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Enron Executive Commits Suicide - 2002-01-25

Authorities in the southern U.S. state of Texas say a former senior executive of the Enron Corporation has committed suicide.

The body of J. Clifford Baxter was found in his car in a suburb of Houston on Friday.

Police in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land say they found Mr. Baxter's car early Friday morning in the center of a local road, positioned as if it was waiting to make a turn. Police Sgt. Truman Body said the officer who stopped to see if the driver needed help found Mr. Baxter inside dead.

"On this date, at 2:23 a.m., Sugar Land Police discovered John C. Baxter located inside his vehicle with an apparent gunshot wound to the head. At this time there has been a suicide note located. He was the sole occupant of the vehicle, there has been an autopsy ordered," Mr. Body told reporters.

Mr. Baxter was a former vice chairman at the energy trading company Enron. He had reportedly argued with then-Chief Executive of Enron, Jeffrey Skilling, over accounting practices that kept billions of dollars in company debt hidden. Mr. Baxter left Enron in May of last year. The company is now involved in the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

A federal lawsuit filed against Enron says Mr. Baxter sold $35 million worth of company stock between late 1998 and last November. He is one of 29 former and current Enron executives named as defendants in the lawsuit. Several congressional committees in Washington are also looking into the company's collapse.

Former Enron employee Michael Miller, who knew Mr. Baxter, told television interviewers Friday he had no idea whether the lawsuit figured in Mr. Baxter's apparent decision to kill himself. "I do not know what was going on in his private life. Clearly, there were a lot of things happening at Enron, not all of which I am aware of or privy to. I hate to speculate in that direction," Mr. Miller said.

Enron released a statement Friday saying, "We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our friend and colleague, Cliff Baxter. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."