WELL BEYOND HIGHLY COINCIDENTAL DEATHS
THE JFK DEATH LIST
On Sunday evening, November 24, 1963, the day Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald, a meeting took place in Jack Ruby’s apartment in Oak Cliff, a suburb of Dallas. Present were Jim Martin, George Senator, attorney Tom Howard, and newsmen Bill Hunter of the Long Beach California Press Telegram, and Jim Koethe of the Dallas Times Herald. After the meeting, Hunter, a native of Dallas who became an award winning newsman in California, went to the Dallas Police Station and sat down in the press room of the “Public Safety Building,” quietly reading a book. Suddenly two policemen came into the press room, and one policeman shot Hunter through the heart at a range officially ruled to be “no more than three feet.” The policeman said he dropped his gun, and it fired as he picked it up, but the angle of the bullet caused him to change his story. He finally said he was playing a game of quick draw with his fellow officer, but the other officer testified he had his back turned when the shooting took place. The shooting was ruled an accident. Nine months later, on September 21, 1964, Jim Koethe was killed by a karate chop to the throat just as he emerged from a shower in his apartment, and that case remained unsolved. Tom Howard had been an attorney who talked to Ruby the day he killed Oswald. Fifteen months later, on March 27, 1965, Howard was suddenly taken ill and driven to a hospital by an unidentified person. Within hours Howard was dead. The doctor, without benefit of an autopsy, said he had suffered a heart attack.
Gary Underhill, a former CIA agent and military affairs editor for LIFE magazine, fled Washington shortly after the Kennedy assassination and told friends that the Far East Division of the CIA was involved in Kennedy’s death. On May 8, 1964, Underhill was shot execution-style on the left side of his head, and though he was right-handed his death was ruled a suicide. Underhill was not alone in connecting the Far East to the assassination. When Oswald returned from the USSR in June of 1962, he was brought to Japan’s Atsugi Naval Air Station for debriefing, and James Wilcott, a CIA financial officer, handled some of the finances for Oswald’s pay. One year later, members of the CIA station in Tokyo joyously told Wilcott over drinks toasting the alleged assassin that Oswald was originally under control of the Tokyo station’s Soviet Russia branch.
Earlene Roberts was the widow who managed the rooming house where Lee Harvey Oswald was living. The police department issued a report saying all patrol cars in the area, except Tippit's, were accounted for. The Warren Commission let it go at that. After testifying in Dallas in April 1964, Mrs. Roberts was subjected to intensive police harassment. They visited her at all hours of the day and night. Earlene complained of being “worried to death” by the police. She died on January 9, 1966 in Parkland Hospital (the hospital where President Kennedy was taken). Police said she suffered a heart attack in her home. No autopsy was performed.
Warren Reynolds was minding his used car lot on East Jefferson Street in Oak Cliff in Dallas, when he heard shots two blocks away. He thought it was a marital quarrel. Then he saw a man having a great difficulty tucking “a pistol or an automatic” in his belt, and running at the same time. Reynolds gave chase for a short piece being careful to keep his distance, then lost the fleeing man. He had witnessed the flight of the killer or one of the killers of patrolman J.D. Tippit. Feeling helpful, he gave his name to a passing policeman and offered his cooperation. Television cameras zeroed in on him, got his story, and made him well known. Warren Reynolds, the amiable used car man, was making history. However, Reynolds was not questioned until two months after the event. The FBI finally talked to him in January 1964. The FBI interview report said, “He was hesitant to definitely identify Oswald as the individual,” but, “He advised he is of the opinion Oswald is the person.” Two days after Reynolds talked to the FBI, he was shot in the head. He was closing up his used car lot for the night at the time. Nothing was stolen. Darrell Garner, the boyfriend of Nancy Mooney, who worked as a dancer at Ruby’s Carousel Club, was arrested. However, Mooney said Garner was in bed with her at the time he was supposed to have shot Reynolds, and Garner was freed. A week later Mooney got into an argument with a girlfriend and was arrested for disturbing the peace, but the girlfriend was not arrested. Within hours after her arrest, Mooney was dead, the official police report saying she hanged herself with her toreador pants.
