Jim Marrs' List
Really So Mysterious?
"Strange" and "Convenient" Deaths Surrounding the Assassination
So why have no credible witnesses come forward with the evidence necessary to blow open the coverup? For the hard-core conspiracy believers, it's because a "clean-up squad" is going around the country killing off people who might "blow the whistle!"
This theme was first taken up by Penn Jones, Jr., publisher of the Midlothian Mirror, a small-town Texas paper. The most widely cited current list of "mystery deaths" was published by author Jim Marrs (who also released the book Alien Agenda about UFOs). His book Crossfire contains a list of 103 people who have supposedly died "strange" or "convenient" or "mysterious" deaths. As Marrs puts it:
This section has been entitled "Convenient Deaths" because these deaths certainly would have been convenient for anyone not wishing the truth of the JFK assassination to become public.Unfortunately for Marrs and other conspiracy authors, the logical problems with this whole argument are many and massive.
Of course, it is impossible to state with any certainty which of these deaths resulted from natural causes and which did not. . . . The area of convenient deaths leads one into a well of paranoia, yet the long list of deaths cannot be summarily dismissed.Given the immensely large pool from which the hundred or so people on Marrs' list are drawn, one of two things must be true. Either: (1) many hundreds or thousands of deaths have escaped Marrs' notice, or (2) being associated with the Kennedy assassination is a guarantee of a very long life!
Of course, if all these groups were involved, that would imply a implausabily massive conspiracy. But if only one of the groups, or some small faction of some of the groups was involved, then most of the names don't belong on the list.
The death of Lee Bowers seemed "strange" to Oliver Stone, Geraldo Rivera, and Jim Marrs. David Perry is an insurance investigator by profession, and an assassination buff by avocation. See what he concluded when he investigated this issue.
Another "mysterious" death was that of David Ferrie. Did he commit suicide to avoid being prosecuted for Kennedy's murder by DA Garrison? Was he killed by minions of The Conspiracy? In this essay, Dr. Robert Artwohl discusses Jim Garrison's contention that Ferrie died of an overdose of Proloid, a thyroid medication, and Garrison's apparent mishandling of evidence. Ferrie left two supposed "suicide notes," however on close inspection it's not at all clear they are in fact suicide notes. The official autopsy produced a clear finding of natural death.
Eladio del Valle, a Cuban who died on the same night as David Ferrie, is another of those "mystery deaths." Conspiracy books imply that he had all sorts of "links" to the assassination, but there are some other things about him that make his death seem not so mysterious. Click here for documents on del Valle. Conspiracy books never tell you, but the Dade County authorities indicted a man for del Valle's murder. More information can be found on Gordon Winslow's web site.
Dorothy Kilgallen, a reporter and quiz show personality, is always among those on the "mysterious deaths" lists. Supposedly, she was about to "blow the lid" off the conspiracy. In this essay, historian Eric Paddon does not discuss the circumstances of her death (which the medical examiner didn't consider sinister), but rather the question of whether she actually knew anything that might threaten a supposed conspiracy. Had she learned something new about the assassination, or was she just repeating standard conspiracy buff stuff? How might Kilgallen have gotten critical information that would have allowed her to "blow" the conspiracy? According to Gary Wills and Ovid Demaris, (Jack Ruby, page 72):
Conspiratorialists of the wilder variety believe that Dorothy Kilgallen had a private interview [with Jack Ruby], one that caused her death. This tete-a-tete never took place: she leaned over the rail and talked to Jack in the open courtroom during a break in the proceedings. Lawyer Joe Tonahill, who hoped to collaborate with Miss Kilgallen on a book, arranged the brief exchange, and was present at it.But the important thing, as John Leyden has pointed out, is that Kilgallen didn't die "mysteriously" until 20 months after the interview. Darn patient reporter who can sit on a big story that long.
Colonel Daniel Marvin told an explosive story in the most recent installment of The Men Who Killed Kennedy. He claimed to have been asked by a CIA operative to kill a supposed autopsy witness named William B. Pitzer. If true, it's hard evidence of a conspiracy "clean-up squad" killing witnesses. Researchers Robin Palmer and Allan Eaglesham have worked closely with Marvin, and have come to doubt his story. Their "Letter to Dr. J.D. Rose" lays out the details. Eaglesham, who initially believed the death was "suspicious," has now concluded that it wasn't. A diligent and honest researcher, he continued investigating even after reaching that conclusion, and that research solidified his view that the death was indeed a suicide.
