A DEMONSTRABLE IMPOSSIBILITY:
The HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel’s
Misrepresentation of the Kennedy Assassination Medical Evidence
by John Hunt
The House Select Committee on Assassinations' (HSCA) Forensic Pathology Panel
(FPP) sought to identify and locate as precisely as possible any exit wounds on
John Kennedy’s head, including that of the bullet it determined entered the rear
of the President’s head. To accomplish that, the FPP utilized the only hard evidence
available to it—the X-rays and photographs taken during Kennedy’s autopsy. Mysteriously,
the President’s brain and the tissue slides of the wound margins prepared after
the autopsy (which had been preserved for further study) have disappeared. The
only organic matter from JFK’s body remaining in evidence today is the dried blood
in the fabric of the clothing he wore that day, and possibly the human skin and
tissue associated with CE-567.
The X-rays –
Four radiologists were consulted by the FPP over a six-month period beginning
in February 1978.
None reported an identifiable exit point. The closest an HSCA
radiology consultant came to claiming to identify an outshoot point was Dr. David
Davis, who reported:
It seems apparent that explosive impact
occurred in this calvarium. It also seems reasonable to assume that
the exit point is near the coronal suture on the right side, about 5 or 6,
or perhaps slightly more, cm above the pterion. (7HSCA224)
Why it “seem[ed] reasonable” to Davis “to assume that the
exit point” was anywhere is left entirely to the imagination of the reader, for
Davis never explained the rationale upon which he based his assumption. Davis’
unsupported and equivocal speculation not withstanding, the X-rays did not reveal
any outshoot points. That left the FPP with only the photographs to make their
The Photographs – The official inventory reveals
but four photographic poses that speak to possible exit wounds. The first three
consist of views taken from the upper right side, lower right side, and directly
from the top of the head. These photographs were apparently taken at the outset
of the autopsy before the autopsy prosectors had performed any manipulation of
the head. The FPP outlined the
most definitive inferences they could draw from these photographic series:
The panel examined photographs of the face and head of President Kennedy, taken
from the front and to the right including black and white prints No. 5 and 6 and
color transparencies and prints Nos. 26, 27, and 28. These reveal a series of
lacerations, described within the autopsy report as extending from an area in
the right parietal region, anteriorly to the right frontal region, to a point
1 to 2 centimeters below the hairline; inferiorly and to the right, almost to
the upper border of the tragus of the ear; and posteriorly toward the occipital
region and to the left across the midline. There is a large skin flap in the right
frontal region anteriorly and laterally, with two fragments of an anterior compound
fracture of the calvarium of the skull deflected outward and toward the right
these autopsy photographs of the head, hair, and disrupted scalp did not reveal
a point of exit.
fourth series, those taken of the cranium after reflection of the scalp and removal
of the calvarium and brain held the potential to reveal the location of an exit
wound on the skull itself. Of this series, the FPP wrote:
Black and white photograph No. 17 and color transparency and print No. 44 are
closeups of the margins of the fracture line in the right frontoparietal region
after reflection of the scalp. On the margins of this fracture line is
a semicircular defect which appears to be beveled outward, although the photograph
is not in sharp focus. Computer-assisted image enhancement of this photograph
revealed the defect more clearly [emphasis added]. (7HSCA118)
The No. 17 and 44 photographs are extreme close-ups of some part of a skull,
and evidence a semi-circular lacuna along the edge of the fractured bone margin
closest to the camera. The FPP concluded that this notch was caused by an exiting
bullet based on the perceived presence of outward beveling of the bone. Assuming for the moment that the
photograph indeed depicts an outward bevel created by an exiting bullet (and I
doubt that is the case), this makes the FPP orientation of the photograph, and
thus the anatomic orientation of the “exit” of paramount importance; if that “exit
bevel” were to be located at the back of the head, that would spell conspiracy
with a capital “C”.
The FPP claimed the photograph depicts the “right
frontoparietal region” of the skull, which covers the entire right front side
of the skull. Yet at no point in their FPP Report or during FPP
Chairman Michael Baden's public testimony was it explained or justified how they
came to that most crucial of conclusions. What the reader gets in place of a detailed
accounting is a stand-alone conclusion, untethered to any analysis or explanation.
As such, we are expected to take it on faith alone that the FPP came to the correct
In the final analysis, that particular series of photographs
is so poorly executed that it defies definitive anatomic orientation to this day.
Therefore, even if the FPP is correct that an exit bevel is present in the photographs,
no one can say for sure where on the head it is located. [6b]
The FPP depicted “approximately”
where they believed that exit bevel/bullet hole to be located in their Figure
(FPP F-58) 
(click any figure for larger version)
H-1 (F-58) shows the FPP “exit” on the coronal suture several centimeters above
the right pterion, near the right stephanion. But just how did the FPP come to
this keystone outshoot conclusion? According to the FPP:
bullet exited in the top front area of the skull (right frontoparietal portion)
adjacent to the coronal suture. There is a considerable loss of bone in the area
where the bullet exited, with multiple fractures extending from the defect. In
the photographs, part of the perimeter of the 2.5 centimeters, beveled
exit hole is visable [sic] along the margin of the defect and is somewhat
larger than the diameter of the bullet itself. On the basis of these photographs
and simulated skull reconstruction, the panel was able to determine the location
of the point of exit within a reasonable margin of error [emphasis added].
Here we find
one of the most arresting mysteries surrounding the work of the FPP, for the
above conclusion was not entirely written by the FPP members! In fact, it
differs materially from the wording in the Final Draft the FPP actually
endorsed which read: “[t]he photographs do not include sufficient anatomic
detail for precise measurement”
[emphasis added]. That sentence evidenced the inconclusive nature of the photographic
analyses and was approved by the FPP majority members. Mysteriously, that conclusion
was removed after the FPP members endorsed the final draft of their
Report and prior to its publication in March 1979 in Volume
VII. I located a copy of the “final draft” of the FPP Report (dated December
1, 1978) at the National Archives in June 2001. The language the FPP members actually
The bullet exited in the top front area of
the skull (right fronto-parietal portion) adjacent to the coronal suture. There
is a considerable loss of bone in the area where the bullet exited with multiple
fractures extending into the intact skull from the defect. The Panel cannot
determine the precise point of exit within this large defect because the autopsy
measurements were not specified in relation to fixed reference points.
the photographs, part of the perimeter of the exit hole is visible along
the margin of the defect and is somewhat larger than the diameter of the bullet
itself. The photographs do not include sufficient anatomic detail for precise
measurement. On the basis of these photographs and simulated skull reconstruction,
however, the Panel was able to determine the location of the point of exit within
a reasonable margin of error [emphasis added to show portions excised in published
version.] (HSCA RN 180-10100-10232, pgs. 130,
language, “[t]he Panel cannot determine the precise point of exit within this
large defect because the autopsy measurements were not specified in relation to
fixed reference points” was removed. With it went indications of uncertainty on
the part of the FPP.
The conclusion that “[t]he photographs do not include
sufficient anatomic detail for precise measurement” was also removed. In its place,
the wording “2.5 centimeters, beveled” was inserted before the phrase “exit hole”.
Notice also that the word “visible” is correctly spelled in the FPP-endorsed final
To date, I have been unable to determine who made the changes to
the FPP final draft, but the list of candidates is short (see endnote (31)).
all was said and done, the photographs and X-rays did not reveal the precise location
of any bullet exit point or points. As a result, the FPP was left in an awkward
position; the Panel had no outshoot.
Recovered Skull Bone Fragments
FPP did not yet have a viable outshoot point. They did, however, have a plan utilizing
additional pieces of the puzzle—fragments of bone ejected from President Kennedy’s
head during the assassination and later recovered. We’ve come to know these as
the Harper and Triangular fragments.
The Harper Fragment
- William Harper found a portion of Kennedy’s skull on November 23, 1963 while
taking pictures in Dealey Plaza, the site of the assassination. Harper brought
the fragment to his uncle, Dr. Jack Harper, who brought it to Dr. A.B. Cairns,
chief of pathology at Methodist Hospital, Dallas Texas. The fragment was subsequently
turned over to the FBI who examined the fragment, then turned it over to George Burkley, White House Physician to the President.
From there the fragment disappeared from the official record. Indeed, the Harper
fragment’s ultimate disposition and whereabouts remain unknown today.
before the Harper fragment was turned over to the FBI, Cairns brought it
to M. Wayne Balleter, a medical photographer at Methodist Hospital who made quality
color slides of both sides of the fragment (see Figure H-2).
