In the three-year period which followed the murder of President
Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, 18 material witnesses died – six by
gunfire, three in motor accidents, two by suicide, one from a cut
throat, one from a karate chop to the neck, five from natural causes.
An actuary, engaged by the London Sunday Times, concluded that on
November 22, 1963m the odds against these witnesses being dead by
February 1967, were one hundred thousand trillion to one.
The above comment on the deaths of assassination witnesses was published in
a tabloid companion piece to the movie _Execution Action_, released in 1973.
By that time, part of the mythology of the Kennedy assassination included the
mysterious deaths of people who were connected with it.
By the mid-1960s, people in Dallas already were whispering about the
number of persons who died under strange or questionable circumstances. Well
into the 1980s, witnesses and others were hesitant to come forward with
information because of the stories of strange and sudden death that seemed to
visit some people with information about the assassination.
Finally, in the late 1970s, the House Select Committee on Assassinations
felt compelled to look into the matter.
But aside from discrediting the London Sunday Times actuarial study, the
Committee was unable to come to any conclusions regarding the growing number
of deaths. The Committee said it could not make a valid actuarial study due
to the broad number and types of persons that had to be included in such a
In response to a letter from the Committee, London Sunday Times legal manager Anthony Whitaker stated:
Our piece about the odds against the deaths of the Kennedy witnesses was, I regret to say, based on a careless journalistic mistake and should not have been published. This was realized by The Sunday Times editorial staff after the first edition – the one which goes to the United States… – had gone out, and later editions were amended.
There was no question of our actuary having got his answer wrong: it was simply that we asked him the wrong question. He was asked what were the odds against 15 named people out of the population of the United States dying within a short period of time, to which he replied – correctly – that they were very high. However, if one asks what are the odds against 15 of those included in the Warren Commission Index dying within a given period, the answer is, of course, that they are much lower. Our mistake was to treat the reply to the former question as if it dealt with the latter – hence the fundamental error in our
first edition report, for which we apologize.
This settled the matter for the House Committee, which apparently made little or no attempt to seriously study the number of deaths that followed the JFK assassination. Jacqueline Hess, the Committee’s chief of research for the JFK investigation, reported:
Our final conclusion on the issue is that the available evidence does not establish anything about the nature of these deaths which would indicate that the deaths were in some manner, either direct or peripheral, caused by the assassination of President Kennedy or by any aspect of the subsequent investigation.
However, an objective look at both the number and the causes of death balanced against the importance of the person’s connection to the case, still causes raised eyebrows among those who study such a list. In this section, people who were connected – no matter how tenuously – with the assassination and who are now dead are listed according to date of death.
This is dealing only with deaths, not with the numerous persons – such as Warren Reynolds, Roger Craig, and Richard Carr – who claim to have been shot at or attacked.
This chapter has been entitled “Convenient Deaths” because these deaths certainly would have been convenient for anyone not wishing the truth of the JFK assassination to become public.
The CIA has gone to some lengths to discredit the idea of mysterious deaths plaguing assassination witnesses. A 1967 memo from CIA headquarters to station chiefs advised:
Such vague accusations as that “more than 10 people have died mysteriously” can always be explained in some rational way: e.g., the individuals concerned have for the most part died of natural causes; the [Warren] Commission staff questioned 418 witnesses – the FBI interviewed far more people, conducting 25,000 interviews and re-interviews – and in such a large group, a certain number of deaths are to be expected.
Testifying before the Church Committee in 1975, CIA technicians told of a variety of TWEP technology – Terminate With Extreme Prejudice – that cannot be detected in a postmortem examination. One recently declassified CIA document, a letter from an Agency consultant to a CIA officer, states:
You will recall that I mentioned that the local circumstances under which a given means might be used might suggest the technique to be used in that case. I think the gross divisions in presenting this subject might be:
(1) bodies left with no hope of the cause of death being determined by the most complete autopsy and chemical examinations
(2) bodies left in such circumstances as to simulate accidental death
(3) bodies left in such circumstances as to simulate suicidal death
(4) bodies left with residue that simulates those caused by natural diseases.
