COVER-UP / Mysterious Deaths


Jim Marrs and Ralph Schuster

[Editor's Note: The claim that many persons who had
personal knowledge of the assassination of JFK have met
untimely deaths is reviewed by the authors, who provide
a overview of the evidence. It appears that many who
had personal knowledge of the assassination of JFK
have indeed met untimely deaths.

In the three-year period which followed the murder of President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, 18 material witnesses died - six by gunfire, three in motor accidents, two by suicide, one from a cut throat, one from a karate chop to the neck, three from heart attacks and two from natural causes.

An actuary, engaged by the "London Sunday Times," concluded that on November 22, 1963, the odds against these witnesses being dead by February 1967, were one hundred thousand trillion to one. The above comment on the deaths of assassination witnesses was published in a tabloid companion piece to the movie "Executive Action," released in 1973. By that time, part of the mythology of the Kennedy assassination included the mysterious deaths of people who were connected with it. By the mid-1960s, people in Dallas already were whispering about the number of persons who died under strange or questionable circumstances.

Well into the 1980s, witnesses and others were hesitant to come forward with information because of the stories of strange and sudden death which seemed visit anyone with information about the assassination.

Finally, in the late 1970s, the House Select Committee on Assassinations felt compelled to look into the matter. But aside from discrediting the "London Sunday Times" actuarial study, the Committee was unable to come to any conclusion regarding the growing number of deaths. The Committee said it could not make a valid actuarial study due to the broad number and types of persons which had to be included in such a study.

In response to a letter from the Committee, "London Sunday Times" Legal Manager Anthony Whitaker stated:

Our piece about the odds against the deaths of the Kennedy witnesses was, I regret to say, based on a careless journalistic mistake and should not have been published. This was realized by The Sunday Times editorial staff after the first edition - the one which goes to the United States...- had gone out, and later editions were amended. There was no question of our actuary having got his answer wrong: it was simply that we asked him the wrong question. He was asked what were the odds against 15 named people out of the population of the United States dying within a short period of time, to which he replied -correctly - that they were very high. However, if one asks what are the odds against 15 of those included in the Warren Commission Index dying within a given period, the answer is, of course, that they are much lower. Our mistake was to treat the reply to the former question as if it dealt with the latter - hence the fundamental error in our first edition report, for which we apologize.

This settled the matter for the House Committee, which apparently made little or no attempt to seriously study the number of deaths which followed the JFK assassination.

Jacqueline Hess, the Committee's chief of research for the JFK investigation, reported:

Our final conclusion on the issue is that the available evidence does not establish anything about the nature of these deaths which would indicate that the deaths were in some manner, either direct or peripheral, caused by the assassination of President Kennedy or by any aspect of the subsequent investigation.

However, an objective look at both the number and the causes of death balanced against the importance of the person's connection to the case, still causes raised eyebrows among those who study such a list.

In this section, people who were connected - no matter how tenuously - with the assassination and who are now dead are listed according to date of death. This is dealing only with deaths, not with the numerous persons - such as Warren Reynolds, Roger Craig, Richard Carr or Richard Case Nagell - who claim to have been shot at or attacked.

This section has been entitled "Convenient Deaths" because these deaths certainly would have been convenient for anyone not wishing the truth of the JFK assassination to become public. Of course, it is impossible to state with any certainty which of these deaths resulted from natural causes and which did not.

Because so many of the these deaths involve persons either working with or connected with the CIA or other domestic intelligence services, the Agency has gone to some lengths to discredit the idea of mysterious deaths plaguing assassination witnesses.

A 1967 memo from CIA headquarters to station chiefs advised:

Such vague accusations as that "more than 10 people have died mysteriously" can always be explained in some rational way: e.g., the individuals concerned have for the most part died of natural causes; the (Warren) Commission staff questioned 418 witnesses - the FBI interviewed far more people, conducting 25,000 interviews and reinterviews - and in such a large group, a certain number of deaths are to be expected.

Yet it is now well established that the CIA was developing a wide-range of lethal techniques for disposing of people dating back to the early 1950s.

Testifying before the Church Committee in 1975, CIA technicians told of a variety of TWEP technology - Termination With Extreme Prejudice - including liquid botulinum toxins and a pulmonary-embolism-causing pill which cannot be detected in a post-mortem examination.

