Who killed President John F. Kennedy’s mistress, and why?
In searching for the answers to this mystery, author Peter Janney came upon what seem to be the jagged fragments of an even bigger picture.
Previously, we posted excerpts from Janney’s remarkable book on the murder of Kennedy’s mistress, Mary Pinchot Meyer — 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). The excerpts were from Chapter 2, which we broke up into three parts, here, here, and here.
We now present the first of two more excerpts, taken from Chapter 12 (but with added subheading).
In this installment, Janney describes the amazing things he hears during his search for the killer, and his frustrating attempts to substantiate these stories. They are fascinating though unproven.
But the essential parts of the story are proven fact.
And, by the way, the assassination of Kennedy — the crime of the century — seems connected to Meyer’s murder.
–WhoWhatWhy Introduction by Milicent Cranor
“We do it better”
With New England blanketed by a winter blizzard in early 2004, I found myself stranded in Santa Monica, California, when my return flight to Boston was canceled. Rescheduling at a local travel agency, I ran into Hollywood actor Peter Graves.
Graves, readers may recall, was one of the stars of the 1966 television series Mission Impossible. The show was a fictionalized chronicle of an ultra secret team of American government agents known as the Impossible Missions Force. Peter Graves played the part of Jim Phelps, the team leader who began each episode selecting a cadre of skilled contract agents to accomplish the assigned clandestine mission.
Each week a new episode followed the exploits of the elite Impossible Missions Force as it employed the latest technological gadgets and state-of-the-art disguises in an effort to sabotage unfriendly governments, dictators, crime syndicates — any enemy of American hegemony. The organization that masterminded these covert operations was never revealed, yet a little imagination led to the doorstep of the CIA. So successful was Mission Impossible, it has currently (as of 2011) spawned four blockbuster Hollywood action films starring Tom Cruise.
As Peter Graves and I waited in line, I introduced myself, then started regaling him with how I had watched the show with my father, who had been instantly enamored, never wanting to miss an episode. Mentioning my father’s CIA career, and how he’d been such a fan of Graves’s character, Jim Phelps, I shared with him the memory of one particularly exciting episode, filled with intricate disguises, duplicity, and intrigue.
At the end of the episode, my father had abruptly chortled, intriguingly smiling, finally blurting out, “We do it better.”
“I’m not at all surprised,” Peter Graves shot back. “We had several ex-CIA people who worked with the writers for the show. We could never have thought a lot of that stuff up on our own.”
“I’ve had the feeling I was kinda set up there”
The serendipity of this encounter eluded me for months. For years during my research, the “Rubik’s Cube” of the murder of Mary Meyer had remained impenetrable — until a mysterious linchpin was uncovered and further corroborated.
It was only then that I began to understand the ingenious design that had been employed — one that created the illusion of something very different from what had actually occurred.
Throughout the three years Leo Damore [an investigative journalist] spent interviewing attorney Dovey Roundtree [attorney for the accused Ray Crump Jr.], the two were unequivocally convinced that Ray Crump Jr. could never have murdered Mary Pinchot Meyer. The seasoned defense attorney, imbued with an instinctive, gut-level feeling for who people really were — saints and murderers alike — never forgot her impressions upon first meeting Crump.
“He was,” Roundtree said in her 2009 autobiography, “incapable of clear communication, incapable of complex thought, incapable of grasping the full weight of his predicament, incapable most of all, of a murder executed with the stealth and precision and forethought of Mary Meyer’s [murder].”1
Yet tow-truck driver Henry Wiggins Jr. had, in fact, seen somebody standing over Mary’s corpse within fifteen seconds or so right after the second, final shot rang out. Whoever it was, he might well have been approximately “5 feet 8 inches” in height and weighed “185 pounds.” But it couldn’t have been Ray Crump.
Indeed, the most intriguing aspect of Wiggins’s testimony during the trial concerned the appearance, clothes, and demeanor of the man he saw standing over the body.
Wiggins had described the color and style of the clothes in some detail — dark trousers, black shoes, a beige-colored waist-length zippered jacket, and a dark-plaid brimmed golf cap — all of which matched what Crump had been wearing that day. Prosecutor Alfred Hantman had explicitly asked Wiggins about the appearance of the man he saw standing over the body:
HANTMAN: Could you tell the court and the jury the state of the jacket at the time you saw it on the individual who stood over the body of Mary Meyer?
WIGGINS: The jacket appeared to be zipped.
HANTMAN: Did you see the jacket torn in any manner at the time?
