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Assassinations: Miami link, Part I
JFK, KING: Dade County links

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[Reference: Miami Magazine, Volume 27, Number 11 September 1976. Posted here with permission of the author]

Assassinations: Miami link, Part I

The Dade County links

Is it mere coincidence that a Miami police informer was able to predict with astonishing accuracy the assassinations of both John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King?  Apparently, the FBI thought so

By Dan Christensen

Nov. 9, 1963 – Miami Police tape-record a conversation in which an extreme right-wing political organizer accurately predicts the assassination of President John F. Kennedy just as it was to happen 13 days later.  The man said the President would be killed by shots fired "from an office building with a high-powered rifle."

Jan. 13, 1964 – The same man, using an alias, withdrawn $12,000 from a savings account at a now defunct bank in Provo, Utah.  The man, who lived in Georgia, had opened the account the previous July.

Nov. 1, 1963 – A Cuban exile walks into the Parrot Jungle gift shop and tells a female employee he hates the President and he could "shoot Kennedy between the eyes."  He has a "friend named Lee," he says, "who is also a sharp-shooter," and that Lee spoke Russian and German and was living in either Texas or Mexico.  (Lee Harvey Oswald spoke Russian, lived in Texas, and earlier in the fall had been traveling in Mexico.)

These intriguing incidents suggest the surreal atmosphere permeating Miami in 1963.  Not only were many newly arrived Cuban refugees making raids on their homeland in attempts to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro, but America's home-grown right-wing fanatics were conducting a last-gasp effort to head off the drive for equal rights by blacks.  For both, the prospects seemed bleak, and for both, hatred focused on John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

To Cubans, Kennedy was the ultimate betrayer.  He had backed out of supportive air strikes when a Cuban exile brigade landed at the Bay of Pigs, and he had knuckled under to Nikita Khrushchev in 1962 when he pledged not to invade Cuba in return for removal of Soviet missiles from the island.  Kennedy had committed himself and, as long as he lived, a return to Cuba would be impossible.

On the right-wing fringe, Kennedy was hated for other reasons, mainly his stand on integration.  He was feared also as a leader who was setting the United States up for some nebulous takeover conspiracy by the United Nations and the despised Jews, extremist documents show.

Miami Magazine's inquiry into the assassination began with the Miami Police tape-recording.  Scattered references have been made to the recording since it was uncovered in 1967, most notably by assassination researcher Harold Weisberg who published the transcript in his 1970 book "Frame-Up."  Investigation of this incident led to discovery of the Parrot Jungle threat.

Circuit Judge Seymour Gelber, then an assistant to State Attorney Richard Gerstein, provided nearly all the initial information about the tape-recording.  Not only did he save records and memoranda from the investigation, he kept a diary.  The diary was invaluable in our research.  Gerstein too has been totally cooperative.

Their investigation, which culminated in the tape-recording of Nov. 9, 1963, began in February 1962 after a series of local bombings, including an attack upon the home of Miami Herald editor Don Shoemaker.  A few days after that bombing, Willie Somersett, a union organizer with extensive right-wing political ties (he was a Klansman), showed up at the Herald building to offer his services as an informer.  Quickly, he began working for the Miami police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The police were never advised of his ties to the FBI.  (Actually, he had worked for the FBI, off and on, for about a decade, it is now known).  Over the next several months, Somersett imparted enough information to state investigators to enable them to arrest and convict several of the bombers.

After the bombing investigation, Somersett remained on the payrolls of both the city and the FBI, revealing extremist activities.  In April 1963 he traveled to New Orleans for a meeting of the Congress of Freedom party.  The COF, a confederation of right-wing political groups, still exists, acting, its leader Mary Cain of Summit, Miss, says, "to get patriot organizations together to discuss the issues."  It was in New Orleans that Somersett hooked up with an old friend, Joseph A. Milteer, now deceased, the man who later made the tape-recorded threats against JFK.

Willie Agustus Somersett, at age 61 in 1963, was a mountainous figure who was beginning to feel the agony of afflictions that eventually would kill him.  Dubbed agent ‘88' by Miami police, if was said he reminded one of an Oldsmobile 88.  Gerstein described him as "a real Sidney Greenstreet type."

Somersett had lived in Miami for about four years by 1963, sharing a room in a semi-flophouse with his wife Peggy.  He managed his union affairs out of the old Dolphin Hotel, headquarters for his pretentiously titled National Federation of Labor.  He died May 7, 1970, in Goldsboro, N.C., just a few miles from where he had been born.

