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Who Was Kathy Scruggs? How Did She Die?

September 22, 2020
4 min read

CBS’s miniseries ‘Manhunt: Deadly Games’ is the action-packed follow-up to its predecessor ‘Manhunt: Unabomber’. ‘Deadly Games’, the second season in the riveting series, follows one of the biggest FBI manhunts on US soil, chronicling the search for the terrorist responsible for the Centennial Olympic Park bombing which occurred during the 1996 Summer Olympics. The FBI’s main suspect initially was the same man who found the bomb and saved hundreds of lives with his timely action.

The man, Richard Jewell, went from being hailed a hero to the most hated villain when Kathy Scruggs, a journalist with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, broke the news about Jewell being looked at as the main suspect by the FBI. The real bad guy turned out to be someone else, caught 7 years after the bombing. But Kathy Scruggs’ initial story paved the way for a slew of other defamatory, accusatory, and wholly incorrect news reports about Jewell, who was ultimately exonerated after being a suspect for 3 months. If you want to know more about the reporter who made such an impact with her coverage of what she believed to be the story of the decade, we’ve got all the details about Kathy Scruggs right here.

Who Was Kathy Scruggs?

Kathy Scruggs, a Queens College graduate, is widely remembered as and acknowledged to be a tough-talking police reporter of staunch journalistic integrity. Her colleagues describe her as bold, fearless, charming, and kind, with a raucous sense of humor. She had a big personality that one never forgets, is what is claimed by Kathy’s former colleague John Gouch. Another former colleague and a close friend of Kathy’s, Tony Kiss, says that while Kathy was relentless and aggressive in her pursuit of the truth, she never ever crossed ethical boundaries to get it. All of the people she worked with remember her as the good and dedicated journalist that she was.

Another old acquaintance of Kathy’s, writer Robert Coram knew Kathy from when she used to frequent Manuel’s Tavern, the homicide cop hangout in Atlanta where she usually chatted up and charmed the cops to get information for her articles. According to Coram, all the cops loved Kathy and nobody ever said anything negative about her, even in a drunken state. Everyone who personally knew Kathy admired her greatly, to the point that Coram even based a character in his book “Atlanta Heat” on her. Kathy was the inspiration behind another fictional character in another novel – she appeared as Kathleen Bentley in Jack Warner’s “Shikar”.

On July 30, 1996, Kathy Scruggs broke the story that the hero security guard who found the bomb at Centennial Olympic Park, Richard Jewell, was the main suspect of the federal investigation into the bombing incident that injured 100 people and killed one. When it turned out that Jewell was innocent, he sued the AJC and they fought, not choosing to settle. Kathy supported the publication’s decision to not settle because she believed what she had written was true at the time. It was a fact that Jewell was being looked at as the main suspect and that is all she had initially reported. Other reporters had built on her story and had later published more accusatory, slanderous, and factually incorrect articles that hurt Jewell’s reputation.

Her portrayal by Olivia Wilde in Clint Eastwood’s 2019 film, ‘Richard Jewell’, as a journalist using sex to obtain information, was hugely criticized by the public and news community at large and sparked a controversy. But the CBS show ‘Manhunt: Deadly Games’ is a more realistic and respectful portrayal of Kathy’s character.

How Did Kathy Scruggs Die?

Kathy was discovered dead in her Cherokee County home on September 2, 2001, at the age of 42. The cause of death was acute morphine toxicity. Due to the stress of the Jewell case, her health had declined over the years and she had been taking a lot of medication. After her death, the medical examiner was unable to determine whether the overdose of morphine was intentional or accidental. The medical examiner also stated that severe coronary artery atherosclerosis might have been a contributing factor in her death. No foul play was ever suspected and the coroner’s reports suggested that Kathy Scruggs had passed away peacefully in her sleep.

Read More: Where is Richard Jewell Now?

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