Dave Perry's Notes From Unsolved History's JFK Segment

Air Date November 19, 2003

The Texas School Book Depository Stair Test

Background of Participants

Lee Harvey Oswald (Texas School Book Depository employee)

Oswald was out of work and estranged from his wife Marina who was living with Michael and Ruth Paine in Irving, TX. At a morning coffee klatch in early October 1963, Marina through Ruth asked if anyone knew of any job openings. That night Linnie Mae Randle asked her 19 year old brother Buell Frazier, who worked at the Texas School Book Depository, to check when he went in the next day. Buell found there was a job available. Linnie Mae reported this to Ruth who told Marina. When Oswald called Marina she told him about the opening. He applied, was hired on October 15, 1963, and started work on Wednesday October 16th.

Marrion L. Baker (Dallas PD motorcycle officer)

See below for a description of his actions after the assassination.

Roy Truly (Texas School Book Depository Superintendent)

While accompanying DPD officer Marrion Baker he saw Oswald on the second floor and indicated that Oswald was a TSBD employee.

Jack Dougherty (Texas School Book Depository employee)

He took one of the west elevators to the 1st floor after hearing a noise "that sounded like a backfire."

Mrs. Robert A. Reid (Texas School Book Depository Clerical Supervisor)

Reid spotted Oswald who she indicated was drinking a "Coke" just shortly after the assassination.

Victoria Adams (Office Survey Representative of Scott Foresman Co.)

On the day of the assassination she watched the motorcade from a fourth floor window with fellow employees Sandra Styles, Elsie Dorman, and Dorothy May Garner. After the shooting she and Styles "ran" from the window, through the stockroom to the northwest stairwell, down the stairs and out of the building.

It was thought she was on the stairs at the same time Oswald would be coming down from the sixth to the second floor. She was asked "on the way down did you ever encounter Lee Harvey Oswald?" Answer: "No, sir." (6H392) In Stone's film JFK she is described along with Sandra Styles as being "witnesses who never see him (Oswald)." I've never heard of someone who DOESN'T see something being called a witness. It was later shown she was not in the stairwell during the period in question.

In an additional March 23, 1964 Warren Commission deposition she indicated she and Sandra Styles walked down the stairs and out of the building after the shooting. She never mentioned seeing Oswald indicating "I believe I did see him . . in the Depository building about two weeks before President Kennedy's assassination." (CE 1381) Contrary to Stone's claim Styles never provided the Warren Commission with any statement or deposition.

Baker's Actions

Baker was riding a motorcycle to the right side of the last press car. This vehicle was located six cars behind the Presidential limousine. Riding a motorcycle on the left side was DPO J.W. Courson. The car contained among others cameraman Dave Weigman and photographer Frank Cancellare.

Baker heard the first shot as he turned the corner from Main to Houston and immediately recognized it as a shot. He then heard two more reports and saw pigeons fly upward from the roof of the TSBD. After the third shot he "revved that motorcycle up" and drove to the northwest corner of Elm and Houston, and "parked approximately 10 feet from the traffic signal."

He ran into the entrance of the Depository and in the lobby loudly asked where the staircase or elevator was. Roy Truly spoke saying, "I am the building manager. Follow me, officer, and I will show you." They went through a second set of doors and stopped at a swinging door. Baker bumped into Truly's back. They went though the swinging door and continued at "a good trot" to the northwest corner of the floor where Truly hoped to find one of the two freight elevators in operation. Neither elevator was there. Truly shouted twice to turn the elevators loose and when that failed they took the stairs.

On the second floor landing was a small open area with a door at the east end. The door led to a small vestibule, and another door which lead to the second floor lunchroom. Baker had reached the second floor and was prepared to head up to the third. Through a small glass window in the vestibule door Baker saw a man walking toward the lunchroom. He opened the door, confronted the man, and received confirmation of his employment from Truly. Baker then proceeded up the stairs.

The minimum time required by Baker to park his motorcycle and reach the second-floor lunchroom was within 3 seconds of the time needed to walk from the southeast corner of the sixth floor down the stairway to the lunchroom. The time actually required for Baker and Truly to reach the second floor on November 22 was probably longer than in the Warren Commission test runs. For example, Baker required 15 seconds after the simulated shot to ride his motorcycle 180 to 200 feet, park it, and run 45 feet to the building. No allowance was made for the special conditions which existed on the day of the assassination - possible, delayed reaction to the shot, jostling with the crowd of people on the steps and scanning the area along Elm Street and the parkway.