In an interesting sidelight to Somersett's death, his closest friend in Miami, George Brackett, received a mysterious call at 3 a.m. from a man who claimed to be at Washington's Walter Reed Hospital.  The man, who wouldn't identify himself, told Brackett of Willie's death and said he was calling because Brackett's name was on an emergency card in Somersett's wallet.  Relatives say Somersett died in North Carolina.

Through the years Somersett had been associated with right-wing politics, but he disliked groups pressing for violence. Why he became an informer is uncertain.  Money?  Honor?  Patriotism?  It could just have been his job.

Joseph A. Milteer, a wealthy rabble-rousing racist from Quitman, Ga., devoted his life to right-wing causes, belonging to at least four ultra-conservative organizations: the National State's Rights Party, The White Citizen's Council, The Dixie Klan, and the Constitution Party.  He rarely stayed at home, choosing instead to traverse the country attending meetings and calling on other true believers.  At least once in 1963, he visited Dallas.

When Milteer was at home, he churned out reams of what he and fellow Georgians called "yellow sheets" in which he blasted Kennedy, Jews, Communists, the Un, local politicians and the federal government.  He also sold tape-recorded speeches of notorious patriotic zealots.

When he wasn't busy with politics, Milteer tried his hand as a mail-order salesman for various novelty items.  And he bootlegged wine from a still in a shed in his backyard.

Milteer died Feb. 28, 1974, two days after his 72nd birthday – reportedly from burns inflicted when a gas heater in his home exploded.  Several days later, a small cache of arms and ammunition was uncovered in his car.

Because of mysterious circumstances shrouding his death, I went to Quitman to explore Milteer's life in detail.  Since he had no known relatives, his estate has remained in probate, his dilapidated Victorian home unexplored for two and half years.

Milteer lived like a packrat.  Besides saving junk mail and trivial belongings of his dead parents, he kept carbon copies of letters he sent during his prolific career.  Some were cryptic.  Most were mild.  All belied the deadliness with which he had spoken in Miami.

Since Milteer's death, the house has been ransacked several times.  What was taken is unknown.  A neighbor told probate Judge James R. Knight that she saw men in a truck with Texas license plates carting boxes of Milteer's belongings away.

The most fascinating evidence found at Milteer's home was in a bankbook tucked away amid piles of letters in his closet.  The savings account, No. 115376 from the now-defunct Utah savings and Loan Association of Provo, Utah, was made out to one Samuel Steven Story and Mrs. C. C. Cofield.  The address given was 212 South Troupe St, Valdosta, Ga., Mrs. Cofield's home.  (Cofield had been Milteer's common-law wife for many years and lived with him until her death in 1971).  When the account was opened on July 31, 1963, an initial deposit of $5,000 was made.  There followed bot two others, one of $5,000 and another of $2,000 on Aug. 20 and Sept. 24, respectively.  On Jan. 31, 1964, (52 days after the assassination,) all $12,000 was withdrawn abruptly and the account was closed.

There is no doubt that Story was an alias for Milteer.  A letter to the bank was found, typed on Milteer's "yellow sheets" with Story's signature which matched Milteer's'; along with it was another letter to the same bank, dated the same day, with Milteer's signature.  Apparently he had an account under his own name as well.  There is no evidence to indicate Milteer ever used an alias except during that brief, crucial period.

It is significant that with exception of a series of invitations to notables (George Wallace and Klan leader Robert Shelton) to attend a Constitution Party meeting in mid October, 1963, no letters found dealing with 1963 were found, despite detailed correspondence for the years before and after.

Unearthed amid the rubble of his decaying house was part of a diary, ostensibly by him, that briefly recounts events from July 8, 1963 through October 1, 1963.  It mentions the trip to Dallas and a meeting with arch-conservative commentator Dan Smoot.

Unanswered questions about Milteer's death abound.  Apparently, he was fatally burned Feb. 9, 1974 when a Coleman stove he was using for heat in his antiquated bathroom exploded.  He died two weeks later.

According to the death certificate, Milteer died of "severe third degree burns on both lower extremities."  Marion Maxwell the local mortician, says, however, the burns he saw on Milteer's body weren't severe enough to have caused death.  In fact, he said they were already partially healed.  No autopsy was ever performed.