Harold Russell was with Warren Reynolds when the Tippit shooting took place. Both men saw the Tippit killer escape. Russell was interviewed in January 1964, and signed a statement that the fleeing man was Oswald. A few months after the assassination, Russell went back to his home near David, Oklahoma. In July of 1965, Russell went to a party with a female friend. He seemingly went out of his mind at the party and started telling everyone he was going to be killed. He begged friends to hide him. Someone called the police. When the policemen arrived, one of them hit Russell on the head with his pistol. Russell was then taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead a few hours later: cause of death was listed as “heart failure.”
Domingo Benavides, an auto mechanic, was witness to the murder of Officer Tippit. Benavides testified he got a “really good view of the slayer.” Benavides said the killer resembled newspaper pictures of Oswald, but he described him differently, “I remember the back of his head seemed like his hairline went square instead of tapered off.” Benavides reported he was repeatedly threatened by the police who advised him not to talk about what he saw. In mid-February 1964, his brother Eddy, who resembled him, was fatally shot in the back of the head at a beer joint on Second Avenue in Dallas. The case was marked “unsolved.” Unsatisfied, Benavides’s father-in-law J. W. Jackson began his own inquiry, and two weeks later, J.W. Jackson was shot at his home. As the gunman escaped, a police car came around the block, but made no attempt to follow the gunman’s speeding car.
Hank Killam was a house painter who lived at Mrs. A.C. Johnson’s rooming house at the same time Lee Harvey Oswald lived there. His wife, Wanda, once pushed cigarettes and drinks at Jack Ruby’s club. Hank was a big man, over six feet and weighing over 200 pounds. After the assassination, federal agents visited him repeatedly causing him to lose one job after another. Killam was absorbed by the assassination, even obsessed. Hours after the event, he came home, “white as a sheet.” Wanda said he stayed up all night watching the television accounts of the assassination. Later he bought all the papers and clipped the stories about Kennedy’s death. Before Christmas, Killam left for Tampa, Florida where he worked selling cars at his brother-in-law’s car lot. On St. Patrick’s day he was found on a sidewalk in front of a broken window with his jugular vein cut, and he bled to death en route to the hospital. There is no mention of Killam by the Warren Commission. A number of FBI documents on Killam relating to the assassination were withheld, along with documents prepared by the CIA.
The mother of Bill Waters said Oswald and Killam came to her home before the assassination and her son tried to talk Oswald and Killam out of being involved. Waters called FBI agents after the assassination. The FBI told him he knew too much and to keep his mouth shut. He was arrested and kept in Memphis in a county jail for eight months on a misdemeanor charge, where on May 20, 1967 he died from what police say was a drug overdose of Demerol. No autopsy was performed.
William Whaley was known as the “Oswald Cabbie.” He was one of the few who had the opportunity to talk alone with the accused killer of President Kennedy. He testified that Oswald hailed him at the Dallas Greyhound bus station. Whaley said he drove Oswald to the intersection of Beckley and Neches--half a block from the rooming house--and collected a dollar. Later he identified Oswald as his fare in a questionable police line-up. Whaley was killed in a head-on collision on a bridge over the Trinity River, December 18, 1965; his passenger was critically injured. The driver of the other car was also killed. Whaley had been with the City Transportation Company since 1936 and had a perfect driving record. He was the first Dallas cabbie to be killed on duty since 1937. When journalist Penn Jones went to interview the manager of the cab company about Whaley’s death, the manager pushed Jones out of the office, saying, “If you’re smart, you won’t be coming around here asking questions.”
Lee Bowers was one of the 65 witnesses who saw the President’s assassination and who thought shots were fired from the area of the Grassy Knoll. Bowers, then a towerman for the Union Terminal Company, was stationed in his 14 foot tower directly behind the Grassy Knoll. On the morning of August 9, 1966, Bowers was driving south of Dallas on business. He was two miles south of Midlothian, Texas when his brand new company car veered from the road and hit a bridge abutment. A farmer who saw it, said the car was going about 50 miles an hour, a slow speed for that road. Bowers died in a Dallas hospital. He was 41. There was no autopsy and he was cremated. A doctor from Midlothian who rode to Dallas in the ambulance with Bowers, noticed something peculiar about the victim. “He was in some strange sort of shock.” The doctor said, “A different kind of shock than an accident victim experiences. I can’t explain it. I’ve never seen anything like it.” When Penn Jones questioned his widow, she insisted there was nothing suspicious, but then became flustered and said, “They told him not to talk!”