Exterior (left) and interior (right) surfaces of the Harper fragment.
The FPP would later make the dubious
claim that they perceived exit beveling on this fragment.
Fragment - Three pieces of skull bone were brought to the Bethesda morgue
around midnight while JFK’s autopsy was still underway. They were X-rayed but not photographed (see Figure H-3).
Photograph of an X-ray of three skull fragments recovered and apparently delivered
to the morgue while Kennedy’s autopsy was still in progress.
was at one corner of the Triangular fragment that the autopsy prosectors
reported beveling of the exterior surface, indicative of an exit point (red circle
in Figure H-3 above).
Additionally, X-rays of the fragment revealed lead deposits at that location,
a strong indication that a bullet or fragment exited at that point.
Davis, Dox, the Bone Fragments, and a Skull Model
The medical evidence
did not reveal a single, specific exit point, but rather, according to the FPP,
three disparate indications of exit:
1. Exit beveling along the
perimeter of the skull defect (photograph)
beveling (autopsy report)
and lead fragments on the Triangular fragment (autopsy report and X-rays)
3. Exit beveling on the Harper fragment (photograph)
question before the FPP became, “what is the relationship of the three ‘exits’
to one another, if any, and to the skull itself?” In search of answers those questions,
the FPP sought to determine the anatomic origin of the various skull fragments.
To that end, the FPP reasoned that if a radiologist could define the shape of
the defect in the skull as seen in the extant X-rays, that damage could then be
replicated on a human skull similar in size and shape to JFK’s. The FPP further
reasoned that full-scale paper tracings of the Harper and Triangular
skull bone fragments could be constructed and then anatomically repositioned within
the existing defect. This accomplished, the FPP would have created a full-scale
replication of the damage pattern on Kennedy’s skull, and the location of the
three exit points would be identified. A potential finding of conspiracy hung
in the balance, for if any exit points were located at the back of the head, the
official single assassin, Lee Oswald, could hardly have been culpable.
August 1978, HSCA radiology consultant Dr. David O. Davis instructed Dr. Michael
Baden and either directly, or by extension, HSCA medical illustrator Ida Dox on
the location and shape of the defect on President Kennedy’s skull per the extant
the skull reconstruction process to the HSCA:
[A] skull was
used that had the dimensions of the President’s and the photographs of the retrieved
bone fragments were traced to get the outline. This paper was cut out along the
outline and taped on the skull in the position that the X-rays indicated there
was bone missing, and from this paper and skull reconstruction I made my drawing.
example of reconstruction would be the way the fractures on the skull were placed,
by studying very carefully the X-rays, and as I said before, in close consultation
with the medical panel, particularly Dr. Baden. (1HSCA148)
Dox was intimately involved the skull reconstruction project. Her odd reaction
to my questions concerning that subject during our second and final telephone
conversation is discussed in the epilogue that closes this essay.
Skull Reconstruction and Outshoot Claim
The FPP completed its skull reconstruction
exercise and described the manipulations of the bone fragments, which was instrumental
in the formation of its HSCA-adopted gunshot headwound pattern conclusions. The
following paragraph represents the entire FPP explanation of their skull
reconstruction efforts and conclusions:
of the skull fractures
(324) Paper cutouts were prepared
to approximate the shape and size of the bone fragments demonstrated in X-rays
Nos. 4, 5, and 6 [the three skull fragments brought to the Bethesda morgue during
the course of Kennedy’s autopsy] and the photograph of the “Harper bone fragment.”
The panel attempted to locate the correct position of these fragments and then,
using the paper cutouts, to place these bone fragments on a human skull for the
purposes of reconstruction. The largest of the X-ray fragments—that on which
outer beveling and tiny metal fragments are evident—completes a portion of the
exit perforation, with the suture line fitting into the coronal suture; the
Harper bone fragment completes the circular perforation in the suture line immediately
superior to the temporal bone. No other exit or entrance perforation is
identified. (See fig. 29 [JFK F-66, see Figure H-4 below]), a scale
drawing of the frontal and right, side of a human skull, which shows the displaced
bone fragments and the extensive fragmentation of the skull.) [emphasis added].
The FPP claimed that both the Triangular and Harper skull
fragments marked the exit point of a bullet or bullet fragment.
This point is critical; the FPP claimed that the Harper and Triangular
fragments adjoined one another and completed a single bullet
exit hole at the coronal suture on the right front side of President Kennedy’s
skull. In other words, the three disparate exit points actually fitted together,
representing a single exit site. The FPP justified this conclusion by stating
that they “attempted to locate the correct position of these fragments and then,
using the paper cutouts [of the Triangular and Harper fragments],
to place these bone fragments on a human skull for the purposes of reconstruction.”
FPP published the following illustration (created by HSCA medical illustrator,
Ida Dox) representing their version of the skull defect:
Exhibit F-66, the FPP version of the damage to John Kennedy’s skull as derived
from the X-rays and skull model exercise.
ejected bone fragments in the above drawing were said by Dr. Baden to have been
“drawn to scale in relation to each other, but not to the skull.” Additionally, the positioning
of the fragments in the illustration does not appear to actually represent the
ejection pattern as the FPP defined it.
The Vanished FPP Skull Model
actual human skull upon which Ida Dox drew the skull defect, and to which she
and Baden taped the paper bone fragment, and upon which the FPP based major conclusions
was never introduced into evidence before the HSCA. No likeness of it was produced
in the HSCA Report or in any supporting volumes, including Vol. VII containing
the FPP Report. Indeed, the skull model’s existence is known only from
Baden and Dox’s testimony, and from the brief passage in the FPP Report
referenced above. After I realized that the FPP outshoot claim was suspect, I
began to search for the unseen skull. A promising lead was quickly developed;
a “skull model” associated with the HSCA was housed at National Archives and Record
Administration (NARA) in Maryland.
Excited, I contacted NARA
JFK Special Access and FOIA staff member, Matt Fulgham. I explained the claims
made by the FPP regarding their skull reconstruction process using the human skull.
I told Fulgham that I suspected the NARA “skull model” was the skull in question.
I asked what would it take for me to be able view the skull. Fulgham replied that
the skull was classified as an “artifact” as opposed to a “record”, and due to
its delicate nature, it would be extremely difficult to justify handling it such
that I might view it. I said to Fulgham, “I might be able to save everyone
a lot of trouble. If the skull is not the one I’m looking for, I won’t need to
see it. If, however, the skull has an exit portal drawn on it, and/or there are
four loose pieces of paper representing the bone fragments in the box, I will
definitely want to see the skull.” I asked Fulgham if he would be willing to open
the box containing the skull and tell me what he saw. He agreed and put the phone
down on the desk while I waited. Several minutes later Fulgham returned, reporting
that the skull was marked with a “red pen” as I described it, and that there were
“loose pieces of paper in the box.” I was ecstatic! I’d found the skull! Now I
had to persuade NARA to let me view and photograph it during an already-scheduled
upcoming trip to the Archives. Fulgham promised to send a letter informing me
what I had to do to justify viewing the skull.
Several days later the letter
from Fulgham arrived. In it were outlined three criteria that I had to satisfy
in order for the JFK staff to consider my request. The most important of these
was to demonstrate that no documentation (photographs) of the “skull model” existed,
and if they did, why they did not meet my research needs. I replied with an 8-page
request that satisfied fully the criteria set out by NARA. Yet my request
was denied not on its merits, which were solid, but for reasons not remotely related
to the original NARA criteria. In essence, NARA set up a field goal and told me
to kick the ball through the uprights. I complied and the ball was headed squarely
through the goal posts. Then, while the ball was in mid-flight, NARA moved the
uprights and I “missed.” Needless to say, I was not at all happy with NARA’s tactics.
NARA’s letter of rejection were outlined new criteria. Accordingly, yet with trepidation,
I submitted a revised request jumping through the new hoops. Again, and incredibility,
the JFK staff at NARA refused to cooperate. I had demonstrated in spades that
no known documentation of the NARA “skull model” as described by Fulgham
existed anywhere, and NARA never disputed that fact. I ended my second request
with an emotional plea where a strictly clinical approach had previously failed.
