Admired in Life, Reviled in Death

The mysterious suicide of supergenius Alex McIntire begged for answers. His former stepdaughter, Lisa Hamilton, is now providing them.


After his divorce from Linda Hamilton, McIntire remarried and had a child with his new wife. The family lived in a modest home on a quiet, tree-shaded street in unincorporated Miami-Dade, barely a mile from his office at the University of Miami.

He received his doctorate from the university in 1984 and began teaching as an adjunct professor of international studies. Soon he began a steady rise through the school's administrative ranks. While teaching he also served as associate director of UM's North-South Center, a research institute devoted to hemispheric affairs. Ambler Moss, former U.S. Ambassador to Panama and the center's long-time director, last year spoke to New Times about McIntire. Not surprisingly he recalled a man of extraordinary intelligence and insight. He also described McIntire as intensely compassionate. “Of the people who cared most about other people, he would have to come out near the top of the list,” Moss offered. “He was a great, great person. One of the best in the university.”

Jordin Isip
Jordin Isip

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In his most recent post, McIntire served as assistant provost for academic development, a position he helped to create. Much of his time was spent advising students. He also was charged with developing undergraduate support services, such as counseling and academic mentoring.

By the early spring of last year, McIntire had neither seen nor heard from Lisa Hamilton in almost fifteen years. There is no indication in police records or elsewhere that he had any idea his former stepdaughter had contacted investigators with her allegations of sexual abuse. But those years of silence had come to an end. On April 17, 1999, with much of his investigation complete, Detective Signori knocked on the door of McIntire's Miami home. Records show he planned to reveal Lisa's allegations. (Signori declined to be interviewed for this story and referred all questions to police department spokesmen.)

It was a Saturday at about 11:30 a.m. McIntire's wife answered the door; her husband was not home. Signori left his business card along with instructions for McIntire to contact him the following Tuesday morning, when the detective returned to work. In his report Signori noted that he did not disclose the allegations to McIntire's wife.

At 8:15 a.m. the following Tuesday, McIntire, as he did most days, said goodbye to his wife and left on his short commute to work. He dressed in his customary fashion: slacks, button-down Oxford shirt, and necktie. At 8:30, presumably from his UM office, he telephoned Signori as instructed, dialing the number printed on the detective's card. This is what he heard: “You have reached the Miami-Dade Police Department's Sexual Crimes Bureau.... If you know your party's extension, dial it now.” He entered Signori's extension but the detective was not in. In a voice-mail message, McIntire promised to call again later that day, perhaps after visiting his mother, who had been hospitalized following a recent fall.

He never called back, and he was never heard from again.

According to police records, McIntire left his office an hour after phoning Signori, telling his secretary he was en route to a meeting. He never arrived. He missed a number of other meetings that day. He also failed to visit his mother at the hospital as he had promised her.

By evening McIntire's wife was worried. Police reports indicate that at 9:30 p.m., believing he might have been arrested, she contacted the Miami-Dade Police Department and asked for Det. Steven Signori. He was not in, but when a supervisor in the Sexual Crimes Bureau learned of McIntire's disappearance, he dispatched an officer to file a missing-persons report, waiving the normal 24-hour waiting period. McIntire's wife told the officer that her husband had seemed depressed and had been sleeping a lot. She commented on his obesity.

Four days later Signori contacted Lisa Hamilton at her home in Kentucky, informing her that McIntire had vanished. The detective expressed concern that he might try to locate her. “It was a scary time,” Lisa recalls. “Every time the phone rang, I jumped.”

Investigators had few clues to pursue. McIntire's bank accounts were untouched, his credit cards unused. No one had heard from him. With the police stumped, his wife hired a private detective. A group of Mensa friends drove between UM and the hospital where McIntire had planned to visit his mother, searching the roadway for possible leads. The FBI, which usually does not handle such cases, briefly investigated following a plea from what police described as an “influential acquaintance” of McIntire's family. Two journalist friends -- Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle and British author Andrew Brown, a contributor to the monthly New Statesman -- published personal essays reflecting on his baffling disappearance.

About three weeks after he'd last been seen, McIntire's boss, vice provost John Masterson, offered police a gloomy assessment. “Dr. Masterson further informed this writer,” a detective commented in a report, “that Mr. McIntire was ... the most intelligent man he had even been associated with. He stated that if Mr. McIntire wanted to disappear, that he would never be found.”

Despite that increasing possibility, Signori continued his investigation into Lisa Hamilton's allegations. By early July the detective believed he had gathered sufficient evidence to charge McIntire with sexual battery, should he ever be found. Lisa had recounted the alleged abuse in painstaking detail. Her mother, while unable to corroborate the assaults, found her daughter's account to be credible. And most important, Signori obtained school records showing that Lisa had lived in Miami-Dade County before turning twelve. On July 16 he met with Assistant State Attorney Laura Uriarte to outline the facts of the case. But after reviewing the evidence, Uriarte expressed doubts that she could obtain a conviction. For that reason, she said, the State Attorney's Office would not file charges.

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