Disposition Matrix File 1: The Death of CIA Director William Colby



Willam Colby was the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) from 1973 to 1976, serving under President Nixon and President Ford.  Colby was an essential part of the release of the Family Jewels, which revealed illegal activities and misconduct that took place between the 1950s-1970s during the CIA’S developmental stages.  Two of the most significant illicit programs were Project Mockingbird, a propaganda platform that infiltrated mainstream media with false stories and Operation Phoenix – an assassination detail during the Vietnam War with a body count that exceeds 40,000.

Not only was William Colby a different type of CIA Director; he also exhibited traces of revealing more truth through his work after leaving the CIA.  Following the Cold War, Colby insisted that half of the Pentagons budget be redirected to social and education programs, of course, this never manifested.  Colby’s CIA position became a casualty of President Ford’s cabinet overhaul (Halloween Massacre) along with National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger and Secretary of Defense, James Schlesinger.  Colby was replaced with George H.W. Bush due to his straightforward persona and connection to the release of the Family Jewels.

He established a law firm Colby, Miller & Hanes, which focused on legislative issues for the public; Colby’s experience within international affairs became a valued asset.  William Colby was married to his first wife Barbara from 1945-1984 and married Sally Shelton, an American diplomat in 1984 – staying together until his death in 1996.  Colby retired to Rock Point, Maryland and settled into a two-bedroom cottage; his house was surrounded by water on three sides of the property.  He maintained a simple lifestyle; there were no cameras or extra security measures at his home.




76-year-old William Colby went on a solo canoe trip on the Wicomico River, located a quarter mile or so from his cottage.  He took no life jacket and left his house as if he was returning soon.  The police report states he left the cabin around 8 p.m. and traveled in the darkness down the river.  Colby’s neighbors Clyde and Alice Stokes stated they saw him through their window around 7:15 pm.  Colby’s lawn caretaker, Carroll Wise also arrived around 7:15 pm and was the last individual to speak to him.

The purple indicates the area around Rock Point/Colby’s house and the connection to the Wicomico River to the left of the island.


SUNDAY: APRIL 28, 1996

Around noon on April 28, 29-year-old Kevin Akers located Colby’s canoe near where Neale Sound runs into the Wicomico River.  The canoe was tilted on its side and was filled with white sand.  According to Akers, it had not been there the day before.  Kevin Akers lived in the area and was a local handyman who had no prior connection to William Colby.  Colby’s neighbor, Alice Stokes called the police Sunday afternoon when she noticed Colby hadn’t returned yet.

(Colby’s canoe: credit Zalin Grant)


MONDAY: APRIL 29, 1996

A search began for William Colby, aided by Navy divers, local police and volunteers.  Statements from his friends and neighbors confirmed Colby always took a life jacket with him.  He brought a life jacket on his trip but didn’t wear it; the jacket has never been found.

Screenshot_2019-04-20 News Newspaper Archives, May 6, 1996 NewspaperArchive®

MONDAY: MAY 6, 1996

William Colby’s remains were recovered 40 meters from where the canoe had been found.

The official autopsy report listed his cause of death as drowning and hypothermia.

(Associated Press: 1996)



Mark Davis – Witnessed Colby at the marina from 11 to 5:30 pm.

Joseph “Carroll” Wise – Caretaker of Colby’s property.  Last person to talk to Colby.

Clyde and Alice Stokes – Colby’s neighbors; they witnessed the last conversation between Carroll Wise and Colby.  Alice is the one who called the police regarding Colby’s disappearance.

Kevin Akers – He was the first to witness the crime scene and found Colby’ canoe.


Zalin Grant’s theory and evidence presented in his article “William E. Colby: A Highly Suspicious Death” is the best information on Colby’s death.  He stated multiple flaws in the investigation and demonstrated how Colby was killed.

The newest project on William Colby’s life is by Colby’s son, Carl.  “The Man, Nobody, Knew: In Search of My Father, CIA Spymaster William Colby” explored his father’s life in the CIA and beyond.

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