Milteer himself mentions receiving burns similar to those that allegedly caused his death in an unfinished letter dated Jan. 27, 1964: "I had an accident wherein I knocked over a sauce pan of hot water on the floor into which I fell and the hot water burned the small of my back."

Milteer had attended the April 1963 meeting in New Orleans as a representative of the Dixie Klan, a notoriously violent faction of the KKK based in Chattanooga, Tenn. And advocated a coordinated assassination program that would eliminate a long list of prominent government officials and businessmen.  He felt that the "patriot" organizations should act swiftly because Kennedy was on the verge of turning the U.S. government over to the United Nations.

Somersett, in recounting the meeting, said that the visible leaders didn't discuss violence but he said, "Not only Milteer, but others said they would start as soon as it was deemed necessary to prevent the UN from taking over the U.S. . . .They felt that the President of the U.S. or the Congress was handling over the United States to the UN, that these people were the conspirators, and (that) they should be killed immediately.  I am satisfied Milteer is one of the high command in the policy group."

Earlier Somersett had said of Milteer.  "He is one of the most violent-minded men in the country."

 Several times during his debriefing, Somersett referred to "the national hidden hand of this organization."  He theorized that it included Milteer, several admirals and ex-generals and assorted right-wing big shots.

As he gave the testimony about New Orleans, Somersett was earning respect and credibility with Miami authorities.  The FBI, in its documents about the incidents, called Somersett "a source who has furnished reliable information in the past."  Gelber characterized his informant in even more respectful terms: "Somersett frequently uses the expression ‘the most violent man I know' in describing a particular person (Milteer) . . . I am beginning to suspect he is intuitively separating the talkers from the doers.  Whereas we can only guess, Somersett obviously senses who among them spells danger."

Somersett smelled danger at the COF meeting.  Toward the end of the questioning about his New Orleans trip, he said, "If the Congress of the U.S. doesn't cut the UN out, if it continues that way for twelve months, there has got to be some violence.  You could tell if you had been there and stood around and seen the people, the expression on their faces, heard the way they talked.  Those people are people of means, financially, and educationally.  They are not there just for an ice cream party.  This can't continue on, with the people financing these things, something must happen.  I will bet my head on a chopping block there will be some people killed by this time next year and it will be in high places."

Somersett encountered Milteer again in early October at a meeting in Vero Beach.  At that meeting, Milteer again proposed violence and announced that "the National States Rights Party is going to move in Miami fast."

At Vero Beach, Milteer promoted an impending convention of the Constitution Party the following week in Indianapolis.  As a member of that group's board of directors, Milteer helped formulate "plans to put an end to the Kennedy, King (Martin Luther), Khrushchev dictatorship over our nation."

Gelber's diary reveals that "before they parted, Milteer confided to Somersett he was certain that Dixie Klan Imperial Wizard Jack Brown. . . . either placed the bomb, or engineered the act, which caused the death of four children in the Birmingham church bombing."  (The case remains unsolved today.)

In Indianapolis, Milteer persisted in calling for violent action.  Jack Brown, the man Milteer had blamed for the Birmingham bombing, was there.  According to Somersett and another informant, Stanley Pospisil, Brown implicated himself in the Birmingham bombing, and was "virtually bragging about this role there."  Brown, according to Harold Weisberg, was a gas station operator extremely active in the Klan.  "He was reported to be a ‘contact man' for the United White Party; to have been an NSRP presidential elector, to have died of a heart attack in 1965."

After the Indianapolis meeting, Gelber suggested Milteer be tape-recorded during his upcoming visit to Miami.

Milteer arrived in town the weekend of Nov. 9 and scheduled breakfast with Sommersett at his apartment.  Detective Everett Kay, Somersett's police contact, set up a tape-recorder in a broom closet off the kitchen early, then left.  Somersett was to plug the recorder in when Milteer knocked on the door.

The well laid plans of the Miami PD almost went awry when Milteer showed up unexpectedly and caught Somersett outside the apartment.  Willie kept his cool, however, and plugged the tape-recorder in as he looked at the nearby refrigerator, saying.  "This damn box gets all frosted up if I let is run overnight.  I just pull the plug at night and put it back in the morning."  With that, he and Milteer began their notorious talk.

As Somersett led his duped friend through a series of loaded questions, startling revelations emerged.  Not only did Milteer implicate Brown in the church bombing again, he also told how Brown had tried to kill Martin Luther King.  "He followed him for miles and miles, and couldn't get close enough to hit him."

