Robert Spears (naturopath)
Robert Vernon Spears (June 26, 1894 – May 2, 1969) was a naturopath who is alleged to have placed a bomb aboard National Airlines Flight 967, an aircraft which disappeared over the Gulf of Mexico on November 16, 1959, killing 42 people.
Spears had a long history of crime, having been arrested 17 times under 14 different aliases. He had become financially successful in Texas as a naturopath, even becoming the head of the Texas Naturopath Association in 1954. But in 1957 he was expelled from the organization in a bribery scandal. He moved to California and took up hypnotism, his business was with a doctor performing abortions (which were then illegal in the U.S.). He was charged with three felony accounts and was set to stand trial in Los Angeles on December 3, 1959.
Investigators learned that William Taylor, a fellow felon and longtime criminal accomplice of Spears, had boarded Flight 967 using a ticket made out to "Dr. Spears." The theory arose that Spears, desperate to avoid trial and wanting a fresh start, had tricked Taylor (perhaps through hypnosis) into boarding the aircraft with a piece of luggage containing a bomb; when the aircraft crashed, it would be assumed that Spears was on board. His wife (who had just given birth to twins) would then cash in an insurance policy for $100,000 on Spears' life. However, Taylor himself purchased $37,500.00 worth of life insurance at the airport; when his ex-wife attempted to collect on that policy, authorities were notified. It was determined that Taylor had boarded the flight using a ticket issued for Spears.
Spears was eventually arrested in Phoenix after being turned in by a fellow naturopath in Arizona. Due to lack of evidence, however, Spears was never charged with any offense in relation to the Flight 967 crash.
- "Con Man, Best Man, An Air Crash - A Far Out, Far Up Mystery". Life. Vol. 48, no. 14. February 1, 1960. pp. 13–17. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
- "Robert Spears, 1959 bomb suspect, dies in Dallas". St. Petersburg Times. May 3, 1969. p. 15B. Retrieved June 23, 2016.
- Aviation Safety Network report on Flight 967
- Civil Aeronautics Board Aircraft Accident Report on Flight 967 from the Department of Transport's Special Collections
- List of passenger airline bombings from Aerospace.org (scroll down for information on Flight 967)
- Information on Flight 967 from planecrashinfo.com