Tagged: Sirhan

October 10th, 2009

Sirhan Blog

Sirhan Sirhan

I went to a play in West Hollywood with my friend Rachel Menowitz.  She is a nice Jewish girl who hates Jesus but at least I don’t have to dumb down my vocabulary when on a date.  We have an unspoken détente.  She doesn’t insist I wear one of those Beanie and Cecil hats and I don’t try to convert her to Christianity.

The play was a one-man show called “The Awful Grace of God:  A Portrait of Robert Kennedy.”  I was mesmerized.  The actor, Jack Holmes, was so talented.  The writing, directing, lighting and sound was outstanding.  I was stunned walking out of the theater.  One thing was clear.  R.F.K’s story had not been told.  I’m not talking about his life which was covered brilliantly by the theater production.  I’m talking about his death.  His assassination.  I was aware of Mkultra and its significance with Sirhan and that Richard Helms used it to murder Robert Kennedy.  But I didn’t have the specifics.  My expertise was the JFK assassination not Robert Kennedy’s murder.  A short while later I ventured down to the Los Angeles Public Library.  I found a 1,500 page LAPD Summary Report of the Robert Kennedy assassination in the Rare Books section.  I wrote down my own summaries of their summaries.  I also ran into fellow researcher and author Jim Di Eugenio at the library.  I expressed pleasant surprise that the library had two copies of my book, JFK vs. CIA and told him about the hard copy of the LAPD Summary Report in Rare Books.

Next I traveled up to Sacramento and visited the California State Archives.  The Archives has considerable amount of RFK Assassination material.  I read the trial transcript, another version of the LAPD Summary Report this time with names included, made the poor staff wheel out all 1,500 remaining photographs of the case and viewed what film the Archives had.  Most important, I listened to several taped interviews LAPD recorded.  What sold me was the 4:00 a.m. Vince Di Pierro interview of June 5, 1968.  The tape is crystal clear.  The detectives at Rampart Station begin with, “So what can you tell us about this?”  Keeping in  mind it is only four hours after the shooting Vince begins his tale.  A part-time waiter and full time college student, Vince received a telephone call from his father, an assistant Maitre d’ at the hotel, to come down and meet Robert Kennedy.  Vince arrived after 11:00 p.m. and was put to work.  He started out guarding a door that leads from the pantry to the Embassy Room.  After Kennedy finished his victory speech Vince escorted RFK back through the double doors returning to the pantry.

Vince told the detectives of seeing a man further down the pantry standing on a tray stacker with a beautiful girl behind him.  She was sort of holding the man on the tray rack and the two were smiling at each other.  Vince said they had the same sick smile.  The girl was well built, 21, shoulder length brown hair and was wearing a white dress with black polka dots.  The man was Sirhan Sirhan.  The girl in the polka dot dress said something to Sirhan and he turned to look at Kennedy entering the pantry.  At this time Vince also turned toward Kennedy watching as he shook hands with the kitchen help.  Suddenly, the man Vince saw standing on the tray rack was now in front of Kennedy pointing a gun and firing at the Senator.  The detectives asked Vince if the girl had moved with the suspect and Vince said no, the girl had remained at the tray stacker.  So the polka dot dress girl that LAPD in their Summary Report tried so hard to dismiss as non-existent really exists.  What else exists?  I was hooked and not a bit happy.  Doing the research that is entailed isn’t so much like James Bond although it has its moments, but rather like George Smiley from “Smiley’s People.”  Meticulous.  Every sentence and every word evaluated and analyzed.  Dozens of notebooks to be filled.  Lists of suspects to be compiled.  Twenty seven microfilm reels to be read.  I dreaded it.  One obsession per lifetime should be enough.  Now two.

