Going further with the subject of the RFK assassination and conspiracy, I’d like to bring up the premise that the key to that conspiracy lies in the identity of the “polka dot dress” girl and her associates.  Certainly anyone reading about the attack on RFK will come across this subject at some  point, and across her association with Sirhan Sirhan – which was probably much closer than Sirhan has ever admitted, although he has moved to focus more on her in recent years.  During his trial, Sirhan was hesitant to discuss his association with any women, going so far as to offer to plead guilty and take the electric chair simply to avoid the issue of two young women he had known and at one time tried to chat up, paying for their coffee.  That strong reaction provides a valuable insight into Sirhan but that’s a different story in and of itself.

In the beginning the Los Angeles police took Sandra Serrano’s encounter with the “polka dot dress” girl very seriously and it drove a good bit of their early investigation.  The problem was that they failed to identify the girl and that became a serious embarrassment.  In addition, as the prosecution began to focus exclusively on Sirhan, the concept of accessories represented a complication to the case that no prosecution team ever is excited to pursue, simply because it dilutes their presentation.  That’s especially true if those potential associates remain unidentified.   In turn the defense team is always happy to avoid the subject since associates imply premeditation and premeditation can undermine plea deals and ultimately lead to the death penalty.

Ultimately the LAPD resolved their problem is an amazingly transparent miscarriage of procedure – amazing that this point in time but not an issue during the trial because as with so many things Sirhan’s defense restrained from virtually any objections or challenge to the evidence being presented by the prosecution.  Anyone reviewing the case will find a great similarity to the defense of Sirhan Sirhan and James Earl Ray.  Although the LAPD had a number of witnesses describing the mystery girl – and her associates – including one of their officers who independently obtained witness descriptions of them only minutes after the shooting – they managed to focus the whole issue around Sandra Serrano and her statements.  Following a memo remarking that the polka dot dress girl story had become a serious problem in their investigation, certain officers violated both procedural and professional protocol in obtaining a polygraph which showed Serrano to have created the story on her own – and they pressured her into officially recanting her statements.  Their scenario, which she swore to under polygraph and which the polygraph operator himself witnessed to have been truthfully stated, was that she had discussed the shooting with a busboy and had taken her description of the girl from his remarks.

What gives lie to the whole police procedure is the fact that the LAPD files themselves show that Serrano had fully described the encounter and the girl to an assistant LA District Attorney while outside the hotel following the shooting – well before she went back in and was seated in the vicinity of the busboy.  The DA himself officially reported her information to the police and repeatedly brought it to the attention of the LAPD.  Of course that means that the polygraph statement stated to be true – that she had made up the story – was demonstrably false.  Which in turns would bring into question any and all of the  police polygraph work as well as the behavior of the officers involved in it (not to mention the polygraph officer taking her out to dinner and buying her a drink before the session).  It is one of the most egregious examples of police investigatory action you could possibly find, magnified by the fact that all the information needed to reveal it is in the police files themselves.

Beyond that, the LAPD can clearly be shown to have obfuscated and suppressed the police officer’s reports and statements which independently verified the descriptions of the girl and her associates obtained from two people who observed them fleeing from the hotel….exactly where Serrano described them as exiting.

Clearly there was conspiracy in the attack, clearly it involved some young people who were highly enthusiastic but not all that covert in their actions.  If you want to dig through the whole story, I would refer you to my Incomplete Justice essays on the Mary Ferrell site:

https://www.maryferrell.org/pages/Essay_-_Incomplete_Justice_-_At_the_Ambassador_Hotel.html

 

 

 

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About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

22 responses »

  1. Greg Kooyman says:

    Larry,
    Thanks for this blog about the Polka Dot Dress Girl. In your research, has Sirhan ever admitted in more recent years anything more about this girl?

