How did a disputed investigation by a “self-aggrandizing certified legal investigator” become the centerpiece of Wim Dankbaar’s solution of the John F. Kennedy assassination? Special thanks to Dave Perry for this report.
The Big Dig
For those who have followed the James Files’ story over the years it may be hard to believe that the tale had its foundation with what was described as an archeological dig in Dealey Plaza over 20 years ago. Sometime during October 1987 twenty-six year old John Rademacher of Granbury, Texas discovered two spent .222 shell casings while poking around Dealey Plaza with a metal detector. In May of 1990 he sent a follow up “To Whom It May Concern” letter to an unnamed television network. In his opening paragraph he indicated, “This is an update to the letters, diagrams and pictures that I sent to your show in October 1989 on the JFK assassination.” Obviously John was trying to get the attention of the television media.
Included with his five page letter was a diagram of Dealey Plaza detailing the location of two .222 shell casings he discovered at opposite ends of the plaza, six pages reproduced from a gun catalog showing various rifles that fired the .222 caliber bullet, and a magazine page with photographs of a Remington XP-100 pistol. After his discovery of the two casings John started a search for weapons capable of firing the casings. In the end he determined, “The gun I have matched to the .222 bullets is a Remington XP 100 long range target pistol.”
I wonder if John, at the time of his revelation, knew the exotic weapon he had selected didn’t fire the .222. It was designed for the .221. When I contacted the Remington Arms staff expert on the XP-100 on April 1, 1998 he stated the pistol was never chambered for the .222. Additionally, in rechecking John’s material I discovered part of the XP-100 page had been changed. The last digit in .221 had been altered in pen or pencil to read .222.
From Out of the West There Appeared
During the summer of 1990 a self-proclaimed “certified legal Investigator” and friend of John’s named Joe West teamed up with a twenty-nine year old Midland, Texas man by the name of Ricky Don White. West, Ricky and many others were convinced that Ricky’s father, deceased ex-Dallas police officer Roscoe White, was involved in the Kennedy assassination. West, Ricky and the staff of the now defunct JFK Assassination Information Center held a press conference on August 6, 1990. They offered a portion of their evidence supposedly showing that Roscoe White was the infamous “Grassy Knoll” assassin. Within days researchers found discrepancies contained in some of the evidence presented during the press conference.
Because of these evidentiary inconsistencies the JFK Assassination Information Center felt it necessary to hold a “closed conference” over the Labor Day weekend. Over 15 researchers were invited in part to “Review the [Texas] Attorney General’s preliminary report and discuss what to do about it.” Texas Attorney General Dan Morales’ report appeared to show he too had found contradictions within the proofs received.
Some of us who attended interpreted the meeting as an attempt to control or stifle further investigation. We knew that Oliver Stone under the banner of Camelot Productions had decided to make a movie about the assassination. What we didn’t know at the time was, just five days prior to the press conference promoting the Roscoe White story, the JFK Assassination Information Center received an $80,000 contract from Camelot Productions to act as consultants.
By 1991 various researchers discovered much of the “evidence” implicating Roscoe White was fabricated. When Stone was shown detailed documentation that the White story was mostly fiction he declined to use the account as a basis for his movie explaining he believed it was “a publicity- seeking hoax.”
In spite of this West still refused to acknowledge there were problems with the White story. He dismissed all evidence to the contrary and continued to soldier on. On September 20, 1990 he held his own press conference in Houston claiming Roscoe White’s widow, Geneva, had discovered a diary proving White’s involvement in the assassination.
After the press conference a former CIA agent, John Stockwell, noted that the diary entries allegedly written over a fifteen year period between 1956 and 1971 were “fresh” and written with the same pen. The consensus was the diary was a fraud. Later Geneva White revealed she created diary entries because she “needed the money.”
By now West’s credibility had completely tanked. This didn’t come as a surprise to some of his acquaintances who were previously quoted in a Texas Monthly magazine article. 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 was truly something special.”
West continued to ignore the negativity surrounding the White case. By February 1992 he resurfaced for a Houston Post article. He now claimed that he and Houston lawyer Don Ervin had a taped confession from someone named Hugh. Hugh would once again implicate White, along with Chicago mobsters John Roselli, and Charles “Chuckie” Nicoletti in the assassination “if [Hugh] is given immunity.”
Enter the Feds
Shortly after the Houston Post article appeared, sometime in late March or early April of 1992, West was contacted by F.B.I. Agent Zack Shelton of the Beaumont, Texas F.B.I. office. Shelton was trying to determine if West knew anything about organized crime in the Houston area. West, after all, had mentioned Hugh and Hugh’s involvement in organized crime in the Houston Post article. During their meeting Shelton mentioned that a prisoner incarcerated at Stateville Prison in Joliet, Illinois claimed he was involved in the assassination.
Shortly thereafter Joe began corresponding with the prisoner James Sutton a.k.a. James Files. West traveled to Stateville Prison and met with Files in the middle of August of 1992. Joe West died due to heart problems less than a year later on February 13, 1993 so no one except Files knows what transpired during that meeting.
The meeting caused West to abandon the White story and completely embrace Files as the Grassy Knoll assassin. Of course, West had a history of being duped. And it would seem a savvy con such as Files would find it easy to tweak West’s interest. As mentioned previously West was a friend of John Rademacher and was well aware of John’s two shell casings discovery five years earlier. Based upon later assertions made by Files, it became apparent, West revealed information about Rademacher’s discovery to Files. Files would eventually weave one of the two shell casings into his assassination story.