In Part 1 of this absorbing mystery, we saw some of the confounding facts that have made this event so incomprehensible, even after so many decades.
Mary Pinchot Meyer, mistress to John F. Kennedy, was shot twice while jogging in a deserted area in a Washington DC park. She was neither robbed nor raped. A witness who heard screams and shots ran to a wall overlooking the scene, arriving in time to see a man standing over the body, holding an object that appeared to be a gun. He described the gunman as a “negro male,” between 5 feet 8 and 5 feet 10 inches, and weighing about 185 pounds.
Soon after, a black man was arrested — but according to his driver’s license, he was only 5 feet 3.5 inches, and weighed 130. Yet the witness positively identified him.
The witness, Henry Wiggins, Jr., had been sent to that area along with a mechanic to service a “broken down” Nash Rambler. Very soon after he had arrived, the screaming started.
Later that same day, the car disappeared — and so did the all paperwork concerning the written record of the request to service the car. While this is also strange, it would not seem significant, not normally. But it appears to be part of an astonishing pattern that is eventually revealed in the latest edition of Peter Janney’s book.
In Part 2 below, more anomalies are revealed.
Second excerpt from Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace: Third Edition (Skyhorse Publishing, 2016), by Peter Janney. For Part 1 of this three-part series, please go here.
Introduction by Milicent Cranor
“It looks like you got a stacked deck”
Ray Crump Jr. was sticking to his story. During the drive to police headquarters, he kept asking Crooke, “What did I do?” Each time, Crooke replied, “You tell me what you did.”
Crump would say only that he had been drinking. He had been fishing from some rocks and had fallen into the river. He was still shivering in his wet clothes, and Crooke suggested that he might be more comfortable if he took off his wet sweatshirt. In a white T-shirt that clung to his narrow chest, Crump appeared frail and childlike, much younger than his twenty-five years. A press photographer was waiting for the arrival of the black man suspected of murdering a white woman on the towpath. Crump bowed his head to avert the glare of flashbulbs as the photographer captured his arrival at police homicide headquarters.
Detective Crooke led Crump to a windowless interrogation room. Just a few months earlier, on June 22, 1964, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren had ruled in a 5-4 decision that a suspect had the right to have an attorney present during questioning. The ruling emanated from Escobedo v. Illinois and became known as the Escobedo Rule. Crooke was well aware of the ruling but chose not to inform Crump of his right to an attorney. The Miranda decision, which would have required Crooke to notify Crump, prior to questioning, of his right to an attorney, would not be decided for another two years.
“I think he’s the guilty person,” Bernie Crooke would later explain by way of justification for ignoring Crump’s rights. “Not for any piece of evidence against him, but because of that other sense you develop about witnesses and defendants. You sort of know.”26
Crooke may have had an additional motivation to prove his suspect’s guilt. One year earlier, a judge ruled in a defendant’s favor arguing that the confession that Crooke had extracted from him was no good. “The judge said [Crooke] practiced very sophisticated methods of psychological brutality,” a colleague said of the case. “Bernie couldn’t even spell the words he used. And here he was, just a poor cop, trying to make a living.”27 Crooke apparently didn’t want to suffer the humiliation of losing again.
Detective Crooke ordered Crump to put on the jacket that had just been fished out of the Potomac. It was a perfect fit. “It looks like you got a stacked deck,” Crump said, close to tears. Crooke patted him on the back, and Crump began to cry.28 By the time Crooke returned to the interrogation room, Crump appeared to have pulled himself together. He had stopped crying and was staring at his shoes. Crooke decided to leave him to set up the lineup. Part of the preparation would involve instructing Henry Wiggins, his only eyewitness, what to do. “He told me to go right up to [Crump], put my hands on him, and say, ‘This is the guy. That’s him,’ so there’s no doubt in my mind, no ‘ifs’ or anything,” Wiggins recalled years later.29
Ray Crump was easy to pick out in the lineup. “The lineup isn’t that close as far as the other guys being Crump’s type, so he really sticks out,” Wiggins recalled. Crump didn’t react when Wiggins identified him. “He didn’t act concerned, like he isn’t bothered about anything. He looks like he knows what to do: just keep your mouth shut and don’t say anything,” Wiggins later said.30 What Henry Wiggins didn’t remember that day was that he and twentyfive- year-old Ray Crump Jr. had been classmates, first at Briggs Elementary in Washington, then in junior high school, from which they had graduated in 1954.
