Port Arthur Rotarians’ weekly meeting read like a spy novel Thursday, complete with allegations of a conspiracy involving mobsters, politicians, the CIA and a national cover-up.
Club members listened intently while guest speaker Zack Shelton, a former FBI agent and Chicago Organized Crime Strike Force member, detailed who he believed was behind John F. Kennedy’s assassination a half century ago.
Though it’s been 50 years since JFK was shot in Dallas, and the events of Nov. 22, 1963 remain as captivating as they are mysterious — enough so for Shelton, now a private investigator living in Hardin, to dedicate the last 15 years to an investigation surrounding Kennedy’s death.
That research, he said, led him to believe the president’s death was not the work of lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald, but rather a well-orchestrated covert operation between members of the CIA and mobsters.
“As an agent with the FBI, I always had a feeling we did our job, but, once I started looking into it, it is breathtaking to see what has happened,” Shelton said.
During his investigation, Shelton said he spoke with countless witnesses — many of which were never asked to testify as to what they saw — yet their accounts contradicted the findings of the Warren Commission.
The facts now speak for themselves, he said.
Among those witnesses was Dr. Robert Nelson McClelland, an emergency room physician present at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital where Kennedy was taken after he was shot.
From his vantage point, McClelland was able to get a good look at the president’s wounds, including a gaping 5 1/2 hole in the back of the head.
“Anybody would know that is not an exit wound, it could have only come from the front,” he said.
Because of the location, Shelton said, the wound contradicted the “magic bullet theory,” which attempted to explain how Oswald had killed Kennedy and wounded Governor John Connolly with just three shots.
According to the theory, both men were hit by a single shot which entered JFK's upper back, exited his throat, and then struck Connolly, breaking a rib and shattering his wrist, and finally coming to rest in his thigh.
Shelton said McClelland did remember a bullet, one that just happened to roll out on an unattended stretcher with no blood, and not a scratch on it.
Shelton said a number of mobsters were in Dallas that fateful day, including James Files, a one-time driver-bodyguard for Chicago Mafia hitman Charles Nicoletti. On the days leading up to JFK’s shooting, there were a number of telephone calls made between Files and Jack Ruby, the Dallas club manager who shot Oswald just two days after Kennedy’s assassination.
James Files, he said, later told an investigator named Joe West that he fired a shot from the grassy knoll.
Shelton said he traveled all over the country from 2002-2004 investigating Kennedy’s shooting, and has come to the conclusion JFK was killed at the hands of the mob and the CIA working together, though there were many who might have had motive.
“Basically, it’s who did it? Stand in line,” Shelton said.
JFK, he said, was going to disband the CIA; had fired Allen Dulles, the CIA’s director; was going back on a promise to not tax oil companies for a certain amount, Vice-president Lyndon Johnson hated him, and the military did not like him.
Though many might have felt they had reason, Shelton said the facts in the case pointed to the mob and renegade CIA members, the same people that two years earlier began working on a plan to kill Cuba’s Castro.
“I am very adamant about this. I have done the research and have the facts, Shelton said. “I think our country took a wrong turn. We were lied to, and I don’t think Kennedy deserved to die lie that with his head blown off.”