323. Memorandum From Joseph J. Montllor of the Office of Middle American Affairs to the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom)1


  • Suggested Next Move in the Murphy Case

The controversy with the Dominican Government over the disappearance of Gerald Lester Murphy has reached a stalemate in that the Dominicans have taken a position from which they cannot retreat without severe embarrassment, while we officially indicate our skepticism of the findings of the judicial institutions of that country.

From the Dominican interim reply to our note of March 162 and the comments of Foreign Minister Herrera to Ambassador Pheiffer as well as those of Ambassador Salazar to you, we can anticipate that the final position of the Dominican Government with respect to the disappearance of Murphy will be the following:

The Dominican Government has exhausted its investigative and judicial resources in this case; and
The parents of Murphy have accepted the findings of the Dominican investigations and have accepted, through their attorney, an award of $50,000 for damages.

The State Department has limited itself to asking the Dominican Government to reopen its investigation of the disappearance of Murphy, treating this case as if it were an isolated local incident. Our rejection of the findings of the Dominican judicial institutions can be construed as intervention in their domestic affairs unless the Murphy case is proven to have international overtones which we have not yet revealed to the Dominican Government.

Therefore, the next logical step is to change the locus of the Murphy case from the Dominican Republic to the United States. This can be effected by informing the Dominican Ambassador in Washington that our domestic investigations into Murphy’s activities in this country indicate that he may have participated in the Galindez disappearance in association with certain Dominican nationals.

A note to the Dominican Embassy along the lines of the attached draft3 would not only place us on a firmer position with the Dominicans, but would also put the Department on record as having moved independently, in the light of available facts, without being under Congressional or press pressure.

On the basis of FBI reports reaching the Department, I believe that the Department of Justice will eventually come up with indictments or other public action in the Murphy–Galindez case. In view of the letter which has been prepared for the Under Secretary to the Attorney General,4 the Department’s first move should be to consult with appropriate working-level officers in Justice regarding the suggested note. I am, therefore, asking you to authorize me to seek to clear the attached draft note on an informal basis with Justice. The questions of delivery, final text, and so forth, would be decided upon after obtaining from Justice its reaction to the note as well as [Page 912] an indication of the judicial action which that Department may be contemplating.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 239.1122–Murphy, Gerald Lester/4–357. Confidential.
  2. In despatch 570 from Ciudad Trujillo, March 18, Pheiffer reported that he delivered the Department’s note to Dominican Foreign Minister Porfirio Herrera Báez on March 16. In the despatch Pheiffer wrote that he told Herrera “my Government had come to the disturbing conclusion, based on expert opinion, that if the specimens of handwriting represented by the Dominican Government as being those of de la Maza are actually his, then the suicide note was not written by de la Maza. Dr. Herrera seemed shocked by this statement and said with emphasis that his Government had implicit faith in the contrary conclusion reached by its handwriting expert”. According to the despatch, Herrera stated that the Dominican courts had determined that de la Maza was responsible for Murphy’s death. The Foreign Minister further stated that “such judicial determination was within the inviolable sovereign rights of his country and that it is clearly settled in international law that such sovereignty cannot be attacked by the government of any other country.” (Ibid., 3–1857)
  3. In this draft note, the Department stated that in order to investigate the role of Arturo R. Espaillat in the Galíndez and Murphy cases “it would appear necessary and appropriate, if Minister Espaillat is to remain in New York, that his immunity be waived for the purposes of the matter under reference.” The note further states: “Should the Government of the Dominican Republic not waive the immunity of Minister Espaillat, the Government of the United States considers that the Government of the Dominican Republic should agree to the immediate termination of his present assignments and status.” (Ibid., 4–357) For Espaillat’s account of his role in the Murphy and Galíndez cases, see his book, Trujillo: The Last Caesar (Chicago, Regnery, 1963).
  4. In a letter of April 8 to Attorney General Brownell, Under Secretary of State Herter expressed his appreciation for the periodic reports on the Galíndez and Murphy investigations sent to the Department of State by the FBI. (Department of State, Central Files, 739.00/4–857)
  5. The following handwritten note appears at the bottom of the source text: “Additional comment: It would be understood no action on a note of the kind enclosed would be taken unless we had assurances from Justice that judicial action was contemplated. CAS”. C. Allan Stewart was Deputy Director of the Office of Middle American Affairs.

    A second handwritten note, dated April 12, also appears on the source text: “See King’s memo re his … call on Justice which does not want note delivered yet.” The memorandum drafted by King has not been found in Department of State files.