Neither school at the time was integrated, but Wiggins had gone on to Western High School and had graduated. Crump had given up on school after junior high. A friend of Wiggins’s had reminded him that he knew Crump after Wiggins had identified him.31
Wiggins gave a formal statement about what he had observed that day, and Crooke showed him the windbreaker that had been found near the shoreline of the Potomac. “That looks like the jacket,” Wiggins said, referring to the one worn by the man he had seen standing over the dead woman on the towpath. Henry Wiggins was “satisfied” that he’d made law enforcement’s case against Ray Crump. Even so, he knew that rumors had already begun to cloud the facts. “One of the detectives was saying they found Crump knee-deep in water in a shallow part of the river in a little inlet,” Wiggins said. According to this version of events, Crump had said that “he was trying to retrieve his fishing rod,” said Wiggins. Another version had it that Crump was in the water to wash the victim’s blood off, while still another held that Crump was apprehended while he hid behind some rocks in the woods that bordered the river.32 Most of the speculation, however, centered on the identity of the beautiful dead woman. Who was she? And what was she doing on the towpath? Some parts of the canal, such as the concrete abutment and first arch supports of Key Bridge, had acquired unsavory reputations as havens for vagrants, truants, and dealers who supplied the affluent of Georgetown with recreational drugs. Henry Wiggins overheard one officer speculate that the murdered woman might have flirted with her killer. Wiggins didn’t buy it. “She wasn’t any bum or some old drunk like you’d expect down there,” he said. “This woman you could tell was a lady.”33
Detective Crooke gave Wiggins his card and told him not to talk to the press or anybody else about the case. Wiggins, who had once fancied himself cop material, apparently enjoyed his status at the center of this murder investigation; in fact, he had hoped to become a police officer in Washington, D.C., after his discharge from the Army. He had done some coursework — “in psychology, search and seizure, all that stuff” — and had passed the written exam, even dieted to meet the weight requirements, but “they still wouldn’t take me,” he said. He suspected that the color of his skin had something to do with his rejection.34 In those days, the D.C. Metropolitan Police force was largely white. In any event, even though he hadn’t passed muster as a potential police officer, Wiggins — a black man pointing the finger at another black man — seemed to be the ideal witness.
That afternoon, Ray Crump had been fingerprinted, photographed, weighed, and measured, but he wasn’t tested for gunpowder burns or residue, which would have indicated whether he had recently fired a handgun. “His hands had been in water,” Chief Detective Art Weber explained later at Crump’s trial. “That would have washed away any nitrates that were present. The paraffin test wasn’t what it’s supposed to be. The FBI doesn’t think much of it either, so we don’t use it.”35 Lacking forensic evidence that would have linked Crump to the crime, police resorted to using his height and weight to help make their case. According to the intake documents, at the time of his arrest, Crump stood 5 feet 5½ inches and weighed 145 pounds — two inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than his driver’s license indicated.36 It was never clarified whether Crump had on his shoes with their 2-inch platform heels when he was measured, or whether he had been wearing wet clothes when he was weighed. Still, he was significantly smaller than the original description of the wanted man listed on Police Form PD-251: 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall and 185 pounds.
The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia had been alerted to Ray Crump’s arrival. Legal Aid public defenders typically represented indigent clients at preliminary criminal hearings, at coroner’s inquests, and at mental health hearings. “We were right there on the fourth floor of the courthouse, room 4830,” said George Peter Lamb, a former defense attorney. “Our offices would be notified if someone was being brought in. It wouldn’t be too long after the arrest. D.C. had the most restrictive laws on preliminary hearings of any federal court in the United States. Police were required to bring an arrested person before a magistrate as soon as it was feasible. To dillydally and hold a suspect in jail and interrogate the hell out of him was one sure way to result in the suppression of all evidence.”37
Lamb was one of five new lawyers brought into the office by Edward “Ted” O’Neill, the sharp-tongued, indefatigable public defender. Lamb had been working in the Public Defender’s Office of the Legal Aid Society for just one month when he met Ray Crump. A graduate of American University’s Washington College of Law, Lamb had accepted a cut in pay to take the job, with an annual salary of just $6,900. It wasn’t much, he later joked, for “a dyslectic with ulcers, married with two kids.”38 But he was fired up about the work. “What made it an incredibly exciting time to be a criminal lawyer was that the Warren Court was in full swing,” he recalled in 1990. “Decisions were coming down that were upsetting long-established procedures that had been used as evidence in American courts for centuries.” Lamb considered himself part of the revolution that was taking place in criminal law to balance the inherently unequal contest between the individual and the state.
