Jim Marrs' List

Really So Mysterious?

"Strange" and "Convenient" Deaths Surrounding the Assassination

If there really was the vast conspiracy that the buffs claim, then a lot of people have to know about it. Indeed, a lot of people have to have been part of it — not to speak of the people who must have been intimidated, bribed, or otherwise forced to cooperate by giving false testimony, covering up key evidence, or keeping quiet about some sinister thing they knew.

So why have no credible witnesses come forward with the evidence necessary to blow open the coverup? For the hard-core conspiracy believers, it's because a "clean-up squad" is going around the country killing off people who might "blow the whistle!"

This theme was first taken up by Penn Jones, Jr., publisher of the Midlothian Mirror, a small-town Texas paper. The most widely cited current list of "mystery deaths" was published by author Jim Marrs (who also released the book Alien Agenda about UFOs). His book Crossfire contains a list of 103 people who have supposedly died "strange" or "convenient" or "mysterious" deaths. As Marrs puts it:

This section 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.
Unfortunately for Marrs and other conspiracy authors, the logical problems with this whole argument are many and massive.
  1. If the purpose of the "clean-up squad" is to eliminate people who have knowledge of a conspiracy, recruiting people into a "clean-up squad" is a counter-productive activity. Each person recruited becomes yet another person who has knowledge of a conspiracy and might "spill the beans."
  2. Marrs' list is drawn from a pool of literally thousands of people — a few of whom had a clear connection with the assassination, many of whom had some tangential connection with the assassination, and some of whom had no connection with the assassination at all. For example, Marrs' list includes one woman who was one of Kennedy's mistresses, but had no known connection with the assassination. It includes a man who was mayor of New Orleans (but who had no known connection with the assassination), and it includes the Chief Steward on Air Force One!
  3. The list includes people who were merely connected to the Mafia, the CIA, anti-Castro Cubans, or Time-Life, Incorporated. Marrs is assuming that all these groups were connected with the assassination. In other words, he assumes a conspiracy involving all these groups, tabulates deaths, and then announces that the large number of deaths supports the idea of a conspiracy! Circular logic.
  4. Most well-known conspiracy witnesses and authors are still alive. For example, of the best-known conspiracy authors who wrote books in the 1960s, Edward J. Epstein and Josiah Thompson are still alive. Mark Lane died in 2016. Sylvia Meagher is dead, but not even Marrs lists her death as "suspicious." Penn Jones died in January 1998 in a nursing home at the age of 83 after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease. Harold Weisberg likewise died in February of 2002 after a long period of failing health. The most prominent conspiracy authors from the 70s and early 80s like David Lifton, Robert Groden, Henry Hurt, and Anthony Summers are all still alive.
  5. The star conspiracy witnesses who are seen in all the videos had long lives. Beverly Oliver is still alive. Malcolm Summers died on October 8, 2004, Ed Hoffman passed away in 2010. Jean Hill passed away on November 7, 2000. All three witnesses died after having decades to give their testimony to anybody who would listen, and not even their conspiracist supporters claim their deaths were sinister.
  6. If a conspiracy was going around killing people who knew things that were dangerous to it, it would make sense that all the key witnesses would be killed quickly. But Marrs' list includes people who died as late as 1984. Given that many people associated with the assassination were at the peak of their professional careers at the time of the shooting, it's not surprising that many of them would have died within twenty years.
  7. Marrs' list is laced with people who have a larger than average chance of a violent death: law officers, people on the edges of the underworld (strippers), people very much part of the underworld (Mafia figures), and people with a clear history of alcohol or drug abuse, or of mental illness (Rose Cheramie, Lou Staples, George de Mohrenschildt).
  8. About half the people on Marrs' list died of natural causes. Marrs assures his readers that of course the CIA can kill people and make the death look "natural" (Crossfire, p. 556-557). This raises the question of why the conspirators allowed any of the deaths to seem violent or suspicious. It was also terribly convenient for supposed conspirators that so many of the people on the list who are claimed to have died of heart attacks (see below) had arteriosclerotic heart disease, making their deaths plausibly natural.
  9. In virtually every case, there is no evidence that the person had any information on the assassination not already given in Warren Commission testimony, statements to police and the media, and interviews with private researchers. The logic seems to be that they must have known something, since, after all, they were killed.
  10. People who supported the Warren Commission version of events, or whose testimony was used by the Warren Commission to help convict Oswald, are well-represented on the list. Why would a conspiracy want to kill off those people?
  11. Many of these objections can be answered by positing on ongoing surveillance of witnesses. Maybe a witness, after many years of concealing the truth, has finally decided to go public and "blow the whistle." Conspirators, learning of this, then proceed to kill the person. What's wrong with this is obvious: it vastly complicates the problem discussed in 1. (above). For every witness who might potentially "spill the beans," a team of conspiracy operatives must keep a close surveillance in order to catch the moment when the person decides to talk, and then promptly kill the witness. This would require an entire army of assassins!
Marrs tries to argue for the sinister nature of his list by saying:
Of course, it is impossible to state with any certainty which of these deaths resulted from natural causes and which did not. . . . The area of convenient deaths leads one into a well of paranoia, yet the long list of deaths cannot be summarily dismissed.
Given the immensely large pool from which the hundred or so people on Marrs' list are drawn, one of two things must be true. Either: (1) many hundreds or thousands of deaths have escaped Marrs' notice, or (2) being associated with the Kennedy assassination is a guarantee of a very long life!

