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Donald Willis

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  1. Early response by Brehm, from the Dallas Times Herald 11/22/63: "The first shot must not have been too solid, because he just slumped. Then on the second shot he seemed to fall back." "Drehm [sic] seemed to think the shots came from the front of or beside the President. He explained the President did not slump forward as he would have after being shot from the rear."
  2. Early response by Brehm, from the Dallas Times Herald 11/22/63: "The first shot must not have been too solid, because he just slumped. Then on the second shot he seemed to fall back." "Drehm [sic] seemed to think the shots came from the front of or beside the President. He explained the President did not slump forward as he would have after being shot from the rear."
  3. There were also apparently reporters from the Chicago Daily News there that day. The S.F. Chronicle 11/29/63 features an article by M.W. Newman and Henry Hanson of the News, recounting many things, including this paragraph: "H.L. Brennan... saw a rifle barrel sticking out of a fifth-floor window in a red-brick warehouse building. The man who held the gun was 'slender and nice-looking'. He crouched in a dusty, cobwebby corner and fired while leaning over crates of textbooks." The most interesting part of that recollection is the word "cobwebby"--witness James Tague echoed this word in his Commission testimony: "From the reflection of the sun it was something on the window... Not the window that proved to be where the shots were fired, but it was a different window, like it had spider webs or dust, and maybe shots had come through the window." (v7p554) Where exactly was that cobwebs-and-dust window from which shots also seemed to come? Counsel did not follow up on this.
  4. The sniper at the middle window on the 6th floor A notion not given much play nowadays. Not since March 19, 1964. In fact, three witnesses, in all, seemed to situate a sniper at a 6th-floor window other than the sniper's nest window. One was Howard Brennan, who (a) circled both windows in the east end double-window, as the location of the sniper, and (b) circled the third single window from the east end of the depository, as the apparent location of the two 5th-floor witnesses he espied up there. (See CE 477.) (A) echoes, in part, the 12:37 DPD radio transmission re suspected shooting from the "second window from the end". (B) put Harold Norman at a window other than the one in which he is seen in the Dillard photo. More to the point, Brennan thus effectively moved Norman out of the end window (just below the sniper's-nest window) from which, he stated, he had heard the "bolt action of the rifle". (SS affidavit 12/4/63) To hear Brennan tell it, then, Norman heard the bolt action coming from the third single window from the east end right above him. Norman and Brennan, out of sync. The second witness who moved Norman bodily out of the end window was SS Agent Forrest Sorrels. He testified that the "two colored men" he saw on the 5th floor "were about, oh, maybe a third of the distance from the right to the left, maybe not quite that far." (v7p344) That too put Norman in about the third or fourth single window from the east end. And, again, if true, would have those bolt-action sounds coming from the corresponding window on the 6th floor. Brennan and Sorrels, true, might have misremembered a scene which they saw only briefly. But it would not seem possible that our third witness could suffer such a memory lapse. Because he was himself one of the three 5th-floor witnesses, Bonnie Ray Williams. And he held to his radical situating of the three of them for almost four months. In an 11/23/63 FBI interview, Williams stated that when he joined Norman and Jarman they "were looking out windows on the south side of the building approximately at the middle of the building." In the next two weeks, by contrast, Norman, properly, it would seem, put himself in the window at the SE corner of the 5th floor. (SS affidavit 12/4) But, quite independently of Norman & Jarman, Williams continued to maintain, as late as 3/19/64, that the three of them "were at the windows which are located at about the center of the building on the south side". (FBI statement) And it was there, he went on, that the famous "little pieces of cement hit [him] on the head." (Those eccentric fragments actually started out life hitting *Norman* in the face, according to Jarman's 11/24 FBI interview, and returned to Norman in the latter’s 10/20/77 HSCA interview!) That 3/19 date, above, is significant--it was the day before Norman, Jarman, & Williams assumed their locations (as shown in Dillard) near the SE end of the 5th floor for an indoor photo, and five days before Williams, finally, testified that he was in his Dillard location at the second single window from the end. In his Commission testimony, he corrected several earlier statements, but for some reason not his "middle"/"center" references. Finally, the twain met--i.e., Williams, on the one hand, and Norman & Jarman, on the other. But why these odd, conflicting narratives (until 3/20/64)? It may have begun about 1:12 on 11/22/63, when DPD Insp. Sawyer radioed that shells had been found on the 3rd [sic] floor, and then later told reporters, “Police found the remains of fried chicken and paper on the fifth floor. Apparently the person had been there quite a while.” (Stockton Record [AP] 11/22/63 p8) The DPD Crime Lab photographed, that same day, a pop