WIGGINS: I didn’t notice any tear.2
Nor had Wiggins mentioned seeing any stains — blood or anything else — on the zipped-up, light-colored beige jacket worn by the man who supposedly, just seconds before, had been engaged for more than one minute in a violent, bloody struggle during which the first gunshot, according to the coroner, had produced “a considerable amount of external bleeding.”3
In fact, Wiggins never indicated anything about the man’s appearance being in any way disheveled, given the murder that had just taken place. Neither his demeanor nor his clothes had ever, according to Wiggins’s testimony, indicated the man had been in any struggle just seconds before. His golf cap was perfectly in place; his jacket, clean and zipped.
Also intriguing was the demeanor of the man. Upon looking up and seeing Wiggins staring at him, he was composed and unconcerned — certainly not at all agitated or anxious that Wiggins had spotted him.
HANTMAN: Now, what, if anything did you see this man do who you say was standing over a woman on the towpath at that time?
WIGGINS: Well, at that time, when I saw him standing over her, he looked up.
HANTMAN: Looked up where?
WIGGINS: Looked up towards the wall of the canal where I was standing.
HANTMAN: Were you looking directly at him at that point?
WIGGINS: I was looking at him.
HANTMAN: Then what happened?
WIGGINS: I ducked down behind the wall at that time, not too long, and I come back up from behind the wall to see him turning around and shoving something in his pocket.4
The man then, Wiggins added, “turned around and walked [author’s emphasis] over straight away from the body, down over the hill [embankment].”5
It was as if he wanted Wiggins to see him before he, according to Wiggins, calmly walked away over the embankment. His unflustered demeanor appeared to contrast sharply with that of a trembling, petrified Ray Crump, only because they weren’t the same person.
Nearly thirty years later, in 1992, Leo Damore interviewed Henry Wiggins. The government’s star witness still vividly remembered, Damore said, the man standing over the woman’s body.
“He wasn’t afraid,” Wiggins recalled to Damore. “He didn’t appear to be worried that he’d been caught in the act. He looked straight at me.”
Ray Crump’s acquittal, however, had come as a surprise to Wiggins. He confided to Damore that he felt “strung along” by the prosecution and had been “used” to present their case. After Wiggins testified, Hantman told him that he “hadn’t done well as a witness.” Wiggins told Damore, “I just told the truth as I saw it. That’s all. The police didn’t do a damn thing to support it.”6
As the interview came to an end, Henry Wiggins proffered one last reflection about what had happened that day.
“You know, sometimes I’ve had the feeling I was kinda set up there that morning to see what I saw.”7 It was the kind of remark that wouldn’t have been lost on a crime sleuth — someone like Sherlock Holmes, or Leo Damore.
Dressed to Kill
Almost from the moment Lieutenant William L. Mitchell, USA, had appeared at D.C Metropolitan Police headquarters the day after Mary’s murder, attorney Dovey Roundtree’s suspicions had been aroused. Mitchell told police he not only believed he had passed the murder victim as he ran eastward toward Key Bridge from Fletcher’s Boat House that day, but also that he was sure he had passed a “Negro male” following her.
His description of the man and his clothes closely matched Wiggins’s.
[Ed.: Mitchell had said the “Negro male” was about his own (Mitchell’s) size, which was 5 feet 8 inches and 145 pounds. But Crump, according to his driver’s license, was 5 foot 3 ½, and 130 pounds — considerably smaller than Mitchell. And, unlike Wiggins, Mitchell had a much closer view of the “Negro male,” which makes his description all the more suspicious.]
In an effort to convict Crump, neither the police nor the prosecution team had bothered to investigate William L. Mitchell’s story. Carefully and methodically during the trial, Mitchell additionally described how he had passed “a couple walking together twice,” as well as another runner, also passed twice, someone that he thought “was a young student… about twenty, wearing bermuda [sic] shorts.”8 Mitchell said he first came upon the couple “on the road leading down to the canal [towpath] near Key Bridge.”
Having run out to Fletcher’s Boat House, Mitchell claimed to have passed the couple a second time “half way between Key Bridge and Fletcher’s…. And this time I was running back from Fletcher’s and they were walking West at the time.” Mitchell said he twice passed the other runner “wearing bermuda shorts,” both times “close to Fletcher’s Boat House.” All of this took place, he testified, before he stopped at the westward end of the narrow footbridge to allow the westward-headed Mary Meyer to cross.9
Nobody, however, had corroborated Mitchell’s story, or ever testified to seeing Mitchell on the canal towpath the day Mary Meyer was murdered.
The reader will recall that police officer Roderick Sylvis, having raced to Fletcher’s Boat House to close off the exit within minutes after the murder, had himself encountered a white couple, “a young man and woman… in their thirties” walking westward about “fifty feet” from Fletcher’s Boat House approximately ten to fifteen minutes after he and his partner, Frank Bignotti, arrived.
