The Sixth Floor Escape

Let’s kick this blog off with the most common question I’m asked:

“The theory you advocate says that because Victoria Adams saw and heard no one when she came down the stairway, then Oswald was not on the sixth floor and therefore did not shoot the president. But how do you explain her not seeing the other assassin or assassins, since it is obvious someone was up there?”

First, I do not advocate any theory in the book. The conclusion I draw regarding this point is that Miss Adams told the truth and therefore, that truth now adds a critical element to what we have been fed regarding Oswald’s movements in the two minutes following the assassination.

As background, and in contrast to the implication that the Depository was secure and immune from interlopers, we have manager William Shelley saying in 1964, “Any one of a thousand different people could have entered or left the building and nobody would have known it.”

We have employee James Jarman telling the HSCA that a stranger could “very easily” have entered the rear of the Depository and made his way to the sixth floor because “…that day the dock door was up and the side door was open.” This ease of access or escape was also observed by the Secret Service when an agent arrived and noticed the same open doors — nearly a half hour after the shooting.

Consider as well the testimony of Deputy Sheriff Luke Mooney who stated that only minutes after the shooting, he was climbing the back stairs and, “I met some other officers coming down, plainclothes, and I believe they were deputy sheriffs.” Moments later, on the way down the stairs from the seventh floor, Mooney said he saw “…some news reporter, or press, I don’t know who he was…” coming up.

It is clear, then, that security was lax at the Depository and an unauthorized individual had the means to enter the building unnoticed and make his way to a higher floor. Let’s say someone did. How then could he have escaped?

The Stairs

Defenders of the Warren Report are quick to point out that if Vicki Adams didn’t hear Oswald on the stairs, then why didn’t she hear the assassin(s) who replaced him?

The error in their logic is glaringly obvious, for the question presupposes that any other shooter would have made his escape down the stairs at the exact same time Oswald was to have done so. But this person would not necessarily have had to come down the stairs when Oswald supposedly did.

The timing of Oswald’s escape from the sixth floor was based on a speed that would get him to the second-floor lunchroom in advance of when Marrion Baker and Roy Truly saw him there. That time frame was established at under 90 seconds, a figure resulting from on-site tests duplicating the actions of both Baker and Truly. Oswald had to get to the lunchroom before they did, which therefore put him on the stairs at a specific time.

The fact Victoria Adams would have been on those stairs at the same moment is what posed the problem.

But if someone other than Oswald was on the sixth floor, his escape would not have been governed by any such time constraints. He could have come down later, since the sixth floor remained vacant and was not discovered as the sniper’s “man cave” for some 35 minutes after the assassination. (This, oddly enough, even though that floor was pointed out almost immediately as the source of the shots.)

By then, uniformed cops, plain-clothes cops, the news media, workers and others were swarming throughout the Depository. The delay in searching the sixth floor would have provided plenty of opportunity for someone to depart in the confusion. This person might even have remained on the sixth floor and then blended in with those who eventually arrived there.

In other words, alternatives exist. What are your thoughts?

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14 responses to “The Sixth Floor Escape

  1. grassyknollgirl63

    Sorry if this is slightly off topic but the other thing that has always bothered me is Bonnie Ray Williams. His story surely can’t be true either way – if you are the Warren Commission saying Oswald was guilty or whether you think as I do that he was not on the 6th floor but others were. How can he have been up there on his own eating lunch as late 12.20 I think it was and seen no one else? Surely the shooters would have had to move into position long before he would have left as the motorcade was running late anyway? I’m just not sure what to make of him. Victoria Adams I find to be truly believable but I just can’t accept his story. If he was laying floor up there as he says I wonder if he was either part of the crew laying new flooring on the 6th floor as cover to move the shooters in, or that he mad the whole thing up – on Bill Shelley’s orders, perhaps?. Why do I get the feeling he was one of Bill Shelley’s men and therefore not to be trusted? I don’t trust Shelley at all, not with his intelligence links. Something funny was going on in that building and I think he was part of it…

  2. You can download the chapter (from my book “Cold Case Kennedy”) about the situation on the stairs: http://we.tl/UBdDrVDMth

    There never was a re-enactment with the three parties, so the Warren Commission did not know who was where and when, and by consequence who could hear or should hear the others.

