Leo Damore

Leo Damore

Leo Damore was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1929. Soon afterwards the family moved to North Tonawanda, New York. While studying at Kent State University he began contributing articles to the the Daily Kent Stater. After graduating in 1952 he became a journalist.

He was working for The Cape Cod News in July 1969 when Mary Jo Kopechne died at Chappaquidick. He began investigating the role played by Edward Kennedy in her death. He obtained a contract and a large advance from Random House to write a book about Chappaquidick. However, as a result of pressure from the Kennedy family, the contract was cancelled.

In 1978 Damore published The Crime of Dorothy Sheridan. This was followed by In His Garden : The Anatomy of a Murderer (1983). Damore's book on Mary Jo Kopechne, Senatorial Privilege : The Chappaquiddick Cover-Up, was finally published by Regnery Gateway in 1983. The Cape Cod Years of John Fitzgerald Kennedy was published in 1993.

Damore than began investigating the murder of Mary Pinchot Meyer. In an article that appeared in the New York Post Damore claimed that he believed that the Central Intelligence Agency had something to do with the death of Meyer. He pointed out that on the night of the murder James Angleton and Ben Bradlee were in Mary's home looking for her diary. He added: "She (Meyer) had access to the highest levels. She was involved in illegal drug activity. What do you think it would do to the beatification of Kennedy if this woman said, 'It wasn't Camelot, it was Caligula's court'?" Damore also said that a figure close to the CIA had told him that Mary's death had been a professional "hit".

Damore's book on Meyer was never published. Leo Damore committed suicide in October 1995.

Primary Sources

(1) Leo Damore, Senatorial Privilege : The Chappaquiddick Cover-Up (1983)

Sometime between 11:30 pm. and 1 a.m. on the muggy, moonlit night of Friday, July 18, 1969, a car careened off a bridge on an obscure New England island and plunged into a tidal pond. The driver of that car was Edward Moore Kennedy, then a 37-year-old United States Senator, and the sole surviving heir to one of the most glittering political dynasties in American history Riding with him was Mary Jo Kopechne, only ten days away from her 29th birthday Kennedy lived. Mary Jo Kopechne died.

Nearly two decades have passed since the car driven by Senator Kennedy plunged off Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick Island. In the intervening nineteen years, Kennedy has seen the specter of that mishap haunt, frustrate, and finally foil his presidential ambitions. Not even the Kennedys' daunting political weight has been able to suppress the questions left, until now, unresolved by the official investigations into the accident: Why was a married United States Senator with Miss Kopechne in a remote part of Chappaquiddick Island? Why did he flee - how could he flee - an accident scene while she remained trapped, suffocating, in a car beneath the waters of Poucha Pond? And why did he not report the accident to the police until 10 a.m. the following morning?

What had begun in effervescence--six unmarried "Boiler Room" girls (former workers on Robert Kennedy's campaign staff) and six married men, partying in a rented cottage - had ended in tragedy Chappaquiddick shook the Kennedy dynasty to its very foundations, ending perhaps forever the presidential dreams of Ted Kennedy. Yet, on a deep and human level--the level of crime and punishment, of right and wrong - Chappaquiddick also came to symbolize cover-up, incompetence, and ruthless, raw power, a cruel travesty of justice.

Here, for the first time, are the words of Joe Gargan, Kennedy's cousin, co-host of the Chappaquiddick party, and trusted operative of the Kennedy clan, who finally decided that he had protected Ted Kennedy long enough. Gargan gives his candid recollections of the night of the party, and provides an eye-witness account of the initial attempts to rescue Mary Jo. Here, also, is a detailed report of how Kennedy, his high-powered lawyers, and his public relations counselors were able not only to contain investigations into the accident and Kennedy's conduct afterward, but to cover up numerous facts and implications in order to shield Kennedy against legal and even moral accountability

In seeking the answers to the many questions that surround the Chappaquiddick incident, Leo Damore conducted over 200 interviews, many with people close to the case--including police officers--who had never before spoken to the press. He had access to the files on Chappaquiddick locked in the district attorney's vault in Barnstable, and to personal notes about the case kept by key investigators of the accident. The result of his meticulous research is Senatorial Privilege, the true story of what really happened during those dark hours at Poucha Pond, and, over the months ahead, in the world of the Kennedy compound, as a massive apparatus of power and influence schemed and plotted to assure for Ted Kennedy life-after-Chappaquiddick's-death.

(2) Leo Damore, Senatorial Privilege : The Chappaquiddick Cover-Up (1983)

Domininick Arena had to be reminded by reporter Ed Crosetti of The Boston Record-American, "Chief, you better talk to 'Huck' Look." Arena had neglected to question the deputy sheriff in the confusion of events on Saturday. Look's comments at Dike Bridge hadn't seemed critical.Whether the accident occurred at 11: 15 a .m. as Kennedy said in his report, or after Look saw the car, didn't make much difference insofar as a leaving-the-scene charge was concerned. Arena said, "The question of time only became an issue after the press picked up inconsistencies in Kennedy's report."

