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Who was the Zodiac Killer?

In 1980 conspiracy researcher Mae Brussell identified Robert Linkletter, son of the famous Hollywood entertainer and celebrity Art Linkletter as the Zodiac Killer. Brussell’s source of information was a letter from a woman who lived in Woodland Hills who knew Robert personally and also knew him as the Zodiac.

Zodiac, a serial killer in the San Francisco Bay area, wrote a series of letters to local newspapers boasting of his murders and appending sophisticated cryptograms that defied the best efforts of amateur and professional codebreakers. Using many deliberately misspelled words, he made mocking jabs at the police, laughed at their futile efforts to catch him, and described in detail how he would dispatch future victims. In a letter sent to the San Francisco Chronicle on October 13, 1969, he wrote, “School children make nice targets, I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning.” A letter sent to the same newspaper on June 26, 1970 threatened that if people did not start wearing Zodiac buttons, he would punish them “by anilating a full School Buss.” The disappearance of a school bus full of children in 1976 prompted many to believe that this was the work of the Zodiac. It also prompted Mae Brussell to reveal on her weekly program Dialogue: Conspiracy the existence of a letter that identified the Zodiac by his real name. [1]

The afternoon of July 15, the last day of summer school at Dairyland Elementary in the farming community of Chowchilla, a school bus departed with thirty-one children, ages ranging from five to fourteen. Traveling on ruler-straight roads past cotton fields and almond groves, the driver, Frank Ray, dropped off five youngsters at three separate stops.

Proceeding west on Avenue 21 toward the intersection at Road 15, he noticed a white van straddling the road with its door open. As he came around to pass, he saw jumping out of the van a man wearing a nylon stocking mask and brandishing a shotgun and revolver. He signaled Ray to stop the bus and in a deep voice demanded that he open the door. He was a big man, 6 foot 2, medium to heavy build, tan short-sleeve shirt, white gloves, light tan corduroy pants, light brown belt with horsehead buckle, cowboy boots, and an eagle tattoo on his right arm. Grayish white hair and moustache were discernible through the nylon. He appeared to be about 50 years old.

Two more men wearing stocking masks came out of the van. One of them was armed with a pump shotgun, about 23 to 27 years old, very thin, 5 foot 7, collar length brown hair, light complexion, moustache, and a hairy mole on the right side of his chin. He wore a white T-shirt, white gloves, blue corduroy pants, cowboy boots, and silver watch. He had a blue-green tattoo on his right wrist. He spoke with a foreign accent, possibly French. He came into the bus and ordered Ray to go to the back seat.

The third man was unarmed, stocky, 5 foot 6, white hat, white gloves, blue-checkered shirt, brown pants, and blue tennis shoes. Over his mask, he wore black, thick-framed glasses. His age might have been anywhere from 28 to 45. He had sideburns, a one-inch scar on his right cheek, and a chipped front tooth. His stocky appearance was deceptive, for up close one boy observed that he had “a pillow stuffed in his shirt to make him look fat.” He settled into the driver’s seat and took control of the wheel.

Continuing west about a mile, the bus and van turned left into a clearing off the road and drove into a dry creek bed. After hiding the bus in a heavy thicket of bamboo, the three men herded their captives into the white van and into a green van parked nearby. As Ray climbed in through the back doors of the green van, he glanced at the license plate number of the white van.

Chowchilla bamboo grove

Aerial view of the bamboo grove where kidnappers abandoned the school bus.

Neither Ray nor the children could see where they were going – plywood and a coat of paint blocked the windows. They sped along highways for many hours, never stopping at a gas station. Those who needed to urinate had to do so in their pants. Several times along the way, the abductors stopped to put more fuel in the gas tanks from gas cans stowed onboard. After eleven hours on the road, they finally stopped at their destination. They told Ray and the children to get out and directed them to descend a ladder through a three-foot opening in the ground into an underground chamber. As they went in, one by one, a man asked for their names, ages, parent’s names, and took from each a shoe or an article of clothing.

Using a flashlight given to him to guide the children in, Ray could see that they were inside the trailer of a truck about eight feet wide and sixteen feet long, buried underground. He saw some mattresses and box springs, two wooden boxes with holes on top that served as improvised toilets, ten five-gallon containers of water, some dry breakfast food, bags of potato chips, two loaves of bread, and six 4×4 vertical posts that extended eight feet from floor to ceiling. Mounted in two holes, one cut through the front and the other through the right side, were battery-operated fans that circulated air through flexible hoses, four inches in diameter. (One hose was thirty-five-feet long, hidden from view in the branches of a tree.)

After pulling up the ladder, the captors put a heavy metal plate on top of the hole and weighed it down with a pair of hundred-pound truck batteries and a wooden box full of dirt. Using wire-cutters, they cut cables holding back a wire-mesh fence. An avalanche of dirt and gravel poured down upon the roof of the trailer, covering the plate, batteries and box to a depth of six to seven feet above the roof of the trailer. Inside, the captives watched fearfully as the ceiling buckled from the weight of earthen material, but the standing posts kept the roof from collapsing.

Trapped in the darkness of their dungeon with only the flashlight and a candle for illumination, children cried from terror and despair. As the hours dragged on, the heat inside rose to an oppressive level. The makeshift ventilation system was inadequate for proper airflow. One of the air vents stopped working, and the children gathered together trying to breathe around the one air vent remaining. Many were coughing from the lack of fresh air, or vomiting amid the odors of urine and filth.

As the driver and children viewed with increasing alarm the horror of their situation, in the world outside they became the number one news story, pushing aside Jimmy Carter’s speech accepting the nomination for president at the Democratic Convention in New York City. One major news development was the discovery of the missing bus just before dark by an airplane doing an aerial search. Reporters found people who blamed the kidnapping on black radicals or anti-capitalist leftists. An anonymous person called the San Francisco Chronicle and said “Chowchilla, Weatherman,” obviously referring to a radical leftist group. A spokeswoman for New World Liberation Front, when questioned by reporters, denied that the group had anything to do with the kidnapping. The following day, a group of birdwatchers found children’s notebooks, shoes, clothing, and Frank Ray’s wallet and pants, on an embankment near Saratoga in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The discovery indicated that hippies dwelling in communes nearby might be responsible for the kidnapping.

Meanwhile, the people of Chowchilla prayed for their children. God heard their prayers, and a miracle occurred.

After some hours passed, the sound of shoes above the captives ceased. The kidnappers had apparently left the site. After waiting for what seemed an eternity, the oldest boy, Mike Marshall, age fourteen years, decided he was going to dig his way to freedom. The bus driver, who had already given up in hopeless despair, discouraged him from trying and told him that their time had come “to kick the bucket.” Mike refused to give up.

He kicked one of the box springs apart and found a suitable stick of wood, eighteen inches long. Piling up mattresses to reach the plate covering the hole in the ceiling, he dug and clawed around the plate. At last Ray and another boy came to help. Using all their strength, they pushed up on the plate and managed to open a gap sufficient to jam a stick underneath it. The gap was enough to enable continued digging. As they dug upward, increasing amounts of earth trickled down. Periodically the diggers doused themselves with water to keep from passing out in the suffocating heat.

Their efforts were finally rewarded when they saw a streak of sunlight and felt the fresh cool air. Continuing to tunnel upward, they moved the plate and opened a space large enough for a boy to squeeze through. It was 7 pm, and the sun was still up. He saw around him the heavy machinery of a rock quarry. It had been sixteen hours since they descended into their underground tomb. After climbing out, Ray and the children wandered around until they found a welder on a nearby elevator, who notified the police.

The quarry belonged to the California Rock and Gravel Company, near the city of Livermore in Alameda County, 95 miles north of Chowchilla. Since travel time from Chowchilla to Livermore was normally an hour and a half, the eleven hours on the road indicated the abductors used a roundabout way to get to the quarry.

Chowchilla trailer

Interior view of trailer.

Once they returned everyone home, law enforcement officials began collecting information. The bus driver remembered the last three digits of the license plate for the white van, 414. This corresponded with the license number 1C91414, obtained from an insurance secretary in Los Banos, Mrs. Mary Phillips. She had observed a suspicious white van parked in front of her Chowchilla office the evening of July 14. It was still in the same spot when she came back the following morning. At about 1:30 in the afternoon a second van identical in every way except in color parked next to the white van. A passenger got out and conferred with the driver of the white van for a few minutes. There appeared to be an exchange of money. Then the passenger climbed behind the wheel of the white van, and the two vehicles left the area and headed east on Highway 152. Before the vans drove off, Mrs. Phillips jotted on a piece of paper the license number of the white van. She gave this information to sheriff’s officers later that same day after hearing about the disappearance of the children and bus driver. 

The solid lead of the plate number enabled investigators to trace the two vans to a San Jose warehouse. An unidentified individual purchased them at an auction of military vehicles in Alameda on November 24, 1975. The trailer used to entomb the captives came from a moving and storage company in Palo Alto, purchased four days before the two vans. The man who bought it used the alias “Mark Hall,” and gave a non-existent address.

Thanks to information garnered from the driver and children, apprehension of the culprits was almost within reach. They were not, as initially believed, scruffy hippies or hotheaded radicals. Frederick Newhall Woods III, a member of one of California’s wealthiest and most prominent families, rented the San Jose warehouse where the two vans were found. He was also the owner of the rock quarry. His home was sixty miles from the quarry in Portola Valley, a lavish estate in San Mateo County – 100 acres of oak-studded rolling hills near Stanford University. Woods was a major stockholder in the Newhall Land and Farming Co., which had enormous investments in agriculture, cattle, oil, gas, and real estate. Its best-known asset was Magic Mountain, a popular and immensely profitable amusement park near Los Angeles. In May 1976, just two months earlier, it opened a spectacular rollercoaster ride called the Great American Revolution.

Newhall estate

Vehicles and buildings on the Portola Valley estate of Frederick Newhall Woods III.

Some sixty lawmen armed with riot guns, tear gas, and automatic weapons surrounded the family home in Portola Valley to search for evidence. Welcoming them graciously was an elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Woods, the only persons around. As they searched, they gazed with curiosity at the dusty, rusting, second-hand vehicles lined up in rows among the buildings, including Malibus, Impalas, Thunderbirds, station wagons, jeeps, bulldozer, fire engine, red hearse, orange vans, school bus, tow truck, an Allied Van Lines moving trailer, vintage campers, police cars, police motorcycles, many in working order. These vehicles, numbering about a hundred, might have been used in other previously unknown criminal activities, according to a suggestion made by Mae Brussell on one of her programs [2]. Among the vehicles on the property was a World War Two-era truck-tractor that matched the buried trailer in the Livermore quarry. With the help of a bulldozer, it was used to pull the trailer out of the pit.

