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The embalmer's recollections

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On 8/13/2008 at 11:33 PM, Pat Speer said:

Right you are, Ron. I studied the medical evidence and Zapruder film for several years before coming to the conclusion that a reduced-speed bullet entering low on Kennedy's head exited his throat around frame 224. Only after I came to this conclusion did I come to the realization that not one but two autopsy witnesses claimed the doctors had come to this same conclusion.

From patspeer.com, chapter 18:

Two and a Half Witnesses

Having established, I believe, a strong case for a new perspective on the President’s wounds, the statements of three autopsy witnesses become relevant. While their memories and/or impressions could very well be wrong, if they are correct, then the conspiracy to suppress the medical evidence began much earlier than one might otherwise believe. The first witness whose statements are relevant to our analysis is Dr. George Burkley, the President’s physician. Burkley was the only doctor to view Kennedy’s remains in both Dallas and Bethesda. While he died some time ago, he nevertheless left behind a trail which tells an altogether different story than the one provided by the government.

1. The day after the assassination, Dr. Burkley prepared Kennedy’s death certificate. He listed the cause of death as simply “Gunshot wound, skull” (no specific entrance and exit). In the summary of facts he explained that Kennedy was “struck in the head” and that the wound was “shattering in type causing a fragmentation of the skull.” He said the “second wound occurred in the posterior back at about the level of the third thoracic vertebra.” This location was slightly lower than the location eventually decided on by the autopsy surgeons and was far too low to be compatible with the single-bullet theory. Just as intriguing, however, Burkley’s mentioning the small entrance wound on the back discovered at the autopsy but failing to mention the small entrance wound on the back of the skull discovered at the autopsy suggests the possibility that he had doubts this small entrance wound on the skull connected to the large defect.

2. On November 27, 1963, the FBI delivered the Harper fragment to Dr. Burkley. Despite the fact that this fragment showed both internal and external beveling, which indicated that it came from a tangential wound, Dr. Burkley failed to tell Dr. Humes about the fragment. While the report of the initial autopsy had been completed, Dr. Humes had not yet inspected the brain and completed his work. Dr. Burkley never explained why he failed to tell Humes about this fragment. Did Burkley understand its importance?

3. On October 17, 1967, Dr. Burkley was interviewed by William McHugh on behalf of the Kennedy Library. When asked about the autopsy of President Kennedy, he told McHugh “My conclusion in regard to the cause of death was the bullet wound which involved the skull. The discussion as to whether a previous bullet also enters into it, but as far as the cause of death the immediate cause was unquestionably the bullet which shattered the brain and the calvarium.” While, on the surface, this seems to agree with the autopsy report, the “previous bullet” mentioned by Burkley could very well mean “the previous bullet to strike Kennedy in the skull but not shatter his calvarium.” Supporting this speculation, when McHugh asked Burkley if he agreed with the Warren Report’s conclusions “on the number of bullets that entered the President’s body,” Dr. Burkley replied “I would not care to be quoted on that.”

4. A memo created by the original chief counsel of the HSCA, Richard Sprague, and found years later in his files, indicates that on March 18, 1977, he spoke to William Illig, Burkley’s attorney. Illig told Sprague that Burkley had information indicating that Oswald did not act alone.

5. When HSCA staff member Andy Purdy finally spoke to Burkley on August 17, 1977, however, the most Burkley said about the possibility of a conspiracy was that “the doctors didn’t section the brain and that if it had been done, it might be possible to prove whether or not there were two bullets.”

6. On November 28, 1978, towards the end of the HSCA, Burkley signed a sworn statement stating that he was interviewed by Mark Flanagan and Andy Purdy of the HSCA in January 1978. In this statement, he acknowledges “I supervised the autopsy and directed the fixation and retention of the brain for future study of the course of the bullet or bullets.” (I hope to find Flanagan and Purdy’s account of this interview in the future.)

7. In his book Reasonable Doubt, writer Henry Hurt claimed to have spoken to Burkley in 1982, and to have been told by Burkley that he believed Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy.