Begging the Question

Conspiracists put on their list people associated with some group that they suspect was involved with the assassination. Thus any Mafia figure who died is put on the list (regardless of any evidence of involvement) since after all, the Mafia is suspect. It's the same with CIA people (again, regardless of the lack of any evidence of involvement) since the CIA is suspect. The same goes for FBI employees, anti-Castro Cubans, anybody with any connection to Jack Ruby, and so on. Even staffers for LIFE Magazine are included, since they were supposedly engaged in a cover-up.

Of course, if all these groups were involved, that would imply a implausably massive conspiracy. But if only one of the groups, or some small faction of some of the groups was involved, then most of the names don't belong on the list.

Let's Look at Specifics

The death of Lee Bowers seemed "strange" to Oliver Stone, Geraldo Rivera, and Jim Marrs. David Perry is an insurance investigator by profession, and an assassination buff by avocation. See what he concluded when he investigated this issue.

Another "mysterious" death was that of David Ferrie. Did he commit suicide to avoid being prosecuted for Kennedy's murder by DA Garrison? Was he killed by minions of The Conspiracy? In this essay, Dr. Robert Artwohl discusses Jim Garrison's contention that Ferrie died of an overdose of Proloid, a thyroid medication, and Garrison's apparent mishandling of evidence. Ferrie left two supposed "suicide notes," however on close inspection it's not at all clear they are in fact suicide notes. The official autopsy produced a clear finding of natural death.

Eladio del Valle, a Cuban who died on the same night as David Ferrie, is another of those "mystery deaths." Conspiracy books imply that he had all sorts of "links" to the assassination, but there are some other things about him that make his death seem not so mysterious. Click here for documents on del Valle. Conspiracy books never tell you, but the Dade County authorities indicted a man for del Valle's murder. More information can be found on Gordon Winslow's web site.

Dorothy Kilgallen, a reporter and quiz show personality, is always among those on the "mysterious deaths" lists. Supposedly, she was about to "blow the lid" off the conspiracy. In this essay, historian Eric Paddon does not discuss the circumstances of her death (which the medical examiner didn't consider sinister), but rather the question of whether she actually knew anything that might threaten a supposed conspiracy. Had she learned something new about the assassination, or was she just repeating standard conspiracy buff stuff? How might Kilgallen have gotten critical information that would have allowed her to "blow" the conspiracy? According to Gary Wills and Ovid Demaris, (Jack Ruby, page 72):

Conspiratorialists of the wilder variety believe that Dorothy Kilgallen had a private interview [with Jack Ruby], one that caused her death. This tete-a-tete never took place: she leaned over the rail and talked to Jack in the open courtroom during a break in the proceedings. Lawyer Joe Tonahill, who hoped to collaborate with Miss Kilgallen on a book, arranged the brief exchange, and was present at it.
But the important thing, as John Leyden has pointed out, is that Kilgallen didn't die "mysteriously" until 20 months after the interview. Darn patient reporter who can sit on a big story that long.