The delicate, dry, organic human skull upon which
the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel based its alleged wound pattern conclusions
will continue to deteriorate over time, eventually turning to dust. As no known
documentation of the “skull model” exists, this irreplaceable and historically
significant artifact will eventually crumble in the dark. It would be a tragedy
to let pass this opportunity to preserve the irreplaceable skull model through
photography. If my request, the first such request in the twenty-three years since
the model's creation, is again denied, only God knows how long it will be, if
ever, before a researcher recognizes the import of that artifact and offers the
National Archives an “acceptable” reason to justify its preservation via photography.
Imagine the consequences of that twenty-third century researcher being informed
by the National Archives that the skull model box contained nothing more than
a pile of bone-colored dust. (Letter from the author to the JFK Special Access
and FOIA staff)
A frustrating year passed as I struggled to coax the NARA
staff into acting like archivists. Then, in a stroke of luck, a JFK staffer stumbled
across a set of photographs taken of the “skull model” during a 1996 preservation
project conducted by NARA. Fulgham called to inform me of the discovery. Again
I was ecstatic! Fulgham promised to mail me copies of the photographs of the skull.
Finally, after a year-and-a-half struggle with NARA, I would be able to see what
Baden and Dox had done, or not done.
The package arrived as promised and
I eagerly ripped into it like a child on Christmas morning. The moment of truth
had arrived. Eighteen images and 1996 NARA preservation report describing the
state of the artifact were contained within. Two photographs from that black and
white series follow in Figures H-5 and H-6 below:
Posterio-superior view of the “skull model.”
Lateral view of the “skull model.”
I was astounded by what I saw.
I was also mightily crestfallen. Incredibly, and in direct contradiction to what
Fulgham told me over the phone, there was no exit portal drawn on the skull!
Nor were there any paper bone fragment replications! There weren’t even loose
pieces of paper of any type! The “skull model,” it turns out, was that marked
by autopsy prosectors Humes and Finck at the HSCA’s request (September
16, 1977, and March
12, 1978, respectively). I was at a complete loss to understand
how Fulgham reported what he did.
Fulgham and NARA had wasted enormous
amounts of my time and effort. Worse still, I would have to continue to speculate
about the FPP skull reconstruction. To put it mildly, I was not happy. I cooled
off for several days before responding. Then, one and a half years after the initial
conversation with Fulgham, I called him again. Not surprisingly Fulgham only vaguely
recalled the conversation, and could recall no substantive details, even when
I refreshed his memory with the notes I’d taken that day. To the present day,
I have serious doubts about whether Fulgham (no longer with JFK Special Access
and FOIA) really did go to the “skull model” box and peek inside.
the final analysis, it is possible that the “skull model” in the Archives could
actually be the Baden/Dox skull after all. Perhaps Dox and Baden drew the defect
on the lacquered skull in pencil and later erased all evidence of it to cover
their tracks. The paper fragments might likewise have been discarded. There seemed
a slim avenue left to explore; contact the medical illustrator who’d created the
Given that she’d indicated her desire to keep her original
artworks when the HSCA was finished with them,
I reasoned that Ida Dox might conceivably also have retained possession of the
skull itself or photographs of it. So it came to pass that I placed the first
of two telephone calls to Dox. Although I was respectful and explained that I
had one simple question to ask, Dox was extremely hostile from the outset. She
demanded to know “who are you with?” I explained that I was not “with” anyone
or any agency, but that I was a private citizen who was attempting to locate the
skull model. I asked if she had any “information as to its current whereabouts
or ultimate disposition.” Although she could have hung up the phone, she did not.
She listened to the question, and then asked again whom I was “with.” I started
to explain again, but Dox cut me off mid-sentence. Dox's hostility intensified
and it became obvious that I was wasting my time, so I ended the phone call.
reasons that will become apparent in the pages ahead, the skull’s disappearance
and Dox’s reticence to discuss the matter are no accident.
A Vanished Illustration
FPP members, if any of them beyond Baden and Weston ever saw the finished skull
model, were apparently originally confident enough in their work that they’d intended
to prop up their written conclusion with an illustration of the results of the
skull reconstruction effort. Each member of the FPP (except Wecht) approved (via
signature) the “final draft” of the Forensic Pathology Panel Report in
mid-December 1978, page fifty-seven of which read:
is the same scale drawing depicted in Figure 31 [JFK F-66 (See Figure H-4)], with
the attached bone fragments replaced in approximate anatomic position and the
four separately received bone fragments replaced in the remaining defect. The
approximate location of the only identifiable exit defect is also indicated [emphasis
“Figure 32” referenced above was a sister drawing to F-66 (Figure
H-4 above), the distinction being that unlike F-66 which shows the fragments flying
through the air, “Figure 32” showed them replaced on the skull within the defect.
That illustration represented the culmination of the FPP single exit wound analysis/conclusions,
which flowed exclusively from the skull reconstruction.
In what is one of
the great mysteries surrounding the work of the FPP, that keystone illustration,
intended by the FPP members to be published in their Report, was made to
vanish. Incredibly, in the interim between the time the panel members approved
the final draft of their Report (mid-December, 1978) and the time it was
published (March, 1979), that illustration (alleged to demonstrate that there
was only one exit point on Kennedy’s skull) and its associated text were removed.
In Figure H-7 below, I put together a schematic version of what the missing
illustration would likely have shown. The drawing is not meant to convey the shape
of the fragments or their location on the skull. Rather, it is intended to help
the reader visualize what the missing illustration must have looked like.
The author’s schematic reconstruction of the missing “F-32” Dox illustration with
the ejected bone fragments replaced on the skull.
elimination of that most crucial of illustrations, its associated text, and the
skull itself suggests that someone outside the FPP was aware of what we are about
to discover; the FPP version of the damage pattern is demonstrably impossible.
FPP Got It Wrong
It is important to reiterate that the FPP claimed to
have physically replaced paper tracings of the Harper and
Triangular fragments on a skull in such a manner that they abutted one
another and completed a single point of exit within the perimeter of the bony
defect in the skull. I read and reread the paragraph in the FPP Report
explaining how the fragments were supposed to fit the skull (7HSCA124
(324)). Then I would look at the F-66 illustration on the facing page (Figure
H-4 above). My previous experience with technical illustration had trained me
to visualize two-dimensional objects in three dimensions, and vise versa. When
I arranged the skull fragments in my mind’s eye as the FPP indicated, the claim
seemed impossible. So I decided to put it to the test. Not being able to examine
the original artifact presented surmountable hurdles; it would be necessary to
duplicate the work of the FPP by constructing a scale re-creation of the FPP skull
hole, skull bevel, and paper bone fragments. I employed a three-step process to
accomplish this using anatomic information and medical illustrations contained
in the FPP Report, unpublished documents from the once-secret HSCA files,
and a life–sized plastic model cast from a human skull.
1 – Create a Scale Replication of the Skull Defect per the FPP
the shape and location of the skull defect as seen in the F-66 illustration (Figure
H-4 above) had to be defined. This was accomplished by constructing a scale three-view
drawing based upon the two-dimensional F-66 illustration, which was described
in the FPP Report as a “scale drawing of the frontal and right side of
a human skull”,
and which was based upon the unseen skull. In addition to F-66, I utilized various
dimensions and descriptions of the damage listed in FPP Report, the reports
of various radiological and anthropological consultants, and the Photographic
Evidence Panel's Trajectory Analysis. Once the relevant anatomic data had
been collated and analyzed, I then reconstructed the defect point-for-point on
scale illustrations of Kennedy as seen in profile and from the rear (F-58 and
F-307, respectively). The damage was then extended to a top view, which was then
rendered. Thus, the F-66 skull hole had been plotted as a scaled 3-view drawing.
The result is shown in Figure H-8 below.
(F-58 and F- 307)
The above re-creation is not represented to be a
100% precise 3-view depiction of the 2-dimensional FPP skull hole. It is, however,
quite close, and more than sufficient for its purposes here. The anatomic data
from the 3-view drawing was then transferred onto on a life–sized plastic cast
of a human skull utilizing the same point-for-point method used above.
I then cut the skull along the replicated margin of the FPP defect. The result
is a scale, 3-dimensional reconstruction of the skull hole as the FPP defined
it. (See Figure H-9)
The author’s scale re-creation of the FPP X-ray-based JFK skull defect.
is important to note at this point that although it was never explicitly stated
in the FPP Report, according to the FPP, the skull defect extended no
farther forward than the coronal suture. That is to say that the frontal bone
was intact, save the small chipped area of the “exit bevel” the FPP reported seeing
in the photographs. This effectively confined the Harper and Triangular
fragments to the right parietal; a restraint, it will be shown, the FPP knew was
Baden commented on the forward extent of the bony defect during
his testimony before the HSCA:
[T]he drawing to your right
[F-66], indicates the path of the bullet entering the right upper head region
approximately 1 inch to the right of the midline of the body and approximately
4 inches above a bony prominence in the back of the head, the external occipital
protuberance which is depicted here.