However, the officers, in a peculiar lapse of procedure, had neglected to get the couple’s names. Moreover, no matter in which direction the “bermuda shorts” runner was headed, at some point he, too, would have run into the murder scene, either before or after the police had arrived. But his identity, like that of the young white couple, would remain unknown.
With such an intense, all-encompassing, citywide — even national — media blitz taking place, why hadn’t the “bermuda shorts” runner and the young white couple come forward to police, as William L. Mitchell had? Why hadn’t the police broadcast a request for them to do so?
Throughout their many hours of tape-recorded discussions that began in 1990, both Dovey Roundtree and Leo Damore independently reached the same inevitable conclusion: the personage of William L. Mitchell was highly suspicious. Roundtree had tried in vain to speak with Mitchell before the trial, she told Damore, but he would never return her phone calls.
During several years of intense research, Leo Damore did what he did best: doggedly and exhaustively chased down any lead in order to get what he wanted. His signature tenacity took him on a journey that began with Mitchell’s listing in the Department of Defense Telephone Directory [DoD Directory] in the fall of 1964.
Upon giving his account to police the day after the murder, William Mitchell said he was stationed at the Pentagon. His listing in the DoD Directory read: “Mitchell Wm L 2nd Lt USA DATCOM BE1035 Pnt.” It included a telephone extension of 79918.10
Mitchell also gave his address as 1500 Arlington Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia — a building known as the Virginian. According to the Arlington telephone directory in 1964, Mitchell lived in apartment 1022, and his telephone number was (703) 522-2872. His name would remain listed until 1968, and then vanish.
During Damore’s extensive search, William L. Mitchell was nowhere to be found. He had left no forwarding address. Neither the directories of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point nor of the Army itself produced any identification or record of any William Mitchell stationed at the Pentagon in 1964. No record was ever located.
At the time of Mitchell’s trial appearance, Washington Star reporter Roberta Hornig identified Mitchell as “a Georgetown University mathematics teacher.”11 But no one at Georgetown University could ever locate any record of any “William L. Mitchell” having ever taught there. If Mitchell had been employed by Georgetown University, Damore reasoned, he might have been using a different name, or the record had been intentionally removed.
Sometime in 1992, Damore interviewed former CIA contract analyst David MacMichael, who still lived in the Washington area. The two soon became friends. “Leo wanted to know who this guy [William L. Mitchell] really was,” said MacMichael in 2004 during an interview for this book. He was sure he [Mitchell] had misrepresented himself as to his real identity.”
On one occasion, MacMichael recalled, he and Damore drove out to Mitchell’s former address, the apartment building at 1500 Arlington Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia. There, MacMichael confirmed to Damore that the address had been a known “CIA safe house.”12
That observation was further corroborated by another former CIA operative, Donald Deneselya, who added that during his employment at the Agency in the early 1960s, the CIA regularly used faculty positions at Georgetown University as covers for many of its covert operations personnel.
That fact was further substantiated by former disaffected Agency veteran Victor Marchetti, whose books — The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence and The Rope Dancer — the CIA had tried to suppress from publication.13 Any trail of Mitchell’s identity or subsequent whereabouts, however, appeared to have vaporized.
Still searching for Mitchell in early 2005, I was introduced to military researcher and investigative journalist Roger Charles. A former lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, Charles was a Naval Academy graduate who had been a platoon leader in Vietnam before serving under the late colonel David Hackworth as part of the organization Soldiers for the Truth (now called Stand for the Troops).
Early in his journalism career, Roger Charles had fired his first salvo with a Newsweek cover story entitled “Sea of Lies.” The story exposed the Pentagon’s attempted cover-up of the USS Vincennes downing of an Iranian civilian airliner in 1988.
In 2004, Charles had been part of a 60 Minutes II team headed by Dan Rather that aired the first photographs to reveal some of the most unconscionable American military behavior since the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War: the prisoner abuse in Iraq at Abu Ghraib. Charles had been an associate producer for the 60 Minutes II segment, “Abuse at Abu Ghraib.” He and his colleagues provided the viewing public with a picture of the horrors inflicted by American soldiers on Iraqi prisoners. That year, the segment would win the prestigious Peabody Award.14
Roger Charles had learned his craft under the tutelage of former marine colonel William R. Corson, author of the controversial book The Betrayal. Courageously exposing President Lyndon Johnson’s corrupt, deliberate deception during the Vietnam War in 1968, Corson created a huge crisis that nearly brought him a court-martial. However, had Corson not done what he did, the Vietnam War would undoubtedly have been even further prolonged.
