The Reinvention of John Liggett

After viewing Nigel Turner's 2003 edition of The Men Who Killed Kennedy, I developed a passing interest in a section of part 1 - The Smoking Guns. For 17 minutes the program centered on embalmer John Liggett and focused on the unsubstantiated theory that he might have been summoned by nefarious individuals to reconstruct JFK's bullet shattered head. In order for Mr. Turner to support this theory, he provides on camera interviews of three individuals who seem to know something. But what and where is the proof?

I have always approached Turner's investigative work with caution. In an episode of his original The Men Who Killed Kennedy, laced with much innuendo but little of provable substance, he provided "evidence" that Frenchmen Sauveur Pironti and Roger Bocognoni were members of "the" Kennedy assassination hit team. Turner got into hot water with the British Parliament when it was shown, at the time of the assassination, Pironti was aboard a French naval minesweeper as a crew member and Bocognoni was in a French jail. It appears Turner might have used similar conventions in the current tale.

Charles Smith, who is identified as a mortician, appears in Turner's new program briefly. Smith supplies unconfirmed information that Liggett, as the narrator puts it, "was a highly skilled embalmer."

"If he had to build a lip or nose or build an eye orbit or ear he may work all night long doing the re-constructive work on someone that had been maybe shot in the face or automobile accident. He was the best, he would tell you he was the best, and when he finished it the families would tell him he was the best."

The Smoking Guns' narrator next takes us to "a small town in Oklahoma" where we meet Liggett's "former wife" Lois. We are told:

"Lois married him in Dallas after a whirlwind romance only three months before Kennedy's assassination."

Lois tells us "John was a very charming person. And I found him to be very attentive and considerate and very, very sweet to me. I loved him. I fell in love with him."

Back to the narrator - "On the day of the assassination John was with Lois at Restland (Cemetery in Dallas) attending the funeral service of her late aunt. He was suddenly called from the gravesite."

Lois continues:

"John went to the office and came back very shortly and explained to me that the President of the United States had been shot. And that he was called to go to Parkland Hospital. I went home after the funeral and it was about 2 o'clock in the afternoon and John called me from Parkland. I could hear confusion in the background and I asked him what was going on . . . he said the president has died. And I said well did Restland get the job? And he said no - some other funeral home got the job but he said 'I've got a lot of work to do. Don't try to call me, I'll call you as soon as I can.' And it was about 24 hours before I heard from him."

The stepdaughter, Debra Godwin, seems to do more talking about Liggett's activities than Lois.

"John came into our lives less than a year after our own father, Charles Godwin, had been killed in a private plane crash. And John was not real welcomed by my two older sisters, my brother, and myself. And he had a ready-made cover. And that's what I've always thought is that we were a convenient cover for a man who needed . . . needed that."

The Social Security Death Index shows Charles Godwin was born on January 24, 1924 and died in July of 1962 at age 38. Debra had at least two older siblings, Char-Lee and Bennie. Doing a little math, I tend to believe we are being asked to accept the sometimes quite vivid memories of a woman who was a teenager when these events were presumably taking place.


Dallas Morning News ~ July 12, 1962 ~ Page B1


Charles F. (Charlie) Age 38, 2717 Ave. B, Fort Worth. Residence: Rt. 2, Grapevine. Survived by: Mrs. Lois Godwin; mother, Mrs. Johnnie Andrews, Dallas; father, Grover C. Andrews, Dallas; son, Charles F. Godwin Jr.; daughters, Char-Lee, Bennie, Debra; sister, Mrs. Elmer Longwell, Garland; five brothers. Services: 3 p.m. Thursday, Mt. Auburn Assembly of God Church, 703 South Beacon, Dallas. Rev. Delbert Taylor officiating. Internment Grove Hill. Pallbearers: Jack Cannon, Wilbur Ard, Billy Mayo, Chuck Carroll, Dale Wagoner, Bob Bohm, Hommer Fulton, Carroll Hubbard.

