It’s been called “the crime of the century” and “the greatest murder mystery ever.”
More than 32 years after shots rang out in Dealey Plaza in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, the question of who shot President John F. Kennedy remains for many as provocative as ever.
The controversy has spawned a virtual cottage industry of assassination books, more than 600 over the past three decades. Critical of the official explanation of a single assassin acting alone, the combined tomes offer a smorgasbord of conspiracy theories: Step right up and take your pick of everything from the FBI and the CIA to the KGB and the mob.
Now comes a self-published book from an unlikely team of assassination investigators--a Garden Grove sign shop owner and a Bellingham, Wash., real estate agent--that purports to fill in many of the missing pieces of the JFK assassination puzzle, new information that the authors maintain leads directly to Lyndon B. Johnson.
“The Men on the Sixth Floor” (Sample Graphics; $15) by Glen Sample and Mark Collom chronicles their investigation of Loy Factor, a Chickasaw from Oklahoma, who claimed to have been with Lee Harvey Oswald in the Texas School Book Depository on that tragic November day.
In taped interviews conducted before his death in 1994 due to complications of diabetes, the 67-year-old Factor told Sample and Collom that it was he, Oswald and a man Factor knew only as Wallace who were positioned with rifles behind open windows overlooking Dealey Plaza.
A fourth person on the sixth floor--a young Latina named Ruth Ann--communicated with unknown individuals over a walkie-talkie. And, according to Factor, as the president’s limousine rounded onto Elm Street in front of the book depository building, the woman waved her hand downward as she counted: “One . . . two . . . three.”
On the down-stroke of three, according to Factor, the gunmen each fired a single shot, then fled downstairs--Ruth Ann and Factor to their car parked in the book depository lot; Oswald and Wallace in different directions.
Sample and Collom say they have identified the mystery man who hired Factor: Malcolm E. Wallace, a Lyndon Johnson associate who has been linked to two previous murders. One of the murders was that of a man thought to have been having an affair with Wallace’s estranged wife. The other is the 1961 death of a U.S. Department of Agriculture official who was investigating the legality of cotton allotments to LBJ’s millionaire Texan crony Billie Sol Estes, later convicted of fraud and tax evasion.
Wallace died in a single-car accident in Texas in 1971 at the age of 50.
“No one has ever before linked Wallace to the assassination,” said Sample, 47, in an interview at his home in Garden Grove. “We make the statement [in the book] that the road leads clearly and without obstruction to Lyndon Johnson.”
Is it possible? Have Sample and Collom shed light on what they refer to as “the most devastating assassination in history”?
Dave Perry, a Dallas insurance claims investigator who has been researching the Kennedy assassination for 19 years, views Loy Factor’s claim to have been on the sixth floor with Oswald the same as he views other assassination-related allegations: “with much skepticism.”
Perry, in fact, has reviewed all the available literature that has come out since the assassination and found a total of 61 people in the vicinity of Dealey Plaza who are said to have either shot the president or served as accomplices.
Thirty-four alone are listed as “shooters.”
They range from the so-called Umbrella Man on the northwest curb of Elm Street who is said to have shot a poison dart at the president to a drummer in Frank Sinatra’s band who is said to have fired a shot from the grassy knoll.
Sample, who was in a high school wood shop in Yreka, Calif., in 1963 when he heard that Kennedy had been shot, is a relative newcomer to the assassination research community. In fact, before he and Collom began their investigation into Loy Factor’s story in 1992, he says he had read only one book about the assassination.
Married 27 years and the father of two sons, Sample says he and his wife Dorothy are “just quiet, normal people that live in Garden Grove.”
The mere thought they he and Collom have interviewed a man that they are convinced was involved with the death of the president causes Sample to shake his head and laugh in disbelief.
“We still joke about what a fluke to run into this story--a little sign painter from Garden Grove and a real estate agent from Bellingham,” said Sample. “If we’re the victims of a tremendous hoax, we’ve really been taken, but I don’t think so.”
For Sample, who did most of the writing, pursuing Factor’s story gradually took over his life. Working on the book “in bits and pieces” over three years, he and Collom would take time off from work to make research trips to Oklahoma and Texas.
“It was a project that never left my mind, especially the last year and a half,” says Sample, who is now focusing on finding a national distributor for the book.
As chronicled in their book, the seed for “The Men on the Sixth Floor” was planted in 1971 when Collom, then 21, first met Loy Factor.
At the time, Collom was serving a 16-month sentence for a drug-related conviction in the state prison in McAlester, Okla., (a fact that Sample included in an early press release announcing their findings but is not mentioned in the book). Factor, who was imprisoned for the 1968 strangulation death of his wife, was paroled in 1977.
Confined together in a hospital isolation ward for many weeks, the authors say, Factor told Collom the story only his wife had known.
In 1961, Factor told Collom, he and his wife and children drove down to Bonham, Texas, for the funeral of Sam Rayburn, the legendary speaker of the House and Lyndon Johnson’s political mentor.
Factor and his family were standing among the throngs lining the street hoping to catch a glimpse of Kennedy, Johnson and other government dignitaries, when a stranger--Wallace--struck up a conversation.