Corson went on to write several more books, including The Armies of Ignorance, Widows, and The New KGB: Engine of Soviet Power, which he coauthored with Robert T. Crowley, an elite operative in the CIA’s covert action directorate and a close colleague and friend of Jim Angleton’s. (All three individuals will be discussed further in the next chapter.) Not only did Roger Charles become Corson’s protégé and chief research assistant, but a trusted confidant, and eventually the executor of the Corson estate.
With regard to William Mitchell, Roger Charles was asked to review Mitchell’s office listing in the 1964 DoD telephone directory. Through his own channels, he sent an inquiry to the U.S. Army military database in St. Louis for any “William Mitchell” who was stationed at the Pentagon in 1964. There was none. Further examining other Pentagon directories, Charles discovered that Mitchell’s name no longer appeared after the fall 1964 edition.
He next investigated the military personnel who were located physically adjacent to Mitchell’s alleged office (BE 1035), creating a list of approximately twenty individuals. Fifteen of those individuals could be verified through their military records, but none of the other five servicemen — Mitchell and four others in adjacent offices — had any military record in any service database. The phantom William L. Mitchell had indeed evaporated into thin air.
“This is a typical pattern of people involved in covert intelligence work,” Charles later reported to me. “I’ve come across this kind of thing many times. People like this don’t want to be found. They’re taught how to evade all the conventional bureaucracies and channels. They don’t leave any traces. These people work undercover in places like the Pentagon all the time. Given what I see here — the fact that he’s got no matching military record I can locate — it’s almost a certainty this guy Mitchell, whoever he was or is, had some kind of covert intelligence connection. It’s very strong in my opinion.”15
“Heard he killed a lot of people.”
Sometimes serendipity entwines with providence. In December 2009, I read H. P. Albarelli’s recently published book, A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments. Albarelli’s magnum opus took me by the hand and held me hostage for several days.
Extensively researched, the book not only provided the most convincing account of how the CIA “terminated” one of its own, but possibly the best history ever written of the Agency’s infamous MKULTRA program. Albarelli and I soon began talking, and he inquired about my progress. I mumbled something about the trail having ended at “1500 Arlington Boulevard” in Arlington, Virginia.
After a moment of silence, Albarelli told me he had lived at that same address when he was a student at George Washington University many years ago. I then mentioned my phantom — William L. Mitchell — and some of the dead-end information I had amassed.
“William Mitchell?” Albarelli repeated. He said he would get back to me later; he thought he had come across the name before. Indeed, he had.
An important Albarelli source — someone whom the author had known for many years and whose information had been corroborated by other sources — had revealed in September 2001 something more about the identity of William Mitchell.
The source, whose name Albarelli did not want to reveal, specifically identified a man by the name of “William Mitchell” as a member of “Army Special Forces kill teams” that operated domestically for the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA). The source said he and Mitchell had become friends over the years.
When Albarelli had further pressed his source in 2001 as to Mitchell’s identity, he said Mitchell was often connected with the Air Force, and that he sometimes used the aliases “Allen Crawford” and “Walter Morse.”
At this juncture in his 2001 interview, Albarelli had written in his notes that Mitchell had been “involved” in the “Mary Cord Meyer case.” “Meyer murdered on towpath,” Albarelli’s notes read. Mitchell “did it,” the source had told him, “at the request of the Agency’s [CIA’s] Domestic K [contracts] Office in D.C.”16
Stunned by this sudden revelation, I asked Albarelli if he would telephone the source and confirm several of the statements he’d made during his 2001 interview. In his first attempt at this follow-up, the source wasn’t home, but his wife, whom Albarelli also knew well, was. He asked her about Mitchell. She clearly remembered him, but wasn’t at all fond of him. Mitchell and her husband, she told Albarelli, always drank too much when they were together; “they were drunk and crazy for days,” she said. She found herself “nervous” when Mitchell was around because “he had guns, all kinds of guns, all the time.” She told Albarelli that during one of Mitchell’s visits, things had gotten so out of control, she had asked him to leave.17
When Albarelli called back later that day, he reported he did finally reach the source, but he wasn’t amenable to talking about Mitchell, or even acknowledging whether Mitchell was still alive. Did Mitchell have kids? Albarelli asked his source. “Yeah, he had a few kids but I never met them or his wife,” the source replied. (The reader will come to know why this question was important.)