One recently-declassified CIA document, a letter from an Agency consultant to a CIA officer, states:

You will recall that I mentioned that the local circumstances under which a given means might be used might suggest the technique to be used in that case. I think the gross divisions in presenting this subject might be:

  1. bodies left with no hope of the cause of death being determined by the most complete autopsy and chemical examinations
  2. bodies left in such circumstances as to simulate accidental death
  3. bodies left in such circumstances as to simulate suicidal death
  4. bodies left with residue that simulate those caused by natural diseases.

The letter goes on to show that undetected murders do not have to be the result of sophisticated chemicals. It states:

There are two techniques which I believe should be mentioned since they require no special equipment besides a strong arm and the will to do such a job. These would be either to smother the victim with a pillow or to strangle him with a wide piece of cloth such as a bath towel. In such cases, there is no specific anatomic changes to indicate the cause of death...

While is obvious that the CIA - and hence the mob through operatives who work for both - has the capability of killing, it is less well-known that the Agency has developed drugs to induce cancer. Recall that Jack Ruby died of sudden lung cancer just as he had been granted a new trial.

A 1952 CIA memo reported on the cancer-causing effects of beryllium:

This is certainly the most toxic inorganic element and it produces a peculiar fibrotic tumor at the site of local application. The amount necessary to produce these tumors is a few micrograms.

Local law enforcement officers and coroners are simply not equipped, either by training or by inclination, to detect deaths induced by such sophisticated means. They look for signs of a struggle, evidence of a break-in, bruises or marks on the victim. With no evidence to the contrary, many deaths simply are ruled suicide or accident. Others are ruled due to natural causes, such as heart attack.

It is interesting to note how the deaths are grouped. Many of the earliest deaths came during the time of the Warren Commission investigation or just afterwards. Some significant deaths also took place in the late 1960s as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison was launching his own investigation. Other suspicious deaths occurred during the mid-1970s, as the Senate Intelligence Committee was looking into assassinations by U.S. intelligence agencies. And finally, another spate of deaths came around 1977, just as the House Select Committee on Assassinations was gearing up its investigations.

These deaths are listed in chronological order. An asterisk (*) means the death is a particularly suspicious one. They also are grouped according to which investigation was being conducted at the time.

The area of convenient deaths leads one into a well of paranoia, yet the long list of deaths cannot be summarily dismissed.

Obviously, many of these deaths - particularly in recent years - can be ascribed to the passage of time. But others cannot - especially when viewed in context of the assassination inquiries taking place at the time.

Read for yourself and consider...When does coincidence end and conspiracy begin?