James Worrell saw a strange man run from the back door of the Texas School Book Depository shortly after the assassination. Worrell died in a motorcycle accident on November 9, 1966.
Delilah Walle was a worker at Ruby’s club. She had been working on a book of what she supposedly knew about the assassination when a man suddenly appeared in her life and asked her to marry him. She was married only 24 days when her new husband shot and killed her.
Albert Guy Bogard, an automobile salesman who worked for Downtown Lincoln Mercury, showed a new Mercury to a man using the name "Lee Oswald." Shortly after Bogard gave his testimony to a Commission attorney in Dallas, he was badly beaten and had to be hospitalized. Upon his release, he was fearful for his safety. Bogard was from Hallsville, Louisiana. He was found dead in his car at the Hallsville Cemetery on St. Valentine's day in 1966. A rubber hose was attached to the exhaust and the other end extending into the car. The ruling was suicide. He was just 41 years old.
Jack Ruby told relatives he had been injected with an unknown substance and soon thereafter is said to have died of cancer. Just before David Ferrie was to testify before the Jim Garrison trial, he supposedly died of a brain hemorrhage. Ferrie associate, Eladio Cerefine DeValle, 43, died on the same day as Ferrie. His skull was split open; he was then shot. DeValle had used Ferrie as a pilot. DeValle had been identifying some men in a photo taken in New Orleans for Jim Garrison. One of the men in the photo was Lee Harvey Oswald. Dr. Mary Stults Sherman, age 51, was found stabbed and burned in her apartment in New Orleans. Dr. Sherman had been working on a cancer experiment with Ferrie. Paul Dyer, of the New Orleans Police force was the first police officer to interview Ferrie. Martin suddenly got sick and died a month later of what was described as cancer.
Reporter Lisa Howard supposedly committed suicide. She knew a great deal about the “understanding” which was in the making after the Bay of Pigs, between President Kennedy and the Cubans. Marguerite Higgins bluntly accused the American authorities of the November 2nd, 1963 killing of Premier Diem and his brother Nhu. A few months after her accusation, she died in a landmine explosion in Vietnam.
On Saturday November 23, 1963, Jack Zangetty, the manager of a $150,000 modular motel complex near Lake Lugert, Oklahoma, remarked to some friends that “Three other men, not Oswald, killed the President.” He also stated that “A man named Ruby will kill Oswald tomorrow and in a few days a member of the Frank Sinatra family will be kidnapped just to take some of the attention away from the assassination.” Two weeks later, Jack Zangetty was found floating in Lake Lugert with bullet holes in his chest, and he had been dead for about two weeks.
Lieutenant Commander William Pitzer was a mentor to Petty Officer First Class Dennis D. David, and a friend; they played bridge together regularly. On the evening of November 22, 1963, Dennis was Chief-of-the-Day at Bethesda Naval Hospital, part of the National Naval Medical Center, and it was his duty to supervise the unloading of the casket that contained the body of President Kennedy prior to postmortem examination. Early in the following week, Dennis dropped by Pitzer’s office with questions on the professional exam for the Medical Service Corps. He found Pitzer working on a 16-mm film, slides and black and white photos of the Kennedy autopsy. This was not surprising since Pitzer was Assistant Head of the Graphic Arts Department and Chief of the Educational Television Division of the Naval Medical School, had a top-secret security clearance, and specialized in the then-new field of closed-circuit television. David clearly remembers that Pitzer’s film and photographs showed what appeared to be an entry wound in the right frontal area with a corresponding exit wound in the lower rear of the skull. Thereafter, on occasion, David heard Pitzer refer to contacts he’d had with “agents” about the Kennedy autopsy materials on which he had worked. On the evening of Saturday, October 29, 1966, Pitzer was found dead at his duty station at the Naval Medical School, Bethesda, Maryland. Investigations by the Naval Investigative Service and the FBI later concluded that a gunshot wound to the head had been self-inflicted. FBI files on the investigation, released in 1997 under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed anomalies, especially when compared to one of the Navy’s investigative reports. The gunshot had been to left side of the head but Pitzer was right-handed. Over the years, the family and friends of Bill Pitzer continued to doubt the official conclusion on the nature of his demise. And for Mrs. Pitzer there was the nagging