While reading a different question Was Martin Luther King taped by the FBI while committing adultery?

I came to the Wikipedia page for William Sullivan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_C._Sullivan

Sullivan was one of six current or former FBI officials who died during a six-month period in 1977, before they were to testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, all men who were slated to give testimony about FBI circumstances related to the death of United States President John F. Kennedy, and the FBI role in the Warren Commission.

Stone, R., Cotapietro, M. (2013) The Man Who Killed JFK, The Case Against LBJ, New York: Skyhorse Publishing, p. 334. ISBN 978-1-62636-313-7

Did six former FBI officials who were slated to give testimony in the House Select Committee on Assassinations die before presenting?


2 Answers 2


Referring to John McAdams, "a good many of the deaths hardly seem mysterious in that they were caused by accidents, heart attacks, and other phenomena that afflict our entire population."

However, when one reads Richard Charnin's 2013 column, the probability of death of 7 current or former FBI officials who died during a six-month period in 1977 before they were to testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations when calculated using Probability Sensitivity Analysis was approximately 1 in 100 billion.

The List of Witnesses and Cause of Death

All these witnesses were to testify, had already testified, or were to be called back for additional testimony. Their deaths with no indication of foul play however cluster about a very specific period of curious time of the hearings before the Senate Intelligence Committee and HSCA.

  1. William Sullivan-the main figure in the FBI involved in the Executive Action project was shot dead in a shooting accident near his home in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, on 9th November, 1977 a week before he was to testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1977. Investigation by New Hampshire authorities showed no indication of foul play.

    William Sullivan was one of the former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s top aides, originally, then had a falling out with Hoover. He was scheduled to be questioned by the Assassinations Committee in 1977. As mentioned earlier, he was found shot dead in a shooting accident having been mistaken for a deer. He had been head of the FBI’s Division Five, which handled the King and Kennedy investigations. There was a claim by William Sullivan's friend Robart Novak that William Sullivan specifically predicted that his own death by the following words "Someday you will read that I have been killed in an accident, but don’t believe it; I’ve been murdered."

  2. Donald Kaylor-One of hundreds of FBI employees with marginal connection to assassination who died in October, 1977. He was a FBI fingerprint chemist who examined prints found at the assassination scene and the cause of death was from heart attack.

  3. J.M. English-former head of FBI Forensic Sciences Laboratory died in October, 1977 from heart attack with no evidence of foul play.

  4. Alan H. Belmont-special assistant to Hoover died in August, 1977 from natural causes due to "long illness" with no evidence of foul play. He had previously testified to the Warren Commission.

  5. James Cadigan-FBI document expert with access to documents that related to death of John F. Kennedy died from a fall in his home in August, 1977 with no evidence of foul play. He had previously testified to the Warren Commission.

  6. Louis Nicholas-special assistant to J. Edgar Hoover and his liaison with the Warren Commission died from heart attack in June, 1977 with no evidence of foul play. He was a Former No. 3 man in FBI who worked on JFK assassination investigation.

Additional deaths during the interview period: Apart from the above listed agents, Regis Kennedy who was a senior agent in the FBI assigned to New Orleans also died during the HSCA interview period. He was one of two FBI agents in New Orleans assigned as contact men for Lee Harvey Oswald in his role as FBI informer. Regis Kennedy’s death would be considered curious, not suspicious, due to the coincidence with his HSCA interview per Jerome A. Kroth. He informed the Assassinations Committee in 1978 that Carlos Marcello, the alleged Mafia boss in New Orleans, was not affiliated to organized crime and was a tomato salesman. Regis Kennedy died shortly after testifying before the Committee in 1978. Kennedy is said to have confiscated a film of the assassination taken by what conspiracy researchers call “The Babushka lady film” which was seized before anyone ever viewed it, and was never recovered.

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    @AndrewGrimm- Added Richard Charnin's probability analysis cited in that blog for the notability of death clustering during that time. John McAdams has also objected to this analysis since it has not been peer-reviewed. Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 12:06
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    I'm no statistician, but the John McAdams analysis is unsatisfying: he uses the death rate for the total population rather than rate for appropriate age & sex [US 1996 data has population heart disease rate 0.00281 but 0.02021 for 65+ male which might be appropriate for a "former head", and he models it as a poisson distribution and scales the rate by the population size without any comment - is this appropriate? Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 1:33
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    However calculated, the probability is at best misleading. This is a variety of p hacking; there's a huge number of things that could happen over time, and probability is that some of them will be improbable in a way that looks suspicious. Note that heart attacks are more common than assassinations, so similar naive calculations say it's even more unlikely that any of them were assassinated.
    – prosfilaes
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 0:06
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    Why do we need to look to Charnin's arbitrarily assigned "probability" as valid? Is he a trained actuary? Epidemiologist? These are all people in their 60s or 70s, at a time when average life expectancy was < 70 for males in the USA. By actuarial tables, the average likelihood of death for people their age from any cause in a given year was around 3%. The committee heard 335 witnesses, obviously called more, and conducted nearly 5000 interviews. Not getting the "one in 100 billion" extrapolation, even if my own numbers are rough and flawed. Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 19:22
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    @blankip And how many recorded deaths are there from your untraceable toxins? Far fewer than the recorded deaths from heart attacks. When you hear hoof beats, suspect horses, not zebras.
    – prosfilaes
    Commented Aug 7, 2023 at 21:01

No. The Warren Commission was formed in 1963. The report was delivered to President Johnson on September 24, 1964 and was delivered to the public on September 27, 1964, according to the front page stories on the New York Times and Washington Post

Wikepidia article with newpaper story citations

These men died in 1977. Since they died about 13 years after the Warren Commission concluded it's work, they did not die before having a chance to testify for that committee.

Warren Commission Report

NOTE: the original question asked if the people in question died before being able to testify to the Warren Commission.

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