View Full Version : New investigation, same result: Colonel’s death called suicide

01-13-05, 07:44 AM
January 17, 2005

New investigation, same result: Colonel’s death called suicide

By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer

A new investigation into the death of Col. James Sabow concludes the Marine died at his own hand, confirming the military’s official finding of suicide 14 years ago.
The new report, which was delivered to members of Congress on Jan. 3, attempts to discredit the dead Marine’s brother, David Sabow, who has long maintained that the Marine was murdered.

“The review, experiments and testing warrants the conclusion that Col. Sabow died from a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the mouth, an action which clearly explains all his injuries and thereby explains his death as a suicide,” the report states.

The review, the latest of five undertaken in the death of the officer, was completed in November by Jon Nordby, a criminal forensic analyst and death investigator based in the Seattle area. Nordby was contracted by the Defense Department last year after Congress ordered a new investigation into Sabow’s death.

James Sabow was found dead behind his home at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Calif., in January 1991. The military ruled the death a suicide, saying Sabow probably killed himself due to professional difficulties. He had been relieved as assistant chief of staff to the air station’s commander days before.

But David Sabow has always suspected that his brother was murdered in an attempt to cover up alleged weapons and drug-smuggling activities at El Toro.

Two years ago, David Sabow and others convinced Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, to demand a new investigation. Hunter, a Republican from California, inserted language into the 2004 Defense Authorization Act requiring the Defense Department to revisit the case.

The investigation was completed in November and reviewed by Defense Department officials for several weeks before it was released to members of Congress, including Hunter.

Hunter’s office had no comment Jan. 5.

According to an executive summary of the November report, the investigation was difficult for several reasons, including the contention that David Sabow did not cooperate with Nordby.

He failed to provide Nordby with the shotgun apparently used in Sabow’s death, the report said.

Nordby also said that David Sabow attempted to pressure him into concluding that James Sabow was murdered.

The report says that while mistakes were made in previous investigations, none would cause the military to alter its conclusion that it was a suicide.

But the investigation ignores more than a dozen experts who believe James Sabow was murdered, David Sabow said. Further, the report is full of “unprofessional criticism” of him that he said was inappropriate and misleading.

“This is classic smoke and mirrors,” said David Sabow, a retired neurologist, from his home in Rapid City, S.D., Jan. 5. “It was totally bizarre science.”

Sabow said he tried to cooperate with Nordby and spoke with him briefly four times over the course of the investigation.

He said he could not provide the shotgun — owned by James Sabow’s widow, Sally — because he was concerned that it could be tampered with if he were not present.

“Otherwise, I begged to cooperate, I begged to be included,” he said.