A team of handwriting experts contend the suicide note supposedly written by Bill Clinton’s deputy counsel was a forgery.
On July 20, 1993, President Bill Clinton’s Deputy Counsel Vincent W. Foster died unexpectedly. Foster was 48. His body was found in a park across the Potomac River from Washington. Foster had been shot once in the head, the wound was apparently self-inflicted.
At the time of his death, Foster had been implicated in the Whitewater Scandal. The United States Park Police and the FBI concluded that Foster had taken his own life. But journalists raised serious doubts about that theory. Among them was investigative reporter Christopher Ruddy:
One of the key clues in this case is a note allegedly written by Vince Foster. The message was unsigned. When found, it had been ripped into 28 pieces. It read, in part:
The shredded note was found in Foster’s briefcase four days after his death. Curiously, White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum had searched the briefcase earlier, but never found the note. This put the document’s authenticity in question.
On October 25, 1995, more than two years after Foster died, a team of well-known handwriting experts held a press conference in Washington. Each of the experts examined a photocopy of the alleged suicide note and concluded that it was a forgery.
Unsolved Mysteries invited these same handwriting experts to meet with us in Boston to explain their conclusions. The experts compared the suicide note to 12 other samples of Foster’s handwriting. Ronald Rice, a handwriting examiner who has worked for the State of Massachusetts, is convinced that the note was forged:
Rice went on to describe other discrepancies. For example, in the suicide note, the letter “O” is open. In the Foster’s samples, it is closed. In addition, Rice claims that the letter “B” in the note was made with at least four strokes of the pen. He says that in the known sample, the letter was written with one continuous stroke. Rice discovered numerous other discrepancies and believes the suicide note was not written by Foster.
Handwriting experts say that Foster’s writing was typified by U-shaped strokes known as “swags.” Reginald Alton of Oxford University in England, believes the forger had a difficult time imitating Foster’s graceful style:
The note also apparently contained an inordinate amount of hesitation dots. Hesitation dots are small blobs of ink left where the pen starts or stops. Forensic handwriting examiner Anthony Iantosca explained that when a document has many dots, it’s a tip off that the penmanship was being copied:
Retired homicide investigator Vincent Scalice is a certified document examiner. He points to the fact that the words beginning with the letters “TH” are much more crudely written in the suicide note than in the known samples. Some suggest the differences can be explained by stress, the stress of a man about to kill himself. But Vincent Scalice
Our four experts all concluded the note was forged. But at least one other handwriting expert Marcel Matley says it’s authentic:
Marcel Matley is convinced that the other experts are wrong. He believes that some of the inconsistencies seen on frequently used words like “the” and “to,” were part of Foster’s writing style:
Did Vince Foster write the suicide note? Or, as Clinton critics contend, is the note part of an elaborate cover-up? There have been three official investigations into Foster’s death. The most comprehensive took three years and was conducted by Kenneth Starr. All three concluded his death was a suicide.
Yet the doubts still persist. And if the note is, in fact, a forgery, who wrote it … and why? These lingering questions may never be laid to rest.