Wallace’s interest was piqued when Factor mentioned his ability as a hunter and marksman. Before Wallace left, he asked for Factor’s address, saying that he might have some work for him in the future and would look him up.
A year later, Wallace showed up at Factor’s modest home in rural Fillmore, Okla., and asked him to demonstrate his ability with a rifle. Factor, whom Sample and Collom describe as a simple and unsophisticated man, happily obliged.
Impressed, Wallace told Factor he was willing to pay for his shooting ability--to kill someone--and offered him $10,000: $2,000 that day and the remaining $8,000 to be paid when the job was finished.
Greed, the authors believe, caused Factor to accept the offer. And by the time he learned who his target would be, Factor felt he would be in danger if he backed out.
On Nov. 19, 1963, the woman identified as Ruth Ann arrived at Factor’s home and drove him to a small house in Dallas where he met Wallace.
Over the next two days, the trio reviewed plans, maps of Dallas and the presidential motorcade route. Occasionally, Factor said, they were joined by two other men: Lee Harvey Oswald and the man who would later kill Oswald, Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby.
Sample first heard about Factor’s story in 1975--when he and his old high school buddy Collom were reunited.
Over the years, the two men made several unsuccessful attempts to track down Factors’ phone number in Oklahoma, but didn’t aggressively pursue finding him.
Then, in early 1992, Collom read a Life magazine article about Oliver Stone’s “JFK” movie that mentioned assassination researcher Larry N. Howard, director of the JFK Assassination Information Center in Dallas.
Collom phoned Howard. Intrigued, Howard promised to look into Loy Factor and invited Sample and Collom to Dallas so he could videotape an interview with them for his archives.
With research help from Howard, Sample and Collom tracked down Factor, by then in ill health and living in a mobile home on a farm in Tonkawa, Okla. During the first of two interviews, Sample says, Factor confirmed what he had told Collom 21 years earlier and gave permission for them to tell his story.
Although Factor consistently denied pulling the trigger--he insisted he merely went through the motions of firing at Kennedy--Sample maintains that Factor did shoot at Kennedy and was trying to distance himself from the crime.
It is the details of Factor’s story, Sample says, that make it believable.
One of the most significant details, the authors say, is Factor’s offhanded remark that upon arriving on the sixth floor with Ruth Ann, he saw Oswald and Wallace sitting next to a table saw adjusting their rifle scopes.
What, Sample and Collom wondered, was a table saw doing in a book warehouse?
Howard told them that floor construction was underway on the sixth floor at the time of the assassination. And a book depository employee who had worked with Oswald later told the authors that he recalled seeing a table saw and that it may have been near the windows by the east end of the building--the corner that Oswald shot from.
Sample says that no one has ever reported that a table saw was on the sixth floor at the time of the assassination.
Howard also recalled hearing about a “Mac” Wallace from alleged LBJ mistress Madeleine Brown, who claims to have heard Johnson make a veiled threat against Kennedy the night before the assassination.
Brown told the authors that Wallace had been associated with Johnson and that she suspected Wallace to have been involved in Kennedy’s assassination. A good portion of the book is spent on Wallace and his ties to Johnson.
Sample and Collom learned of Estes’ 1984 grand jury testimony saying Wallace was the triggerman in the 1961 death of U.S. Department of Agriculture official Henry Harvey Marshall. The death had been ruled a suicide--despite the fact that Marshall’s body was found with a .22 caliber bolt action rifle and he had five bullet holes in his side.
Protected from prosecution by a grant of immunity, Estes told grand jurors that he, Wallace, and Johnson were involved in planning the murder of Marshall.
And, the authors learned, that despite being a convicted felon, Wallace, with Johnson’s intervention, had been able to gain security clearances working for firms that contracted with the government.
Perry finds much to dispute in “The Men on the Sixth Floor.” He says Sample and Collom’s reliance on statements by the woman who says she was LBJ’s mistress is one of the many problems with the book.
Perry says Brown has never provided sufficient evidence to prove that she was Johnson’s mistress. He also questions Brown’s claim that LBJ made a threat against the Kennedys at a party the night before the assassination. No one, Perry says, has ever substantiated that such a party ever occurred.
“To be kind to [Sample and Collom], they have not gone to the right people to research their stories and most of the book is based on hearsay evidence,” says Perry.
“By far the most troubling problem is the propensity of the authors to reach a conclusion first and then look for evidence that supports that preconceived finale. Not only are ‘facts’ twisted, but even common sense is swept aside to make way for the claim that Loy Factor was involved.”
Having spent two decades researching the JFK assassination--a fair amount of it checking out other peoples’ theories--Perry says he’s found that inexperienced researchers “often get swept up in it and they get very excited because they think they’ve found something new.”
Sample concedes that much of what he and Collom present in “The Men on the Sixth Floor” would never hold up in court, but he stands by Loy Factor’s story.
As one longtime assassination researcher says of the multitude of JFK assassination theories: “It’s like religion. You either believe it or you don’t.”
“The Men on the Sixth Floor” is available at the Green Door Mystery Bookstore in San Juan Capistrano, Coffee, Tea & Mystery in Westminster and by mail order: (800) 368-8724.