Colonel Daniel Marvin told an explosive story in the most recent installment of The Men Who Killed Kennedy. He claimed to have been asked by a CIA operative to kill a supposed autopsy witness named William B. Pitzer. If true, it's hard evidence of a conspiracy "clean-up squad" killing witnesses. Researchers Robin Palmer and Allan Eaglesham have worked closely with Marvin, and have come to doubt his story. Their "Letter to Dr. J.D. Rose" lays out the details. Eaglesham, who initially believed the death was "suspicious," has now concluded that it wasn't. A diligent and honest researcher, he continued investigating even after reaching that conclusion, and that research solidified his view that the death was indeed a suicide.

Umpteen Trillion to One Odds?

The conspiracy literature occasionally still quotes a supposed study done by the London Sunday Times which found that "the odds against these [assassination] witnesses being dead by February 1967, were one hundred thousand trillion to one." The House Select Committee on Assassinations asked the newspaper where they got that number. The paper replied with the following letter.
The Editor has passed me your letter of 25th April.

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 and which I believe you have — 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.

None of the editorial staff involved in this story can remember the name of the actuary we consulted, but in view of what happened you will, I imagine, agree that his identity is hardly material.

Yours sincerely,
Antony Whitaker,
Legal Manager.
(4 HSCA 464-65)

George deMohrenschildt was one of Lee Oswald's most interesting friends. His testimony before the Warren Commission said nothing that suggested a conspiracy, but in later years he started to give a much more "interesting" account. DeMohrenschildt's suicide in 1977 has seemed quite "suspicious" to conspiracy buffs. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Death Investigation on deMohrenschildt's passing is extremely detailed. See whether there is any evidence of murder.

John M. Crawford is yet another of those people on the "mystery deaths" lists. Did he really have the "connections" to Wes Frazier and Jack Ruby that conspiracy authors claim? See David Perry's assessment of this case.

What happens when a real investigator (Jacqueline Hess of the House Select Committee) tackles the issue of "mysterious deaths" and enlists the services of people who specialize in working out the probability that any particular person will die in a year, or two, or ten? In other words, enlists the service of actuaries? Hess' testimony before the House Select Committee outlines the results of her investigation.

Marrs List of "Mystery Deaths"

Note: information in the first four columns is from Marrs, the "Comment" is by the author of this web page. Chris Simondet, in a fine research effort, turned up the death certificates of many of the people on the list. It's interesting, isn't it, that deaths that seem "mysterious" when you know none of the details look rather ordinary when you know more.

* = Marrs considers death "particularly suspicious"

