The case of the mysterious suicide of Raymond Lemme of the
Florida Inspector General's office was reopened by Valdosta, Georgia police
last December shortly after we broke the story of computer programmer
Clint Curtis' sworn affidavit charging that he had built a "vote-rigging
software prototype" at the request of Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL)!
Furthermore, graphic and disturbing photos from the crime scene -- said in
the original police report to have not existed due to a failure in the camera's
"flash memory cards" -- have recently been published on the web!
scene photos, which clearly do exist, can be viewed via this link.
WARNING: THE PAGE LINKED ABOVE INCLUDES GRAPHIC MATERIAL!
A spokesman from the Valdosta Police Department has confirmed the legitimacy
of the photos but has so far failed to explain several inconsistencies that
the photos and materials from the supplementary detective reports reveal when
compared to the original police report.
Supplementary evidence from the reports would seem to indicate that Lemme was
not even in Valdosta, Georgia at the time that the motel receipts show that
he had checked-in to the room where he was eventually found dead.
Furthermore, involvement from the Florida Dept. of Transportation (FDOT) may
have lead to the quick re-closing of the case shortly after it was recently
Lemme was the first official from the FL Inspector General's office to investigate
the charges originally made by Curtis' 2001 whistleblower complaint at the FDOT,
where he had gone to work after leaving Yang Enterprises, Inc. (YEI) in the
wake several disturbing meetings at the software firm with Feeney and YEI's
CEO, Mrs. Li-Woan Yang.
In Curtis' 2001 complaint to the IG's office, filed along with another FDOT
whistleblower, he charged that an illegal Chinese alien was working at and committing
espionage out of YEI and that YEI was illegally over-billing FDOT in a multi-million
dollar contract. That contract, Curtis charges, was received with assistance
from Feeney, who was, at the time of Curtis' original complaint, the Florida
Speaker of the House as well as legal counsel and a registered lobbyist for
YEI. Feeney had previously been Jeb Bush's running-mate in his original failed
bid for Florida governor in 1994. Feeney now sits on the U.S. House Judiciary
Committee representing Florida's 24th Congressional district.
The Chinese spy reported by Curtis was eventually indicted and pled guilty
to espionage charges (see this previous BRAD BLOG report for more details).
For their part, YEI was recently found -- in the IG's final report begun by
Lemme in 2001 and finally released in February 2005 -- to have billed FDOT for
more than $300,000 in "questionable charges" (see this recent BRAD
BLOG report for more info on that).
THE 'BIG' CASE...
In his 2004 affidavit, Curtis describes a mid-June 2003 meeting with Lemme
in which he claims that Lemme told him he "had tracked the corruption 'all
the way to the top' and that the story would break in the next few weeks and
I would be satisfied with the results."
On July 1, 2003 -- just two weeks later -- Raymond Camillo Lemme was found
dead in a bathtub, with his arm slashed twice with a razor blade near the left
elbow in Room #132 of the Knights Inn motel in Valdosta, Georgia; a border-town
some 80 miles from Tallahassee, Florida where Lemme lived and worked.
A handwritten note, unsigned, was found by police on the desk in the room in
a black leather day planner. Here is a photocopy of that note...
At the time of this incident, Lemme's only child was engaged to be married
just three months later in September. Curtis has told us that Lemme frequently
talked about his daughter with him. "He would always discuss his daughter
and had talked about her upcoming wedding," he told us. Yet Lemme's only
daughter -- his only child -- is not mentioned by name in the unsigned note.
A family member of Lemme's has told us that the family generally feels that
the handwriting on the note seemed to belong to Lemme.
A statement from Lemme's wife, Mary Ann, in the report from the Leon County,
FL Sheriff's Office (where Lemme was first reported as missing) would seem to
concur with Curtis' description of what he had been told by Lemme when they
met in mid-June. His wife is described in the report by Officer Jim Tyson as
having told the police that her husband "has been under a lot of stress
at work due to a 'big' case he is working."
When we first asked Curtis what Lemme might have been doing in Valdosta in
the first place, Curtis explained to the The BRAD BLOG in one of our initial
interviews that "There are no autopsy laws in Georgia. Had he committed
suicide in Florida, there would have been a mandatory autopsy."
THE APPEARANCE OF THE PHOTOS...
The police report from Valdosta Det. Shannon Floyd states, "a defect in
the camera flash memory cards resulted in no usable photographs. Photographs
will not be submitted with this report."
However, several weeks ago, Insider-Magazine published over a dozen photographs
-- previously reported to have not existed! -- from the crime scene, including
detailed shots of Lemme in the bathtub where he is said to have killed himself.
We will discuss shortly some unexplained inconsistencies in the photos, along
with other details from the police report which, so far, neither add-up, nor
have been explained by the Valdosta Police Department.
