TV Report Validated12/03/2000 07:00:00 PM Eastern
A four-month investigation into the July suicide of Hillsborough County, Fla.'s top prosecutor confirmed the reporting of the TV journalist who found Harry Lee Coe's dead body after his story ran-and was blamed by some for the death (B & C, July 17). The special prosecutor's report concluded that Coe was an addicted gambler with deep financial difficulties who had manipulated public funds and records to cover his debts.
"Everything my sources told me was in that report this week," said WFLA-TV Tampa reporter Steve Andrews. But Andrews was hardly gloating. Coe's suicide and the backlash it caused have been troubling for the veteran journalist. "I knew Harry Lee Coe. We weren't friends; but we were acquaintances through our jobs. I never felt that our facts were in error. There's no doubt in my mind this was a story that needed to be done. This report underscores the need for the media to keep vigil on public officials. This guy prosecuted people for things he did."
Still, Andrews wishes he hadn't been the one to find Coe's body. And there were scores of e-mails, phone calls and letters-some calling him a murderer. He responded to every one that wasn't anonymous: "I wanted them to know that what they were saying was reaching someone. Frequently, after we spoke, we ended up in a fairly pleasant conversation." Following Coe's suicide, Andrews received reassurance from colleagues, mentors and journalists around the country. "They told me that this is our job. And they said to hang in there, [I'd] get through it."