DateNameMarrs: Connection with caseMarrs: Cause of deathComment
11/63Karyn KupcinetTV host's daughter who was overheard telling of JFK's death prior to 11/22/63MurderedNo corroboration for Penn Jones' implausible "foreknowledge" claim.
12/63Jack ZangrettiExpressed foreknowledge of Ruby shooting OswaldGunshot VictimActually "Zangetty." Unsourced claim by Penn Jones with no corroboration. Supposedly, member of Sinatra family was to be kidnapped.
2/64Eddy BenavidesLookalike brother to Tippit shooting witness, Domingo BenavidesGunshot to headInnocent bystander killed in bar brawl. Death was actually in February, 1965.
2/64Betty MacDonald*Former Ruby employee who alibied Warren Reynolds shooting suspect.Suicide by hanging in Dallas JailWas in fact a suicide.
3/64Bill ChesherThought to have information linking Oswald and RubyHeart attackNo evidence he could link Ruby and Oswald. HSCA found death nonsinister
3/64Hank Killam*Husband of Ruby employee, knew Oswald acquaintanceThroat cutHSCA found death non-suspicious.
4/64Bill Hunter*Reporter who was in Ruby's apartment on 11/24/63Accidental shooting by policemanAccidently shot by cop who was engaged in reckless gunplay, and was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
5/64Gary Underhill*CIA agent who claimed Agency was involvedGunshot in head ruled suicideWas not a CIA agent. Death was indeed a suicide.
5/64Hugh Ward*Private investigator working with Guy Banister and David FerriePlane crash in MexicoNo evidence of connection to case.
5/64DeLesseps Morrison*New Orleans Passenger in Ward's planeWas mayor of New Orleans. Otherwise, unconnected to case.
8/64Teresa Norton*Ruby employeeFatally shotSame person as Karen Carlin. Marrs listed her twice, and further she is not known to be dead.
6/64Guy Banister*x-FBI agent in New Orleans connected to Ferrie, CIA, Carlos Marcello & OswaldHeart attackPolice investigation showed no evidence of foul play.
9/64Jim Koethe*Reporter who was in Ruby's apartment on 11/24/63Blow to neckJudged non-suspicious by HSCA. Police suspected fight with gay lover.
9/64C.D. Jackson"Life" magazine senior Vice President who bought Zapruder Film and locked it awayUnknownNo other connection to the case. Actually died of a heart attack.
10/64Mary PinchotJFK "special" friend whose diary was taken by CIA chief James Angleton after her deathMurderedKilled in mugging. Vastly implausible that her diary had assassination information but likely did contain account of affair with JFK.
1/65Paul Mandel"Life" writer who told of JFK turning to rear when shot in throatCancerNo other connection to the case -- did indeed die of cancer
3/65Tom Howard*Ruby's first lawyer, was in Ruby's apartment on 11/24/63Heart attackHad history of heart disease and was heavy drinker. Died of Myocardial infarction, with diabetes a contributing factor. HSCA found death non-sinister.
5/65Maurice Gatlin*Pilot for Guy BanisterFatal fallNo connection with assassination.
8/65Mona B. Saenz*Texas Employment clerk who interviewed OswaldHit by Dallas busCircumstances not suspicious — no evidence of any reason to "silence" her.
?/65David GoldsteinDallasite who helped FBI trace Oswald's pistolNatural causesNo evidence of any connection whatsoever with Ruby, Oswald, or any assassination related person. Died of coronary occlusion.
9/65Rose Cheramie*Knew of assassination in advance, told of riding to Dallas with CubansHit/run victimProstitute and drug addict, doubtful her supposed statements that Kennedy was going to be killed indicated "foreknowledge."
11/65Dorothy Kilgallen*Columnist who had private interview with Ruby, pledged to "break" JFK caseDrug overdoseHSCA investigated her death, found nothing sinister.
11/65Mrs. Earl Smith*Close friend to Dorothy Kilgallen, died two days after columnist, may have kept Kilgallen's notesCause unknownA fellow Journal-American columnist, she died after three-month illness. No evidence of any knowledge about the case.
12/65William Whaley*Cab driver who reportedly drove Oswald to Oak Cliff (The only Dallas taxi driver to die on duty)Motor collision83 year-old man in oncoming car crashed into Whaley on viaduct. Both the man (John Henry Wells) and Whaley were killed. Was Wells a kamikaze recruited by conspirators to take out Whaley?
1966Judge Joe BrownPresided over Ruby's trialHeart attackHad history of heart attacks. No reason to believe he know anything not revealed in open court, lawyer's briefs, etc.
1966Karen "Little Lynn" Carlin*Ruby employee who last talked with Ruby before Oswald shootingGunshot victimSame person as Teresa Norton (see above). No reliable evidence of her death.