The legitimacy of the photographs was confirmed by a spokesman from the Valdosta
police. Capt. Brian K. Childress of Valdosta's Professional Standards Unit told
us in our original conversation with him that, "the flash card initially
did fail" but that they were able to recover them after they "reopened
the case due to interest on the Internet."
"We recovered the photos with some software and were eventually able to
get them," he told us, "sometime late last year around December."
(Our original story on Curtis was published December 6th last year.)
THE DATES THAT DON'T MAKE SENSE...
Aside from the sudden appearance of the photographs, the most obvious inconsistency
in the police report are the two different receipts from Knights Inn.
The first, unsigned, is dated 6/29/03 6:44PM and is described as the check-in
receipt, according to the Valdosta police report.
The second, apparently a check-out receipt signed by "Raymond Lemme",
is dated 6/30/03 6:54AM.
The problem is, Lemme was not even reported as missing until 6/30/03!
His wife wrote, in a sworn affidavit on 6/30/03, when Lemme was first reported
I have been unable to reach my husband, Raymond, all day. He left work early
this morning, approx 5:15AM, told me he loved me and that he would call me later.
He had a meeting @ work today and I had been unable to contact him.
copy of her full affidavit is available here.
As well, the police report states that Lemme's watch had "stopped at 12:34
on June 30th".
When we asked Childress about the problems with the dates on those receipts,
he told us, "Yeah...There was a question about the dates. We were told
the management of the hotel made a mistake. Either there was an error in their
machines or some other error."
His comment -- made during our first call with him, before he had had the chance
to "pull the file" to refresh his memory -- might make sense if the
credit card terminal machine at Knights Inn, for some reason, had its date set
incorrectly. Yet, when we inquired whether the department had checked with the
credit card merchant processor (who would have received transmission of the
purchase on their end) to find out what their date/time stamp showed for those
transactions, Childress told us he'd have to get back to us on that.
AN OPEN AND SHUT CASE...
Despite inconsistencies in the photos and other evidence that would seem to
conflict with information in the police report, Childress informed us that while
the case was re-opened last December after our original report, it was closed
"We spoke to someone at the Florida Department of Transportation,"
he explained, "and then closed the case again. It was either late '04 or
"Someone at the Florida Department of Transportation"?!
Childress promised to get back to us the next day with information on precisely
whom they had spoken to at FDOT and, as well, with answers to several other
important questions we had about the case, the report, the photographs and the
Late the next day, after we did not receive the promised callback from Childress,
we were able to reach him via his cell phone after paging him. His tone that
next day was notably different...
"Look...I spoke with my chief about this. We have looked at everything
about this case... Everything...the allegations on the Internet and whether
he's committeed suicide. Everything we've looked at indicates it was suicide.
And that's all we're going to say about this...the media has blown this out
"I'm getting tons and tons of questions about this case. We investigated
it like any other case. There's nothing that we found that would indicate [Lemme]
was murdered...If you find anything that indicates there's something we missed
we'll gladly give it a look.
"I don't want to be short with you, I don't want you to think I'm stonewalling
or anything, but quite honestly, I'm tired of answering these questions."
As it turns out, there were many indications that "there's something"
they may have missed. So we asked Childress about three specific points on which
he again promised to get back to us on Monday with answers to our questions.
He also repeated several times that he didn't want us to think he was "stonewalling"
That second conversation with Capt. Childress took place on Friday, February
Childress did not call us back as promised on the following Monday and repeated
calls, messages and pages made by The BRAD BLOG to him in the three ensuing
weeks have all gone unreturned.
There are still many unexplained questions that we had hoped Childress and/or
Det. Shannon Floyd could clear up for us. Above and beyond some of the matters
discussed above, these are the ones we are most interested in for the moment:
Who was spoken to at FDOT, what did the conversation include, and why did that
lead to re-closing the recently re-opened case?
The report of Det. Shannon Floyd refers to "flash memory cards" having
failed in the camera as the reason that "Photographs will not be submitted
with this report," as she wrote. She used the plural "cards".
Was there more than one memory card used? And if so, how would one explain several
flash memory cards all having the same failure?
We would also love to know how many pictures were taken in total, and how many
were actually recovered. Was there more than the 15 which were posted on the
Internet by Insider-Magazine?
Det. Floyd reports that she "examined the body for other signs of trauma
[aside from the two cuts near Lemme's left elbow] with negative results. She
also says there was "no sign of foul play", yet how does one explain
the apparent severe bruising as seen on the right side of Lemme's neck in the
Det. Floyd also states in her report "On the bathrom floor next to the
bathtub was a black in color man's dress belt, which was lying on the top of
a white in color hotel bath mat. The belt appeared to have been used as a tourniquet;
dried blood was visible on the belt but was not visible on the towel".
We're no crime scene experts, but the following photograph from the crime scene
clearly shows blood on the towel...
Why the discrepancy with Floyd's report?
