Who Killed Silas Emerson?

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crewtime 10/31/21 (Sun) 20:30:19 #93482010

Happy Halloween, Parawatch. Today I'll be covering a case from exactly twenty years ago, one which is particularly interesting. This one is not just a true crime case, but also a conspiracy. I wouldn't go so far as to quite call this a conspiracy, but there is absolutely something shady happening here. The case also connects to a minor urban legend, making it all the more fitting for this forum.

Summary: Over the course of a 34-hour period, ending at midnight on Halloween 2001, Vietnam War veteran and current DARPA manager Silas R. Emerson III was seen acting erratically in and around Arlington, Virginia. Eventually, he was found dead under mysterious circumstances, which were officially declared a homicide, but for which the culprit has never been found.

One of the most curious elements of the case is how DARPA, the DoD and local police have seemed almost unwilling to comply with an investigation, despite the fact that Emerson was a high-ranking government official. The police was initially keen on investigating the matter — but soon changed their tune — and I was able to scour what was publicly released at the outset to get a writeup for here. I'll go over this element of the case in detail later.

Timeline of Events

Tuesday, October 30th, 2001

  • 8:00 AM: Emerson arrives early for work on Monday. He says hello to his coworkers at the Department of Defense, none of whom report anything wrong at the time. Emerson is working on a classified project at DARPA - his direct colleagues on this project have not come forward about his behavior at the time.
  • 1:16 PM: Emerson abruptly leaves the Pentagon (despite DARPA headquarters being located elsewhere, Emerson worked in the Pentagon itself. I have been unable to find an explanation for this discrepancy), in the middle of his shift. A security guard notes his departure as part of his job tracking all entries/departures, but nobody else does.
  • 2:00 PM: Emerson arrives to his house in Washington, DC. His neighbor is outside and notices him enter the house. He lights a fire in his fireplace, despite it being just only 56°F outside — not particularly cold enough for a fire in the fireplace. He burns several paper documents in this fire. His neighbor sees the smoke and finds it unusual.
  • 2:?? PM: At some point while he is home, Emerson retrieves a copy of his will and three letters — addressed to his ex-wife, his daughter and his son — from his personal safe and leaves them on his desk. All of these documents had been written in advance. Also at this time, he retrieves his handgun from the safe.
  • 3:30 PM: Emerson arrives at the Washington D.C. Ritz-Carlton and checks in to his room. The concierge describes Emerson as having been anxious and nervous during the check-in.
  • 5:00 PM: Emerson leaves the Ritz-Carlton and heads to The Oval Room — a steakhouse frequented by President Clinton — for dinner. He does not meet anyone, and has an expensive steak dinner alone, ordering several courses, expensive wine and multiple rounds of desert. Witness report him crying during the course of dinner.
  • 8:15 PM: Emerson leaves The Oval Room and returns to the Ritz-Carlton. He enters the hotel without talking to anyone and spends the rest of the night in his hotel room.

Wednesday, October 31st, 2001

  • 8:00 AM: Emerson does not show up for work. No one at DARPA - neither his subordinates, associates or supervisors - report his absence or appear to consider it unusual. Emerson had not called in to take the day off.
  • 8:30 AM: Emerson walks down to the downstairs of the Ritz-Carlton to begin eating breakfast. He does not appear to be in any rush and remains in the dining room for several hours, until breakfast service ends, when he pays his check and returns to his room.
  • 11:30 AM: At some point, Emerson leaves the Ritz-Carlton. He walks to the National Mall and is seen meeting with an unidentified individual, who has yet to come forward. They walk around the Mall and sit down on a bench together. The purpose of this conversation is unclear.
  • 1:17 PM: Emerson purchases several bouquets of flowers from a near-by florist using his credit card. He returns to the National Mall and heads to the Vietnam War Memorial, where he spends an hour placing flowers underneath the names of all of the soldiers he had served with during the war. His family noted that he regularly did this on Memorial Day, but could not explain why he did it on Halloween.
  • 3:00 PM: Having completed leaving the flowers, Emerson sits down next to the memorial on a bench. Witnesses report seeing him crying. He leaves shortly thereafter.
  • 8:45 PM: The last known sighting of Emerson alive. He does not return to his hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton later that night, despite having booked the room. The father of a friend of Emerson's daughter spots Emerson wandering through DC, seemingly confused and nervous, regularly looking over his shoulder. Emerson briefly says hello but does not speak to the father for much time.
  • 12:00 PM: Estimated time of death.

Wednesday, November 1st, 2001

  • 8:00 AM: Emerson does not show up for work. Unlike the previous day, his colleagues at DARPA report him missing to their superiors — who immediately list him as a former employee.
  • 9:07 AM: Washington DC police find the body of Emerson lying in an alleyway. His head has been cut off, with a jack o'lantern placed above his shoulders to replace it. His arms are sprawled out at his sides — in his left is the murder weapon, a scythe; in the right, his severed head. Emerson's handgun is located several feet from his body — it is empty. There is a magazine worth of casings nearby, but not a single bullet. The police begin an investigation immediately.

crewtime 10/31/21 (Sun) 20:33:37 #93482011

There are three topics that I feel necessary to discuss in this case: the actions of Emerson leading up to his death, the manner of death itself, and finally the DARPA response to the death. Of these, the last is perhaps the strangest, and I will be covering it in more detail.

