Did Lynne Cheney’s Dad Murder her Mom?

That’s the outrageous implication in Adam McKay’s new film, Vice.

Edit: this article has been updated to reflect paragraphs in Lynn Cheney’s autobiography.

Edna Lolita (Lybyer) Vincent, Lynne Cheney’s mother.

I watched Adam McKay’s unusual biopic of Vice President Dick Cheney a few days ago, and one scene in particular stood out. For all its focus on Cheney’s political machinations, Vice briefly touches on a personal tragedy for Cheney’s wife, Lynne, whose mother drowned at the age of 54. It is the second time Lynne’s parents are mentioned, the other being a brief interaction in the opening scene in which Lynne’s mother is portrayed as a doting and abused housewife.

Early in the film, Lynne Cheney (competently played by Amy Adams) receives a phone call with terrible news. Her mother, Edna, has drowned. Lynne openly wonders why she would be in the lake, knowing she can’t swim. Lynne, her husband Dick (Christian Bale), then Assistant Director of the Cost of Living Council for President Richard Nixon, and their two young daughters fly home to Wyoming to attend the funeral.

At the cemetery, Lynne’s father, Wayne Edwin Vincent (played by Shea Whigham), acts suspiciously and tries to ingratiate himself with his daughter. Dick Cheney interposes and warns him to never try to make contact with them again. It’s almost explicitly stated that Edna’s death wasn’t an accident, and the film wonders why it was never investigated. Then it just moves on as though this isn’t a least bit controversial depiction of events. “Is there more evidence for this than is presented in the movie, which is none?” National Review‘s Kyle Smith asks.

In real life, Edna Vincent drowned on the evening of May 24, 1973. According to the Casper Star Tribune, she was walking her dogs around Yesness Pond when she slipped and fell in. Being unable to swim, she drowned. Sheriff’s deputies found her after her husband reported her missing. Why was her death never investigated? According to Natrona County Sheriff Bill Estes and Coroner Tom Bustard, the drowning was accidental and there was “nothing to indicate foul play.”

According to her obituary, Edna Vincent worked for the Casper Police Department for 15 years and later the sheriff’s department, and was a member of the Wyoming Peace Officers’ Association. If there was any hint her death was suspicious, don’t you think her friends and colleagues in law enforcement would have investigated it?

In the Epilogue to her autobiography, Blue Skies, No Fences: A Memoir of Childhood and Family (2009), in a line she probably regrets writing, Lynn Cheney herself raised doubts about her mother’s death. “…although the official conclusion was that her death was an accident, for years I wondered if she had somehow been the victim of foul play,” she speculated. However, she went on to describe the most likely scenario:

“But the more likely explanation is the medicine she was taking for her blood pressure, which she had complained made her dizzy, and a couple drinks she had around dinnertime. I can imagine one of the dogs leaping from the car when she opened the door and her giving chase—and fainting, falling into the pond. The dogs would have raced around frantically, even returning to the car and shaking her purse, so that a few days later, I would find her checkbook on the floor of the backseat.”


Blue Skies, No Fences: A Memoir of Childhood and Family (pg.283)

Contrary to the filmmaker’s portrayal of her father’s creepy, nonchalant behavior at the funeral, Lynn said he was “devastated” and basically drank himself to death with grief two years later. Lynn was with her father at the hospital when he died. Despite her parents’ fights, she said they gave her “the gift of unconditional love.” If this doesn’t refute the filmmaker’s portrayal, it certainly adds huge qualifiers.

Other than humiliating Lynne Cheney and slandering her family, what possible purpose does including this scene, and all its malicious implications, serve? I believe it was to show Dick Cheney as a stern father figure and an intimidating man who would protect his family (and by extension, the country) against anyone, even his own father-in-law. But surely the filmmakers could have chosen some other way to portray Cheney in that light that didn’t involve needlessly weaving a conspiracy theory, particularly one that wasn’t directly related to the film’s main character.

There are times when creative license may be necessary when adapting history for the big screen, but filmmakers all-too-frequently take that license too far. Implying Lynne Cheney’s father murdered her mother (or was somehow involved in her death) when there is zero evidence to suggest that, is really outrageous, particularly when there’s no compelling reason to include such a conspiracy theory in the film.

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Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

19 thoughts on “Did Lynne Cheney’s Dad Murder her Mom?”

  1. It was a case of she suffered from abuse and domestic violence I think the movie was brilliantly written and played the way it should have been this man like all men of his calibrate at that time and still so coming across as a great family man but having no sense of reality he should have been in jail for war crimes lies starting an u njust war along with tony Blair power hungry individuals an unwritten law unto himself I mean the way he manipulated that whole system not answerable to any one it’s really frightening but still happening today people are off there heads no knowing who or what to believe its bunch wee men in short trousers playing cowboys and Indians only in the real wold they can do what they like lynne was empathetic with her own family but they should have sent her into an Iraqi living room ato see the real damage her husband contributed to I loved the movie though and thought it ironic not funny when Alfred molina offered a menu Of illegal policies they had concocted up to which they replied well take them all the corridors of power are corrupt make no doubt about it sadly poor desparate and ill informed people will always be there to take it all in

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  2. Yes, I think it is pretty clear that Mrs. Vincent’s husband didn’t kill her. But you are right that it is an odd thing to include in the film without anything being made clear.

