Christmas Conspiracy Theories Catch Connell Crash

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Michael Connell, 45, an instrument rated private pilot flying since 2006, was also a Republican media consultant subpoenaed for expert testimony by a lawsuit alleging electronic voting fraud in 2004, and that, along with reported threats against him, has brought additional attention to his death last week in a plane crash. Connell was flying alone in a Piper Cherokee Six Turbo Saratoga on approach to Akron-Canton Airport Friday, Dec. 19, when he crashed two miles short of the runway in the front lawn of a vacant house and was killed. The FAA's preliminary report on the accident includes very little additional information (which is not at all unusual) other than weather, which it lists as "192251Z 30011 9 BKN005 OVC 01/M01 A2978." The report suggests very low clouds, near-freezing temperatures and a tight temperature/dewpoint spread. But, in a world of conspiracy theorists, that's just half of the story. Connell was, according to CBS, the chief IT consultant for Karl Rove and reportedly built a Web site that carried now missing e-mails sought by investigators looking into the firing of U.S. Attorneys. Now, after Connell's fatal accident, CBS affiliate WOIO has reported that "an anonymous close friend" warned Connell "at least twice about flying his plane because his plane might be sabotaged," and that Connell himself had "twice in the past two months" canceled flights "because of suspicious problems with his plane."

Connell's work was often highly politically connected. Aside from the connections previously mentioned, Connell had database clients that included the White House, and in 2004 he helped form an advertising firm that administered the Web site for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. All of that, plus his demise during a time of year when few people watch the news, has led suspicious minds to wander. Connell left behind a wife of 18 years and four children.