The first matter: what Emerson did in the two days before he died. First of all: it seems obvious that he had predicted he was going to die. When he visited his house for the last time, he pulled out his will, and letters written to his family in the event of his death. He was fully expecting to die soon after. This raises the question of what he burned in the fireplace — given the warm temperatures, he presumably was attempting to destroy something. Whatever that "something" was is unclear.

The rest of his actions over the next two days confirm this. He spends a lot of money between the five-star hotel and a steakhouse that Clinton used to visit. The next day, he skips work and visits a war memorial for his deceased friends — actions of a man who knows he is about to die.

It is strange that he did not directly contact his family or any friends at the time. He spent the two day period avoiding most social interaction, with the exception of the one man he met at the National Mall. If he knew he was going to die, why didn't he talk to his family directly to say goodbye?

On the whole, his actions seem superficially suicidal. But they could not be - he was killed violently, with his head cut off. The scene as a whole was staged after his death, with the murder weapon left behind at the scene of the crime and the corpse posed with a jack o' lantern. The murder weapon had no prints, no identifying information and no maker's marks. The police collected it, but were unable to use it as evidence.

This raises the question of another weapon — the handgun. The bullet forensics are consistent with him firing the gun multiple times, shortly before his death. But no bullets have been found in the alley, only the casings. So he fired the gun multiple times, the bullets were embedded in whatever they hit, and then the thing he hit was removed from the alley. If he fired at his attacker, how did they survive being shot so many times? Furthermore, the bullet was evidently fired, but no sound was reported despite it being in the middle of Washington DC. Neighbors in the surrounding area did not report hearing any bullet noises from around the time of death. So how did the gun get fired? Where did the bullets go?

The official story from the police is that Emerson was killed in a random mugging or something of the sort. His actions before his death were simply a coincidence — he thought he was going to die in one way (not explained), but died in another (not solved). I don’t buy it. It stinks of conspiracy.

crewtime 10/31/21 (Sun) 20:33:37 #93482011

The most straightforward explanation for the death of a well-ranking Washington DC official is that they were assassinated. That doesn't quite hold up here, for a variety of reasons. A lot of the official coverage on the case — and a lot of what you’d see on other sites that aren't Parawatch — attribute the death to assassination. I don't personally buy that.

The first major problem is that, whatever actually ended up killing Emerson, he found out about it during the workday. He rushed out of the Pentagon just after 1, well before the business day was over. The fact he went home and got out his will backs up the idea that the reason he left his job was because of his impending death — why would he have done that if he was just playing hooky?

The other major problem I have is with the manner of death. The kill scene had a carved jack o'lantern and a scythe — a clear reference to the day of the murder, Halloween itself. Why would an assassin have taken the effort needed to result in this detail? And why would they have killed him in such a brutal and inefficient manner? It was a deliberate act, one that was going for style over anything else — but not a style that sends a clear message, or one that makes the death look random or unrelated to the victim’s identity.

Now, I will address the third major issue of this case: the response of DARPA and the Department of Defense to the crime. Everything surrounding their involvement in the case strikes me as suspicious, to say the least. If they were not responsible for the incident, then there was a cover-up.

The most suspicious thing is that his coworkers did not report him missing, or as having left work early, until the day after he died. They all told the police they hadn't heard from him after the time he left work on Monday (and didn't mention he had left early — that was confirmed by a security guard who saw him exit, and security camera footage of his car leaving the Pentagon). It seems as though they were waiting for him to die before reporting him gone — but if so, how did they realize he had died when he had? Did they somehow know what was going to kill him, and when?

Furthermore, his coworkers would have likely known why he left. They later refused to turn over any of his work computers or documents, claiming it was all classified. It very may well be, but the fact remains we cannot know what caused Emerson to leave the Pentagon on the 30th. His coworkers, however, seem nonchalant about it — as if they know and are not worried.

In the initial days of the investigation, the local police made several reports on the incident, and spoke about it on the local news. However, once they confirmed the victim’s identity — and his employer — progress on the case crawled to a halt. The Department of Defense initially claimed they would perform their own investigation and work with the FBI on the matter, but this doesn’t seem to have happened. I was unable to find any evidence the FBI was involved.

With the DoD and FBI intimidating them, the DC Police ended up effectively dropping the investigation. Although a perfunctory statement was made officially stating the "crime of opportunity" hypothesis, it read as abrupt and rushed: as if they needed to get something out quickly in response to the Department of Defense's actions.

It is clear to me that there is something unexplained happening. I don’t know what happened, really. Maybe the DoD had Emerson assassinated themselves, or maybe he just learned of a coming assassination that they, for whatever reason, were powerless to stop. All together, it is a strange case. Many of the questions cannot be logically answered.

As for the urban legend that I mentioned when I began this tale. It is not particularly widespread, only circulating between a few people in the DC area. Every Halloween since 2002, at night, an unknown individual has left a carved pumpkin near the Vietnam Memorial. No one has ever seen who is leaving them, but the rumors say it is the ghost of Silas, returning on the night of his death to continue his tradition of honoring the dead.

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