Dead in the Wake of the Kennedy Assassination

The Men Who Gathered in Ruby's Apartment

By Dave Reitzes
It certainly sounds sinister to hear Penn Jones, Jr., tell it. According to his article "Disappearing Witnesses" (The Rebel, November 22, 1983):
Shortly after dark on Sunday night, November 24, 1963, after Ruby had killed Lee Harvey Oswald, a meeting took place in Jack Ruby's apartment in Oak Cliff, a suburb of Dallas, Texas. Five persons were present. George Senator and Attorney Tom Howard were present and having a drink in the apartment when two newsmen arrived. The newsmen were Bill Hunter of the Long Beach California Press Telegram and Jim Koethe of the Dallas Times Herald. Attorney C.A. Droby of Dallas arranged the meeting for the two newsmen, Jim Martin, a close friend of George Senator's, was also present at the apartment meeting. This writer asked Martin if he thought it was unusual for Senator to forget the meeting while testifying in Washington on April 22, 1964, since Bill Hunter, who was a newsman present at the meeting, was shot to death that very night. Martin grinned and said: "Oh, you're looking for a conspiracy."

I nodded yes and he grinned and said, "You will never find it."

I asked soberly, "Never find it, or not there?"

He added soberly, "Not there."

Bill Hunter, a native of Dallas and an award-winning newsman in Long Beach, was on duty and reading a book in the police station called the "Public Safety Building." Two policemen going off duty 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. The other officer testified he had his back turned when the shooting took place.

Hunter, who covered the assassination for his paper, the Long Beach Press Telegram had written:

"Within minutes of Ruby's execution of Oswald, before the eyes of millions watching television, at least two Dallas attorneys appeared to talk with him."
Hunter was quoting Tom Howard who died of a heart attack in Dallas a few months after Hunter's own death. Lawyer Tom Howard was observed acting strangely to his friends two days before his death. Howard was taken to the hospital by a "friend" according to the newspapers. No autopsy was performed.

Dallas Times Herald reporter Jim Koethe was killed by a karate chop to the throat just as he emerged from a shower in his apartment on Sept. 21, 1964. His murderer was not indicted.

What went on in that significant meeting in Ruby's and Senator's apartment?

Few are left to tell. There is no one in authority to ask the question, since the Warren Commission has made its final report, and the House Select Committee has closed its investigation.

This was the beginning of Jones' "mysterious deaths" theory that would be picked up by thousands of assassination researchers, including Sylvia Meagher and Jim Marrs, who each devoted a section of their books on the assassination to these "mysterious deaths."

Let's see how mysterious this early entry into the canon is.

In Breaking the Silence, Bill Sloan describes how 30-year old Dallas Times Herald reporter Jim Koethe (pronounced "Koty") and his friend Bill Hunter, who was in town covering the assassination weekend's events for the Long Beach Press-Telegram, went for a couple beers on the evening of Sunday, November 24, 1963, to wind down after the craziest weekend they'd ever experienced. They went into Bill Martin's TV Bar, where they spotted three lawyers with whom Koethe was friendly: C. A. Droby, Jim Martin and Tom Howard, all of whom had done legal work for Jack Ruby at one time or another. The three lawyers were waiting for Ruby's roommate, George Senator, who was being questioned by the DPD.

Droby, still employed as a lawyer in Dallas, reconstructs the scene: "Senator had been held at the police station for four or five hours, and when they finally turned him loose about 6 PM, he came over and met us at the TV Bar. One of the reporters who was there wanted a picture of Jack, so we decided to go over to the apartment on Ewing and see if we could locate one."

They all arrived at the apartment around 8 PM, and were there for possibly an hour. "According to Droby," Bill Sloan writes, "there was no evidence to indicate that anyone besides Senator had been in the apartment since Ruby himself had left at a little after 10 o'clock that morning, taking his dog, Sheba, with him en route to the Carousel Club."

What Conspiracy Books Don't Tell You

From Gary Mack, Curator of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza:
And just what’s “mysterious” anyway? Heart attacks aren’t mysterious, yet many people have them.

Jim Koethe, a fixture on all the lists, is a great example of how goofy the mysterious death theory really is.

Actually, three of the seven men who visited Jack Ruby's apartment on the evening of the day when he shot Oswald lived for decades after the assassination. James H. Martin died in 1996 and Costine A. Droby died in 2011 (Martin’s private papers are in The Sixth Floor Museum’s collection, donated by his daughter in 2011).

Seven visitors? That’s right, for none of these "mysterious deaths" accounts mention the Dallas Times Herald photographer who accompanied Koethe. He was William “Willie” Allen, who shot some of the classic pictures in Dealey Plaza moments after the assassination, including the last three of the “Tramps.” Willie made five pictures in Ruby’s apartment that Sunday night – two show his bedroom and three depict his roommate, George Senator. Here are two Senator pictures and the original negatives of all five are in the Museum’s Dallas Times Herald collection.

What happened to the seventh man, William Allen? Well, the conspirators must not be very good at silencing people, for Willie’s still alive and will join in a public program reunion of Dallas Times Herald photographers at The Sixth Floor Museum this coming November 18, 2014 (scroll to the bottom of the page).

So somehow (we are supposed to believe) only three of the seven visitors learned anything about any conspiracy that night, in spite of the fact that all seven were there in a small apartment at the same time. And no record exists of any of them saying anything about seeing anything conspiratorial that evening.