    I thoroughly looked at the different timelines. The logic of my examination is:

    1) if it is impossible for the girls to quit the building without meeting Baker and Truly, they were not on the stairs immediately after the shooting.

    2) if it is impossible for Oswald to reach the second floor before Baker and Truly without the girls hearing him, we can conclude that Oswald has an alibi for the moment of the shooting.

    The examination of the timelines shows this:

    a. The girls (Vicki and her friend Sandra Styles) were first; they entered the stairs on the 4th floor approximately 20 seconds after the third shot.

    b. Oswald (IF he did what the Warren Commission supposed he did, IF!) reached the stairs 35 seconds after the third shot; the two girls in the meantime were at the 2nd floor, with just one floor to go to reach the ground floor.

    c. 41 seconds after the third shot Oswald (IF…!) reaches the fifth floor. The girls are now on the ground floor.

    d. The girls can leave the building through the back door BEFORE Truly and Baker run through the third front-door, in the direction of the elevators.

    e. While Truly and Baker try to get an elevator Oswald can further descend to the second floor where he arrives after 65 seconds, leaving him time to enter the cafeteria, and allow the automatic door to close before Baker and Truly run up the stairs from the ground floor.

    CONCLUSION:
    1. The girls told the truth, they left immediately after the last shot, and did not hear Oswald who was only starting his descent at the moment they were on the second floor, with only the last set of stairs left. The Warren Commission could have spared itself all the lies and distortions. The girls not hearing Oswald does not mean anything, whether or not he was on the stairs, it’s possible for the girls to leave at the moment they said they did, without hearing Oswald.

    2. The fact that Oswald was on the second floor 90 seconds after the first shot (Baker “revved up” after the FIRST shot) does not provide him an alibi.

    Murphy’s Law again… The situation on the stairs does not exonerate Oswald. It surely could have, it’s a matter of seconds. So the fact in itself that the Warren Commission did not investigate this possible alibi is a proof of the fact that they were themselves not sure what would have been the outcome, and so they preferred not to look into the matter, instead falsely accusing Vicki Adams, Sandra Styles and Dorothy Garner of lying/mistaking. Somebody also made disappear the letter Vicki wrote to the Editor of The Monitor, and all her declarations made on the day of the assassination. They even went so far as to let inspector Jim Leavelle claim that a fire destroyed her previous declarations…

    So in the end: a lot of blame for the investigation, but a negative on the final consequence further investigation could have had.

    For the details of the timelines and the illustration of the time paths see the chapter of my book “Cold Case Kennedy” downloadable in pdf: http://we.tl/UBdDrVDMth. Or even better, read the whole book, which is available at Amazon.com.

    • Flip has written a very interesting book and I would recommend reading it. A couple of things regarding his timeline, however, require further consideration. First, as he admits, Vicki was the only one excluded from time tests regarding Oswald’s escape. Therefore, any attempt to assign specific times to her descent is purely speculative. Second, Flip’s timeline has Vicki and Sandra descending the stairs in advance of Lee Oswald. This would conflict with what office supervisor Dorothy Garner told me in an exclusive interview in 2011. Mrs. Garner, who followed Vicki and Sandra to the fourth-floor landing and remained there long enough to see Officer Marrion Baker and Roy Truly come up and emerge onto that floor (which would have been after the lunchroom encounter between Baker, Truly, and Oswald), said she did not see Oswald come down the stairs after Vicki and Sandra had left. That might explain why the document containing her statement corroborating the timing of Vicki’s action was suppressed for 35 years, and why Mrs. Garner was never officially questioned as part of the Warren Commission’s investigation.

      • Joe Secchio

        Barry, I know it is a difficult exercise, but Wesley Frazier is still alive and his knowledge of the goings on in the TSBD on 11/22/63 would be invaluable to further discussion. If he could somehow be interviewed by you without any folks present who could limit the conversation and dialogue, perhaps we can hear his take on topics like who was Jack Daughtery – what did he look like and did you notice him anywhere during the noon hour? What were the type of interactions he had with his fellow employees in the days and weeks after the assassination – folks like Bonnie Ray Williams and Charles Givens and the rest of the folks at the 5th floor window. Also, Arnold Rowland currently lives in Oregon is approximately 68 years old and reprising his testimony of seeing a gunman on the 6th floor at the same time Oswald was observed by Carolyn Arnold on a ground floor would also add to the dialogue. Lastly, Amos Euins is about 65 years of age and living in Dallas – has anyone asked him about the conversations he may have had while on the way to give his statement on 11/22/63 and his possible discussions with Bonnie Ray Williams, Danny Arce, et. al.?