List of Deaths

Date Name Connection with case Cause of death
11/63 Karyn Kupicinet Tv host's daughter who was overheard telling of JFK's death prior to 11/22/63 Murdered
12/63 Jack Zangretti Expressed foreknowledge of Ruby shooting Oswald Gunshot Victim
2/64 Eddy Benavides Lookalike brother to Tippit shooting witness, Domingo Benavides Gunshot to head
2/64 Betty MacDonald* Former Ruby employee who alibied Warren Reynolds shooting suspect. Suicide byhanging in Dallas Jail
3/64 Bill Chesher Thought to have information linking Oswald and Ruby Heart attack
3/64 Hank Killam* Husband of Ruby employee, knew Oswald acquaintance Throat cut
4/64 Bill Hunter* Reporter who was in Ruby's apartment on 11/24/63 Accidental shooting by policeman
5/64 Gary Underhill* CIA agent who claimed Agency was involved Gunshot in head ruled suicide
5/64 Hugh Ward* Private investigator working with Guy Banister and David Ferrie Plane crash in Mexico
5/64 DeLesseps Morrison* New Orleans Mayor Passenger in Ward's plane
8/64 Teresa Norton* Ruby employee Fatally shot
6/64 Guy Banister* x-FBI agent in New Orleans connected to Ferrie, CIA, Carlos Marcello & Oswald Heart attack
9/64 Jim Koethe* Reporter who was in Ruby's apartment on 11/24/63 Blow to neck
9/64 C.D. Jackson "Life" magazine senior Vicepresident who bought Zapruderfilm and locked it away Unknown
10/64 Mary Pinchot JFK "special" friend whose diary was taken by CIA chief James Angleton after her death Murdered
1/65 Paul Mandal "Life" writer who told of JFK turning to rear when shot in throat Cancer
3/65 Tom Howard* Ruby's first lawyer, was in Ruby's apartment on 11/24/63 Heart attack
5/65 Maurice Gatlin* Pilot for Guy Banister Fatal fall
8/65 Mona B. Saenz* Texas Employment clerk who interviewed Oswald Hit by Dallas bus
?/65 David Goldstein Dallasite who helped FBI trace Oswald's pistol Natural causes
9/65 Rose Cheramie* Knew of assassination in advance, told of riding to Dallas with Cubans Hit/run victim
11/65 Dorothy Kilgallen* Columnist who had private interview with Ruby, pledged to "break" JFK case Drug overdose
11/65 Mrs. Earl Smith* Close friend to Dorothy Kilgallen, died two daysafter columnist, may have kept Kilgallen's notes Cause unknown
12/65 William Whaley* Cab driver who reportedly drove Oswald to Oak Cliff (The only Dallas taxi driver to die on duty) Motor collision
1966 Judge Joe Brown Presided over Ruby's trial Heart attack
1966 Karen "Little Lynn" Carlin* Ruby employee who last talked with Ruby before Oswald shooting Gunshot victim
1/66 Earlene Roberts Oswald's landlady Heart attack
2/66 Albert Bogard* Car salesman who said Oswald test drove new car Suicide
6/66 Capt. Frank Martin Dallas policeman who witnessed Oswald slaying, told Warren Commission "there's a lot to be said but probably be better if I don't say it" Sudden cancer
8/66 Lee Bowers Jr.* Witnessed men behind picket fence on Grassy Knoll Motor accident
9/66 Marilyn "Delila Walle* Ruby dancer Shot by husband after 1 month of marriage
10/66 Lt. William Pitzer* JFK autopsy photographer who described his duty as "horrifying experience" Gunshot rule suicided
11/66 Jimmy Levens Fort Worth nightclub owner who hired Ruby employees Natural causes
11/66 James Worrell Jr.* Saw man flee rear of Texas School Book Depository Motor accident
1966 Clarence Oliver Dist. Atty. Investigator who worked Ruby case Unknown
12/66 Hank Suydam Life magazine official in charge of JFK stories Heart attack
1967 Leonard Pullin Civilian Navy employee who helped film "Last Two Days" about assassination One-car crash
1/67 Jack Ruby* Oswald's slayer Lung cancer (he told family he was injected with cancer cells)
2/67 Harold Russell* Saw escape of Tippit killer killed by cop in bar brawl
2/67 David Ferrie* Acquaintance of Oswald, Garrison suspect and employee of Guy Banister Blow to neck (ruled accidental)
2/67 Eladio Del Valle* Anti-Castro Cuban associate of David Ferrie being sought by Garrison Gunshot wound, ax wound tohead
3/67 Dr. Mary Sherman* Ferrie associate working on cancer research Died in fire (possibly shot)
1/68 A. D. Bowie Asst. Dallas District Attorney prosecuting Ruby Cancer
4/68 Hiram Ingram Dallas Deputy Sheriff, close friend to Roger Craig Sudden cancer
5/68 Dr. Nicholas Chetta New Orleans coroner who on death of Ferrie Heart attack
8/68 Philip Geraci* Friend of Perry Russo, told of Oswald/Shaw conversation Electrocution
1/69 Henry Delaune* Brother-in-law to coroner Chetta Murdered
1/69 E.R. Walthers* Dallas Deputy Sheriff who was involved in Depository search, claimed to have found .45-cal. slug Shot by felon
1969 Charles Mentesana Filmed rifle other than Mannlicher-Carcano being taken from Depository Heart attack
4/69 Mary Bledsoe Neighbor to Oswald, also knew David Ferrie Natural causes
4/69 John Crawford* Close friend to both Ruby and Wesley Frazier, who gave ride to Oswald on 11/22/63 Crash of private plane
7/69 Rev. Clyde Johnson* Scheduled to testify about Clay Shaw/Oswald connection Fatally shot
1970 George McGann* Underworld figure connected to Ruby friends, wife, Beverly, took film in Dealey Plaza Murdered
1/70 Darrell W. Garner Arrested for shooting Warren Reynolds, released after alibi from Betty MacDonald Drug overdose
8/70 Bill Decker Dallas Sheriff who saw bullet hit street in front of JFK Natural causes
8/70 Abraham Zapruder Took famous film of JFK assassination Natural causes
12/70 Salvatore Granello* Mobster linked to both Hoffa,Trafficante, and Castro assassination plots Murdered
1971 James Plumeri* Mobster tied to mob-CIA assassination plots Murdered
3/71 Clayton Fowler Ruby's chief defense attorney Uknown
4/71 Gen. Charles Cabell* CIA deputy director connected to anti-Castro Cubans Collapsed and died afterphysical at Fort Myers
1972 Hale Boggs* House Majority Leader, member of Warren Commission who began to publicly express doubts about findings Disappeared on Alaskan plane flight
5/72 J. Edgar Hoover* FBI director who pushed "lone assassin" theory in JFK assassination Heart attack (no autopsy)
9/73 Thomas E. Davis* Gunrunner connected to both Ruby and CIA Electrocuted trying to steal wire
2/74 J.A. Milteer* Miami right-winger who predicted JFK's death and capture of scapegoat Heater explosion
1974 Dave Yaras* Close friend to both Hoffa and Jack Ruby Murdered
7/74 Earl Warren Chief Justice who reluctantly chaired Warren Commission Heart failure
8/74 Clay Shaw* Prime suspect in Garrison case, reportedly a CIA contact with Ferrie and E. Howard Hunt Possible cancer
1974 Earle Cabell Mayor of Dallas on 11/22/63, whose brother, Gen. Charles Cabell was fired from CIA by JFK Natural causes
6/75 Sam Giancana* Chicago Mafia boss slated to tell about CIA-mob death plots to Senate Committee Murdered
7/75 Clyde Tolson J. Edgar Hoover's assistant and roommate Natural causes
1975 Allen Sweatt Dallas Deputy Sheriff involved in investigation Natural causes
12/75 Gen. Earle Wheeler Contact between JFK and CIA Unknown
1976 Ralph Paul Ruby's business partner connected with crime figures Heart attack
4/76 James Chaney Dallas motorcycle officer riding to JFK's right rear who said JFK "struck in the face" with bullet Heart attack
4/76 Dr. Charles Gregory Governor John Connally's physician Heart attack
6/76 William Harvey* CIA coordinator for CIA-mob assassination plans against Castro Complications from heart surgery
7/76 John Roselli* Mobster who testified to Senate Committee and was to appear again Stabbed and stuffed in metal drum