1/66Earlene RobertsOswald's landladyHeart attackProvided key testimony showing Oswald movements after shooting Kennedy and before shooting Tippit. Had a history of heart disease, and indeed died of a heart attack.
2/66Albert Bogard*Car salesman who said Oswald test drove new carSuicideInvestigation of local authorities and testimony of relatives makes it clear it was indeed suicide.
6/66Capt. Frank MartinDallas policeman who witnessed Oswald slaying, told Warren Commission "there's a lot to be said but probably be better if I don't say it"Sudden cancerImmediately explained what it would be better not to say: that the Dallas police had performed poorly in allowing Oswald to be killed. Died of lung cancer which had spread to the brain.
8/66Lee Bowers Jr.*Witnessed men behind picket fence on Grassy KnollMotor accidentInvestigated by HSCA, and researcher David Perry. No evidence of murder.
9/66Marilyn "Delila" Walle*Ruby dancerShot by husband after 1 month of marriageShot in domestic squabble.
10/66Lt. William Pitzer*JFK autopsy photographer who described his duty as "horrifying experience"Gunshot ruled suicideEvidence contradicts alleged claim to have photographed autopsy. No evidence of murder.
11/66Jimmy LevensFort Worth nightclub owner who hired Ruby employeesNatural causesCasual acquaintance of Ruby's. HSCA judged death non-suspicious. Had occlusive coronary arteriosclerosis leading to acute congestive heart failure.
11/66James Worrell Jr.*Saw man flee rear of Texas School Book DepositoryMotor accidentTold Warren Commission of seeing a shooter in Sniper's Nest. Died in motorcycle accident.
1966Clarence OliverDist. Atty. Investigator who worked Ruby caseUnknownCircumstances not suspicious — no evidence of any reason to "silence" him.
12/66Hank SuydamLife magazine official in charge of JFK storiesHeart attackNo other connection to the case.
1967Leonard PullinCivilian Navy employee who helped film "Last Two Days" about assassinationOne-car crashFilm actually dealt with Texas trip, and had no information about assassination.
1/67Jack Ruby*Oswald's slayerLung cancer (he told family he was injected with cancer cells)Inducing cancer by injecting cancer cells is medical nonsense. Ruby's mental condition had badly deteriorated.
2/67Harold Russell*Saw escape of Tippit killerKilled by cop in bar brawlActually died of heart failure several hours after bar brawl.
2/67David Ferrie*Acquaintance of Oswald, Garrison suspect and employee of Guy BanisterBlow to neck (ruled accidental)Died of Berry aneurysm, natural causes.
2/67Eladio Del Valle*Anti-Castro Cuban associate of David Ferrie being sought by GarrisonGunshot wound, ax wound to headWas involved in drug running, various criminal activities. No "axe wound."
3/67Dr. Mary Sherman*Ferrie associate working on cancer researchDied in fire (possibly shot)No evidence of Ferrie association, died in 1964, and was not shot, but rather stabbed. Otherwise, Marrs is correct.
1/68A. D. BowieAsst. Dallas District Attorney prosecuting RubyCancerWere all the lawyers who prosecuted Ruby briefed on details of conspiracy? Actually died of pneumonia, secondary to metastatic melanoma.
4/68Hiram IngramDallas Deputy Sheriff, close friend to Roger CraigSudden cancerDied of metastatic bronchial cancer. No reason to believe he had any knowledge dangerous to any conspiracy.
5/68Dr. Nicholas ChettaNew Orleans coroner who ruled on death of FerrieHeart attackNo evidence he knew anything sinister. HSCA found nothing suspicious about death.
8/68Philip Geraci*Friend of Perry Russo, told of Oswald/Shaw conversationElectrocutionNote Marrs' syntax. It was Russo, and not Geraci who told of story of "Oswald/Shaw conversation."
1/69Henry Delaune*Brother-in-law to coroner ChettaMurderedIf Chetta's death wasn't suspicious, how was that of his brother-in-law supposed to be?
1/69E.R. Walthers*Dallas Deputy Sheriff who was involved in Depository search, claimed to have found .45-cal. slugShot by felonMade no claim of finding slug, in fact explicitly denied it. Killed trying to arrest violent suspect.
1969Charles MentesanaFilmed rifle other than Mannlicher-Carcano being taken from DepositoryHeart attackFilm actually shows Dallas Police shotgun, and survives to this day. Had no other knowledge of the assassination.
4/69Mary BledsoeNeighbor to Oswald, also knew David FerrieNatural causesKey witness supporting Warren Commission case. Died at age 72.
4/69John Crawford*Close friend to both Ruby and Wesley Frazier, who gave ride to Oswald on 11/22/63Crash of private planeNo evidence of foul play.
7/69Rev. Clyde Johnson*Scheduled to testify about Clay Shaw/Oswald connectionFatally shotWas shot after end of trial, so unreliable prosecution decided not to use him. HSCA judged death non-sinister.
