240: Richard Marx – Fresh Kills 9/11 Recovery Operation, Mass Casualties

Supervisory Special Agent Richard Marx entered FBI New Agent training in March 1997. His initial assignment was to the Philadelphia Division, where he worked on a drug squad and later the bank robbery and fugitive squad.

In this episode of FBI Retired Case File Review, SSA Richard Marx reviews the FBI Recovery Team he lead at the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, where a multi-agency team carefully sifted through tons of World Trade Center debris to recover criminal evidence and the remains and belongings of the victims of September 11. Richard was in charge of the site, along with New York Police Department Inspector James Luongo and New York Bureau of Waste Disposal Deputy Director Dennis Diggins, from September 12, 2001 to August 9, 2002. During the 11-month operation, the forensic recovery effort sifted the 1.8 million tons of World Trade Center debris down to a quarter inch in size and recovered over 4,500 human remains and over 75,000 personal effects and processed over 1,300 vehicles. The work at Fresh Kills, miles from Ground Zero and closed to the general public, is an important part of the 9/11 story most people don’t know about.

For his efforts, SSA Marx was a finalist for the 2003 FBI Director’s Award and was the 2003 Safety, Security and International Affairs finalist for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, also known as the Sammies, the “Oscars” of government service. The award read, ‘By carrying out his momentous task with respect and reverence, he helped the nation heal.’

SSA Marx was promoted to Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) in the FBI Laboratory’s Evidence Response Team Unit at the FBI Laboratory, Quantico, VA in April 2006. Since then, Marx has been involved in the support efforts following mass casualty events and disasters both domestic and abroad.

Prior to this post-9/11 assignment, SA Marx was part of a multi-division FBI Evidence Response Team that was deployed to Nairobi, Kenya to sift through the debris of Osama bin Laden’s bombing attack on the US Embassy. In December 1999, he had been deployed with the Philadelphia Division’s Evidence Response Team to work morgue operations at the crash of Egypt Air Flight 990 off the coast of Rhode Island.

Later in his career, SSA Marx was deployed as an Evidence Response Team member to Baghdad, Iraq to liaise with the Iraqi Survey Group and Joint Inter-Agency Terrorism Task Force and to Phuket, Thailand by the FBI Laboratory Division as the Scientific Chairperson for the Thailand Tsunami Victim Identification Group tasked with retrieving DNA samples from the 3,700 victims of the deadly tsunami that destroyed Thailand’s coast.

August 2009–September 2009, SSA Marx developed and coordinated the deployment of FBI personnel, which culminated in the solving of 28 unsolved bombing cases against Iraqi civilians and coalition forces. Nominated for the 2010 Director’s Award for Special Achievement, SSA Marx has led FBI teams at the 2012 Aurora Century Cinema 16 mass shooting in Colorado, the 2013 Algerian US hostage killings, the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing, the 2013 Asiana Flight 214 crash in San Francisco, and the 2013 Navy Yard shooting in Washington, DC. He earned a Master of Science in Forensic Anthropology from the Boston University School of Medicine in 2013. SSA Marx deployed from July to August 2014 to Ukraine and the Netherlands to assist in the recovery of human remains and Disaster Victim Identification efforts for the crash of Malaysia Airlines MH17. On June 12–21, 2016, SSA Marx led the FBI Laboratory Shooting Reconstruction Team (LSRT) that processed the Orlando Pulse Night Club Shooting Scene in Florida. SSA Marx was again deployed to co-lead the LSRT in July 2016 to process the large-scale shooting scene for the Dallas Police Shooting in Texas. SSA Marx was the Team Leader for the FBI LSRT that collected evidence and documented the scene at the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay/Route 91 Mass Shooting in October 2017 and the Thousand Oaks Borderline Bar Shooting in November 2018.

Special Agent

Richard Marx

March 1997 – Present

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The primary mission was trying to find evidence of the terrorist acts in the debris. That changed relatively quickly because it became a huge humanitarian mission to recover all the victims from Ground Zero.”—Special Agent Richard Marx

The following are links to news articles and photo galleries featuring the work SSA Richard Marx and his team did at the Fresh Kills Landfill to recover criminal evidence and the remains and belongings of the World Trade Center victims of September 11:

VIDEO – Fresh Kills 9/11 Recovery Operation Tour with SA Richard Marx and NYPD Inspector James Luongo

New York State Museum – Fresh Kills Recovery Exhibit

Baltimore Sun – 12/7/2003: Last little fragments from 9/11 make big impact at N.Y. exhibit

Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal- 2003 Safety, Security and International Affairs Award

Getty Images Photo Gallery – Fresh Kills Landfill 

Listen to more FBI Retired Case File Review case reviews featuring fascinating stories related to the terrorist attacks on 9/11:

Episode 154: Ali Soufan – USS Cole Bombing, The Black Banners

Episode 111: Ray Holcomb – The Looming Tower, John O’Neill, Yemen, and 9/11

Episode 112: Ray Holcomb – Inside FBI Counterterrorism Post 9/11 (Part 2)

Episode 192: Kenneth Williams – Phoenix Memo, Phoenix Mountain Arsonist 

Episode 162: Jean and Tom O’Connor – 9/11, FBI Line of Duty Deaths and Illnesses

 

We dedicate this episode to SA Lenny Hatton who perished in the World Trade Center terrorist attack on 9/11.
Members of the Philadelphia ERT (and I’m proud to say my former co-workers).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SSA Richard Marx touring the Fresh Kills recovery site.
Initial push back from the public and families related to the name Fresh Kills and that the site had been a landfill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Initially, workers raked through the debris spread outside on the ground.
Covered shelter from the elements and a conveyer belt system made the recovery process more efficient.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workers rotated on 15 minutes shifts looking through the debris for evidence, human remains, and victims’ belongings.
A 9/11 display at the News Museum before it closed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 200 episodes available for free subscription on all popular podcast apps.

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