Then he dropped his tape-recorded bombshell.

Somersett: . . . I think Kennedy is coming here on the 18th . . . to make some kind of speech. . . I imagine it will be on TV.

Milteer: You can bet your bottom dollar he is going to have a lot to say about the Cubans.  There are so many of them here.

Somersett: Yeah, well, he will have a thousand bodyguards.  Don't worry about that.

Milteer: The more bodyguards he has the easier it is to get him.

Somersett: What?

Milteer: The more bodyguards he has the more easier it is to get him.

Somersett: Well, how in the hell do you figure would be the best way to get him?

Milteer: From an office building with a high-powered rifle.  How many people does he have going around who look just like him?   Do you know about that?

Somersett: No, I never heard he had anybody.

Milteer: He has about fifteen.  Whenever he goes anyplace, he knows he is a marked man?

Somersett: You think he knows he is a marked man?

Milteer: Sure he does.

Somersett: They are really going to try to kill him?

Milteer: Oh, yeah, it is in the working.  Brown himself, Brown is just as likely to get him as anybody in the world.  He hasn't said so, but he tried to get Martin Luther King.

After a few more minutes of conversation, Somersett again spoke of assassination.

Somersett: . . . Hitting this Kennedy is going to be a hard proposition, I tell you.  I believe you may have figured out a way to get him, the office building and all that.  I don't know how the Secret Service agents cover all them office buildings everywhere he is going.  Do you know whether they do that or not?

Milteer: Well, if they have any suspicion they do that, of course.  But without suspicion, chances are that they wouldn't.  You take there in Washington.  This is the wrong time of the year, but in pleasant whether, he comes out on the veranda and somebody could be in a hotel room across the way and pick him off just like that.

Somersett: Is that right?

Milteer: Sure, disassemble a gun.  You don't have to take a gun up there, you can take it up in pieces.  All those guns come knock down.  You can take them apart.
Before the end of the tape, the conversation returns to Kennedy.
Milteer: Well, we are going to have to get nasty. . .

Somersett: Yeah, get nasty.

Milteer: We have got to be ready, we have got to be sitting on go, too.

Somersett: Yeah, that is right.

Milteer: There ain't any countdown to it, we have just got to be sitting on go.  Countdown, they can move in on you, and go they can't.  Countdown is all right for a slow prepared operation.  But in an emergency operation, you have got to be sitting on go.

Somersett: Boy, if that Kennedy get shot, we have go to know where we are at.  Because you know that will be a real shake. . .

Milteer: They wouldn't leave any stone unturned there.  No way.  They will pick up somebody within hours afterwards, if anything like that would happen, just to throw the public off.

Somersett: Oh, somebody is going to have to go to jail, if he gets killed.

Milteer: Just like Bruno Hauptmann in the Lindbergh case, you know.

The entire tape-recording lasts roughly a half-hour and much of it is either garbled or irrelevant.  Each voice is distinctly unique.  Somersett spoke his words quickly, infusing each syllable with a thick Southern accent.  Milteer's high pitched, effeminate voice dilutes the deadliness of his words.

Kennedy came to Miami Nov. 18, 1963 for the Inter-American Press Association convention at the Americans.  The Secret Service, alerted about the tape by Miami authorities (and certainly by the FBI who received the information directly from Somersett), abandoned a planned motorcade.  Instead, the President helicoptered to Miami Beach.

In his diary, Gelber says a police detective assigned to the case assured him the Secret Service knew where Brown and Milteer were.  Bob Newbrand, a local Secret Service spokesman, says that he doesn't understand Gelber's statement: "I know for sure we didn't put him (Milteer) under surveillance.  We were never that much involved with that.  If anybody made a threat we wouldn't put him under surveillance, we'd lock him up!"  (What really happened?)  The contradictions of Newbrand's statement and Gelber's diary are staggering.  If Milteer and Brown weren't under observation , why weren't they?  Was this simply considered a frivolous threat?  Miami PD took it seriously.

Milteer and Somersett were to meet once more, On Nov 23, the day after the assassination, Somersett traveled to Jacksonville Where he rendezvoused with Milteer before making a quick trip to Columbia, S. C. for a session with KKK members.  When he returned to Miami, he reported to the police what he had learned: "During the journey to had learned: "During the journey to S.C.  he (Milteer) told me that he was connected with an international underground
He said there would be a propaganda campaign put on how to prove to the Christian people of the world that the Jews, the Zionist Jews, had murdered Kennedy.

