Hollywood is being lauded for capturing Dian Fossey's life on screen, but it's her death that should be explored, says the man convicted of her mysterious slaying by a Rwandan court.
"It doesn't address the most interesting problem: Who killed her and why?" said Wayne McGuire about "Gorillas in the Mist."McGuire, 37, refused to speculate about her killer. He said he doesn't want to think about it anymore.
Fossey, portrayed in the movie by actress Sigourney Weaver, spent nearly 20 years with mountain gorillas, an endangered species, in Karisoke, Rwanda. Toward the end of her life, she became obsessed with protecting the gorillas from poachers.
Rwandan officials say McGuire, 37, a student at Fossey's African center at the time of her death, killed her for her research data. He was convicted of her murder and sentenced to death by firing squad in 1987 - after he fled the country. Because the United States has no extradition treaty with Rwanda, he is safe in this country, but he can never return to Africa.
McGuire was reluctant to talk about his experiences during a telephone interview from Oklahoma. He is teaching anthropology and working on his dissertation at the University of Oklahoma.
"It's an old story, and if Hollywood wants to make big bucks, that's their business," McGuire said. "I hope that when everyone is done making money, they can go back and start protecting the gorillas."
McGuire's friends believe poachers murdered Fossey.
"He absolutely would never do that," said Wayne Babchuck, one of McGuire's friends, who now lives in Lincoln, Neb. "He had nothing to gain. . . . It would have been to his benefit for her (Fossey) to be alive because she helped him."
University of New Mexico anthropology professor Jane Lancaster, who knew Fossey and helped McGuire land the research job in Africa, said the Rwandan government blamed McGuire for the killing because "he was the only white person there besides Dian."
"The Rwandan government wanted to close the case, and it would be nice to blame a foreigner," she said.
Fossey had been battling poachers for years because they'd been killing adult gorillas for their hands and heads, which would be made into ashtrays or mounted trophies. Baby gorillas were sold to zoos.
The movie ends by saying her death is a mystery.
On Dec. 27, 1985, Fossey was found dead in her ransacked cabin in Karisoke. She was lying on a woven mat on the floor with a gash across her forehead.
In the movie, the shadow of a man raises a machete behind Weaver's back as she sits on her bed admiring photographs of her beloved gorillas. Seconds later, blood drips from her fingers onto the photographs lying on the floor.