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by Vince Palamara
Having read Dr. Randy Robertson's excellent article, "The Late-Arriving Fragment: Reality Bites" in the July, 1995, Fourth Decade, and having communicated with Randy on 7/19/95, I feel compelled to follow-up and strengthen the work he did related to the fragments of JFK's skull found in the presidential limousine and elsewhere. Dr. Gary Aguilar, author of another excellent article in the same issue, "The HSCA and the Autopsy Photographic Evidence," was excited by the following information when I spoke to him last year, shortly before COPA '94. Having failed to attend that important symposium and return Dr. Robertson's phone calls during the research/writing of this article, I feel the following information goes a long way toward making amends.
During the course of research and writing my manuscript, "The Third Alternative--Survivor's Guilt: the Secret Service and the JFK Murder," I spoke to and corresponded with some twenty-plus former agents and White House aides from the JFK era, one of whom was Sam Kinney, the driver of the follow-up car on November 22nd (in all, I spoke to Kinney at length three times between 1992 and 1994, and he had much of value to say). However, it was during interviews conducted on 3/5/94 and 4/15/94 that Kinney totally amazed me with details concerning his first-hand observations of the President's wounds. Same told me twice that he saw the back of JFK's head come off immediately when the fatal shot struck him. (Kinney was watching JFK's head and the rear bumper of the limo--as a normal part of his duty to maintain a 5' distance between the follow-up car and JFK's limo, something he had done many times). Sam told me, "It was the right rear--I saw that part blow out." He added that his windshield and left arm were hit with blood and brain matter immediately after the head shot.
Once at Parkland Hospital, Kinney helped remove the President from the back seat of the car, with help from Clint Hill, Roy Kellerman, and Dave Powers. This gave him an extremely vivid, up-close look at JFK's head wound. "His brain was blown out," Kinney said, "...there was nothing left!" I pressed further, learning, "There was brain matter all over the place...he had no brains left in his head."
If that was startling, it was just the beginning. Kinney and S/A George W. Hickey, Jr., both members of the White House Garage Detail (chauffeurs) drove the follow-up and the limo, respectively, back to Love Field to be put aboard a C-130 transport. Once the cars were secured on the plane, it took off for Washington with Kinney, Hickey, and several members of the 76th Air Transport Squadron from Charleston, SC: Capt. Roland Thomason, Wayne Schake, Vincent Gullo, Hersal Woosley, David Conn, Stephen Bening, and Frank Roberson (names revealed for the first time via Kinney's copy of the flight manifest). However, it was Kinney who made a most valuable discovery: the piece of the back of JFK's head lying in the rear seat of the bloody limousine, exactly where Clint Hill told the Warren Commission he saw the "right rear" piece (2H 141). Fellow agents Kellerman (2H 85) and Jerry Behn (Sibert/O'Neill interview, 11/27/63) confirm this fact!
Kinney added that the fragment was "clean as a pin" and that it resembled a "flowerpot" or "clay pot" piece, adding, "It was a big piece--half his head was gone." When pressed as to the anatomical orientation of the fragment, he said, "I don't know what else it could have been but the back of his head."
Realizing the obvious significance of this discovery (hours BEFORE the "official" limousine search made by ASAIC Floyd Boring), Kinney put in a phone patch to Admiral George Burkley (unfortunately, like many other events, this radio traffic no longer exists on the heavily edited Air Force One radio tapes currently available...one wonders "why?") Kinney had the fragment in his suit pocket during his talk with Burkley and for the course of the flight back to DC. Upon landing at Andrews Air Force Base, Burkley got hold of the Kinney fragment, although "how" is unclear, as Kinney was evasive on that point--and only on that point, and he did not attend the autopsy. Kinney indicated that he and Burkley were good friends, noting he has Burkley's photo, along with JFK and Truman, on his wall. When asked about Burkley and the autopsy concerns, Kinney indicated, "Well, you have to give orders to people...they [who?] were very hard on Dr. Burkley."
Kinney noted, in a clear understatement, "All of these books are always wondering about this incredible missing part--I've had the answer all these years but nobody's called me" (meaning the official investigations as well as private researchers) As Kinney told Bonar Menninger, author of Mortal Error, ("I tried to squelch that book," Kinney notes), the HSCA DID send two investigators to his door, but he said nothing about any of this to them--they didn't ask, and what became of his interview with them is a mystery. Why, then, did Sam Kinney tell me about this. Clearly, not just because I asked. He tried to tell NBC'sToday show the same thing during his first and last t.v. interview, on 11/22/93, but his lengthy interview was edited down to harmless soundbites about John-John's salute, which Kinney had taught him on Veteran's Day, 11 days before the assassination, and other human-interest topics. Kinney, who believes there was a conspiracy (although he believes Oswald was the only shooter, wanted his story told, even if to a relative unknown like me, and with no money, fame, or prestige, things Sam Kinney did not require at age 68.
As for the shooting on Elm Street, Kinney was adamant, on 3 separate calls, that he "saw all three shots hit" and that "the second shot hit Connally and he agrees with me." (Kinney spoke with the Governor afterwards and found him agreeable and gracious, although Kinney had called Connally a "son of a bitch" in his haste to get him out of JFK's way, and Connally remembered it).
Kinney added that there were no missed shots that day.
The significance of all this speaks volumes. However, in regard to the back-of-the-head skull fragment Kinney found in the rear of the limo, there is a definitive chain of possession, as Dr. Robertson confirmed for me; the Nix and Zapruder films show it, eyewitness Charles Brehm saw it, S/A Hill observed it in the rear of the car en route to Parkland, S/A Kinney had it on the C-130, and S/A Behn confirmed its location to the FBI agents who attended the autopsy, as S/A Kellerman did for Arlen Specter at the time of his WC testimony.
In my opinion, something is definitely amiss with the handling and chain of possession of the OTHER skull fragments discovered on 11/22 and 11/23:
Roy Kellerman told HSCA investigators that he only remembered ONE skull fragment being examined at the autopsy, and was told of TWO by Boring (Memo, Jim Kelly, Andy Purdy--interviews with R. Kellerman, August 24-25, 1977)! Since both Dr. Burkley and Floyd Boring were involved in the chain of possession and handling of the above fragments (including, at least Dr. Burkley, the fragment found by Kinney on the C-130), the disappearance and possible manipulation (switching) of fragments at the autopsy leads back to them...and we are all indebted to Dr. Randy Robertson for making the whole skull fragment issue much clearer now; this is the kind of evidence and observation that raises the case to a new level.
(Special Thanks to Dr. Randy Robertson and S/A Sam Kinney; copyright Vincent M. Palamara 1995.)
Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved. JFK/DPQ PO Box 174 Hillsdale, NJ 07642 USA
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