Bluntly, Albarelli then asked his source whether he remembered telling him in 2001 that Mitchell had killed Mary Meyer. “Heard he killed a lot of people,” replied the now tight-lipped source. “What difference does it make now?”18
While the Albarelli source’s statements were provocative, they could never be verified; nor would the source ever meet or talk with me directly. At this point, it still wasn’t any clearer what further role, if any, Lt. William L. Mitchell had played, other than appearing to cleverly frame Ray Crump, Jr. at the trial.
By the end of 1992, “playing his cards close to his vest,” Leo Damore had learned something else. In the course of his interview with Timothy Leary in 1990, Damore told Leary that Mary’s real diary still existed and that he believed he had discovered its whereabouts.
“Angleton offered the diary in 1980 to a person who I know…. I know where it is,” Damore told Leary. Then he added, “The man who I believe has it is maddeningly this week in Hawaii.”19
Leo had sometimes cryptically referred to Mary’s diary as “the Hope Diamond” of the Kennedy assassination, and perhaps for this reason, he faithfully guarded not only the fact that he had eventually come into possession of it, but its contents as well. He finally revealed both to his attorney Jimmy Smith on March 31, 1993, in a conversation that will shortly be discussed in more detail.
The person to whom Angleton had shown Mary’s diary in 1980 was a man named Bernie Yoh. In 1980, Yoh ran an organization in Washington called Accuracy in Media (AIM). Founded in 1969, AIM described its purpose as the pursuit of “fairness, balance, and accuracy in news reporting.” It claimed to do for print media what the Fox News Network now purports to do for TV news — providing “fair and balanced” reporting.
A simple survey of AIM’s intimate connection with many conservative causes, however, left little doubt as to its real purpose: AIM was a mouthpiece for extreme right-wing views. In addition, early in the Vietnam era, Bernie Yoh had his own affiliations with CIA undercover work, although he denied ever having worked for the Agency.20
When David Martin’s Wilderness of Mirrors was published in 1980, Newsweek carried a positive review of the book that had infuriated former CIA counterintelligence chief Jim Angleton, only because of Martin’s unflattering portrayal of him. The book details the cause of Angleton’s termination in disgrace from the Agency in late 1974. His paranoia had, for years, paralyzed crucial intelligence gathering by the Agency. He had also violated innumerable laws, as had the Agency as a whole, through mail tampering and privacy invasions of hundreds of individual citizens. Finally, CIA director William Colby fired him.
Angleton was devastated. He sought out Bernie Yoh at AIM, asking him to “counter-spin” the recent Newsweek story in a way that was favorable to him. Yoh willingly obliged by publishing “An AIM Report” in defense of Angleton. In his 1990 interview with Leo Damore, Bernie Yoh revealed more about Angleton’s astonishing behavior in 1980 — a time when the battered, bruised reputation of the CIA’s most elite Cold Warrior had taken a huge tumble.
The grateful Angleton started hanging out at AIM’s offices. One day, according to Yoh, Angleton had “flashed his credentials,” mentioning JFK and the towpath murder of his mistress Mary Pinchot Meyer, also mentioning her tell-all diary.
“Angleton had said, and not without a bit of pride showing,” Yoh told Damore,“‘I have the diary,’ almost wanting me to ask him to produce it, eager to share the special secrets he had tended with such skill during his glory days at CIA.” That conversation, Yoh remembered, had taken place in light of some prior discussion about the Kennedy administration and related matters. At the time, Yoh himself had not fully grasped what Angleton was actually referring to.
“What diary?” Yoh asked Angleton at the time. “That woman that was killed in Georgetown. I took care of everything,” Angleton had said. According to Yoh, Angleton then produced the diary which he still had intact in his possession, and handed it to Yoh — to show him “the real Kennedy.” “It’s her diary,” Angleton said, as he gave what was presumably a copy to Yoh.21
At some point, Yoh shared with Damore what Angleton had given him. This was how Leo Damore had finally come into possession of Mary’s true diary.
In his conclusive attempt to finally understand how the murder of Mary Meyer had been orchestrated, Leo Damore consulted former Air Force colonel and CIA liaison L. Fletcher Prouty in 1992.22 Prouty, the reader will recall, knew all about the inner workings of America’s intelligence apparatus, having been summoned to countless classified briefings with Allen Dulles and his brother, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, even at their homes when necessary.
Prouty had also attended many of the CIA’s MKULTRA meetings and was considered part of “the nerve center” of the “military–industrial complex” during its establishment in the late 1950s. As one of the architects of America’s secret government, Fletcher Prouty had created a network of clandestine agents throughout the military and other government agencies, including the FBI.
