On the eve of my 26th birthday, a woman was murdered in Cambridge, Mass., a few hours before two friends and I walked by the scene. We'd been having a few celebratory drinks in Harvard Square, and noticed police on the quiet street, outside an Armenian church. We had no idea about the crime until the next day, when it hit the news.
Mary Jo Frug, a professor at New England School of Law, had been stabbed at 9:00 p.m. while walking the short distance from her home to a convenience store. My girlfriend, Beth (now my wife), was then a student at the law school, and knew Professor Frug, although she was not one of her students. She, like many who learned of the murder, was stunned. I too was shocked, especially when I learned that my friends, Jim and Jeff, and I had walked right by the scene on Sparks Street on our way back to Jim's apartment.
I don't recall seeing police tape anywhere outside the church, although there might have been. Didn't seem there were many officers or detectives, either. Twenty-five years have passed, though, and my memories of that night have faded. I also don't recall where my friends and I had drinks, although I suspect my friend Jim remembers, because that's the way his brain works. I have fuzzy recall on seeing a guy walking quickly by us after we'd passed by the scene, but since we had no idea a murder had occurred, I didn't think anything of it. I'm sure the murderer, whoever he (let's face it, it was a "he") was, was long gone by the time we strolled by. The murder weapon, however, was found in the backyard of a house on Jim's street.
Beth and I followed the news reports and were surprised that no suspect was named in the weeks immediately following the brutal slaying. The neighborhood where the murder took place, while quiet and affluent, is hardly isolated, as it sits just off busy Brattle Street. There were rumors that a male student with a crush on his professor had killed her. There were also rumors that her husband, a professor at Harvard Law School, had a gay lover who had committed the heinous crime.
A quarter-century later the crime remains unsolved.
But that doesn't mean people aren't thinking about it. The murder popped into my head earlier this week as I drove by the scene on the way to my son Owen's camp. I knew that the crime hadn't been solved, but I took to the Internet just to double-check. Man, did that turn out to be a deep, dark hole.
Believe it or not, there are conspiracy theorists out there on the Wacky Wide Web who implicate President Barack Obama in Mary Jo Frug's murder. Fasten your seat belts, this is gonna get weird.
As I said, Mary Jo Frug's husband, Gerald, was a professor at Harvard Law School. Among his students at the time of his wife's murder was Barack Obama. The future president of the United States in February 1990 was elected as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, an event significant enough to earn a story in the New York Times.
Then 28, Obama had worked for four years as a community organizer in Chicago after graduating from Columbia University, according to the Times article. In 1991, Obama spoke during a campus rally organized around the simple idea that the law school needed to hire more women and minority faculty.
Three years earlier, Michelle Robinson a third-year student at Harvard Law School, wrote an article in which she also advocated for HLS to hire minority and female professors. She would marry Barack Obama in 1992, the couple having met while working together at a Chicago law firm.
As you are aware, there are unhinged people among us, people who, because of the awesome power of the First Amendment, can say whatever they want on radio, TV, the Internet or at their weekly I Receive Radio Transmissions Through My Gold Fillings support group. These types of folks are always prattling on about the powers that be and the evil spirits who command them, or how lurking in the recesses of the halls of power there exist lizard people controlling all of our movements, or how Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim Communist.
Has any U.S. president been subjected to more idiotic rumors and hate-mongering than Barack Obama? The bullshit birther movement, fostered by none other than current Republican presidential candidate and the most dangerous man in America, Donald Trump, maintains several theories about why Obama is Constitutionally disallowed from being president. He was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, they say (Obama's father is Kenyan). He became a citizen of Indonesia when he and his mother moved there during his childhood, so therefore he lost his U.S. citizenship. Others in this movement maintain he's not a natural-born citizen because he was born with dual citizenship (U.S. and British).
During the 2008 presidential primary season, Obama released his birth certificate, something which I doubt many, if any, other candidates for president in our nation's illustrious history have had to do. I didn't realize until I started digging into this issue, that anonymous supporters of Hillary Clinton are blamed for sending emails that initiated this controversy. The Republicans have been running with this moronic idea ever since.
This brings me to Martha Trowbridge and her ilk.
