The Big Dig
For those who have followed the James Files’ story over the years it may be hard to believe that the tale had its foundation with what was described as an archeological dig in Dealey Plaza over 20 years ago. Sometime during October 1987 twenty-six year old John Rademacher of Granbury, Texas discovered two spent .222 shell casings while poking around Dealey Plaza with a metal detector. In May of 1990 he sent a follow up “To Whom It May Concern” letter to an unnamed television network. In his opening paragraph he indicated, “This is an update to the letters, diagrams and pictures that I sent to your show in October 1989 on the JFK assassination.” Obviously John was trying to get the attention of the television media.
Included with his five page letter was a diagram of Dealey Plaza detailing the location of two .222 shell casings he discovered at opposite ends of the plaza, six pages reproduced from a gun catalog showing various rifles that fired the .222 caliber bullet, and a magazine page with photographs of a Remington XP-100 pistol. After his discovery of the two casings John started a search for weapons capable of firing the casings. In the end he determined, “The gun I have matched to the .222 bullets is a Remington XP 100 long range target pistol.”
I wonder if John, at the time of his revelation, knew the exotic weapon he had selected didn’t fire the .222. It was designed for the .221. When I contacted the Remington Arms staff expert on the XP-100 on April 1, 1998 he stated the pistol was never chambered for the .222. Additionally, in rechecking John’s material I discovered part of the XP-100 page had been changed. The last digit in .221 had been altered in pen or pencil to read .222.
From Out of the West There Appeared
During the summer of 1990 a self-proclaimed “certified legal Investigator” and friend of John’s named Joe West teamed up with a twenty-nine year old Midland, Texas man by the name of Ricky Don White. West, Ricky and many others were convinced that Ricky’s father, deceased ex-Dallas police officer Roscoe White, was involved in the Kennedy assassination. West, Ricky and the staff of the now defunct JFK Assassination Information Center held a press conference on August 6, 1990. They offered a portion of their evidence supposedly showing that Roscoe White was the infamous “Grassy Knoll” assassin. Within days researchers found discrepancies contained in some of the evidence presented during the press conference.
Because of these evidentiary inconsistencies the JFK Assassination Information Center felt it necessary to hold a “closed conference” over the Labor Day weekend. Over 15 researchers were invited in part to “Review the [Texas] Attorney General’s preliminary report and discuss what to do about it.” Texas Attorney General Dan Morales’ report appeared to show he too had found contradictions within the proofs received.
Some of us who attended interpreted the meeting as an attempt to control or stifle further investigation. We knew that Oliver Stone under the banner of Camelot Productions had decided to make a movie about the assassination. What we didn’t know at the time was, just five days prior to the press conference promoting the Roscoe White story, the JFK Assassination Information Center received an $80,000 contract from Camelot Productions to act as consultants.
By 1991 various researchers discovered much of the “evidence” implicating Roscoe White was fabricated. When Stone was shown detailed documentation that the White story was mostly fiction he declined to use the account as a basis for his movie explaining he believed it was “a publicity- seeking hoax.”
In spite of this West still refused to acknowledge there were problems with the White story. He dismissed all evidence to the contrary and continued to soldier on. On September 20, 1990 he held his own press conference in Houston claiming Roscoe White’s widow, Geneva, had discovered a diary proving White’s involvement in the assassination.
After the press conference a former CIA agent, John Stockwell, noted that the diary entries allegedly written over a fifteen year period between 1956 and 1971 were “fresh” and written with the same pen. The consensus was the diary was a fraud. Later Geneva White revealed she created diary entries because she “needed the money.”
By now West’s credibility had completely tanked. This didn’t come as a surprise to some of his acquaintances who were previously quoted in a Texas Monthly magazine article. They “saw him as reckless, comically secretive, and self-aggrandizing – a buffoon who unfailingly introduced himself as ‘a certified legal investigator licensed by the State of Texas,’ as though it was truly something special.”
West continued to ignore the negativity surrounding the White case. By February 1992 he resurfaced for a Houston Post article. He now claimed that he and Houston lawyer Don Ervin had a taped confession from someone named Hugh. Hugh would once again implicate White, along with Chicago mobsters John Roselli, and Charles “Chuckie” Nicoletti in the assassination “if [Hugh] is given immunity.”
Enter the Feds
Shortly after the Houston Post article appeared, sometime in late March or early April of 1992, West was contacted by F.B.I. Agent Zack Shelton of the Beaumont, Texas F.B.I. office. Shelton was trying to determine if West knew anything about organized crime in the Houston area. West, after all, had mentioned Hugh and Hugh’s involvement in organized crime in the Houston Post article. During their meeting Shelton mentioned that a prisoner incarcerated at Stateville Prison in Joliet, Illinois claimed he was involved in the assassination.
Shortly thereafter Joe began corresponding with the prisoner James Sutton a.k.a. James Files. West traveled to Stateville Prison and met with Files in the middle of August of 1992. Joe West died due to heart problems less than a year later on February 13, 1993 so no one except Files knows what transpired during that meeting.
The meeting caused West to abandon the White story and completely embrace Files as the Grassy Knoll assassin. Of course, West had a history of being duped. And it would seem a savvy con such as Files would find it easy to tweak West’s interest. As mentioned previously West was a friend of John Rademacher and was well aware of John’s two shell casings discovery five years earlier. Based upon later assertions made by Files, it became apparent, West revealed information about Rademacher’s discovery to Files. Files would eventually weave one of the two shell casings into his assassination story.