The letter goes on to show that undetected murders do not have to be the result of sophisticated chemicals. It states:
There are two techniques which I believe should be mentioned since
they require no special equipment besides a strong arm and the will to
do such a job. These would be either to smother the victim with a
pillow or to strangle him with a wide piece of cloth such as a bath
towel. In such cases, there are no specific anatomic changes to
indicate the cause of death…
While it is obvious that the CIA – and hence the mob through operatives who
work for both – has the capability of killing, it is less well known that the
Agency has developed drugs to induce cancer.
Recall that Jack Ruby died of sudden lung cancer just as he had been granted
a new trial.
A 1952 CIA memo reported on the cancer-causing effects of beryllium:
“This is certainly the most toxic inorganic element and it produces a
peculiar fibrotic tumor at the site of local application. The amount
necessary to produce these tumors is a few micrograms.”
Local law-enforcement officers and coroners are not equipped, either by
training or by inclination, to detect deaths induced by such sophisticated
means. They look for signs of a struggle, evidence of a break-in, bruises,
or marks on the victim.
With no evidence to the contrary, many deaths are ruled suicide or accident.
Others are ruled due to natural causes, such as heart attack.
It is interesting to note how the deaths are grouped. Many of the
earliest deaths came during the time of the Warren Commission investigation
or just afterwards.
More deaths took place in the late 1960s as New Orleans District Attorney
Jim Garrison was launching his investigation. Other suspicious deaths
occurred during the mid-1970s, as the Senate Intelligence Committee was
looking into assassinations by U.S. intelligence agencies. And finally,
another spate of deaths came around 1977, just as the House Select Committee
on Assassinations was gearing up its investigation.
These deaths are listed below in chronological order. An asterisk means
the death is a particularly suspicious one. They are also grouped according
to which investigation was being conducted at the time.
The possibility of convenient deaths leads one into a well of paranoia, yet
this long list cannot be summarily dismissed.
Obviously, many of these deaths – particularly in recent years – can be
ascribed to the passage of time. But others cannot – especially when viewed
in the context of the assassination inquiries taking place at the time.
Read for yourself and consider… When does coincidence end and conspiracy
List of Deaths
Date Name Connection with CaseCause of Death
11/63 Karyn Kupcinet* TV host’s daughter who was Murdered overheard telling of JFK’s death prior to 11/22/63
The Warren Commission Investigation
12/63 Jack Zangretti* Expressed foreknowledge of Gunshot victim Ruby shooting Oswald
2/64 Eddy Benavides* Look-alike brother to Tippit Gunshot to head shooting witness, Domingo Benavides
3/64 Betty McDonald* Former Ruby employee who Suicide by hanging alibied Warren Reynolds in Dallas jail shooting suspect
3/64 Bill Chesher Thought to have information Heart attack linking Oswald and Ruby
3/64 Hank Killam* Husband of Ruby employee,Throat cut knew Oswald acquaintance
4/64 Bill Hunter* Reporter who was in Ruby’s Accidental shooting apartment on 11/24/63 by policeman
5/64 Gary Underhill* CIA agent who claimed Gunshot in head, Agency was involved Ruled suicide
5/64 Hugh Ward* Private investigator working Plane crash in with Guy Banister and David Mexico Ferrie
5/64 DeLesseps Morrison* New Orleans mayor Passenger in Ward’s plane
8/64 Teresa Norton* Ruby employeeFatally shot