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  3. To answer your comments, “if Cheney was so powerful, why wouldn’t he want his mother in law’s death investigated? If he hated his father in law and suspected he had something to do with her death, why wouldn’t he put pressure on the local authorities? Furthermore, what motive would the coroner and sheriff have for covering something like that up?” — very simple, the Cheney’s, like most prominent people, would not have liked that kind of scandal and negative publicity in the family. As for the local authorities, local authorities nearly everywhere are notorious for covering up crimes and scandals in the families of powerful people under pressure from those very people, and Cheney was the most powerful man in Wyoming at the time. Alternatively, it’s entirely possible the police actually thought the drowning to have been an accident but Cheney suspected the father of murder, again not pressing the investigation because of the scandal and public airing of family problems it would have caused. Not saying there was a murder, but it’s pretty easy to see why it wouldn’t have come to light if it was.

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  4. I understand your point. It is entirely fair.

    The flip side is the film is telling the state of mind of the family at the time of the death & funeral. It isn’t a film about the death of Lynne Cheney’s mother. Rather the film shows an impression of that moment in time. The scenes are a few minutes total. Poetic license.

    The scene does reflect Dick Cheney’s as an absolute protector. Which is one explanation for the actions he took as VP. Which is very interesting. I actually had never thought of him as an absolute protector. I had always
    thought of him as an opportunistic psychopath. So the filmmaker does succeed in making people think, discuss, disagree, agree. Which is the purpose of any art form.

    I think those scenes are almost certainly upsetting for Mrs. Cheney. However the film isn’t a HISTORY CHANNEL bio-movie.

    Public examination, fair and unfair are a consequence of being powerful &/or famous.

    I read a bit about that event, after reading your article & seeing the movie. At the very least, there was alcoholic & medication incompetence going on in her parent’s life; the lake is shallow and the police were not exactly the FBI. That coupled with the absolute ambitiousness of the Cheney Family – I think it is acceptable to have presented the scene – I mean if she was so zonked out from booze & pills – why would a husband – a “protector” allow her to drive?

    However hurtful or embarrassing it is for Lynne Cheney I think the film is acceptable. It is a satire and an impression of The Cheney’s …

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  5. Ok, so if you read the rest of it, she explains in detail the most likely explanation for her death, which was disorientation from drinking and taking medication. She talks about how she was present at her father’s deathbed and how devastated he was by his wife’s death. It’s pretty irresponsible for the filmmakers to take one bit of idle speculation and blow up into the worst case scenario.

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  6. From Lynne Cheney’s 2007 autobiography:

    “She, who had worried since childhood about water, had drowned in the pond … for years I wondered if she had somehow been the victim of foul play.”

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  7. Awesome insight, but if Cheney was so powerful, why wouldn’t he want his mother in law’s death investigated? If he hated his father in law and suspected he had something to do with her death, why wouldn’t he put pressure on the local authorities? Furthermore, what motive would the coroner and sheriff have for covering something like that up?

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  8. Have you ever been to Yesness Pond, Mr. Kleen? I have. I grew up nearby and the notion that a grown woman would slip in and drown there is something I find preposterous. It is a manmade pond, no boulders or slippery rocks around the edge, and very shallow around the periphery. Kids from the neighborhood nearby walked and played around it unattended when I was young. Did you know Lynne (then Vincent) Cheney? I did. We lived in the same neighborhood, she about five years older than I. As a small girl, I encountered her on a number of occasions in school and in the neighborhood. I doubt that ever spoke, but I remember, all these years ago the visceral distaste she provoked. She was utterly self-impressed, condescending, and annoying. In fact, her demeanor made such a negative impression on me, it led me showed me at the tender age of six or seven exactly the kind of person I never wanted to be. Her mother famously doted on her daughter and thought she’d hung the moon, so naturally Lynne thought so, too, and behaved accordingly. This suggests Mrs. Vincent was likely a pretty unpleasant character. Further, have you ever had any experience with Casper detectives? I have. Those who investigated when, in 1996, my elderly father, a pedestrian, walking in a crosswalk with a green light, was struck by a car that never even braked, were incompetent. They failed to gather some of the most basic evidence. I can only imagine how less trained they might have been in 1973 when Edna Vincent died. Add to that that Dick Cheney was then working in the Nixon White House and the town’s most powerful figure, it doesn’t take much to see why a possible murder was covered up. I don’t know whether Ms. Vincent was murdered or not, but nothing you have said above is evidence that she wasn’t. That the incident occurred at Yesness Pond, however, makes accidental drowning unlikely.

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  9. I believe that the film not only implied that Lynne Cheney’s father murdered her mother, but that he was also having sex with Cheney when she lived in the house. In an earlier scene he is arguing with his wife and says, “…I wouldn’t have to f–k her…” The camera swings to Lynne sitting at the table. At the funeral her father was running his hands through the girls’s hair when Dick Cheney walked up to him and told him to never again touch his wife or daughters.

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  10. I completely believe that she was murdered because I grew up in Casper and Yesness Pond was a make-out spot I frequented. It was a shallow, small, muddy cow pond. No one would fall in and drown. Maybe it was suicide, but my bet is she was drowned. I knew Lynne, but this story is nw to me. I grew up in Casper, and in May of ‘73, I would have been a sophomore at Natrona County High Scool, same high school Lynne and Dick graduated from. Actually, it would have been May of ‘73 when I was making out at the pond!

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  11. I think the filmmaker wanted to show how protective Cheney was of Lynne and the kids, and he does this several times during the movie. Cheney’s telling Mr. Vincent never to speak to them again was an indication he didn’t want anything more to do with this abusive man who probably did drive the mother to commit suicide, but it also shows the character development of Cheney from a more “normal” person into the cold, calculating person he became.

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  12. If the implication was suicide, why would Cheney insist his father in law never speak to them again? Also, if the father in law drove her to commit suicide, couldn’t that be considered murder? Either way, what’s the point of including her death in the film and speculating about it at all?

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  13. I just saw the film, and I thought the implication was that Mrs. Vincent comitted suicide, not that her husband killed her.

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