Sylvia Meagher : Notes for a New Investigation

(First published in Esquire, December 1966, pp.211ff)

Call the Important Witnesses Not Heard by the Commission

Concerning Oswald’s Activities

  • Pierce Allman, television newsman: Oswald had said that someone had approached him outside the Depository after the shooting and asked to be directed to the nearest phone. Oswald’s account corresponds with the actual experience of Pierce Allman, and this conflicts with the Commission’s reconstruction of Oswald’s “escape.”
  • Mary Dowling, waitress at Dobbs House: She told the F.B.I. that Oswald and Tippit were in the restaurant at the same time, two days before the assassination, and that Tippit especially noticed Oswald when he complained about his food. The Warren Report says that the two men were not acquainted and had never even seen each other.
  • John René Heindel, ex–Marine acquaintance of Oswald’s: Heindel was known by the nickname “Hidell” to Oswald and to other Marines. The Warren Report says that there is no real “Hidell” and that it was only an alias invented by Oswald for his own purposes.
  • Alonzo Hudkins, reporter for the Houston Post: He gave the Secret Service information suggesting that Oswald was being paid $200 a month by the F.B.I. as an informant holding assigned number “S172.”
  • Milton Jones, bus passenger: He told the F.B.I. that Dallas policemen had boarded the bus and searched the passengers just after Oswald had debarked, which was before anyone noticed Oswald’s absence from the Depository.
  • Sandra Styles, Depository office employee: With Victoria Adams, she ran down the back stairs of the Depository immediately after shots were fired but did not encounter Oswald — supposedly running down at that time — nor Roy Truly and policeman M. L. Baker, supposedly running up.

The Shots and Related Circumstances

The Tippit Shooting

There is considerable confusion and contradiction about the time that Tippit was shot, the description of the killer, the movements of the suspect, and the actions of the eyewitnesses. The following people could have given important information:

  • T. F. Bowley, the only witness at the Tippit scene who looked at his watch to check the time when he saw Tippit’s body. Bowley said in an affidavit taken by the Dallas police that Tippit was already dead at 1:10 p.m., while the commission says that he was shot at 1:15 p.m. If Bowley was correct about the time, Oswald could not have walked from his rooming house to East 10th Street in time to kill Tippit.
  • Radio–car patrolman R. C. Nelson: Tippit drove to central Oak Cliff, supposedly on a simultaneous instruction to him and Nelson. But Nelson went to the Depository, casting doubt on whether either of them was really ordered to Oak Cliff.
  • Radio–car patrolman H. W. Summers: He obtained a description of the Tippit suspect from an unknown bystander — who said that the suspect had “black wavy hair,” was 5′11″ tall, and carried a .32 automatic pistol.
  • Marie Tippit, widow of J. D. Tippit: She probably saw her husband about an hour before he was killed, when he came home for lunch. Also, she could have given information on such things as their unlisted phone and Tippit’s “work at home” in the evenings.
  • Frank Wright and his wife: They lived across the street half a block from the spot where Tippit was killed. Mr. Wright heard the shots, saw a man standing right at Tippit’s car who “ran as fast as he could go,” got into a small old grey 1950–1951 coupé, and “drove away as quick as you could see.” Mrs. Wright phoned the police to report the shooting; it was her call that resulted in the dispatch of the ambulance.
  • Ambulance drivers Clayton Butler and Eddie Kinsley were never questioned either.

Oswald’s Arrest

There are many unanswered questions as to who pointed Oswald out to the police, who drew a gun, whether Oswald tried to shoot an officer, and what was said by whom. The following witnesses present at the theatre might have thrown light on those matters:

  • Bob Apple, insurance investigator.
  • Detective Paul Bentley: He found a forged “Hidell” card on Oswald.
  • Bob Barrett, F.B.I. agent.
  • Jim Ewell, reporter.
  • Detective E. E. Taylor: he stayed behind at the theatre after the arrest to make a list of the names and addresses of the patrons. The list is not among the Commission’s exhibits.
  • Police officers Baggett, Buhk, Cunningham, Lyon, Stringer, and Toney.