"He was very happy over it and shook hands with me.  He said: ‘Well, I told you so.  It happened like I told you, didn't it?  It happened from a window with a high-powered rifle.'  I said, "That's right.  I don't know whether you were guessing or not, but you hit it on the head pretty good.'  He said, ‘Well, that is the way it was supposed to be done, and that is the way it was done.'

"From the impression he gave me, and what he told me, the Oswald group was pro-Castro.  This group was infiltrated by the patriot underground who arranged from there to have the execution carried out and drop the responsibility right into the laps of the Communists.  I don't think there was any agreement with this little flimflam organization that Oswald belonged to . . . I don't believe Milteer did it, but it might be a possibility that he knows who engineered it.  The impression I get from him, I think the thing was set up to kill Mr. Kennedy in the South, in some southern state . . . Milteer is too much enthused about it, before hand and after, not to know something about it."

Later, Miami authorities tried to get Milteer and Brown to come to Miami where they again could make tape-recordings.  On Dec. 4, Somersett got a shock when he called Milteer and discovered the FBI had questioned Milteer and Brown as part of a mess roundup of extremists.  From Gelber's diary: "Somersett is extremely concerned about this turn of events.  Milteer did not accuse him of being an FBI informer, but inasmuch as the questioning appeared to be based on the statements made to Somersett, suspicion would inevitably rest on him . . . There is no chance of getting Milteer and Brown to Miami now and there is a possibility they will show considerable caution in future conversations in Somersett's presence. . . I wonder why the FBI picked these people up after the President's assassination rather than before the act?  All this manages to do is jeopardize the safety of our undercover agent.  Based on the Milteer tape, I had anticipated such government action prior to the President's visit to Miami . . . I did not expect it as an afterthought . . . There is nothing of substantial value to be gained by this dramatic move except to scare hell out of Milteer, Brown and a few others . . . It ruins our investigation and further weakens the effectiveness of the undercover agent, not only for us, but also for the FBI."

Declassified FBI documents, obtained by Harold Weisberg under the Freedom of Information Act, prove the Bureau was doing just what Gelber's diary suggests.  Without naming him, they identify Somersett as the informant.

Perhaps the most fascinating document the FBI released deals with its interview of Joseph Milteer by agents from the Atlanta office.  Milteer, in that report, "emphatically denies ever making threats to assassinate President Kennedy or participating in any such assassination."  He said he didn't know Lee Oswald or Jack Ruby.

A 1968 Miami police memo on Somersett relates how he traveled to New Orleans and spoke with some of then-District Attorney Jim Garrison's agents.  Garrison was conducting his JFK assassination probe and requested Somersett's help.  Somersett told his story and mentioned a letter he had received from Milteer, dated Nov. 18, 1963 and postmarked Valdosta, Ga. Garrison's men wanted the letter, but the memo never indicated whether Somersett gave it to them.  He never revealed its contents, but Detective Kay confirms the existence of the letter.  Neither he nor anyone else knows where it is today.

Other unusual disappearances of information have hampered our investigation.  The state attorney's office, which keeps all its records of old cases on file in a North Miami warehouse, says the records on this case, and all others pertaining to the JFK assassination are missing, despite a thorough search.  No one can account for their absence.

The Miami police intelligence unit, now called the Special Investigations Section, says there are no files on the assassination.  Kay, however, says he looked at such files only six months ago, before his retirement.  We have no reason to doubt his word.  Do the files exist or don't they?  In a quote that sounds as if it could have come from "Catch 22," former special section chief Major Herbert Breslow said: "If I found out where it (the file) was, I wouldn't tell you anyway.  I'd just say nothing.  You must believe me when I tell you we don't have any files, even though I wouldn't tell you if I did."  The FBI added a strict "no comment" on all questions.

The Parrot Jungle incident involved different characters.  Initial information in this case came from former Dade Circuit Judge Alfonso Sepe, whom I contacted about the Milteer tape.

During our discussion, Sepe revealed a "super-secret investigation" he had directed as assistant state attorney in 1967.  He had initiated it because of exciting information he received from a friend.