    • In some of his more recent statements he has elaborated on his contact with her in one of the reception areas at the hotel – before the assassination. He seems to imply that she seemed familiar to him and definitely captured his attention for some reason. It remains one of the things he seems to raise in his own defense, but he remains very vague. If you map out the very solid reports appearing to place him in company with her and her associates over the days and weeks before the attack, he may have had good reason limit his remarks. Those contacts certainly suggest premeditation…which would not have helped him at trial or for that matter in his parole hearings. If it seems I’m suggesting that Sirhan has never told his full story…that certainly is my impression and is based on the work on the essays I linked in to the post.

  2. Jim says:

    Hi Larry. The polygraph was a scam from the beginning, intended to do nothing but browbeat Serrano. The LAPD investigation was so bad that it had, at some point, to have been intentional. That suggests LAPD had something to hide. I suspect that it was a relationship with one or more people involved in this. Much like I suspect that Oswald’s probable relationship with the FBI and other agencies drove a lot of their investigation, I suspect that LAPD found themself in the same position. And/or there may have been some bad cops involved in this, and they certainly would have covered that up. Like Dallas P.D., LAPD, although a different force from the 30’s-40’s-50’s, still had a long tradition of corruption.

  3. Jim says:

    BTW, did you ever hear of a suggestion that Kathy Ainsworth might have been the Polka Dot Girl?

    • Yes Jim, interestingly enough it was that speculation which started Stu and I into what eventually led to years of work (still going on) with the MLK assassination. We were deeply in to RFK at the time and looking at ultra right leads among others. It would have been so clear if it had been Kathy and Tommy…sigh. As it turns out there was little chance of that, she was still teaching during the period where she would have needed to be in LA (according to the school records and fellow teachers) plus the fact that the chronology puts the PDG in LA for some time…being seen on multiple occasions with either Sirhan or someone close enough to be his brother. There are still some intriguing leads on the ultra right but its unlikely that Ainsworth was involved. Lots of stuff going on for her at home at the relevant times. On a side note, we do have a candidate not that is a perfect match for the PDG….but have had no luck contacting or putting pt set of photos in front of Serrano.

      • Jim says:

        I recollect some friend of Sirhan’s who might have been a police informant, had Keith Dwayne Gilbert’s name in his address book or some such. Gilbert was a violent ultra right guy who was in prison, then or later, on a bomb charge I think. Gilbert pops up as an associate of many of California’s radical, religious right. In that regard, I’d like to know more about the couple who supposedly saw and/or were with Sirhan at a gun range near L.A. Seems they owned or hung out at a bar that was not equal opportunity minded.

      • I’ll reply to both Jim and Avinish with this post – first, Stu and I feel the PDG is still very much alive; she may have left the country soon after the assassination although certain of her associates remained. Not trying to be cute here but this aspect of the case is still very much alive; if we could contact Serrano and get a read on our mug shot series with the prime suspect in it the thing might be actionable. The reason we did not carry our research into a book is that their our two relatively strong but separate lines of investigation still open. Its pretty frustrating but not something that could wrap up now and satisfy a reader. Jim, there are a number of similar leads that could point to the ultra right and we’ve gone far down that road….it turns out to be highly suggestive but not nearly as solid as the other line of inquiry and contains no specifically identifiable individuals as the other does. The point that I was trying to make in the post is that the evidence for the PDG and her associates is extremely strong. They were there, they did certain things before hand, they did certain things that night and their behavior is very consistent and suggests a certain type of motives and actions. That’s the important part, if you look at the timing and their behavior with Sirhan (or someone with a very strong family resemblance..one of his brothers was actually identified in some of the incidents) you come up with a very particular type of conspiracy. Hopefully Incomplete Justice lays out all that detail and makes the point more strongly than I can with this limited space.

  4. Avinash says:

    Since the Polka Dot Dress Girl seems to have been quite young at that time,I wonder if she might still be alive.Do you think its possible?

  5. Jim Stubbs says:

    Larry, how much credence do you give to the information about Kaibar Gudarzian (Khan) and his daughter, Shirrin? Some seem to think she might be the PDG. I can’t find a picture of him or her.