As a public defender, Lamb reserved particular admiration for Judge David Bazelon of the U.S. Court of Appeals. “He was the bane of the conservatives,” Lamb recalled. “He’d invite all these young lawyers into his chambers and tell us how to be better, and he would talk about what the responsibility of a public defender was: Whatever could be done for the richest of the rich, it was our job to do for the poorest of the poor. We spared no effort in that respect, and that was pretty thrilling, and really very exciting.”39 That afternoon, Lamb had hurried to the basement stockade to interview the new prisoner and to discern whether he met the criteria for a court-appointed lawyer.
He did. At the time of his arrest, Ray Crump had only $1.50 in his pocket. He didn’t have a bank account. He didn’t own real estate, an automobile, or any other valuable property, nor did his wife, Helena, his parents, or any other person who might have been able to assist in paying the costs of his defense. Lamb conducted a background check on his new client and found that he was married with five children. He had been twice arrested for disorderly behavior and he had served sixty days for shoplifting.
Years later, Lamb recalled how scared Crump had been. “He had to know when he was arrested that he would be charged with first-degree murder. You can be sure that during the time he went through the booking procedure at Homicide, the police were beating him up trying to get a confession out of him — not physically, because that was pretty much a thing of the past in this town.” Crump was crying, Lamb said. He repeatedly told Lamb that he didn’t know what had gone on at the canal, that he hadn’t killed anybody, and that the police had arrested the wrong man.40
Lamb explained to Crump the first step: In a first-floor hearing room, the police would try to establish before a magistrate that there was enough evidence to hold him for a grand jury. Crump would either be charged or released. What Lamb didn’t tell his client was that with U.S. Commissioner Sam Wertleb presiding — a “curmudgeon,” in Lamb’s opinion — the chances were slim that Crump would be let go.
“It wasn’t possible to get a fair hearing from him,” Lamb said. “Wertleb almost always accepted the word of a police officer against that of a defendant, especially a black defendant.”41 Wertleb did inform Crump, however, of his right to counsel and to a preliminary hearing, but he declined to schedule the hearing.
“I don’t know why I’m here,” Crump blurted out. “I was down there fishing and lost my rod. I almost got shot myself.”42 Crump was held without bail. “The way to get around granting bail was to say Crump was a danger to the community by reason of what he’s been charged with,” Lamb recalled. “So denial of bail was purely on the basis of the heinousness of the crime. When, in fact, the only evidence the government had at this point was whatever Detective Bernie Crooke said it was.” With bail denied, “you’ve got to move quick to try to prevent the government from bringing an original indictment,” Lamb said. “We went straight to the Court of Appeals on the bail issue and denial of a preliminary hearing the next morning with Ted [O’Neill] and I leading the charge.
Already there was some strong heat coming down on this case from somewhere — we didn’t know where. That’s why we were in court so damn fast, to try to set up a preliminary hearing. The reason you wanted a prelim, it was the only chance you had to cross-examine witnesses and find out what the police had for evidence. So you freeze the case in a timeline so that it never gets any better, unless the police find something new. And all they had was Crump being in the vicinity of the murder. He was just somebody who’d been identified as being there.”43
Shackled and under heavy guard, Crump was taken by federal marshals to the D.C. jail and placed in isolation. Crump changed into prison denims but kept his shoes. The guard urged him to confess, saying that if he did, he would get the help he was entitled to, possibly even a deal with the prosecutor, but Crump remained confused. “What was going on down in that place?” he wanted to know. The officers who arrested him hadn’t told him anything. When he had been escorted in handcuffs past the bloodied body of the dead woman on the towpath, Crump had asked Detective Crooke, “You think I did that?” Crooke hadn’t answered.