In a nutshell (emphasis on the first half of that word), Trowbridge maintains that Obama (she calls him "a.k.a. Barack Hussein Obama II") has completely fabricated his life story, and that his father isn't a deceased Kenyan economist but rather Malcolm X (birth name Malcolm Little), and that the 44th POTUS is a Communist whose real mother isn't the white American anthropologist named Stanley Ann Dunham, but instead Jo Ann Newman, who as a teenager fell under Malcolm X's sway and bore him a child who they named Bari Malik Shabazz.
I could go on, and believe me, I do love to read conspiracy theories of any sort because I consider them a rigorous form of mental gymnastics, as well as a great way to bring out my inner giggler. But let's get back to Mary Jo Frug.
A well-known feminist, Frug surely agreed with the arguments of Barack and Michelle Obama that the legal profession needed to open up to women and minorities. Ten months after her murder, the Harvard Law Review published Frug's last article, "A Postmodern Feminist Legal Manifesto (An Unfinished Draft)," in which the professor attacked the male power structure in the legal realm, according to Toxic Diversity: Race, Gender and Law Talk in America by Dan Subotnik, which is available free online via Google Press.
My Internet search for information about Frug's murder led me to MoralMatters.org, a web site run by a guy named Nathan M. Bickel that provided the ladder with which I climbed into this deep hole dug by Martha Trowbridge. The comments section under a post Bickel wrote titled, "Obama's real father: Forget what you have already been told," is where the crazy really begins, as it always does on the Internet.
A woman named Charlotte asks about "the photo of Obama superimposed on a report of a death of a Harvard professor sent to the NYT in 2008." Bickel, a former Lutheran minister, blathers on about how he was once was lost, but now is found thanks to the "wonderful and insightful" articles written by the "distinguished investigative author" Martha Trowbridge. He then directs readers to Trowbridge's "excellent website," Terrible Truth, which, frankly, is a goddamn disaster, design-wise. In responding to Charlotte, Bickel says, "I remember reading on Martha Trowbridge’s 'Terrible Truth' something about which you may be referring. Perhaps, she will respond to your comment."
(I have a feeling that either Bickel and Trowbridge are the same person, or that at the very least, Bickel is a complete and total shill who probably gets a cut of Trowbridge's likely pathetic book sales.)
Lo and behold, Trowbridge pipes up, as though conjured up by her alter ego, Nathan Bickel.
"Accompanying an early-on NYT (New York Times) profile of Presidential Candidate Obama was a photo of Obama at HLS, digitally altered to include imagery of the murder of New England School Of Law Professor Mary Joe Frug. Reportedly submitted by ‘a friend’ of a.k.a. Obama, it may have been sent for the purpose of extortion. Full report available at my shop."
And then Bickel, doing his best to pretend he's not Trowbridge, prods her: "Thank you for your informative comment which, I believe, elaborates upon what commenter 'charlotte, was referencing. Could you leave a link to your 'shop,' for that 'full report?'
Which of course she does. When I clicked through and tried to buy a copy of her report, "TT Investigative Report: Murder at Harvard Law School," for ten bucks, however, the site got a bit screwy and I gave up.
The commenter Charlotte then asks, "WHY WAS MARY JO FRUG wife of Gerald Frug, Obama’s law professor murdered? Was it to create a vacancy at Harvard so Regina Austin could be appointed as Derrick Bell and the Obamas were agitating for?"
This makes no sense, as Mary Jo Frug wasn't a professor at Harvard Law School. She was on sabbatical from New England School of Law at the time of her murder.
I have no idea what "evidence" Trowbridge offers in her report, but if her kicking off point is that there exists a photo that somebody sent to the New York Times in which Obama is superimposed over crime scene photos of Mary Jo Frug and this somehow ties the President of the United States of America to the homicide, then I don't even need to buy her report because she's an obvious whack job.
Trowbridge offers no link to this original Times story or the accompanying photo, expecting people instead to buy (or attempt to) her book. Searching Google for such an article and photo inevitably leads you back to Trowbridge's sloppy web site.
I had no intention of diving down into a black hole; I simply was curious about this long-unsolved murder. Makes me realize how easily people can believe the asinine things that Donald Trump says, because it's so easy to look online and find liars and cheats and frauds and not realize that's what you're looking at.
I'm done, but I want to let Mary Jo Frug's son, Stephen, have the last word. Luckily when I searched for Mary Jo Frug online, I didn't find only idiotic blathering. I stumbled across Stephen's web site, on which five years ago he wrote a wonderful remembrance of her and her funeral as he looked back 20 years to that awful time. You can read it here.