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Saturday, 27 February 2021 18:00

Barry Ernest Replies to John Armstrong, RE: Victoria Adams

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Barry Ernest replies to John Armstrong’s recent article entitled “Oswald DID NOT Run Down the Stairs” by clarifying the record and revealing various assumptions Armstrong makes in his evaluation of the evidence.


In a recent website article titled “Oswald DID NOT Run Down the Stairs” (his emphasis), researcher/author John Armstrong dissects the story of Victoria Adams. He wholeheartedly upholds her account that she descended the back stairs of the Texas School Book Depository immediately after the assassination. But he takes strong exception to statements she made to me that she did not (my emphasis) see employees William Shelley and Billy Lovelady when she arrived on the first floor.

Vicki is quoted in her Warren Commission testimony as saying Shelley and Lovelady were there. Yet those two men claimed they remained outside the Depository for some 10 minutes after the assassination. This apparent contradiction between Miss Adams’ prompt descent while claiming she saw two men still outside is what the Commission used to discredit her.

Armstrong thinks her statement before the Commission—that she saw Shelley and Lovelady—is gospel. He contends her comments of not seeing those men made some 40 years after the fact should be viewed with skepticism and doubt.

No one agrees more than I.

That doubt is precisely what pushed me to search for the original transcript of her testimony. Did she really say she saw Shelley and Lovelady, or was her testimony doctored as she herself believes? I was looking for the first generation, virtually unalterable, accordion-style paper tape coded by the court stenographer. What I discovered was that this critical tape was missing from the National Archives. A later document revealed it had been destroyed by the Commission, previously on record as promising to preserve such tapes for future inspection.

So, we don’t really know what Vicki said. Or didn’t say. Nevertheless, Armstrong maintains she was word-perfect about seeing those two men, and chastises her for telling me otherwise. He ends up calling her a “hoax.” Knowing about Vicki and her highly principled background, she is the last person who would fabricate a story.

So why is this guy so harsh with her?

In order to answer that, we need to understand John Armstrong.

In 2003, he wrote a book titled “Harvey and Lee.” In it, he claims Lee Harvey Oswald was actually two people: one the publicly recognized assassin “Lee,” the other a mysterious look-alike named “Harvey.” The book was praised for its meticulous detail. But it was also criticized by some on the grounds Armstrong interpreted evidence in a way that reinforced his hypothesis.

Part of Armstrong’s recent foray contends that both Harvey and Lee were cohorts in a plot to kill JFK. And each was present in the Depository on November 22nd. Abettors were there as well, one to help one of the pair of Oswalds escape from the sixth floor, the other to lead the other away from the crime scene.

Enter Shelley and Lovelady…and, by extension, Victoria Adams.

Armstrong’s scenario has Lovelady turning off electrical power in the building from a circuit box on the first floor. This allowed the sniper’s-nest shooter to pry up loose floor boards, safely crawl into the passenger elevator shaft below, then make his way into the elevator compartment and ride to freedom once Lovelady reset the power a couple minutes later. Shelley’s task was less complicated, merely escorting the other confederate out a rear door.

Shelley and Lovelady thus had to be present on the first floor…in a New York minute. Their quick appearance at the back of the building, Armstrong surmises, “is a clear indication that either one or both of these men may have been co-conspirators.” That’s why he favors Vicki’s up-tempo descent and her supposed sighting of both men. But that’s also why he’s so critical of her when she says she really didn’t see those two after all. This is why he has to call Adams’s story a “hoax”.

Since Vicki’s original testimony no longer exists (prompting suspicion by itself), is there other corroboration? 

The best comes from a co-worker, Sandra Styles, who accompanied Vicki to the first floor. She was a perfect witness to not only verify the timing, but also to say who was there when the girls arrived. She was never questioned by the Warren Commission. Funny thing too is that Sandra Styles knew Shelley and Lovelady. In fact, she knew them well. When I tracked her down in 2002, she told me that Shelley and Lovelady definitely were not on the first floor. She repeated that in subsequent interviews, often emphatically. So how does Armstrong handle this?

Adams’ co-worker, Sandra Styles, followed her from their office on the 4th floor, down the wooden stairs, and onto the 1st floor. As the two women were rushing out of the building, Styles momentarily focused her [eyes] on a policeman hurrying toward the stairs and elevator. Styles’ memory of seeing police (Officer Baker) on the first floor agreed with Adams’ statement of the time that she arrived on the first floor, which was within one minute after the shooting. Styles did not see Shelley or Lovelady, but her vivid memory of the police may explain why she paid little or no attention to other people in the area. Her focus of attention was on the policeman.

That elucidation is unsourced. I think I know why. Sandra Styles never saw a policeman on the first floor.