What he discovered was disturbing.  In sworn testimony taken by Sepe, Mrs. Lillian Spingler, an employee of the Parrot Jungle gift shop in 1963, told how a Cuban man had entered the shop in late autumn and "initiated a conversation with her in which he stated that he could write with both hands simultaneously and that he was a sharpshooter.  This Cuban male allegedly told Mrs. Spingler that he had a friend named Lee who could speak Russian and German and was living in Texas or Mexico, and that Lee was also a sharpshooter.  Mrs. Spingler told some friends, but the conversation she had with the Cuban male was passed off until the night of President Kennedy's assassination (22 days later) when Mrs. Spingler was riding in a car with her husband, a close friend and a relative from New Jersey, on their way back from Key West to Miami.  Mrs. Spingler said that before she heard the name of the President's assassination, she remarked that she knew who the assassin was.  Because she had told several friends, the incident was reported to the FBI.

"I interrogated Mrs. (Ruth) Bastholm, Mr. (William) Vander Wyden (Mrs. Spingler's boss at Parrot Jungle), and Mrs. (Aliese) Trigg.  Mrs. Trigg remembered learning of Spingler's conversation from Mrs. Spingler prior to the assassination, and corroborated to some degree Mrs. Spingler's version."

He also said he hated the President and "could shoot Kennedy between the eyes."

Sepe said the incident was relayed to the FBI in late December 1963 when Mrs. Spingler called them.  After a quick investigation, FBI agent in charge, James O'Connor told her to "just drop it and not mention it."  Mrs. Spingler is still taking O'Connor's advice and has refused to comment, saying only, "They told me not to talk about it.  Goodby."  The FBI would say nothing.

The investigation the FBI conducted bears examining.  Several months after the threat relayed by Mrs. Spingler, the man who made the threat was identified when he returned to the Parrot Jungle and was spotted.  Alertly, Parrot Jungle employees wrote down the license number of his car.  They informed the FBI.

Several weeks passed before Special Agent O'Connor called Mrs. Spingler to tell her that he had in custody Jorge Soto Martinez.  O'Connor told her that Martinez, at the time of the threat, had been employed as a Fontainebleau Hotel bellhop.

Martinez didn't deny having a conversation with Mrs. Spingler.  He did deny making threats against the President or saying he knew Lee Oswald.

From Sepe's report: "Agent O'Connor asked Mrs. Spingler if she wanted to come to the FBI office and identify the man.  Agent O'Connor and Mrs. Spingler both state that Mrs. Spingler refused to go to the FBI office to identify Martinez because she was afraid of personal harm."  Still, O'Connor was satisfied the Mr. Martinez was not involved in an attempt to assassinate President Kennedy and did not know Oswald.  So the FBI closed its investigation.

In 1967, Sepe threw some light on the FBI's earlier report.  He called O'Connor and received the opinion that Martinez had nothing to do with the assassination.  O'Connor offered the theory that Mrs. Spingler had "exaggerated the conversation she had with Martinez and that in all probability (had) misunderstood Martinez when he said that he would like to kill Castro."  O'Connor also obligingly pointed out that because of Martinez' heavy accent, Mrs. Spingler thought Martinez said "Lee," when he had said "he."

"Lee" could certainly be mistaken for "he," but "Kennedy" doesn't rhyme with "Castro," even when spoken with an accent.  Or by an FBI man.

In her statement to Sepe, Mrs. Spingler reasserted her belief that she had heard Martinez correctly.  "I know – was sure he said Lee because I associated General Lee with it . . . That's my way of remembering, like ‘He's a sharpshooter, General Lee,' you know."

Mrs. Spingler told Sepe she had never been contacted by anyone representing the Warren Commission.  "Mr. Conley (sic) told me to forget it all and I figured, well, I told what I knew to the FBI.  If they want to further investigate it, then do it.  I was just following his instructions."
Curiously, the FBI never even had her identify the man she saw.  She was shown some pictures of possible suspects, but never one the could identify.  Sepe asked her if she was certain the FBI had picked up the man she had talked to.

"I really don't know for sure," she replied.  "It didn't even dawn on me until now that you are questioning me.  I just had the license number and I never met him again or saw his picture."

Sepe probed, trying to learn how the FBI had identified the man they had picked up.  He asked Mrs. Spingler why she hadn't gone to the FBI office and identified him through a one-way mirror.  She answered that the agent-in-charge had never suggested it.

Mrs. Spingler finally identified Martinez as the man she had talked to, in 1967, when Sepe located Martinez and obtained a photo.