1970George McGann*Underworld figure connected to Ruby friends, wife, Beverly, took film in Dealey PlazaMurderedNo evidence of connection to Ruby's friends. Beverly's claim to have been in Dealey Plaza has severe credibility problems. Was indeed a hoodlum, died of multiple gunshot wounds.
1/70Darrell W. GarnerArrested for shooting Warren Reynolds, released after alibi from Betty MacDonaldDrug overdoseNo evidence of any connection to the assassination.
8/70Bill DeckerDallas Sheriff who saw bullet hit street in front of JFKNatural causesActually said that he saw a "spray of water come out of the back seat of the President's car." Had arteriosclerosis and emphysema when he died of myocardial failure.
8/70Abraham ZapruderTook famous film of JFK assassinationNatural causesNo evidence he had any knowledge dangerous to a conspiracy. In fact died of stomach cancer.
12/70Salvatore Granello*Mobster linked to both Hoffa,Trafficante, and Castro assassination plotsMurderedUnfortunately, no link to Kennedy assassination plot.
1971James Plumeri*Mobster tied to mob-CIA assassination plotsMurderedMobster getting murdered is not that unusual. Plumeri had no connection with the case.
3/71Clayton FowlerRuby's chief defense attorneyUnknownHad hypertensive heart disease and arteriosclerosis. Died of "probable acute myocardial infarction."
4/71Gen. Charles Cabell*CIA deputy director connected to anti-Castro CubansCollapsed and died after physical at Fort MyersCircumstances not sinister, no connection with assassination.
1972Hale Boggs*House Majority Leader, member of Warren Commission who began to publicly express doubts about findingsDisappeared on Alaskan plane flightHaving doubts about findings is not the same as having information "dangerous" to a conspiracy.
5/72J. Edgar Hoover*FBI director who pushed "lone assassin" theory in JFK assassinationHeart attack (no autopsy)Died at age 77. Wasn't he running the coverup? Who killed him?
9/73Thomas E. Davis*Gunrunner connected to both Ruby and CIAElectrocuted trying to steal wireSupposed "connections" to Ruby dubious; didn't work for the CIA. Was indeed electrocuted.
2/74J.A. Milteer*Miami right-winger who predicted JFK's death and capture of scapegoatHeater explosionMilteer's crackpot statements are far from a "prediction" of JFK's death.
1974Dave Yaras*Close friend to both Hoffa and Jack RubyMurderedChildhood friend of Ruby's, had no contact with him in 1963.
7/74Earl WarrenChief Justice who reluctantly chaired Warren CommissionHeart failureDied at age 82. Insisted to the end that Oswald was the lone assassin.
8/74Clay Shaw*Prime suspect in Garrison case, reportedly a CIA contact with Ferrie and E. Howard HuntPossible cancerGarrison's flimsy case against Shaw collapsed in 1969. Shaw died of cancer.
1974Earle CabellMayor of Dallas on 11/22/63, whose brother, Gen. Charles Cabell was fired from CIA by JFKNatural causesDied of severe pulmonary emphysema.
6/75Sam Giancana*Chicago Mafia boss slated to tell about CIA-mob death plots to Senate CommitteeMurderedWas to testify about plots against Castro, not assassination. HSCA found no evidence his death was assassination related.
7/75Clyde TolsonJ. Edgar Hoover's assistant and roommateNatural causesDied of heart disease at age 71.
1975Allen SweattDallas Deputy Sheriff involved in investigationNatural causesOne of scores of deputies involved in investigation. Had cirrhosis of the liver and arteriosclerotic heart disease when a myocardial infarction killed him.
12/75Gen. Earle WheelerContact between JFK and CIAUnknownDied of heart failure at age 67 — no connection with case.
1976Ralph PaulRuby's business partner connected with crime figuresHeart attackDid indeed die of arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease, leading to congestive heart failure, at age 69.
4/76James ChaneyDallas motorcycle officer riding to JFK's right rear who said JFK "struck in the face" with bulletHeart attackDied of heart attack, result of arteriosclerosis.
4/76Dr. Charles GregoryGovernor John Connally's physicianHeart attackHis testimony refuted the idea that there was "too much lead" in Connally to have come from CE 399. Had arteriosclerotic heart disease, resulting in heart attack.
6/76William Harvey*CIA coordinator for CIA-mob assassination plans against CastroComplications from heart surgeryNo connection with Kennedy assassination.
7/76John Roselli*Mobster who testified to Senate Committee and was to appear againStabbed and stuffed in metal drumHSCA found no evidence his murder was related to JFK assassination.
1/77William Pawley*Former Brazilian Ambassador connected to Anti-Castro Cubans, crime figuresGunshot ruled suicideNo connection with assassination