Meanwhile, something weighed heavily on the freshly minted public defender, George Peter Lamb. Though new to his job, he was savvy enough to know that it was highly unusual for Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Smith to be representing the government at Ray Crump’s hearing. “That was unheard of to send a senior man to one of these things,” Lamb said. “Usually, a very inexperienced criminal assistant would be there just to observe the proceedings. So right away, we knew there was some ‘Mickey Mouse’ stuff going on.”44
Donald Smith’s presence signaled that somewhere within the corridors of the U.S. Department of Justice an alarm had sounded. But why? Surely not because of Ray Crump, who wouldn’t have merited such high-level attention. It had to be the murder itself — and the murder victim. Given the crime’s location — right in the heart of Washington’s elite Georgetown enclave — was it that the dead woman was one of them, a person of consequence in her Georgetown milieu? But the police had not yet determined her identity.
Detective Bernard Crooke, on arriving at the D.C. morgue, was immediately granted access to an autopsy room where Randolph M. Worrell, the morgue technician, had already logged in the body of a white female, name and address unknown. Worrell had taken a sample of blood that would be delivered for classification to the FBI the following day. He had prepared the body for examination by removing her clothes in the presence of Deputy Coroner Dr. Linwood L. Rayford.
The autopsy officially began at 3:45 p.m. For Dr. Rayford, a tall, light-skinned black man with a military bearing and a handsome face, medicine had been a second career choice. As a student at Marquette University during World War II, Rayford had tried to enlist. “I wanted to be the first black Marine in the history of the Corps,” he recalled. “But they wouldn’t take me. I got turned down on account of my color.”45 Now a surgeon, Rayford had performed more than four hundred autopsies on gunshot victims, but none had been as disturbing as this one.
“Things were not at all like they were supposed to be,” he would say years later. The woman was five feet six inches tall and weighed 127 pounds. She was a beautiful corpse. Dr. Rayford had lifted the woman’s arms and rotated them across her torso to determine the degree of muscular rigor. The limbs were relatively supple. He touched her thigh, stomach, and chest; the pale, almost translucent skin was cool, which told him that she had been dead only a few hours. Her blue-green eyes bore an expression that revealed that death had come as a complete surprise.46
The woman had been shot twice: once in the head and once in the back. Both entry wounds were a quarter of an inch in diameter and bore dark halos typical of powder burns. “The gun was fired from close range,” Rayford would later testify. “It wouldn’t be possible to produce these smoke deposits on a person’s skin at anything but contact or near contact firing.”47 The FBI later confirmed this.
The victim’s head wound was located an “inch and a half anterior to the left ear.” The first bullet had entered the left side of the skull, “traversed into the right temporal lobe, fractured it, and ricocheted back where the slug was found in the right side of the brain,” where Rayford recovered it. The second entry wound “was located over the right shoulder blade, about six inches from the midline.” The bullet had passed through the shoulder blade “into the chest cavity perforating the right lung and the aorta, the largest vessel from the heart.” The trajectory “had been angled from right to left and slightly downward.”48
The woman likely survived the first shot to her head, but Rayford said that such a wound’s attendant hemorrhaging and brain lacerations would probably have rendered her unconscious. Blood from the head wound would likely have splattered the assailant. In contrast, the second wound would have produced more internal than external bleeding because of its position under the shoulder blade.49
The second gunshot had been fired with particular precision: The bullet pierced the right lung and severed the aorta. Death would have been instantaneous. That bothered Rayford. The degree of expertise suggested the work of a professional. He had seen some messy gangland-style slayings, but nothing like the neat accuracy of the wounds inflicted on this victim.
“Whoever assaulted this woman,” Rayford said years later, “intended to kill her.”50
For Part 1 of this three-part series, please go here.
26. Unnamed colleague of Detective Bernard Crooke, interview by Leo Damore,
Washington, D.C., October 28, 1990.
28. Rosenbaum and Nobile., “Curious Aftermath,” p. 24.
29. Wiggins, interview.
35. Trial transcript, pp. 455–456.
36. Ibid., p. 634.
37. George Peter Lamb, interview by Leo Damore, Washington, D.C., December
42. “Laborer Is Charged in Slaying of Artist; Mrs. Meyer Shot to Death on
Towpath,” Evening Star, October 13, 1964, p. B-1.
45. Dr. Linwood L. Rayford, interview by Leo Damore, Washington, D.C.,
February 19, 1991.
47. Trial transcript, pp. 71–75.
48. Ibid., pp. 71–72.
49. Ibid., pp. 71–75.
50. Rayford, interview.
Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Key Bridge (Daniel Lobo / Flickr – CC0 1.0).
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