thought that if, unbeknownst to her, her husband were to have reached the point of suicide, he would not have committed the act on U.S. Navy property, thus embarrassing the institution that he so loved. As stated in the Informal Board of Investigation’s Report, “Mrs. Pitzer could offer no explanation as to why Subject would take his own life and although appearing somewhat resigned to this fact, she still exhibited doubt that suicide was the true cause of death.” Although David is sure Pitzer personally had filmed the Kennedy autopsy, Pitzer’s name does not appear on any list of personnel involved in the autopsy or present in the morgue at that time. In agreement is Jerrol F. Custer, X-ray technician for the Kennedy autopsy, who states that Pitzer was present in the morgue and had photographed the military men occupying the benches. David says he is “certain” that Pitzer had the Kennedy autopsy photographs in his possession at the time of his death. During the same week that Pitzer died, the Kennedy family transferred formal possession of the materials relating to the late President’s autopsy to the National Archives. A check of the inventory revealed that some items, tissue sections etc., were missing, including a stainless-steel container that presumably held the brain. Six years later, Dr. Cyril Wecht discovered that the brain was indeed missing from the National Archives. Pitzer’s film and other photographic material was also missing.
Lou Staples, a radio announcer who was doing radio shows on the Kennedy assassination, lost his life sometime on Friday night May 13, 1977. This was near Yukon, Oklahoma. He had been having radio shows on the assassination since 1973 and the response to his programs was overwhelming. Lou’s death was termed suicide, but the bullet ending his life entered behind his right temple and Lou was left handed. He joined Gary Underhill, William Pitzer and Joe Cooper whose “suicides” were all done with the “wrong hand” shots to the head. Lou had been stating that he wanted to purchase some property to build a home. He was lured out to a wheat field and his life ended there.
Karyn Kupcinet, daughter of Irv Kupcinet, was trying to make a long distance call from Los Angeles. According to reports, the operator heard Miss Kupcinet scream into the phone that President Kennedy was going to be killed. Two days after the assassination, she was found murdered in her apartment. The case is unsolved. She was 23.
Rose Cherami, 40, was an employee of Jack Ruby’s club. She was riding with two men on a return trip from Florida carrying a load of narcotics. She was thrown from the car when an argument began between her and one of the men. She was hospitalized for injuries and drug withdrawal. She told authorities that President Kennedy was going to be killed in Dallas. After her release from the hospital, she was a victim of a hit and run accident on September 4, 1965 near Big Sandy, Texas.
Guy Bannister was a private detective who was closely involved in the Jim Garrison trial. Bannister and his partner, Hugh Ward, died within a 10 day period as the Warren Commission was closing its hearings. Bannister supposedly died of a heart attack, but witnesses said he had a bullet hole in his body.
George deMohrenschildt was another man who was to give testimony but never made it. DeMohrenschildt, in his final days, became suspicious of everyone around him, even his wife, and was nearing a nervous breakdown some thought. He died of gun shot wounds. The verdict was suicide. But deMohrenschildt was a member of the White Russian society and very wealthy. He visited Lee Harvey Oswald and Marina Oswald when they lived on Neely Street. Marina visited the deMohrenschildts when she and Lee Harvey Oswald were having some of their disagreements. Cliff Carter, LBJ’s aide who rode in the Vice President’s follow up car in the motorcade in Dealey Plaza where President Kennedy was gunned down, was LBJ’s top aide during his first administration. Carter died of mysterious circumstances. Carter died of pneumonia when no penicillin could be located in Washington, D.C. in September 1971. This was supposedly the cause of death.
Buddy Walthers, Deputy Sheriff, was at the kill sight of President Kennedy. He picked up a bullet in a hunk of brain matter blown from the President’s head. Walthers never produced the bullet for evidence. Walthers was also at the Texas Theater when Oswald was arrested. In a January 10, 1969 shooting, Walthers was shot through the heart. In a shootout Walthers and his companion Deputy Alvin Maddox, were fired upon by Cherry, an escaped prisoner. Walthers and Maddox were trying to capture Cherry when Walthers was shot through the heart. Walthers’s widow received $10,000 for her husband dying in the line of duty.
