The Roscoe White Curse?

A friend recently informed me of an old post by Jack White concerning the Roscoe (Ricky) White news conference of August 6, 1990. I believe White originally posted his theory in October of 1996 on the Fort Worth Star Telegram's now compromised startext.jfk site. It later appeared on alt.conspiracy.jfk and more recently on The Simkin Education Forum in January of 2005. In the version appearing on The Simkin Education Forum, Mr. White added his own views about the deaths of the participants.

------------------------- The Roscoe White Curse? -----------------------

About 6 years ago I was at the old JFK-AIC in the Dallas West End when the Roscoe White News Conference was held.

At the "head table" in the front of the assembly space, in addition to Ricky White and Roscoe's minister, were 5 prominent JFK researchers. All were comparatively young or middle-aged and vigorous, and each presented some aspect of the Roscoe White story.

These researchers were...






Now, about 6 years later 4 of the 5 are dead, despite their relative youth and vigor. Coincidence? Or curse? Given their ages and good health, it would be interesting to see actuarial statistics on this, in the manner of the famed "mysterious deaths" study.


Mr. White believed there was a sad legacy surrounding this news conference. He felt "it would be interesting to see actuarial statistics on this, in the manner of the famed 'mysterious deaths' study." Maybe Mr. White doesn't know about the inaccuracy of the actuarial study he mentions. He is, most likely, referring to an article that appeared on February 26, 1967 in the U.S. edition of The Sunday Times of London. The commentary claimed that "the odds against these [J.F.K. assassination] witnesses being dead by February 1967, were one hundred thousand trillion to one."

However, the House Select Committee on Assassinations asked the newspaper to supply information as to how they arrived at that number.

The paper replied with the following letter found in the HSCA Hearings - Volume 4 - pp.464-65:

"The Editor has passed me your letter of 25th April [1978]. Our piece about the odds against the deaths of the Kennedy witnesses was, I regret to say, based on a careless journalistic mistake and should not have been published. This was realized by The Sunday Times' editorial staff after the first edition - the one which goes to the United States and which I believe you have - had gone out, and later editions were amended.

There was no question of our actuary having got his answer wrong. It was simply that we asked him the wrong question. He was asked what were the odds against 15 named people out of the population of the United States dying within a short period of time to which he replied - correctly - that they were very high. However, if one asks what are the odds against 15 of those included in the Warren Commission index dying within a given period, the answer is, of course, that they are much lower. Our mistake was to treat the reply to the former question as if it dealt with the latter - hence the fundamental error in our first edition report, for which we apologize.

None of the editorial staff involved in this story can remember the name of the actuary we consulted, but in view of what happened you will, I imagine, agree that his identity is hardly material.

Yours sincerely,

Antony Whitaker,

Legal Manager"

The original documents can be found at:

Rather than creating another flawed report, it would be better to just deal with the facts.

Mr. White indicates that at the head table were:

1] "five prominent JFK researchers." He goes on to list them by name. However, two of the individuals (40%) do not fit the prominent JFK researcher profile.

1a] Larry Howard never considered himself a researcher but an entrepreneur. He sat beside and claimed to be Marina Oswald's agent during her appearance on the second edition of NBC's Now television news magazine hosted by Tom Brokaw (08/25/93). In a July 3, 1990 letter, he provided someone (the name is redacted) with an overview of the Roscoe White story and shortly thereafter traveled with Ricky to California to assist in negotiations with Stone over potential movie rights. Gary Cartwright, in his December 1990 Texas Monthly article on the Roscoe White story, described Howard as "a builder-developer" with no investigative experience. On the other hand, Cartwright indicated Shaw had twenty-six years experience and Harris had fifteen. (I Was Mandarin, p. 167)

There is more. A little known fact about Larry Howard is that he was involved in a serious hunting accident. Before 9:30 AM on April 17, 1988 Howard accidentally shot and killed his hunting partner, Paul Anthony Philley. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department report shows:

"Victim 6, 36, Concho County. The victim was hunting turkey on April 17 when he was mistaken for a turkey. The victim was shot and killed with a rifle."

This event may have been the catalyst that caused Mr. Howard, as Cartwright put it, "to quit [a] lucrative profession to work full time at the center." (I Was Mandarin, p. 167) Before his invovement as co-director of the JFK Assassination Information Center in Dallas' West End, Howard was president of Great Northwest Company of Arlington, Texas formed on April 23, 1984.*

1b] Joe West told the Associated Press on July 7, 1992 that he had been "probing the [Kennedy assassination] case for the past three years." That means he began his investigation in 1989 leaving him only one possibly two years of involvement before the conference. Furthermore, Cartwright indicated that, "Shaw decided to include on the investigative team an outsider, a Houston private investigator named Joe H. West, who had been working with Shaw on other aspects of the assassination. Shaw's partners [Harris and Howard] didn't trust West. 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 were truly something special." (I Was Mandarin, p. 168)

2] "All were comparatively young or middle-aged and vigorous."