This bullet, then, proceeds from back
to front exiting in the area of the suture line, that I mentioned earlier,
the coronal suture line as depicted on the drawing, causing a semicircular defect
in the frontal bone of the skull [emphasis added]. (1HSCA253)
From Baden’s testimony, it becomes evident that with the exception of a
“semi-circular defect”, i.e. the supposed exit bevel, the FPP defect extended
no further forward than the coronal suture. The forward-most extent of the bony
defect as the FPP defined it was confirmed through a comparison of the F-66 illustration
mentioned by Baden and its counterpart, F-65.
Step 2 – Create Scale
Replications of the Triangular and Harper Fragments
high-resolution computer scans of an 8x10 photograph of the F-66 illustration
at the National Archives (see Figure H-4, above). According to Dr. Baden, “the
four bone fragments” in that illustration were “drawn to scale in relation to
each other, but not to the skull.”
I scaled the image of the four fragments up to life size using a powerful computer
image-editing program, Photoshop 5.5. The accuracy of
the resizing was verified by comparing dimensions of the Harper and Triangular
fragments listed in the FPP Report, the autopsy protocol, and using the
scale reference in the photographs of the Harper fragment against those
in the computer image file.
I then printed the scaled image of the Harper
and Triangular fragments on paper. Transparency film was then placed over
the image of the fragments and the outlines were traced with a red marker. The
film was then cut along borders of the fragments and I had transparent, life-sized
copies of the two bone fragments.
Step 3 – Place the Fragments on the Skull
as Described in the FPP Report
The skull defect and skull fragments
having been replicated, the final task was to place the fragments on the skull
in the manner described by the FPP. This accomplished, I had duplicated the work
of the FPP to scale, and in three-dimensional form. The results are depicted in
Figure H-10 below:
Hunt’s re-creation of the FPP skull reconstruction-derived single exit site.
H-10 demonstrates how the FPP contend the two fragments fit onto the skull in
relation to the skull “bevel” and skull defect; the Triangular and Harper
fragments are in the parietal bone and abut one another, completing a single exit
As my re-creation demonstrates, the FPP account of the reconstruction
is clearly impossible; there is nowhere near enough room to accommodate both the
Harper and Triangular fragments at the front of the FPP defect.
Yet the FPP claimed to have physically done just that! Now we see that their “single-outshoot”
conclusion was nothing more than hollow words on a page.
The FPP wrote that
the Harper fragment “complete[d] the circular perforation in the suture
line immediately superior to the temporal bone” [emphasis added].
What that means is that according to the FPP, the skull hole must have
extended right down to the squamous suture which marks the juncture of
the lower parietal and upper temporal bones. Yet, the FPP’s very own illustration
and the extant lateral X-ray show that clearly not to be the case. According to
the FPP itself, a fracture fragment (tinted yellow in Figure H-11 below) is located
exactly where the FPP told us the Harper fragment fit the skull.
The fracture fragment highlighted in yellow above is visible on the No. 2 lateral
autopsy X-ray. The fragment is present in the autopsy photographs as well, but
has been reflected outward, apparently hinged on a flap of scalp or pericranium
such that it is in a different orientation when compared to the X-ray.
that the yellow-tinted fracture fragment, which is comprised of parietal bone,
extends from the squamous suture (the inferior border of the parietal bone and
superior border of the temporal bone) right up to the inferiolateral margin of
the FPP skull defect. Obviously, and despite the fact that the FPP says it is
so, the Harper fragment cannot be so located for the reason that bone is
already present at that point!
How could the FPP possibly claim in good
faith to have stuffed the Triangular and Harper fragments into the
same 90-degree corner to arrive at a single exit site?
How Did the FPP
Fail So Convincingly?
The nine forensic pathologists who joined the HSCA’s
Forensic Pathology Panel accepted four charges as a condition of appointment to
the panel, the third of which was:
To compile recommendations
regarding those matters deemed to be outside the expertise of forensic pathologists.
FPP members were not expert in every area of forensic science and so were obligated
to seek consultation in those areas outside the realm of forensic pathology. Forensic
radiology is one such discipline, forensic anthropology another. In discharging
their duty as outlined in Charge No. 3, the FPP members wrote:
panel should meet with Dr. J. Lawrence Angel, a forensic anthropologist at the
Smithsonian Institution, to review the X-rays and photographs of the skull and
skull bones to assist it in simulating a repositioning of the skull fragments
within the defect of the right side of the skull and in locating more precisely
the missile exit defect indicated by the beveling on two separately recovered
skull fragments. (This meeting occurred on Sept. 17, [sic, they met on the 16th.]
Dr. Angel, a well-respected and experienced forensic anthropologist,
assisted the FBI on many occasions, and “reported on over 565 cases and testified
as an expert witness in 18 murder trials.”
Angel, Curator of Physical Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian
Institution offered the HSCA the benefit of his considerable expertise. After
examining the photographs and X-rays on three separate occasions,
Angel submitted a detailed report in which he set out his anatomic relocation
of the Harper and Triangular fragments.
It comes as no surprise that anthropologist Angel justified his opinions by citing
specific anatomic features.
Angel’s placement of the Harper fragment
was based upon the perceived presence of vascular foramina,
sagittal suture, and grooves of the meningeal
There is but one specific place on the human skull where those three anatomic
features can be found in tandem—the rear third of the top of the head adjacent
to the midline. Along with his report, Dr. Angel submitted a detailed illustration
outlining his anatomic relocation of the skull fragments.
Dr. Angel’s drawing is reproduced below. (See Figure H-12, on which I have tinted
the Harper fragment blue and the Triangular fragment red.)
The drawing prepared by Dr. Angel on which the Harper fragment has been
tinted blue and the Triangular fragment red by the author.
the Harper fragment’s rearward position according to Angel, and the fact
that it does not touch the Triangular fragment, which is situated anterior
to the coronal suture in the frontal bone.
Dr. Angel offered specific,
anatomical justifications for his Harper fragment placement, correct or
not. The FPP, on the other hand, offered no justification whatsoever in support
its obviously incorrect “placement” of the Harper fragment.
the FPP simply told us that the Harper fragment belonged at the right front
of the skull without offering a single piece of evidence/analysis in support of
that contention. The FPP lamely wrote that they “attempted to locate the correct
position of these fragments,” but never elaborated on the process. Significantly,
the FPP did not (and probably could not) refute or rebut the detailed analysis
of the forensic anthropology expert they consulted. Nor did they bother to explain,
justify, or even acknowledge their quiet, intellectually troublesome rejection
of Dr. Angel’s opinions. In doing so, the FPP acted in a manner that was in complete
contravention of the spirit and wording of Charge No. 3.
Dr. Baden was not willing to refute Angel’s conclusions in his FPP Report
or during his public testimony, he was willing to criticize Angel’s opinions
in private. Baden told HSCA attorneyAndy Purdy on July 5, 1978 that “Larry Angel[‘s]
report leaves holes. He appears to be inconsistent re: location of bone fragment;
[I] doubt anything [any bone] missing + [doubt] accuracy of Angel report (2 set
Baden went further in private in December 1978. According to a report filed by
Andy Purdy detailing his last-minute interview of Baden, Baden made the following
JFK Exhibit # F-66 (drawing of skull with
four displaced fragments)
Harper fragment is fragment on far
left. There is a photograph but no x-ray available of that fragment. The autopsy
doctors did not have access to this fragment which was found sometime after the
autopsy was completed. According to our Panel, their reconstruction using cut-outs
permits them to determine that the Harper fragment includes part of the semi-circular
defect which they characterize as one of exit (see Panel report p- 56). [NOTE:
This matches the text of the FPP final draft. JH] The Panel saw no evidence
that there were any other wounds, of entrance or exit, in the area of the massive
Dr. Angel's report to the Panel indicated he
felt there were three additional appreciable gaps remaining in the area of the
skull defect. Dr. Baden believes Dr. Angel's report did not take into account
some of the skull pieces with [sic, probably “which”] overlap intact portions
of the skull. It is the Panel's opinion that there are probably no additional
pieces of bone missing. (HSCA
RN 180-10120-10023, pg 2)
Baden claimed to Purdy that their skull reconstruction
showed that the four bone fragments completely filled the defect in the skull.
