SOLDIER OF FORTUNE DIES MYSTERIOUSLY AFTER
TALKING TO CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATORS
by Vince Bielski and Dennis Bernstein
A county coroner in Los Angeles has yet to announce the
cause of death of Steven Carr, a 27-year-old U.S. mercenary who
has provided Congress with much of what it knows about weapons
shipments to the contras. Had Carr lived, he was also expected to
testified in federal court against 29 contra supporters allegedly
involved in cocaine trafficking, an assassination attempt on
former contra leader Eden Pastora and a scheme to kill U.S
Ambassador to Costa Rica Lewis Tambs.
While Detective Mel Arnold of the Los Angeles Police
Department said the department is investigating the possibility
that Carr was murdered, at this point he said there doesn't
appear to be any evidence of "foul play." But in the days before
his death, Carr told several people that he feared he would be
assassinated. He was "very paranoid and frightened" because of
his role as a witness, Carr's sister Ann of Naples, Fla., said.
Here is what the police are saying about Carr's death. He
died at 4 am on December 13 in a parking lot near his friend's
apartment in Van Nuys, Calif., where he was staying. In the
predawn hours on this Saturday morning, while his friend,
Jacqueline Scott, was asleep, Carr left the apartment for an
unknown reason. After spending an undetermined amount of time
outside, Carr began making noise which awoke Scott. Arnold said
he could not describe the type of noise Carr was making. Scott
found Carr in the parking lot, who was "distressed and having
coordination problems." Soon after he died from a "probable
cocaine overdose." Asked if the police found any physical
evidence of cocaine use in the area of the apartment or parking
lot, Arnold said "no comment."
Dan Sheehan, an attorney with the Christic Institute in
Washington which filed the law suit against the 29 contra
supporter, said Carr used cocaine, but called him "an educated
user." Martha Honey, a reporter for the BBC, became friends with
Carr while he was a mercenary in Costa Rica. She said Carr was
not the type of person who would kill himself because he was
under pressure. "Stevie was a survivor. He had this ability to get
himself in trouble but he always seemed to bounce back. He had a
great sense of humor."
The source of his fears were not just the contra
supporters whose alleged crimes he revealed, but also the U.S.
government. Carr said that while he was in Costa Rica, U.S.
embassy officials threatened to jail him if he squealed on their
contra operation in Costa Rica.
In April 1985 Carr was arrested by Costa Rican authorities
for violating the country's neutrality and sent to prison. Carr
was one of several mercenaries based in northern Costa Rica on
land owned and managed by a U.S. citizen and reported CIA
operative named John Hull. Evidence from several sources suggests
that the contras operate what amounts to a military base on
property controlled by Hull as well as an airbase for the
movement of cocaine from Columbia into the United States.
While in jail, Carr spilled the beans about the contra
operation. To reporters, he claimed that Hull had told him that
Hull was the CIA liaison to the contras and was receiving $10,000 a
month from the National Security Council to help finance the
operation. Carr told Honey why he was revealing such secrets:
"Carr said that the mercenaries had been led to believe that
their mercenary activity was sanctioned by top U.S. military and
Costa Rican officials. He was extremely bitter at having been
Honey compiled information from Carr and other sources into
a book focusing on the role of Hull and other contra supporters in
the May 1984 assassination attempt against Pastora in Nicaragua
in which a bomb explosion killed eight people and injured
Pastora. Hull sued Honey, and her colleague Tony Avirgan, for
libel in May 1986. Carr received a subpoena to appear at the
trial, where he was to be a key witness for the reporters'
On May 16, Carr was released from jail. He later described
the events which took place in his life over the course of the
next week to Honey and an U.S. congressional aide involved in an
investigation of the arms supply network to the contras.
Carr said that Hull bailed him out of jail as a way of
persuading him to testify on Hull's behalf. Hull requested that
Carr testify that the reporters forced him to make the charges
against Hull, Carr said.
That same day, Carr said he went to the U.S. embassy to
determine why he was arrested for participating in a war that the
U.S. supports. He said he met with two officials, Kirk Kotula,
the counsel general and John Jones, the acting chief of the
According to Honey's notes of her conversation with Carr
about his meeting with the officials, Carr said: "The officials
told me they knew all about Hull's contra operation and they had
me call him. He picked up the phone instantly, as if he had been
waiting for my call.
"They said if I go to court and testify in your behalf I'll
go to jail whether I tell the truth or not. I had no choice in
the matter. The embassy told me to get the hell out of Dodge or
I'd go back to La Reforma prison. They told me that the bus to
Panama leaves at 7:30 pm and to be on it," he said.
Carr spent the next three days staying at Honey's house. On
night of May 19, Carr left the house to visit a friend, and the
following day, the U.S. embassy told the court that Carr was in
their custody and that he would appear at the trial, Honey said.
However, Carr said on May 20, following U.S. embassy orders, he
took a bus to Panama, and with the help to the U.S. embassy
there, flew to Miami a few days later. Upon his return, Carr was
put in jail in Naples, Fla., for a prior offense.
Kotula said he had talked with Carr, but denied the he had
threatened him or forced him to leave Costa Rica. "That's not
true, at least by me. I did not threaten him with any such thing.
I couldn't do that, what would be the possible motive. I can't
put people in jail and I can't get people out of jail.
"I tried to convince Steve Carr when I first met him not to
go and join up with some bunch of guys. He was nothing but a
overgrown child who had read too many John Wayne comic books."
Jonathan Winer, an aide to Sen. John Kerry D-Mass., said
the Senator's office is investigating the matter. "There are
obviously some very serious questions regarding the U.S.
embassy's role in Steven Carr leaving Costa Rica," he said.
After Carr's return to the U.S., congressional investigators
said they had planned on bringing him before Congress. His
testimony, based on his participation on a March 6, 1985 arms
shipment from Fort Lauderdale to Ilogango Air Base in El
Salvador, would have linked Felix Rodriguez--the ex-CIA agent who
reportedly met with Donald Gregg, aide to Vice President George
Bush--to that weapons shipment, Sheehan said.
"He is the guy that can prove that the March 6
shipment of weapons that flew out of the Fort Lauderdale Airport
went to Ilopango airport," said Sheehan. "He witnessed and can
identify Felix Rodriguez as the guy who off loaded the weapons to
smaller planes which were then flown to Hull's ranch in Costa
In early 1986, Carr and two other eye-witnesses told federal
authorities that several major players in the arms supply network
were involved in the shipment, including Tom Posey, head of the
mercenary group Civilian Materiel Assistance, Robert Owen,
reportedly a liaison to fired Lt. Col. Oliver North, and Hull,
With no criminal indictment by October, Sheehan alleged
before a congressional committee that the Justice Department had
engaged in a "willfull conspiracy...to obstruct justice....A
number of telephone calls were then placed to Mr. Kellner (the
U.S. Attorney in Miami) personally by Edwin Meese...instructing
Mr. Kellner 'to proceed very, very, very slowly' in any
investigation of this case." Kellner has said he
has talked with Meese about the case, but denied Sheehan's
A grand jury has recently formed in Miami to reportedly hear
evidence about the March 6 weapons shipment. But the one person
who could have provided the grand jury with an eye-witness
account that the weapons were transported from U.S. soil to El
Salvador--evidence which is essential in making a case that the
U.S. Neutrality Act and the Arms Export Control Act were
violated--is now dead.
"A great deal of the information Carr provided did check
out. It will now be harder for anyone to bring a prosecution with
Steven's testimony now unavailable, and I think that is very
unfortunate," Winer said.
e, and I think that is very