1977 - A Terrible Year For Many

The year 1977 produced a bumper crop of candidates for listing under convenient deaths connected to the JFK assassination - including the deaths of six top FBI officials all of whom were scheduled to testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

Topping this list was former number three man in the FBI William C. Sullivan, who had already had a preliminary meeting the investigators for the House Committee. Sullivan was shot with a high-powered rifle near his New Hampshire home by a man who claimed to have mistaken him for a deer. The man was charged with a misdemeanor - "shooting a human being by accident" - and released into the custody of his father, a state policeman. There was no further investigation of Sullivan's death.

Louis Nichols was a special assistant to J. Edgar Hoover as well as Hoover's liaison with the Warren Commission. Alan H. Belmont also was a special assistant to Hoover. James Cadigan was a document expert with access to many classified assassination documents, while J.M. English headed the FBI laboratory where Oswald rifle and pistol were tested. Donald Kaylor was the FBI fingerprint expert who examined prints found at the assassination scene. None of these six Bureau officials lived to tell what they knew to the House Committee.

Other key assassination witnesses, such as George DeMohrenschildt and former Cuban President Carlos Prio Soccaras, died within weeks of each other in 1977, just as they too were being sought by the House Committee.

The ranks of both organized crime and U.S. intelligence agencies were thinned by deaths beginning in 1975, the time of the Senate Intelligence Hearings, and 1978, the closing months of the House Committee. Charles Nicoletti, a mobster connected with the CIA-Mafia assassination plots, was murdered in Chicago, while William Pawley, a former diplomat connected with both organized crime and CIA figures, reportedly committed suicide.

Adding official confirmation to rumors that "hit teams" may have been at work was a "Time" magazine report that federal agents had initiated a nationwide investigation into more than 20 gangland assassinations constituting what agents believed was an "open underworld challenge to governmental infiltration of Mafia activities."

One FBI source was quoted as saying:

Our main concern is that we may be facing a revival of the old "Murder, Inc." days.

A "New York News" story concerning this official fear of roving assassination squads even mentions the death of Sam Giancana, who was killed one day before he was to testify about MOB-CIA connections and while under government protection.