But after facilitating many CIA coups d’état around the globe, including military support for these operations, he became deeply disturbed when he discovered the CIA’s involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy. He resigned his Air Force commission in 1964 and began writing the secret history of the Cold War.23
Prouty’s two books, The Secret Team (1973) and JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy (1996), have remained two of the most authoritative works of that era. It wasn’t an accident that film director Oliver Stone used Fletcher Prouty as the template for the character of X, played by Donald Sutherland, in the film JFK.
At the end of 1992, unable to locate Mitchell or any forwarding address, Leo Damore had reached an impasse. His last resort was an attempt to send a letter to Mitchell to his last known address — the alleged CIA “safe house” at 1500 Arlington Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia.
While the actual contents of Damore’s letter were never known, it possibly had contained something that would “motivate” Mitchell to reply. Sure enough, sometime between the evening of March 30, 1993, and early morning of March 31, Leo Damore’s telephone rang. The caller identified himself as “William Mitchell.” He had received Leo’s letter, he said, and had also read Leo’s book Senatorial Privilege. He agreed to talk with Damore, but made it clear he didn’t want to be labeled the “fall guy” in history. The two reportedly talked for four hours.
“Mary — Stepped in Shit”
At approximately 8:30 on the morning of March 31, 1993, the telephone of James (“Jimmy”) H. Smith, Esq., in Falmouth, Massachusetts, began to ring… [ Ed.: Smith was a longtime Kennedy insider and member of the Kennedy “Irish Mafia.” He was also a close friend of Damore as well as his lawyer.]
“I’ve solved the case!” were Leo’s first excited words when Smith answered the phone. Reaching for the yellow legal pad he unfailingly kept on his desk next to his phone, attorney James H. Smith began writing what would turn out to be six pages of notes, all of which he meticulously saved. The following account is reconstructed from Smith’s original notes (see appendix 3), interpreted and explained by Smith over many hours of reviewing their meaning and context.
“I cracked it!” Smith remembered Leo shouting on the phone. “I got the guy — and the [JFK] assassination link, too!” Smith quickly began writing, trying to keep up with Leo’s exhilaration. Damore mentioned a name, and Jimmy asked him to repeat it:
“William L. Mitchell,” said Damore. “He was an ex-FBI man!” Damore then revealed that he had Mary’s real diary in his possession (“The diary found!”) and that in the diary, Mary had made a connection between the Kennedy assassination and the CIA that involved “James Angleton.”
Mitchell, said Damore, had confessed to him a few hours earlier that morning: The murder of Mary Meyer had been “a CIA operation” in which Mitchell had been the assassin.24
“Mitchell” confirmed that his name, “William L. Mitchell,” was an alias and that he now lived under another alias in Virginia. He said his position at the Pentagon in 1964 had been just “a light bulb job,” a cover for covert intelligence work.
He had done stints in the Air Force, the Army, and the Navy, he told Damore, all of which were also part of his cover, and he had also been “an FBI man” when circumstances required it. His listed residence at 1500 Arlington Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia, Mitchell told Damore, was in fact a CIA safe house. He was now seventy-four years old and had five children.
It had been “an operation,” said Mitchell — or whoever the caller was. He had been “assigned” in September 1964 to be part of a “surveillance team” that was monitoring Mary Meyer.
Mitchell appeared to suggest that the trigger for the surveillance had been the release of the Warren Report:
“24 Sept Warren Report. She hit [the] roof.” Damore reiterated that Mary had bought a copy of the paperback version of the Warren Report when it first came out.25 She was outraged by the cover-up taking place. According to Smith’s notes, “She went to husb [ex-husband, Cord Meyer] + [and] husb [Cord] to Angleton…”
This particular detail came from Mary’s diary. Damore was emphatic: It was the “Angleton connection w/CIA [with the CIA]” and the CIA’s orchestration of the events in Dallas that put her in harm’s way.
“Mary – stepped in shit! She would not back down. Her [she was] too strong + too powerful.”26
Throughout 1993, Leo Damore had always been emphatic, as he was that morning with Jimmy Smith, that it wasn’t Mary’s affair with Jack that had put her in jeopardy; it was what she had been able to put together, as Smith’s notes revealed, about “the murder of JFK.”
Her indignation at the cover-up in the Warren Report pushed her to confront her ex-husband, Cord, and possibly Jim Angleton as well. Smith’s notes, however, indicated that it had to have been Cord who conveyed to Jim Angleton how infuriated Mary had become.
