Father of Karen Silkwood says his hunt for her killers leads to south Florida '74 car crash killed anti-nuclear activist

June 11, 1993|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

MIAMI -- The father of legendary anti-nuclear activist Karen Silkwood says his search for her killers has led him to south

Florida.

For 18 years, Bill Silkwood has been pursuing a theory that a multinational conspiracy was behind his daughter's death.

"I've always known what happened. I've always known who killed her," said Mr. Silkwood, 67, of Nederland, Texas. "My problem has always been proving it. All the information I've been getting recently points to the Miami area."

The retired paint contractor took out a weeklong classified advertisement in the Miami Herald offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of his daughter's killers.

Karen Silkwood died in a single-car crash on Nov. 13, 1974, in Oklahoma. She was on her way to meet a New York Times reporter with information about Kerr-McGee's Cimarron Nuclear Facility's failure to protect workers from radiation. She was 28 when she died.

Her case has been shrouded in mystery. It's been the topic of three books and a 1983 movie starring Meryl Streep.

Her father says he now has names of the people he believes ran her car off the road and confiscated the records she claimed to have smuggled from the facility. Federal authorities stopped investigating the case more than 15 years ago.

Mr. Silkwood subscribes to published theories that bomb-quality plutonium was being diverted illegally by U.S. government officials to foreign countries through south Florida. And he's been plugging away for 18 years to prove it.

"My heart goes out to Bill Silkwood," said Daniel Sheehan, one of the original attorneys who successfully represented Ms. Silkwood's estate in a $10 million civil lawsuit against Kerr-McGee for exposing her to unhealthy radiation levels.

"Remote as his chances might be, he'll never give up," Mr. Sheehan said. "I more than sympathize with him, I completely support him. He's a working-class hero who believes in his country. He's never been able to stop believing that the system will one day do the right thing."

Mr. Silkwood said Wednesday he hoped the classified advertisement turned up more leads. Much of what he calls the "new information" came about from tips he received after putting a similar advertisement in an Oklahoma newspaper a year ago.

He's also enlisted the volunteer help of a Delray Beach, Fla., detective, Virginia Snyder.

. . . If we just keep persisting, we might get lucky. It's clear he's not going to give up," she said.

"Sometimes people tell me to let it go," Mr. Silkwood said. "I just ignore them. It's nobody else's business. I think I'm at a point now where things might be breaking open, but I won't quit -- not until I run into an absolute dead-end."

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