Baker said, "We simulated the shots and by the time we got there, we did everything that I did that day, and this would be the minimum, because I am sure that I, you know, it took me a little longer." On the basis of this time test, therefore, the Commission concluded that Oswald could have fired the shots and still have been present in the second-floor lunchroom when seen by Baker and Truly.

From The Warren Commission Report (pp. 152 -153)

The Loft Layout

The Texas School Book Depository outside dimensions are 100 by 100 feet. Based upon Secret Service re-enactment film and photos possibly taken by Dallas TV channel 4's Jim Underwood I concluded - from the sniper's nest the assassin would move in a northerly direction approximately 85 feet, then westerly 70 feet, jog around some boxes northerly again about 8 feet, then westerly to the rifle drop location another 25 feet for a total of 188 feet.

The warehouse we used is located at 1401 S. Ervay Street. It measured 120 by 90 feet so I had to modify the travel path somewhat. I measured 198 feet of travel in the warehouse mockup to give a 10 foot edge to the test participants.

The cartons we used as pylons measured either 18x12x14 or 13x9x8 which was similar to the actual TSBD Rolling Reader cartons.

The Stairs:

The Texas School Book Depository still has one original staircase in place going from the sixth to the seventh floor. Since access is restricted by Plexiglas, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza's curator Gary Mack entered this area to take measurements. Additionally, a review of the old floor plans showed the staircases were identical for each floor. The stair height was 7 inches and the number of stairs totaled 64. So 7 x 64 equaled 448 vertical inches. The loft had stairs 6 inches in height and there were 75 of them. This gave us 450 vertical inches. We also added two inches to get down the step to the lunchroom mockup. Therefore a 4 inch vertical gain was built into the test. The 11 inch stair depth was identical in both the Texas School Book Depository and S. Ervay locations. However, the warehouse stairs were 11 inches narrower in width making it more difficult for the test subjects to get down.

The Times:

The Warren Commission tested the route and determined it took between 74 (1m 14s) and 78 (1m 18s) seconds to reach the second floor lunchroom from the sniper's nest.. We did multiple tests using different individuals moving over the course at varying speeds. Timing was done using dual stop watches. We considered the most likely scenario Richard Black's covering of the distance in 48 seconds. In every case no matter how fast or slow, no matter the age or conditioning of the people (i.e. Dan Martinez), the results were 78 seconds or less. Even these results proved to be at least 12 seconds less than Oliver Stone alleged in JFK.

I was charged with attempting to prove that someone could make the run in 90 seconds or less without being winded or out of breath. I think we showed that could be done easily. We did not test Baker's time line which I feel is at least as important as Oswald's. Based on Baker's movements Oswald might have had more time than originally thought. The Warren Commission timing of Baker's route showed him taking between 75 (1m 15s) and 90 (1m 30s) seconds. However, as mentioned above, the Commission did not consider any difficulties Baker might have had working his way through the crowd.

The Tippit Shooting

Background of Participants

Earlene Roberts (1026 North Beckley housekeeper for Arthur Johnson)

What about Robert's observation of Oswald at the bus stop?

The first reporter to interview Earlene Roberts was Hugh Aynesworth who was working for the Dallas Morning News. On September 4, 2003 I asked Hugh to check his notes. He told me she indicated Oswald rushed into the rooming house and left in a hurry. Aynesworth quoted Roberts as saying, "He walked to the end of the walk, hesitated, and turned left."

The next person to interview Ms. Roberts was Darwin Payne who, at the time, worked for the Dallas Times Herald. When I called Darwin he said his notes showed "He (Oswald) came in around 12:30 or 1 PM (Note the HALF HOUR time interval in her statement.) The last time I saw him, he was waiting on a bus."

For this to be true she had to be looking out the front window onto Beckley and (as the bus stop was to the right) looking to her right. Adding to the confusion was her Warren Commission testimony where she indicated she was "completely blind in [her] right eye. (6H444)

I had an obvious conflict between the Hugh Aynesworth and Darwin Payne reports and, based on Roberts' testimony, an eyesight issue. We decided to leave the bus stop sequence out. However, we did film and time our Oswald actor, Richard Black, walking to the bus stop, pausing briefly, and returning to the front of the house. He was timed at 31 seconds.

