Orlando Letelier was driving to work on the morning of September 21, 1976. When he turned into Washington, DC's Sheridan Circle, a bomb suddenly exploded, propelling his car into the air. Twenty minutes later, Letelier - a former minister and ambassador to the United States in the democratically elected socialist government of Chilean President Salvador Allende, which was violently overthrown in 1973 in a US-backed coup - died. His assistant Ronni Moffitt, a 25-year-old newlywed whose husband was in the backseat, drowned in her own blood less than an hour later.
The car bomb had been planted by the DINA, the secret police under far-right, US-backed Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Among those convicted for the murder were Michael Townley, a CIA agent and professional assassin, and Chilean Gen. Manuel Contreras, former head of the DINA. Townley served just over five years in prison and was then released under the aegis of the US federal witness protection program.
Less than a year before the bombing, Contreras had called a meeting that would forever change the political landscape of Latin America, leading to many more assassination missions.