Whether Mary subsequently had a separate confrontation with Jim Angleton alone, or with Cord present, wasn’t clear. But it was almost certain both men realized — knowing Mary as well as they did — that she wasn’t the kind of person who was going to keep quiet.27
Regarding the identity of Mitchell, Damore told Smith: “I got [the] word [about him] — he’s a killer — + [and] he [also] has 5 kids!”28
It appeared — though it was never substantiated — that “William L. Mitchell” had been a trained assassin. While Fletcher Prouty’s former network of agents had included FBI personnel as well as CIA operatives,29 and, in addition to what author H. A. Albarelli had been told by his longtime source in 2001 — namely that “Mitchell” had been involved in the Mary Meyer murder, and that he, in fact, “did it at the request of the Agency’s [CIA’s] Domestic K [contracts] Office in D.C.”30 — this could never be corroborated.
Yet Mitchell (or someone impersonating him) had told Damore something almost identical: “On the murder… A CIA K [contract]…. A CIA individual.”31
On page 5 of his notes, Smith wrote: “Leo had talked to Prouty (Oliver Stone guy.)” It then appeared that Fletcher Prouty had assisted Damore in understanding more clearly how Mary Meyer’s murder had itself been a microcosmic copy of what had taken place in Dallas.
Like Lee Harvey Oswald, Ray Crump Jr. had been used as the patsy. And, as in Dallas, Mary’s murder had all been planned in advance, designed to take place in an open setting, away from home territory — creating the illusion of an arbitrary, indiscriminate randomness to explain the event. The murder, Smith’s notes read, had been “set up away from [Mary’s] home in [a] public place.”
It was followed by the speedy apprehension of a plausible suspect, a patsy who happened to have been in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The police would also unknowingly feed the details to the media that would, in turn, be used to publicly imply the suspect’s guilt, complete with mug shots of suspect Ray Crump in handcuffs at the murder scene and the police station.
It had all been “standard CIA procedure,” Mitchell said to Damore, as recorded in Smith’s notes. The couple on the towpath that morning — and seen by police officer Roderick Sylvis — had been spotters for the operation, Mitchell disclosed, as was “the bermuda [sic] shorts” runner that no one had seen except Mitchell.32
Scribbled at the bottom of page 3 of Jimmy’s notes were the words “New Agent Richard Pine.”33 Richard Pine had recently become Leo Damore’s new literary agent. “Did Leo ever tell you that he thought he had solved the murder of Mary Meyer?” I asked Pine in the fall of 2004.
“Yeah, I believe he did,” recalled Pine. “I remember he had lots of tape. I think I remember he kept them in some kind of private place where no one could get at it…. He felt he had such dynamite material on such powerful people.”34
Yet despite the Mitchell bombshell revelations Damore possessed, all of which he recorded, he never turned in a manuscript for Burden of Guilt to his new agent. Two and half years later, Leo Damore, on October 2, 1995, would take his life, one day after William Safire reviewed Ben Bradlee’s memoir A Good Life in the New York Times.
Damore’s former wife, June Davison, kindly gave me as much assistance as she could in my attempt to locate Damore’s tapes. At my request in 2004, she made searches of their home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, but could find nothing. I even went to Damore’s last residence in Centerbrook, Connecticut, where he had received the phone call from Mitchell (or someone professing to be Mitchell) and then placed the call to Jimmy Smith on the morning of March 31, 1993. Fruitlessly, I scoured the area around the building, thinking he might have buried the tapes somewhere near, but to no avail.
In April 1993, shortly after the Mitchell call, Leo Damore returned to Washington and met with his research assistant, Mark O’Blazney, for lunch at the Henley Park Hotel. In 2008, in an interview for this book, Mark O’Blazney and his wife, Tanya, a Georgetown University Russian language instructor, talked about the luncheon. O’Blazney had worked for Damore for more than two years. He, too, had come to the conclusion that whoever William Mitchell was, he had to have been involved in Mary’s murder.
O’Blazney still vividly recalled the April 1993 meeting with Damore. “Leo was very excited that day,” he said. “He told me he’d taped the call with Mitchell. That day at lunch he had the transcription already completed and kept referring to it.” O’Blazney’s wife, though not present at the luncheon, corroborated what Mark had told her later on that after his meeting with Damore.
“Part of Mitchell’s plan,” O’Blazney remembered Damore saying, “was maybe taking Mary down when a low-flying commercial airplane was flying over on its way into National [airport]… something about muffling the sound of gunshots. But I also remember Leo saying Mitchell told him that witnesses were placed at the murder scene. The whole thing was a set-up.”35
But Damore’s comments to his faithful research scribe still remained unsubstantiated; it also raised the possibility that Damore himself may have been misled into believing that he had actually talked to the same Mitchell who had testified at the 1965 trial.
For Part 2, please go here.
