Robert Houghton; Former LAPD Official


Robert A. Houghton, the Los Angeles Police Department assistant chief who headed the investigation into the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and wrote a book about it called “Special Unit Senator,” has died. He was 84.

Houghton, who also headed the inquiry into the Tate-LaBianca murders by Charles Manson’s followers, died Dec. 31 at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, said his friend Larry Barnard.

As deputy chief and chief of detectives, Houghton was determined not to repeat the botched record of the Dallas police when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Although JFK’s suspected assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was captured quickly, he was soon slain in custody and on live television by Jack Ruby. Despite federal investigations of the Dallas events, theories of conspiracy in that slaying still abound.


When Robert Kennedy was shot to death at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968, shortly after his victory in the California Democratic presidential primary, Los Angeles police immediately seized Sirhan B. Sirhan, who was convicted of the murder and is serving a life term.

Houghton told his detectives that it was “imperative that we track every lead, every suspicion of possible complicity or conspiracy, no matter how tenuous or hollow it might sound.”

He said he wanted “this investigation to stand up to whatever scrutiny, as much fine-comb study as it’s going to get.”

When Houghton’s book was published in 1970, Times book reviewer Robert Kirsch called it a “taut and complete account of [in the author’s words] ‘the longest, largest and most expensive criminal investigation ever undertaken by the department, possibly the most extensive investigation ever conducted by any local law enforcement agency.’ ”

Houghton’s team produced a 10-volume report on the investigation, representing nearly 5,000 interviews and interrogations, more than 50,000 pages of documentation, 1,700 photographs, 190 reels of tape and 20 reels of 16-millimeter film. The team found no credible evidence of conspiracy, concluding that Sirhan acted alone.

In 1986, the Los Angeles Police Commission released a 1,500-page summary of Houghton’s investigation, echoing the conclusion.


Only 15 months after Robert Kennedy’s death, Houghton found himself with another big murder investigation on his hands when the bodies of actress Sharon Tate and four house guests were found at her Benedict Canyon home and those of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca at their Los Feliz residence. This time there were no suspects in custody, and it took a long time to find them and prove a conspiracy with their leader Manson.

Born in Salt Lake City, Houghton began his career in 1938 as a patrolman with the Beverly Hills Police Department. He joined the LAPD in 1942 and was named deputy chief in 1961. He served as assistant chief from 1969 until 1971, when he left Los Angeles to serve four years as deputy director of the law enforcement division of the state Justice Department. Houghton served on the Los Angeles County Grand Jury in 1976 and 1977.

Active in Al Malaikah Shrine, Houghton also served as president of the Police Revolver and Marksmen Club, vice president of the LAPD Philanthropic Assn. and a member of the Commission on Admission Standards and Training of Police Officers.

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Bandi; a son, Raymond; a daughter Robin; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Memorial services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at New Apostolic Church, 18236 Strathern St., Reseda.