Watergate Burglars: Where Are They Now? Are They Alive or Dead?

Gaslit,’ Starz’s dark comedy political thriller series, revolves around various important real-life figures who were involved in the infamous Watergate Scandal, in which agents of the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (Nixon) or CRP broke into the DNC office on June 17, 1972, in an attempt to make photocopies of important documents and wiretap phones. However, all five members of the burglary team were arrested after a security officer found out about the break-in and alerted the authorities.

This led to arguably the biggest scandal in the history of America and resulted in the conviction and incarceration of several members of the Nixon administration and the resignation of Nixon himself. The five burglars were Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martínez, James McCord, and Frank Sturgis. They are portrayed in ‘Gaslit’ by Scott Michael Morgan, Oscar Torre, Jordi Caballero, Chris Bauer, and Don DiPetta, respectively. If you are wondering what happened to those five men after Watergate, we got you covered.

Is Bernard Barker Dead or Alive?

Like all other members of the burglary team except McCord, Bernard Barker had Cuban connections. His father was Russian American of Jewish descent, while his mother was Cuban. Born in Havana, Barker became embroiled in the political activities against the then-president Gerardo Machado y Morales as a member of the ABC revolutionary group. His father subsequently sent him to the US, but he came back to Cuba not long after and enrolled at the University of Havana. During World War II, he served in the US Army Air Force. After his Boeing B-17 was shot down, Barker spent over a year as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft I in Barth.

Image Credit: AP Archive/YouTube

After the war, Barker returned to Cuba and became a part of intelligence operations as a member of the then-President Fulgencio Batista’s police force. During this period, he garnered the attention of both the FBI and the CIA. After Fidel Castro’s rise to power, Barker came to Miami. At the CIA, Barker reportedly worked under E. Howard Hunt, who reportedly planned the Watergate burglary along with G. Gordon Liddy. Hunt was the one who later recruited Barker for Operation Gemstone. Barker was one of the “plumbers,” actively working against Nixon’s political enemies.

After his arrest in the Watergate incident in January 1973, Barker pleaded guilty to wiretapping, conspiracy, and burglary charges. After the presiding judge John Sirica rejected his request to let him withdraw his guilty plea, Barker received a two-and-a-half to six-year sentence. In July 1975, the judge decreased his sentence to the time served. After getting out of prison, Barker served as a sanitation inspector in Miami as part of a federally financed jobs program. He later became a building inspector, opting to retire when he was 64 years. Barker passed away on June 5, 2009, due to lung cancer. He was 92 years old at the time.

Is Virgilio Gonzalez Dead or Alive?

Image Credit: Washington Metropolitan Police/AP Photo

Virgilio Gonzalez was a Cuban locksmith and a political activist. He was a refugee that left his home country after Castro assumed control. So, predictably, he harbored strong anti-Castro sentiments. After his arrest in the Watergate incident, he served 13 months in prison. Afterward, he reportedly didn’t like when the reporters approached him with questions about Watergate. According to reports, he resided in Miami along with his second wife in 2012. Gonzalez passed away on July 16, 2014, in Miami. He was 88 years old at the time.

Is Eugenio Martínez Dead or Alive?

Eugenio Martínez was the last surviving member of the Watergate burglary team. Like the rest of the Cuban members of the group, he had strong anti-Castro views. He worked for the CIA and was reportedly still part of the agency at the time of his arrest. He served 15 months in prison. In 1983, the then-President Ronald Reagan pardoned Martínez. He was the only person involved in the scandal besides Nixon himself to receive a presidential pardon.

Image Credit: Richard Nixon Presidential Library/YouTube

In later years, Martínez worked as a car salesman and real estate agent.  He claimed that he helped Oliver Stone with his research for the film ‘Nixon.’ He received the moniker Musculito (or Little Muscle) because he loved to exercise even after turning 90. Martínez passed away on January 30, 2021, in Minneola, Florida, where his daughter resided at the time. He was 98 years old.

Is James McCord Dead or Alive?

James Walter McCord Jr. was the only member without a strong Cuban connection, though he reportedly served as the head of a counter-intelligence program set up to handle the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. He first worked for the FBI and then the CIA before holding a GS-15 position in the Agency’s Office of Security.

Image Credit: AP Archive/YouTube

After his arrest, a man who had spent his entire life in the shadows became one of the most recognizable people in America. He was originally sentenced to one to five years, but it was decreased to only four months after he decided to testify against others. In 1975, McCord became one of the first people to publicly support Martha Mitchell’s claims that she was held against her will.

After he was released from prison, McCord went back to Rockville, Maryland, to run his security firm, which he originally founded in 1970. He subsequently changed the firm’s name from McCord Associates to Security International. Later, McCord set up a solar energy company in Fort Collins, Colorado. In 1974, McCord put out his memoir, ‘A Piece of Tape — the Watergate Story: Fact and Fiction.’ He eventually retired in Pennsylvania, where he passed away. McCord died of pancreatic cancer on June 15, 2017, at age 93.

Is Frank Sturgis Dead or Alive?

Unlike the rest of the members of the group, Frank Sturgis initially supported Castro’s uprising, but eventually, he began actively working against Castro’s regime. Sturgis had an extensive career as part of the CIA and multiple branches of the military before he became involved in Nixon’s re-election campaign. After his arrest, he was originally sent to one to four years in prison but ended up serving only 14 months. Sturgis was accused several times of being involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In turn, he alleged the involvement of certain others. In later years, he continued to work for the agency. Sturgis died on December 4, 1993, in Miami at age 68. He had lung cancer which had affected his kidneys.

Read More: Where Was Gaslit Filmed?