Who killed Philip Merrill?

Washington GOP insider Philip Merrill's body was dragged from Chesapeake Bay on Monday, 11 miles from where his sailboat was found last week, an anchor tied around his ankles and his head disfigured from a shotgun blast.

It now appears the multimillionaire publisher who held top Bush Family appointments at NATO and the Pentagon mysteriously "committed suicide" in exactly the same fashion as CIA-Watergate operative and JFK-assassination figure John Paisley.

Paisley "committed suicide" in 1978 on a solo sailing trip, also on the Chesapeake Bay. Like Merrill, Paisley's corpse was found with weights tied around his ankles and a gunshot wound to the head. His abandoned sailboat was loaded with top secret CIA files on various clandestine operations, despite Paisley's official retirement four years earlier.

Former CIA chief William Colby suffered a similar fate in 1996, when he allegedly took a nighttime canoe trip, leaving his house unlocked, computer turned on, and a half-made dinner in the kitchen. Colby's canoe was found floating upside down near his house.

Despite a major search effort by multiple agencies, his body didn't turn up for more than a week. And when it was found, it was a few feet away from where the canoe had been discovered. Colby was fired from the CIA by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld back in 1975 and replaced with George H.W. Bush.

Merrill vanished on June 10; his 41-foot sailboat was found by jet-skiers that Saturday evening.

On Tuesday, the family claimed in a statement that the 72-year-old Merrill was distraught over a heart condition -- so he bought a shotgun, took his beloved boat out on a sunny Saturday, tied the anchor around his feet, took his wallet out and left it inside the boat, shot himself in the face with a shotgun, and managed to neatly fall out of the craft and float for 11 miles and 11 days, upstream, with the anchor of a 41-foot-long sailing vessel tied to his ankles and dozens of search-and-rescue teams scouring the bay for his body.

The usual anonymous official told the Washington Post, "Obviously, he took his own life."

At least one of Merrill's colleagues was brave enough to call shenanigans.

"It is the most improbable thing I could conceive of," said Chuck Conconi, the editor-at-large of Merrill's magazine Washingtonian. Conconi worked side by side with Merrill for 15 years.

"From everything I could determine, he loved his life."

The Maryland Medical Examiner's office was also somewhat cautious on Tuesday, saying it was "waiting for further police examination" and "looking at the circumstances," according to the Baltimore Sun.

"Merrill was assistant secretary general to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the early 1990s and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States from 2002 until last year," the Washington Post reported today.

"Throughout his working life, he took time away from his business interests to pursue diplomatic and intelligence assignments for the government. He served six administrations, mostly in the State and Defense departments."

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