Just as the House Committee was gearing up its investigation into the JFK assassination, the news media reported the following deaths:

Date Name Connection with case Cause of Death
1/77 William Pawley* Former Brazilian Ambassador connected to Anti-Castro Cubans, crime figures Gunshot ruled suicide
3/77 George DeMohrenschildt* Close friend to both Oswald and Bouvier family (Jackie Kennedy's parents), CIA contract agent Gunshot wound ruled suicide
3/77 Carlos Prio Soccaras* Former Cuban President, money man for anti-Castro Cubans Gunshot wound ruled suicide
3/77 Paul Raigorodsky Business friend of George DeMohrenschildt and wealthy oilmen Natural causes
5/77 Lou Staples* Dallas radio Talk Show host who told friends he would break assassination case Gunshot to head,ruled suicide
6/77 Louis Nichols Former No. 3 man in FBI, worked on JFK investigation Heart attack
8/77 Alan Belmont FBI official who testified to Warren Commission "Long illness"
8/77 James Cadigan FBI document expert who testified to Warren Commission Fall in home
8/77 Joseph C. Ayres* Chief steward on JFK's Air Force One Shooting accident
8/77 Francis G. Powers* U-2 pilot downed over Russia in 1960 Helicopter crash (He reportedly ran out of fuel)
9/77 Kenneth O'Donnell JFK's closest aide Natural causes
10/77 Donald Kaylor FBI fingerprint chemist Heart attack
10/77 J.M. English Former head of FBI Forensic Sciences Laboratory Heart attack
11/77 William Sullivan* Former No. 3 man in FBI, headed Division 5, counter- espionage and domestic intelligence Hunting accident
1978 C.L. "Lummie" Lewis Dallas Deputy Sheriff who arrested Mafia man Braden in Dealey Plaza Natural causes
9/78 Garland Slack Man who said Oswald fired at his target at rifle range Unknown
1/79 Billy Lovelady Depository employee said to be the man in the doorway in AP photograph Complications from heart attack
6/80 Jesse Curry Dallas Police Chief at time of assassination Heart attack
6/80 Dr. John Holbrook Psychiatrist who testified Ruby was not insane Heart attack but pills, notes found,
1/81 Marguerite Oswald Mother of accused assassin Cancer
10/81 Frank Watts Chief felony prosecutor for Dallas D.A. Natural causes
1/82 Peter Gregory Original translator for Marina Oswald and Secret Service Natural causes
5/82 Dr. James Weston Pathologist allowed to see JFK autopsy material for HSCA Died while jogging, ruled natural causes
8/82 Will H. Griffin FBI agent who reportedly said Oswald was "definitely" an FBI informant Cancer
10/82 W. Marvin Gheesling FBI official who helped supervise JFK investigation "Long illness"
3/84 Roy Kellerman Secret Service agent in charge of JFK limousine Unknown

Following names are the recently known deaths, almost all died of natural causes:

Date Name Connection with case Cause of Death
10/92 Jim Garrison Former District Attorney of New Orleans, only one who sued in the JFK assassination case Natural causes
?/94 Perry Russo witness who told he had seen Shaw, Oswald and Ferrie talking about the killing of JFK Unknown
01/95 Rose Kennedy Mother of John F. Kennedy natural causes
01/95 L.C. Graves wrested Ruby's revolver away from him after shooting Oswald natural causes
2/95 Irving L. Goldberg Judge who advised L. B. Johnson on transition of power natural causes
3/95 Philip L. Willis Dealey Plaza Witness, photographer Leukemia
5/95 Evelyn Norton Lincoln JFK's personal secretary natural causes
5/95 Phil L. Barleson Defender of Ruby Heart attack
11/95 Richard Case Nagell CIA agent who claimed he uncovered a "large operation" aimed at killing JFK heart disease
12/95 James W. Altgens Dealey Plaza Witness, press photographer natural causes
1/96 Ralph W. Yarborough Dealey Plaza witness, rode in motorcade natural causes
7/96 Melvin Belli Lawyer of Jack Ruby Suffering stroke and pneumonia
8/96 Charles Brehm Dealey Plaza Witness Unknown
9/96 McGeorge Bundy Top aide to JFK and LBJ Heart attack
10/96 Rufus Youngblood Agent who shielded LBJ during the JFK murder Cancer
10/96 Larry Ray Harris Researcher Car accident
10/96 Lawrence Brantley Sold Jack Ruby the gun used to kill Oswald Complications from surgery

Text by Jim Marrs
Dates by Jim Marrs and Ralph Schuster

(c) 2002 Jim Marrs and Ralph Schuster