Autopsy of Researcher Given LSD by CIA Proves Inconclusive

From Associated Press

Though still suggesting murder, a forensic investigator says he cannot disprove the government’s assertion that a germ warfare researcher leaped to his death through a hotel window after the CIA gave him a test dose of LSD four decades ago.

There were no cuts from window glass on the head and neck of Frank R. Olson--such cuts had been included in the original autopsy report--and Olson had an unexplained lump on his forehead, said James E. Starrs, a professor of law and forensic science at George Washington University. But the six-month investigation into Olson’s death resulted in no scientific proof that Olson was killed.

“We didn’t find any smoking gun,” Starrs acknowledged Monday. But he said government officials’ contradictory statements and refusal to disclose details about Olson’s death suggest that he did not commit suicide.


Olson’s relatives initially were told that the biochemist employed at Ft. Detrick in Frederick, Md., committed suicide on Nov. 28, 1953, by crashing through a window of the Hotel Statler in New York City.

Twenty-two years after his death, however, the family learned that Olson had been given LSD as part of mind-control research the CIA financed during the Cold War.

At the request of Olson’s two sons, Eric and Nils Olson, Olson’s body was exhumed June 2 from a cemetery in Frederick.

“I am exceedingly skeptical of the view that Dr. Olson went through the window on his own,” Starrs said.

No LSD or other drugs were found in Olson’s body tissues, but Starrs said drugs could have been present 41 years ago. Results of drug tests on Olson’s hair are due.

CIA spokesman David Christian said Olson’s death was extensively investigated in the 1970s. In 1974, President Gerald R. Ford formally apologized to the Olson family and the government gave the family $750,000.