6/64 Guy Banister*Ex-FBI agent in New Orleans Heart attack connected to Ferrie, CIA, Carlos Marcello and Oswald
9/64 Jim Koethe* Reporter who was in Ruby’s Blow to neck apartment on 11/24/63
9/64 C.D. Jackson Life Magazine senior vice Unknown president who bought Zapruder film and locked it away
10/64 Mary Pinchot Meyer* JFK mistress whose diary was Murdered taken by CIA chief James Angleton after her death
1/65 Paul Mandal Life writer who told of JFK Cancer turning to rear when shot in throat
3/65 Tom Howard* Ruby’s first lawyer, was in Heart attack Ruby’s apartment on 11/24/63
5/65 Maurice Gatlin* Pilot for Guy Banister Fatal Fall
8/65 Mona B. Saenz* Texas Employment clerk who Hit by Dallas bus interviewed Oswald
?/65 David Goldstein Dallasite who helped FBI Natural causes trace Oswald’s pistol
9/65 Rose Cheramie* Knew of assassination in Hit/run victim advance, told of riding to Dallas with Cubans
11/65 Dorothy Kilgallen* Columnist who had private Drug overdose interview with Ruby, pledged to “break” JFK case
11/65 Mrs. Earl Smith*Close friend to Dorothy Unknown Kilgallen, died two days after columnist, may have kept Kilgallen’s notes
12/65 William Whaley* Cabdriver who reportedly Motor Collision drove Oswald to Oak Cliff(the only Dallas taxi driver to die on duty)
1966 Judge Joe Brown Presided over Ruby’s trial Heart attack
1966 Karen “Little Lynn” Ruby employee who last talked Gunshot victim Carlin* with Ruby before Oswald shooting
1/66 Earline Roberts Oswald’s landladyHeart attack
2/66 Albert Bogard* Car salesman who said Oswald Suicide test drove new car
6/66 Capt. Frank Martin Dallas police captain who Cancer witnessed Oswald slaying, told Warren Commission, “There’s a lot to be said, but probably be better if I
don’t say it.”
8/66 Lee Bowers, Jr.* Witnessed men behind picket Motor accident fence on Grassy Knoll
9/66 Marilyn “Delilah”Ruby dancer Shot by husband Walle*after one month of marriage
10/66 William Pitzer* JFK autopsy photographer Gunshot, ruled who described his duty as suicide “horrifying experience”
11/66 Jimmy LevensFort Worth nightclub owner Natural causes
who hired Ruby employee
11/66 James Worrell, Jr.* Saw man flee rear of Texas Motor accident
School Book Depository
1966 Clarence Oliver D.A. investigator whoUnknown
worked Ruby case
12/66 Hank Suydam Life magazine official inHeart attack
charge of JFK stories
The Garrison Inquiry
Date Name Connection with CaseCause of Death
1967 Leonard Pullin Civilian Navy employee who One-car crash
helped film _Last Two Days_
1/67 Jack RubyOswald’s slayer Lung cancer (He
told family he
was injected with
2/67 Harold Russell* Saw escape of Tippit killer Killed by cop in
2/67 David Ferrie*Acquaintance of Oswald, Blow to neck,
Garrison suspect, andruled accidental
employee of Guy Banister
2/67 Eladio Del Valle*Anti-Castro Cuban associate Gunshot wound,
of David Ferrie being sought ax wound to head
3/67 Dr. Mary Sherman*Ferrie associate working on Died in fire
cancer research (possibly shot)
1/68 A.D. Bowie Assistant Dallas D.A.Cancer
4/68 Hiram Ingram Dallas deputy sheriff, close Cancer
friend to Roger Craig
5/68 Dr. Nicholas Chetta New Orleans coroner who ruledHeart attack
on death of Ferrie
8/68 Phillip Geraci* Friend of Perry Russo, told of Electrocution
1/69 Henry Delaune* Brother-in-law to coronerMurdered
1/69 E.R. Walthers* Dallas deputy sheriff whoShot by felon
was involved in Depository
search, claimed to have found
1969 Charles MentesanaFilmed rifle other than Heart attack
Mannlicher-Carcano being taken
4/69 Mary Bledsoe Neighbor to Oswald, also Natural causes
knew David Ferrie
4/69 John Crawford* Close friend to both Ruby and Crash of private Wesley Frazier, who gave ride plane to Oswald on 11/22/63
7/69 Rev. Clyde Johnson* Scheduled to testify about Fatally shot
