Robert F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories

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The conspiracy theories relating to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, a United States Senator and brother of assassinated President John F. Kennedy, relate to non-standard accounts of the assassination that took place shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, in Los Angeles, California. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated during celebrations of his successful campaign in the Californian primary elections while seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

The perpetrator was a 24-year-old Palestinian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan, who remains incarcerated for this crime as of 2014. Nonetheless, as with his brother's death, Robert Kennedy's assassination and the circumstances surrounding it have spawned a variety of conspiracy theories, particularly in relation to the existence of a supposed second gunman.[1] Such theories have also centered on the alleged presence of a girl wearing a polka dot dress claiming responsibility for the crime and the purported involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency. Many of these theories were examined during an investigation ordered by the United States Senate, and were judged to be erroneous by the Federal Bureau of Investigation who investigated on the Senate's behalf.

Second gunman[edit]

The location of Kennedy's wounds suggested that his assailant had stood behind him, but some witnesses said that Sirhan faced west as Kennedy moved through the pantry facing east.[2] This has led to the suggestion that a second gunman actually fired the fatal shot, a possibility supported by coroner Thomas Noguchi who stated that the fatal shot was behind Kennedy's right ear and had been fired at a distance of approximately one inch.[3] Other witnesses, though, said that as Sirhan approached, Kennedy was turning to his left shaking hands, facing north and so exposing his right side.[4] As recently as 2008, eyewitness John Pilger asserted his belief that there must have been a second gunman.[5] During a re-examination of the case in 1975, the Los Angeles Superior Court ordered expert examination of the possibility of a second gun having been used, and the conclusion of the experts was that there was little or no evidence to support this theory.[4]

In 2007, analysis of an audio recording [6] of the shooting made that night by freelance reporter Stanislaw Pruszynski appeared to indicate, according to forensic expert Philip van Praag, that at least thirteen shots were fired even though Sirhan's gun held only eight rounds.[2] Van Praag alleged that the recording also revealed at least two cases where the timing between shots was shorter than humanly possible. Van Praag also alleged that an analysis of the Pruszynski tape reveals the firing of more than eight shots was independently corroborated by forensic audio specialists Wes Dooley and Paul Pegas of Audio Engineering Associates in Pasadena, California, forensic audio and ballistics expert Eddy B. Brixen in Copenhagen, Denmark,[7] and audio specialist Phil Spencer Whitehead of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia.[8] Some other acoustic experts, through their own independent analysis, have stated that they believe no more than eight shots are recorded on the audio tape.[9]

On November 26, 2011, Sirhan's defense attorneys William F. Pepper and Laurie Dusek filed a 62 page brief in Los Angeles federal court which asserts that a bullet used as evidence to convict Sirhan was switched with another bullet at the crime scene. The brief claims that this was done because the bullet taken from Kennedy's neck did not match Sirhan's gun. Pepper and Dusek claim that the new evidence presented in their brief is sufficient to prove Sirhan innocent under the law.[10]

The security guard[edit]

Thane Eugene Cesar has been consistently cited as the most likely candidate for a second gunman in the RFK assassination.[11] Cesar had been employed by Ace Guard Service to protect Robert Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel. This was not his full-time job. During the day he worked as a maintenance plumber at the Lockheed Aircraft plant in Burbank, a job that required a security clearance from the Department of Defense. He worked there from 1966 until losing his job in 1971. Dan Moldea wrote that Cesar began working at Hughes in 1973, a job he held for seven years and a position Cesar said required the second highest clearance level at the plant.[12]

When interviewed, Cesar stated that he did draw a gun at the scene of the shooting but insisted the weapon was a Rohm .38, not a .22, the caliber of the bullets found in Kennedy. He also claimed that he got knocked down after the first shot and did not get the opportunity to fire his gun. The LAPD, which interviewed Cesar shortly after the shooting, did not regard Cesar as a suspect and did not ask to see his gun.[13]

Cesar stated that he did own a .22-caliber Harrington & Richardson pistol, and he showed it to LAPD sergeant P. E. O'Steen on June 24, 1968.[14] When the LAPD interviewed Cesar three years later, however, he claimed that he had sold the gun before the assassination to a man named Jim Yoder. William W. Turner tracked down Yoder in October 1972. Yoder still had the receipt for the H & R pistol, which was dated September 6, 1968, and bore Cesar's signature. Cesar therefore had sold the pistol to Yoder three months after Kennedy's assassination despite Cesar's claim in 1971 that he had sold the weapon months before the murder.[14] Author Dan Moldea wrote that Cesar submitted years later to a polygraph examination performed by Edward Gelb, former president and executive director of the American Polygraph Association. Moldea reported that Cesar denied any involvement in Kennedy's assassination and passed the test with flying colors.[15]

Manchurian candidate hypothesis[edit]

Another conspiracy theory relates to a Manchurian candidate hypothesis, that Sirhan was psychologically programmed by persons unknown to commit the murder, that he was not aware of his actions at the time, and that his mind was "wiped" in the aftermath by the conspirators so he would have no memory of the event nor of the persons who "programmed" him.[16] This theory was supported by psychologist and hypnosis expert Dr. Eduard Simson-Kallas after 35 hours of work with Sirhan in San Quentin prison in 1969 after his conviction which Sirhan claimed then, and to this day, to have no memory of the assassination or aftermath.[17]

The woman in the polka-dot dress[edit]

