Crippled by Joe Kennedy on Nantucket, 1973
Pam Kelley’s family lived in Hyannisport near the Kennedys. Her older sister Kim was the longtime girlfriend of Bobby Kennedy, Jr., a heroin addict. She became David Kennedy’s girlfriend in the summer of 1973, and spent time with him in Colorado.
The lovebirds returned to Massachusetts, and decided to go over to Nantucket to meet Joe, then 20. On Monday morning, before they were to catch the ferry, they decided to go for a final swim. Joe borrowed a jeep to go out to the jetty.
This is Pam’s description of what happened next, from “The Kennedys: An American Drama,” by Peter Collier and David Horowitz:
“We were all sort of standing up in the jeep. Joe was cutting through the woods, spinning the jeep in circles. We were yelling and laughing and acting crazy. There was a rest area on the other side of the highway and Joe started to cross over to it. He didn’t see this station wagon heading toward us until the last minute. Joe swerved and we hit a ditch with our tires on the right side, breaking the jeep’s axle and flipping us. We held on to the roll bar for a couple of flips and then had to let go. Me and David were right together… in the air. I remember tumbling and seeing David’s face. I hit the ground. When I tried to get up, nothing happened.”
She was paralyzed. She would never walk again. Joe Kennedy, too, paid a price for his Teddy-like driving. A judge who had been a Harvard classmate of his late uncle and namesake Joe Jr. suspended his driver’s license. Years later, a radio talk-show host speculated that Joe’s favorite ice cream flavor was “fudge cripple.”
David too was heartbroken by the latest island atrocity involving Kennedys and young girls.
“You finally find someone to love,” he is quoted as saying in the Collier-Horowitz book, “and you lose her. It’s the s****.”
That was the bad news for David. The good news was, when he was in the hospital recovering from his own fractured vertebrae, he was introduced to morphine. Soon he too was a junkie, like his older brother Bobby. In 1984, David would be dead of a drug overdose at the Brazilian Court in Palm Beach.
Joe Kennedy is now retired from politics, at least temporarily. A few years ago, on the beach at Hyannisport on the Fourth of July, he set one of his sons on fire with some illegal fireworks.
No charges were filed.
Pam Kelley before Joe, high resolution
Pam Kelley after Joe, high resolution
From The Boston Herald Aug 31, 2005
Paralyzed victim of Joe K crash: Skinflint won't help
By Laurel J. Sweet and Maggie Mulvihill
Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - Updated: 07:42 AM EST
Joseph P. Kennedy II, who built upon his family fortune with a lucrative career of his own since leaving politics, allegedly told a Hyannis mother he left paralyzed for life in a car crash 32 years ago that he is ``broke'' and won't be her financial crutch any longer.
``I'm broke. I work for a non-profit. I'm not a bottomless pit,'' the chairman of Citizens Energy Corp. and former congressman allegedly told Pamela Burkley, whom he knew in their star-crossed youth on Cape Cod as Pam Kelley – his late brother David's girlfriend.
Kennedy denies through his lawyer that he made the remarks.
Though she acknowledges Kennedy, 52, has thrown some $50,000 her way over the years, Burkley, 50, told the Herald, ``I feel like he thinks I'm a piece of trash sitting in a wheelchair.''
The divorced mother of a 16-year-old girl said she earns $57,000 a year as executive director of the Cape Organization for Rights of the Disabled and suffers from recurring bladder cancer. ``I'm realizing my body is starting to give out on me,'' she said.
``I just want to live my life and plant my plants, play with my dogs and watch my daughter grow up. As I age, I'm getting nervous and less independent. And I'm tired.''
Steve Kidder, a friend and attorney for Kennedy, said Burkley's portrayal of slain U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy's son as cold and uncaring is wrong.
``The quote that she is attributing to Joe simply did not happen,'' Kidder responded emphatically.
In a statement released to the Herald through Kidder, Kennedy said, ``I have a very strong sense of responsibility for Pam and her circumstances. I have helped Pam many, many times over the years, and Pam knows I will continue to do so in the future.''
Burkley netted $668,000 from an insurance policy on the Jeep Kennedy flipped Aug. 13, 1973, snapping her spine and injuring five other teens heading to a Nantucket swimming hole.
The middle-class daughter of a builder and a real estate agent told a reporter at the time: ``There's no way I'd be able to spend that money if I lived to be 102.'' She decided not to sue.
But just eight years later, her trust fund was gone, invested in a house, medical expenses and land in Kezar Falls, Maine.
Kennedy was found guilty of driving to endanger and fined $100. A fawning judge told him, ``Use your illustrious name as an asset to do a lot of good.''
In the years since, Burkley struggled with depression, thoughts of suicide, and battled drugs and booze.
``Once I got sober,'' she said, ``I just flew. And I'm so proud of that and what I've done for myself, my community and my family. That's what I've spent the last 32 years doing and I don't see him owning any of this.''
Kennedy, meanwhile, has continued to live well.
Kennedy is the owner of nearly $2 million in real estate, including a rambling six-bedroom colonial in Brighton assessed this year by city officials at $741,600. In April 2003 he also took out a $1 million loan to purchase a 1,800-square-foot condo in an exclusive waterfront gated community in Key Largo, Fla., for which he and his wife, his former congressional aide Beth Kelly, paid $1.275 million, public records show
In addition, Kennedy owns two boats – a top-of-the-line, 35-foot fishing vessel he moors in Florida, and a 22-foot white sloop he keeps on Cape Cod, records show.
Entities related to his Citizens Energy Corp. paid him more than $400,000 in 2003, the last year for which records are available