Chowchilla quarry

Truck-tractor found at the Portola Valley estate being used to haul trailer out of pit at the rock quarry

A search of the main house yielded a paper bag with the scribbled names of the twenty-six children and a ransom note demanding five million dollars. All totaled, from various locations searched, investigators piled up “an astronomical amount of physical evidence,” according to a spokesman for the Alameda County sheriff’s office. According to the Sacramento Bee and the Fresno Bee, at least seven members of a gun and drug cult, sons of wealthy San Mateo County families, were suspects in the hijacking of the school bus. Soon after this article appeared, the police took into custody three suspects:

(1) Frederick Newhall Woods IV, son of the quarry owner, 25 years old, 6 foot, 145 pounds, brown hair and blue eyes;

(2) James Schoenfeld, son of a podiatrist in Atherton, 25 years old, 6 foot, 170 pounds, red hair and blue eyes;

(3) James’ brother Richard Schoenfeld, 22 years old, 5 foot 11 inches, 150 pounds, blonde hair and blue eyes.

Whatever part these men had in the Chowchilla plot, if any, they were not the ones seen by Ray and the children. According to AP reporter Mike Dunston on July 26, “The victims’ descriptions of their abductors appeared quite different from the descriptions of the Schoenfeld brothers and Woods in an all-points bulletin issued Thursday night.… Investigators said some of the apparent discrepancies in the original descriptions can be explained, but they declined to offer an explanation.”

Chowchilla kidnappers

Left to right: Frederick Woods IV, James Schoenfeld, and Richard Schoenfeld leaving courthouse August 26, 1976.

Law enforcement officials assigned to the case got an earful from Mae Brussell, who pointed out to them that the suspects arrested lacked the specific details mentioned by the bus driver and the children – gray hair, glasses, tattoos, chipped tooth, hairy mole, foreign accent, shortness of stature. They tried to brush her off with superficially plausible explanations or evasive non-sequiturs. An assistant to the Alameda County Sheriff said the children were too young to give credible descriptions of people.

“What about the bus driver?”

“Oh, the bus driver? He has no concept of what was involved, or who was involved.” [3]

On August 2, the expiration of a gag order on evidence found at the Woods estate allowed sources within law enforcement to provide reporters of the Sacramento Bee and the Fresno Bee a few more specifics. The ransom note demanding five million dollars was signed, “We are Beelsabub,” a misspelling of Beelzebub, which is the biblical name for the devil. Several other documents contained “strange references to Satan,” and others were coded in Sanskrit. Also found were paraphernalia indicating an obsession with satanic ritual. The following day, Stan Bohrman, on the six o’clock news for a television station in San Francisco, reported on these same findings, but he went one step further by mentioning the Zodiac. He said, “The [ransom] letter found in the home of Frederick Woods resembled the writing of the Zodiac killer. The markings above and below the letter and references to the occult were on this letter.”

The importance of this information can be measured by how quickly it was suppressed. One hour after the letter was released, Judge Howard Green put a new gag order effective at that moment. Repeat broadcasts of Bohrman’s report on the letter scheduled for the seven o’clock and the eleven o’clock news were cancelled, Bohrman was fired, and the Zodiac connection made no further appearances in the news media. Except for updates on insignificant court matters from time to time, there was almost a complete news blackout on the Chowchilla case from that evening on. [4]

Since schoolchildren were a prime target of the Zodiac, the Zodiac-style markings on the ransom note is another clue to his participation in the hijacking of the Chowchilla bus. A comparison of the Zodiac on the left shows resemblance to a composite sketch made of the kidnapper wearing the hat and glasses.

Zodiac                          Zodiac Chowchilla

Heavy dark-rimmed glasses are a characteristic feature of the Zodiac. Bryan Hartnell, who survived an attack on September 27, 1969 near Vallejo, said the Zodiac was wearing a black executioner-style outfit. Over his hood, he had clip-on sunglasses and underneath the hood was another pair of glasses. The killer was about 5 foot 8 inches, light brown curly hair, possibly a wig, 26 to 30 years old, 195 to 200 lbs.

The composite sketch of the Zodiac wearing heavy, horn-rimmed glasses came from three teenagers who witnessed the murder of cab driver Paul Stine in San Francisco on October 11, 1969. They said he was about 25 to 30 years old, 5 foot 8 to 9 inches tall, heavy build, short brown hair.

Kathleen Johns saw the composite sketch of the Zodiac on a poster at a local police station in Patterson and recognized him as the man who tried to kidnap her and her baby on March 22, 1970. She said he wore black, heavy-rimmed, plastic-lensed glasses held firmly in place by a thin band of elastic around his head. He was about 30 years old, 5 foot 9 inches, 160 pounds, short dark hair, jaw “not weak”, dark windbreaker jacket, navy blue bell-bottom pants, military shoes highly polished. After surreptitiously disabling her car, he posed as someone trying to help and lured her and her baby into his own car. Alarmed by his menacing manner, she managed to get out of the car and escape with her baby at a freeway off-ramp. Four months later, the Zodiac wrote in a letter, “So I now have a little list, starting with the woeman + her baby that I gave a rather intersting ride for a couple howers one evening a few months back that ended in my burning her car where I found them.”

A man wearing black-rimmed glasses, overweight, 5 foot 8 inches, curly hair, neatly dressed, frightened Darlene Ferrin with his visits. [5] Mike Mageau, boyfriend of Darlene and survivor of the shooting on July 4, 1969, said that the shooter was about 5 feet 8 inches, “real heavy set, beefy build… possibly 195 to 200, or maybe even larger… short curly hair, light brown almost blond”, combed up in a pompadour style. Mageau further said he was not wearing glasses. Evidently, the Zodiac did not need them all the time.

Glasses of a similar type was a prominent feature in the Manson case. When Charles Manson announced to his followers at Spahn Ranch on August 8, 1969 “Now is the time for Helter Skelter,” he told Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, and Linda Kasabian to get knives and changes of clothes. Shortly after midnight, they entered the home of actress Sharon Tate at 10500 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon and brutally murdered her and four other people. The following night the same four and two others killed Leo and Rosemary LaBianca at 3301 Waverly Drive in the Los Feliz Hills.

Originally, the police believed the slaughter at the Tate house was the work of one man. A clue to his identity was a pair of glasses found in the living room.  A lieutenant for the Los Angeles Police Department, Robert Helder, showed them to the press on October 23 and said that the killer probably lost them during the struggle with the victims. There were fingerprint smudges on it but no identifiable ridges. The owner was extremely near-sighted and could not operate a vehicle without them. An unusual feature was the plastic lenses. Unlike glass lenses, plastic resisted shattering and was the choice of very active people such as athletes. The amber-colored, horn-rimmed frames were of a specific type manufactured by the American Optical Corp. The customized bend of the temple shafts showed that the left ear was about one-fourth to one-half inch higher than the right. Police sent flyers to thousands of eye doctors, hoping that someone might provide information about the man who bought them. (The article Zodiac Killer at the Tate House has more details on the glasses.)

Glasses Tate House

Glasses found at the Tate house.

What the news media hailed as a major breakthrough in October quickly became an almost forgotten loose end in December after the arrest of Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian, none of whom wore glasses.

When the case came to trial, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi feared that defense attorneys might bring up the glasses and make the reasonable assertion that at least one killer was still at large. From that standpoint, they could argue that the wrong people were on trial. [6] Augmenting the effectiveness of this strategy would be to identify and locate the doctor who prescribed the glasses. That man, as will be shown below, was Dr. Victor Ohta, a wealthy ophthalmologist in the town of Soquel in the Santa Cruz area, 350 miles north of Los Angeles. As one of the state’s busiest eye surgeons, he specialized in the removal of cataracts. He and his family lived in a secluded mansion designed by Aaron Green, a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright, on a hilltop ten-acre site overlooking Monterey Bay.

On October 19, 1970, three days before the glasses came up during the testimony of prosecution witness Roseanne Walker at the Manson family trial, [7] Mrs. Ohta was driving her green Oldsmobile station wagon home at about 5:00 pm. Calvin Penrod, a sales manager for mobile home parks, who knew Mrs. Ohta, was driving in close proximity to her car and noticed she had three passengers, young people with long hair. Behind Mrs. Ohta in the back seat was a man with a moustache; next to him was a woman with straight, long black hair; and a second man sat in the rear compartment behind the back seat. As it shortly turned out, the three passengers were highly trained, well-prepared killers. At the house they bound, blindfolded, and shot from behind Dr. and Mrs. Ohta, their two young sons, and the doctor’s secretary. Then they set fire to the house. The fierce blaze attracted the attention of two sheriff’s deputies, who called the fire department. Firemen attempting to reach the scene found both driveways blocked, one by Dr. Ohta’s Rolls Royce and the other by the secretary’s Continental, with the ignition keys snapped off in both locks. By the time they could push the cars aside, the mansion had already suffered extensive damage. While looking for a source of water, they found five bodies in the swimming pool.

Ohta map

Map showing locations of the murder site and sightings of Mrs. Ohta’s car

On the windshield of the Rolls Royce was a note, typed on Dr. Ohta’s typewriter, declaring war against those who “misuse the environment,” presumably referring to the bulldozers used to cut a driveway on the steep wooded hillside and to clear off a place for the mansion. Signing the note were Knight of Wands, Knight of Cups, Knight of Pentacles, and Knight of Swords, figures represented on tarot cards. Pentacles is a five-sided figure associated with witchcraft and Satan. It appeared to be a note written by crazed hippies enamored with the environment and the occult.

Mrs. Ohta’s station wagon served as the getaway car, driven wildly, nearly running other cars off the road. Witnesses saw three long-haired people in the careening car. At a campsite in the Bonny Doon area, witnesses saw three long-haired people, one of them a woman, near the station wagon. The following day the car was about a mile inside the Rincon railroad tunnel. An off-schedule Southern Pacific switch engine banged into it at 4:45 pm. Someone had driven it into the tunnel and set the seat cushions on fire (a destructive act similar to what happened to Kathleen Johns’ car). The engineer put out the flames with a fire extinguisher and then used his engine to push the car out of the tunnel. The motor was still warm from recent use. Three sets of footprints led from the spot where the car was abandoned to outside the tunnel.

Mrs Ohtas car

Mrs. Ohta’s car at the entrance to the railroad tunnel

Alerted by a tip from “three long-haired persons” who provided the address of a woman who in turn gave directions to her husband’s tiny ramshackle hut in a wooded area in the Santa Cruz Mountains, sheriff’s deputies arrested John Linley Frazier, an auto mechanic who had dropped out of society and was living the hippie life-style. As soon as they took him into custody, the search for more suspects was discontinued. When newsmen asked District Attorney Peter Chang how one man could have bound, blindfolded, and shot five people with two pistols, a .38 and a .22, he said, “It sounds ridiculous, but it’s possible that it happened.”

Originally, Frazier denied killing the Ohtas. He said that three persons went into the Ohta house while he waited outside at the driveway entrance. He changed his story later, confessing to a psychologist that he killed the Ohtas single-handedly. The original story is probably the correct one, and his role that day was to serve as lookout.