"The place definitely hadn't been ransacked or anything," Droby told Sloan, "and we just assumed the police hadn't gotten around to searching it yet. We looked around, but we never were able to find any pictures of Jack. In fact, we didn't find much of anything."

Jim Koethe took some notes at the apartment, but didn't think the visit worth writing about for the Times Herald. He told some colleagues there, "It was just a dumpy apartment."

Sloan writes:

In light of the strange, unsettling sequence of events that unfolded over the next ten months, some independent assassination researchers have put heavy emphasis on the assumption that Koethe and Hunter were in the apartment before police had a chance to search it. Clearly, this would have heightened the chance of the two reporters finding something while there and could only make an intriguing tale even more so.

Unfortunately, however, it simply isn't true.

In reality, homicide detective Gus Rose arrived at Ruby's apartment at about 2 PM that Sunday . . . accompanied by two other Dallas officers and armed with a search warrant issued by Justice of the Peace Joe Brown, Jr.

"I showed the manager the warrant and she let us right in," Rose recalled in an October 1992 interview. "We were there for about an hour and a half, and we searched the place thoroughly." . . . According to Rose, the search failed to turn up anything of significance . . .

"We collected a few notes and telephone numbers that had been written on pads, but that was about all we took. Once we were finished, we just locked the place back up and left again."

. . . "If Rose was there in the afternoon, he was there long before we were," Droby concludes. "I just never realized it because nothing was messed up."

Bill Hunter was back in Dallas to cover the Ruby trial the following year for the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Six weeks later he died in Long Beach. Bill Sloan writes:
At approximately 2 AM on the morning of April 23, 1964, Hunter was sitting at his desk in the press room of the Long Beach police station and reading a mystery novel entitled *Stop This Man,* when two detectives -- both of whom were later described as "friends" of Hunter -- came into the room.

Initially, there was considerable confusion over exactly what happened next. One officer was first quoted as saying he dropped his gun, causing it to discharge as it struck the floor. Later, he changed his story to say that he and the other detective were engaged in "horseplay" with their loaded weapons when the tragedy occurred.

Whatever the case, a single shot suddenly rang out, striking Hunter where he sat. An autopsy later showed that the .38-caliber bullet plowed straight through Hunter's heart.

He died instantly, without ever moving or saying a word.

"My boss called me at 2 AM and told me Bill Hunter had been shot," Bill Shelton recalls. "He wasn't satisfied with the story that the cop had dropped his gun, and as it turned out, that wasn't what happened at all."

The newspaper charged police with covering up the facts in the case, which Long Beach Police Chief William Mooney vigorously denied. Detectives Creighton Wiggins, Jr., and Errol F. Greenleaf were relieved of their duties and subsequently charged with involuntary manslaughter. In January 1965, both were convicted and given identical three-year probated sentences.

Two weeks after the shooting, in a letter of resignation to his chief, Detective Wiggins wrote: "It is a tragic thing that this must come about in this manner, for I have lost a wonderful friend in Bill Hunter and so have all the police officers of the department . . . he was truly the policeman's friend."

. . . While Hunter's death made sensational headlines in California, it was scarcely noted 2,000 miles away in Dallas. Jim Koethe surely mourned his friend, but if he connected Hunter's death in any way with their visit to Ruby's apartment five months earlier, he didn't mention it to any of his acquaintances at the Times-Herald.

Five months later, on September 21, 1964, Jim Koethe didn't show up for work at the Dallas Times-Herald. Later, police would find him in his apartment, lying dead on his bedroom floor, wrapped in a blanket. The Dallas County coroner ruled that Koethe had died the previous Saturday, his neck broken by a blow to the throat. Sloan: "Homicide Detectives Charles Dhority and E. R. Beck described the apartment as being in disarray. There were signs of a scuffle, they said, and several items, including two rifles, a pistol, and Koethe's wristwatch, were unaccounted for." Koethe's car was also missing; it was found parked several blocks away; no fingerprints could be found. Neither the police nor Koethe's friends on the Times Herald staff had any luck tracking down a suspect.
Several months later, an ex-convict named Larry Earl Reno was linked to the Koethe killing after being arrested in an unrelated incident. One of Koethe's guns had reportedly been found in the man's possession, and he had no alibi for the time period in which Koethe had been killed.
Reportedly, however, Koethe's relatives were urging state officials to drop the case; a friend of Koethe's learned from a contact in the DA's office that there were homosexual undertones to the murder that the family did not want brought out. The evidence against Reno was never more than circumstantial anyway, and the grand jury did not return an indictment. He was arrested again in 1965 and convicted with the robbery and attempted murder of an Oak Cliff hotel clerk. Koethe's death is still listed as an unsolved crime.

Some also see a sinister hand behind Tom Howard's death in 1965. Howard died of a heart attack well over a year after being dropped from Jack Ruby's defense team.

Two years after Jim Koethe's death, Penn Jones made the connection between Koethe and Hunter, writing about it in the very first chapter of Forgive My Grief, Volume One.

Bill Sloan writes:

Of the six people who were together in Ruby's apartment on the evening of November 24, 1963, only two are still alive at this writing. George Senator, Ruby's roommate, died in the spring of 1992. His death went virtually unnoticed by the media. "Jim Martin and I are the only ones left," says C. A. Droby. "It gives you kind of a funny feeling."
Source: Bill Sloan, Breaking the Silence, pp. 69-83.

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