Umpteen Trillion to One Odds?
The conspiracy literature occasionally still quotes a supposed study done by the London Sunday Times which found that "the odds against these [assassination] witnesses being dead by February 1967, were one hundred thousand trillion to one." The House Select Committee on Assassinations asked the newspaper where they got that number. The paper replied with the following letter.
The Editor has passed me your letter of 25th April.
George deMohrenschildt was one of Lee Oswald's most interesting friends. His testimony before the Warren Commission said nothing that suggested a conspiracy, but in later years he started to give a much more "interesting" account. DeMohrenschildt's suicide in 1977 has seemed quite "suspicious" to conspiracy buffs. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Death Investigation on deMohrenschildt's passing is extremely detailed. See whether there is any evidence of murder.
John M. Crawford is yet another of those people on the "mystery deaths" lists. Did he really have the "connections" to Wes Frazier and Jack Ruby that conspiracy authors claim? See David Perry's assessment of this case.
What happens when a real investigator (Jacqueline Hess of the House Select Committee) tackles the issue of "mysterious deaths" and enlists the services of people who specialize in working out the probability that any particular person will die in a year, or two, or ten? In other words, enlists the service of actuaries? Hess' testimony before the House Select Committee outlines the results of her investigation.
Note: information in the first four columns is from Marrs, the "Comment" is by the author of this web page.
* = Marrs considers death "particularly suspicious"
|Date||Name||Marrs: Connection with case||Marrs: Cause of death||Comment|
|11/63||Karyn Kupcinet||TV host's daughter who was overheard telling of JFK's death prior to 11/22/63||Murdered||No corroboration for Penn Jones' implausible "foreknowledge" claim.|
|12/63||Jack Zangretti||Expressed foreknowledge of Ruby shooting Oswald||Gunshot Victim||Actually "Zangetty." Unsourced claim by Penn Jones with no corroboration. Supposedly, member of Sinatra family was to be kidnapped.|
|2/64||Eddy Benavides||Lookalike brother to Tippit shooting witness, Domingo Benavides||Gunshot to head||Innocent bystander killed in bar brawl. Death was actually in February, 1965.|
|2/64||Betty MacDonald*||Former Ruby employee who alibied Warren Reynolds shooting suspect.||Suicide by hanging in Dallas Jail||Was in fact a suicide.|
|3/64||Bill Chesher||Thought to have information linking Oswald and Ruby||Heart attack||No evidence he could link Ruby and Oswald. HSCA found death nonsinister|
|3/64||Hank Killam*||Husband of Ruby employee, knew Oswald acquaintance||Throat cut||HSCA found death non-suspicious.|
|4/64||Bill Hunter*||Reporter who was in Ruby's apartment on 11/24/63||Accidental shooting by policeman||Death judged non-suspicious by HSCA. Accidently shot by cop.|
|5/64||Gary Underhill*||CIA agent who claimed Agency was involved||Gunshot in head ruled suicide||Was not a CIA agent. Death was indeed a suicide.|
|5/64||Hugh Ward*||Private investigator working with Guy Banister and David Ferrie||Plane crash in Mexico||No evidence of connection to case.|
|5/64||DeLesseps Morrison*||New Orleans||Passenger in Ward's plane||Was mayor of New Orleans. Otherwise, unconnected to case.|
|8/64||Teresa Norton*||Ruby employee||Fatally shot||Same person as Karen Carlin. Marrs listed her twice, and further she is not known to be dead.|
|6/64||Guy Banister*||x-FBI agent in New Orleans connected to Ferrie, CIA, Carlos Marcello & Oswald||Heart attack||No evidence death was from foul play.|
|9/64||Jim Koethe*||Reporter who was in Ruby's apartment on 11/24/63||Blow to neck||Judged non-suspicious by HSCA. Police suspected fight with gay lover.|
|9/64||C.D. Jackson||"Life" magazine senior Vice President who bought Zapruder Film and locked it away||Unknown||No other connection to the case. Actually died of a heart attack.|
|10/64||Mary Pinchot||JFK "special" friend whose diary was taken by CIA chief James Angleton after her death||Murdered||Killed in mugging. Vastly implausible that her diary had assassination information but likely did contain account of affair with JFK.|
|1/65||Paul Mandel||"Life" writer who told of JFK turning to rear when shot in throat||Cancer||No other connection to the case -- did indeed die of cancer|
