It's been called "the crime of the century" and "the greatest murder mystery ever."
More than 32 years after shots rang out in Dealey Plaza in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, the question of who shot President John F. Kennedy remains for many as provocative as ever.
The controversy has spawned a virtual cottage industry of assassination books, more than 600 over the past three decades. Critical of the official explanation of a single assassin acting alone, the combined tomes offer a smorgasbord of conspiracy theories: Step right up and take your pick of everything from the FBI and the CIA to the KGB and the mob.
Now comes a self-published book from an unlikely team of assassination investigators--a Garden Grove sign shop owner and a Bellingham, Wash., real estate agent--that purports to fill in many of the missing pieces of the JFK assassination puzzle, new information that the authors maintain leads directly to Lyndon B. Johnson.
"The Men on the Sixth Floor" (Sample Graphics; $15) by Glen Sample and Mark Collom chronicles their investigation of Loy Factor, a Chickasaw from Oklahoma, who claimed to have been with Lee Harvey Oswald in the Texas School Book Depository on that tragic November day.
In taped interviews conducted before his death in 1994 due to complications of diabetes, the 67-year-old Factor told Sample and Collom that it was he, Oswald and a man Factor knew only as Wallace who were positioned with rifles behind open windows overlooking Dealey Plaza.
A fourth person on the sixth floor--a young Latina named Ruth Ann--communicated with unknown individuals over a walkie-talkie. And, according to Factor, as the president's limousine rounded onto Elm Street in front of the book depository building, the woman waved her hand downward as she counted: "One . . . two . . . three."
On the down-stroke of three, according to Factor, the gunmen each fired a single shot, then fled downstairs--Ruth Ann and Factor to their car parked in the book depository lot; Oswald and Wallace in different directions.
Sample and Collom say they have identified the mystery man who hired Factor: Malcolm E. Wallace, a Lyndon Johnson associate who has been linked to two previous murders. One of the murders was that of a man thought to have been having an affair with Wallace's estranged wife. The other is the 1961 death of a U.S. Department of Agriculture official who was investigating the legality of cotton allotments to LBJ's millionaire Texan crony Billie Sol Estes, later convicted of fraud and tax evasion.
Wallace died in a single-car accident in Texas in 1971 at the age of 50.
"No one has ever before linked Wallace to the assassination," said Sample, 47, in an interview at his home in Garden Grove. "We make the statement [in the book] that the road leads clearly and without obstruction to Lyndon Johnson."
Is it possible? Have Sample and Collom shed light on what they refer to as "the most devastating assassination in history"?
Dave Perry, a Dallas insurance claims investigator who has been researching the Kennedy assassination for 19 years, views Loy Factor's claim to have been on the sixth floor with Oswald the same as he views other assassination-related allegations: "with much skepticism."
Perry, in fact, has reviewed all the available literature that has come out since the assassination and found a total of 61 people in the vicinity of Dealey Plaza who are said to have either shot the president or served as accomplices.
Thirty-four alone are listed as "shooters."
They range from the so-called Umbrella Man on the northwest curb of Elm Street who is said to have shot a poison dart at the president to a drummer in Frank Sinatra's band who is said to have fired a shot from the grassy knoll.
Sample, who was in a high school wood shop in Yreka, Calif., in 1963 when he heard that Kennedy had been shot, is a relative newcomer to the assassination research community. In fact, before he and Collom began their investigation into Loy Factor's story in 1992, he says he had read only one book about the assassination.
Married 27 years and the father of two sons, Sample says he and his wife Dorothy are "just quiet, normal people that live in Garden Grove."
The mere thought they he and Collom have interviewed a man that they are convinced was involved with the death of the president causes Sample to shake his head and laugh in disbelief.
"We still joke about what a fluke to run into this story--a little sign painter from Garden Grove and a real estate agent from Bellingham," said Sample. "If we're the victims of a tremendous hoax, we've really been taken, but I don't think so."
For Sample, who did most of the writing, pursuing Factor's story gradually took over his life. Working on the book "in bits and pieces" over three years, he and Collom would take time off from work to make research trips to Oklahoma and Texas.