According to a letter written by a woman who lived in Woodland Hills (near Los Angeles), Dr. Ohta was the man who prescribed the glasses found at the Tate house, and the owner was none other than the Zodiac himself. In late September 1970, less than a month prior to the Ohta slayings, she saw the Zodiac with Frazier in Woodland Hills. They “looked exactly alike” except that the Zodiac wore glasses. The implication is that Frazier was a Zodiac double. If he wore glasses, the resemblance would be greater. Pictures of Frazier at the time of his capture and all during his trial show him without glasses. However, a driver’s license photo released by the sheriff’s department shortly before his capture shows him wearing glasses. Perhaps he needed them to drive a car, yet the weird Zodiac-like appearance is certainly striking.

Frazier no glasses                       Frazier glasses

The author of the letter goes on to identify the Zodiac by his real name and said that he was a member of a white supremacist organization called the International White Guard.

Somehow a copy of this letter came into the possession of Mae Brussell. On July 19, 1976, she called up Sherwood Morrill, a documents specialist for the Bureau of Criminal Identification in Sacramento and chief expert on the handwriting of the Zodiac. She read the letter to him and stated her belief that the Zodiac was involved in the Chowchilla case. He was not a deranged man working alone, as commonly believed, but rather he was part of a group of extreme rightwing fascist killers. She urged him to be on the lookout for a ransom note and check it for Zodiac handwriting characteristics. (A few days later, newspapers reported the finding of a ransom note at the Woods house. Bohrman’s revelation of the Zodiac markings would not emerge until almost two weeks later.)

After speaking with Morrill, she called David Toschi, the detective for the San Francisco Police Department in charge of the Zodiac files. After reading the letter, she asked him if he knew the name of the man identified as the Zodiac. He said he did. As she continued to ask more questions, he became increasingly angry, rude, and hostile.

Brussell                                                                            Toschi

   Mae Brussell                                                                                          David Toschi

“We had that name five years ago” [1971].

Has he been cleared?”

“No, he has not been cleared.”

“Has he ever been arrested or called before a grand jury?”

“No, he has never been arrested or called before a grand jury.

“Have you asked him any questions about it?”

“No, we’re not asking him any questions.”

“Have you seen the composite sketch of the Chowchilla suspect wearing the hat and eyeglasses, who looks like the Zodiac?”

“Where did you see that picture?”

“On the front page of the San Francisco Examiner. Did you talk to the Chowchilla police department?”

“I am not involved in the Chowchilla case.”

“If the Chowchilla authorities and the Los Angeles authorities think the Zodiac might be involved, how come you have not thought of it?”

Toschi said they would never bring him in, and he had no interest in pursuing Brussell’s proffered lead. [8] (Five days later, his partner, Bill Armstrong, suddenly quit and transferred to the Bunco division, leaving Toschi to become the only San Francisco detective working on the Zodiac case. [9] The dispute between them might, or might not, have something to do with a Zodiac connection to Chowchilla.)

While relating these conversations on her Dialogue: Conspiracy program on radio station KRLB in Carmel, Brussell never mentioned the name of the woman who wrote the letter and only said that she lived in Woodland Hills and worked as a school bus driver. She did however reveal the name of the Zodiac – after an interval of four years. At the end of her program on September 21, 1980, she said:

[Next week I want to bring up] the death of Art Linkletter’s son. He was killed in an automobile accident. I have hinted many times and suggested through a letter that I have that went to a judge at the time of the trial of John Frazier for the killing of the Ohta family in California, that Robert Linkletter was the Zodiac. Now that he’s dead, I feel it’s safe that I can mention that I did call David Toschi, the chief [investigator assigned to the Zodiac case] of police in San Francisco in 1976 and talked to him about this. He said that they would never bring him in. They had this information, that they didn’t clear it, that they had no interest in pursuing it. It’s a subject that has to do with a massive entanglement of California violences. Mr. Toschi was later removed from the police department for forging letters of the Zodiac Killer in San Francisco. Now, I am not saying this is true, or not true. It will be interesting to see if the Zodiac letters, or that person, ever surfaces again. But next week I’ll read to you a letter that was sent to the judge about a group, of the white organization. It’s like the “Hooded Ones,” the Cagoulards in France, and it has to do with an organization of killers called the International White Guard. This letter to the judge at the time of the trial did mention Robert Linkletter. He was killed this last week in an automobile accident. No charges have been filed against the [driver who caused the] head-on collision. We’ll bring that up next week, because there isn’t time for the details. It has to do with Reagan and the California violences.

On September 12, 1980, Robert Preston Linkletter, son of television interviewer and Hollywood celebrity Art Linkletter, was at his apartment, where his mother came to visit him. An hour later, he got into his car, a 1979 Saab. With him was his lawyer, Charles Crozier. Shortly after leaving his apartment, as he was driving west on Santa Monica Boulevard near Thayer Avenue, Gracie Jones travelling eastbound in a 1976 Buick crossed the center divider and rammed head on into the Saab. Robert died an hour later at the Los Angeles New Hospital from chest injuries. His passenger, Mr. Crozier, survived the accident, suffering from rib and face injuries. Jones’ explanation was that a car made a U-turn in front of her, forcing her to swerve into oncoming traffic. In January 1981, she pleaded no contest to the charge of vehicular manslaughter and was given a year probation.

Linkletter family

The Linkletter family. Behind Art in the back are Jack, his wife Lois, Robert, and Dawn. In front are Diane and Sharon.

The letter that Brussell read on her program of September 28, 1980 was the second of two letters written by the Woodland Hills woman. Excerpts of the earlier letter appeared in an article on the front page of the Redwood City Tribune, Saturday, November 20, 1971.

RWC heading 2

RWC title

Below is the complete article:

Letter-Writer Links Frazier and ‘Zodiac’

By Duane Sandul, Tribune Staff Writer [10]

The Zodiac killer also was an accomplice of John Linley Frazier in the mass murders of Soquel eye surgeon Victor Ohta and four others on Oct. 19, 1970, a woman from Woodland Hills claims in a letter to the Tribune.

The woman, Mrs. Marie Vigil, asked the Tribune to forward the letter to Frazier’s attorney.

She said that Dr. Ohta once prescribed glasses for the Zodiac killer, sought for multiple murders in San Francisco. Mrs. Vigil identified the Zodiac killer as Robert Linkletter and said she saw Linkletter with Frazier before the Ohta murders.

She said she knew Linkletter as a man who has been killing since 1966 but declined to elaborate in a telephone conversation with the Tribune from her San Fernando Valley home. She said she had not intended her letter to become public information but as “confidential” to the defense.

James Jackson, attorney for Frazier, said last night the letter writer “probably is eccentric,” but that he would have an agent “check out the letter.”

“I’ve received seemingly wild letters before which indeed did help produce witnesses,” Jackson said. He added he had received other letters linking the Zodiac killer with Ohta.

The typewritten letter claims that the Zodiac killer also is one of the killers of Sharon Tate and the LaBiancas. Charles Manson and his “family” were convicted for those murders earlier this year.

When the Tribune spoke with Mrs. Vigil, she declined to discuss specifics “over the telephone.”

Frazier’s trial, shifted to Redwood City from Santa Cruz by order of the California Supreme Court, ended Wednesday. The four-man, eight-woman jury which must decide his guilt or innocence will begin deliberations Friday.

Frazier has pleaded innocent and innocent by reason of insanity.

Mrs. Vigil, who said she is over 50 years old, told the Tribune she had reported her information to police departments linking the Zodiac killer with Frazier although she wouldn’t say which police departments.

Sgt. Frank Witt of the Woodland Police Department told the Tribune police have no record of Mrs. Vigil filing a report with them.

Asked why she thought Frazier and the Zodiac killer are accomplices, Mrs. Vigil said, “Because they were together.” She added, “I’ve seen them; they were in Woodland Hills.”

She would give no further information about her acquaintance with the “Zodiac killer.”

Excerpts from the letter:

“I do have some information about the accomplice of Frazier. He is Robert Linkletter, one of the killers of Miss Tate, La Bianca never brought to trial here, the killer who lost one pair of glasses the night of the Tate killings.

“Less than one month prior to the execution of Dr. and Mrs. Ohta and three other people, Robert was with them here one Sunday pointing me out to them because I knew those glasses did belonged (sic) to him. Dr. Ohta must have prescribed them. A few days later, I was to see Robert again with Frazier driving a light-colored van, kind of old. Robert was driving, was also wearing a blonde wig and some round oversized glasses with pink lenses …

“If the two daughters of Dr. and Mrs. Ohta know of some connection with their father and Robert Linkletter, their lives are in danger …. [11]

“… This killer has been dropping bodies since 1966, a knife killing in Riverside he has admitted. He moves constantly from San Diego to the High Sierra killing here and there. He must believe the Law and Order is willing to cover up all of his murders

Sincerely,

Mrs. Marie P. Vigil” [12]

According to the above excerpts, Robert Linkletter had a discussion with Dr. and Mrs. Ohta on a Sunday in late September. Mrs. Vigil apparently was not part of this discussion but somewhere nearby, close enough so that Robert could point her out as someone who knew about the glasses at the Tate house. A few days later she saw him with Frazier.

The last paragraph says he “has been dropping bodies since 1966, a knife killing in Riverside he has admitted.” On October 30, 1966, Cheri Jo Bates, a student of Riverside Community College, was brutally beaten and stabbed to death. One month later, nearly identical typewritten letters were mailed to the Riverside police and the Riverside Press-Enterprise, titled “The Confession,” describing how he killed her. A third letter, handwritten, was sent to Cheri Jo’s father, Joseph Bates. It said, “Bates had to die, there will be more,” and it was signed with the letter “Z.” Going on an anonymous tip, Paul Avery wrote an article for the San Francisco Chronicle on November 16, 1970, linking the Zodiac to the Bates murder. Five months later, on March 13, 1971, the Zodiac mailed a letter to the Los Angeles Times acknowledging he had indeed killed Bates.

Avery further said in his article that a janitor found a poem carved into the bottom side of a desktop in the Riverside College library. [13] Its language and handwriting resembled that of the Zodiac. Titled “Sick of living/unwilling to die,” it was signed with the initials rh. It is possible that the h was originally an l. There are three h’s in the poem. The first two were made with a continuous motion without lifting the pen, and the descending part of the arch ends at, or near, the baseline. Unlike the first two h’s, the slight overlap of the left foot of the arch on the vertical line in the third h indicates a two-step operation. Furthermore, the termination of the descending part of the arch in the first two h’s have an assurance that is lacking in the third h, with the right side of the arch trailing hesitantly below the baseline. Since Sherwood Morrill saw distortion and disguise in the formation of letters in the letter to Joseph Bates, the initials at the end of the desktop poem might been subjected to the same treatment to disguise the writer’s identity.

