MARY JO KOPECHNE Biography - Crimes, Laws and people


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Name: Mary Jo Kopechne                                                               
Born: July 26, 1940  Forty Fort, Pennsylvania, United States                         
Died: July 18, 1969 Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts, United States               
Mary Jo Kopechne (July 26, 1940 – July 18, 1969) was an American teacher,           
secretary and administrator, notable for her death in a car accident on               
Chappaquiddick Island in a car driven by Senator Ted Kennedy.                         
Kopechne, born in Forty Fort, Pennsylvania, was the only child of insurance           
salesman Joseph Kopechne and his wife Gwen. Upon graduation from Caldwell             
College for women in New Jersey, Kopechne moved to Birmingham, Alabama to teach       
at the Mission of St. Jude school. She then moved to Washington, D.C. to work as     
secretary to Florida Senator George Smathers before subsequently becoming             
secretary to New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy following his election in 1964.       
At the time of her death, she was working for Matt Reese Associates, a               
Washington D.C. firm that helped establish campaign headquarters for politicians.     
She had taken that position in December 1968 after Kennedy's death from an           
assassin's bullet the previous June.                                                 
On July 18, 1969, Kopechne attended a party on Chappaquiddick Island, off the         
coast of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, held in honor of the "Boiler Room         
Girls." This affectionate name was given to the six young women who had been         
vital to the late Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign and who had                 
subsequently closed up his files and campaign office after his assassination.         
Besides Kopechne, the other women, all single, were Susan Tannenbaum, Maryellen       
Lyons, Ann Lyons, Rosemary (Cricket) Keough, and Esther Newberg. The men in           
attendance, all married but present without their wives, were Ted Kennedy, Joe       
Gargan, U.S. Attorney Paul Markham, Charles Tretter, Raymond La Rosa, and John       
Crimmins. The festivity was held at Lawrence Cottage, rented for the occasion by     
Gargan, Kennedy's cousin and lawyer. The 12 attendees gathered at the cottage         
after two Kennedy boats raced in the Edgartown Regatta earlier in the day.           
Kopechne left the party at 11:15 p.m. with Kennedy after he allegedly offered to     
drive her back to the Katama Shores Motor Inn in Edgartown where she was staying.     
(According to Kennedy, they left the party at 11:15 p.m. to catch the last ferry     
of the night -- at midnight. However, there is evidence that Kennedy and             
Kopechne may not have left the party until after midnight, thus suggesting they       
had no intention of catching the ferry.) According to Kennedy, on his way to the     
ferry crossing back to Edgartown, he accidentally turned right onto Dike Road -       
a dirt road - instead of bearing left on Main Street which was a paved road.         
After proceeding one-half mile, he descended a hill and came upon a narrow           
bridge set obliquely to the unlit road. Kennedy drove the 1967 Oldsmobile             
Delmont 88 belonging to his mother, Rose Kennedy, off the side of Dike Bridge,       
and the car overturned into Poucha Pond. A Reader's Digest investigation             
estimated that the car was travelling at about 35 miles per hour when it left         
the bridge.                                                                           
Kennedy extricated himself from the submerged car but Kopechne died. Since her       
parents' lawyer, Joseph Flanagan, filed a petition barring an autopsy, the cause     
of death was never medically confirmed. When the car was recovered, all the           
doors were locked and three of the windows were either open or smashed in.           
Kennedy said that he dived down several times attempting to free her and, after       
exhausting himself, rested for 20 minutes, then walked back to the Lawrence           
Cottage where the party had been held. At the Lawrence Cottage, Kennedy summoned     
his cousin, Joe Gargan, and another friend, Paul Markham, to return to the scene     
of the accident. Kennedy sat in the back of a white Plymouth Valiant rental car       
that Kopechne had used that day. Though there was a working telephone at this         
location, the group waited 10 hours before they contacted the police. Kennedy         
then returned to the submerged car with Gargan and Markham who then resumed           
trying to reach her. The group claimed that the tidal current prevented them         
from reaching her for fear of being swept out to sea. However tidal records           
indicated that the tide was running in the opposite direction at the time of the     
supposed attempted rescue.                                                           
Eerily, both the Bessette sisters, Lauren and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, and Mary     
Jo Kopechne died a few miles off Martha's Vineyard in water, on the third Friday     
weekend of July. (July 18, 1969 and July 16, 1999) The women died within one         
hour of 10:30 PM on a Friday night exactly 30 years apart because of operating       
errors by their uncle/nephew (Ted:John Jr.) escorts. John F. Kennedy Jr. was         
flying a Piper Saratoga II HP and the FAA cited pilot error as the reason for         
the crash and Ted Kennedy was either impaired or recklessly driving. There was       
no civil trial for any wrongful death in either accident.