We know that cannot, and could not, have been the case because there was, without
question, missing frontal bone. Consider the following:
- Autopsy prosector,
J.T. Boswell recalled the missing frontal bone for the ARRB and drew the hole
on a plastic skull (see Figure H-12b, below).
- Although the
autopsy report does not mention the missing frontal bone, Boswell’s blood-covered
diagram drawn in the morgue during the autopsy clearly shows the missing frontal
- Autopsy ballistics consultant,
Pierre Finck reported to his superior, General Bloomberg, that frontal bone was
- Dr. David
Mantik noted and diagrammed the missing frontal bone during his exposure to the
original X-rays at the National Archives.
- HSCA Trajectory
consultant, Thomas Canning independently recalled see missing frontal bone on
the X-rays during our telephone conversation covering the sad treatment he received
from Baden and Weston.
- HSCA radiology
and computer enhancement consultant, G.M. McDonnel reported the missing frontal
bone in his report to the FPP.
- Forensic Anthropologist,
J. Lawrence Angel noted and diagramed the missing frontal bone in his report to
H-12b. - Autopsy prosector, J.T. Boswell diagramed the missing frontal bone (tinted
red by the author) for the ARRB. Photo taken by the author at NARA.
fact that frontal bone is missing invalidates Baden’s claim to have filled
in the entire skull defect, thus eliminating the possibility of a second headshot.
Now take another look at Figure H-4 and try to imagine how the four fragments
in F-66 could fit into the defect in Figure H-10.
FPP went on to leave the entirely false impression that Angel, in fact,
agreed with their interpretation of the orientation of the bone fragments. Wrote
Anthropologist Dr. Angel's evaluation of the “Harper
bone fragment” indicates that it may include a portion of the sagittal suture
which is probably in apposition (corresponds) to this [skull bone] exit
defect [emphasis added]. (7HSCA119
Incredibly, the FPP claimed that Angel put the Harper fragment
at the front of the head associating it with the skull bevel. The FPP could not
be more wrong. The unequivocal text of Angel’s report and the drawing attached
to it leave no room for doubt; Angel placed the Harper fragment at the
top rear of the head. The FPP even quote that passage from Angel’s report
on page 123 of their Report!
The FPP outright misrepresented what Angel reported, then reproduced his
report as an addendum to their own Report! The FPP did not bother to inform
the reader that Dr. Angel completely disagreed with their interpretation
of the exit wound location and the orientation of the skull fragments relative
to the exit portal. The FPP members can't claim that they were unaware of Dr.
Angel’s opinion because their Report actually quotes the very section where
Angel spells out where the fragments belonged:
to Dr. Angel’s report:
The two big loose fragments of skull
vault [Harper and Triangular fragments], from upper frontal
and parietal areas, more on the right than the left side, do not articulate
with each other and leave three appreciable gaps unfilled [emphasis
Angel was specifically tasked with orienting the fragments within the defect in
the skull using the photographs and X-rays and he reported that the two large
fragments did not touch each other. The FPP would leave the false impression that
this expert agreed with their interpretation when they knew that was simply not
Another Critical Mistake by the FPP
The FPP placement of the
Triangular fragment behind the coronal suture (that is to say the
fragment was parietal bone as opposed to frontal) disregards the well-documented
construction of the human skull.
No disagreement exists among the various
forensic experts that the Triangular fragment contains a portion of the
coronal suture (see Figure H-13).
The coronal suture is defined on the skull and Triangular fragment.
Angel recognized that the Triangular fragment came from the frontal bone.
His anthropological expertise allowed him to match the curve of the coronal suture
on the Triangular fragment to the curve of the coronal suture on the skull.
The FPP likewise claimed the fragment’s suture was coronal, but had “determined”
that the fragment was parietal bone.
The FPP placement of the Triangular fragment behind the coronal
suture is clearly in error. Dr. Angel’s conclusion based upon his anthropological
expertise is obviously correct. [The area covered by the frontal bone appears
too large to fit the front of the skull and not project into the skin of the forehead.
JFK’s face was intact, and so the orientation here appears problematic. The odd
appearance is due to the fact that the “bone fragment” has not been taped down
to the skull in H-14. The paper bone fragment has been taped to the skull in illustration
H-15. The triangular fragment is confined to the scalp-covered portion of the
Note that the orientation of the Triangular fragment
has been reversed (flip-flopped) between the two views in Figure H-14. This is
due to the fact that is not possible to tell from the X-rays whether the bone
fragment was placed face up or down on the X-ray plate. Indeed, the FPP attempted
“to determine which side of the bone fragments is which” when they interviewed
and consulted with Dr. John Ebersole, who supervised the taking of the original
X-rays. According to Purdy’s December
1978 report, Baden is quoted as saying that Ebersole and the FPP “were unable
to make this determination.”
Therefore, notwithstanding the curve of the coronal suture, either orientation
could hypothetically be correct, but not both.
The FPP version has the curvature
of the Triangular fragment and coronal suture in opposition, which is clearly
wrong. Given that there is a substantial amount of missing frontal bone on the
X-rays and that
the curvature of Kennedy’s coronal suture is definitely known,
Dr. Angel, not the Forensic Pathology Panel, was correct.
and the Absent Frontal Bone
By March 1978, Aerospace Corporation of Los
Angeles had been contracted to perform computer enhancements of the autopsy materials
for the HSCA. Charles (Chuck) Leontis, head of the Optical Systems
Department at Aerospace suggested to the HSCA that Gerald M. (G.M., or Jerry)
McDonnel, an expert diagnostic radiologist at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles,
be given an opportunity to review the X-rays “in order to help us determine in
which regions [of the X-rays] to focus our enhancement effort.”
concurred with Leontis, and McDonnel studied the original X-rays for four hours
at Aerospace Corp. headquarters in El Segundo CA on March 7, 1978. The next day, McDonnel submitted
a report that closed with the suggestion that computer enhancement of the materials
be made to bring out more detail.
from his radiological expertise, Dr. McDonnel possessed another specialized skill
that would prove extremely useful to the HSCA and both the Photographic Evidence
Panel (of which McDonnel would become a member) and the FPP; McDonnel was an expert
in the emerging field of image digitization and computer enhancement and was a
computer imaging consultant to Aerospace Corp. In McDonnel, the FPP had an expert who could both
apply his computer expertise to guide the technically complex process of computer
enhancement, and then render an expert radiological opinion on the results obtained.
If anyone held the promise of definitively determining the extent and nature of
the damage to JFK's head as seen in the extant autopsy X-rays, it was G.M. McDonnel.
HSCA again agreed with Leontis, and McDonnel was given the responsibility of guiding
the autopsy X-ray enhancement efforts at Aerospace over a four-month period from
March to June 1978.
By August 1978, the enhancement efforts had been completed and McDonnel submitted
a second, more detailed report based upon his many months of exposure to the X-rays
But all had not gone smoothly behind the scenes between
McDonnel and the FPP. Once-secret HSCA documents reveal that earlier that year
on May 3, McDonnel told HSCA staffer, Jane Downey that he and FPP Report
author Dr. James Weston were “communicating to solve their differences of opinion.” Later that month (May 30), James
Weston told HSCA attorney Andy Purdy that McDonnel wanted to see the FPP Report
“to make sure Weston doesn’t misquote him. Mostly [regarding] the X-rays of the
skull + chest.”
McDonnel was obviously concerned that Weston would not convey McDonnel’s
opinions accurately. What caused McDonnel to distrust Weston and question his
integrity? Had McDonnel and Weston’s recent attempt to “solve their differences
of opinion” failed? Whatever the case, McDonnel was clearly suspicious of Weston.