Meissner Funeral Home


Fort Worth

For eight minutes or so there is discussion of John rushing home, demanding the family pack up and leave, a "high speed journey" to Austin and then San Antonio, and along the route there are clandestine meetings with Liggett's relatives and friends.

What is Lois' take on this peculiar story?

"Throughout this journey there were conversations that went on between John and his relatives and friends that I did not feel like I was privy to. That they were . . . they knew something I didn't know. And I didn't understand what was going on."

Narrator: "In the early hours of Sunday morning November 24th the family finally checked into a motel near Corpus Christi. John had a further meeting, this time with his elder brother Malcolm."

Lois: "Here again they had conversations that made me feel like I didn't belong. That they knew something I didn't know. I don't know why we were there but it seemed to be very important to John that we were there."

One year following this 2003 broadcast, as part of "a federal lawsuit against A&E Networks, the company operating The History Channel", Malcolm Liggett provided evidence that he was in California at the time of Lois' claims of clandestine meetings.

Back to Debra who indicates that John was watching the TV news intently and she was with him when John saw Ruby kill Oswald.

Lois interjects, "The minute he saw that he looked at me and said everything's OK now. And you could just see his face. It was like all the pressure had been taken off of him."

The story continues that they return to Dallas where Liggett comes into money and develops a new lifestyle "moving (the family) into luxury home." Liggett becomes a "big time gambler hosting some of the wildest poker parties in Dallas."

Later Debra discusses an "occasion that my sister Bennie and my mother both recall of a visit from one of John's rather eccentric friends from New Orleans and he was a rather freakish character and my sister claims we made merciless fun of him, the kids my brother my sister, because he was rather odd with the painted on eyebrows and the wig this rather freakish man. John said to us that this was a friend of his from the Civil Air Patrol that they had been in Civil Air Patrol together. And we believe that this was David Ferrie."

But this becomes an interesting change of view. Debra goes from third party story teller ("my sister Bennie and my mother both recall") to first party witness ("we made merciless fun of him"). So why doesn't Lois support Debra's information on camera by saying that she too remembers him?

Lois comes right out and says she believes her late ex-husband (Lois divorced Liggett in 1966) was involved in the Kennedy assassination and "His role was to do something to the body. How - alter it fix it - I have no idea. Now he may have gone with it to Bethesda. I think his job was to do something with that body - of John F. Kennedy."

In less than three years Lois instigates a divorce from this "very charming person" who she originally "found to be very attentive and considerate and very, very sweet. . ." We are never told why.

The narrator claims that, "In 1974, out of the blue, Liggett was arrested for attempted murder." And we are told that Dorothy Peck, supposedly a friend of Liggett, was beaten and left for dead in her Garland, Texas home. Before dying of her injuries, she identified Liggett as the assailant. He was then arrested and later linked to other brutal murders in the Dallas area.

But no evidence is offered to support the claim that Peck was a friend of Liggett. The Dallas Morning News reported that he might be "a man who reportedly accompanied Mrs. Peck home from a Greenville Avenue nightclub."

Lois indicates sometime in 1993 she was summoned to a meeting in a park in Austin initiated by John's brother Malcolm. Malcolm warned her to keep away from John "if you care anything about your children or yourself." She felt Malcolm was keeping her from corresponding with John because John would "tell her something either Malcolm or someone Malcolm knows didn't want John to tell me." Lois was so frightened by this she moved to Lubbock, Texas "and a few weeks later I got a call from a friend there who told me John had been shot in the back - and was dead."

So here we have Lois, whose whirlwind romance (and marriage) only three months before Kennedy's assassination ended in divorce three years later, claiming continued contact with Liggett and his brother Malcolm.