8. A January, 1997 memo by Doug Horne of the ARRB reflects that he contacted Burkley’s daughter and asked her to grant access to the files on her father kept by his former attorney, William Illig. It was hoped that these files would contain the information Mr. Illig had called Richard Sprague about almost twenty years earlier. She initially agreed, but by July, 1998, had changed her mind.

Nevertheless, by piecing together Burkley’s statements, we can approximate what he was thinking. Nowhere in his statements did he ever say the fatal bullet entered the back of Kennedy’s head. Consequently, when he mentioned a “previous bullet” to McHugh it’s possible he was referring to an earlier, less severe head wound. Since his placement of the back wound ruled out the single-bullet theory, and since he suspected two bullets struck Kennedy in the head, it’s quite possible he suspected Kennedy was killed in the manner here proposed.

A second witness of interest was Tom Robinson, who worked at Gawler’s Funeral Home. He helped clean up and reconstruct the President’s skull after the autopsy. While his recollections of many of the details of that night were foggy—some changed dramatically between his 1977 interview with the HSCA and his 1996 interview with the ARRB—he nevertheless made several relevant statements. He told the HSCA that “The inside of the skull was badly smashed,” that he remembered something about the bullet exiting from the throat, that the bullet “might have been coming from the head and down,” and that he remembers the doctors probing “at the base of the head,’ with an “18 inch piece of metal.” He told the ARRB, 19 years later that, “there were fractures all over the cranium, including the base of the skull,” and that he had “vivid recollections of a very long, malleable probe being used during the autopsy. His most vivid recollection of the probe is seeing it inserted near the base of the brain in the back of the head (after removal of the brain), and seeing the tip of the probe come out the tracheotomy incision in the anterior neck. He was adamant about this recollection. He also recalls seeing the wound high in the back probed unsuccessfully, meaning that the probe did not exit anywhere.” While some have sought to discredit Robinson’s statements by pointing out their inconsistencies, they can not be wholly discounted. His memories on some details have proved accurate. For instance, he told the ARRB that “he saw 2 or 3 small perforations or holes in the right cheek during embalming, when formaldehyde seeped through these small wounds and discoloration began to occur.” These wounds, not mentioned in the autopsy report, and rarely mentioned elsewhere, are indeed visible in the “stare of death” autopsy photo. While such wounds are in correlation with a bullet exploding near Kennedy’s temple while his head was leaning 25 degrees to its left, its difficult to see how they could be caused by a fragmenting bullet sailing upwards from his cranium, as proposed in Larry Sturdivan’s scenario.

Finally, there’s Richard Lipsey, who was a military aide to the general responsible for Kennedy’s funeral, General Wehle. Lipsey was ordered to keep an eye on the President’s body during the autopsy. Consequently he sat close by and tried to listen to what the doctors were saying. He prepared a face sheet for the HSCA staff depicting the President’s wounds as he remembered them being discussed. And they’re exactly as surmised in this presentation! In dismissing Lipsey’s account, the HSCA medical report said “Lipsey apparently formulated his conclusions based on observations and not on the conclusions of the doctors. In this regard, he believed the massive defect in the head represented an entrance and an exit when it was only an exit. He also concluded the entrance in the rear of the head corresponded to an exit in the neck. This conclusion could not have originated with the doctors because during the autopsy they believed the neck defect only represented a tracheostomy incision…Thus, although Lipsey’s recollection of the number of defects to the body and the corresponding locations are correct, his conclusions are wrong and are not supported by any other evidence.” How strange that the writers of this report represent these as Lipsey’s conclusions, when his testimony is clear that this is simply what he believes he overheard. If they believed him to be wrong then they should have just said he misunderstood the doctors. Instead the HSCA forensics panel, which concluded the Bethesda doctors were off by 4 inches on the head wound and at least 2 inches on the back wound, concluded that Lipsey was wrong because his testimony was in disagreement with the statements of these very same doctors, as these doctors are obviously beyond reproach from all sources except, of course, the HSCA forensics panel. The panel never even inquired with the Bethesda doctors if a shot connecting the wounds in the hairline and neck had ever been considered, and the possibility of such a trajectory is never even discussed in their report! They simply said Lipsey’s statements were not supported by any other evidence and left it at that.


Where on the autopsy photos does it show these small holes on JFK's cheek?

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