How does the police explain the fact that both Lemme's wife Mary Ann and Lemme's
supervisor in the IG's office, Bob Clift, said that they felt it was "very
out of character" for Lemme to simply disappear as he did?
In Clift's handwritten sworn affidavit given to the Leon County, FL sheriff
on June 30th, the day Lemme went missing, he wrote "This is very out of
character for Ray." (underlined as in the original) A copy of his actual
affidavit is available here.
In Mary Ann's affidavit, given on the same day, she writes "This all is
very out of character and he has never done this in the past."
In the Leon County Sheriff's report, Officer Jim Tyson says, "Mrs. Lemme
did advise that this was out of character for her husband."
THE MISSING DETECTIVE...
We had hoped to speak with Det. Shannon Floyd since she took the crime scene
photos and wrote the most detailed report in the case file. She was the one
who reported the camera's "flash memory cards" as having failed, said
that there were no "signs of trauma", that "Nothing was observed
that would indicate foul play" and described there being no visible blood
on the white towel next to the tub. She also described the stopped watch and
the check-in and check-out receipts, along with their dates, but mentioned nothing
about the apparent inconsistency in dates.
In our first conversation with Valdosta's Capt. Childress, he had informed
us that Det. Floyd was no longer with the department and was now teaching at
a university. He didn't feel it appropriate to let us know where she was teaching,
but in our second call, he informed us that, "Det. Floyd does not work
for us anymore. She left and is teaching somewhere now. I'm not gonna tell ya
where she is. Her husband said she didn't want to talk to the media. I spoke
with him last night after we spoke."
We have attempted to speak with members of Lemme's family, including his wife
Mary Ann. They preferred to either not speak with us or to do so only on background.
The family expressed great sadness about their loss, yet seemed to be of differing
opinions on whether there might have been some sort of foul play at work or
whether this was just a tragic case of suicide.
They all seem to agree that there had been no previous indications that Lemme
might have wanted to kill himself. It was described as a complete shock to all
Things had seemed to be going well for Lemme, who had just returned from an
Army Reserve weekend and had recently received an award from the IG's office.
CLOSING THOUGHTS...FOR NOW...
We realize this report raises many unanswered questions. In fact, many more
than it answers. Indeed, there are still other concerns from the police report
which we have not discussed here yet. For example, a rope found in the trunk
of Lemme's car with what was described as a "dark stain that could possible
be blood." Det. Floyd claims to have performed a "presumptive test
for the presence of blood" and wrote that "the test result was negative."
We have waited quite a while before filing any sort of detailed report on this
matter for at least two reasons. One is our interest in being able to investigate
it thoroughly before presenting evidence that might be misleading. We have attempted
to give the Valdosta Police plenty of time to get back to us, but it has become
apparent that -- for whatever reason -- they've determined it's in their best
interest not to talk with us. Even if it means they will appear to be stonewalling...as
Capt. Childress continually stressed that he wasn't.
The other reason -- at least the reason that we've waited so long before going
into detail on this element of the Clint Curtis story -- was because we'd felt
that the allegations made by Curtis about Tom Feeney and YEI were explosive
enough in and of themselves. A sensational story such as the suicide of the
original investigator looking into Curtis' allegations -- just weeks after it
is claimed that he "had tracked the corruption 'all the way to the top'"
-- could easily allow an all-too-easy way out for those who wish to detract
from Curtis' claims. The "crazy conspiracy theory" defense has become,
of late, the favored to dismiss credible claims for those who'd rather not deal
with uncomfortable facts. Particularly when such claims do not otherwise comfortably
fit their own agenda.
There are many "suicide conspiracy theories" out there these days
-- too many -- and we had hoped that the extraordinary allegations at the heart
of the Curtis case would not be dismissed due to the unexplained mysteries surrounding
this particular death.
Indeed, the reporting from the original publishers of the crime scene photographs,
Insider-Magazine -- despite the intrepid work by editor John Caylor in unearthing
evidence which "didn't exist" -- is the sort which we feel makes it
much easier for many to ignore Curtis' claims. We have spoken with Caylor about
this point, and he simply feels his way of reporting this sort of story is the
best way. We do not agree, although we must respect him for his ability to get
hard evidence which nobody else had previously been able to uncover.
It should also be noted as well that we take little comfort in publishing disturbing
and graphic photographs of the tragic death -- however it may have happened
-- of someone's father, someone's husband, someone's brother... We take no joy
in it, and have done so only after much careful consideration.
In the end, the continuing veracity of Curtis' claims, along with the continuing
and documented collapse in credibility of both Feeney and YEI in this matter,
have continued to give us reason to believe that some very bad people may well
have done some very bad things. The reopening of the case in Valdosta, the sudden
appearance of the photographs, the quick re-closure of the case after FDOT officials
intervened, and the odd behavior of the Valdosta Police have added a newsworthiness
to this element of the story, such that we are no longer able to keep from reporting
it. As much as we truly might have liked to.