|3/65||Tom Howard*||Ruby's first lawyer, was in Ruby's apartment on 11/24/63||Heart attack||Had history of heart disease and was heavy drinker. HSCA found death non-sinister.|
|5/65||Maurice Gatlin*||Pilot for Guy Banister||Fatal fall||No connection with assassination.|
|8/65||Mona B. Saenz*||Texas Employment clerk who interviewed Oswald||Hit by Dallas bus||Circumstances not suspicious no evidence of any reason to "silence" her.|
|?/65||David Goldstein||Dallasite who helped FBI trace Oswald's pistol||Natural causes||Every gunshop owner in Dallas, including Goldstein, provided affidavit saying he did not sell Oswald pistol. No other connection.|
|9/65||Rose Cheramie*||Knew of assassination in advance, told of riding to Dallas with Cubans||Hit/run victim||Prostitute and drug addict, doubtful her statements that Kennedy was going to be killed indicated "foreknowledge."|
|11/65||Dorothy Kilgallen*||Columnist who had private interview with Ruby, pledged to "break" JFK case||Drug overdose||HSCA investigated her death, found nothing sinister.|
|11/65||Mrs. Earl Smith*||Close friend to Dorothy Kilgallen, died two days after columnist, may have kept Kilgallen's notes||Cause unknown||A fellow Journal-American columnist, she died after three-month illness. No evidence of any knowledge about the case.|
|12/65||William Whaley*||Cab driver who reportedly drove Oswald to Oak Cliff (The only Dallas taxi driver to die on duty)||Motor collision||83 year-old man in oncoming car crashed into Whaley on viaduct, killing himself and Whaley.|
|1966||Judge Joe Brown||Presided over Ruby's trial||Heart attack||Had history of heart attacks.|
|1966||Karen "Little Lynn" Carlin*||Ruby employee who last talked with Ruby before Oswald shooting||Gunshot victim||Same person as Teresa Norton (see above). No reliable evidence of her death.|
|1/66||Earlene Roberts||Oswald's landlady||Heart attack||Had a history of heart disease.|
|2/66||Albert Bogard*||Car salesman who said Oswald test drove new car||Suicide||Investigation of local authorities and testimony of relatives makes it clear it was indeed 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||Immediately explained what it would be better not to say: that the Dallas police had performed poorly in allowing Oswald to be killed.|
|8/66||Lee Bowers Jr.*||Witnessed men behind picket fence on Grassy Knoll||Motor accident||Investigated by HSCA, and researcher David Perry. No evidence of murder.|
|9/66||Marilyn "Delila" Walle*||Ruby dancer||Shot by husband after 1 month of marriage||Shot in domestic squabble.|
|10/66||Lt. William Pitzer*||JFK autopsy photographer who described his duty as "horrifying experience"||Gunshot ruled suicide||Evidence contradicts alleged claim to have photographed autopsy. No evidence of murder.|
|11/66||Jimmy Levens||Fort Worth nightclub owner who hired Ruby employees||Natural causes||Casual acquaintance of Ruby's. HSCA judged death non-suspicious.|
|11/66||James Worrell Jr.*||Saw man flee rear of Texas School Book Depository||Motor accident||Told Warren Commission of seeing a shooter in Sniper's Nest. Died in motorcycle accident.|
|1966||Clarence Oliver||Dist. Atty. Investigator who worked Ruby case||Unknown||Circumstances not suspicious no evidence of any reason to "silence" him.|
|12/66||Hank Suydam||Life magazine official in charge of JFK stories||Heart attack||No other connection to the case.|
|1967||Leonard Pullin||Civilian Navy employee who helped film "Last Two Days" about assassination||One-car crash||Film actually dealt with Texas trip, and had no information about assassination.|
|1/67||Jack Ruby*||Oswald's slayer||Lung cancer (he told family he was injected with cancer cells)||Inducing cancer by injecting cancer cells is medical nonsense. Ruby's mental condition had badly deteriorated.|
|2/67||Harold Russell*||Saw escape of Tippit killer||Killed by cop in bar brawl||Actually died of heart failure several hours after bar brawl.|
|2/67||David Ferrie*||Acquaintance of Oswald, Garrison suspect and employee of Guy Banister||Blow to neck (ruled accidental)||Died of Berry aneurysm, natural causes.|
|2/67||Eladio Del Valle*||Anti-Castro Cuban associate of David Ferrie being sought by Garrison||Gunshot wound, ax wound to head||Was involved in drug running, various criminal activities. No "axe wound."|
|3/67||Dr. Mary Sherman*||Ferrie associate working on cancer research||Died in fire (possibly shot)||No evidence of Ferrie association, died in 1964, and was not shot, but rather stabbed. Otherwise, Marrs is correct.|