bottle and a bag of chicken scraps, apparently found below the third double window from the east end, almost in the middle of the 6th floor. ("JFK First Day Evidence", p169) Echoing Sawyer’s comments, news photographer Tom Alyea wrote (in a 12/19/63 statement), “at the time, it was suspected that the assassin had stayed quite a time there. There was a s[t]ack with a stack of chicken bones on it. There was a Dr. Pepper bottle which they dusted for fingerprints.” Apparently in response to this interesting find, there was a change in Williams' itinerary—the first in a series of changes. In his initial statement, on Friday, he wrote, in an affidavit, that he "went up on the 5th floor with a fellow called Hank and Junior." However, the next day, in his FBI statement, he was now averring that he "went back upstairs in the elevator to the 6th floor with his lunch”. And in his testimony, he said that, yes, the Dr. Pepper bottle and the chicken were his. (v3pp170-71) Perhaps indicating the haste with which Williams’ story was amended, on Saturday, he then—in his Commission testimony—stated that, No, he did not descend “to the 5th floor using the stairs”--as he had so stated in the 11/23 interview. No, he testified, at the hearings, “I didn’t tell [the FBI] I was using the stairs. I came back down to the 5th floor in the same elevator I came up on.” (v3pp171-72) Finally, Williams amends his 2nd amendment: In the same testimony, he changes his descent elevator from the west one to the east (p172). A many-tangled web. Now, it may be perilous to try to put oneself in the mind of someone long ago and far away, but there seems to be no other way to explain Williams' two bizarre FBI statements to the effect that he, Norman, and Jarman were looking out the windows "approximately at the middle of the building" on the 5th floor. But when he was instructed--as he must have been--to claim the bottle and bag as his own and to say that he first went back up to the 6th floor, he must have assumed (as did Alyea) that the two items had belonged to the assassin, and that, further, the third window from the east end on the 6th floor, then, was where the assassin had done the shooting. (Williams, it seems, did not consider that the assassin might have eaten his lunch in one spot and shot from another.) So, in order to forestall others from coming to the same conclusion that Alyea and Williams did, the latter was enlisted to demystify the third-window mystery. Williams’ “instructors” were taking no chances, brooking no ambiguity re the placement and number of shooters. [Sawyer’s “fried chicken”, however, still had to be addressed. To that end, several deputies and policemen were told to say that they saw pieces of chicken adorning the nest. But Crime Scene Det. Studebaker nixed that idea, testifying that if there had been any chicken present there, it would have appeared in his photos of the area. (v7p147)] Consequently--on his own initiative, presumably, without instruction--Williams told the FBI that--from the middle of the building--he had heard shots "from right over his head" (11/23/63), "from directly above me" (3/19/64). However, for his came-the-dawn Commission testimony--when he testified that he was, in fact, at the second single window from the east end--he was saying that *Norman*, at the east-end-corner single window, "was directly under the window that Oswald shot from" (v3p175). That "directly”, as well as the magic cement pieces, moved with Williams from about the third double-window to the first, and from himself to Norman. The fact that Williams was so quick to say that he had heard firing from “directly above” him, at that middle window, suggests that this “directly above” factoid was scripted for him, but for use only in the east-end windows. He must have thought, mistakenly, that there had, for some reason, been a last-minute change in the shooting location. Unless one believes that there was actually shooting from the 6th-floor middle window… And the cement was clearly another factoid, transferring, as it did, from one witness (Norman) to another (Williams) and back again… These factoids were meant of course to reinforce the evidence of the presence of a sniper on the 6th floor, whether or not there really was one. Why did Williams' assassination "instructor" not correct him after that 11/23 "middle of the building" bungle? Perhaps because the main order of the day was to have him claim the Dr. Pepper and bag lunch as his. And if counsel, at the hearings, asked him if he had said “middle of the building”, he could simply have replied that he did not. However, he pretty obviously did--twice. That twice may be why the subject was not brought up again, anywhere. Making things more interesting, and more complicated, Alyea--in one of his periodic statements on the scene in the depository--maintained that he had filmed Studebaker, on the 6th floor, "dusting the Dr. Pepper bottle which had been brought up to him from the 5th floor". ("Secrets from the Sixth Floor Window" p45.) A fine new kettle of fish...
  5. Tantalizing. Anything to add re that third point? Say, nose-witnesses at Parkland...
  6. I doubt both stories. Markham I believe did not even get to 10th & P in time to see the shooter, only a vigilante (probably Scoggins), with Tippit's revolver. If Scoggins were a plant he would have ID'd Oswald at the first Friday lineup. As his testimony indicates, he knew Tippit, and went on 2 or 3 searches for the killer, the first (as I indicated) on foot, the 2nd with Callaway, the third with a cops.