A husky man with the high color of the outdoors, and a plainspoken, country-boy manner, Look was reluctant to retell his story officially for the record in view of the Senator's published account of the accident.

Look regretted having blurted out information before he realized its significance.

Look had seen a dark car between 12:40 a.m. and 12.45 a.m., Saturday morning approaching the bend on Chappaquiddick Road at the center of the intersection of Dike Road. Arena noted, "He is positive there was a man driving and that there was someone next to him. He 'thinks there may have been someone else in the back seat but he's not sure." The car appeared "unsure or lost." Look stopped, and started to walk toward the car, but the driver had sped off down Dike Road.

Look's story sounded OK to Arena. "The thing that bothered me about it was, 'Huck' was so adamant about his time. I did believe he saw this particular thing, but I was between a stone and a hard place because I couldn't disprove Kennedy's time."

Look was more closely interrogated by George Killen and Bernie Flynn when the two detectives arrived in Edgartown around noon....

Killen knew "Huck" Look as a reliable and responsible court officer from cases he'd prosecuted in Edgartown. Look agreed to accompany the police officers to Chappaquiddick to reenact his encounter with the "Kennedy car."

Look had worked as a special police officer at the Edgartown Yacht Club Regatta dance from 8 o'clock to 12:30 on Friday night. Brought to Chappaquiddick in the yacht club's launch, Look got into his car parked at the landing and headed home. He had seen the headlights of a car coming toward him near the curve at the intersection.

"Knowing the road, I slowed down, because there's a sharp corner that people usually will cut too close," Look said. "I wanted to make sure I didn't get sideswiped." Look came almost to a complete stop. A black sedan passed in front of his headlights. "There was a man driving, a woman in the front seat, and either another person or some clothing, a sweater, or a pocketbook in the back seat - what appeared to be a shadow of some kind." The car went off the pavement into the private, dirt Cemetery Road.

By this time Look had proceeded around the corner a little bit, he said. "I observed in my rear view mirror that the car was parked. And it looked like they are going to back up. I thought they wanted information, that they were lost or something."

Look got out of his car and walked toward the other vehicle. He was 25 to 30 feet away when the car started backing up toward him, tail lights showing all over the deputy sheriff uniform he was wearing. Look believed the driver must have seen him, as the lights glanced off the badge and whistle on his shirt. He started to call out an offer of help, but the car took off down Dike Road in a cloud of dust. He observed a Massachusetts registration letter "L", he said. "And I did sort of a photostatic thing in my mind that it had sevens in it, at the beginning and the end."

Look returned to his car. A short distance from the intersection he saw two women and a man doing a snake dance down the middle of the road, "like a conga line." He stopped to ask if they needed a lift. The tall girl of the trio said, "Shove off, buddy. We're not pick-ups." The man in the group apologized. "Thank you, no," he said. "We're just going over there to our house."

(3) Deborah Davis, interviewed by Kenn Thomas of Steamshovel Press (1992)

Kenn Thomas: This is an extraordinary story to me considering the flap that one hears about JFK's liaisons with Marilyn Monroe and Judith Exner, Mary Pinchot Meyer's name it's not a name that's brought up a lot. You indicate in the book that she had a diary and that it may still exist, that James Angleton took it. There's so much to this story that never gets talked about. May we explore it a little bit more?

Deborah Davis: Mary Pinchot Meyer, after she divorced Cord Meyer, moved to Washington and she was living in Ben Bradlee's garage, which had been made into an art studio and this is where she was living. And when she was killed on this tow path, James Angleton showed up at the garage at the studio. There's two versions of the story that I've heard. One is that he searched for the diary and found it and took it away, and the other is that Ben Bradlee handed it to him and he took it away. Supposedly he burned it, but people that knew Angleton say he never burned anything, he saved everything. So supposedly it still exists. Angleton is dead now, so if anybody has it it's probably his widow.

Kenn Thomas: There's no Freedom of Information way of accessing it I guess.

Deborah Davis: Not unless it's in official government files. It's a sketchbook. Bradlee talked about this in an interview with David Frost a couple of months ago and he said that it was just a sketch book and he's seen it and it only has sketches in it and a few pages of writing, but it wasn't a diary per se. Now I trust Bradlee about as far as I can throw him.

Kenn Thomas: NBC did a series on the JFK assassination this week and the last thing they did was roll a list of people who had been killed that were somehow connected to the JFK assassination and there Mary Meyer's name rolled by.

Deborah Davis : She was alive for another year. I don't know what went on in that year. Maybe she was trying to expose something. That's something that also worth looking into. There's a man right now doing a book on Mary Meyer which should be very interesting. His name is Leo Damore and I'm very much looking forward to reading that book. I'm sure it's going to have a lot of new information in it. It's not out yet but it will be soon.