Oswald’s Interrogation

Although Dallas Police Captain Fritz “kept no notes” or transcript of the interrogation of Oswald, and the reports submitted by Fritz and Federal agents (primarily from memory) were incomplete and in some vital respects contradictory — e.g., Oswald’s trip to Mexico, where he was at the time of the shooting, and his “Hidell” alias — the following persons were not asked to submit reports or to testify:

  • Jim Allen, former Assistant District Attorney;
  • Secret Service agents Grant, Howard, Kunkel, Patterson, and Warner;
  • FBI agent Joe Myers;
  • U.S. Marshall Robert Nash;
  • Chuck Webster, Professor of Law.

The Walker Shooting

In addition to the Kennedy–Tippit killings, the Warren Commission also “convicted” Oswald of attempting to murder General Edwin A. Walker in April, 1963. But they neglected to take testimony from:

  • Walter Kirk Coleman, a teen–age neighbor of General Walker, who saw two men flee the scene by car after the shot was heard. Oswald could not drive, and the Report said he was alone.
  • Detective Ira Van Cleave, who participated in the original investigation of the Walker shooting and who told the press at that time that the bullet had been “identified as a 30.06,” which rules out Oswald’s Carcano rifle.

The Autopsy

In view of the conflicting descriptions of the wound in the President’s back by the F.B.I. and the autopsy surgeons, witnesses who saw the body could have given crucial information:

  • Admiral George Burkley, Presidential physician. He was in the motorcade, then at Parkland Hospital, and later at the autopsy, and he received the autopsy report submitted by the pathologists.
  • Francis X. O’Neill, Jr., F.B.I. agent: He was present throughout the autopsy and his description of the wound in the President’s back conflicts with the official autopsy report.
  • James W. Sibert, F.B.I. agent: Same as O’Neill above.
  • John T. Stringer, Jr., medical photographer: He photographed the President’s body.
  • Fourteen other Armed Forces or Federal officials named in the F.B.I. Report, and four funeral–home workers who prepared the body for burial.

The Stretcher Bullet

(See Planted Bullet Theory.)

Richard E. Johnsen, Secret Service Agent: He was handed the stretcher bullet by O. P. Wright, chief of personnel, at Parkland Hospital, before the Presidential party departed. Wright was not called either.

A Possible Conspiracy

  • F.B.I. agent Warren De Brueys: Before the assassination he reported on Oswald’s activities in New Orleans; he was present at Oswald’s interrogation; and he investigated allegations suggesting that Oswald expected to receive a large sum of money.
  • Robert Adrian Taylor, a former service–station attendant: He claimed that Oswald had given him a rifle in lieu of payment for car repairs in the Spring of 1963. The Warren Report mistakenly asserts that Taylor retracted his identification of Oswald.
  • R. W. Westphal and other Dallas policemen prepared reports immediately after the assassination in which Oswald’s old Elsbeth Street address was specified when the police had no known access to that address and although they claim they had no record of Oswald before November 22, 1963.

Information About Jack Ruby

  • Lt. George Butler: He was present when Ruby murdered Oswald, and he gave contradictory information to the F.B.I. and to the press about Ruby’s past criminal associations and activities.
  • Wanda Joyce Killiam, waitress at Ruby’s Carousel Club: Her husband, Hank Killiam, was a friend of Oswald’s fellow–roomer on Beckley Street, John Carter. Killiam was found dead in Florida, his throat cut, in March, 1964.
  • Ray Rushing, evangelist: He attempted to see Oswald on Sunday morning and says that he rode up in the police elevator with Jack Ruby at nine–thirty a.m. when, according to the Commission, Ruby was at home.

Names Unknown

  • About ten or more witnesses present at the Texas Theatre when Oswald was arrested, named on a list compiled by detective E. E. Taylor.
  • Caterer at the Depository, who sold lunches to employees and might have sold lunch to Oswald on the day of the assassination or on other occasions.
  • “No. 279 (Unknown)” who, according to the Dallas Police radio log, actually found the jacket discarded near the Tippit scene, although The Warren Report credits Captain Westbrook with the discovery.
  • Post–office employees at the main office, where Oswald maintained P.O. Box 2915, who were not questioned about specific records or recollections of the delivery of packages addressed to “A. Hidell” containing the rifle and the revolver.
  • Inmates, County Jail, who were permitted to watch the motorcade from a window and may have observed significant happenings at the sixth–floor window or other Depository windows.
  • Gunsmiths, Aberdeen Proving Grounds and Klein’s Sporting Goods, Inc., concerning the opinion by the Aberdeen gunsmith that the scope on the assassination rifle “was installed as if for a left–handed man” (Oswald was right–handed).

