Was a Radio Talk Show Host Going to “Break the Case?”

Lou Staples: Mysterious Death?

The JFK assassination “mysterious deaths” lists include people from virtually all occupations, so it’s not surprising that a radio talk show host is on the list.

His name is Lou Staples. He died while working at station KTOK in Oklahoma City.

According to Jim Marrs, whose book Crossfire contains the “cannonical” list of “mystery deaths,” Staples was a:

Dallas radio talk show host who told friends he would break [the] assassination case (p. 565).

This is the only explanation Marrs gives for claiming this death from a “gunshot to head, ruled suicide” is “a particularly suspicious one” (565, 558).

Another conspiracy theorist, Penn Jones, Jr., claims in his article, “Disappearing Witnesses”:

Lou Staples, a radio announcer who was doing a good many of his radio shows on the Kennedy assassination, lost his life sometime on Friday night, May 13, 1977. This was near Yukon, Oklahoma. He had been having radio shows on the assassination since 1973 and the response to his programs was overwhelming.

Lou’s death was termed suicide, but the bullet ending his life entered behind his right temple and Lou was left-handed. He joined Gary Underhill, William Pitzer and Joe Cooper whose “suicides” were all done with the “wrong hand” shots to the head.

Lou had been stating that he wanted to purchase some property to build a home. He was lured out to a wheat field and his life ended there. I have been to the spot where Lou died. (The Rebel, November 22, 1983)

Jones, apparently, would have his readers assume that Staples was eliminated because he was going to “break [the] assassination case” (Marrs 565). Presumably, he had gained sufficient information while a Dallas radio talk show host interviewing witnesses for his radio programs. Oddly, the conspirators didn’t bother him while he was in Dallas. But somehow his move to a much smaller market in Oklahoma, far from the witnesses and the evidence, was threatening to them, and they then decided to “knock him off.”

According to Jones, Staples was “lured” out into field to discuss what he thought was going to be a real estate transaction.

Was Staples eliminated or did he commit suicide for reasons unrelated to the Kennedy assassination?

Lou Staples was indeed found dead in a farm field around noon on May 14, 1977 (“Lou Staples Found Dead,” The Oklahoman, May 15, 1977 pg. 1A). There was a gunshot wound in the “right temporal area” of his head (Certificate of Death). The “Report of Investigation” by the Medical Examiner notes that there was a “large amount of blood” coming from his left ear. It was estimated that the time of death was 2:00 a.m. on the 14th. Near the scene of the apparent suicide was Staples’ car, which had both the ignition and lights on. The .38 caliber revolver which inflicted the head wound was found near Staples’ body.

2:00 a.m. is a rather odd time to be discussing a real estate transaction. And most people who are going to discuss a real estate transaction would turn off their car’s ignition and lights.

According to the Oklahoma City Medical Examiner’s office, Staples’ probable cause of death was from a “self inflicted wound from a .38 Colt revolver” (Medical Examiner’s Report). Both Staples death certificate and amended death certificate list the cause of death as a suicide.

The police told the Daily Oklahoman that Staples was reported to be “depressed after an argument with his girlfriend early Friday morning” (“Lou Staples Found Dead,” The Oklahoman, May 15, 1977 pg. 1A). Upon searching Staples’ home, investigators found a apparent suicide note that stated, “I am bored, bye y’all.” The note was signed by Staples and found near an empty gun holster (“Staple Cites Boredom in Apparent Suicide Note,” The Oklahoman, May 16, 1977 pg. 90).

The medical examiner noted that at the time of death, Staples had a blood alcohol level of .07. Alcohol is a depressant and people who drink are twice as likely to commit suicide as those who are not drinking (Rivara, Frederick. “Alcohol and Illicit Drug Abuse and The Risk of Violent Death in the Home.” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 278. Issue 7. 1997 Aug 20: 569-75). Al Eschbach, Staples’ co-host the night he disappeared, commented when Staples did not show up for work, that, “Oh, he’s probably just out drunk at the bar. He’s probably hung over” (“Eschbach Talks Loud Game,” The Oklahoman, Sept. 12, 1999).

Staples’ love life was not going well and neither was his career. He had left a much better job at KRLD, a CBS network affiliate and one of the top stations in Dallas. At KRLD, Staples had a well known radio show on the JFK assassination. In Oklahoma City, Staples hosted KTOK’s less known “Let’s Talk” show. Compared to Dallas, Oklahoma City is a much smaller market.

But what of Penn Jones’ claim that Staples’ death could not be a suicide because he was shot on the right side of his head, but he was left-handed? In the first place, Jones is so unreliable a source that the claim should not be taken very seriously. How did Jones know this? As with all his assassination writing, it’s entirely unsourced and unfootnoted. One researcher actually bothered to check out a “left-handed” claim about another supposedly “mysterious” death: that of Lieutenant Commander William B. Pitzer. Allan Eaglesham reported that:

In 1995, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Marvin was told by Joyce Pitzer, the widow, that her husband was not, in fact, left-handed. I have confirmed this in conversation with two other members of the Pitzer family. (Post to alt.assassination.jfk dated 3/6/04)

But even if he was left-handed, Staples was shot with a revolver and one could conceive of someone shooting himself in the head with a revolver on the “wrong” side. Also, quite often, left-handed people are not left-handed when it comes to certain activities. This means that often times, left-handed people play sports or fire weapons using their right hand.

There is zero evidence that Staples had any information that would “break the case.” It may be that Staples bragged to friends, claiming that he would break the JFK case, but could he have actually done so? There are hundreds of JFK researchers and hobbyists who hope to break the case. Have all of them been eliminated?

Was Staples murdered? When one looks at the evidence, without speculation, it is clear that this was a suicide. The Oklahoma medical examiner concluded that Staples committed suicide, Staples was under the influence of alcohol, and an apparent suicide note was found. Would conspiracy theorists ask us to believe that the medical examiner was in on the assassination cover-up or that those who killed Staples were “good enough” to fake a suicide, yet shot Staples on the “wrong” side?

According to Penn Jones, Staples “joined Gary Underhill, William Pitzer and Joe Cooper whose ‘suicides’ were all done with the ‘wrong hand’ shots to the head.” In reality, he appears to have joined Dorothy Kilgallen who claimed she was going to “break open” the case, but never did so.

John Mallof researched this paper.
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