|1/68||A. D. Bowie||Asst. Dallas District Attorney prosecuting Ruby||Cancer||Circumstances not suspicious no evidence of any reason to "silence" him.|
|4/68||Hiram Ingram||Dallas Deputy Sheriff, close friend to Roger Craig||Sudden cancer||Circumstances not suspicious no evidence of any reason to "silence" him.|
|5/68||Dr. Nicholas Chetta||New Orleans coroner who ruled on death of Ferrie||Heart attack||No evidence he knew anything sinister. HSCA found nothing suspicious about death.|
|8/68||Philip Geraci*||Friend of Perry Russo, told of Oswald/Shaw conversation||Electrocution||Note Marrs' syntax. It was Russo, and not Geraci who told of story of "Oswald/Shaw conversation."|
|1/69||Henry Delaune*||Brother-in-law to coroner Chetta||Murdered||If Chetta's death wasn't suspicious, how was that of his brother-in-law supposed to be?|
|1/69||E.R. Walthers*||Dallas Deputy Sheriff who was involved in Depository search, claimed to have found .45-cal. slug||Shot by felon||Made no claim of finding slug, in fact explicitly denied it. Killed trying to arrest violent suspect.|
|1969||Charles Mentesana||Filmed rifle other than Mannlicher-Carcano being taken from Depository||Heart attack||Film actually shows Dallas Police shotgun, and survives to this day. Had no other knowledge of the assassination.|
|4/69||Mary Bledsoe||Neighbor to Oswald, also knew David Ferrie||Natural causes||Key witness supporting Warren Commission case. Died at age 72.|
|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||No evidence of foul play.|
|7/69||Rev. Clyde Johnson*||Scheduled to testify about Clay Shaw/Oswald connection||Fatally shot||Was shot after end of trial, so unreliable prosecution decided not to use him. HSCA judged death non-sinister.|
|1970||George McGann*||Underworld figure connected to Ruby friends, wife, Beverly, took film in Dealey Plaza||Murdered||Beverly's claim to have been in Dealey Plaza has severe credibility problems. No other connection with the case.|
|1/70||Darrell W. Garner||Arrested for shooting Warren Reynolds, released after alibi from Betty MacDonald||Drug overdose||No evidence of any connection to the assassination.|
|8/70||Bill Decker||Dallas Sheriff who saw bullet hit street in front of JFK||Natural causes||Circumstances not suspicious no evidence of any reason to "silence" him.|
|8/70||Abraham Zapruder||Took famous film of JFK assassination||Natural causes||Circumstances not suspicious no evidence of any reason to "silence" him.|
|12/70||Salvatore Granello*||Mobster linked to both Hoffa,Trafficante, and Castro assassination plots||Murdered||Unfortunately, no link to Kennedy assassination plot.|
|1971||James Plumeri*||Mobster tied to mob-CIA assassination plots||Murdered||Mobster getting murdered is not that unusual. Plumeri had no connection with the case.|
|3/71||Clayton Fowler||Ruby's chief defense attorney||Unknown||Circumstances not suspicious no evidence of any reason to "silence" him.|
|4/71||Gen. Charles Cabell*||CIA deputy director connected to anti-Castro Cubans||Collapsed and died after physical at Fort Myers||Circumstances not sinister, no connection with assassination.|
|1972||Hale Boggs*||House Majority Leader, member of Warren Commission who began to publicly express doubts about findings||Disappeared on Alaskan plane flight||Having doubts about findings is not the same as having information "dangerous" to a conspiracy.|
|5/72||J. Edgar Hoover*||FBI director who pushed "lone assassin" theory in JFK assassination||Heart attack (no autopsy)||Died at age 77. Wasn't he running the coverup? Who killed him?|
|9/73||Thomas E. Davis*||Gunrunner connected to both Ruby and CIA||Electrocuted trying to steal wire||No connection to assassination.|
|2/74||J.A. Milteer*||Miami right-winger who predicted JFK's death and capture of scapegoat||Heater explosion||Milteer's crackpot statements are far from a "prediction" of JFK's death.|
|1974||Dave Yaras*||Close friend to both Hoffa and Jack Ruby||Murdered||Childhood friend of Ruby's, had no contact with him in 1963.|
|7/74||Earl Warren||Chief Justice who reluctantly chaired Warren Commission||Heart failure||Died at age 82. Insisted to the end that Oswald was the lone assassin.|
|8/74||Clay Shaw*||Prime suspect in Garrison case, reportedly a CIA contact with Ferrie and E. Howard Hunt||Possible cancer||Garrison's flimsy case against Shaw collapsed in 1969. Shaw died of cancer.|
