Controversy Was Karen Silkwood Murdered Part 3

About the controversy surrounding the death of Karen Silkwood, history and exploration of whether or not her death was murder.




Other curiosities surround her death. A Rolling Stone investigation suggests that the Kerr-McGee plant was missing substantial amounts of plutonium from its inventory--enough to bring millions of dollars in a potential nuclear black market. The magazine speculates that Silkwood may have unwittingly stumbled across falsified Kerr-McGee inventory records as she was gathering information for the union. One of the last people to see her alive described in a sworn affidavit the documents Silkwood had with her the night of her death, contained in a brown manila folder and a large notebook. They have never been found.

The mysteries surrounding the Silkwood death remained unsolved when the suit brought by her parents finally reached the courts in March, 1979. The presiding judge allowed only one issue to be decided: Kerr-McGee's negligence in Silkwood's contamination. Other counts, which might have uncovered possible liability for her death, were thrown out. Lawyers for the Silkwood case theorize from the pattern of circumstantial evidence that Silkwood was under surveillance by Kerr-McGee, who knew about her special union assignment. The lawyers were not allowed to present a Kerr-McGee official's testimony that documents with the plant insignia had been found in the car and that--according to the owner of the garage where Silkwood's car was towed--only police, government, and Kerr-McGee officials visited the wreck during the night of the accident.

Though the jury decided on May 18, 1979, to award $10 million in punitive damages to the Silkwood estate (Kerr-McGee has apealed the decision), there is still no resolution to the question of whether she was murdered and, if so, by whom. In November, 1980, the case was reopened when congressional investigator Peter Stockton filed a suit against the FBI and officials of Kerr-McGee, claiming that they had conspired to put an end to any further inquiry into Silkwood's death.

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