Summarized by Kent Larsen
Case of Late LDS Doctor Before Grand Jury
Salon 26Jun00 D2
By Arthur Allen
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA -- An Orange County, California grand jury is
looking at the circumstances surrounding the attempted murder of
businessman James Patrick Riley and the death by suicide three days
later of his business partner, Dr. Larry C. Ford, an LDS Church
member and biotech researcher who's system for preventing the
transmission of AIDS might have saved millions of lives.
On-line E-zine Salon takes a look at the bizarre case, titling its
article "Mad Scientist" and examining what is known of Ford's double
life. While police believe that Ford was part of a conspiracy to kill
Riley, they don't have evidence that directly implicates him, and
since he is dead, can't interrogate him about it. They also have
don't have the person that actually pulled the trigger and shot Riley
in the face, but think they have the man that drove a get-away
What makes the case even more bizarre is the ties Ford has to South
Africa and the claims that he was involved with biological warfare.
Prior to his death, Ford had claimed that he had links to the CIA.
But even these links don't make sense, and none of it makes sense to
his friends and neighbors, most of whom admired Ford and thought he
was a genius.
Ford died Thursday, March 2nd of what investigators believe to be a
self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had become a suspect in the attempt
on the life of his business partner, James Patrick Riley, who was
shot in the face by a masked gunman on Monday, February 28th as he
arrived for work. Police had searched Ford's house the day before and
Ford met with his lawyer for several hours that morning.
The company the two business partners owned, Biofem Pharmaceuticals,
was a startup that planned to start human trials in the summer of its
anti-AIDS suppository and contraceptive Inner Confidence. The product
was conceived of and developed by Ford, who was called a brilliant
and unorthodox researcher by colleagues and friends. The firm claimed
that the suppository, which is based on lactobacilli bacteria, the
active ingredient in yogurt, would prevent transmission of AIDS and
other venereal diseases and work as a contraceptive for as much as
eight hours. While Biofem has a patent on the product, the use of
lactobacilli on AIDS is being tested by several laboratories around
the country, according to Jonathan Kagan of the National Institute of
Allergies and Infectious Diseases. Biofem has three scientists that
will continue their work on the product.
The suicide note that Ford left claimed that he was innocent of the
murder attempt, and told police that valuable information was hidden
elsewhere in the house. However, the part of the note that told where
the information was is illegible. Police are not sure where the
information is, or if Ford was playing a joke on the police.
Then police were told by Ford's assistant that the two had been
lovers and had been involved with drugging young women with whom they
had sex. Allegations, also unproven, arose that Ford had performed
unauthorized medical experiments on unwitting patients. But police
have no evidence that these allegations are true.
But they are sure that Ford led a double life. News reports have made
much of Ford's gun collecting hobby and his friendship with Neil
Knobel, who was once surgeon general of the South African Defense
Force, and brought Ford, a returned missionary who had served in
South Africa, back to the country, where he helped them develop a
policy of educating the military to use condoms, "Our whole policy of
protecting members of the defense force against HIV [educating them
to use condoms] came from my relationship with Larry," Knobel told
But Ford also tried to hold trials of BioFem's product in South
Africa with Knobel's help, and ended up meeting Wouter Basson, who
was in charge of South Africa's secret chemical/biological warfare
program. Basson, who has been called South Africa's Mengele, brought
Ford to teach about contaminating ordinary items to make them
biological weapons. One of the germs that Ford talked about, a
species of clostridium bacteria, turned up in jars in Ford's office
refrigerator when police searched the building after Ford's death.
Ford also made no secret of his feelings about South Africa, claiming
that the whites there were more productive than the blacks and
advocating less tolerance toward blacks convicted of breaking the
law. He said that he believed South Africa was going to hell in a
But in spite of all the damning innuendo and information in the Salon
article, nothing known by the public yet shows that Ford committed
any crime. Since Ford is dead, the target of the investigation is his
tax accountant, who evidence seems to show drove the get-away vehicle
from the murder attempt. It may also be that prosecutors are trying
to bring out evidence about Ford's connections to South Africa, to
make cases against other Ford associates.