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Wendy DeVore, widow of Hollywood screenwriter Gary DeVore

Screenwriter's wife seeks answers in his mysterious death

Web posted on: Wednesday, July 15, 1998 5:08:01 PM

(CNN) -- On June 27, 1997, screenwriter Gary DeVore wrapped up some work in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and loaded his Ford Explorer to head back to his home in California. DeVore had spent the week with actress Marsha Mason and appeared excited about plans to remake "The Big Steal," a 1949 film about a man who engineers his own disappearance.

But on his way home, DeVore vanished. His publicist believed he was acting out the life of that film's main character. DeVore's wife, Wendy, offered a $100,000 reward. She even listened to a so-called psychic on the "Leeza Gibbons Show" who claimed Gary was working in an Alabama Kmart.

Eventually, the psychics and the searches turned up nothing, and Wendy DeVore withdrew the reward. Then last week, the body of Gary DeVore, along with his Ford Explorer, were found in a California aqueduct, thanks to a tip from an amateur detective.

But many questions remain, and Wendy DeVore wants them answered. She spoke on Tuesday with Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack on CNN's "Burden of Proof."

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST "BURDEN OF PROOF": Wendy, when was the last time that you heard from your husband?

WENDY DEVORE: At 1:15 a.m. on June 28th. That was Saturday morning in the early hours.

VAN SUSTEREN: Was it unusual to hear from him virtually in the middle of the night?

DEVORE: No, not at all.

ROGER COSSACK, HOST "BURDEN OF PROOF": Wendy, he was on his way back from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he was working on the script. Had anything going on that would have caused you to think something unusual might have happened?

DeVore's truck (top) and body were found in this canal (bottom)

DEVORE: No, not at all.

COSSACK: Now, some people believe that perhaps he might have committed suicide because he had tax judgments against him and he had some legal problems. Does that figure in?

DEVORE: May I clarify his situation? You are responding to things you know only from the press. Gary had a $2.5 million tax judgment against him several year earlier that he had completely finished paying off. I don't think you would kill yourself before -- you know, after. I think you would kill yourself before.

Also, he had script problems and things, but he always did and he was not in a serious depression.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Wendy, then take me back and tell me a little bit about your husband's mood in the days leading up to his disappearance.

DEVORE: He had been very disturbed over some of the things that he had been finding in his research. He was researching the United States invasion of Panama, because he was setting the actual story that he was writing against this; and the overthrow of Noriega and the enormous amounts of money laundering in the Panamanian banks, also our own government's money laundering.

DeVore recalls the last time she spoke with her husband

600k WAV audio file

2.5Mb QuickTime movie

He was disturbed by a lot of the things that he discovered, including the weaponry we used, the way we dealt with Panama, when we were there invading them.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, he left Santa Fe and was traveling, obviously, to California. Where there any sort of telltale signs along the way, did he stop for gas?

DEVORE: Yes, we recreated his route based on his gas receipts and on his cell phone use. Remember, when you travel under -- when you use a cell phone it bounces off of the nearest cell.

So that is how we were able to ascertain that he was on Highway 14, south of Mojave, when he called me at 12:38 a.m.

Gary called me very frequently, it was not unusual.

VAN SUSTEREN: Was the 1:15 a.m. call also -- you said that the last call you received from your husband -- was that reflected in the cell phone records?

DEVORE: No, it never came through on any of the cell phone records, nor did it come through on any of the calling card records from our usual phone.

VAN SUSTEREN: It seems unusual that you would recall the time. Why do you know that this phone call even occurred, or your memory may not be playing a trick out?

DEVORE: That's what (police) asked me also. I was home, it was Saturday night, I was watching an HBO show that runs from 12:00 to 1:00. When he called me at 12:40 a.m., I was very involved in the show and I said, "Let me call you back at the end of it, it's over at 1:00." And he knew the show and he said OK.

So at 1:00 I called him back three times on the cell phone.

He was traveling with my cell phone, I knew the range capabilities and the amount of hours that it would charge. There were no problems in any of these areas. I called him back three times between 1:00 and 1:10. Let the phone ring a long period of time, each time. He did not answer.

I did not get the tape that says the subscriber is out of the area. Nor does my cell phone have the kind of little window that tells you when you missed calls.

At 1:15 a.m. my phone rang, and the first thing he said to me was, "Was that you calling me, sweetie?", which I later understood when I realized that something terrible had happened, that he had heard the phone and he was letting me know he heard it. He did not elaborate on it by saying, 'I didn't answer it for this reason' or 'I couldn't get it to it for that reason' which is what he normally would have done.

VAN SUSTEREN: Was there anything peculiar about that conversation that makes you think that maybe he wasn't alone or anything bizarre about the 1:15 call?