Witnesses we could have done without

  • Mrs. Anne Boudreaux knew a woman who had been Oswald’s baby–sitter for two weeks when he was two–and–a–half years old, but never knew Oswald or his mother (four pages of testimony).
  • Mrs. Viola Peterman was a neighbor of Marguerite Oswald in 1941, when Lee was “a good little child” of two years, but she hadn’t seen or heard from the Oswalds for twenty–three years (seven pages).
  • Professor Revilo Pendleton Oliver, called to discuss his article “Marxmanship in Dallas,” spent thirty–five pages proving he had no information to contribute to any aspect of the investigation.

Restudy the Evidence, Stage New Tests

The Commission’s failure to follow up leads, its dependence on unrealistic tests and its omission of vital evidence necessitate further research, such as:

  • Tracing and examination of the unseen autopsy photographs and X–rays.
  • Rifle and marksmanship tests on the basis of a reenactment of the shots from the Depository, using dragged car and dummies, and riflemen whose capabilities correspond with Oswald’s level of skill.) (The Warren Commission used experts.)
  • Tracing of the rifle obtained by Robert Adrian Taylor (see above) to determine whether the weapon was ever in the possession of Oswald or persons associated with him.
  • Tracing of laundry tag on the jacket discarded near the Tippit scene (number “B 9738”) to determine whether Oswald or someone else had it cleaned.
  • Reenactment of Oswald’s taxi ride, in a metered vehicle, to determine the actual time. In reenactments performed for the Warren Commission the estimate was progressively reduced from eleven to nine to six minutes.
  • Re–auditing of the police radio log to make an authoritative transcript which would resolve the conflicts among the three transcripts made for the Warren Commission.
  • Auditing of tapes of statements to the press by Parkland Hospital doctors describing the President’s head wounds (tape of the first press conference is said to be “lost”).
  • Tracing of Tippit’s clipboard, never requested by the Warren Commission although it is visible in a photograph of his car before it was removed from the scene of the shooting.
  • Scrutiny of all test bullets fired in the wound–ballistics experiments with human cadavers, goats, and gelatin blocks (260 rounds of ammunition were obtained for use in those tests but only two of the test bullets are shown by the Warren Commission for comparison with the stretcher bullet).
  • Examination of all unpublished films and photographs of the assassination (i.e., the missing Zapruder frames; the Moorman photograph encompassing the Depository; the Betzner photos showing the fence area on the grassy knoll; the Robert Hughes film showing the sixth–floor window; the Ralph Simpson film).
  • Investigation of the repositioning and ultimate disappearance of the Stemmons Freeway sign which obscured the President from Zapruder’s camera for some fifteen frames of the film — of vital importance to the “Traffic–Sign Theory.”
  • Tests of authenticity of the palm print lifted from the rifle barrel.
  • Examination of all withheld F.B.I. and Secret Service reports of interviews with witnesses, including Parkland Hospital personnel (some thirty interviews with the doctors and others, none of which is published in the Exhibits).
  • Examination of all transcripts of off–the–record passages of testimony.
  • Neutron activation analysis of the bullet fragment removed from Governor Connally’s wrist and also of the bullet found on the stretcher (exhibit No. 399). This will determine once and for all whether the stretcher bullet actually caused Connally’s wounds (as the Warren Report says), and thus whether the single–bullet, lone–assassin thesis is tenable.

Sylvia Meagher’s Essay

‘Notes for a New Investigation’ was first published in Esquire magazine in December 1966. The current version is taken from the University of Rhode Island website, and has been formatted in correct HTML for easier access by humans and search engines.

Recommended Reading

Sylvia Meagher expanded on this article in Accessories After the Fact, one of the first books to point out the inadequacies in the Warren Commission’s treatment of the evidence.

The book is still in print and is well worth reading:

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22 November 1963

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