But it was the only way.  Robert Kennedy was expecting me to do the work.  Roll up my sleeves.  Get to work.  I could almost hear his voice.  Sirhan needed me to do it as well.  Forty years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.  I knew by comparing the autopsy report with the LAPD witness interview reports that Sirhan did not kill Bobby Kennedy.  Sirhan was always in front of and several feet away from Kennedy according to the eye witnesses.  On the other hand, the autopsy had a gun pointed behind Senator Kennedy’s right ear and being fired from one inch away.  Two other shots with the barrel of the gun pressed against Kennedy’s back coat were also reported.  Not Sirhan’s doing.  But if not Sirhan, who?  How?  The answers would be in those twenty seven micro film reels.

Returning to L.A. I began to study in earnest.  Becoming a fixture at the Central Library I started plowing through the material.  Arrest reports, broadcasts and teletypes, evidence files, investigators’ notes, tape summaries, case prep, 4,700 interview reports.  This was going to take a while.  In the meantime I started sending evidence material to Sirhan which proved he was innocent.  Sabrina Johnson who handles media questions for Corcoran State Prison where Sirhan is incarcerated, called and left me a message.  My correspondence would be given to Sirhan.  Great, I thought.  Although Sirhan is not allowed to write or have contact with anyone other than immediate family or his lawyer at least he would be able to receive my packets and come to realize his innocence.  I also realized the CIA would be reading everything I sent him and could follow my investigation in real time.  They would know what I was figuring out while I was figuring it out.  CIA wants to know if I’m clever enough to figure out how they did it and want this knowledge before I turn it into another book.  I surprised them with JFK vs CIA and they’re going to make sure there isn’t a second surprise.  We’ll see.

As I poured through the LAPD documents I was continually reminded of the agony that Sirhan’s mother went through.  What pain.  What horror.  You’re at work and someone notifies you that your son is in custody suspected of having shot Robert Kennedy.  Shock.  Disbelief.  Then the trial.  Next, the years of visiting your son in prison.  The anguish.  I needed to speak to Mary Sirhan.  I knew she would be quite elderly if alive but if she was still living I wanted to look in her eyes and tell her, “Your son did not kill Robert Kennedy.”

With this in mind I drove out to Pasadena.  Locating the Sirhan residence I drove by the house.  It looked lonely.  So this is where it all happened.  Sirhan used to walk out that door.  It was only a few blocks to his job at John Weidner’s health food store.  Mr. Weidner had given the job to Sirhan as a favor to Mary Sirhan whom he knew from church.  I had this address as well and drove over to what had been Organic Pasadena.  Another business now occupied the space and being a weekend it was empty.  I put my hands to the window peering in trying to picture Sirhan bustling about filling orders as Weidner barked his gruff, insensitive commands.  The two did not get along and after one final argument Sirhan quit on the spot demanding a final pay check.  The cops were called and a female employee speaking in Sirhan’s defense to the Pasadena Police then quit on the spot as well.  What a girl!  Whatever happened to her?

I got in my car and drove back over to the lonely house.  Was Mary Sirhan still alive?  Was the family still there?  What about the pink and white 1957 De Soto Sirhan used to drive.  I parked across the street and noticed a man and a teenage boy getting into a vehicle parked in the driveway behind the house.  I gingerly walked up to the car not wanting to get shot and asked the man sitting in the driver’s seat with the window rolled down if this was the Sirhan residence.  The man, looking over his left shoulder, asked, “Are you Calder?”  I said, “Yeah.”  “Just a minute,” he said parking the car down the driveway closer to the street.  Getting out of the car he walked towards me, shook my hand and said, “I’m Munir, Sirhan’s brother.  Sirhan said to work with you and give you anything you want.  This never happens.  He seems to be very impressed with you.”

For the next three hours we stood on the lawn and porch talking, me asking questions, Munir answering.  “What about the purchase of the gun?  Any strange telephone calls to trigger Sirhan?  Any girlfriends of Sirhan?”  Munir seemed a little stunned by my recall of minutia of the case.  He smiled when I asked about the pink and white De Soto while glancing back at the garage.  “That car was always breaking down.  Sirhan was always fixing it.  We sold it.”  I could tell this was going to be the start of a beautiful relationship.