First h                    Second h                      initials

Vigil said that Robert travelled constantly between San Diego and the High Sierra. In the second letter that will be quoted below, he is said to have sometimes stayed with his sister at Lake Tahoe and that he was a member of the Sierra Club. His parents often spent their weekends at a skiing cabin in Alpine Meadows.

Six weeks prior to the Ohta massacre, on September 6, 1970, Donna Lass, a nurse at the Sahara Tahoe hotel and casino, disappeared. Six months later, the Zodiac sent a postcard to the San Francisco Chronicle claiming responsibility for the nurse’s disappearance. The postcard was a collage featuring a scene from an advertisement for Forest Pines condominiums in Incline Village and pasted letters and texts from magazines including one that read “Sierra Club.”

Lake Tahoe postcard

Vigil wrote her second letter on November 21, 1971 to Judge Charles Franich, the presiding judge of the Frazier trial, forwarded through the Redwood City Tribune. [14] Apparently it never appeared in print, and its contents are only known through Mae Brussell. She read excerpts on two of her programs, sometimes word for word, sometimes paraphrasing, in order to leave out information she wanted to keep confidential. Below is one excerpt:

“The Los Angeles Times of today finally had a story about the trial and murder of the Ohtas and their secretary. You asked if I was certain it was John Frazier who was with Robert Linkletter. They were here in Woodland Hills less than a month prior to those killings. He looked exactly like Frazier, when they were arrested, except for one thing. He also wears glasses. About the van, there were two people in the car and it was Robert who was driving it. I do not recall something in the newspaper about that at the time.

According to Frazier’s original story, he drove a white van to the Ohta house where he met three persons. They went into the house, while Frazier stood in the driveway. After they came out, Frazier drove Mrs. Ohta’s car. Witnesses saw three people in the car. That leaves one to drive the white van. Probably on the following day, in accordance with Vigil’s letter, two people were in the white van and the other two were in Mrs. Ohta’s car as they drove toward the railroad tunnel.

I have some reason to believe that Robert was driving north just last Thursday. So if you are observant, you will see him snickering in the courtroom to see how his murders are done and taken care of. He is the man that John Frazier is trying to find at the rear of the courtroom. Does Frazier know about the organization of killers called the International White Guard? Does he fear his wife will be killed if he were to name Robert Linkletter and his father as being heavy in this honorable organization of killers?

 On the day “Robert was driving north,” Thursday, November 18, the court had gone into recess. Frazier apparently expected to see him prior to the recess. The Los Angeles Times article mentioned in the letter, dated November 21, said, “Frazier’s appearance in court seems strangely in contrast to the magnitude of the crime he is accused of. Much of the time, the 5-foot, 6-inch defendant sits slumped in his chair, turned from the judge and jury, focusing his soft hazel eyes impassively toward the rear of the sparsely occupied courtroom.”

Linkletter might have been in the back of the courtroom on Monday to hear the closing arguments. He might have been “snickering” as the jury convicted Frazier of mass murder on November 29. Ten days later, the same jury declared him legally sane, leaving the way clear for the judge to impose the death penalty on December 30. His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment after the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty on February 18, 1972.

Robert was also identified as the Zodiac by his sister three days before her death. She had read his first message, that was partly coded. I never believed that she committed suicide any more than her brother-in-law, John Zweyer, did. He had been shot by Robert. These two  were witnesses the night of the Tate murders. John did turn down a bribe that was offered to him concerning the killings. These are the kind of killers that this state has been cultivating and nurturing.

Robert is 27. Sometimes he lets his beard grow. He wears a wig, and sometimes he looks almost bald. Within the past two years, I have seen him in all colors and wig lengths. I know him as Robert Linkletter and also as the Zodiac. I drive a school bus in Los Angeles, and I used to see him on Van Nuys and Ventura Boulevards. He sometimes waits for me on Ventura Boulevard, driving on my way to pick up some children from school. He follows behind and then moves to the side until he is sure I recognize him. Someone must know how smart he is.

He stays sometimes at Lake Tahoe with his older sister, who is a widow, and belongs to the Sierra Club, which is interested in the misuse of the environment.

This Robert, may I say, has the eyes and fingerprints that should be checked. Also I believe Dr. Ohta must have prescribed those glasses that were lost the night of the Tate murders.

A plea of not guilty by reason of insanity is no defense at all [referring to Frazier], because of the horror of those murders. They should convict everyone who is brought in before the courts.

 Zweyer

John and Dawn Zweyer

John Zweyer married Robert’s older sister Dawn in 1959 at the Westwood Methodist Church in Los Angeles. John was a lieutenant in the Air Force, serving as a public information officer at Stead AFB, just north of Reno, Nevada. After getting out of the Air Force, he and his wife moved to Hollywood where he became an insurance salesman. On July 15, 1969, he died of a gunshot wound to the head beside the swimming pool of their home while his wife was on the phone. The coroner ruled it as “a possible suicide.” Supposedly his failing insurance company was the cause of his depression. A more probable cause for his death was murder.

As read by Mae Brussell, the letter seems to say that Zweyer was a witness the night of the Tate murders. Probably while simultaneously reading aloud and condensing parts of the letter, she had accidentally conflated key sentences and obscured the original message. Perhaps what Vigil actually said was that Zweyer was a witness to the planning stage of the impending massacre, and his refusal to be silenced by a bribe was the reason he had to be killed.

On October 3, three months after her brother-in-law died, Diane Linkletter, a roving Hollywood reporter, left the doctor’s office in a cheerful mood. “Suicide seemed as far from her mind as the sun,” her doctor said afterwards. Later that night, at 3:00 am, her friend Ed Durston got a call from Diane asking him to come to her apartment, which was on the sixth floor of the Shoreham Towers in West Hollywood. He went there and found her to be “extremely emotional, extremely despondent, and very irrational.” Six hours later, while Durston was still there, she called Robert and told him she felt like committing suicide. He told her to calm down and said that he would be right over. Robert then spoke to Durston and asked if he could handle her until he got there. He said he could. For a few moments, Diane seemed to relax and even seemed cheerful. Then without warning, she rushed toward the kitchen window. Durston tried to grab the belt loop of her dress but could not prevent her from jumping out. Robert arrived on the scene shortly after the ambulance took her away. A private funeral service was scheduled for Tuesday, October 7, but Robert, his father, and his mother did not attend, having gone into seclusion at their cabin at Lake Tahoe.

According to Vigil, Diane Linkletter died because of what she knew about the Tate murders. She certainly had a connection to the Sharon Tate milieu. Her name was in the address book of Abigail Folger, one of the five victims killed at the Tate house. Diane’s live-in boyfriend of several months, Harvey F. Dareff, allegedly went to the Cielo house on August 8, shortly before the massacre, to buy or sell drugs. [15] A Los Angeles Police Department homicide lieutenant admitted to UPI reporter Vernon Scott, “Yes, Diane Linkletter knew Abigail Folger, and probably was an acquaintance of Sharon Tate.” Diane’s friend, Ed Durston, knew Polish filmmaker Voityck Frokowski, another victim in the Tate house. According to Vernon Scott, “Only one element ties the death of Miss Linkletter with the multiple murders in the canyon home of Miss Tate and her director husband, Roman Polanski – drugs.” The article again quotes the lieutenant regarding this Hollywood subculture, describing it as “a patchwork of peripheral celebrities such as Sebring and Miss Tate, offspring of movie stars and jet setters, hangers-on (Frokowski) and the cast-off children of the big rich. . . . The Hollywood-oriented 600 to 800 go in for bigger kicks, the eerie, weird and freaked-out. They are not militants, protestors or idealists. They groove to their own bag and stick together in the event of a bad trip.”

According to Art Linkletter, his daughter was going with a group that was experimenting with drugs and died from the effects of ingesting LSD. He blamed LSD advocate Timothy Leary and the music industry, particularly the Beatles, for fostering a tolerance for dangerous drugs. The drug-induced suicide version of his daughter’s death was later contradicted by the autopsy report. Coroner Thomas Noguchi said, “We have not been able to pick up any trace of lysergic acid, heroin, marijuana, any narcotics or alcohol in the body of Diane Linkletter at this time.”

Monti

The day after Diane’s funeral, October 8, Toni “Connie” Monti, apparently depressed by the death of Diane, took her own life with an overdose of pills, according to her husband Nick Monti. He said he and his wife were friends of Miss Linkletter. This was contradicted by Sheriff’s Lt. Richard Griffin, who said, “There was no indication she even knew the Linkletter girl.” Connie’s mother disputed the suicide version of her daughter’s death and said she never took drugs and would never consider taking her own life. Perhaps the true reason behind her death is the fact that she lived in an apartment across the street from Shoreham Towers at 1211 N. Horn Ave. From this vantage point, she might have seen Diane’s fatal plunge. An interesting coincidence is that Ed Durston also lived at 1211 N. Horn Ave. [16]

Untitled

According to Vigil, Diane identified her brother as the Zodiac three days before her death and read the “first message, that was partly coded”. Her discovery would have been several days after the slaying of a woman and the severe wounding of a man at Lake Berryessa on September 27. The weekend following Diane’s death, the Zodiac killed cab driver Paul Stine in San Francisco on October 11. The “first message, that was partly coded” had a 408-character cryptogram and was sent to three newspapers in the San Francisco Bay area on August 1. Three days later, a Vallejo newspaper dated August 4, printed the contents of a letter mailed to the San Francisco Examiner, which said, “This is the Zodiac speaking,” the first time the Zodiac name become public. Four days later Manson sent four of his followers to the home of Sharon Tate. Linkletter was also at the Tate house that fatal night and somehow lost his glasses. As mentioned earlier, the right temple stem of the glasses found at the Tate house was lower than the left. A picture of Linkletter showing both ears appears in the Minnesota Star Tribune on November 19, 1965. Since newspaper editors sometimes reverse pictures for various reasons, I have taken the liberty of changing the picture to an alternative orientation. It shows the right ear lower than the left.

RL 1965 front view

Robert Linkletter was born in San Francisco on October 15, 1944. He was a “free-spirited, curious explorer,” according to his brother Jack, very capable of designing and making things. As a teenager, he built his own electric guitar, when his father refused to buy him one. He went to Santa Monica City College, where he acted in a musical comedy. His goal was to become a theater arts major at the University of Southern California and then become an actor. Instead of going to college, he became the guitarist for a surfing music band, called the Cornells. From December 1962 to November 1963, the band released four singles and one record. In May 1963, it appeared on a television show called “I’ve Got a Secret.” Their secret was “We’re all the sons of Hollywood celebrities.”

Linkletter went into the Air Force, spending some time in Australia. During the last six months of his enlistment, he was at Sheppard Air Force base in Wichita Falls, Texas. At that time, war protest songs such as Barry Maguire’s “Eve of Destruction” and Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” were becoming popular. Linkletter believed such songs, put out by “radical nuts,” had a depressing effect not only on military morale, but also on the nation as a whole, even to the extent of causing the Watts riot of 1965. He also hated “long-haired freaks” like the Beetles. When he left the Air Force in October 1965, he began a nationwide tour singing songs with a “positive” outlook, speaking out against war protesters, and urging people not to give in to the demoralizing influence of those dominating the pop music field.

