Nobody knew what happened to screenwriter Gary DeVore when he mysteriously vanished in June of 1997. He had a dozen screenwriting credits under his belt, including the action films Raw Deal (1986) and Time Cop (1984), and had close ties with Hollywood celebrities and starlets including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Janet Jackson. He had just finished up a script about the U.S. invasion to Panama and planned to deliver it the studio but never arrived.
His disappearance prompted a nationwide search. Missing posters were put up with promises of a $100,000 reward for his recovery, and clues to identifying marks such as the deformed pinkie on his right hand.
After almost a year of media speculation and searching, he was found in his car at the bottom of the California Aqueduct in Palmdale, California, strapped to the front seat and with both of his hands missing.
His death was ruled as “accidental." However, due to the circumstances surrounding his disappearance -- the fact that he was on his way to deliver a script that revealed the “real reason” the U.S. invaded Panama and the fact that both of his hands and the script were missing -- many speculate that the CIA might have been involved in the case.
Such is the subject of "The Writer With No Hands," a new documentary which follows Matthew Alford, a British academic, as he attempts to show that the Hollywood screenwriter was the victim of a CIA cover-up.
This all begs the question: how could a Hollywood writer have any knowledge of the CIA’s role in Panama? Well, according to the Daily Mail, DeVore previously worked with the CIA in Panama.
“[A] former White House official from the Reagan/George HW Bush era has now confirmed to documentary producer Dr Matthew Alford,” reports the site, “that Devore harbored a deep-rooted relationship with the agency and traveled with officials to Central American companies including Panama.”
DeVore’s widow Wendy told the Daily Mail that the government was constantly calling their house in the months leading up to his death.
“We had a few at first ... Then in the last month one man was calling all the time,” she told the U.K. newspaper. “He was dealing in things that you’re not necessarily supposed to deal in.”
The British research team in the movie was warned by a Department of Defense contractor to drop the investigation. They were able to secure a testimony from the coroner who inspected Gary’s body that reveals the hands said to have been recovered in his car were in fact around 200 years old.
“Someone in authority lied,” Alford says. “Or made a shocking error.”
The script DeVore had been working on was to be his directorial debut: "The Big Steal."
He told his friends that the movie would be “the hardest-hitting film studios have ever seen” and would feature “disturbing details about the US invasion of Panama."
According to the Daily Mail, the first draft of the film told the story of American operatives robbing a Panamanian bank to cover up for “something much more serious.”
“With good natured suspicion, Romos speculates on U.S. intent. All this to pick up [ex-Panamanian dictator General] Noriega?” One line reads.
“It sounds like the Pentagon planned the bank robbery and the war is just a diversion,” another says.
The movie goes into detail about how Noriega ran a “honey-trap” in which he would host diplomats and officials, including senior CIA operatives, in parties filled with alcohol, drugs, and beautiful men and women, all the while secretly filming their actions.
In the documentary, Alford asserts that DeVore’s film showed that the invasion was nothing more than a diversion that allowed operatives to steal back the incriminating evidence Noriega could have used to blackmail U.S. officials.
On the night he disappeared, DeVore had planned to finish up the final draft of the script at a friend’s home in Santa Fe, carrying the script and research on his laptop.
At 1:15am, he called his wife to say that he was four hours away and might stop at a motel. That was the last time anybody heard from DeVore.
The Daily Mail reports that within a week of his disappearance, “men from the FBI, CIA, NSA, and DOD arrived at the couple’s Santa Barbara home” and left their computer “wiped of information.”
Don Crutchfield, a private investigator hired by Wendy in 1997, stresses the importance of the script to the investigation.
“If I had that script in my hand,” he said, “I could tell you what happened to Gary Devore.”
"The Writer With No Hands" is scheduled to be released in September 2015.