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Police seek to question Scaife in man's suicide

Wednesday, March 17, 1999

By Dennis B. Roddy, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Pittsburgh homicide detectives want to question conservative philanthropist and publisher Richard Mellon Scaife in a widening investigation into the death of a man who shot himself outside Scaife's offices at One Oxford Centre.

    Prior article:

Death sparks conspiracy theory


A deputy police chief said interest in the death of Steve Kangas was renewed following published reports in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that revealed that Kangas, a former Army intelligence officer, had published articles on the World Wide Web accusing Scaife of backing a right-wing conspiracy against President Clinton. Detectives now want to know if Scaife was the target of a botched murder attempt and if Kangas was involved in a conspiracy.

Kangas, 37, of Las Vegas, killed himself with a single gunshot to the head after he was discovered in a hallway men's room on the 39th Floor of One Oxford Centre on Feb. 8. Deputy police Chief Earl Woodyard said police who investigated the shooting at the time were unaware of any potential connection between Kangas and Scaife.

Woodyard said police are "taking a second look at the possibility" Kangas might have traveled to Pittsburgh to confront or attack Scaife. "Everything points to a suicide, but the article in the Post-Gazette brought up all these connections. We were not aware of his past involvement with the Internet or the liberal organizations."

Kangas ran a site on the World Wide Web called "Liberalism Resurgent." In it, he posted articles advocating left-leaning causes and included pieces that alleged Scaife ties to the Central Intelligence Agency and a "vast, right-wing conspiracy" to depose Clinton.

Friends and relatives of Kangas said they were unaware he had planned to travel to Pittsburgh. They described him as an advocate of non-violence who was opposed to gun ownership, although Las Vegas police records indicate he purchased and registered a 9 mm pistol on Jan. 26.

Detectives "are going to interview Mr. Scaife, if he'll submit to an interview," Woodyard said.

Scaife, who was out of town yesterday, could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Yale Gutnick, said he was unaware of any plans to widen the investigation.

"I think we're talking about really a very, very disturbed man. Obviously, something pushed this man over the edge and, in reality, the only person who can tell us about it was this young man and he's not around," Gutnick said.

According to Woodyard, detectives might also be interested in talking with Rex Armistead, a Mississippi private detective who has traveled the country in search of information on Kangas' background. Armistead previously had worked as an investigator on the so-called "Arkansas Project," which Scaife funded on behalf of the American Spectator magazine. The project was launched in Clinton's first term to dig up negative information on the president's background.

Armistead has not returned repeated telephone calls by the Post-Gazette inquiring about his investigation into Kangas.

Police also will examine any possible link between Kangas and a bullet slug that Woodyard said was discovered near one of the One Oxford shops around the same time Kangas killed himself. Woodyard said a bullet apparently pierced an outside window at the Kountz and Rider clothing store, which faces Grant Street, and said ballistics tests on the 9 mm pistol Kangas used to kill himself would determine whether the shot came from that gun.

The hole in the window was not discovered until after Kangas killed himself.

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