Interestingly enough, Debra is brought on camera again. She is asked to look at a picture provided by someone whom we do not know but we quickly find out why. Debra claims it is a photograph of Jack Ruby with Malcolm Liggett and his wife Suzanne. I guess this is to provide some sort of link between Ruby, John Liggett, and the assassination. The whole scenario soon imploded. As mentioned above, Malcolm Liggett filed a federal lawsuit against A&E Networks, the company operating The History Channel." Liggett was able to show the photograph used was not of him and his wife and they had never met Ruby.

"A settlement was reached in March (2004) but the terms are confidential, according to (Richard) Brown (Liggett's attorney) and The History Channel."

Narrator: "On the morning of February 14, 1975 Liggett was being transferred with other prisoners from the courthouse in downtown Dallas to the nearby county jail. The police vehicle had entered the garage when Liggett, using a hidden key, slipped out of his handcuffs and made a bid for freedom. A single shot in the back, fired by a sheriff's deputy killed him instantly."

Newspaper reports show this claim is inaccurate. "Liggett fell face down on the sidewalk. Deputies said he had a "faint heartbeat" when he was loaded into an ambulance."

As sometimes happens with this type story, there are interlopers who want to get into the act.

First up is convicted swindler Billie Sol Estes.

In JFK, The Last Witness (Flammarion, 2003) by William Reymond and Billy Sol Estes, Estes declares a connection between Liggett and Dorothy Peck, the widow of Jay Bert Peck (1902 - 1969).

Estes claims Jay Bert Peck was Lyndon Johnson's "official" double and that "Peck would have replaced Lyndon B Johnson in the night of November 21 to 22, 1963. Peck would have passed for LBJ in Fort Worth. This was where Johnson was staying the day before the assassination according to the Warren Report. In that way the vice-president could travel incognito to Dallas to regulate the details of an operation aimed at assassinating John F. Kennedy." Also according to Billie Sol Estes, Jay Bert Peck would later have been murdered by John Liggett, who would then be arrested for the attempted murder of Peck's widow.

Next from the JFK Lancer forum we have Ron Ecker who, on March 2, 2005 claims Liggett was a victim of la ley fuga:

"This was a form of execution commonly used in Mexico (the victim would be shot "while trying to escape"), and was known as la ley fuga. I believe la ley fuga was supposed to be applied to Oswald right after the assassination, but apparently something got lost in the translation from Spanish to English.


Internet web sites define la ley fuga as a type of execution used in Mexico over 100 years ago during the Mexican Revolution. The prisoner's restraints are removed and he is given the opportunity to flee. If the firing squads bullets do hit the prisoner and he escapes - he is free man. The possibilities of escape under these conditions are virtually impossible.

Mr. Ecker, as will be shown in the newspaper articles, may be off the mark when he interprets Liggett's shooting as la ley fuga or the law flight.

Here are the newspaper reports surrounding Liggett's death and the Dallas police department's interest in him. Maybe, just maybe, Lois' very attentive, considerate and very, very sweet ex was potentially a serial killer.

Newspaper Reports
What caused Ligget's death?

Dallas Times Herald - Saturday, February 15, 1975 page 1B

Deputy kills prisoner in break for freedom

By Jim Hardin Staff Writer

A 41-year-old county jail inmate who was facing four felony charges was shot and killed Friday after he freed himself from a 12-man jail chain and ran from the old Dallas County Jail building.

John Melvin Liggett died on a Parkland Hospital operating table at 3:30 p.m. Friday about 30 minutes after he was shot in the back by Deputy Joe Crawford of the Dallas County Sheriff's Department.

The shooting occurred on the Houston Street side of the old jail, just outside the sally port that serves as a loading dock for taking prisoners in and out of the old detention facility.

Deputies said the incident occurred after Liggett and 11 other prisoners had been transported back to the old jail after making court appearances in the Dallas County Courthouse.

During the one block ride, deputies said Liggett somehow freed himself from his handcuffs. When the paddy wagon doors were opened, according to officers, Liggett bolted out and ran outside the sally port.