Clay Shaw, age 60, died five years after he was charged by Jim Garrison for his involvement in the Kennedy assassination. Some reports have it that he had been ill for months after surgery for removing a blood clot. Other newspaper reports of his death stated he had cancer. It was revealed that Shaw was a paid contact for the CIA. A neighbor reported that an ambulance was seen pulling up to the Shaw home. Then a body was carried in and an empty stretcher brought out. A few hours later, Shaw was reportedly found dead in his home. Then he was given a quick embalming before a Coroner could be notified. It was then impossible to determine the cause of death.
In 1961, Roger Dean Craig had been named “Man of the Year” as a member of the Dallas Police Department. Craig witnessed the assassination of President Kennedy, but his version was different from the one the police told. Because he would not change his story of the assassination, he was harassed, threatened, stabbed, shot at, and his wife left him. Craig wrote two manuscripts of what he witnessed, “When They Kill A President,” and “The Patient Is Dying.” Craig testified in the Jim Garrison trial, soon after being fired from the Dallas Police Department. On May 15, 1975, Craig died of a massive gun shot wound to the chest. Supposedly, it was his second try at suicide and a success.
John M. Crawford, 46, died in a mysterious plane crash near Huntsville, Texas on April 15, 1969. It appeared from witnesses that Crawford had left in a rush. Crawford was a homosexual and a close friend of Jack Ruby’s. Ruby supposedly carried Crawford’s phone number in his pocket at all times. Crawford was also a friend of Buell Wesley Frazier’s, the neighbor who took Lee Harvey Oswald to work on that fatal morning of November 22, 1963.
Senator Hale Boggs was the only member of the Warren Commission who disagreed with the conclusions. In October, 1972 Boggs was flying a private plane in Alaska. The plane and Boggs disappeared, and neither have ever been found.
Nicholas J. Chetta, M.D. age 50, Orleans Parish coroner since 1950, died at Mercy Hospital on May 25, 1968. Newspaper reports were sketchy. It was said he suffered a heart attack. Dr. Chetta was the coroner who served at the death of David Ferrie. Dr. Chetta was the key witness regarding Perry Russo against Clay Shaw. Shaw’s attorney went into federal court only after Dr. Chetta was dead.
Dorothy Kilgallen was a television celebrity, a regular on What’s My Line, along with John Daly, Bennett Cerf, and Arlene Francis. Jack Ruby was a fan of Dorothy Kilgallen, so when he was allowed an interview with one reporter, he chose Kilgallen. When the Ruby trial started in 1964, Kilgallen was allowed more interviews. Kilgallen learned that Ruby and the slain Officer J.D. Tippit had been friends. They were together in Ruby’s Carousel Club two weeks before the assassination in the company of Bernard Weissman and “a rich Texas oil man.” Weissman had placed the “JFK-Wanted for Treason” newspaper ad in Dallas newspapers on November 22, 1963. Kilgallen also learned of a mysterious player whom she code named “Ferret Man.” The individual was David Ferrie, another known associate of Jack Ruby involved in gun running, the Marcello mob and other anti-Castro operations from Florida to Texas. At one time, Ruby and Ferrie were co-owners of an airplane. Kilgallen started to tell close friends what she knew, including Mrs. Earl T. Smith, and leak information in her nationally-syndicated newspaper column. Kilgallen started to say she had enough information to “break the whole JFK assassination mystery wide open.” Scheduled to appear on television’s Nightlife, producer Nick Vanoff pleaded with her not to broach the subject on the air. She arrived at the studio with a folder full of pertinent and explosive notes and documents, but she kept the folder closed throughout the interview. On Sunday November 8, 1965, Dorothy Kilgallen was found dead, sitting fully dressed, upright in bed, early in the morning. Her folder with enough information to “blow the JFK assassination wide open,” was gone. Her autopsy report took eight days. The New York City Police Department coroner found that Kilgallen had died from ingestion of a lethal combination of alcohol and barbiturates. Two days later Mrs. Earl T. Smith died of “undetermined causes.”
Another page with details on deaths
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