*censored* plot. Robert Kennedy’s son, Joe, was also on the island.
As a thank-you for all their hard work on Bobby’s Presidential campaign, a party had been planned to which the Boiler room girls were invited. (Oppenheimer 375) The party was to be at a cottage, also known as the Lawrence cottage, a short distance from both the ferry landing and the bridge which would later prove to be important. The cottage had been rented from the Lawrence family by Ted’s cousin, Joe Gargan. (YTedK) Kennedy himself arrived on Martha’s Vineyard at roughly 1:00 p.m. on Friday 18 July, 1969.
He then took the ferry across to Chappaquid*censored* Island, chauffeured by Jack Crimmins. After racing his boat in the regatta, he returned to Chappaquid*censored* and went to the Lawrence cottage at about 7:00 p.m. By this time he had been driven over the Dike Bridge twice by Crimmins in Kennedy’s black Oldsmobile. At about 8:00 p.m., Paul Markham arrived at the Cottage, followed roughly half an hour later by Mary Jo Kopechne and the rest of the partygoers in a rented white Valiant. (YTedK) Moderate, but not excessive drinking took place at the party.
The Boiler room girls testified at the Inquest in 1970 that Mary Jo had not been drinking that night, and indeed was not a drinker. Ester Newburgh testified that Kopechne had been completely sober at the party and that: Mary Jo was not a drinker. Five or six drinks would have been completely out of order with the way she lived. And if a girl who didn’t drink had that much to drink you would certainly be able tell if she was more jovial than normal, and she was not. (YTedK) (Blood tests on Mary Jo’s body showed .09% of alcohol, equivalent to 5 or 6 80-90 proof drinks).
(McGinniss 583) At roughly 11:15 p.m. Kennedy mentioned to Kopechne that he planned to leave and return to his hotel in Edgartown. Mary Jo also wanted to return to her Edgartown hotel. Despite the fact that Crimmins drove Kennedy on practically every occasion (McGinniss 585), Kennedy asked Crimmins for the keys to the Olds to drive himself. Crimmins testified at the inquest that He told me that he was tired and that he wanted to home and go to sleep He told me that he was going to take Miss Kopechne back; that she wasn’t feeling well. (YTedK) According to Kennedy and Crimmins, Kennedy and Mary Jo left the party in his car at 11:15 p.m.
to head for the ferry crossing. In his official police statement, made on the morning of Saturday, July 19, Kennedy stated: I was driving my car on Main Street [also known also Chappaquid*censored* Road and Schoolhouse Road] on my way to get the ferry back to Edgartown. I was unfamiliar with the road and turned right onto Dike Road instead of bearing left on Main Street. After proceeding for approximately a half mile on Dike Road I descended a hill and came upon a narrow bridge. The car went off the side of the bridge (McGinniss 545) In his statement Kennedy then went on to describe how he could not remember getting out of the car, and how he made repeated rescue attempts to see if the passenger was still in the car. Unsuccessful in the attempts and exhausted from them, Kennedy then returned on foot to the Lawrence cottage.
In his police statement Kennedy also stated that There was a car parked in front of the cottage and I climbed into the back seat. I then asked for someone to bring me back to Edgartown. I remember walking around for a period of time and then going back to my hotel room. When I fully realized what happened this morning, I immediately contacted the police. (McGinniss 545) In his TV statement directed at the voters of Massachusetts on July 25, Kennedy’s story had a new feature.
The rescue attempt of Joe Gargan and Paul Markham: I walked back to the cottage where the party was being held, requested the help of two friends, Joe Gargan and Paul Markham, and directed them to return immediately to the scene with me (it then being sometime after midnight) in order to undertake a new effort to dive down and locate Miss Kopechne. Their strenuous efforts, undertaken at some risk to their own lives, also proved futile Instructing Gargan and Markham not to alarm Mary Jo’s friends that night, I had them take me to the ferry crossing. The ferry having shut down for the night, I suddenly jumped into the water and impulsively swam across, nearly drowning once again in the effort, returning to my hotel around 2:00 a.m. and collapsed in my room. I remember going out at one point and saying something to the room clerk.
