Real Name: Joseph Daniel Casolaro
Nicknames: Danny, Dan
Location: Martinsburg, West Virginia
Date: August 10, 1991
Details: At 12:30pm on August 10, 1991, forty-four-year-old investigative reporter Danny Casolaro was found dead in his hotel room near Martinsburg, West Virginia. A maid had found him in his bathtub. Both of his wrists had been slashed several times. Police were called in to investigate. They soon found an apparent suicide note that read:
To my loved ones, please forgive me. Most especially my son and be understanding. God will let me in.
In the bathtub, they found a razor blade. It was determined that Danny's wrists had been slashed a total of twelve times. There were eight cuts on his left one and four on his right one. One cut was deep enough to sever a tendon. Investigators found his wallet, with credit cards and money, still in his room. There appeared to be no signs of forced entry or a struggle. As a result, they ruled his death a suicide. For unknown reasons, his family was not notified of his death for two days. They're convinced that he was murdered.
When Danny's brother, Tony, contacted the police, he was stunned to learn about the day in notification. He asked about Danny's papers, his investigation, and his overall life; the officer did not know about any of it. The papers that he had with him included hundreds of notes and documents from his year-long investigation. They have never been found.
Danny's family also noted that he was afraid of blood tests and needles, so they felt that it would be unlikely that he would commit suicide by slashing his wrists. Just days before his death, he told several friends that he was close to breaking the story that he had been investigating. It started as an inquiry into a computer software theft. However, it soon turned into an investigation of government corruption that allegedly implicated U.S. Justice Department officials. Some believe that he was killed because he knew too much.
His investigation began in August 1990 when he interviewed Bill and Nancy Hamilton, the owners of a computer software company called Inslaw. They had developed a powerful program called "Promise" that allegedly revolutionized information management for law enforcement agencies.
In 1980, the U.S. Justice Department purchased "Promise" to handle their millions of case files. Initially, it worked well with the department. However, during the second year of their three-year contract, the justice department began to withhold payments from Inslaw. This eventually led to Inslaw filing for bankruptcy. Bill and Nancy discovered that the Canadian government had acquired "Promise", despite the fact that they did not sell it to Canada.
Bill and Nancy spoke to Michael Riconosciuto, who claimed to have worked with the CIA on numerous top-secret projects. He claimed that people involved in covert operations in South America and the Middle East had distributed "Promise". He also claimed that the money received from selling it was used for other covert operations.
In August 1989, the Inslaw scandal became known to Congress and the House Judiciary Committee opened a formal inquest. Riconosciuto testified about his knowledge regarding this case. Within a week of submitting his sworn affidavit to the committee, he was arrested on drug charges by agents of the Justice Department. Former Attorney General Elliot Richardson also testified before the committee.
After months of investigation, Danny believed that he had uncovered an unsavory network of U.S. officials, organized crime members, and intelligence agents. He called the network "The Octopus". He claimed that it was behind several scandals of the 1980s, including the Iran-Contra Scandal, the B.C.C.I. scandal, the B.N.L. affair, and the now-discredited October Surprise. He was apparently in contact with several shadowy figures.
A week before his death, Danny told Tony that he had been receiving frequent death threats. He also said that if he did die, that Tony should not believe that it was an accident. On August 8, 1991, he arrived in Martinsburg with several briefcases, planning to meet with informants and conclude his investigation. He claimed to have been tracking the finances of "The Octopus" and believed that one of his new contacts would deliver new evidence. Some of it would include IRS print-outs of certain individuals.
The day before his death, Danny met with another source, William Turner, who was a former employee of a major defense contractor. According to him, he handed over paperwork describing corruption that Danny believed was tied to "The Octopus". The next day, Danny was dead and William's document were missing, along with the rest of Danny's papers.
Due to the controversy surrounding Danny's death, the West Virginia authorities convened a formal inquest, which included a complete autopsy. Tony claimed that Danny had been embalmed without the family's permission. The autopsy confirmed that bleeding from the wrist cuts were the cause of his death. It also suggested that he was not alone at the time it. Specifically, there was a bruise on his arm and head. Also, the tips of three of his fingernails were missing.
Danny's family learned that his hotel room was cleaned by a professional cleaning crew the day after his death. They inadvertently discarded important evidence. Interestingly, one of them remembered seeing two bloody towels in the bathroom; it appeared that someone had tried to clean the blood off the floor prior to when the professional crew arrived.
One strange footnote to this case occurred at Danny's funeral. During the burial, a highly decorated military official appeared and placed a medal on his casket. Nobody knows who he was or what connection he may have to this case.
Danny's family and many others are convinced that his investigation into INSLAW and the Justice Department led to his death.
Suspects: Several people believe Danny was murdered by a secret clandestine government agency dubbed "The Octopus," but such a presence is unconfirmed at best. His family believes that they killed him because he learned too much during his investigation of Inslaw and the U.S. Justice Department.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the March 10, 1993 episode. It was previously mentioned in the segment about Doug Johnston.
- Danny Casolaro on Unsolved.com
- Danny Casolaro on Wikipedia
- Danny Casolaro on Find A Grave
- Corbett report
- What Killed Danny Casolaro?
- Facebook Link