1. Katie McCabe and Dovey Johnson Roundtree, Justice Older Than the Law: The Life of Dovey Johnson Roundtree (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009). p. 191.
2. Trial transcript, United States of America v. Ray Crump, Jr., Defendant, Criminal Case No. 930-64, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., July 20, 1965, p. 211.
3. Ibid., p. 178.
4. Ibid., pp. 136–137.
5. Ibid., p. 137.
6. Henry Wiggins, interview by Leo Damore, Washington, D.C., April 2, 1992.
8. Trial transcript, pp. 658–659.
9. Ibid., pp. 657–659.
10. Department of Defense Telephone Directory, Fall 1964, Area Code 202 Dial Oxford Plus Extension Number or Liberty 5-6700 • Interdepartmental Code II, p. 91. This particular directory was part of Leo Damore’s material and research. All past Defense Department directories can located at the Library of Congress.
11. Roberta Hornig, “Teacher Says He Passed by Mrs. Meyer,” Washington Star, July 27, 1965.
12. David MacMichael, interview by the author, June 22, 2004. Leo Damore interviewed Mr. MacMichael repeatedly during 1992.
13. Donald E. Deneselya, interview by the author, Washington, D.C., May 29,
2007; Victor Marchetti, interview by the author, Leesburg, Va., October 4, 2007.
14. As of 2011, Roger Charles is coauthoring a book with Andrew Gumbel about Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, entitled Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed and Why It Still Matters (William Morrow, 2012).
15. Roger Charles, interview by the author, June 10, 2005.
16. Confidential written interview notes from author H. P. Albarelli Jr. dated
September 2001 and faxed to the author on February 11, 2010.
17. H. P. Albarelli Jr., communications by email and telephone with the author, February 12, 2010.
18. Ibid.; personal communications between H. P. Albarelli Jr. and his confidential source on February 12 and 13, 2010, as reported to the author via Albarelli’s emails and follow-up telephone conversations.
19. Timothy Leary, interview by Leo Damore, Washington, D.C., November
20. Hilaire du Berrier, Background to Betrayal: The Tragedy of Vietnam (Appleton, Wis.: Western Islands, 1965), p. 143. Du Berrier documents that Bernie Yoh did “public relations” work for the president of South Vietnam, writing that “Bernie Yoh was the stooge to fly back and forth between Washington and Saigon; to Saigon so he could say he had been there, then back to America to tell editors, women’s clubs and congressmen, ‘Don’t believe what you hear. I have just come from Vietnam.I have been in the jungles with the guerrillas, killing Communists, and we are winning. You are not going to desert Vietnam as you did my country, are you?” Author David Martin said, however, that “Yoh denied to me that he had ever worked for the CIA, saying that he thought they were too stupid for him to have anything to do with them, but he had lectured to the U.S. Air War College on a subject in which he claimed world-class expertise, psychological warfare.” See David Martin, “Spook Journalist Goulden,” August 11, 1998, DC Dave’s, www.dcdave.com/article1/081198.html.
21. Bernie Yoh, telephone interview by Leo Damore, Washington, D.C., October
30, 1990. Damore wrote two pages of typewritten notes on the call. It’s not known whether Damore taped the telephone interview.
22. Leo Damore, to his attorney, James H. Smith, on the morning of March 31, 1993. The exact date of Damore’s communication with Prouty is not known. See Appendix 3.
23. L. Fletcher. Prouty, The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World (Costa Mesa, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1973), Passim. Prouty’s duties at the Pentagon were to provide the CIA with the military resources needed to carry out its clandestine operations. He created a secret, well-trained network of agents throughout the military service sectors and U.S. government agencies, including the FBI and the FAA, and inside various foreign governments.
24. James H. Smith, Esq., interview by the author, April 7, 2004.
25. Leo Damore stated to this author on several occasions starting in 1992 that Mary Meyer had bought a paperback copy of the Warren Commission’s report when it first went on sale in September 1964.
26. Ibid. See also Appendix 3.
27. Leo Damore interview by the author, Centerbrook, Conn., April 1993.
28. See Appendix 3.
29. Prouty, Secret Team, p. 141, p. 268, pp. 335–336, p. 418.
30. Albarelli, confidential written interview notes.
31. Smith, interview. See also page 2 of Appendix 3.
32. Ibid. See also page 6 of Appendix 3.
33. 33 See page 3 of Appendix 3.
34. Richard Pine, interview by the author, October 21, 2004.
35. Mark O’Blazney, interview by the author, Washington, D.C., November 27, 2008.
Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from crime scene (MU.EDU) and man in fedora (Matt Deckard Apparel / Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 3.0).