In the morning with my mind somewhat more lucid, I made an effort to call a family legal adviser, Burke Marshall, from a public telephone on the Chappaquid*censored* side of the ferry, and then belatedly reported the accident to the Martha’s Vineyard police. (Oppenheimer 592) In these two statements there were many inconsistencies and impossibilities. First was Kennedy’s statement that he was unfamiliar with the road. Judge Boyle concluded in the inquest, however, Earlier on July 18, he [Kennedy] had been driven over Chappaquid*censored* Road three times, and over Dike Road and Dike Bridge twice. Kopechne had been driven over Chappaquid*censored* Road five times and over Dike Road and Dike Bridge twice. (YTedK) It should be noted at this point that Chappaquid*censored* Road/Main Street was a asphalt road, and Dike Road a dirt road. Either Kennedy or Kopechne, given the number of times they had been driven over the roads and Bridge that day, would have recognized they were going the wrong way when they realized they were on a dirt road.
At the inquest Kennedy testified that by the time he realized he was on a dirt road he had driven off the Bridge. At the speed Kennedy stated he was driving, 20 mph, this seemed unlikely. Furthermore, there was no hill near the Bridge for Kennedy to have descended. Inconsistencies also arose in Kennedy’s account of Gargan and Markham’s rescue attempt. When Gargan and Markham returned to the cottage, at about 2:15-2:30am according to inquest testimony, no one appears to have noticed if their hair was wet or anything else unusual about them. They mentioned to no-one what had just happened, their understanding being that Kennedy would report the accident, and that they were not to alarm the girls.
On their return to the cottage, according to the inquest testimony of Mary Ellen Lyons, Gargan and Markham told the girls that they had been down at the ferry slip looking for boats to get the party back to Edgartown. They said they were unable to find any, and that the group would have to stay on the island. Gargan told Lyons that Kennedy had swum across, and that he and Kopechne were now back at their own hotels, the Shiretown Inn, and the Katama Shores in Edgartown. The girls were not told about the accident until sometime after 9 am on the Saturday morning, and even then not of her death. All that was said was We can’t find Mary Jo.
(YTedK) After their failed rescue attempt, Kennedy told Gargan and Markham that he would take care of it which they took to mean he would report the accident. He then impulsively jumped into the water, fully clothed, wearing a back brace, and in the middle of the night, and swam 500 yards to Edgartown. (YTedK) With Ted being so exhausted after his rescue effort and possibly injured in the car accident, it seems unlikely that he could have swum so far in so short a time wearing a back brace. Kennedy arrived back at his hotel at around the same time Gargan and Markham arrived back after driving to the cottage which was hardly any distance from the ferry point. On reaching his hotel, where no one saw him arrive, Kennedy testified that he went to his room, changed clothes and collapsed on his bed, exhausted.
At 2:25 am, according to the office clock of Russell Peachey, (YTedK) the hotel manager, Kennedy had complained to him about noise from a party next to his room. Kennedy also asked the clerk what time it was because he was unable to locate his watch. (McGinniss 536) In his inquest testimony, Kennedy had gone into detail about trying to reach doorknobs, feeling for an open window and even knowing that he was upside down in the car. Farrar noted that it would be very unlikely that Kennedy would have been so composed and have been able to locate the door handle. (YTedK) Damage to the car windshield conflicts significantly with Kennedy’s testimony about being in the car.
At the inquest he said: There was complete blackness. Water seemed to rush in from every point, from the windshield, from underneath me, above me. The car windshield, though extremely cracked, still had safety film holding the glass in place, this made it impossible for water to come in through it. (YTedK) The precision in details that Ted had regarding the doorknobs seems questionable when he was incorrect with such an important aspect as the windshild. It is also important to establish that when Kennedy asked Gargan and Markham for the rescue attempt, he did …