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'Bigfoot' cop wants job back

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The Clayton County police officer, who perpetuated a Bigfoot hoax, is fighting his firing.

Matthew Whitton has filed an appeal of his termination, asking to be reinstated to his job as a uniformed patrolman. Whitton, 28, was fired in August, after he attracted international media attention with claims he had the body of a dead Bigfoot.

Whitton and Rick Dyer, who once was a corrections officer, claimed they had the corpse of a legendary North American man-ape and had it frozen in a secret, safe location. They described the alleged animal in detail, including the color of its hair, its sexual organ and how "man-like" the animal would look, if it were shaved.

Teaming up with Tom Biscardi, a California man with a history of Bigfoot hoaxes, Whitton and Dyer held a press conference to "reveal the evidence." The "evidence" amounted to blurry and unconvincing pictures, and an e-mail reporting DNA test results as "human," "opossum" and "unidentified."

A few days later, everyone involved admitted the claims that captured media attention from CNN to The Sydney Morning Herald, from the Clayton News Daily to the New York Times, were false. The find was apparently a rubber suit stuffed with animal entrails.

When news of the claims first broke, Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner said Whitton's activities were personal as long as he did it on his own time, didn't do anything illegal, and didn't involve the police department. After the hoax was admitted, Turner said Whitton had lied on national television and lost his credibility.

Court cases in which Whitton was going to be a key witness, including an armed robbery that left a woman shot in the head and comatose, will probably be affected, legal observers say. Some charges could be dropped and some cases could be dismissed, observers speculate, because of the possible issue of Whitton's credibility.

Friends of Whitton in the department, have privately called the incident a personal and professional embarrassment, even though the fired officer said the whole thing was just a joke. To date, he seems to still think it was a joke.

Dyer responded to Whitton's firing in a conversation with the Clayton News Daily by attacking Turner's personal integrity, and called Whitton a hero, because the officer was shot in the line of duty a few weeks before claiming to have found a Bigfoot body.

Whitton said he always kept his job separate from his hoax hobby, at one point using a different first name and telling reporters at the big press conference that "my job has nothing to do with this." Most media outlets mentioned Whitton's work, however, as a reason his claims could be credible.

The appeal, filed by attorney Robert F. Webb, adds another argument against Whitton's firing, saying Whitton was "suffering from the physical and mental stress" from the shooting.

Webb is expected to also argue that the firing was done improperly.

A civil service board hearing has not yet been scheduled, according to the county's personnel department.