      • All good suggestions, Joe. But one has to always be careful of what surviving witnesses say today. As evidence evolves, so does the possibility of exaggeration and embellishment. I’ve found first-day statements (if they exist) are usually the most reliable. Since you brought his name up, take Buell Wesley Frazier, for example. For the most part he has been consistent throughout the years with his comments, and I have no hesitation believing him when he says he wishes he had never become a part of this mess, especially after the way the Dallas Police treated him. But look at this interview he did recently: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5OnbKATeSE
        In particular, go to the 29:00 minute mark where Frazier states he saw Oswald AFTER the shooting as he came out the rear door of the Depository, walked down Houston Street to the corner of Houston and Elm, and then turned left to continue east on Elm, away from the building. In his original handwritten statement made to Dallas Police on 11/22/63, however, Frazier says that after the shots, he turned and went back into the building to eat his lunch. Specifically, he states, “I did not see Lee any more after about 11:00 am today and at that time we were both working and we were on the 1st floor.” In his Warren Commission testimony in March 1964, Frazier again said he returned to the Depository, “stayed on the first floor for a few minutes,” and then went to the basement where he remained for a while as he ate his lunch. He was asked if at any time after his return he went to the back of the building near the loading dock. He replied he had not. During his testimony he said nothing about seeing Oswald after the shooting, or observing him going out the back of the building and walking down Houston. In fact, I am not aware of anywhere in the written record regarding this witness where he makes such a claim. One related question is, if Frazier transported Oswald from and to work on weekends, how did Oswald get to and from work during the week while he lived at the Oak Cliff address?

      • Barry, as you mentioned, there could indeed be a contradiction in the timeline if you consider Mrs. Garner’s testimony. That’s very important. But in a certain way it’s a secondary question. My approach was to see whether purely technically Oswald/Adams-Styles/Baker-Truly could or would meet starting at a given time on a given floor. This is second best to doing the re-enactment, which as you mention was not done by the Warren Commission.
        Well, it is TECHNICALLY possible that they do not meet on their respective trajects on the stairs. If the conclusion had been that it was NOT possible, it would perhaps have been a big step in advance. Now it’s a small step, but nevertheless a step in advance. At least we know that it is not impossible.
        Whether it is what happened is the follow-up question. If Mrs. Garner is right, Oswald has an alibi. But we all know that oral testimony, certainly about chronology and time passed under extreme circumstances, is very delicate.
        You state, correctly, that the first statement is mostly the most reliable. But to only give one example related to our question here: remember Baker’s first testimony? “As we reached the third or fourth floor I saw a man walking away from the stairway.” 3rd or 4th Floor? Walking away from the elevator??
        So I agree, IF Mrs. Garner is correct, it’s impossible that Oswald was on the second floor AND shot at the President on the fifth floor less than 90 seconds earlier.
        If Mrs. Garner is mistaken, what even if, considering her personality, she is indeed one of the best witnesses you can imagine, remains possible, then the timelines prove that it is also possible that the three groups didn’t meet on the stairs.
        Logical conclusion: it cannot be excluded with certainty that Oswald shot at the President and arrived at the 2nd floor before Baker and without meeting the girls or at least be heard by them.
        Thanks for stressing the important point of Mrs. Garner’s testimony.
        This adds a supplementary condition to the reasoning, if Mrs. Garner is mistaken (which is possible) it is possible the three groups don’t meet/hear each other on the stairs.
        Given the credibility of Mrs. Garner this is an important limitation.
        As you know the final conclusion of my analysis is that I have serious doubts that Oswald could be the shooter, although he most certainly was involved in some way. One way to prove this would be to exclude the possibility that he could reach the 2nd floor in time. This cannot be done with absolute certainty, and so we remain where we started, it’s possible or impossible depending on other elements of the case you believe or do not believe.
        I will certainly in my next book mention Mrs. Garner’s testimony, and you being so kind to help me on this one. I tend to believe Mrs. Garner. She surely seems the kind of hair-splitter I would not like to work for. And she certainly is not the kind of person to embellish or alter her declaration. Probably the fact that she could not be manipulated to declare what was expected to tell, was the reason her testimony had to disappear.