New light was shed on the
nature of Weston and McDonnel’s disagreement when I contacted former Aerospace
Corp. computer expert Robert Chiralo, who worked closely with McDonnel on the
HSCA enhancement projects. Prior to that point, I’d privately speculated that
the McDonnel/Weston disagreement was over the fact that McDonnel knew that a portion
of Kennedy’s frontal bone was missing and the FPP intended to deny that fact against
all reason. That speculation was bolstered when Chiralo independently recalled
I think it [the difference of opinion between
McDonnel and Weston] was centering on the nature of the head wound. And
what the fracturing of the bone indicated in terms of [the] direction [of
the shot] [emphasis added]. (Telephone conversation with the author, December
Among other findings, McDonnel reported that there was a “[n]early
complete loss of right parietal bone, the upper portion of the right temporal
bone, and a portion of the posterior [rear] aspect of the right frontal
bone” [emphasis added]. McDonnel knew
full well that the posterior aspect of the frontal bone was missing. Yet Weston,
Baden, and the FPP majority disregarded the opinion of the radiology/computer
expert they consulted on this single point. In contravention of Charge No. 3,
the FPP tacitly concluded that the frontal bone was intact.
second, computer-enhancement-based radiology report was received by the HSCA on
August 11, 1978.
The day before, Robert Blakey had cleared the way for yet another radiologist
to view the autopsy X-rays, Dr. David O. Davis.
Why would the FPP need yet another radiologist’s opinion? Apparently to combat
McDonnel’s opinion that frontal bone was missing.
After his initial
consultations with McDonnel in early March, 1978, Michael Baden was so impressed
with McDonnel’s abilities was that he “wanted to know about the possibility of
including McDonald [sic] in on more of the [Forensic Pathology] Panel findings.” Now, months later,
Baden and the FPP selectively threw one of McDonnel’s findings into
the toilet. Why? Because, as we will shortly see, the FPP could not afford to
have the rear of the frontal bone be missing.
No. 1 — A deception was effected
Admittedly, it is difficult to
conceive of men as experienced as those on the Forensic Pathology Panel offering
up the obviously untenable conclusions they did. But the clear weight of the evidence
tells us that is exactly what happened. Consider the following:
“single outshoot” claim made by the FPP on page 124 of the FPP Report is
- That claim as it exists in the FPP Report
in volume VII is word-for-word the same conclusion the FPP endorsed as a part
of their final draft. In this instance, no one altered the FPP Report,
either by putting words into their mouths, nor taking any away.
“single outshoot” claim was said to have been based upon the skull reconstruction
- The FPP could never have repositioned the
fragments within the skull defect in the manner they claimed to arrive at a single
The fact is that the FPP claimed to have accomplished something
we know they could not possibly have accomplished. Whatever else we may find out
about the HSCA/FPP in the years to come, one thing is clear; the majority members
of the FPP—Drs. John Coe, Joseph Davis, George Loquvam, Charles Petty (deceased),
Earl Rose, Werner Spitz, James Weston (deceased), and Michael Baden—endorsed as
a thorough and honest study of the medical aspects of the JFK assassination
a document that clearly was not.
Without question, Dr. Michael Baden
had a close hand in the skull reconstruction project; he admitted as
much while testifying before the HSCA.
Ida Dox confirmed that fact in her testimony before the HSCA.
There appear to be but two explanations for what occurred:
Baden was a dullard and did not recognize the anatomic untenability of the alleged
skull reconstruction as it stared him in the face,
2. Or, Baden
knew full well that the conclusions in his Report were physically impossible,
and knowingly passed incorrect information onto the U.S. Government.
his shortcomings, Michael Baden is clearly no dullard. The question inevitably
becomes, what motive drove the deception?
Implication No. 2 — The FPP
gathered evidence indicating a possible exit point located at the top rear
of Kennedy’s head, and then quashed that evidence.
The forward right
half of Kennedy’s coronal suture was not on the skull when the X-rays and photographs
were taken because the Triangular fragment (and its half of the coronal
suture) had not yet arrived at the morgue. Likewise, and according to the FPP,
the bone that makes up the other side of the coronal suture, the anterior-most
portion of the parietal bone was not present on the skull at autopsy. Therefore,
the “skull bevel” the FPP thought it saw in the photographs could not have been
located on the coronal suture above pterion because no bone remained to
evidence the suture. Taken in concert with the findings of Mantik, Angel, Boswell,
Finck, Canning, and McDonnel that frontal bone was absent at that point, the coronal
suture could not have been visualized on the lateral X-ray because it was not
present. HSCA consulting radiologist Dr. David Davis seemed to confirm
this when he reported “absence [of bone] present to a point approximately equivalent
to where the coronal suture on the right side should be”
[emphasis added]. Yet it was Davis who apparently wrongly confined the skull defect
to the right parietal in the first place!
It follows that if the
FPP genuinely believed that both the skull photograph and Triangular
fragment represented exit points, then there must have been at least two separate
exit points in the forward part of JFK’s head: one on the Triangular fragment,
and one on the skull itself. This is exactly what Larry Angel reported to the
FPP and the FPP disingenuously disregarded. Ballistically speaking, this does
not automatically mean that two separate bullets exited the front part of the
head; it could be that one bullet fractured, then diverged created two exit points.
the FPP genuinely believed that the Harper fragment evidenced a
bullet’s exit point and if Angel was correct that the fragment originated
from the top rear of the skull as all the evidence indicates, then another bullet
exited at that point. Therefore, under an honest interpretation
of the evidence, if the FPP could not stuff the “three exits” into one common,
forwardly-located outshoot, then they would have to admit the evidence showed
at least one frontal exit point and one rearward exit point. That would mean conspiracy
(see Figure H-15).
Under the FPP scenario, the possibility exists that a bullet exited the top rear
third of Kennedy’s skull.
FPP claimed to have stuffed both the Harper and Triangular skull
fragments where they knew they did not, and could not, fit. Why? Perhaps, the
FPP grasped the implications of the evidence it gathered. Whatever the motive,
the result of the their deception, which I believe was intentional, is clear;
the FPP dishonestly and artificially simplified a complex and potentially momentous
set of data to obfuscate the whisper of conspiracy.
In the final analysis,
the FPP endorsed a Report that misrepresented the medical evidence and
Michael Baden (at a minimum) had every reason to know it.
sought to answer the question “was John Kennedy assassinated as the result of
a conspiracy?” The answer rests today, as it did in the mid-1970s, on an accurate,
forthright, honest review and interpretation of the extant medical evidence. That
is not what we got from the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel.
Epilogue — A
Short but Telling Conversation with Ida Dox
After this essay had been substantially
revised and peer-reviewed, I decided to place a second, follow-up call to Ida
Dox. I knew far
more about the FPP shenanigans than at the time of our first encounter and was
anxious to see how Dox would respond. On February 13, 2003, the following exchange
took place (bold emphasis added):
HUNT: I have a question
for you. I was reading, um, about the House Select Committee, and, ah, the drawing
that you did of the rendering of President Kennedy’s head. The one that has the
bone fragments flying away from the skull…
When you drew that drawing did you, I guess you used a human skull that was the
same size and shape as President Kennedy’s. And, did you actually draw the defect
in the skull on the skull itself?
DOX: Uh, you know, um. I-I
don’t like to answer questions over the phone about this situation. All right?
DOX: That’s my policy.
DOX: - Listen. Ah, ah I don’t-I make-I have
a policy; I never discuss this situation with anyone, especially over the phone!
If I were to send you-if I were to send you, just, um, simple questions in the
mail, would you,-
for Hist- [“History’s sake” was what I was going to say. JH]
No! I- As I said, I do not want to discuss this with anybody! Okay!?
Okay. Do you have those drawings?
When queried, Dox instinctively referred to the skull reconstruction
process in the present tense as “this situation.” Of all the phraseology Dox might
have employed, such as; “I don’t discuss my work for the HSCA;” or “I don’t discuss
my work for the FPP;” or even, “I don’t discuss the Kennedy assassination,” she
unhesitatingly responded in the present tense—“This situation.” What situation?
Dox’s work for the HSCA was ostensibly harmless. She did nothing more than produce
a few slick medical illustrations, right?
Yet according to Dox, her work
for the HSCA continues to be an ongoing “situation” twenty-five years after the
fact, so much so that she “never discusses” it “with anyone.” Given our new understanding
of the Forensic Pathology Panel’s “single-outshoot” ruse, Dox’s reticence to discuss
her part in the process becomes significantly less mysterious.
can be reached at email@example.com
Notes and Citations
HSCAR43 refers to page 43 of the
Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations, U.S. House of Representatives,
published on March 30, 1979.
7HSCA176 refers to Volume VII, page
176 of the Hearings of the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
(472) refers to Volume VII, page 176 of the Hearings of the House
Select Committee on Assassinations, paragraph 472
HSCA RN 180-10091-10236,
pgs 1, 2 refers to HSCA record series, Record Number 180-10091-10236, pages
1 and 2.
