In the early hours of June 28, 1997, Gary DeVore, a Hollywood screenwriter best-remembered for penning the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “Raw Deal,” disappeared while driving home from his friend’s house in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At the time of his disappearance, DeVore was working on a remake of the 1949 movie “The Big Steal,” a film noir about the hunt for a thief who deliberately disappeared in Mexico. DeVore wasn’t aiming for a modernized update, but a complete overhaul involving the American invasion of Panama in 1989.
Officially, the American government’s justifications for the invasion was to protect American citizens, defend Panama’s democratic system from dictator Manuel Noriega,and crackdown on the country’s drug trafficking. The invasion lasted little more than a month, and Noriega was ultimately deposed and then convicted for drug trafficking and money laundering charges in the U.S.
While conducting research for his script, however, DeVore became convinced that there were more ulterior reasons for the invasion. According to one researcher, as reported by The Daily Mail, “… the film may have implied the invasion was nothing more than a diversion that would allow the US into Panama to steal back incriminating photos of senior US officials that Noriega could have used as blackmail.”
The embarrassing pictures the government was so anxious to retrieve were allegedly taken during wild booze and drug-filled sex parties organized by Noriega. These parties were said to have gone on for years, and were attended by CIA agents and Congress representatives. Noriega’s purpose in organizing the parties was to secretly film American officials and create sex tapes that could be used to blackmail them. (Note: This rumor about Noriega’s secret sex tapes first surfaced in the short-lived “Sunday Correspondent,” in an article that was published two months before the U.S. invaded Panama.)
The night he disappeared, DeVore last talked to his wife on the phone around 1:15 AM, as he was driving to their home in Santa Barbara, California. Wendy tried calling her husband three times earlier, but his phone only rang and went unanswered. When DeVore called Wendy back 15 minutes later, he acted strangely and told his wife not to wait for him to come home. Despite being three or so hours away, near the town of Barstow, DeVore never made it home. The authorities searched all over his route, yet the screenwriter never materialized.
Worried by his behavior on the phone, Wendy was afraid that DeVore had been abducted. She strongly felt that somebody else was in the car when she talked to him at 1:15. DeVore’s publicist, on the other hand, thought that he left for Panama with the help of a CIA friend. Others suspected that DeVore committed suicide due to financial problems and dissatisfaction with his career. Over the next year, Wendy would organize many more searches and even put out a $100,000 reward to locate her husband, but it was eventually an amateur detective named Douglas Crawford who would find DeVore’s remains.
Crawford had nothing to do with Wendy DeVore or the investigation, but he believed Gary DeVore probably fell asleep at the wheel, drove off the road, and drowned in the California Aqueduct. Amazingly, Crawford’s theory was right, and DeVore’s Ford Explorer turned up submerged in the canal. His decomposed body was found in the driver’s seat, secured with the seat belt. The laptop DeVore had carried the night he drove off the road was never recovered. It contained the latest draft of “The Big Steal,” which he had worked on while in New Mexico. His gun, which he kept in his car, was also missing. DeVore’s autopsy came back inconclusive, but the authorities were convinced that Crawford’s accident theory was correct. Other people, like DeVore’s widow, suspected foul play or CIA involvement.
In recent years, thanks to the release of a 2014 documentary entitled “The Writer with No Hands,” public interest in DeVore’s bizarre death has resurfaced. The movie’s title is a reference to the claim that DeVore was missing his hands when he was found, a detail not mentioned in any of the newspaper articles I read from the time when DeVore’s body was discovered. According to The Daily Mail article I quoted earlier, the coroner who looked over DeVore concluded that the hands he was found with weren’t actually his. In fact, they were estimated to be over 200 years old!
With this weird little tidbit in mind, conspiracy theorists have argued that DeVore was murdered by the CIA because his new movie was going to leak a bunch of classified information about the Panama invasion. Letting Hollywood shoot the movie, so the story goes, would have been a threat to national security. Before his death, DeVore was allegedly very close with some members of the CIA, and regularly received phone calls from them. He even allegedly traveled to Panama with CIA agents.
This is all very juicy stuff, but none of these last few details have ever been covered or verified by a reputable mainstream source. The CIA does, in fact, have some connections with Hollywood. Since 1996, the agency’s “entertainment industry liaison” officers have worked to help and influence the movie industry. This influence might be limited to fact-checking or encouraging movie-makers to portray the CIA in a positive light, although some believe the agency’s scope goes far beyond just these activities. Interestingly, DeVore’s CIA friend, Chase Brandon, was an entertainment industry liaison officer.
As it stands, Gary DeVore’s death remains solved, and his CIA relationship flimsy. Currently, the police files that deal with his death are classified and unavailable even to Wendy DeVore. Perhaps, should they ever be released, the many rumors surrounding DeVore’s death will end up confirmed or debunked. For the time being, anybody interested in pursuing the conspiracy angle should check out “The Writer with No Hands” or its accompanying book.