RL 1965

From Detroit Free Press, November 26, 1965

Linkletter was a prolific inventor, with many patents to his credit. His best-known invention was the childproof safety cap for bottles containing medications. After his death, his father set up “Robert Linkletter Associates” to promote the safety cap and placed as its head Charles Crozier (the attorney who was with Robert in his fatal crash). In 1983, the company was expected to produce eight billion caps for the pharmaceutical industry.

A search of the newspapers.com website shows no pictures of Robert for the six years following November 1965. Then on December 13, 1971, his picture appeared in the Los Angeles Times – smiling like Cesar Romero playing the Joker in the TV series Batman. The accompanying article said he had joined the board of trustees for Los Amigos del Pueblo, a citizen’s group dedicated to preserving and restoring historic landmarks of the Old Plaza, the birthplace of Los Angeles.

RL 1971

The timing of this odd picture is interesting. On January 25, 1971, a jury found Manson and his female co-defendants guilty of murder. Defense attorney Paul Fitzgerald brought up the eyeglasses during the closing arguments at the trial, but no attempt was made to identify the owner. Neither was the owner identified during the trial of Tex Watson, who was convicted of murder on October 13, 1971. In 1971 detective David Toschi became aware of Linkletter but never questioned nor arrested him. In July of 1971 Donald Cheney told Manhattan police that his friend Arthur Leigh Allen used the name Zodiac and said he liked to kill people. Allen then became a prime suspect in the Zodiac case. On December 9, 1971, a jury found Frazier legally sane, which meant either the gas chamber or life imprisonment. Considering the favorable outcome of these related events, it is no wonder that he is smiling.

In September 1980, a few days before his fatal accident, Robert attended a social event at the Westwood Methodist Church in Los Angeles. Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark (cousin of Prince Philip, married to Queen Elizabeth) bestowed the Commander Cross of Merit on General Omar Bradley [17] and Michael DeBakey, a heart surgeon, and on Alice Tyler, the honor of Dame of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. She was the widow of John C. Tyler, one of the founders of Farmers Insurance Group. In 1973, she established the prestigious Tyler Ecology Award to honor individuals who had done significant work in preserving the environment (such as Russell Train, President of the World Wildlife Fund). Included with the article was a picture of Robert Linkletter congratulating Mrs. Tyler. The caption read, “This is the last photo of Robert Linkletter before his tragic accident a few days later . . . He was a favorite of Mrs. Tyler.” [18]

RL and Mrs. Tyler

Robert Linkletter mingled easily among the rich and powerful. He was also a man of many talents – singing, acting, guitar playing, inventing useful things. It is hard to believe that he could be the Zodiac. Yet the letters of Marie P. Vigil, corroborated by Mae Brussell’s interview of David Toschi, indicate that he was. The letters further show that he participated in the slaying of the Ohta family, and that he worked with the Manson family in murdering people at the Cielo and Waverly residences. As a member of the International White Guard, he would have been simpatico with Charles Manson, who believed in the superiority of the white race.

For those who believed in equality of rights regardless of skin color, the emergence in 1975 of a civil rights advocate for president offered a bright future. Governor Jimmy Carter from Georgia had received the endorsement of many black leaders. His principal rival was George Wallace, who was making his fourth run for president as a Democratic candidate. Despite health problems, Wallace’s role as spoiler looked promising until he suffered a setback at the Florida Democratic Convention in Orlando on November 16. A straw ballot poll of delegates gave Carter a whopping victory over Wallace. White supremacists must have seen the handwriting on the wall and believed they needed to do something to stop Carter’s march to the White House. Conceiving the diabolical idea of kidnapping a school bus, they began making arrangements by purchasing a trailer on the 20th of November and, four days later, two vans.

The Democratic National Convention of 1976 was notable for heartfelt demonstrations of racial inclusiveness. It opened on July 11 with a rousing speech by Barbara Jordan, the first African American woman to be the keynote speaker, and it closed on July 15 with a fiery benediction by Martin Luther King, Sr., which led delegates to join hands in an emotional finale, singing “We Shall Overcome.” The seizure of the school bus in Chowchilla was deliberately timed to coincide with the evening when Carter would make his acceptance speech. It effectively stole the news media spotlight just when he needed it most. His staff lost many opportunities for news updates, sound bites, and interviews with reporters to kick off the campaign. Another feature of this plot was putting the blame for the kidnapping and possible murder of twenty-six children and their bus driver on black radicals and radical leftists. The racial harmony that prevailed at the convention would dissolve in the aftermath into an ugly display of dissension and finger pointing. What saved Carter and the Democratic Party from a ruinous debacle was the unforeseen use of a piece of wood to prop open the plate so that the captives in the trailer could tunnel their way to freedom.

Just as in 1972 a piece of tape on a hotel door fundamentally changed the politics of the country by bringing down a president and his administration, so a short piece of wood prevented the overturning of a dynamic movement toward a more integrated society in 1976.

Sources

  1. Much of this article came from newspaper articles too numerous to cite individually. To find sources, go to newspapers.com or newspaperarchives.com and use their search engines.
  2. Dialogue: Conspiracy, July 26, 1976 at 16:20. This and other programs are accessible at the Worldwatchers Archive website.
  3. Dialogue: Conspiracy, August 2, 1976 at 34:30.
  4. Dialogue: Conspiracy, August 9, 1976 at 07.20; September 13, 1976 at 00.58; and July 11, 1977 at 34:30. On his popular late night television show in Los Angeles, Stan Bohrman interviewed Raymond Broshears, a friend of David Ferrie, who said he met a “Bert” who turned out to be Clay Shaw. Shortly after this interview, the television station fired him. In 1975 he interviewed the brother of Manuel Pena, a key figure in the police investigation of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. According to the brother, Manuel Pena was in the CIA.
  5. Graysmith, Robert, The Zodiac, Berkley Books, 1987, pp. 17-19.
  6. Bugliosi, Vincent, Helter Skelter, W.W. Norton and Co., 1974, pp. 106, 109, 380. On May 26, 1970 Paul Fitzgerald, defense attorney for Patricia Krenwinkel submitted a formal motion charging that the police and district attorney investigators were withholding from the defense photographs of the location of the glasses in the Tate house. Seven months later, on December 28, Fitzgerald mentioned the glasses during his final argument, saying that the person who owned those glasses was the true perpetrator of the crime. This argument proved unavailing, for on January 25, 1971 the jury found all four defendants, Manson, Watson, Atkins, and Krenwinkel guilty of first degree murder.
  7. According to the testimony of Roseanne Walker, she and Atkins heard a newscast about the glasses in October 1969. Susan’s comment was “Suppose they found the person. Wouldn’t it be too much if they found the person that owned the glasses? The only thing they were guilty of was dropping a pair of glasses there.”
  8. Dialogue: Conspiracy, July 19, 1976 at 27:50; July 11, 1977 at 34:30; July 14, 1978 on side one at 05:58; September 21, 1980 on side two at 23:41; and September 28, 1980 on side two at 03:18.
  9. Graysmith, Robert, The Zodiac, Berkley Books, 1987, pp. 197.
  10. One daughter, Taura Ohta, “committed suicide” by taking an overdose of pills and asphyxiating herself with carbon monoxide in her garage on May 27, 1977. Dr. Ohta’s mother, Aiko Ohta, age 78, “committed suicide” by hanging herself in the bathroom on December 5, 1979. The other daughter, Lark, is still alive but lives in seclusion, according to the website Santa Cruz Ghost Hunters.
  11. Duane Sandul was a reporter for the Redwood City Tribune and the San Mateo Times until 1985. He then became a public relations consultant for the Port of Redwood City for 30 years. When he retired in 2016, he moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I was able to contact Mr. Sandul by telephone. When asked about the article, he said he has no memory of writing it nor of any of the details mentioned in the article.
  12. A search of the internet shows a Marie P. Vigil, who at one time lived at 20412 Lander Drive, Woodland Hills, died at the age of 98 in Fort Myers, Florida on November 11, 2015.
  13. Graysmith, Robert, The Zodiac, Berkley Books, 1987, pp. 170-173.
  14. Dialogue: Conspiracy, July 14, 1978 on side one at 12:03 and September 28, 1980 on side two at 03:18.
  15. “Second Homicide Investigation Progress Report” on the website vdocuments.net.
  16. Ed Durston was implicated in another mysterious death, that of blonde actress Carol Wayne who appeared as the “Matinee Girl” on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. They were in Mexico in the resort town of Manzanillo for a vacation. She disappeared, and he returned to Los Angeles. Three days later, her bloated body was found in Santiago Bay. The official version was that she accidentally drowned while swimming, even though she was deathly afraid of swimming. Mexican police believed she was murdered but were never able to question the mysterious Durston. From John Austen, Hollywood’s Greatest Mysteries, S.P.I. Books, 1994, pp. 87-99.
  17. Omar Bradley was chairman of the board of Bulova watches from 1958 to 1973. On June 4, 1968 twenty-three Bulova salesmen were in the Ambassador Hotel the night Robert F. Kennedy was shot. Two of the salesmen might have been CIA agents. From Shane O’Sullivan, Who Killed Bobby? Sterling Publishing, 2008, pp. 471-474.
  18. Los Angeles Times, supplement section, October 19, 1980.

Author: William Weston, researcher of conspiracies for over 25 years. Among articles written are “On the Death of JFK: Spider’s Web at the Trade Mart” and “The USS Indianapolis Conspiracy.”

Zodiac Killer at the Tate House

CIA Shooter in the Texas School Book Depository

Warehouse workers inside the Texas School Book Depository conducted two operations simultaneously on November 22, 1963: 1) facilitating the entry and exit of a CIA sniper team, and 2) staging the narrative that a lone gunman shot the president from a sixth floor window.

Carolyn Arnold, a spectator on the southeast corner of Houston and Elm, saw two men in a window on the fifth floor.

I glanced up at the Depository Building. There were two men in the corner window on the fourth or fifth floor. One man was wearing a white shirt and had blond or light brown hair. This man had the window open. His hands were extended outside the window. He held a rifle with the barrel pointed downward. I thought he was some kind of guard. In the same window, right near him, was a man in a brown coat suit. Then the president’s car came by. I heard a gunshot. People ran. Like a fool, I just stood there. I saw people down. I walked toward them, with the thought maybe they were hurt and I could help them. People were running toward the grassy knoll. . . . In all, I heard four shots. [1]

The two men seen by Walther could not have been on the fourth floor. Photographs and films show the corner windows completely closed.