3/77George DeMohrenschildt*Close friend to both Oswald and Bouvier family (Jackie Kennedy's parents), CIA contract agentGunshot wound ruled suicideWas not "CIA contract agent." Had history of mental illness and previous suicide attempts. Death thoroughly investigated by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.
3/77Carlos Prio Soccaras*Former Cuban President, money man for anti-Castro CubansGunshot wound ruled suicideNo connection to case.
3/77Paul RaigorodskyBusiness friend of George DeMohrenschildt and wealthy oilmenNatural causesNo evidence of any reason to "silence" him. Renal failure and hypertensive cardiovascular disease led to a "cerebral vascular accident" (stroke).
5/77Lou Staples*Dallas radio Talk Show host who told friends he would break assassination caseGunshot to head, ruled suicideWas living in Oklahoma when he killed himself. Apparently unable to "break the case."
6/77Louis NicholsFormer No. 3 man in FBI, worked on JFK investigationHeart attackNo evidence of foul play.
8/77Alan BelmontFBI official who testified to Warren Commission"Long illness"No evidence of foul play.
8/77James CadiganFBI document expert who testified to Warren CommissionFall in homeNo evidence of any foul play.
8/77Joseph C. Ayres*Chief steward on JFK's Air Force OneShooting accidentBeing Chief Steward doubtless allowed him to garner much sinister information.
8/77Francis G. Powers*U-2 pilot downed over Russia in 1960Helicopter crash (He reportedly ran out of fuel)Speculated Oswald may have given the Soviets information that allowed them to shoot him down. Had no evidence.
9/77Kenneth O'DonnellJFK's closest aideNatural causesDied of aneurysm and liver complications.
10/77Donald KaylorFBI fingerprint chemistHeart attackOne of hundreds of FBI employees with marginal connection to assassination.
10/77J.M. EnglishFormer head of FBI Forensic Sciences LaboratoryHeart attackNo evidence of foul play.
11/77William Sullivan*Former No. 3 man in FBI, headed Division 5, counter- espionage and domestic intelligenceHunting accidentInvestigation by New Hampshire authorities showed no indication of foul play.
1978C.L. "Lummie" LewisDallas Deputy Sheriff who arrested Mafia man Braden in Dealey PlazaNatural causesAre we supposed to assume that Braden blurted out details of plot to cop arresting him?
9/78Garland SlackMan who said Oswald fired at his target at rifle rangeUnknownDied of heart disease — no connection with the case beyond "Oswald sighting" discussed in Warren Commission Report.
1/79Billy LoveladyDepository employee said to be the man in the doorway in AP photographComplications from heart attackUnclear what sinister information he might have revealed.
6/80Jesse CurryDallas Police Chief at time of assassinationHeart attackUnclear why there would be any need to "silence" him almost 17 years after assassination. Did indeed die of heart attack.
6/80Dr. John HolbrookPsychiatrist who testified Ruby was not insaneHeart attack but pills, notes foundCircumstances not suspicious — no evidence of any reason to "silence" him.
1/81Marguerite OswaldMother of accused assassinCancerAlways loudly insisted her son was innocent. Unclear what information she had that she had not already revealed. Did indeed die of metastatic ovarian cancer.
10/81Frank WattsChief felony prosecutor for Dallas D.A.Natural causesDid conspirators somehow leak all the details of the conspiracy to the District Attorney's staff? In fact suffered from coronary artery disease, and died of a heart attack.
1/82Peter GregoryOriginal translator for Marina Oswald and Secret ServiceNatural causesDied of "cardiovascular accident," leading to cardiac arrest, at age 77.
5/82Dr. James WestonPathologist allowed to see JFK autopsy material for HSCADied while jogging, ruled natural causesInsisted that Kennedy was hit by two shots from behind.
8/82Will H. GriffinFBI agent who reportedly said Oswald was "definitely" an FBI informantCancerHSCA investigation found he had said no such thing.
10/82W. Marvin GheeslingFBI official who helped supervise JFK investigation"Long illness"Circumstances not suspicious — had only minor role in investigation.
3/84Roy KellermanSecret Service agent in charge of JFK limousineUnknown Died of heart failure at age 69.
When the House Select Committee on Assassinations wished to study the "mysterious deaths" associated with the assassination, they asked the Congressional Research Service — a division of the Library of Congress — to investigate a list of such deaths from published sources. The resulting CRS report is merely preliminary, but it shows the appalling number of factual errors in the conspiracy books pushing the notion, and the utterly non-mysterious nature of most of the deaths. Click on the name below to see the relevant section of the CRS report.