|1974||Earle Cabell||Mayor of Dallas on 11/22/63, whose brother, Gen. Charles Cabell was fired from CIA by JFK||Natural causes||Circumstances not suspicious no evidence of any reason to "silence" him.|
|6/75||Sam Giancana*||Chicago Mafia boss slated to tell about CIA-mob death plots to Senate Committee||Murdered||Was to testify about plots against Castro, not assassination. HSCA found no evidence his death was assassination related.|
|7/75||Clyde Tolson||J. Edgar Hoover's assistant and roommate||Natural causes||Died of heart disease at age 71.|
|1975||Allen Sweatt||Dallas Deputy Sheriff involved in investigation||Natural causes||One of scores of deputies involved in investigation.|
|12/75||Gen. Earle Wheeler||Contact between JFK and CIA||Unknown||Died of heart failure at age 67 no connection with case.|
|1976||Ralph Paul||Ruby's business partner connected with crime figures||Heart attack||Circumstances not suspicious no evidence of any reason to "silence" him.|
|4/76||James Chaney||Dallas motorcycle officer riding to JFK's right rear who said JFK "struck in the face" with bullet||Heart attack||Circumstances not suspicious no evidence of any reason to "silence" him.|
|4/76||Dr. Charles Gregory||Governor John Connally's physician||Heart attack||His testimony refuted the idea that there was "too much lead" in Connally to have come from CE 399.|
|6/76||William Harvey*||CIA coordinator for CIA-mob assassination plans against Castro||Complications from heart surgery||No connection with Kennedy assassination.|
|7/76||John Roselli*||Mobster who testified to Senate Committee and was to appear again||Stabbed and stuffed in metal drum||HSCA found no evidence his murder was related to JFK assassination.|
|1/77||William Pawley*||Former Brazilian Ambassador connected to Anti-Castro Cubans, crime figures||Gunshot ruled suicide||No connection with assassination|
|3/77||George DeMohrenschildt*||Close friend to both Oswald and Bouvier family (Jackie Kennedy's parents), CIA contract agent||Gunshot wound ruled suicide||Was not "CIA contract agent." Had history of mental illness and previous suicide attempts. Death thoroughly investigated by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.|
|3/77||Carlos Prio Soccaras*||Former Cuban President, money man for anti-Castro Cubans||Gunshot wound ruled suicide||No connection to case.|
|3/77||Paul Raigorodsky||Business friend of George DeMohrenschildt and wealthy oilmen||Natural causes||Circumstances not suspicious no evidence of any reason to "silence" him.|
|5/77||Lou Staples*||Dallas radio Talk Show host who told friends he would break assassination case||Gunshot to head, ruled suicide||Was living in Oklahoma when he killed himself. Apparently unable to "break the case."|
|6/77||Louis Nichols||Former No. 3 man in FBI, worked on JFK investigation||Heart attack||No evidence of foul play.|
|8/77||Alan Belmont||FBI official who testified to Warren Commission||"Long illness"||No evidence of foul play.|
|8/77||James Cadigan||FBI document expert who testified to Warren Commission||Fall in home||No evidence of any foul play.|
|8/77||Joseph C. Ayres*||Chief steward on JFK's Air Force One||Shooting accident||Being Chief Steward doubtless allowed him to garner much sinister information.|
|8/77||Francis G. Powers*||U-2 pilot downed over Russia in 1960||Helicopter crash (He reportedly ran out of fuel)||Speculated Oswald may have given the Soviets information that allowed them to shoot him down. Had no evidence.|
|9/77||Kenneth O'Donnell||JFK's closest aide||Natural causes||Died of aneurysm and liver complications.|
|10/77||Donald Kaylor||FBI fingerprint chemist||Heart attack||One of hundreds of FBI employees with marginal connection to assassination.|
|10/77||J.M. English||Former head of FBI Forensic Sciences Laboratory||Heart attack||No evidence of foul play.|
|11/77||William Sullivan*||Former No. 3 man in FBI, headed Division 5, counter- espionage and domestic intelligence||Hunting accident||Investigation by New Hampshire authorities showed no indication of foul play.|
|1978||C.L. "Lummie" Lewis||Dallas Deputy Sheriff who arrested Mafia man Braden in Dealey Plaza||Natural causes||Are we supposed to assume that Braden blurted out details of plot to cop arresting him?|
|9/78||Garland Slack||Man who said Oswald fired at his target at rifle range||Unknown||Died of heart disease no connection with the case beyond "Oswald sighting" discussed in Warren Commission Report.|
|1/79||Billy Lovelady||Depository employee said to be the man in the doorway in AP photograph||Complications from heart attack||Unclear what sinister information he might have revealed.|