Kennedy campaign worker Sandy Serrano reported seeing a girl in a polka dot dress running from the scene with a man accompanying her, and claimed that the girl exclaimed, "We shot him! We shot him!". When asked to whom the girl was referring, Serrano reported that the girl said, "We shot Senator Kennedy!"[18][19] Another witness, Evan Freed, also saw the girl in the polka dot dress.[20] This report was connected by alternative theorists such as with another report of a girl wearing a polka dot dress who was supposedly seen with Sirhan at various times during the evening, including in the kitchen where the assassination took place.[21][22] Serrano stated that preceding her supposed encounter with the polka-dot dress girl, she heard a series of shots that sounded like a car backfiring.[18] However, following this claim, LAPD criminologist DeWayne Wolfer conducted tests to determine if Serrano could have heard the shots from her location. He found that there would have been a change in sound level of 1/2 decibel at Serrano's location resulting from a shot being fired in the kitchen of the hotel, and concluded that she could therefore not have heard the shots as she claimed.[23] Additionally, Kranz commented in his report that Serrano admitted to fabricating the story following further interviews with investigating officers and that he was unable to find evidence to corroborate any aspect of the original account.[23] However, in the documentary RFK Must Die, Serrano was adamant that what she saw and heard was true. Serrano stated that LAPD SGT Hank Hernandez bullied her into recanting her account; and audio of the 38-minute interview between Hernandez and Serrano furthered her assertion that she was bullied into withdrawing her account.

CIA involvement[edit]

In November 2006, the BBC's Newsnight program presented research by filmmaker Shane O'Sullivan alleging that several CIA officers were present on the night of the assassination.[24] Three men who appear in video and photographs from the night of the assassination were positively identified by former colleagues and associates as former senior CIA officers who had worked together in 1963 at JMWAVE, the CIA's main anti-Castro station based in Miami. They were JMWAVE Chief of Operations David Morales, Chief of Maritime Operations Gordon Campbell and Chief of Psychological Warfare Operations George Joannides.[24]

The program featured an interview with Morales's former attorney Robert Walton, who quoted him as having said, "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard".[24] O'Sullivan reported that the CIA declined to comment on the officers in question. It was also alleged that Morales was known for his deep anger toward the Kennedys for what he saw as their betrayal during the Bay of Pigs Invasion.[25]

After further investigation, O'Sullivan produced the feature documentary, RFK Must Die. The film casts doubt on the earlier identifications and ultimately argues that the man previously identified as Gordon Campbell may, in fact, have been Michael D. Roman, a now-deceased Bulova Watch Company employee, who was at the Ambassador Hotel for a company convention.[26]



  • Moldea, Dan E. (1995). The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy: An Investigation of Motive, Means, and Opportunity. New York: Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-03791-3. 
  • Kranz, Thomas F. (1977). Robert F. Kennedy assassination (summary) (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 2009-10-30. [dead link]
  • O'Sullivan, Shane (2008). Who Killed Bobby?: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy. New York: Union Square Press. ISBN 978-1-4027-5444-9. 
  • Melanson, Philip H. (1994). The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination: New Revelations on the Conspiracy and Cover-Up, 1968–1991. New York: S.P.I. Books. ISBN 978-1-56171-324-0. 
  • Turner, William W.; Christian, Jonn G. (1978). The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: a searching look at the conspiracy and cover-up, 1968–1978. Random House. ISBN 978-0-394-40273-4. 


  1. ^ Martinez, Michael (April 30, 2012). "RFK assassination witness tells CNN: There was a second shooter". CNN. 
  2. ^ a b Randerson, James (2008-02-22). "New evidence challenges official picture of Kennedy shooting". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  3. ^ Noguchi, Thomas (1985). Coroner. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-46772-2. 
  4. ^ a b "Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Summary, Part 1(b), p. 35" (PDF). FBI. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  5. ^ "Democracy Now! Special: Robert F. Kennedy's Life and Legacy 40 Years After His Assassination". Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  6. ^ Pruszynski recording & analysis by acoustic expert Philip Van Praag
  7. ^ O'Sullivan, Shane (2008) Who Killed Bobby?: The Unsolved Murder of Robert Kennedy. New York: Sterling Publishing. p. 478.
  8. ^ CNN's BackStory reports on Pruszynski recording & analysis
  9. ^ Harrison, P. (2007) 'Analysis of "The Pruszynski Tape"' (report on recording of gunshots). In Ayton, M., The Forgotten Terrorist: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Washington: Potomac Books.
  10. ^ Linda Deutsch (Associated Press) 2011-11-29
  11. ^ Kranz, p. 43
  12. ^ Moldea, pp. 200–01.
  13. ^ Moldea, p. 149.
  14. ^ a b Moldea, pp. 151–52.
  15. ^ Moldea, pp. 280–290.
  16. ^ Kranz, p. 50
  17. ^ Turner and Christian, p. 199
  18. ^ a b O'Sullivan, p. 21
  19. ^ Melanson, p. 217
  20. ^ Robert Blair Kaiser. "R. F. K. must die!": A history of the Robert Kennedy assassination and its aftermath. Dutton, 1970 p 129
  21. ^ Seymour Korman (1969-02-18). "Polka Dot Mystery Girl Is Named at Sirhan Trial". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  22. ^ Melanson, p. 225
  23. ^ a b Kranz, p. 47
  24. ^ a b c "CIA role claim in Kennedy killing". BBC. 2006-11-21. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  25. ^ O'Sullivan, Shane (2006-11-20). "Did the CIA kill Bobby Kennedy?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-11-21. 
  26. ^ O'Sullivan, Shane (2007-11-20). RFK Must Die (DVD). Dokument Films.