An Apology - Of Sorts

Months ago Wim Dankbaar and I crossed swords over my claim that when Lee Bowers testified to the Warren Commission he never mentioned a 1959 Oldsmobile station wagon. I was responding to a comment contained in retired FBI agent Zack Shelton's investigative report. I indicated this was one of several instances where Shelton's "research was flawed." However, additional checking on my part shows I was definitely mistaken. Mr. Dankbaar and Mr. Shelton are correct. Bower's testimony does show he saw "a 1959 Oldsmobile blue and white station wagon with [an] out of state license [plate]."

Of what import is my correction? Outside of the fact I have admitted my error, I think it means little. Here is why:

Reviewing reports by Shelton and comments from Dankbaar I found Dankbaar claimed that Shelton "uncovered a number of actual persons involved in various capacities in the assassination . . . " One person mentioned was Chauncey Holt.

This is puffery as Mr. Shelton never "discovered" Chauncey Holt. However, Shelton has claimed that, according to James Files, Holt "drove Chuck Nicoletti into Dallas, delivered the Secret Service Pins, and drives into the railroad yard in a white 1959 Oldsmobile Station Wagon."

In my opinion this is nothing more than the use of false logic:

1 - Shelton and Dankbaar are employing the unverified declaration of James Files to prove Holt was involved.

2 - Shelton then uses questionable claims attributed to Holt that he was the driver of the "1959 Oldsmobile blue and white station wagon with out of state license." observed by Lee Bowers.

3 - Therefore Files verifies Holt while Shelton uses Bower's observation to corroborate Files' claim about Holt. Clearly both Files and Holt could be repeating what they read in Bower's testimony or in various assassination books.

So just who is Chauncey Holt?

By early November 1991 some of us had heard rumors that J. Gary Shaw, then co-director of the JFK Assassination Information Center, was involved in something called ASK. It turned out that ASK stood for Assassination Symposium on John F. Kennedy. ASK was to be a three-day conference, from November 14 through November 16, 1991, chock full of displays, panel discussions, and new revelations. It was also theorized that Shaw had had preliminary meetings concerning some new evidence including the possible identification of the individuals appearing in the famous "three tramp" photographs.

Originally the story went that sometime in early October of 1991 an individual known as Chauncey Holt came to Dallas to explain his role in the Kennedy assassination to Shaw and two private investigators, John Craig and Phillip Rogers. To me Craig and Rogers' names rang a bell.

Back on October 11, 1991 I got a call from David Murph. David had been looking into a different assassination story. Murph was doing background on a Saturday, September 28, 1991 Houston Chronicle article by Eric Hanson. The story was entitled "'65 case tied to JFK death?" Hanson reported that private investigators John Craig and Phil Rogers revealed Charles Frederick Rogers (no relation to Phil) "was in Dallas on the day of President Kennedy's assassination, and may have played a role in it."

David had been attempting to contact both Craig and Rogers and he did receive a return call from John Craig. Craig was investigating Charles Rogers' involvement not only in the assassination but the 1965 murder of his parents, Fred and Edwina Rogers. Craig indicated Gary Shaw told him that a tramp story "was about to break." Since, at that time, John Craig had not heard about Holt the only conclusion I could come to was that Shaw could be providing Craig with information about Holt - but there was no proof of any meeting with Holt.

On November 19, 1991 I contacted longtime assassination researcher Mary Ferrell. I asked if she knew anything about any meetings or calls involving Gary Shaw and someone named Holt. Remarkably I received the following reply:

"We had a meeting with Chauncey Holt over the weekend of September 28, 1991 at the Hyatt Regency in Dallas. Gary Shaw, Cara Shaw, Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann were there."

I had never heard of Waldron or Hartmann and concluded they either discovered or were representing Holt - maybe both.

On November 4, 2005 I received an e-mail from Lamar Waldron concerning my belief expressed above. It reads:

"Hartmann and I neither discovered or represented Holt. We were simply invited to question him, which we did. We did not find his claims about being one of the "three tramps" to be credible."

Mary told me both she and Gary didn't think Holt's story would "fly" and she essentially dropped her involvement. It would seem that that did not deter Gary Shaw who, in the end, seems to have been working with Craig and Rogers on a book.