Bob Vernon Enters the Picture
After Joe West’s death that might have been the end of it had it not been for another friend of Joe – Bob Vernon. Vernon a New Orleans music promoter saw in the James Files’ tale the potential for big bucks.
One problem I saw was that Bob was a complete neophyte with respect to the Kennedy assassination. He had great but, in my view, groundless faith in Joe West. In memos Bob would extol Joe’s abilities claiming West had solved “the crime of the century – the Kennedy assassination.” And in spite of evidence to the contrary provided by several researchers Bob still believed that which he found in West’s investigative files.
For example some researchers felt that when West’s evidence in the Roscoe White case collapsed, to save face, he did several things. 1] He claimed he was the one who exposed the story as a hoax. 2] He removed Roscoe White from the Grassy Knoll and replaced him with Files. 3] He discussed Hugh’s taped confession in selective fashion so that Roselli and Nicoletti remained as accomplices to Files instead of White.
Now it was Bob’s turn to interview Files. He did so on May 3, 1993 during which Files confessed that he participated in the assassination. Bob was immediately hooked. Sometime in March of 1994 he set up another interview and this time videotaped Files’ “confession.”
Prior to official release of the tape, Bob informed the media. Even the media, always ready for a new Kennedy assassination story, wasn’t buying. What follows is a quote from an article entitled “Call this JFK tale knoll and void.” by Richard Johnson. It appeared on “Page Six” of the July 27, 1994 New York Post:
“The convict recounted this outlandish tale in two videotaped interviews to Bob Vernon, a Houston producer who is trying to sell the yarn as a TV special for $2 million.”
By 1995 Vernon had invested thousands of dollars promoting the Files’ story. For example on April 28, 1995 he issued a press release which said in part:
“Martinez, CA – Experts on the assassination of John F. Kennedy are standing in line to be on our TV program” says producer Bob Vernon.”
Around the same time he distributed another press release entitled “Cattle Call.” He was willing to sell 30 shares a $20,000 each for JFK Murder Solved which was “headed for production and broadcast on pay-per-view television in November of 1995.”
Eventually the tape was released via Blockbuster video stores in 1996 for the nominal sum of $10. For those researchers who saw the tape, produced by MPI Video of Chicago, the story was so chock full of historical inaccuracies as to make it laughable. However, none of this stopped Bob who proceeded to belittle anyone who refused to believe Files in concert with Roselli and Nicoletti assassinated Kennedy.
Time to Cut the Losses
In the end there were no assassination experts standing in line and no one was purchasing shares in the pay-per view event which never aired as promised. Nothing seemed to work. In 1996 Bob decided to cut his losses and sell his entire investigative collection including the website, JFK Murder Solved, to the highest bidder.
After Bob’s sales announcement, with the exception of occasional embellishments to and defense of Files’ story by various supporters, everything lay dormant. Then almost 7 years later on July 13, 2003 I saw the following exchange posted on the JFK Lancer forum.
“What’s going on with Bob Vernon’s site?”
He responded as follows:
“I have sold all my rights, title and interests in jfkmurdersolved.com due to personal health reasons involving my family. Currently a transition is taking place and the new owners will be re-launching the site and the RealOne site in just a few days. Three years from now I will be publishing my memoirs. Goodbye”
A New Stranger in a Strange Land
Eventually it was learned that the purchaser was Wim Dankbaar.
We are 22 years past Rademacher’s discovery of the two shell casings, 16 years since the late Joe West through Zack Shelton “discovered” Jim Files and dumped the Roscoe White story, 15 years since Bob Vernon picked up and amplified West’s “investigation”, and 6 years since Bob passed the torch to Wim Dankbaar.
Even at this late date Mr. Dankbaar and some of his cohorts use the same tactics Files’ defenders used over 15 years ago. Ask serious questions about holes in the Files case and you are destined to receive self-serving demands for your proofs that Files is not guilty, vitriolic answers and ad hominem attacks coupled with the occasional threat of a law suit.
Moreover with respect to homicide investigations the rule of law is someone is considered innocent until proven guilty. And they must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt based upon a preponderance of the evidence. In the Files case Mr. Dankbaar wants people like me to turn the justice system upside down by allowing him to act as the prosecution! And as the prosecutor, without concrete supporting evidence, he wants us to start with the ASSUMPTION that Files is guilty BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.
If he wants to act as Files’ prosecutor so be it. However, it is not up to anyone else to prove anything with respect to Files’ guilt or innocence. The burden of proof of showing Files guilt beyond a reasonable doubt falls upon him and any others who support the theory that Files is the Grassy Knoll assassin.
Over his career as a “certified legal investigator” and in spite of the warnings of some of his friends and associates, West was duped by Ricky White, Geneva White, “Hugh”, and who knows how many other alleged Kennedy assassination witnesses and hangers on.
I have often wondered why Mr. Dankbaar is so unwilling to disassociate himself from West’s checkered past as an investigator and West’s resulting investigation of Files?
In my opinion he can’t because he would have to admit most of the proofs that Files is the Grassy Knoll assassin were compiled by Joe West someone many considered “reckless, comically secretive, and self-aggrandizing – a buffoon who unfailingly introduced himself as ‘a certified legal investigator licensed by the State of Texas,’ as though it were truly something special.”
August 6, 2009