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Tell-Tale Dash Pt. 1

[Page launched 25 February, 2009]

[11 April, 2009, update: Researcher Tim Lewis obtains final clarification from Remington here.]

The Tell-Tale Dash, Part 2: Dutchman in Denial

--by Allan Eaglesham

In May, 1993, JFK-assassination investigator Robert Vernon visited James Files in Statesville Prison, Joliet, Illinois, where Files was (and still is) serving a 30-year sentence for attempted murder of two police officers in 1991. Files told Vernon that he had shot President Kennedy from behind the picket fence on the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza. He claimed to have used a Fireball XP-100 modified to fire .222 ammunition. After shooting a single round, Files said that he bit down on the cartridge case, denting it, and left it on the picket fence.

Six years before this meeting in Joliet, a .222 cartridge case had been unearthed on the grassy knoll. It was dented at the open end.

A minor industry has sprung up, based on James Files' claim to be the murderer of President Kennedy, with books and videos available for purchase. A chief source of information, and items for sale, is http://www.jfkmurdersolved.com/ which is run by Dutchman Wim Dankbaar.

The main page of the "jfkmurdersolved" website includes these subheadings:

"Casing Found: Dallas man and son dig up casing that killed JFK! Assassin identifies it as his!"


"Smoking bullet! Dallas resident John Rademacher the man that found the shell of the bullet that killed JFK."

Elsewhere on the website it was stated:

"The .222 casing was manufactured before 1971, as could be determined from the headstamp.".


"The shell casing is therefore a crucial piece of physical evidence for [Files'] credibility."

On March 1, 2007, I launched a webpage containing an article titled The Tell-Tale Dash: James Files and the Dented Cartridge Case (available here), which questioned Dankbaar's statement, "The .222 casing was manufactured before 1971, as could be determined from the headstamp." Dankbaar provided no photograph of the headstamp, and his reason for ascribing a pre-1971 date was non-obvious. My efforts to ascertain the approximate date of manufacture of the dented .222 cartridge case are described in that article, and evidence is provided that it was manufactured years after the assassination.

Figure 1 shows a comparison of headstamps of REM / R-P / .222 cartridges manufactured in the 1960s and 1970s and dug up by Mr. Rademacher. Cartridge cases manufactured in the 1960s had a long dash between the "R" and the "P."

Figure 1. Cartridge-case headstamps: 1960s vintage [left],dug up by Mr. Rademacher [center], 1970s vintage [right].

About 6 weeks after the Tell-Tale Dash article was published, Dankbaar withdrew this sentence from jfkmurdersolved.com: "The .222 casing was manufactured before 1971, as could be determined from the headstamp."

However, the statements claiming that the dented shell is part of the round that killed President Kennedy -- "a crucial piece of physical evidence" -- have remained on the home and ancillary pages of jfkmurdersolved.com.

On January 17, 2009, I received this email from Mark Stephan:

Mr. Stephan's kind words meant a great deal in view of the fact that:

  • He had been a career officer with the Philadelphia Police Department, achieving the rank of lieutenant.
  • While with the PPD he had been commanding officer of the Firearms Idenfication Unit.
  • Currently, he is principle criminalist and consultant with the Greenville County Crime Lab in South Carolina.

    I took the opportunity to ask Mr. Stephan if he knew of the existance of any catalog or database on headstamps that would provide certainty on the age of the dented .222 shell found on the grassy knoll.

    He suggested that I contact George Kass, who maintains a database on headstamps that many law-enforcement agencies rely on for information on cartridges and cartridge cases associated with crimes.

    I briefly appraised Mr. Kass on the telephone, and followed up with this email:

    In due course, he responded:

    Thus, Mr. Kass adds considerable weight to the accumulated evidence that the dented cartridge case dug up from the grassy knoll had nothing whatsoever to do with the assassination of President Kennedy and, accordingly, adds weight to the likelihood that James Files is a hoaxer.

    I felt obliged to share this new information with Mr. Dankbaar. My email exchange with him is available here. It may be summed up as follows:

    Wim Dankbaar has no evidence to support the story that the dented .222 cartridge case was bitten by James Files.
    Beyond a reasonable doubt, the "crucial piece of evidence" is a red herring.


    11 April, 2009: Update

    Recently, on a JFK forum linked to the Discovery Channel website, researcher Tim Lewis announced that he had obtained confirmation from Remington Arms that the "R-P" dash had been reduced in size during the 1970s, precisely consistent with Figure 7 in the original "headstamp" article (here).

    Mr. Lewis's communications with Remington Arms may be viewed here.

    This information nails shut the lid on this issue. All doubt is removed. The cartridge cases dug up by John Rademacher in Dealey Plaza are totally irrelevant to the assassination of President Kennedy.

  • ___________________________

    Acknowledgments: I thank Mark Stephan, George Kass and Tim Lewis for their time and kind assistance.


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