    • A great deal Jim, we have carried that lead on a good ways beyond what has been written up to this point. We do have photos. However since we consider it still a serious and active investigation, at least on our part, that’s about all I’m going to say about it at this point. The only thing beyond that is a plea for someone to help us locate and make contact with Serrano. Unfortunately she has been burned so many times and so many people have badgered her that may no longer be possible.

      • Jim Stubbs says:

        MOst interesting, Larry. From what I’ve read, Gudarzian was some piece of work. I’ll be very interested in what you eventually can say about him (them). Is there some place with their photos that is accessible via internet?

      • Jim, probably more so than you might imagine, sorry to be so vague. Interestingly you might try Robert Morrow’s RFK book. Although Morrow is totally unreliable on the JFK assassination, he happened to run across a few leads in the RFK case that were very important….unfortunately he took them off in the wrong direction but his sources were good, he just didn’t go the right way with it. As to the photos, the answer would be no as far as I am aware. I suppose at some point Stu and I will have to decide when to call this quits and write something but at the moment we are both working on new book projects and letting it sit. All of our efforts to make contact with Serrano have proved fruitless to this stage although we continue to ask for assistance in that effort.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Larry, I’m re-reading melanson’s book on the subject (New Revelations On The Conspiracy and Cover-Up), and in the section on Khan, he says that Khan said he overheard a conversation between a possible PDG and a young man where a Lilli Lawrence got mentioned in relation to New York. I’m thinking that might be Lilli Lawrence Fallah, whose father was oil minister under the Shah.
    She was a very wealthy socialite in NYC and moved to CA. About 67 in 2007. Strange that Khan would mention her. I wouldn’t think that he would be well disposed toward her family. I ordered a back issue of the Nation magazine with the article The Billion Dollar Mystery, by Fred J. Cook, about the fight between Khan and the Shah.

    • The history between Khan and the Shah is a lot more convoluted than seems intuitive, you find traces of it in a number of history books on the Shah’s regime, it extends to members of the Royal family and of course on through SAVAK. However there is an important tangent that goes off through the student age opposition to the Shah that had begun to grown in American universities, first on the east coast and then the west. I suggest you look for two tracks, one the history of Khan’s break with the Shah and then the much less visible indications of compromise and accommodation. Its one thing to challenge the Shah, another to face certain of his even more violent relatives – all of whom like the Shah are as much about money and loyalty than simple politics – and yet another to face SAVAK’s marching orders about eliminating the student movement, which was greatly feared (a fear later years would prove justified) and against which both assassination and bombings were conducted. I need to stop at that point though and I’ll give out only one more clue – the first reported appearance of the PDG (not in polka dots) was in New York, at a U.N. protest against the Shah. That’s pretty deeply buried in the files but its also interesting because there was even video footage.

      • Jim Stubbs says:

        Thanks Larry. I well know about the Iranian students. I roomed with some in college. They were engineering students and most definitely did not want to go home. I remember reading about the U.N. protest and the possible PDG there, sans polka dots.

      • Good stuff Jim, as it turns out SAVAK was doing its best to keep track of them and Khan as well as his kids may have been involved with that. The students were not exiles in the classic sense but some of the students who were a bit political were a real threat. On the other hand, students with ties to the regime were pretty active in informing on the others and on occasion clashing with them. Just not something you read that much about or certainly something most folks appreciated at the time. It was interesting to trace out some of the factions who were involved in both pro and anti Khan protests when members of the Royal Family visited the US, and in particular the cities the Shah visited on his trips. Something else I’ll just toss out was that there was an attempt by some young people to throw things into RFK’s car from an overpass as he departed a college speaking event in LA. The police reports are pretty limited on it but at the minimum it appears to have been a protest of some sort.

  7. Bob Druwing says:

    Once again, you need to proofread what you write.

    “Ultimately the LAPD resolved their problem is an amazingly transparent miscarriage of procedure – amazing that this point in time…”

    2 errors in this line

    As I’ve mentioned to you before, you do great research and make very valid points. but I don’t think it you should set yourself up for criticism by making writing errors. It’s just too easy to have our critics be able to say that if our writing is not accurate, there is no reason to believe our data is accurate.