In my view, Mr. White is using something called logical fallacy to prove his point. Here the fallacy is the assumption that someone who is young or middle-aged must be vigorous. In the case at hand, Mr. Fensterwald (20%) was 69 - hardly middle aged. And it would seem Joe West (20%) had coronary problems.

3] "Each presented some aspect of the Roscoe White story."

Audio and videotapes of the conference reveal, Larry Howard (20%) made no presentation. Bud Fensterwald (20%) was only responsible for the opening remarks. Those were:

"We've gone out and verified as much of his story as private citizens can. . .The information is quite important and we think it's true. . .We think the story is complete, we think it is correct. If it is a hoax, it is one of the most elaborate and senseless hoaxes that's ever been perpetrated. We don't think it is, but we certainly leave open that possibility."

As an aside, I feel Bud Fensterwald's remarks show his implied concern that the story was a hoax and could cause credibility problems for the JFK Center.

In my opinion, Mr. White has used assumptions to increase the number of individuals he feels are susceptible to "The Curse" or "coincidence." I think I have shown that several of those assumptions can be discounted.

Since it appears Mr. White attended the conference, it would have been better if he provided specific information about the seating arraignment at the "head table." Fortunately, I was invited to the news conference by Bud Fensterwald and have photographs of the presentation.

Pictured above is what Mr. White refers to as the "head table." In the center photograph, Bud Fensterwald was speaking. Originally, he was seated between J. Gary Shaw and Joe West.

There were nine individuals at the head table. They were from left to right:

John Stockwell
Tricia White
Ricky White
Larry Ray Harris
Larry Howard
Bud Fensterwald
J. Gary Shaw
Joe West
Rev. Jack Shaw

Originally, I thought Tricia White was there only to lend support to her husband and would not speak. However, she did take and respond to several questions posed by the media. Therefore, she could be considered a presenter although she didn't have a name card.

Next let us look at those who died and how.

Bud Fensterwald - (April 2, 1991) Fensterwald died at age 69. James H. Lesar, in a letter to Assassination Archives and Research Center sponsors, stated, "I am deeply saddened to report that Bud Fensterwald, President and founder of the Assassination Archives and Research Center, died of a heart attack on April 2, 1991. Bud had become ill with the flu while on a trip to Texas and returned home early on account of his illness."

Joe West - (February 13, 1993) Joe West died at the age of 60. In a letter to me dated October 27, 1993, Bob Vernon states, "West refiled the suit in Texas court, 160th Judicial District, Dallas, in late 1992 prior to his string of heart attacks and his unfortunate demise." The April 14, 1994 Beaumont Enterprise reported West "died of a heart attack this past year."

Larry Howard - (January 8, 1994) Howard died at the age of 53. His Dallas Morning News obituary is sketchy giving no cause of death and indicating that he, "passed away on Saturday (01/08/94) at Arlington Memorial Hospital in Arlington, Texas." There were rumors that, much like West, Howard had coronary problems. This might support White's contention that, "Larry suffered a 'stroke.'"

Larry Ray Harris - (October 5, 1996) Harris died at age 44. His Dallas Morning News obituary states he "was killed in an automobile accident while traveling alone on Saturday, October 5, 1996." On October 7, 1996 researcher Dale Myers reported (possibly based upon information provided by J. Gary Shaw) on alt.conspiracy.jfk that "Harris reportedly fell asleep at the wheel of his vehicle."

In his post on The Educational Forum, Mr. White concludes "SHAW, the other co-director of the AIC, is the SOLE SURVIVOR of this group. We hope that Gary is very very careful in the future, whether these deaths are curse, conspiracy, or coincidence."

J. Gary Shaw is the SOLE SURVIVOR of a group carefully selected by Mr. White. Mr. Shaw remains one of a total of five survivors seated at the head table.

Let's look at this another way. Bud Fensterwald was providing funding for the J.F.K. Assassination Information Center of which J. Gary Shaw was a co-director, Larry Howard was the other co-director, and Larry Ray Harris was the center's Archives and Research Director. Joe West, as Gary Cartwright indicated, was brought into the case by J. Gary Shaw.

J. Gary Shaw is NOT the SOLE SURVIVOR of those involved in the Roscoe White news conference. He is merely the SOLE SURVIVOR of four close associates.

And we can add another of J. Gary Shaw's colleagues to the list. Dr. Charles Crenshaw who co-authored Conspiracy of Silence with Mr. Shaw died on November 15, 2001 at age 68.

Talk about your coincidences!

Dave Perry ~ March 21, 2006
* The Texas Secretary of State's records show a filing for the JFK Assassination Information Center listing Larry N. Howard as President/Director, J. Gary Shaw as Vice-President/Director, and J. Gary Shaw as Agent. The filing is dated March 2, 1989.