Clay Shaw/Oswald connection
1970 George McGann* Underworld figure, connected Murdered
to Ruby friends; wife, Beverly,
took film in Dealey Plaza
1/70 Darrell W. GarnerArrested for shooting Warren Drug overdose
Reynolds, released after
alibi from Betty McDonald
8/70 Bill Decker Dallas sheriff who saw bulletNatural causes
hit street in front of JFK
8/70 Abraham Zapruder Took famous film of JFK Natural causes
12/70 Salvatore Granello* Mobster linked to Hoffa, Murdered
Trafficante, and Castro
1971 James Plumeri* Mobster tied to mob-CIA Murdered
3/71 Clayton Fowler Ruby’s chief defense attorneyUnknown
4/71 Gen. Charles Cabell* CIA deputy director connectedCollapsed and to anti-Castro Cubansdied after physical at Ft. Myers
The Church Committee Investigation
Date Name Connection with CaseCause of Death
1972 Hale Boggs* House majority leader, memberDisappeared on
of Warren Commission who began Alaskan plane
to publicly express doubts flight
doubts about findings
5/72 J. Edgar Hoover* FBI director who pushed “LoneHeart attack (no
assassin” theory in JFK autopsy)
9/73 Thomas E. Davis* Gun runner connected to both Electrocuted
Ruby and CIA trying to steal
2/74 J.A. Milteer*Miami right-winger who Heater explosion
predicted JFK’s death and
capture of scapegoat
1974 Dave Yaras* Close friend to both Hoffa Murdered
and Jack Ruby
7/74 Earl Warren Chief justice who reluctantlyHeart failure
chaired Warren Commission
8/74 Clay Shaw* Prime suspect in GarrisonPossible cancer
case, reportedly a CIA
contact with Ferrie and E.
1974 Earle Cabell Mayor of Dallas on 11/22/63, Natural causes
whose brother, Gen. Charles
Cabell, was fired from CIA by
6/75 Sam Giancana*Chicago Mafia boss slated to Murdered
tell about CIA-mob death plots
to Senate Committee
1975 Clyde Tolson J. Edgar Hoover’s assistant Natural causes
7/75 Allan Sweatt Dallas deputy sheriff involved Natural causes
12/75 Gen. Earl Wheeler Contact between JFK and CIA Unknown
1976 Ralph Paul Ruby’s business partner Heart attack
connected with crime figures
4/76 James Chaney Dallas motorcycle officerHeart attack
to JFK’s right rear who said
JFK “struck in the face” with
4/76 Dr. Charles Gregory Governor John Connally’s Heart attack
6/76 William Harvey* CIA coordinator for CIA-mob Complications of
assassination plans against heart surgery
7/76 John Roselli*Mobster who testified to Stabbed and
Senate committee, was to stuffed in metal
appear again drum
1977 – A Terrible Year for Many
The year 1977 produced a bumper crop of candidates for listing under
convenient deaths connected with the JFK assassination – including the deaths
of six top FBI officials all of whom were scheduled to testify before the
House Select Committee on Assassinations.
Topping this list was former number-three man in the FBI, William C.
Sullivan, who had already had a preliminary meeting with the investigators
for the House Committee. Sullivan was shot with a high-powered rifle near
his New Hampshire home by a man who claimed to have mistaken him for a deer.
The man was charged with a misdemeanor – “shooting a human being by
accident” – and released to the custody of his father, a state policeman.
There was no further investigation of Sullivan’s death.
Louis Nichols was a special assistant to J. Edgar Hoover as well as
Hoover’s liaison with the Warren Commission. Alan H. Belmont also was a
special assistant to Hoover. James Cadigan was a document expert with access
to many classified assassination documents, while J.M. English headed the FBI
laboratory where Oswald’s rifle and pistol were tested. Donald Kaylor was
the FBI fingerprint expert who examined prints found at the assassination
scene. None of these six Bureau officials lived to tell what they knew to
the House Committee.