    • Bob, the thought is appreciated and when I do books I seriously attempt to deal with that via multiple editors…but of course even that does not work one hundred percent. Actually Rex did a good bit of editing on the essay and missed what you point out as well. If we ever proceed to take that to print I’ll give it another look and also see about changing that copy online. It would be much appreciated if you could give me some direction on where the copy you referenced is located – that would speed up the fix…thanks.

      I also want to be honest and say that if you expect perfect editing on my work I’m afraid its just unlikely to happen, even with the best intentions I could not promise that.

      • Bob Druwing says:

        I understand; believe me. I wrote a novel and found mistakes with nearly every re-read. You’ve got one in your last line in whatnyoujust wrote me: it’s

        Forge ahead!

      • It happens even more frequently with the blog posts and responses, sorry about that. At the moment I’m involved with two separate book projects – on totally different subjects – and did a two hour radio show last night. Forging I can do…editing my own stuff…not so much it seems, sigh.

      • Bob Druwing says:

        I get it. As you can see I made a mistake in my last comment. Was still half asleep and didn’t read it before posting.

      • There seems to have been some internal conflict within LAPD and to some extent you can track it back to certain individuals. Certainly the detective who shut down Sharaga’s information that night seems to have been the single individual involved with canceling the initial APB for multiple suspects. If you trace Sharaga’s various letters and statements he has some pretty specific officers in mind as far as that goes. But of course that only involved the Bernsteins and is entirely different from the PDG/associates story which was coming from a variety of witnesses. That was a real problem for the LAPD because if you look at the individual statements a good number of folks were suspicious of those people inside the Ambassador that night and they had all seen them quite independently of Serrano. And their descriptions were quite consistent. That problem was soon magnified by a series of Sirhan reports of someone either Sirhan or someone close enough to him to have been his brother (something not to be totally discounted) in company with the PDG and young men. Whether or not LAPD wanted to look for a conspiracy was irrelevant at that point…it was being brought to them. Given that they could not find her they faced a real quandary, either they could admit that there was a conspiracy and they were not able to crack it..or they could make the PDG go away. They chose the latter approach and I mentioned that in the interview – once they had taken her out of play they simply went back to every other report (I have a couple of dozen in my files) and wrote it off with an annotation at the top relating to Serrano. Of course that was ludicrous but it worked. On your other question, could they have known her? Problem is with the way the RFK task force was set up, its possible that their subversive unit might have but their is no sign that other divisions within LAPD were asked for intel or to participate, just the opposite. Along that line, it is possible that if they had queried either the FBI or the CIA on Khan, they might have indeed turned up a name. There are some documents of that nature, from memory I can’t recall which agency provided them. But once the PDG went away, they were not looking for young women anywhere. The other aspect of that is political, Johnson was very much in bed with the Shah – who had been a serious enemy of JFK and most particularly RFK, who had met with and encouraged anti-Shah student groups. Its pure speculation but given the extent to which everybody was letting SAVAK operate inside the U.S. with no particular interference, a “pass” appears to have been issued at some level. Its almost enough to make me want to get back into this but that would mean a lot of FOIA work on Iran and I’m guessing that such requests would be rejected out of hand given that Iran is still a matter of major contemporary intelligence work.

        Seems to me the LAPD cover up was working at two levels. First off, the senior officers on duty that night were badly embarrassed by the attack and some tough questions were likely to be asked about lack of police protection (and that never really did proceed as the story it should have). Obviously things would be worse if a number of people were involved and a conspiracy in play rather than a lone nut. Its always easier to throw up your hands if the shooter is a lone nut… But later, inside SUS, somebody made a decision to kill conspiracy largely around the PDG – that may have been purely CYA since they could not locate her. On the other hand somebody who did might have slipped a word in but I don’t think that would have been LAPD. I have to say though that the Shah had enough clout to have made that happen, if the trail had gone that direction. The ultra right, maybe not so much.

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