James Worrell also heard four shots. He was standing next to the Book Depository, when he heard the first shot. He looked up to see four inches of a rifle with the barrel extending two inches from the stock, “either on the fifth or the sixth floor on the far corner, on the east side.” (The Mannlicher-Carcano barrel extends five and one half inches from the stock.) He looked down the street to see where the rifle was aiming. A second shot was fired, and the president slumped into his seat. He looked up again and saw the flash and smoke of another shot. People were screaming, and others yelling “duck.” As he sought cover around the corner, he heard one more shot.

He ran north on Houston Street and got to the corner of Pacific Avenue, where he paused to catch his breath. About three minutes after the shots, at 12:33, he saw the back door of the Book Depository open and a man in a dark sport coat and light-colored pants came out. He turned right and ran south on Houston toward Elm Street, his coat flapping in the breeze. He was in his late twenties or early thirties, about 5’8″, dark brown hair. He was probably the brown suit coat man seen earlier on the fifth floor. (Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits, volume 2, pp. 190-201, hereinafter cited as 2H190-201)

Josiah Thompson in his book Six Seconds in Dallas uses FBI reports to track the movements of the brown suit coat man after he was seen by Worrell. [2] Richard Carr, a steelworker at the corner of Houston and Commerce, saw a man wearing a brown suit coat, hat and horn-rimmed glasses walking very fast. He proceeded south on Houston Street and then turned left on Commerce. He got into a 1961 or 1962 gray Nash Rambler station wagon driven by a young Negro. The Rambler was last seen heading north on Record Street. He had previously observed the brown suit coat man around noon at a window on the seventh floor of the Book Depository. At 12:45 Marvin Robinson, driving on Elm Street, saw a Nash Rambler driven by a Negro stop in front of him.  No passenger was with the driver of the Rambler. A white male came down a grassy slope and entered the front passenger side of the vehicle. The car sped away towards the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. A deputy named Roger Craig also saw the man running toward a Rambler and getting inside. Later that afternoon he identified Lee Harvey Oswald as the man who got into the Nash Rambler driven by a dark-skinned man.

The escaping brown suit coat man somehow eluded a police officer who ran into the building seeking a gunman to apprehend. Officer Marion Baker, a motorcycle cop escorting the motorcade, believed the shots came from the roof. He dashed up the steps and went through the front door. TSBD manager Roy Truly went inside with him, volunteering to show him the way. Near the freight elevators in the back of the building were two men, both of whom were white. Baker said that “one was sitting on this side and another one between 20 or 30 feet away from us looking at us.” (3H263)

Baker and Truly looked up into the elevator shaft and saw both elevators on the fifth floor. When they failed to bring one down, they took the stairs. [3] At the second floor landing, Baker saw a suspicious movement of a person going into the lunchroom. Baker followed and pulled a gun on a man, who turned out to be Oswald. Truly said that he was one of his employees. Departing from the lunchroom, they continued up the stairs.

While they were going up the stairs, two women were going down. Victoria Adams and Sandra Styles, Scott Foresman employees, saw the shooting of the president from a fourth floor office window. In a 2008 interview Styles said:

 . . . we lingered by the window for quite some time, trying to determine what was going on outside. Next, we made an attempt to take the front-of-the-building  elevator downstairs. For some reason, however –  which unlike the rear elevator, went only as high as the 4th floor – did not come when we called it. It was only after trying to call the elevator that we thought of going towards the rear stairs. And even then, we did not proceed very quickly – we were wearing high heel shoes! [4]

After failing to get the passenger elevator, Adams and Styles next tried a freight elevator. In a statement to Dallas police officer Jim Leavelle on February 17, 1964, Adams said:

After the third shot, I went out the back door [of the Scott Foresman office]. I said, “I think someone has been shot.” The elevator was not running and there was no one on the stairs. I went down to the first floor. I saw Mr. Shelly and another employee named Bill. The freight elevator had not moved, and I still did not see anyone on the stairs.

On a diagram of the first floor, Adams located William Shelley and Billy Lovelady “slightly east of the front of the east elevator and about as far south as the length of the elevator.” (6H389-390) They were the two white men seen by Baker less than a minute earlier. See the article “CIA and The Texas School Book Depository.” When asked what they did immediately after the shots, both Shelley (6H330) and Lovelady (6H339) said they were outside going toward the railroad tracks. Supporting their alibi is a short sequence from the Couch film showing two men walking in a westerly direction, one of whom wearing a suitcoat. Shelley that day wore a suitcoat, and Lovelady had a plaid shirt.

From the original film

Photo enhancement techniques recently applied by Gerda Dunckel [5] show a plaid shirt on the other man.

Gerda Dunckel’s film frame enhancement

However, Lovelady was wearing a long-sleeved shirt that day, whereas the shirt the man is wearing in the Couch film is short-sleeved.

What the Couch film probably shows is two unknown men walking in the same direction for a few seconds.

The elevators were not running, because of a power outage. Geneva Hine, a TSBD office worker on the second floor, said:

I was alone until the lights all went out and the phones became dead because the motorcade was coming near us and no one was calling so I got up and thought I could see it from the east window in our office. (6H395-396)

After the shooting, “the telephones were beginning to wink; outside calls were beginning to come in.” Presumably the lights came on at the same time too. [6]

After speaking to Oswald, Baker and Truly continued up the stairs. Someone on the fifth floor had taken advantage of the restoration of power and used the west elevator to go down. Baker and Truly took the east elevator to go up to the top floor and then used a flight of stairs to go on the roof. Baker found no evidence of a gunman there.

Baker re-enacted his movements for the Warren Commission on March 20, 1964, It took him a minute and thirty seconds to reach the landing of the second floor. The episode with Oswald took about thirty seconds (3H258), from 12:31:30 to 12:32 approximately. During that thirty second interval, Adams and Styles passed the second floor. They did not see anyone on the stairs, because Baker and Truly were in the lunchroom speaking to Oswald. After the two women went outside, someone turned the power back on. Richard Gilbride calculated that a freight elevator would expend 7.8 seconds to traverse one floor. For someone to get down from the fifth floor to the first floor would take 31 seconds. [7] The dark suit coat man was seen leaving the building at 12:33. The tightness of these parameters suggests the existence of lookouts at key locations secretly restricting access to the elevators by means of controlling the electrical power and using some kind of system of rapid communication.

Jack Dougherty testified that he was on the fifth floor standing ten feet west of the west elevator and five feet from the staircase when he heard a shot. He said nothing about anyone using the west elevator. Neither did Shelley and Lovelady mention anyone using an elevator or running out the back door.

The blonde-haired man might have stayed behind to pack up his gun or to add finishing touches to the sniper’s nest on the sixth floor. Perhaps he counted on his fellow conspirators to rescue him in case he got into a jam. Already by 12:45 a Secret Service impostor was stationed at the command post on the front steps of the Book Depository. Deputy Roger Craig recognized a picture of him on TV during the Garrison investigation of Clay Shaw. The imposter was Edgar Eugene Bradley, [8] a close friend of right-wing militants such as Col. William Gale, Loran Hall, and Dennis Mower. Bradley tried to recruit Mower to assassinate John F. Kennedy in 1960 when he was still a senator.

It was around 12:40 that eight ATF agents, posing as Secret Service agents, entered the building. In a memorandum from ATF supervisor Carl Booth Jr. to Secret Service agent Forrest Sorrels, dated January 14, 1964:

On November 22, 1963 at approximately 12:35 p,m,, information was received that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax investigators from the Dallas Branch Office ran from our office at 912 Commerce Street to the Texas School Book Depository building.  At approximately 12:40 p.m., we arrived at the building and reported to Inspector J. R. Sawyer, Dallas Police Department, who was the senior officer present. We assisted in handling the crowds attempting to enter the building and monitoring audio and other broadcasts at the scene. At approximately 1:30 p.m. Dallas Police Department Assistant Chief G.L. Lumpkin requested that we assist in the second search of the building. We searched the building from the roof downward to the boiler rooms. At approximately 7:00 p.m. we left the building after advising Chief Lumpkin and Sheriff Bill Decker that our men would be available and on call to render any assistance possible. [9]

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax agency was the original name of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). At the end of the memo is a list of eight agents with their names, addresses, and phone numbers, among whom was Frank Ellsworth. The identification cards of ATF agents were virtually identical to Secret Service cards, both issued by the Treasury Department. Frank Ellsworth told researcher David Reitzes “In 1963, if you would have asked me if I was a Secret Service agent, I most likely would have answered yes – our roles overlapped that much.” [10] 

Between 12:40 and 12:45, a second power outage occurred. Luke Mooney, a sheriff’s deputy, entered the west freight elevator on the first floor with two women. The two women wanted to go up to the second floor. Mooney described what happened next.

We started up and got to the second. I was going to let them off and go on up. And when we got there, the power undoubtedly cut off, because we had no more power on the elevator. So I looked around their office there, just a short second or two, and then I went up the staircase myself. And I met some other officers coming down, plainclothes, and I believe they were deputy sheriffs. They were coming down the staircase. But I kept going up. (3H284)

Mooney, a deputy himself, did not recognize the plainclothes deputies on the stairs. They were probably ATF agents. Shortly after Mooney got off the freight elevator, Victoria Adams also noticed a power outage.

I pushed the button for the passenger elevator, but the power had been cut off on the elevator, so I took the stairs [in the lobby] to the second floor . . . went out and walked around the hall to the freight elevator meaning the one on the northwest corner . . . I went into the elevator which was stopped on the second floor, with two men who were dressed in suit and hats, and I assumed they were plainclothesmen. . . . I tried to get the elevator to go to the fourth floor, but it wasn’t operating, so the gentlemen lifted the elevator gate and we went out and ran up the stairs to the fourth floor. (6H391)

Mooney joined two other sheriff’s deputies, Eugene Boone and Roger Craig, in going up the stairs to the sixth floor to begin a search for evidence. In the southeast corner they found three rifle cartridges all facing the same direction and no more than an inch apart – a pattern that no bolt-action rifle could make when cartridges are ejected. Obviously, someone had carefully and deliberately placed them there. The deputies also found on the east side of the sniper’s nest a brown paper lunch bag containing chicken bones. They did not see a long paper bag, which supposedly was in plain view near the east side of the sniper’s nest.