After sending Sandra that paragraph for a response, she replied that she absolutely did not see a policeman, let alone police, on the first floor that day. She had no clue about where Armstrong got his information. Her only sighting of a cop, she said, was the one sitting on a motorcycle outside the building.

Armstrong gives excessive weight to the day-of affidavits by Shelley and Lovelady in which each imply a rapid re-entry into the Depository. But their later interviews to the FBI and Warren Commission detailing their longer stay outside are considered bogus, having been “changed” in order to avoid culpability.

He elevates Dallas Police Officer Marrion Baker’s observation of seeing two unidentified white men on the first floor as he and building manager Roy Truly rushed toward the back staircase:

One of these two “white men” was Bill Shelley, who stated in an affidavit to the Dallas Police that he was told “to watch the elevators and not let anyone off.” The only time that Roy Truly could have told Shelley to watch the elevators was moments before he and Officer Baker ran up the stairs—1 and 1/2 minutes after the shooting (his emphasis).

From the first floor, Baker and Truly sped up the back stairs to the roof where the policeman felt shots may have originated. According to Truly, that round trip took about 10 minutes. It’s conceivable Truly’s request that Shelley oversee the elevators may just as likely have taken place after Truly and Baker returned to the first floor.

Oddly, Armstrong completely ignores the one man all three individuals—Miss Adams, Miss Styles, and Officer Baker—independently told me they noticed near those elevators: a large black man. That is the only person Vicki said she saw and spoke to, not Shelley or Lovelady. That is the only person Miss Styles observed. And that is the same man Baker told me he was about to confront, a la Oswald seconds later, until Truly told him the black man was an employee.

Shelley, Lovelady, and Miss Adams were questioned by Warren Commission staff in April 1964. Vicki went first, followed by Lovelady, then Shelley. Armstrong writes:

The simple fact is that if Adams had not told the WC, in 1964, that she saw Shelley and Lovelady on the first floor, then the WC would have no reason to question these men about Adams.

As Armstrong knows, for he already cited this document, the Commission had in hand a February 17, 1964, interview submitted by Dallas Police Detective James Leavelle, in which Miss Adams, for the first and only time since the assassination, is quoted as saying she saw Shelley and Lovelady. Those interested should read that section of my book which discusses the strange circumstances surrounding this unnerving interview. Particularly the detective’s explanation that Vicki had to be re-interviewed because a fire at police headquarters had destroyed her earlier file. (See The Girl on the Stairs, pp. 246–47)

Armstrong writes that during Lovelady’s testimony, he “volunteered [his emphasis] that he saw ‘Vickie’ when he returned to the building.” That is not accurate. Here’s what Lovelady said: “I saw a girl, but I wouldn’t swear to it it’s Vickie [sic].” Armstrong’s mistake is a bad as the Commission’s conclusion: “On entering, Lovelady saw a girl on the first floor who he believes was Victoria Adams.” Shelley, by the way, said he didn’t see Vicki on the first floor, a detail Armstrong overlooks.

In a September 1964 internal memo, Warren Commission counsel Wesley Liebeler wrote this about Vicki:

Victoria Adams testified that she came down the stairway within about 1 minute after the shots, from the fourth floor to the first floor where she encountered two Depository employees—Bill Shelley and Billy Lovelady. If Miss Adams was on the stairway at that time, the question is raised as to why she did not see Oswald…

But notice how Armstrong inserts additional words into Liebeler’s comment when he quotes the attorney as saying this instead:

Victoria Adams testified that she came down the stairway, within about 1 minute after the shots, from the fourth floor to the first floor where she encountered two Depository employees—Bill Shelley and Billy Lovelady. If Adams saw these two men on the 1st floor, near the freight elevators and stairway, only one minute after the shooting, then how could Oswald have [run] down the stairs from the 6th to the 2nd floor at the same time?

If you follow his argument, then this explains the excess verbiage.

And although he is quick to condemn Vicki for her 40-year-old assertion, he uses as further support for his thesis a comment Buell Wesley Frazier made, which Frazier made for the first time at the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death. He said he saw Oswald emerge from the rear of the Depository shortly after the assassination.  It’s only natural to suspect he does this to support his construct.

Last modified on Sunday, 28 February 2021 07:26
Barry Ernest

Barry Ernest is an author and former investigative journalist. He served in the US Navy as a radar man aboard the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. Following his time in the service, he graduated from Point Park University in Pittsburgh. Ernest worked as a staff writer for the York (PA) Sunday News and the Syracuse (NY) Herald-Journal and Sunday Herald-American. He is a former press secretary and director of communications for the state of Pennsylvania.
Passionate about finding the truth in the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy, Ernest began his search for Victoria Adams in 1967. He frequently lectures on the topic and is the recipient of the 2011 Mary Ferrell Pioneer Award, a national honor presented for a lifetime of searching for the truth in the event that changed our country forever. Ernest resides with his wife in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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