Officers said Liggett was running north along alongside Houston Street when Crawford ordered the man to halt. When Liggett did not heed the command, deputies said, Crawford fired one shot from his .9mm pistol.

Liggett fell face down on the sidewalk. Deputies said he had a "faint heartbeat" when he was loaded into an ambulance.

Crawford, 27, a former public service officer for the Dallas Police Department, has been a sheriff's deputy 15 months. Deputy Ronald McWilliams was assisting Crawford in the transfer.

Liggett was facing charges of robbery, arson, assault with intent to commit murder and unauthorized use of a vehicle.


The Dallas Morning News - Saturday, February 15, 1975 page 10C

Police Kill Escapee, Prowler in 2 Incidents

A fleeing Dallas County jail inmate and a man thought to be burglarizing an off-duty policeman's car were shot and killed by local law enforcement officers in separate incidents Friday.

John Melvin Liggett, 41, in the Dallas County jail awaiting trial on indictments for intent to murder, arson and aggravated robbery, was shot by Deputy Joe Crawford when he fled from a jail chain while being returned to the old county jail from a court appearance at 2 p.m. Friday.

And Nathan Drew Miller, 26, of 4323 Brown, was shot and killed by off-duty Dallas police officer James Jolly, 23, after Jolly surprised Miller in the act of stealing a city-issed shotgun from the officer's car early Friday morning.

Liggett was arrested last March and the charges against him stemmed from the March 26 attack on Mrs. Dorothy Peck, 44, at her home at 1202 Melrose in Garland.

Friday, Liggett was taken to Judge Ed Gossett's Criminal District Court No. 5 for a pre-trial hearing. The hearing was reset for Feb. 20, and Liggett was being returned to the old jail on a chain with 11 other prisoners when he slipped from the handcuff.

Crawford, 27, ordered him to halt, but the prisoner kept running, and Crawford fired a single shot from his 9-millimeter automatic.

In the incident involving the Dallas officer, Jolly told detectives he was awakened about 2:30 a.m. in his apartment at 4329 Congress in the Oak Lawn area by the sound of breaking glass.

Jolly peered from a bedroom window and saw a man leaning through a window in Jolly's car. As Jolly reached the parking lot, the man was standing at the rear of the car holding the shotgun.

Jolly said he shouted, "Police, freeze it." He said he fired his revolver one time as the man turned to face him and leveled the shotgun.

What was the offense that put Liggett in jail? Here, again, are the local newspaper accounts:

The Dallas Morning News - Wednesday, March 27, 1974 page 9B

Woman Left For Dead In Beating

By Dan Watson Staff Writer

Garland - A 44-year-old woman was beaten and left for dead in a burning bed at 1202 Melrose Tuesday by an assailant described by police as a "middle-aged man."

Dorothy A. Peck staggered from her burning home about 7 a.m. and asked a neighbor to summon police and firemen. The woman, suffering from multiple injuries of the head and face, was rushed to Presbyterian Hospital where she was reported in satisfactory condition after surgery Tuesday afternoon.

Garland Police Sgt. Bob McCraw said the man, who accompanied her home from a Greenville Avenue club Monday night, took Mrs. Peck's 1971 Plymouth when he left the house.

At 10:30 a.m. the vehicle was discovered burning behind an abandoned structure in the 7700 block of Greenville.

McCraw said the fire was started from clothing which had been stuffed beneath the bed where Mrs. Peck was beaten. The flames destroyed the bed and scorched the room before firemen doused them.

Crime scene search officers reported finding a hammer near the bed.


Dallas Times Herald - Wednesday, March 27, 1974 page 8B

Man questioned in hammer beating

A suspect in the hammer-beating of a garland woman will be questioned by Dallas police about the bizarre sexual mutilation slaying of a legal secretary whose apartment was set afire to conceal the homicide, authorities said Wednesday.

Garland police arrested the 40-year-old suspect about 1 a.m. Wednesday in connection with the Tuesday beating of Mrs. Dorothy Peck, who was left for dead when her assailant set fire to her residence.