USSS RN 179-10001-10039 refers Record Number 179-10001-10039
of the Official Case File of the U.S. Secret Service.
HQ RN 124-10017-10014 refers to Record Number 124-10017-10014 of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, Headquarters files.
ARRB, MD50 refers to
the Assassination Records Review Board, Medical Document number 50.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) arranged for DNA testing
to be performed on the biological material in September 1998. According to NARA,
the test results were inconclusive.
G.M. McDonnel (7HSCA217),
Norman Chase (1HSCA209),
William Seaman (1HSCA212),
and David Davis (7HSCA222)
interpreted the X-rays at the request of the FPP. Their professional observations
and the FPP's perversion/misuse of same is detailed in a book I’m currently writing
on the JFK assassination.
Bootleg copies of all seven of the Kennedy autopsy poses have surfaced.
While we don't have access to the original materials, we do have copies of each
of the series discussed in the text. According to Doug Horne, who had access to
the original autopsy materials material during his tenure as Assassination Records
Review Board Chief Analyst for Military Records, the bootleg copies now in the
public domain are true representations of the material stored at the National
Archives. The only difference between the originals and the bootleg copies, according
to Horne, is that the bootlegs are of a poorer quality and lack some of the detail
contained in the originals. (Doug Horne agreed with the wording of this paragraph
for publication in response to the author's e-mail recounting their November 21,
1999 conversation at the JFK Lancer November In Dallas assassination conference
in Dallas, TX.) [editor’s note: the bootleg autopsy photographs are viewable via
a CD-ROM entitled “JFK:
Medical Evidence Archive, Volume 1” available through History Matters]
Through the years researchers have made attempts to definitively orient the view
in the JFK skull photograph. Although it is outside the scope of this essay, I
will say that none have convinced me. I have likewise not been convinced by my
own attempts. Frustratingly the bootleg version we have has been cropped and several
anatomic features are present in the original which might offer important clues.
The original has only been seen by those privileged enough to have been granted
access by the Kennedy family.
This version of the actual F-58 exhibit was scanned from an 8x10 photograph at
the National Archives.
Pterion is the region of the skull where the tip of the greater wing of
the sphenoid bone, and the parietal, frontal, and temporal bones meet and/or approach
one another. This area is commonly thought of as the temple.
Stephanion is defined as the point at which the temporal ridge crosses
the coronal suture. Stephanion is located approximately 2 cm. above pterion.
Figure H-2 is a composite of two 4x5 color negatives of the Harper fragment
I scanned at the National Archives that are apparently photographs of 4x5 enlarged
prints made from the original 35 mm slides.
The computer scan of the photograph of the X-ray was made by the author at NARA.
(473) Humes denied to the FPP in September 1977 that this was the exit point on
the skull. Humes had told the Warren Commission the same thing thirteen years
(224) Wrote the FPP: The panel should meet with Dr. J. Lawrence Angel, a forensic
anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution, to review the X-rays and photographs
of the skull and skull bones to assist it in simulating a repositioning of the
skull fragments within the defect of the right side of the skull and in locating
more precisely the missile exit defect indicated by the beveling on two separately
recovered skull fragments.”
Michael Baden testified that:
“…Dr. David Davis…has been
extremely helpful to the panel in interpreting the X-rays and who has worked with
us in making diagrams to illustrate the injuries seen on X-ray [sic].”
 The FPP concluded that photographs of the Harper fragment reveal
exit beveling. (7HSCA78
(224)) However, the FPP did not attempt to make any case for such a conclusion.
In fact, when they asked Humes if the Harper fragment could be part of
the exit hole he replied, "I don't think any of the borders of [the Harper]
fragment to me would coincide with this type of a wound of exit." (7HSCA246)
Additionally, to my eye, the photographs, excellent copies of which are available,
show no evidence of beveling on either the internal or external surfaces.
 The author's computer scan of the photograph of the actual F-66 exhibit
was made at the National Archives.
 HSCA RN 180-10147-10324. This is the record number for the actual skull
model Humes and Finck marked for the HSCA.
 I was able to hold and view what was purported to be the original X-rays
of Connally’s chest and wrist during my third and fourth trips to NARA. Strangely,
my request to see the LogEtronic enhancements of those X-rays was denied. Why?
Incredibly, the original X-rays (so NARA thought, though they were wrong) are
classified as “records” while the enhancements derived from those irreplaceable
originals (they thought) are considered “artifacts.” [Note - I confirmed in October,
2003 that the Connally X-rays stored at the National Archives are copies, and
not the originals introduced before the Warren Commission in 1964. JH]
 Photographs of the skull marked by Humes and Finck were reproduced on
pages 114 and 115 of the FPP Report (7HSCA114,
Figures 22, 23 respectively) The following footnoted text accompanied the reproductions:
Photograph of the posterior view of a human skull on which
the autopsy pathologists, Drs. Humes, Boswell, and Finck, identified the approximate
location of the entrance wound. The two initialed circles on the lower portion
of the skull and to the right of the midline represent the general area where
the autopsy doctors believe the entrance wound to be. (There are two circles because
Dr. Finck marked the skull independent of Drs. Humes and Boswell, and without
knowing where Drs. Humes and Boswell had placed their circle.) The circle on the
top portion of the skull and to the right of the midline represents the general
area where the forensic pathology panel believes the entrance to be. (The fourth
circle on the lower portion of the skull and approximately on the midline represents
the location of the external occipital protuberance.) (7HSCA114)
photographs of the skull and its associated text were not part of the final
draft of the FPP Report which the panel members endorsed. Figures 22 and
23 and the footnoted text were inserted at a later date by persons unknown. The
claim that “Dr. Finck marked the skull independent of Drs. Humes and Boswell,
and without knowing where Drs. Humes and Boswell had placed their circle” is simply
not true. Humes marked the skull in September of 1977. Finck marked the same skull
in March of 1978. Humes mark was on the skull and plainly visible to Finck as
he testified and handled the skull incident to marking it. (It is a little known
fact that Finck was badgered into marking the inshoot on the internal table of
the skull as well) The FPP had also drawn its “high” inshoot and coronal “outshoot”
on the skull prior to March, 1978, and so their marks were also visible to Finck
as he viewed the skull. Astoundingly, Finck was not asked to mark the skull during
his only scheduled appearance before the FPP (March
11, 1978). Finck asked to return on Sunday, March
12, 1978 for a second, unscheduled testimonial session before the FPP, and
it was only then, as an afterthought, that the skull was brought out and he
was asked to mark the inshoot point on the skull! And it was not any member of
the FPP who thought to have Finck mark the skull. It was HSCA staff counsel, D.
Andrew (Andy) Purdy. Had Finck not asked for his second round before the FPP,
he would never have been asked to mark the entry site.
 HSCA RN 180-10100-10232,
pg. 57. The author's scan of page 57 of the HSCA FPP Final Draft, reproduced
here for the first time. Limits of time preclude publishing the entire 178-page
document online in conjunction with the publishing of this essay. At some point
in the near future, the entire volume will be available.
 Substantive alterations were made to the FPP Report after the
members endorsed what was supposed to be the “final draft”. The identity of the
editor(s) remains elusive. Chief Counsel for the HSCA, G. Robert Blakey wrote
to FPP Report author, James Weston on November 30, 1978, stating that:
have enclosed a copy of the report of the Forensic Pathology Panel for your final
review and approval. A statement is enclosed for your signature to formally document
your concurrence in the Panel's findings.
Prior to mailing
in the enclosed statement, please carefully review the report for any corrections
you wish to make, particularly regarding substantive points. The Committee will,
of course, review the report for minor editing changes, to triple check citations,
and to organize the illustrations prior to publication, but must defer to your
expertise in substantive areas. HSCA
The appearance is that Blakey was interested
in getting the FPP conclusions stated accurately by the pathology panel members
themselves. That was in late November. A month before, Weston told Purdy on October
3, 1978 that “final modifications [of the FPP Report] based on Baden and
[Purdy’s] suggestions [were] nearly done.” (HSCA
RN 180-10103-10000) Starting in early December, the FPP members began endorsing
that draft shortly before the HSCA was scheduled to cease to exist as an entity.