Other key assassination witnesses, such as George DeMohrenschildt and
former Cuban president Carlos Prio Soccaras, died within weeks of each other
in 1977, just as they, too, were being sought by the House Committee.
The ranks of both organized crime and U.S. intelligence agencies were
thinned by deaths beginning in 1975, the time of the Senate Intelligence
Hearings, and 1978, the closing months of the House Committee.
Charles Nicoletti, a mobster connected with the CIA-Mafia assassination
plots, was murdered in Chicago, while William Pawley, a former diplomat
connected with both organized crime and CIA figures, reportedly committed
Adding to rumors that “hit teams” may have been at work, a Time magazine
article reported that federal agents had initiated a nationwide investigation
into more than 20 gangland assassinations constituting what agents believed
was an “open underworld challenge to governmental infiltration of Mafia
One FBI source was quoted as saying: “Our main concern is that we may be
facing a revival of the old `Murder, Inc.’ days.”
A New York News story concerning this official fear of roving
assassination squads even mentions the death of Sam Giancana, who was killed
one day before he was scheduled to testify about mob-CIA connections and
while under government protection.
Prior to the House Committee investigation into the JFK assassination,
the news media reported the following deaths:
Date Name Connection with CaseCause of Death
1/77 William Pawley* Former Brazilian ambassador Gunshot, ruled
connected to anti-Castro suicide
Cubans, crime figures
3/77 George Close friend to both Oswald Gunshot wound,
DeMohrenschildt* and Bouvier family (Jackie ruled suicide
Kennedy’s parents), CIA
3/77 Carlos Prio Former Cuban president, Gunshot wound, Soccaras*money man for anti-Castro ruled suicide Cubans
3/77 Paul Raigorodsky Business friend of GeorgeNatural causes DeMohrenschildt and wealthy oilmen
5/77 Lou Staples* Dallas radio talk show host Gunshot to head, who told friends he would ruled suicide break case
6/77 Louis NicholsFormer number-three man in Heart attack FBI, worked on JFK investigation
8/77 Alan Belmont FBI official who testified to”Long illness” Warren Commission
8/77 James CadiganFBI document expert who Fall in home testified to Warren Commission
8/77 Joseph C. Ayres* Chief steward on JFK’s Shooting accident Air Force One
8/77 Francis G. Powers* U-2 pilot downed over Russia Helicopter crash in 1960 (he reportedlyran out of fuel)
9/77 Kenneth O’DonnellJFK’s closest aide Natural causes
10/77 Donald Kaylor FBI fingerprint chemist Heart attack
10/77 J.M. EnglishFormer head of FBI Forensic Heart attack Sciences Laboratory
11/77 William Sullivan* Former number-three man in Hunting accident FBI, headed Division 5, counterespionage and domestic intelligence
1978 C.L. “Lummie” Lewis Dallas deputy sheriff whoNatural causes arrested Mafia man Braden in Dealey Plaza
9/78 Garland SlackMan who said his target was Unknown fired at by Oswald at rifle range
1/79 Billy Lovelady Depository employee said to be Complications the man in the doorway in AP from heart attack photograph
6/80 Dr. John HolbrookPsychiatrist who testified Heart attack, but Ruby was not insane pills, notes found
1/81 Marguerite OswaldMother of accused assassin Cancer
10/81 Frank Watts Chief felony prosecutor for Natural causes Dallas D.A.
1/82 Peter GregoryOriginal translator for Natural causes Marina Oswald and Secret Service
5/82 Dr. James Weston Pathologist allowed to see Died while JFK autopsy material for jogging, ruled HSCA natural causes
8/82 Will H. Griffin FBI agent who reportedly Cancer said Oswald was “definitely” an FBI informant
10/82 W. Marvin Gheesling FBI official who helped Natural causes supervise JFK investigation
3/84 Roy Kellerman Secret Service agent in charge Unknown if JFK limousine