  7. I had never thought of Jimmy Burt as the one that Barbara (& Virginia) Davis saw. Certainly a possibility as he went the same way, apparently, as the actual killer. But he was with Smith, wasn't he?. Wouldn't she have seen him, too? That intersection gets very complicated, foot-traffic-wise. But if Smith didn't follow Burt around the corner...? But my take is that none of them--Davis, Davis, Markham, Burt, Smith--saw the killer, just a vigilante chasing same. I think the only two witnesses to the killer were Benavides & Scoggins, but they ran into a police buzz-saw, and couldn't ID anyone, on Friday, at least... I think the killer did his job and left very quickly*, and the only two people up & about outside at 10th & Patton were Benavides and Scoggins. *No time, for instance, for a belated head shot, as described by one (very belated) witness... PS I think you're right--two witnesses, at least, wanted to help the police catch the killer of JFK--the Davises
  8. Such as Mrs M & Virginia Davis, who apparently did not even see the shooter, just a vigilante chasing him.
  9. I could go with "didn't" and return to my original take that McWatters took Oswald all the way to Oak Cliff, but Whaley's confusion between "Neches" and the "500 block" seems legit. All because his "advisors" wanted Oswald to have gotten to 10th & Patton about the same time as Tippit, not 7 minutes earlier, which latter phenomenon would have taken some 'splainin', or at least some LN speculation... Either way, Oswald wasn't near 10th & Patton at all that Friday...
  10. And yet Neely was not mentioned by Whaley in his 11/23 affidavit, nor in his first 2 or 3 Commission stints. Sometime in between that last (2nd or 3rd) session & the 4/8/ final session, the word "Neely entered his mind, either from diligent research or from suggestions by Commission staff. He just, suddenly, drops the word "Neely" during the 4/8 session, without explaining where it came from or why. Or what happened to his several "Neches" references...
  11. I have great doubts about that: Two of the men closest to the shooter & the shooting--Scoggins and Benavides--did not or would not ID Oswald in a lineup on Friday. Saturday doesn't count--Scoggins was a friend, or at least an acquaintance of Tippit's. He would surely have ID'd the killer at the first opportunity. So it wasn't Oswald...
  12. Good question, though who at either end--the depot and Neches & Neely--would have seen them together? Did the depot lady ever come forward? I used to discount Whaley's testimony entirely, but his "front seat" and his renegade "X" won me over. That changes the whole complexion of the 10th & Patton story. Those unaccounted-for 7 minutes...
  13. "This will do fine": Oswald sees the coast is clear, exits cab as Whaley nears 1026 N. Beckley Both the Warren Report & Dale Myers have cab driver William Whaley drop Oswald off at Neely & N. Beckley, three blocks south of his rooming house, although he told Whaley that he wanted to go to 500 N. Beckley, five blocks south. Oswald would seem to have two goals in mind here: He wants to pick up a pistol, but he also wants to make sure, first, that there are no cops or cop cars in front of 1026 N. Beckley. To achieve this latter goal, all he has to do is survey the scene from the cab as it drives south from Neches/El Dorado/Zangs, towards 1026. The cab does not even have to go as far as 1026. To this end, as Whaley describes it: "I opened the back door [of the cab]. [Oswald] shut the back door and said he wanted to sit in the front." (11/23/63 affidavit) It's pretty clear that Oswald wants--almost demands--the best, widest view of the scene before him. And he gives the 500 N. Beckley address as a drop-off point, just in case he sees activity around 1026. If there is, then Whaley just keeps driving, and, obviously, Oswald won't be going back to 1026 for a while. He will not, that is, double back, on foot, from either 500 or 700 N. Beckley (i.e., Neely & N. Beckley). "The boy got out of the cab", Whaley continues, "and walked in front of the cab at an angle south on Beckley Street." Angled across the street, that is, to 1026 N. Beckley. See CE 371: Asked to put an "X" on a map for the point at which he left Oswald off, Whaley makes a big "X" on the intersection of N. Beckley & Neches/El Dorado/Zangs, different names for streets which are in fact continuous. And in a filmed interview for "Four Days in November", Whaley says that he carried [Oswald] off across the viaduct, turned left at the 500 block of North Beckley." Neches/Zangs actually intersects with 1000 N. Beckley. But apparently Whaley assumed that the location of the new drop-off point was, as originally agreed, "500 N. Beckley". Upshot: ETA N. Beckley, 12:51 (as per "With Malice" p380). The 1000-block drop-off point for Oswald reduces the walk time (at about 2 minutes per block) from about 6 or 7 minutes to one minute. ETA rooming house, then, about 12:52. ET departure from rooming house, about 12:55. ETA 10th & Patton, after a circa 13-minute walk, 1:08. Unaccounted-for length of time between Oswald's estimated arrival time there and Tippit's: about seven minutes. Unaccounted for because Oswald was elsewhere, perhaps halfway to the Texas Theater. It's all there in Whaley's original affidavit and his "X".
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