Boone discovered a rifle with a telescopic sight laying on the floor, visible only by looking over the top and down an opening between stacks of boxes. Lt. Day retrieved the rifle and handed it to Capt. Fritz. Present at the time were an unknown “Secret Service agent” and two ATF agents, one of whom being Frank Ellsworth (Sims and Boyd report 24H320)

Capt. Fritz asked if anyone knew what kind of rifle it was. [Depute constable Seymour] Weitzman asked to see it. After a close [Craig’s emphasis] examination (much longer than Fritz or Day’s examination) Weitzman declared that it was a 7.65 German Mauser. . .  . At that exact moment an unknown Dallas police officer came running up the stairs and advised Capt. Fritz that a Dallas policeman had been shot in the Oak Cliff area. I instinctively looked at my watch. The time was 1:06 p.m. A token force of uniformed officers was left to keep the sixth floor secure and Fritz, Day, Boone, Mooney, Weitzman and I left the building. [11]

Craig’s time of 1:06 does not comport with the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Officer Tippit was shot at 1:15, which is barely enough time to make a plausible case against Oswald being the killer. The actual time of the shooting was approximately 1:00 pm. [12]

About the same time that many law enforcement officers were leaving the building, two firemen, Leslie L. Warnock and Harry Coombs, arrived to assist in a second search. Below are excerpts from Warnock’s account: [13]

They had called for the Salvage Wagon to go meet No. 1 Chief Joe Connelly at 501 Elm Street and assist the Secret Service and FBI in the search for the assassin or assassins in the School Book Depository Building. This was at 1:02 pm.

When we arrived Chief Connelly told me the Secret Service had requested me if I was available because I had top Secret Security clearance. Chief Connelly and I went to the front steps of the Book Depository Building where we were met by Dallas Police, the F.B.I. and Secret Service Agents. We were then escorted to the front door where we were met by another F.B.I. agent. He in turn allowed only myself to enter. I was taken to the agent in charge and introduced.

He explained what it was he wanted the Fire Department to provide. I asked him if I could bring one fireman in to assist since it was going to be several pieces of equipment. He asked me who this man would be. Did he have top secret security clearance. I told him his name was Harry Coombs and he did not have top secret security clearance. The agent asked me if I would vouch for him? I told him I would trust him with my life. He then said, get him.

Their assigned task was to bring in floodlights and extension cords in order to illuminate the cockloft, or attic, which was above the seventh floor of the Book Depository. This correlates with the task given by Chief Lumpkin to the ATF agents to search the building from roof to basement. Evidently, the ATF agents must have given Warnock and Coombs the impression that they were Secret Service and FBI.

After it was determined that no assassin lurked in the attic, the agent in charge invited the two firemen to view the sniper’s nest.

He showed us where he, Lee Harvey Oswald, had stacked boxes neatly arranged around the area so that he would not be seen if someone accidentally came up. He had also unscrewed the light bulbs around the area. There was a lunch sack, potato chip sack, piece of wax paper and some chicken bones lying in the area. He was prepared to stay for a while. Also, three empty rifle shells on the floor, next to a window that was opened slightly. They fingerprinted everything and had sent the prints off over some sort of small machine and were waiting for the report. Then a voice came over the small radio the agent was carrying. They have identified the assassin as Lee Harvey Oswald. He lived in Dallas and had been working at the depository. Then, another voice came on the radio saying a policeman had been shot in Oak Cliff by someone identified as Oswald. We all started walking towards the stairs and freight elevator at the back of the building. I was talking to an agent and we were sort of looking around all the boxes as we walked, then he looked at me and back at a stack of boxes that had a space between the two neat rows that were about fifteen feet from the stairs. We looked down, there was the rifle. We moved the boxes back gently – enough for him to ease the rifle out. They immediately identified it by type, serial number, caliber and make. Then fingerprinted it. The prints matched Lee Harvey Oswald, again. As we went downstairs, we were told that Lee Harvey Oswald had been apprehended.

Not one, but two, rifle discovery incidents occurred on the sixth floor. The first was a Mauser. The second was the Mannlicher Carcano that was photographed being carried out of the Book Depository by Lt. Day.

The piece of wax paper mentioned by Warnock might have been the paper bag found by Detectives Marvin Johnson and Leslie Montgomery. Fashioned in the shape of a rifle case from TSBD wrapping paper and tape, the bag was about three and a half feet long and eight inches wide. When found, it had been folded and refolded. It can therefore be inferred that the paper bag was made sometime after 1:06 pm.

The “small machine” used to transmit fingerprints to a crime lab might have been a facsimile machine similar to what was developed by Lockheed for the wireless transmission of high-resolution space images from satellite cameras. If Oswald’s prints were indeed on the Mannlicher Carcano as alleged, they might have indicated that he handled the weapon, but it does not prove that he actually fired it.

Assembling the sniper’s nest and planting evidence could not have happened without the cooperation and even the participation of the warehouse workers. William Shelley, Billy Lovelady, Bonnie Ray Williams, Charles Givens, Daniel Arce, and Jack Dougherty spent the morning on the sixth floor reinforcing the old floor with new plywood. At 12 noon they broke for lunch and took the freight elevators down to the first floor.

Between 12 noon and 12:30 Dougherty went back up to the sixth floor “to retrieve some stock” and then went down to the fifth floor, where he was stationed at the time of the shooting. Williams went up to the sixth floor to eat his lunch. Between 12:10 and 12:20 he used the east freight elevator to go down to the fifth floor to join co-workers James Jarman and Harold Norman to watch the parade (3H173). Neither Dougherty nor Williams was apparently aware that there were two others on the same floor.

At 12:15 a spectator on the street, Arnold Rowland, saw a man armed with a rifle that had a scope. He was holding it at port arms at the southwest corner window of the sixth floor, the one opposite to the sniper’s nest. The man appeared to be in his thirties, light complexioned with dark, probably black, hair, about 150 to 200 pounds, light-colored shirt, and dark slacks. He might have been a Latino or Caucasian. The total time he saw him was about 15 to 20 seconds. Rowland also saw a black man in the sniper’s nest window from 12:15 to 12:25.

He was very slender, very thin . . . bald or practically bald . . . 50, possibly 55 or 60 . . . not real dark compared to some Negros, but fairly dark. Seemed like his face was either – I can’t recall detail but it was very wrinkled or marked in some way. (2H88)

.

Richard Gilbride identifies the black man in the sniper’s nest as TSBD worker Eddie Piper in a brilliant section of his book JFK Inside Job called “Piper & and the Sniper’s Nest,” pp. 67- 75. Piper was born in 1908, stood 5’10” tall, and weighed 140 pounds.

At 12:25 Rowland turned his eyes toward the intersection of Houston and Main where the president’s limousine was due to appear. A minute or two later, Carolyn Walther saw the blonde-haired man armed with a rifle – without a scope – at the southeast corner of the fifth floor. He was also seen by a black teenager named Amos Euins. An FBI report dated December 14, said that at 12:15 Euins noticed what appeared to be a metal rod projecting out of what he believed to be the fifth floor southeast corner window.

He said after the President’s car started down the hill, he heard what he thought was a car backfire and he looked around and also glanced at the TSBD building, and on the fifth floor where he had seen what he thought to be a metal rod, he noticed a rifle in the window and saw the second and third shots fired. He stated he saw a man’s hand on what appeared to be the trigger housing and he could also see a bald spot on the man’s head. He stated he did not see the face of this individual and could not identify him. He said he was sure this man was white, because his hand extended outside the window on the rifle.  

Euins also saw a black man with a rifle. Newsman Robert Underwood overheard him speaking to Officer David Harkness.

. . . there was one police officer there and he was a three-wheeled motorcycle officer and a little colored boy whose last name . . . [was Euins]. He was telling the motorcycle officer he had seen a colored man lean out of the window upstairs and he had a rifle. He was telling this to the officer and the officer took him over and put him in a squad car. By that time, motorcycle officers were arriving, homicide officers were arriving and I went over and asked this boy if he had seen someone with a rifle and he said “Yes, sir.” I said, “Were they white or black” He said, “It was a colored man.” I said, “Are you sure it was a colored man?” He said, “Yes sir.” (6H170)

The blonde-haired man armed with a rifle whom Carolyn Walther saw was the same white male whom Euins saw firing a rifle. The black man whom Rowland saw in the sniper’s nest window was the same man whom Euins saw displaying a rifle. Euins saw both men consecutively in two different windows on two separate floors. When Underwood came near to Euins and Harkness to overhear their conversation, he caught only the tail end of what the teenager was telling the officer. 

Confusion over what Euins actually said emerges from efforts by the police, FBI, and Warren Commission officials to compel Euins to meld the two men into a single individual – a white man firing a rifle on the sixth floor.

Within seconds after the blonde-haired man fired his last shot, a strange thing happened at the same southeast corner window of the fifth floor. Robert H. Jackson, a photographer riding with other newsmen in an open-top press car that was among the vehicles in the motorcade said

After the last shot, I guess all of us were just looking all around and I just looked straight up ahead of me which would have been looking at the School Book Depository and I noticed two Negro men in a window straining to see directly above them, and my eyes followed right on up to the window above them and I saw the rifle or what looked like a rifle approximately half of weapon, I guess I saw, and just looked at it, it was drawn fairly slowly back into the building, and I saw no one in the window with it. I didn’t even see a form in the window. (2H159)

The rifle that Jackson saw in the sniper’s nest window was not the one that fired the shots. It was the display rifle being “drawn fairly slowly back into the building” to maximize the opportunity for spectators on the ground to see it. The irrepressible curiosity manifested by the two blacks directly below was seen by two other newsmen. Robert Underwood said:

Bob Jackson from the Herald said he thought he saw a rifle in the window and I looked where he pointed and I saw nothing. Below the window he was pointing at, I saw two colored men leaning out there with their heads turned toward the top of the building, trying, I suppose, to determine where the shots were coming from. (6H169)

News photographer James Altgens, the one who photographed the president clutching his throat when he was hit, said:

I was standing – looking up toward the building – I saw people looking out of windows. I saw a couple of Negroes looking out of a window which I later learned was the floor below where the gun – where the sniper’s nest was supposed to have been, but it didn’t register on me at the time that they were looking from an area that the bullet might have come from. (7H523)

Thomas Dillard, a photographer for the Dallas Morning News, photographed the sniper’s nest window and the window below it.

We had an absolutely perfect view of the School Depository from our position in the open car, and Bob Jackson said, “There’s a rifle barrel up there.” I said, “Where?” I had my camera ready. He said, “It’s in that open window.” Of course, there were several open windows and I scanned the building. . . . And at the same time I brought my camera up and I was looking for the window. Now, this was after the third shot and Jackson said, “There’s the rifle barrel up there,” and then he said it was the second from the top in the right-hand side, and I swung to it and there was two figures below, and I just shot with one camera, 166mm. lens on a 35-mm. camera which is approximately a two times daily photo twice normal lens and a wide angle on a 35-mm. which took in a considerable portion of the building and I shot those pictures in rapid sequence with the two cameras. (6H164)

The “two figures below” were subsequently identified as warehouse workers Bonnie Ray Williams and Harold Norman. The Dillard photo shows them looking in random directions toward the horizon, as if unaware of the tumult below. Their calm appearance is in stark contrast to their impetuous reactions evident in their testimonies.

