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Witness In Contra Arms Case Trying To Rebuild Life, Sister Says

December 22, 1986

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A potential witness in a Nicaraguan Contras gun-running case, who died of a possible drug overdose, was trying to rebuild his life after being jailed in Costa Rica and Florida, his sister says.

Steven Paul Carr, 27, had moved into a Panorama City town house a month ago, but died on the driveway there on Dec. 13. Coroner’s investigators were still conducting tests to see exactly what killed him, but police say it appeared to have been a cocaine overdose.

″He came out here to start over - to get a job and work and be normal,″ sister Linda Nichols of Reseda said last week.

Carr provided prosecutors with details on one weapons shipment in a Central American gun-running operation under investigation in Florida, but he also made conflicting statements and would have been a ″defense lawyer’s dream″ in court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ana Barnett said in Miami.

Another of his sisters, Ann Carr of Naples, Fla., said he was ″very paranoid and frightened″ by his role as witness.

His allegations also were reported to at least one congressional committee that is investigating the Iran-Contras arms scandal.

Carr said he had worked in northern Costa Rica with the Contra rebels fighting Nicaragua’s leftist government because he wanted to fight communists.

His attorney, Gerry Berry of Naples, Fla., said Carr was interested in resuming his career as a mercenary.

But his landlady, Jackie Scott, said: ″He wanted to forget the whole thing, but he was scared.″

Carr said he had received threats from people who did not want him to testify and threats from others who did want him to testify, Ms. Scott said.

″Every light in the house was kept on,″ and he constantly checked to make sure the doors were locked, said Ms. Scott. She described Carr as a ″recreational″ cocaine user.

On the night he died, she said, she was awakened by her daughter who said Carr was making a commotion. Ms. Scott said she found him lying on the driveway.

She said that when she asked him what happened, he replied: ″I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I paranoided out, I ate it all.″

Then he went into convulsions and died, she said.

Berry said he was suspicious about Carr’s death because of the simultaneous Iran-Contras arms scandal, but ″it would appear there was no foul play.″

Beth Hawkins, a reporter for the Tico Times, an English-language weekly newspaper in San Jose, Costa Rica, said she was with reporters who interviewed Carr several times.

″He was an extremely paranoid individual,″ Ms. Hawkins recalled. ″His big rap on coming down here was that his brother got to go to Vietnam and he didn’t and that he came down to fight communists.″

Carr had said he participated in a secret March 1985 weapons supply flight from Florida to the Ilopango military airport in El Salvador. The liberal International Center for Development Policy in Washington has said that shipment included .50-caliber machine guns and mortars provided by Cuban exile groups in Miami.

Center director Lindsay Mattison said his group has been gathering information on weapons shipments to the Contras at the request of Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., who has been investigating Contra gun-running for the past year.

Carr and four other mercenaries were arrested last year by Costa Rican authorities and charged with possessing explosives and violating Costa Rican neutrality.

After his release, he returned to Florida but went to jail for writing bad checks. He was released there last month and came to California.

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