The Murder of Mary Pinchot Meyer

The case of Mary Pinchot Meyer is still a fascinating case, decades later, as it is combines the romance of Camelot and the intrigues of the C.I.A. in Washington, D.C.

Recently, this case was featured on the True Crime Garage Podcast as a two part episode. She went to Vassar College- which is an area I am familiar with- coming from that area. Living in the Washington, D.C. area, she built her career as a painter and was married to the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) official Cord Meyer in the 1940s-1950s. Later, she was connected with her prior neighbor and late President John F. Kennedy. Even her brother-in-law confirmed the relationship, who was also an editor for the Washington Post, Ben Bradlee. A love letter (love being used loosely), was auctioned at one time for almost $89,000.

This case hit the headlines as she was shot on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath in 1964. There has been conjecture that it may have been due to her connection to the Warren Commission Report- which was three weeks after its release which was criticized by Meyers. Some of this was due to her outspoken opinions on the C.I.A., the wiretapping (who wasn't wiretapped during this time) and the efforts by the CIA to retrieve her diary immediately following. The 1960's was a time of Cold War and espionage.

“Her murder still remains unsolved to this day after the accused Ray Crump, Jr was acquitted at trial in 1965. ”

Meyer was a journalist besides a writer, and even though she was married to a CIA official, she was also under the investigation or "watch" by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) due to her pacifist viewpoints and her invovlement in the American Labor Party. Later, she married Cord Meyers and they became pilars in the Georgetown society. During this time, despite their association with Joseph Alsop, Katharine Graham, Anne Truitt, and Frank Wisner; she was openly critical. Her opinions even brought attention by Senator Joseph McCarthy, who accused her of being a Communist in 1953. Her husband became disillusioned as well, and he was involved in Operation Mockingbird (another article in itself) and tried to leave the C.I.A. to no avail. 

In the mid-1950's, the up and coming Kennedys moved next door- supposedly Jackie and Mary were acquainted- taking walks around the neighborhood together. Cord Meyer was posted abroad, fighting Communism and the Soviet Union money wise. In 1956, Mary's middle son was hit by a car and killed. The strain of this death as well as the separations apparently impacted the marriage negatively. She later filed from the divorce in 1958.

Pinchot Meyer resided in the Georgetown area post divorce with her children. She resumed her interest in painting and discovering herself- she was well-bred but also up for a bit of fun and "trouble" according to one of her friends. Supposedly, in 1961, she visited President Kennedy at the White House and an affair ensued. There has been speculation that there was more than just a sexual relationship and shallow conversation between the pair but also deeper conversations regarding political situations based on Pinchot Meyer's intelligence. Charles Bartlett, one of Kennedy's comrades, later was quoted as saying "That was a dangerous relationship. Jack was in love with Mary Meyer. He was certainly smitten with her, he was heavily smitten. He was very frank with me about it."

The Murder 

"Someone help me, someone help me," on the morning of October 12, 1964, mechanic Henry Wiggins heard a woman call out while trying to fix his car on Canal Road. He heard two gunshots and ran to a low wall looking ober the path. He saw a man standing over the body of a woman. She had two bullet wounds- one in the head and one in the back. Forensic testing later indicated they were most likely point blank or close range.

John Warner, a Washington, D.C. Police dectective, spotted a soaking wet man, an African American named Ray Crump less than a mile from the scene. This was also about forty minutes since the shooting. A weapon was never found. According to the author Peter Janney in the book Mary's Mosiac, The FBI Crime Report was withheld from the defense which indicated that there was no forensic evidence linking Ray Crump to the murder at that time. Crump did not have any blood on him and he was never linked with any weapon that used in the murder. 

Judge Howard Corcoran upfront indicated Meyer's private life could not be discussed in the courtroom when Crump's case went to trial. Despite the prejuidice at the time, he was acquitted. 

There has been much speculation between Mary Pinchot Meyer's death was sexually motivated, to the indication it was related to her relationship with President Kennedy or her criticism of the C.I.A. For more information, check out the True Crime Garage Podcast episodes.

More Reading

Smithsonian Magazine

To Listen to True Crime Garage Episode Series

True Crime Podcast


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