Bleeding from severe beatings on her face and head, Mrs. Peck stumbled from her home about 7 a.m. Tuesday and asked a neighbor to call police and an ambulance.

She was in serious condition at Presbyterian Hospital.

Investigators said her attacker's method of operation was similar to the one used in the Feb. 10 slaying of Susan Thompson Payne, a 41-year-old Dallas legal secretary found in the remains of her apartment at 7749 Willow Stream Court.

At first thought to be a fire fatality, Mrs. Payne's death was ruled a homicide after an autopsy revealed several chest stab and slash wounds. She also had been sexually mutilated, a spokesman for the medical examiner said.

As in the Tuesday incident, Mrs. Payne's car was found burning several blocks from her home. Garland police said Mrs. Peck's vehicle, flames leaping from its interior, was discovered about 10 a.m. Tuesday in the 7700 block of Greenville Avenue.

Garland police Sgt. Bob McCraw said Mrs. Peck apparently met her assailant at a lounge and went with him to her home. There she was beaten with a hammer and left on the bed while the man stuffed clothing beneath the bed and set it on fire.

McCraw declined to reveal what led officers to arrest the man early Wednesday.

Mrs. Payne was found by firemen after they had extinguished a two-alarm, $50,000 fire at Willow Creek Apartments.

Arson investigators said two fires had been set in her apartment, one in the living room and the other in a hallway leading to a bedroom.


The Dallas Morning News - Thursday, March 28, 1974 page 16A

Dallas Murder Suspected Attacker To Be Questioned

Staff Special to The News

Garland - A 40-year-old man, held here for the attempted murder and burning of Dorothy A. Peck, is also wanted for questioning about a mutilation-burning killing in Dallas.

The man held under bonds totaling $130,000, is to be charged Thursday with criminal attempt for the offense of murder, aggravated robbery and arson Sgt. Bob McCraw reported.

Garland detectives arrested the suspect, described as an unemployed undertaker, at his apartment in the 9700 block of Plano Road in Dallas at 1:07 a.m. Wednesday. About 18 hours earlier, a man who reportedly accompanied Mrs. Peck home from a Greenville Avenue nightclub beat her about the face and head in her home at 1202 Melrose and left her on a burning bed.

After the man had driven away in Mrs. Peck's 1971 Plymouth, she staggered from her flaming house to summon aid. Her car was found three hours later burned behind a closed tavern on Greenville.

Mrs. Peck, 44, was reported in satisfactory condition at Presbyterian Hospital Wednesday evening.

Detective Tom Sewell and Loyd Richy of the Dallas homicide unit conferred with Garland detectives Wednesday. They announced they will wait until Garland completes its investigation before attempting to question the suspect about the Feb. 10 mutilation-burning death of 41-year-old divorcee Susan Thompson Payne, a legal secretary.

Her apartment at 7749 Willow Stream Court was destroyed by a $50,000 blaze which went to two alarms before being brought under control. Firemen found Mrs. Payne'' body on a charred bed. Her car, parked two blocks away, was also burned.

An autopsy showed evidence of numerous stab wounds plus other brutal acts.


Dallas Times Herald - Thursday, March 28, 1974 page B9

Suspect held in assault

Garland police have arrested a 40-year-old Dallas man suspected of beating and stabbing a Garland woman and leaving her in her burning bed Tuesday night.

Dorothy Peck, 44, was threatened with the loss of an eye, police said. She was taken to a Garland hospital after she ran from the house, alerting neighbors to what had happened. She had been beaten about the head and stabbed in the abdomen.

When police searched her house, they discovered clothing had been stuffed under her bed and set afire, The fire burned the mattress, box springs, carpet and bed linens.

Police arrested the suspect Wednesday.

The Dallas Morning News - Sunday, March 31, 1974 page 11A


Dave Perry 11/17/2005