      • On February 25, 1964, David Belin co-authored a 238-memo to his boss, mapping out the course he and Joseph Ball would take to examine events that fell within their area of responsibility. On pp. 117-118, he described the story of Vicki Adams, emphasizing her importance, and stating in conclusion, “We should pin down this time sequence of her running down the stairs.” In the end, the Warren Report did absolutely nothing to resolve this issue. It simply declared Miss Adams to be wrong. How it arrived at that decision is a mystery, for it had done no time tests regarding her, it failed to question any related witnesses, and it suppressed a document for 35 years that validated what Miss Adams had said, even though the Commission was aware at that point that what it was about to write regarding her was incorrect. To me, that is inexcusable. And I think the manner in which the Commission handled this episode only heightens suspicion about the significance of what Miss Adams said and did. That, I believe, is the real point here. Unfortunately, her treatment is only a microcosm to how the Commission conducted its other operations. That is why one of the conclusions I drew from my research into this is that her truthfulness now provides a critical element as to whether or not Oswald was on the sixth floor. Remember, it was Sylvia Meagher who said, way back in 1967, “…if her [Miss Adams’] story is accurate it decisively invalidates the Warren Commission’s hypothesis about Oswald’s movements between 12:30 and 12:33 p.m.”

  3. The question how Oswald went to his daily job is interesting. After the murder he took the wrong bus (direction Marsalis) and then a taxi to return to N-Beckley. I suppose he did not do it by bicycle. In front of his rooming house there was a bus (where he waited a short while after leaving his room on 22 November. Most probably he went by bus.

  4. According to an HSCA interview with Eddie Shields, a TSBD employee that worked over at the other building where Frazier always parked, stated that Frazier drove Oswald to work every day…so often, prompting someone to yell that morning “Where’s your rider?” To which Frazier replied, he dropped him off at the building….

  5. Barry,
    The girls left the building immediately after the shots, and went in the direction of the grassy knoll. Later they were at the front entrance of the TSBD and overheard a radiomessage from a motor-agent.
    My question is, did you look in all existing pictures taken shortly after the shooting (eg. the Altgens pictures) whether Sandra and Vicki can be recognized. I’m not enough aware of how their hair was done, and what they were wearing that day. Is there anywhere information what they should look like, and how they were dressed?

    • Good question, Flip. I have sent to Vicki and Sandra several crowd pictures taken in front of the Depository in the moments following the assassination. In each case, they were unable to identify either themselves or anyone else in those photos. On this website under the tab “News” you will find their pictures as close as they have to 1963. Vicki’s is her high school photo about four years before the assassination, and the one of Sandra was taken a few years after.

  6. Two things worth noting…..first, Truly acted as guide for M. Baker. They quick checked floors on the way up in the TSBD. Arriving on the 5th floor, they found the elevator, door open. They took the elevator, skipping the 6th floor (the only floor skipped) and went to the top floor and roof. Now, why skip the 6th floor and who’s idea was that? The tour guides?
    Second, You mention Officer Luke Mooney. Does anyone know if there is any relationship between him and Betty Mooney McDonald? Or do you know if anyone has looked closely at Officer Mooney’s background? Any relationship between Officer Macdonald and Betty Mooney Macdonald? Both Officers had significant influence and impact in the case against Oswald…very curious about possible links.

    • I don’t see anything sinister in Baker and Truly skipping the sixth floor. Baker’s intention all along was to get to the roof, where he suspected something unusual had occurred because he saw pigeons fly from there during the shooting. Some witnesses, indeed, pointed out the sixth floor as the source of the shots. But in their haste in these early moments, Baker and Truly would not have known this. Based on their respective testimonies, it doesn’t appear that they were on a mission to search each floor. I suspect the sixth floor was skipped because both men were on an elevator at that point from the fifth to the seventh floors, heading for Baker’s sole destination.

      Your question about the Mooney’s is interesting. As a deputy sheriff, Luke Mooney might well have been invited by Jack Ruby — police aficionado that he was — to the Carousel Club where he may have seen Betty Mooney McDonald on stage. She was one of Ruby’s regular strippers. But I have found no evidence of any relationship other than that possibility between the two. Are you aware that the name “Betty” is one of several titles she used? Her real name was Nancy Jane Mooney, which now makes it even more curious. But I don’t think it’s anything other than coincidence.

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