Yet it would be another 70+ days before James T. Weston submitted the final FPP
Report to the HSCA (Mark Flanagan, actually). (HSCA
RN 180-10120-10151 pgs 1, 12)
What caused the two and one half month delay in submitting the “finished Report”
is a mystery. It could not have been due to a change in substantive matters because
Weston told Blakey in the January 31, 1979 letter of conveyance of the penultimate
Enclosed is the completed form for the Forensic
Pathology Panel report. I thought that the rewrite of the report was very well
done and, as I indicated on the telephone, have not taken the time to make
minor corrections since Dr. Petty indicated that he did this rather carefully
in our behalf. (HSCA RN
180-10120-10151) [emphasis added]
If Weston told
the truth that he had “not taken the time to make minor corrections since Dr.
Petty indicated that he did this,” then it stands to reason that Weston did not
take time to carve up the FPP Report either. If it was not Weston, then
who clandestinely altered the FPP Report? Given that there were four people
associated with the HSCA after its 1978 sunset and before the HSCA Report
and Volumes were published in March 1979, it stands to reason that it was one
of the following:
1. T. Mark Flanagan
3. Gary Cornwell
From the available files, we can narrow the suspects
down to James T. Weston (deceased) and G. Robert Blakey (very much alive as the
excerpt is published to the web in 2006). Weston told Blakey in 1979 that “I thought
that the rewrite of the report was very well done.” What “rewrite?” The final
draft was essentially completed on November 30, 1978 when Blakey “enclosed a copy
of the report of the Forensic Pathology Panel [dated December 1, 1978] for [Weston’s]
final review and approval”. Weston claimed not to have made any “corrections.”
Therefore, three possibilities exist; either Weston handed Blakey an altered FPP
Report, or Blakey altered the FPP Report himself, or they both altered
Unfortunately, I could find no additional files at NARA
that shed light on the identity of the perpetrator. Until additional information
becomes available, there the matter rests.
 According to Baden, the four bones ejected from Kennedy’s skull completely
filled the defect. (HSCA RN
180-10120-10023, pg 2) As will be seen, that conclusion is flat out wrong
and Baden knew it.
 One minor complication arose during the execution phase of the exercise;
my plastic skull was slightly smaller than Kennedy’s. Therefore, a correction
factor needed to be determined and applied. The difference in size between my
skull and Kennedy’s was first quantitatively defined. This was accomplished using
a 1-1 scale tracing of an ante-mortem X-ray of Kennedy’s skull made by the HSCA
Photographic Evidence Panel. The distance from the forward-most point of Kennedy’s
forehead (the brow) to the rear of the skull along a horizontal plane was measured
and found to be 18.72 cm. My skull measured 16.5 cm along the same plane. Therefore,
my skull was 88% the size of Kennedy’s. A scale ruler needed to be constructed
in order to keep the scale consistent between the skull and the dimensions in
the 3-view drawing. This was accomplished by scanning a centimeter ruler at a
scale of 1-1 into Photoshop 5.5, an extremely powerful computer image editing
program. The 1-1 image was then reduced in size to exactly 88%. Once printed,
I had a ruler that was 88% of the original.
 F-65 and F-66 are two version of the same drawing. In the following illustration,
Figure H-16, the outline of the skull and the shape of the suture lines was traced
from F-66 (left panel) and laid over F-65 (right panel).
Skull outline and suture lines traced from F-66 (left) and laid over F-65 (right
The view of the skull and its
suture lines is virtually identical, with F-65 being the more polished of the
two. Note that the coronal suture line from F-65 (left panel), when placed over
F-66 (right panel), tracks the forward edge of the bony defect. Baden’s testimony
has been confirmed through the FPP illustrations; according to the FPP, the defect
in the skull extended no further forward than the coronal suture. Therefore, the
Triangular and Harper skull fragments must be confined the area
of missing bone in the right parietal.
 As with the full-scale ruler mentioned in reference #35 above, I reduced
the image of the fragments to 88% of the original. Thus the Harper and
Triangular fragments had been scaled to the skull.
 The FPP never identified where on the Harper fragment the exit
was supposed to be located. As a result, we must guess at what they concluded.
Given that there are but three reasonable orientations, one of the versions below
in Figure H-17 likely represents the FPP version:
chose to incorporate the middle version into the text as it most closely approximates
the diameter of the FPP skull bevel exit hole.
 The Papers of John Lawrence Angel, Robert Lynn Montgomery, National Anthropological
Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1994. (Angel
Papers, pg 59)
 Angel viewed the autopsy material on 9/16/77 in concert with the FPP
Angel went back to the Archives on 10/12/77 and 10/20/77 at Michael Baden's request
(HSCA RN 180-10109-10034).
On each trip, Angel produced detailed diagrams (Angel Papers). I obtained copies
of both Angel's 10/12/77 and 10/20/77 working diagrams and notes from the National
Anthropological Archives in February 2002. Those materials have never been published.
The version of Angel’s illustration reproduced here (Figure H-5) is a computer
scan of page 230 of HSCA volume VII. I was unable to locate Angel's original illustration
using the National Archives' electronic database search engine or a lengthy search
of the HSCA files at NARA. It is likewise not among his papers at the National
Anthropological Archives, and appears to be lost to history.
 Andy Purdy reminded the FPP of their responsibility to consult experts.
Wrote Purdy: “Additionally, we would like you to carefully state the degree of
certainty you attribute to each of your respective conclusions and to specify
those areas which are beyond your expertise or which would benefit from examination
by different types of experts” [emphasis added]. HSCA
 David W Mantik, M.D., Ph D. Murder in Dealey Plaza, 2000, page
251. G.M. McDonnel, 7HSCA218.
Phone conversation with the author.
 David W Mantik, M.D., Ph D. Murder in Dealey Plaza, 2000, page
251. G.M. McDonnel, 7HSCA218.
 Aerospace Corp. computer expert, Robert Chiralo told me during a 12/19/02
phone conversation that he and McDonnel worked closely together on several projects
at Aerospace Corp. In one such project, they were attempting to develop and market
digital X-ray equipment. Unfortunately, the radiology community was extremely
dubious of the new (at that time, 1976-79) computer technology. Eventually, Chiralo
and McDonnel gave up on the project. McDonnel and Chiralo, it turns out, were
twenty years ahead of their time; the last time I had dental work performed, the
dentist stuck a digital X-ray plate in my mouth which was hooked up to a computer
monitor. The digital X-ray image was available in seconds. I thought of McDonnel
(deceased) as the drill carved up my tooth.
 I have not located the Harper Fragment per Larry Angel’s interpretation
for the reason that Angel (and the HSCA) was denied one critical piece of evidence
by the FBI in 1977/78; the Harper Fragment X-rays they took on 11/27/63.
Limits of time prevent a more detailed accounting of what that new evidence means.
Phone conversation between John Hunt and Ida Dox on February 13, 2003:
HUNT: Yes, could I speak with Ida Dox please?
HUNT: Ida Dox, Hi. My Name is John Hunt. I’m calling
from, ah, Tiverton Rhode Island.
DOX: From where?
Tiverton, Rhode Island.
have a question for you. I was reading, um, about the House Select Committee,
and, ah, the drawing that you did of ah, the rendering of President Kennedy’s
head. The one that has the bone fragments flying away from the skull…
HUNT: When you drew that drawing did you—I guess
you used a human skull that was the same size and shape as President Kennedy’s.
And, did you actually draw the defect in the skull on the skull itself?
DOX: Uh, you know, um. I—I don’t like to answer questions over the phone about
this situation. Alright?
DOX: That’s my policy.
HUNT: Okay. Could I ask you one question,
I sorry but the, the original-
DOX: What-What is-What-What’s
the purpose of your question?
HUNT: Um, I’m trying to-You
did a series of drawing for the House Select Committee—DOX: -I understand that,
but why are you calling?
HUNT: Well, because they’ve disappeared.
And one of them was supposed to be published in the House Select Committee—the
Forensic Pathology Panel Report and it was included in their final draft.
Dr. Baden included it in the final draft but it never made it into the published
version, and it’s disappeared. It was never published.
(As if to say “I’ve had enough”) Okay, well—
HUNT: It was
DOX: - Listen. Ah, ah I don’t-I make-I have a policy;
I never discuss this situation with anyone, especially over the phone! All right?
HUNT: If I were
to send you-if I were to send you, just, um, simple questions in the mail, would
HUNT: —just for Hist-
[“History’s sake” was what I was going to say. JH]
I- As I said, I do not want to discuss this with anybody, Okay?
Okay. Do you have those drawings?