DALLAS, TX — November 22, 1963, is a date that haunts American society like no other.
Just after 12 noon, President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade rolled slowly through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. With First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy seated next to him in an open convertible, JFK smiled and waved to the on-looking crowds when a series of bullets suddenly tore through his head, killing him on the spot.
Almost immediately, the JFK assassination ignited a firestorm of speculation and debate as to who actually pulled the trigger or, in fact, triggers.
While the government-appointed Warren Commission officially concluded that ex-Marine and Soviet sympathizer Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, the majority of Americans have never bought that as being the complete story.
Literally countless JFK assassination conspiracies theories exist, and new ones always continue to emerge. Among them, several names consistently bobble about as possible shooters. Check out five of the most prominent below.
1. CHARLES “CHUCK” HARRELSON: THE HITMAN WAS A “TRAMP”?
If Charles “Chuck” Harrelson’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the father of popular Hollywood star Woody Harrelson. Chuck was also a vicious contract killer whose 1979 execution-for-hire of U.S. District Judge John Wood stands as the first murder of a federal judge in the 20th century. Prior to that, Harrelson had done 15 years for a paid hit job.
Suspicion of Harrelson in the JFK case came about during a 1980 police standoff. Harrelson, who said he was “high on cocaine,” confessed not only to shooting Judge Wood on behalf of a drug kingpin, he also explained exactly how and for whom he had assassinated JFK.Conspiracy theorists came to link Harrelson to the “Three Tramps,” a trio of men dressed like hobos (above) who appear to be under arrest in photographs taken shortly after the bullets struck.
Crossfire author Jim Marrs claims that Harrelson had deep connections to military cabals, spy rings, and Jack Ruby, the strip-club owner who shot “official” assassin Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV.
The Man on the Grassy Knoll by John R. Craig and Philip A. Rogers identifies Harrelson as the tallest tramp, and names the other two as Charles Rogers (who, along with Harrelson, acted as a sharpshooter) and Chauncey Holt (who aided with supplies and getaway materials). Holt later claimed he was a CIA operative who delivered a gun to Harrelson just before the shooting. [CrimeFeed]
2. LUCIEN SARTI: HIRED BY E. HOWARD HUNT?
Author Steve J. Rivele’s book The Murderers of John F. Kennedy first fingered French drug smuggler and globetrotting jack-of-all-crimes Lucien Sarti as the JFK triggerman in 1988.
The claim picked up considerable credibility nearly two decades later when, in 2007, Rolling Stone published “The Last Confession of E. Howard Hunt,” an account of the deathbed revelations reportedly made by the title figure, a storied CIA mastermind who fell from grace after the Watergate scandal.
Hunt had also previously been suspected as one of the “Three Tramps” of JFK conspiracy lore. According to the Rolling Stone article, Hunt scrawled out the truth to his two sons:
“E. Howard scribbled the initials ‘LBJ’ … Under ‘LBJ,’ connected by a line, he wrote the name Cord Meyer. Meyer was a CIA agent whose wife had an affair with JFK; later she was murdered, a case that’s never been solved. Next [Hunt] connected to Meyer’s name the name Bill Harvey, another CIA agent; also connected to Meyer’s name was the name David Morales, yet another CIA man and a well-known, particularly vicious black-op specialist. And then [Hunt] connected to Morales’ name, with a line, the framed words ‘French Gunman Grassy Knoll.’ Presumably the Corsican Mafia assassin Lucien Sarti, who has figured prominently in other assassination theories.”
Hunt’s widow and other children dismissed the report, stating the two sons coached their debilitated father into writing what they wanted. [Rolling Stone]
3. JAMES FILES: MAFIA MURDER MAKER?
In 1994, while serving 50 years for the attempted murder of two Chicago cops, ex-military operative turned mafia soldier James Files claimed he blasted JFK from the grassy knoll. He also said Lee Harvey Oswald never got off a single round, and that his mob boss, Charles “Chuckie” Nicoletti actually fired from the book depository.
According to Files, the CIA ordered the Kennedy hit after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion and acted in cahoots with organized-crime overlord Sam Giancana. Files said he chose the grassy knoll for its easy in-and-out access, and he described the killing moment thusly:
“I was aiming at [JFK’s] right eye. When I pulled the trigger, it was almost like looking from six feet away through the scope. As I squeezed, his head moved forward. I missed and got it right along the temple, right behind the eye. I squeezed off my round. I hit him and blew his head backward. I fired one shot and one shot only.”
FBI agent Zack Shelton is among the observers who believe Files, stating: “’I have tried to verify Files’ story. A lot of that story I have been able to verify.”
4. CARLOS MARCELLO’S GUY: SOUTHERN-FRIED GODFATHER REVENGE?
In 2009, investigative journalist Lamar Waldron published Legacy of Secrecy, his exhaustive, 850-page examination of the major 1960s assassinations (JFK, RFK, MLK). The book includes one particularly explosive quote from Texas and Louisiana mafia boss Carlos Marcello regarding his rumored involvement in the death of JFK:
“Yes, I had the son-of-a-b**ch killed! I’m glad I did! I’m sorry I couldn’t have done it myself.”
Waldron posits that an anti-organized-crime program enacted by President Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, dismantled the southern mob king’s operation and put him in jail for life — after he had colluded with the CIA in a plot to knock off Fidel Castro.
Marcello reportedly organized the Kennedy killing from behind bars, setting Jack Ruby up with his strip club and incorporating Lee Harvey Oswald through flamboyant New Orleans underworld character David Ferrie.
Legacy of Secrecy quotes the House Select Committee on Assassinations as stating that Carlos Marcello “had the means, motive, and opportunity to have the president assassinated.” [New York Post]
5. J. D. TIPPIT: KILLED BY OSWALD AFTER KILLING KENNEDY?
One aspect of the JFK assassination that many theorists dispute is a lynchpin of the government’s official summation: that Lee Harvey Oswald gunned down Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit about 45 minutes after the President’s murder. Somebody killed Tippit, but debate rages as to whether Oswald did it (along with the other shooting of note).
One of the few revelations in the declassified FBI documents that went public in 2017 is a 1964 note from an FBI informant that ID’s Tippit as the actual Kennedy killer. The note claims that Tippit met with an individual many suspect was Oswald a week prior to the JFK death in Jack Ruby’s strip bar.
Tippit’s name also comes up in reported Soviet rumblings about LBJ executing his predecessor in congress with a coup-staging “far right-wing” cabal inside the CIA and FBI. [The Sun]
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Main photo: Lee Harvey Oswald [WikiMedia Commons]