John Craig and Phillip Rogers appeared during the above mentioned ASK Symposium. Their topic was "A presentation of identification of the infamous 'tramp' in Dealey Plaza." And at least unexpectedly to me some of the discussion DID revolve around Chauncey Holt's self-professed claims. The audience was shown the three tramp photographs along with some taken of Holt in 1991 for "comparison" purposes. During the question and answer period one of the many skeptical members of the audience asked the following question:

"Why does Holt have a fat nose in 1963 and a thin one in 1991?"

The answer:

"It was because he bumped his nose in the railroad car, developed a nosebleed and stuffed his nose with cotton."

Now where would a tramp suddenly acquire pieces of cotton, I wondered?

The April 1992 edition of Film Threat magazine covered ASK - 1991. The reviewer, Dave Parker, indicated that "nearly everyone in the crowd [had] a problem buying the I.D.s. [and] everyone [left] the symposium, complaining bitterly."

By the time ASK was over, Holt had gone public and was identifying himself as the old man tramp in the three tramp photographs. Furthermore, Craig and Rogers published a book in 1992 called The Man on the Grassy Knoll. They made Holt a major player in the assassination. They also revealed Holt told them he could be seen with Oswald in August 16, 1963 WDSU-TV news film showing Oswald passing out leaflets on a New Orleans street.

The story does not end there.

Filmmakers and investigators Ray and Mary LaFontaine dealt Holt's story a severe blow in late January of 1992 when researching Dallas Police Department records available from the city since 1989. Mary LaFontaine noticed the original arrest records of the three tramps. The documents identified the trio as Harold Doyle, John F. Gedney, and Gus Abrams. The LaFontaines contacted Doyle. Media representatives such as David Real of The Dallas Morning News and Billy Cox of Florida Today were in touch with Gedney. Both Doyle and Gedney* were able to confirm and prove they were two of the tramps in the photographs. Social Security records show Gus Abrams, the old man tramp who Holt claimed he was, filed for disability payments due to a "lung condition" on July 27, 1970. Abrams died on August 14, 1987 at age 75. Abrams' sister, Emma McCabe who lived in Ohio, was able to easily identify her brother as the person assassination researchers identified as the old man tramp in the photographs.

There is not one shred of physical evidence that Holt, who died on June 28, 1997, did what he claims to have done. We only have the debatable word of Holt, a former circus performer, who was described by one of his friends as "an old-fashioned raconteur, a sort of Renaissance man" and James Files as proof.

*Gedney also authored a book - The Making of a Bum: From Notoriety to Sobriety, (Gami Publishing, 2002)

A similar exchange I had with Mr. Dankbaar concerned a former Mafioso named Joe Granata. I claimed Mr. Granata was deceased. In response Dankbaar asked the following question:

"Furthermore, let me end this email for now with a question that intrigues me: What is your source for your statement that Joe Granata is deceased?"

I replied that I obtained the information through the US Social Security Death Index. The web site had given me May 6, 2002 as Granata's date of death. I told Mr. Dankbaar that if I was in error "let me know and I will correct it with apologies to Mr. Granata."

I never received a reply from Mr. Dankbaar so I began wondering how I could claim Granata was dead while Dankbaar HINTED that he may still be alive? The only thing I could think of that would fit the scenario was that, as an ex-Mafia member, Granata was in the federal government's Witness Protection Program.

The Witness Protection and Management Program was part of The Crime Control Act of 1970 under Title 91-452. The purpose was to protect individuals who observed criminal activity. Before testifying, these people were placed in protective custody. Only after they testified did they enter the program. These witnesses ended up safeguarded, given new identities, and relocated by the United States government in exchange for their damaging revelations.

As an example some may remember that in 1991-1992, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano testified against New York Mafia boss John Gotti in exchange for a reduced sentence and being placed in the witness protection program.

If Granata was in the program I would think it easy for the government to provide a phony death certificate. If that were the case Granata could be well be alive and living under an assumed name. To me this creates two problems:

1. It would make it extremely difficult if not impossible for Mr. Dankbaar to verify claims made on behalf of Files by Granata.

2. If Granata is in the witness protection program, then a foreigner, Mr. Dankbaar, might have been made privy to information leaked to him by a government employee who had access to the Granata file. If true, and I am not claiming it to be the case, I should think the employee would be subject to criminal prosecution.

Dave Perry

October 12, 2004