R. Budd Dwyer
Pennsylvania State Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer had arranged for a televised press conference at the state capital. It was Thursday, January 22, 1987 and Dwyer was one day away from being sentenced on bribery charges related to him possibly receiving a $300,000 kickback from a firm that was awarded a multimillion-dollar government contract.
After reciting his prepared statement at the press conference, Dwyer told the audience of his innocence and explained that he wouldn’t resign. He then told his wife and kids that he loved them, and advised the rest of those in attendance, “Please leave the room if this will affect you.”
Then Dwyer yanked a .357 Magnum from an envelope, put it in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. No one was able to get to Dwyer in time to stop him.
The bloody press conference never aired live, but two Pennsylvania news stations chose to run the footage in full. It played to many area kids who were at home during a snow day.
Dwyer had always remained adamant about his innocence in the bribery case, even rejecting a deal that carried only a five-year sentence but necessitated a guilty plea. So when he turned down that deal and was convicted, he faced a sentence of up to 55 years in prison — which in turn pushed him to suicide, for the sake of his family.
By dying in office, Dwyer secured his wife and family a payout of more than $1.2 million. In a 2010 documentary, William T. Smith, a key witness in Dwyer’s trial, admitted that he lied under oath about Dwyer taking bribes. Perhaps Dwyer was innocent after all.
Warning: This video is particularly graphic.