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Media: The death of Col. James E. Sabow suicide or murder?

The death of Col. James E. Sabow suicide or murder?

Leatherneck, Issue Date: April 05, 2004

The death of Col. James E. Sabow suicide or murder?

The Corps says a colonel killed himself. His brother calls the ruling a cover-up. Now, Congress wants to know the truth.

By Rod Hafemeister
Times staff writers

Thirteen years ago, Col. James E. Sabow was found dead behind his home at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Calif., a shotgun blast to his head, blood splattered across the backyard.

Navy and Marine officials soon after ruled the death a suicide, telling Sabow’s stunned family that the colonel, relieved as the air station’s assistant chief of staff days earlier, was distraught over allegations that he had misused government aircraft.

His family picked up the pieces of their lives and tried to move on. But the official explanation of his death never sat right with Sabow’s younger brother David, 63, a retired neurologist. Evidence at the scene indicated murder, not suicide, according to Sabow, who believes his brother was killed because of his knowledge of drug smuggling at El Toro and that the murder was covered up to protect others. Dr. Sabow even claims to know who killed his brother.

“The person was in the military and retired around the same time as the death,” Sabow said in a March 16 telephone interview from his home in Rapid City, S.D.

For 13 years, Sabow’s contention has been dismissed by the Marine Corps, the Pentagon and some lawmakers as B-movie fodder, nothing more than a conspiracy theory about what happened that January morning in 1991.

Then, Sabow learned that Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who chairs the powerful House Armed Services Committee, pushed the Pentagon to conduct an independent review of the case and had agreed to meet with him.

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