Thursday, July 06, 2006

Or did he really die under mysterious circumstances?

When certain persons died during the Clinton administration, rumors abounded, originating from the republican spin machine, that somehow the president orchestrated some of the deaths. So, perhaps, we should suspect that the current president orchestrated the death of his formerly close friend who had become an embarrassment, was soon going to jail, and who might possibly have written a tell-all book about the president.

Enron founder Ken Lay dies of heart disease
By Matt Daily

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Enron Corp.'s founder Ken Lay died of heart disease on Wednesday while vacationing near Aspen, Colo., six weeks after being convicted of fraud and conspiracy in the financial scandal that brought down the once-mighty energy conglomerate.

Lay, 64, who was awaiting sentencing, faced decades in prison in connection with Enron's 2001 bankruptcy.

"There was no evidence of foul play," Dr. Rob Kurtzman, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy told reporters in Grand Junction, Colorado.

"The cause of death is coronary artery disease," he said, adding that the post mortem showed that Lay had previously suffered a heart attack.

Lay and another former Enron chief executive, Jeffrey Skilling, were found guilty of hiding the financial ruin at Enron, the company they built into the seventh largest in the United States.

Once a confidant of former President George H.W. Bush and dubbed "Kenny boy" by President George W. Bush, Lay often appeared fatigued during the four-month trial. At one point, he told the jury from the witness stand: "I guess you could say in the last few years I've achieved the American nightmare."

Skilling was not available for comment, although his lawyer Daniel Petrocelli said the former protege of Lay was deeply saddened by Lay's death.

"He's distraught over Ken's passing," Petrocelli said. "He was a very good friend and a good colleague."

In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Snow said he had not spoken to Bush about Lay's death, but distanced the president from the former Enron chief who was once a major contributor to the Bushes' political campaigns.

"The president has described Ken Lay as an acquaintance, and many of the president's acquaintances have passed on during his time in office," Snow told reporters.

At the Enron offices in Houston, where a small crew of workers was selling off the company's assets to pay creditors, Enron Corp. spokesman Harlan Loeb said: "We extend our sympathies to the Lay family in this time of sadness."

Pitkin County sheriff's deputies and an ambulance were called to the Lay vacation home in Old Snowmass, Colorado, early on Wednesday morning. Lay was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after 3 a.m. Mountain time.

The pastor at the Houston church attended by Lay and his family said he was stunned by Lay's death. "The family called early this morning to say that he had died last night," said Dr. Steve Wende, pastor of First Methodist Church of Houston.

Lay had attended church there on the previous Sunday.

"He looked good. He was with people. He had family there ... he looked healthy," Wende said.

On Friday, federal prosecutors asked a federal judge to force Lay to forfeit $43.5 million they said he had received because of his crimes at Enron.

A spokesman at the Department of Justice declined to comment on Lay's death and said prosecutors would release a statement in the coming days on how they would proceed with the claims for the money.

Lay and Skilling had maintained their innocence, and planned to appeal the guilty verdicts.

Lay, whose wealth once totaled more than $100 million, claimed he had little money after Enron's bankruptcy, although prosecutors have said he had millions in annuities and other investments.

Born into poverty as the son of a Baptist preacher in Missouri, Lay excelled in school and advanced quickly in the worlds of government and business before taking the helm of the company that would become Enron.

Enron began as a small pipeline operation in 1985 and under Lay's guidance it rapidly grew into an international energy powerhouse.

During Enron's glory days, Lay basked in Houston's limelight and was a fixture on the charity circuit, donating millions of his own money and Enron's funds.

After his indictment, Lay was usually only seen in public on Sunday mornings for church services.

Another Enron executive, Cliff Baxter, a close confidant of Skilling, committed suicide weeks after Enron's bankruptcy.

Lay is survived by his wife, Linda, five children and step-children and 12 grandchildren. Information on funeral arrangements had not yet been announced by early Wednesday evening.

(Additional reporting by Ellen Miller in Grand Junction, Colorado, and Bruce Nichols, Jeff Franks and Eileen O'Grady in Houston)