DEVORE: Yes, I'm certain this was not a normal phone call. When he called me and he said, "Was that you trying to call me, sweetie," and I said, "Who else would it be at 1:00 in the morning," he then slid past that and didn't answer. And I said, Gary, "Where are you?" and he said "I'm past Barstow." And that would have been a normal response as I didn't know the names of smaller towns in the desert.

So I said, "Oh, you'll be home in three and a half or four hours." And he said, "Something like that."

Gary was a very precise person and he wouldn't answer me in generalities, especially it was his traveling he knew what his schedule was.

And I said, "Well, I'll tell you what, I'll wait up for you." And he said, "Don't do that." And this man had not seen me in a week and we had a very close marriage and a new marriage. And normally he would have been flirtatious.

And I said, "Well, you know, you'll want to take a shower, you've been driving a long time, we'll take a shower." And he said, "Whatever."

Then I said to him, "Well, I'll go out, I'll open the gate," which I did about 4:30. And I -- he basically did not say he loved me when he hung the phone up.

I said to him, "Are you tired?" He said, "No, I'm pumping pure adrenalin here." I thought that was a large answer to a small question. This is a man who deals with words for a living. He knew exactly what he was saying. When he said "I'm pumping pure adrenalin here," I got very, very alarmed in some way. I didn't understand why.

And then he simply said, "See you later."

COSSACK: Wendy, you initially stated that you believe he was abducted. Why did you believe that?

DEVORE: Initially when he first disappeared?


DEVORE: Because I had a conversation with him in which he had not said to me that he loved me at the end of the conversation, and this is a rule we had with each other. And it was the first time in four and a half years that he had not said it. And I became very alarmed and I had waited up. And I knew there was something wrong with the last phone call.

When it came through to us it was not on our cell phone, then I became terribly alarmed. And I did not know whether he had stopped by the side of the road to go to the bathroom and maybe someone got him. I didn't know what the circumstances were. If he had stopped somewhere, it would seem to me he would have told me, because he always would have said, "I went in to get a Coca-Cola, or I went to the truck stop." He was a talkative person and it was 1:00 in the morning.

COSSACK: Wendy, were you satisfied with how the police investigated the disappearance of your husband?

DEVORE: I think that there were many things I expected because I watch television and know very little about police work. I feel that, overall, there were jurisdictional problems that prevailed and caused the police work to be less satisfactory for me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Wendy, it's got to be suicide, an accident or homicide. What, in your mind, is it?

DEVORE: Well, I was told it has to be suicide, a tragic accident, just taking off, or opportunistic crime. And I, in my own mind, I feel that there is crime here. I do not feel that my husband drove off of this bridge.

If they could have showed me even a major area where the car crashed into it. I spoke to my husband at 1:15. He was not tired, he was wide awake, and he was letting me know something was wrong.

COSSACK: Wendy, what do you think was wrong? Obviously, you had a very close relationship with your husband. You must have some suspicions. What are they?

DEVORE: I think someone was with him in the car at 1:15.

COSSACK: Wendy, who do you think was in the car with your husband? Do you have any suspicions? In fact, you probably do.

DEVORE: I actually have no idea at all. I did not know that my husband had an enemy of any sort. Remember, I was married to this man and living with him for a maximum of five years, and he had quite an extensive life before me.

I do not know what happened to him. I just know one thing: Finding him was the worst thing that I could ever try to go through because of all of the problems.

I believe that the sheriff's department that I reported it to did look for him. I believe that they were obligated by law not to go into other jurisdictions, including the road he was found on.

They had to depend on other sheriff's departments to continue their search, and I do think there is a bit of territoriality among the various departments.

VAN SUSTEREN: Wendy, do you have any -- I mean, have they done an autopsy, and have they concluded what the cause of death is?

DEVORE: The autopsy is still being conducted. The gross autopsy done by the L.A. coroner has been completed at this time. I believe the dental x-rays made a positive ID.

There were several things: Gary had a bony deformity in his small finger of his right hand, and, so far as I know, we have not found that bone. There are no major fractures to the skull. There are no major fractures to the cervical vertebrae that would have indicated maybe his neck was broken.

I know that my husband, who swam in strong currents in the ocean every day in back of our house, was still belted in with his seat belt; that the air bag had been deployed and since deflated; and his window on the driver's side was completely rolled down, which is like he normally drove.

If this man had not been unconscious and if the cold water could have possibly revived him if he had temporarily been knocked unconscious, he would have at least gotten out of the window.

Private investigator Paul Ciolino, who was familiar with the case but not involved in it, told Burden of Proof that he saw no reason to believe that DeVore, a man in a happy marriage whose career was on an upswing, would have committed suicide. He also said there was nothing so far to suggest that he was murdered. For now, the mystery behind Gary DeVore's death apparently will continue.

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