Helen Markham (Tippit shooting witness)

Helen Markham lived at 328 East Ninth Street. While heading for the bus stop at Jefferson and Patton, she witnessed the Tippit shooting from her location at the northwest corner of Tenth and Patton. Helen Markham's observation was the source of our Crawford route test.

Jimmy Burt (Witness to possible movements of Tippit assassin prior to shooting)

Burt, 20 years old and AWOL from the Army, was standing in front of his apartment at Tenth and Denver talking to William Smith. Burt saw a man directly across the street walking west on Tenth. Smith was facing north and didn't notice the man. Burt claimed the man he saw continued down the street and eventually shot Tippit. Jimmy Burt's claim was the source of our Marasalis route test.

William Smith (Friend of Jimmy Burt)

Smith was talking to Jimmy Burt when Burt saw the shooter walking west on the other side of Tenth. I was able to eliminate Denver as a possible route because Smith would have seen the shooter walking towards him.

William Scoggins (Cab driver)

Scoggins was eating a sandwich in his parked cab on southeast corner of Patton facing north. He didn't pay much attention until after the shooting so he couldn't tell if the assailant traveled east or west on Tenth. The first time he saw the man he was 150 feet east of Scoggins location. When the shooter fled, Scoggins got out of his cab and ran west across Patton. He feared the shooter would commandeer him and the cab. Finding no cover he then ran back across the street and crouched down behind the cab. As the shooter passed close by, Scoggins heard him mumble either "Poor dumb" or "Poor dam cop."

Domingo Benavidies (Tippit shooting witness)

The Warren Commission claimed he used Tippit's radio to report the shooting at 1:16 PM. The report is incorrect. He didn't know how to use the radio and spent time fumbling with it before T.F. Bowley came up to the police car and made the call. To me this shows the shooting happened before the Commission's claimed 1:16 PM.

T.F. Bowley (Tippit shooting witness)

Bowley was traveling north on Denver and turned west onto Tenth. He reported that as he came around the corner he observed the shooting up ahead. At that point he checked his watch. Bowley stated the time on his watch was 1:10 PM. However, the Warren Commission decided Bowley's watch "was slow."

The Timing

Benavidies had problems with the radio and the Warren Commission claimed Bowley's watch was slow. I decided the Dallas PD time of 1:16 PM was too long and Bowley's time of 1:10 PM was too short. I had to look for another source.

With respect to witness Helen Markham, the Warren Commission claimed her bus was to arrive at the northeast corner of Jefferson and Patton at 1:15 PM. This would make it appear that the shooting could have taken place closer to 1:16 PM. However, I discovered the bus schedule (CD630H) actually shows the bus should arrive at approximately 1:12 PM. In my view the Commission changed the time to give 3 additional minutes so they would have an easier time in proving Oswald could have reached the scene. I concluded the more reliable time was around 1:13 PM or one minute after Helen Markham's bus was to arrive.

Based upon the confusing times we decided to test various routes to see if any would yield a time of 13 minutes or less.

The Routes

The shortest and most logical route is Beckley to Davis to Crawford to Tenth. This path would be based upon Helen Markham's claim that the shooter was walking in an easterly direction on Tenth. The test here yielded a total time of 11 minutes 10 seconds. If you add 31 seconds for the trip to the bus stop on the front end you get 11 minutes 41 seconds.

The next route uses Patton which is located one block to the east of Crawford. We immediately eliminated this route because for the route to work prior to Tippit's killing the shooter would have been walking south on Patton. He would have had to physically walk around Helen Markham before she reached the corner of Tenth and Patton.

The next street over from Patton is Denver but this is eliminated because Bill Smith would have seen the shooter walking towards him in a southerly direction on Denver.

We still had to see if we could fulfill Jimmy Burt's claim of the shooter heading westbound on Tenth. The only way to do this was to get the shooter over to Marsalis and have him walk back on Tenth from east to west. This trip gave us 16 minutes 11 seconds. If we add 31 seconds for the bus stop we get 16 minutes 42 seconds. This was outside of our projected range and made this route questionable.

Dave Perry 11/20/03