Admired in Life, Reviled in Death

On a typically balmy summer day in late July 1999, the family and friends of Alex McIntire gathered at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Coconut Grove to bid him farewell. McIntire's body had been found days earlier inside his 1993 Mercury Villager minivan, submerged in seventeen feet of water in a remote Southwest Miami-Dade canal. No one had seen or heard from him in nearly three months. When police divers retrieved the body, they discovered his torso chained and padlocked to the seat; his right foot was chained and padlocked to the accelerator. The medical examiner ruled his death a suicide.

The church was filled. It was, by all accounts, a moving service. McIntire, who would have turned 54 years old a month later, was a well-known and well-liked administrator at the University of Miami. He volunteered at St. Stephen's, where he served as a member of the vestry. For nearly two decades, he was active in the Miami chapter of Mensa, the so-called genius society. And he was a popular figure among a large group of writers, academicians, and other cognoscenti who frequent a respected conference Website known as the Well.

Indeed friends came from as far away as California for the funeral. One of those friends -- San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll, speaking to a national audience a few days later as a guest commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition -- paid tribute to McIntire as a “scholar, a loving father, a man who constantly sought to take comfort in faith.” Months later acclaimed novelist Russell Banks dedicated his new book of short stories to the memory of Alex McIntire.

But few people at that wrenching service -- if any at all -- knew the burning secret that appears to have prompted McIntire to take his own life. He left no suicide note. He said goodbye to no one, leaving his wife and daughter in shock and his colleagues and friends across the nation at a complete loss for understanding. That secret, which dates back more than 25 years, is a haunting, disturbing tale that first began to unravel when a woman named Lisa Hamilton revealed to her mother that she had been sexually abused as a child. The abuse, she said, went on for years and years and had been committed by her stepfather, Alex McIntire.

Hamilton is now 32 years old and lives in Lexington, Kentucky. She claims that on an almost nightly basis, McIntire crept into her room and assaulted her while others in the house slept. The abuse occurred from the time she was six until she was fourteen, when McIntire divorced her mother. Because Hamilton kept silent for more than a decade, no physical evidence exists linking McIntire to the assaults. And there are no corroborating witnesses. Thus her charges remain unproven allegations.

While no one can be certain what impelled McIntire to bind himself inside his van before plunging it into a canal, this much is known: On the day he disappeared and presumably ended his life, he was expected to meet with detectives from the Miami-Dade Police Department's Sexual Crimes Bureau to answer the allegations brought forth by Lisa Hamilton.

If Alex McIntire could lay claim to a unique distinction, it was the result of a genetic stroke of luck that blessed him with the IQ of a genius. In 1985 the Miami Herald's now-defunct Sunday magazine, Tropic, published a flattering profile of McIntire, dubbing him “the smartest man in Miami.” It was a fitting appellation. Since the early Seventies, he had been a member of Mensa, the organization with but one entrance requirement: a score on a standardized IQ (intelligence quotient) test higher than 98 percent of the general population.

Within Mensa's Miami chapter, McIntire was widely regarded as the brightest of the bunch. With good reason. Beyond Mensa is an organization called Intertel, which requires for admission an IQ test score above the 99th percentile. McIntire was a member. And beyond Intertel lies the Triple Nine Society. In order to join, one must score higher than 99.9 percent of the population. McIntire was a member of that, too. But there is a higher level still. Those who qualify as “triple-niners” can take a verbal-acuity test for membership in ISPE, the International Society of Philosophical Enquiry. The test separates the living robots from those able to engage in intelligent, meaningful conversation. In the entire world today, there are just 631 members of the ISPE. McIntire was among them.

For years he served as president of Mensa's Miami chapter. He often attended the group's monthly dinner meetings and other social functions at which members gathered to socialize, exchange ideas, and discuss everything from college football to astrophysics. Seth Lefkow, now 72 years old, has been a member for years. A few months after McIntire's death, Lefkow recounted for New Times a story he says at once illustrated McIntire's breadth of knowledge, social grace, and sensitivity. About five years ago, a group of 40 or so Mensa members met for an informal dinner at Tien Kue Inn, a Chinese restaurant on Coral Way in Miami. In walked a couple, new to the group. After ten or fifteen seconds of awkward silence (Mensa members are known for their intelligence, not their savoir-faire), McIntire stood up and, recognizing the man's Indian features, welcomed him in Urdu, a language in which McIntire happened to be fluent. “It was such a gracious touch,” recalled Lefkow, adding that he never had admired anybody more than McIntire: “The most intelligent human being I've ever met.”

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David Villano