Believing it All

What happens when you believe essentially all the claims about mysterious deaths, not only in Marrs' book but on the Internet? You come up with a morass of mutually contradictory theories. Thus Richard Belzer's book Hit List parades before the reader an incoherent collection of conspiracy speculations that implicates almost everybody, as Marilyn Elias explains in her review of the book.

Further detracting from the credibility of the volume is Belzer's association with crackpot conspiracy talk show host Alex Jones, and his proclamation that the U.S. is a "fascist state" run by "sociopaths" both assertions on Belzer's part that Elias documents.

Roger Craig

Roger Craig told a variety of "interesting" stories about the assassination, most of which clearly indicated a conspiracy. So it might seem quite logical that a conspiracy would want to silence him. And indeed Craig's death at age 39 in 1975 by suicide (conspiracy books usually put quotes around "suicide") might seem suspicious. But do the details of his death actually seem suspicious?

Rose Cherami

Rose Cherami (whose many aliases included "Melba Marcades" and "Melba Youngblood") was a drug addict and prostitute whom conspiracists believe had "foreknowledge" of the assassination. If she did, it might be expected that conspirators might kill her to silence her, and indeed she was run over by a car and mortally injured on a rural road in Texas. Conspiracy theorist J. Gary Shaw claims that hospital records show she had a "deep punctate stellate wound above her right forehead," suggesting she was shot. But unfortunately, neither Shaw nor anybody else has produced such records. Her death certificate records no such wound, and says her injuries were the result of being "struck by an auto." A newspaper account of her death mentions nothing suggesting a murder. (Thanks to Tom Scully for finding these documents.)

Let's Just Think About This, OK?

Excerpted from "The Case of the Grassy Knoll: The Romance of Conspiracy" by John Kaplan; printed in The Historian As Detective, Winks, editor; originally published as "The Assassins" in Stanford Law Review (May 1967).

[Regarding the "mysterious" deaths of "witnesses" to the assassination], even the most cursory examination of the stories shows how essentially foolish they are. A good many of the deaths hardly seem mysterious in that they were caused by auto accidents, heart attacks, and other phenomena that afflict our entire population. Moreover, before we could tell whether the number of these deaths is in any way unusual, we would have to know the number of equally "mysterious" deaths that occurred to people completely unconnected with the WR. But even apart from any statistical refutation, the theory that a set of conspirators is now devoted to wiping out a host of unimportant witnesses is almost too silly to be put forth. There is not the slightest indication that any of the "victims" have had anything to tell that they had not already told, and indeed the deaths seem concentrated among those who bore only the most peripheral relation to the assassination. When one stops to consider that almost each one of the "mysterious" deaths requires the recruitment of at least one and often several new conspirators, it would seem that, like the pyramid club, the conspiracy would be getting bigger and bigger rather than smaller. One would think that in light of what had happened to those who knew too much it would get very difficult to recruit new members into the conspiracy. Most important, however, it is hard to say why the supposed killers are taking whatever chances these murders entail when it is so obvious that, whoever the conspirators are, they have already gotten off scot-free.

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