The Kangas Kronicles
While ruled a suicide, questions still linger about the death of Steve Kangas

By Mike Snow


Despite finding a broken front tooth and no powder burns on his hands, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on the body of Steven Kangas--a well-known Internet champion of liberal causes who was found shot to death last February in a bathroom a few feet from the office door of Pittsburgh billionaire and newspaper publisher Richard Mellon Scaife--stands by his ruling that Kangas probably committed suicide.

According to Allegheny County (PA) forensic pathologist Abdulrezak Shakir, who performed the autopsy, "It looks like a suicide," although sensitive neutron activation tests for powder residue on Kangas's hands "were inconclusive," no higher than ambient levels.

"If it is negative, it doesn't mean anything.... there are guns where you don't see much residue coming out the back," explained Shakir.

King County (Seattle) forensic pathologist Donald Ray confirms that: "It depends on how the body is handled, ... bringing the body in--if the hands are bagged. There was a study in Dallas [with] revolvers and semi-automatics:  only about 50 percent of the time you get powder residue on the hands after someone has fired the weapon."

Ballistics matched the fatal bullet to Kangas's gun, a 9mm Kel-tec semi-automatic, which he'd allegedly purchased and registered Jan. 26 before leaving Las Vegas, where he resided.

Because of post-mortem rigidity, the mouth wasn't opened to check for powder burns, a mistake, Ray says.

Kangas's "right upper frontal tooth was broken," but Shakir doesn't see that as damning, "If you try to open a mouth and put in a gun... you will see more external trauma... The only way they can do it is if there are three or four more powerful [guys]... and any adult... will try to defend himself."

Born in Iraq, Shakir may know whereof he speaks, although in my experience, guns induce instant cooperation.

An 11-year veteran of the coroner's office, Shakir and his two colleagues perform about 1,000 autopsies a year.

Painted by the media as a fringe lunatic and drunk, who had traveled from Las Vegas to Pittsburgh with the intention of killing Scaife, but wound up killing himself instead , Kangas's web site is well done, impressively researched--more like two doctoral theses--and reasonable, though there is some far-out stuff about the Knights of Malta, and he did think the CIA has extraordinary reach--a faith in conspiracy shared by Scaife, who had once run a CIA front: the World News Forum in London. One article on the growth of the underclass under Reagan contains 150-odd graphs and charts. Scaife is mentioned, but not prominently featured in the Website. Recent articles on the CIA's influence in creating the "overclass" are more extreme, though still scrupulously documented.

Though shot on Feb 8, no link between Kangas and Scaife was known  until March 14, when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported it, attributed to the fact that no one in Pittsburgh knew who Kangas was... and Scaife didn't enlighten them, though detective Rex Armistead, Scaife's chief investigator, immediately crisscrossed the country, interviewing Kangas's parents and going through his belongings.

"It did not strike any strange [chord]... later on when we get the news about all these allegations... I was surprised, because... I didn't even remember which case that was," said Coroner Shakir.

Scaife, who was in his office at the time, has refused to talk to police or press and his office claims they had no contact with Kangas, although according to security videos, he seems to have spent nine hours in the building that houses Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. and was found 60 feet from Scaife's office door.

Kangas was found in the men's room; according to police and ambulance EMTs, shot in the left side of the head, though the coroner only reports a wound in the roof of the mouth and no exit wound.

A building engineer, Don Adams, allegedly found Kangas, who was legally drunk (.14 blood alcohol), sprawled on the floor face up uninjured in the 39th floor bathroom at 11:30 pm and asked him if he needed help, when he returned a few minutes later, Kangas was sitting slumped on a toilet with a gunshot wound to the head and a pistol below his left hand. Paramedics declared him dead at 11:53 pm.

Pittsburgh Deputy Police Chief Charles Moffett said the case is "under investigation in the homicide section."

Arguably, Scaife--who has given millions to right wing groups trying to destroy President Clinton, including the Heritage Foundation, Landmark Foundation, Free Congress Foundation and Western Journalism Center, among others--was more than anyone responsible for Clinton's Impeachment and has operated with shadowy impunity because of his immense wealth, charity donations, and control of Pittsburgh Tribune/Review and the Washington-based American Spectator, which broke the Paula Jones story. The ground-breaking Washington Post May 2-3 opus quotes Scaife saying to a Nantucket group including Democrats in 1994 that: "We're going to get Bill Clinton. And you'll be much happier because Al Gore is going to be President."

When the publisher and editor protested The American Spectator's single-minded crusade against Clinton in 1997, they were sacked, reportedly on Scaife's instigation. According to Washington Monthly, "Scaife's reputation for reclusiveness is surpassed only by his reputation for vindictiveness"--he is quick to sue and use private detectives against critics (as he has on Kangas), and he carries obsessive grudges for years. The Westmoreland vs CBS suit was funded by Scaife.