|6/80||Jesse Curry||Dallas Police Chief at time of assassination||Heart attack||Unclear why there would be any need to "silence" him almost 17 years after assassination.|
|6/80||Dr. John Holbrook||Psychiatrist who testified Ruby was not insane||Heart attack but pills, notes found||Circumstances not suspicious no evidence of any reason to "silence" him.|
|1/81||Marguerite Oswald||Mother of accused assassin||Cancer||Always loudly insisted her son was innocent. Unclear what information she had that she had not already revealed.|
|10/81||Frank Watts||Chief felony prosecutor for Dallas D.A.||Natural causes||Died of cancer at age 83.|
|1/82||Peter Gregory||Original translator for Marina Oswald and Secret Service||Natural causes||Circumstances not suspicious no evidence of any reason to "silence" him.|
|5/82||Dr. James Weston||Pathologist allowed to see JFK autopsy material for HSCA||Died while jogging, ruled natural causes||Insisted that Kennedy was hit by two shots from behind.|
|8/82||Will H. Griffin||FBI agent who reportedly said Oswald was "definitely" an FBI informant||Cancer||HSCA investigation found he had said no such thing.|
|10/82||W. Marvin Gheesling||FBI official who helped supervise JFK investigation||"Long illness"||Circumstances not suspicious had only minor role in investigation.|
|3/84||Roy Kellerman||Secret Service agent in charge of JFK limousine||Unknown||Died of heart failure at age 69.|
|When the House Select Committee on Assassinations wished to study the "mysterious deaths" associated with the assassination, they asked the Congressional Research Service a division of the Library of Congress to investigate a list of such deaths from published sources. The resulting CRS report is merely preliminary, but it shows the appalling number of factual errors in the conspiracy books pushing the notion, and the utterly non-mysterious nature of most of the deaths. Click on the name below to see the relevant section of the CRS report.|
Believing it All
What happens when you believe essentially all the claims about mysterious deaths, not only in Marrs' book but on the Internet? You come up with a morass of mutually contradictory theories. Thus Richard Belzer's book Hit List parades before the reader an incoherent collection of conspiracy speculations that implicates almost everybody, as Marilyn Elias explains in her review of the book.
Further detracting from the credibility of the volume is Belzer's association with crackpot conspiracy talk show host Alex Jones, and his proclamation that the U.S. is a "fascist state" run by "sociopaths" — both assertions on Belzer's part that Elias documents.
Excerpted from "The Case of the Grassy Knoll: The Romance of Conspiracy" by John Kaplan; printed in The Historian As Detective, Winks, editor; originally published as "The Assassins" in Stanford Law Review (May 1967).
[Regarding the "mysterious" deaths of "witnesses" to the assassination], even the most cursory examination of the stories shows how essentially foolish they are. A good many of the deaths hardly seem mysterious in that they were caused by auto accidents, heart attacks, and other phenomena that afflict our entire population. Moreover, before we could tell whether the number of these deaths is in any way unusual, we would have to know the number of equally "mysterious" deaths that occurred to people completely unconnected with the WR. But even apart from any statistical refutation, the theory that a set of conspirators is now devoted to wiping out a host of unimportant witnesses is almost too silly to be put forth. There is not the slightest indication that any of the "victims" have had anything to tell that they had not already told, and indeed the deaths seem concentrated among those who bore only the most peripheral relation to the assassination. When one stops to consider that almost each one of the "mysterious" deaths requires the recruitment of at least one and often several new conspirators, it would seem that, like the pyramid club, the conspiracy would be getting bigger and bigger rather than smaller. One would think that in light of what had happened to those who knew too much it would get very difficult to recruit new members into the conspiracy. Most important, however, it is hard to say why the supposed killers are taking whatever chances these murders entail when it is so obvious that, whoever the conspirators are, they have already gotten off scot-free.