We were on the fifth floor, the east side of the building. We saw the policemen and people running, scared, running – there are some tracks on the west side of the building, railroad tracks. They were running towards that way. And we thought maybe – well, to ourself, we know the shots practically came from over our head. But since everybody was running, you know, to the west side of the building, towards the railroad tracks, we assumed maybe somebody was down there. And so we all ran that way, the way that the people was running, and we was looking out the window. (3H175)

Harold Norman described what he did to Mr. Carter, Special Agent of the Secret Service, on December 4, 1964:

Just after the President passed by, I heard a shot and several seconds later I heard two more shots. I knew that the shots had come from directly above me, and I could hear the expended cartridges fall to the floor. I could also hear the bolt action of the rifle. I also saw some dust fall from the ceiling of the fifth floor and I felt sure that whoever had fired the shots was directly above me.

In his testimony to the Warren Commission he described what he did next:

Well, we ran to the farthest window facing the expressway . . .  it seems as though everyone else was running towards the railroad tracks, and we ran over there. Curious to see why everybody was running that way for. (3H192)

While taking testimony from Harold Norman, George Ball reminded him of a report by an FBI agent named Kreutzer written on November 26, 1963. Ball said,

He [Kreutzer] reports that you told him that you heard a shot and that you stuck your head from the window and looked upward toward the roof but could see nothing because small particles of dirt were falling from above you. . . . And he reports that you stated that two additional shots were fired after you pulled your head back in from the window. Do you remember telling him that?”

Norman: No, sir; I don’t remember ever putting my head out the window. (3H196)

The Dillard photos were altered to remove the original images of Williams and Norman leaning beyond the ledge with their faces turned upward. Inserted in their place were images taken from no-longer-extant reenactment photos, showing their appearance from the street as they waited for the motorcade, taken on March 20, 1964. They are similar to Commission Exhibit 486, which was taken inside the building.

Evidence of alteration to the Dillard photo is an odd, blackish shape obscuring Williams’s right shoulder.

Two men trying to see the window above them probably looked too contrived in the original photo to be a believable reaction to a weapon being fired just overhead. However, their upward gaze did serve the purpose of deflecting attention away from the true source of the shots and directing the eyes of spectators on the ground to the display rifle above.

The face of a blonde-haired man appeared among three photographs and two sketches of five men in a UPI story on July 31, 1978. The House Select Committee on Assassinations made these pictures public “in the hope that citizen recognition of them might shed additional light on the assassinations” of John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.

 A woman in Chowchilla, California recognized a close friend as being among those whom the Committee was seeking. David Minier, author of an article entitled “What is CIA Hiding about Kennedy Assassination?” written on October 21, 2021 for The Fresno Bee tells her story.

Claude Barnes Capehart was living in Chowchilla in 1978. When The Bee printed a government request for information about three persons of interest in a photograph taken at the assassination scene, Capehart’s girlfriend, Faye Weaver, recognized him as one of them. [14]

Capehart first denied it, then confirmed it was he. He told her he had worked as a “hit man” for the CIA on numerous occasions, retiring in 1975. He told Weaver he was present with Lee Harvey Oswald at the scene of the JFK assassination. He said two others were with Oswald, and it was not Oswald who shot the president.

Weaver related this to Chowchilla’s resident deputy sheriff, Sgt. Dale Fore. She told Fore that Capehart was “paranoid” about his photograph in The Bee, and left Chowchilla a few days later, after threatening her not to talk. Weaver said Capehart had passports bearing his photo but assumed names, and numerous firearms, including a high-power rifle with scope and a silenced handgun. She also saw items taken form the CIA spy ship Glomar Explorer and the Soviet nuclear submarine K-129, which the spy ship had secretly raised from the ocean floor. Capehart carried a pistol both on his person and in his car, Weaver said.

Sgt. Fore had met Capehart on several occasions, and Capehart told him he had retired from the CIA. He operated a well drilling business, and Fore noticed he always had “a bundle of cash.” When Weaver showed Fore The Bee photograph of three persons of interest, Fore found one to be a “dead  ringer” for Capehart.

The author of the article does not tell us which of the three photographs is Capehart. One is a photo of a dark-haired man sitting on a street curb in Dealey Plaza moments after the assassination. Another is a side view of a man wearing a suitcoat. He has light or gray hair, an aquiline nose, and appears to be in his late 40s or early 50s. The third is, according to the UPI article, a photo of a “handsome, apparently blond-haired man in his 20s or early 30s. He appears to be wearing a jacket over a dark turtleneck sweater or pullover.” The latter two men were both in Mexico City in the fall of 1963 at the same time Lee Harvey Oswald was there.

 A picture of Capehart on the findagrave website can be compared to the three photographs released by the HSCA. The “dead ringer” that Weaver recognized as her boyfriend is undoubtedly the blonde-haired or light-brown-haired man with the turtleneck sweater. See the article “ The Zodiac Killer and the the CIA.”

A smattering of documents released by the CIA in 1998 reveal that on November 20, 1963, Capehart was 39 years old, 6 feet 1 inch, 220 pounds, brown hair, blue eyes. He joined the army in 1943 and served for three years, attaining the rank of sergeant. From 1961 to 1972, he worked for Reynolds Electrical and Engineering, a Las Vegas corporation that managed the Nevada Test Site, where nuclear devices were tested. In October 1973 he began working for Global Marine, which designed, built, and operated the Glomar Explorer. He departed from Global Marine on July 9, 1975.

An article called “The Capehart Caper” appeared in the November-December 1994 issue of Probe.

In 1978, the HSCA published several photographs of mysterious characters who may have been connected to the assassination in newspapers throughout the country. Capehart’s girlfriend (who chooses to remain nameless) came to Fore and said she recognized Capehart’s face in one of the photos. Further, she told Fore that Capehart was in the Texas School Book Depository the day of the assassination and he knew Oswald had not killed Kennedy. Capehart then showed her supposed elements of his former trade: a silenced handgun, automatic firearms, a cyanide pistol, and passports under another name. He also added that he had been in Chile during the CIA-ITT overthrow of Allende.

Capehart, a hit man for the CIA, was probably the blonde-haired man at the southeast corner window of the fifth floor just before the appearance of the president’s limousine.

Although Oswald did not fire a weapon that day, he was nevertheless involved in the plot to kill the president. His sharp turn into the lunchroom at the instant the policeman saw him was a decoy maneuver to give more time to the sniper team to escape or go into hiding. The success of this maneuver depended on lookouts on the first floor within easy calling distance who could alert him if and when such a delaying tactic was needed. When Baker reached the second floor lunchroom, he observed that Oswald seemed “calm and collected.” (3H252) Several minutes later, newsman Robert MacNeil entered the building seeking a telephone and saw three men who “seemed to be exceedingly calm and relaxed, compared to the pandemonium which existed right outside their front door.” (15) The three men displayed the calmness of conspirators who knew that things were going according to plan: Shelley, Lovelady, and Oswald. After the Tippit shooting, Oswald ran into the Texas Theatre, where police officers arrested him, and put him in a squad car. Detectives seated in the car with him noted his uncanny serenity. C. T. Walker said, “He was real calm. He was extra calm. He wasn’t a bit excited or nervous or anything.” (7H41) At the police station, Oswald answered questions about what he did after his encounter with the police officer in the lunchroom.

OSWALD stated that he took this Coke down to the first floor and stood around and had lunch in the employees’ lunch room. He thereafter went outside and stood around for five or ten minutes with foreman BILL SHELLEY, and thereafter went home. He stated that he left work because, in his opinion, based upon remarks of BILL SHELLEY, he did not believe that there was going to be any more work that day due to the confusion in the building. [16]

About 12:40 Oswald left in a Nash Rambler driven by a dark-skinned man. After his arrest, a search of his pockets revealed that he had a bus transfer that was punched at 1:00 that day. He must have received the transfer from another man’s hands, possibly an Oswald double.

At 8:05 pm at the police station he declared to news reporters that he was a patsy. Apparently, he was not a patsy in distress. The following day, his brother Robert went to the police station to see him. Robert tried to explain to Lee how dire his situation was. He said, “Look, they’ve got your pistol, they’ve got your gun, they’ve got you charged with shooting the President and a police officer. And you tell me you don’t know what is going on?” His reply: “I just don’t know what they’re talking about, Don’t believe all this so-called evidence.” [17] If he depended on the weakness of the evidence to get him off the hook, he probably did not expect that he would be dead the next day, shot down by a night club owner in front of news cameras in the basement of the police deaprtment.

Notes:

  1. From the November 1988 issue of American History Illustrated.
  2. Josiah Thompson, Six Seconds in Dallas, published 1967, pp. 237-244
  3. According to the Warren Report (p. 78) the last ones to use the west elevator were Jarman and Norman. Jarman unequivocally stated that he closed the gate after using it (3H203) thus making it accessible for others to use. This meant that only a power cutoff could have prevented Baker and Truly from using the elevator.
  4. Richard Gilbride, JFK Inside Job, published 2021, p. 33. Styles disputed Adams statement that they went “immediately” to the stairs. She thought that at least five minutes had elapsed. This estimate however is far too long to fit within the chronology of the power outage.
  5. A search of the internet has turned up no information on who Gerda Dunckel is. She might be a fictitious person invented by a photoshop lab deep within the intelligence community. The difference between enhancing an image to clarify details in the original versus re-touching an image to add details not originally there, when done by experts, can be difficult to distinguish.
  6. Referring to the lunchroom, Baker said “it was kind of dim in there that particular day” (3H257).  The lighting in the lunchroom should have been more than adequate with two good-size fluorescent light fixtures attached to the ceiling (see picture 17H214). The word “dim” probably means a darkened area illuminated by sunlight coming through the window near the stairs.  The phrase “that particular day” seems to indicate that Baker had a chance to visit the lunchroom at another time when it was properly lighted.
  7. Gilbride, JFK Inside Job, p. 120.
  8. Roger Craig, When They Killed the President, unpublished manuscript, 1971. According to the Warren Report, p. 52 all Secret Service agents remained at their posts during the race to the hospital. None stayed at the scene of the shooting, and none entered the Texas School Book Depository at or immediately after the shooting. Forrest Sorrells was the first agent to arrive in the area about 20 to 25 minutes after the shooting.
  9. https://www.jfk-online.com/FBI-180-10089-10200-A&TT%20agents-ATF.pdf
  10. https://www.jfk-online.com/jfk100phonyss.html
  11. Craig, When They Killed the President.
  12. See the article “Missing Radio Transmissions,” by William Weston in the May 2000 issue of The Fourth Decade in the Mary Ferrell Archives.
  13. https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth532627/m1/3/ Credit for finding the Warnock document and bringing it to my attention goes to Peter Heitmann.
  14. Faye Weaver died in Chowchilla on February 25, 2003 at the age of 73.
  15. See the article “Robert MacNeil and the Three Calm Men” by William Weston in the November 1994 issue of The Fourth Decade in the Mary Ferrell Archives.
  16. James Boukhout FBI report of interview of Oswald at the police station, November 25, 1963.
  17. Robert L. Oswald, Lee: A Portrait of Lee Harvey Oswald by His Brother, published in 1967, pp. 143-144.

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