Martinez was totally cooperative during Sepe's investigation, even submitting to a lie detector examination.  During the test, he denied all Mrs. Spingler's allegations.  Warren Holmes, nationally recognized polygraph expert, determined that Martinez probably was telling the truth "with the exception that in a temperamental outburst to Mrs. Spingler, (he) might have said some unkind things about President Kennedy which he had originally denied to (Sepe).  Specifically, he showed deception in his denial to the question: "Did you tell the woman at the Parrot Jungle that you were going to Washington and shoot the President between the eyes?"  He later admitted to Holmes, following the examination, that he recalled making some stupid statement like that . . . He stated he had a habit of shooting his mouth off, but vehemently denied mentioning the name of Lee."

Sepe still thinks Mrs. Spingler was truthful in her statements concerning Martinez.

If the FBI had chosen to check into Martinez' life more thoroughly, his alleged remarks might have been taken more seriously.

Martinez had gotten his job at the Fontainebleau because of a plug given him by a Mike McLaney.  McLaney had been Martinez' employer in Havana.  He had hired Martinez to clean out slot machines at the casino he operated at the Nacional Hotel.  When Castro banned gambling, both McLaney and Martinez fled to Miami.  McLaney lived in a houseboat docked across Collins Avenue from the Fontainebleau and prevailed on them to help get Martinez a job.  Both McLaney and Ken Humphreys, Martinez' boss at the Fontainbleau, confirmed McLaney's role in the hiring.

Told of the allegations against Martinez, McLaney said that he knew nothing about any assassination plot and offered his impression of Martinez.  "George (Jorge) wouldn't harm Mickey Mouse.  He has the courage of a little less than a mouse.  It's startling to me to hear this."  He said he doesn't know where Martinez is now.  I made repeated efforts to locate Martinez to no avail.

Do the tangled facts that surround both the Milteer and Martinez incidents mean anything?  Perhaps not, but the fact that they were never sufficiently explained is unsettling.

There are numerous implications that have been raised by this investigation.  Ponder this list of questions that still need answers.

-Why were Milteer and Brown picked up after Kennedy's assassination and not before?
-If, as Gelber says, Milteer and Brown were under surveillance during the President's Nov. 18 trip to Miami, were they also being watched on Nov. 22?  If they were, why doesn't the FBI say so?
-Why did the FBI round up the two extremists for questioning on Nov. 27, ruining a Miami police plan to spy on them?
-Why did the FBI take Milteer's denial that he threatened the President when they had him on tape saying the opposite?
-Why did it also take him at his word when he denied knowledge of the Birmingham bombing?
-Why didn't they investigate the threats he made in New Orleans and Indianapolis?
-What was the significance Milteer's Utah bank account?
-Why did he use an alias?
-Why are there still unanswered questions about his death?
-Why does the FBI continue withhold evidence concerning the tape?
-Why did the Warren Commission report fail to mention this Miami connection?
-Why did the FBI tell Mrs. Spingler to forget about the Parrot Jungle incident and not to mention it to anyone?
-Why do Warren Commission files fail to make mention of it?

Sepe thinks the Martinez incident is important. "It is far more significant in hindsight than it was at the time," he believes.  "So man facts have surfaced, and so much intrigue has been suggested, that gives rise to challenges to the authenticity and thoroughness of the Warren Commission investigation.  I believe a new investigation is fully warranted, and all record should be unsealed and everybody who has any relevant information should be questioned exhaustively.

Judge Gelber thinks the information about this case bears further examination by the federal government.  "I think an oversight committee should be established which would re-evaluate all the new evidence that has come to light recently.  If for no other reason than to satisfy the general public.  This data about Milteer is raw intelligence and should be treated as such, but I it is important.  It cannot be ignored.  This information has never had an priority consideration.  The authorities didn't consider it serious enough when it was first available.  I think that when Oswald was arrested activity in other areas diminished particularly in this one."

State Attorney Gerstein was more subdued in his comment about the Milteer incident but said.  "The overwhelming majority of the people of the United States do not believe that Oswald acted alone and are not satisfied with the conclusions of the Warren Commission.  As to whether or not it will be fruitful (to reopen the case) or not, leave to someone else's judgment."

Next month: Miami Magazine inquiry into apparent Dade County links to the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leads to more reasons to believe that King's killer wasn't alone.

go to Part II

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