Wife: US official accused in Chile has Alzheimer's

December 1, 2011 - 9:00 PM

NICEVILLE, Fla. (AP) — An ex-U.S. Navy officer named in a Chilean extradition request tied to the 1973 execution of two Americans during the Pinochet dictatorship has Alzheimer's and is living in a U.S. nursing home, his wife said Thursday.

Patricia Davis told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from her Florida home that her husband, former U.S. Navy Capt. Ray E. Davis, "doesn't open his eyes. He doesn't speak. ... He doesn't recognize me. I don't count anniversaries anymore."

She refused to say which nursing home he is living in.

Davis noted her husband previously denied charges that he was involved in the killing of journalist Charles Horman and student Frank Teruggi, both U.S. citizens. Horman's plight was dramatized in the Academy Award-winning 1983 film "Missing."

Ray Davis commanded the U.S. military mission in Chile at the time of the Sept. 11, 1973, coup that toppled socialist President Salvador Allende and put Gen. Augusto Pinochet in power. As part of his duties, Davis worked as a liaison between the U.S. and Chilean militaries.

"He always spoke about them openly," Patricia Davis said of the charges against her husband. "He didn't have any hidden thing about this. He was always a perfect military man."

Chilean lawyer Sergio Corvalan, who represents Horman's widow, told the AP that he believed Ray Davis was also in the U.S.

"That the latest information that we have had," Corvalan said.

Horman had worked as a screenwriter for Chile's state film company during Allende's government and was investigating suspected U.S. military involvement in the coup when Chilean authorities detained him, according to the extradition request by Chilean Judge Jorge Zepeda, which was announced Tuesday.

Zepeda wrote that U.S. agents had labeled Horman's film activities "subversive," a characterization repeated by Chilean intelligence officials who later executed him. The request adds that "there are presumptions that following the covert operations that (Davis) completed in Chile, designated against Charles Edmund Horman Lazar, he decides to not annul the decision of the material authors of this death, despite having the possibility of doing it."

U.S. journalist John Dinges, who has written extensively about the history surrounding the coup, said the judge's request goes further than the movie "Missing," which accused U.S. officials of tacitly tolerating Horman's execution.

"They're saying (Davis) produced the information that led to his death and when Chileans consulted about it, he decided not to oppose it," Dinges said. "That's pretty strong, I think."

Chile's Supreme Court must still approve the extradition request. Tuesday's court statement also said retired Chilean army Brigadier Pedro Espinoza Bravo had been charged in the murders. The request cites Chilean and U.S. documents from the period.

Dinges said the U.S. would not likely extradite Davis, but extradition treaties usually require the host country to conduct its own investigation into the matter as an alternative.

"Two American citizens killed by a friendly government with the suggestion that we might have had something to do with this — it was never investigated but now it should be," Dinges said.

Reached by telephone Thursday, Terry Simon, a friend of Horman, said she was with him in the Chilean coastal city of Vina del Mar during the coup and said she believed Horman was killed because of information U.S. Navy officials shared with them as they waited to return to the capital.

Simon said Navy officials told them that U.S. ships were off the coast during the coup, and one American suggested he had been on board a Chilean ship then. Simon said she believes she wasn't arrested because she had moved to a downtown Santiago hotel, while Horman stayed at his house.

"I think because of what we learned ... and being with the U.S. naval group, I think that's why Charlie was picked up and killed," Simon said.

Davis gave Simon and Horman a ride back to Santiago, she said.

"Capt. Davis met us through the people in Vina, so it could have very well been that he was asking them questions and somehow found out they had really told us a lot of information at the time when the U.S. was denying any kind of support or involvement," Simon said.

Rafael Gonzalez Verdugo, an ex-Chilean intelligence officer, said he was asked to translate for Horman on Sept. 17, 1973, during an interview with Gen. Augusto Lutz.

"I ask if they see if there's information about Horman," Gonzalez said. "They don't hesitate and tell me, 'Negative.' ... This was the 17th. On the 18th, a military patrol delivers Horman to a morgue and say they found him in the street, shot."

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Associated Press writer Bill Kaczor reported this story in Niceville, Eva Vergara reported in Santiago, Chile, and Jack Change reported in Mexico City.