A March Tribune editorial virulently attacks the Post/Gazette's editor and reporter Dennis Roddy (who previously had worked for Scaife) for publishing the story, as well as personally smearing Kangas: "...they hate his (Scaife's) politics, and because most of all, they are haters and that is their nature". Kangas was "a sad loser, drowning in his own political paranoia."

Pittsburgh City Paper Managing Editor Chris Potter derides Scaife's tactics: "Dick Scaife and the Trib pretend that they're the victims and then his paper is doing this sleazy crap where they write 'Dennis Roddy is a big jerk and his wife is ugly.' Everybody here just sort of rolls their eyes at Dick Scaife."

According to Roddy Scaife is a difficult subject because "nobody is willing to go on the record about him".

Scaife's private detective, Armistead, an ex-Mississippi lawman, is old friends with Starr deputy Hickman Ewing (an aggressive anti-Clintonite), who had also hired him for the Office of Independent Council. Armistead had also investigated CNN correspondent John Camp and worked for the $2.4 million Scaife-funded Arkansas Project (digging Clinton dirt).

According to Salon Magazine, Scaife had funneled payments to David Hale, the only real witness against Clinton in Whitewater and against Gov. Jim Tucker and the McDougals. Banker Hale was accused of defrauding poor blacks of $3.2 million in a fraudulent insurance scheme, and convicted on several counts, after having been protected from Arkansas prosecutors by Ken Starr.

Since Nixon's presidency, Scaife has contributed more than $300 million to conservative causes ($20 million in 1995 alone) through the chain of charity foundations he runs, a heritage of granduncle steel magnate Andrew Carnegie and grandfather banker Paul Mellon.

It's possible Kangas, a former Army intelligence specialist (Berlin and Central America Soviet eavesdropper/analyst) and proprietor of a comprehensive liberal Internet site: "Liberalism Resurgent" (, went to Scaife's Pittsburgh offices and committed suicide as a frustrated last ditch effort to start a serious investigation of Scaife (who is estranged from his own family-Carnegie/Mellon, and most former associates), a theory Kangas's father, conservative Christian Robert Esh espouses.

Kangas's break from his father's conservative upbringing was so complete that in 1992 he changed his last name to his mother's. Kangas, who had been trained in Russian at the famed Army Monterey Defense Language School, was a doctoral candidate at University of California Santa Cruz, where  he had headed of a chess club and was a respected debater in liberal Internet newsgroups, but had recently moved to Las Vegas, where he'd made as much as $200,000 a year as a partner in a computerized horse betting operation.

Kangas's conservative Christian father tried to get Internet provider (Santa Cruz) to shut down Kangas's web site, but supporters paid the bills and have established as many as four mirror sites, so Kangas's thoughts will remain. Reportedly his life had spiraled downhill in his recent days as his finances and romances plummeted.

It's also conceivable that Scaife, this erratic potentate who has flown into rages at the intrusion of reporters, confronted by a threatening character at his seat of power reacted in self-defense.

Ironically Richard Mellon Scaife has pushed outlandish "Clinton had Vincent Foster murdered" theories via Pittsburg Tribune-Review (a suburban paper with about half the circulation of the Post/Gazette) reporter Christopher Ruddy, who has also speculated darkly about the 50-60 people far-right fringe groups claim Clinton had killed. "Vincent Foster is the Rosetta Stone of the Clinton Administration,"  claimed Scaife. Now, a liberal activist and sworn opponent is found shot just outside his door... and he wasn't even questioned? 

Says Medical Examiner Donald Ray: "There are always outstanding unanswered questions- I think the police in a high profile case should... pursue them, because they will be criticized endlessly for not doing [so]."

This isn't the first time Scaife has been linked to a strange suicide. In 1973 former mentor and close friend Pittsburgh District Attorney Robert Duggan, under federal investigation for alleged mob payoffs, was found shot to death with a shotgun bearing no fingerprints.

Scaife had cut all ties with Duggan, who had married Scaife's sister Cordelia shortly before his death which was widely believed to be a mob ordered murder.

Chris Potter explained, "He marries Cordelia secretly. The theory of  law enforcement.. is that by marrying this heiress to the Mellon millions he wouldn't have to answer so many questions about where the money came from. Then he shot himself  on his hidden farm property on the day the grand jury returned the indictment for corruption.

But there were these questions: Was the shotgun too long to fit in his mouth.? Was the gun too far from his hand?So all this stuff... Scaife went through 25 years ago."

Cordelia reportedly hasn't spoken to Scaife since.

Copyright © 1999 Mike Snow. All rights reserved.

Online Journal Home Bush Special Reports Media Church & State Racism CNP Kangas

Copyright © 1998-2001 Online Journal. All rights reserved.