The woman in the polka dot dress
The Woman in the Polka Dot Dress
Sandy Serrano, a young campaign worker for Kennedy, was there at the Ambassador Hotel that night. Needing a break from the heat and the crowd, she found a little quiet on the steps that lead from the back of the kitchen area. Somewhere around 11:30pm, she encountered three people, a woman and two men, entering the kitchen from the back, using the stairs she was sitting on. The woman she would described as wearing a white dress with dark polka dots and having a “Bob Hope” type nose. The two men with her were described as,
White male (Latin extraction), 5'5” tall, 21 to 23 years old, olive complexion, black hair, long—straight, hanging over his forehead and needed a haircut. [The other was] white male (Mexican American), about 23 years of age, 5'3” tall, curly, bushy hair and wore light colored clothes. She said after seeing a picture of Sirhan Sirhan in the newspaper she felt certain that this was the same person she saw go up the stairs with this woman. [Turner and Christian; The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, The Conspiracy and Coverup]
Sometime later, seconds after Serrano heard what she described as sounding like automobile backfires, the woman and one of her male companions came running back down the stairs. According to Serrano, the woman was yelling, “We shot him, we shot him.” When asked who they shot, she replied, “Senator Kennedy.”
Serrano was not the only one to describe the woman in the polka dot dress and associate her with Sirhan and/or the assassination. Amongst them was Kennedy campaign worker Darnell Johnson and the son of an Ambassador Hotel maître d', Thomas Vincent DiPierro. DiPierro said that the only reason he noticed Sirhan was that there was a very good looking girl next to him. According to DiPierro,
I would never forget what she looked like because she had a very good looking figure—and the dress was kind of lousy...it looked like a white dress and it had either black or dark-purple polka dots on it.
Minutes after the shooting and well before any of the stories of the woman in the white dress had been made public or could have been shared, LAPD Sergeant Paul Sharaga heard news of the shooting on his police radio. Already in the vicinity, he arrived at the scene within a minute. An older couple approached Sharaga and, as he tells it,
They related that they were outside one of the doors of the Embassy Room when a young couple in their early twenties came rushing out. This couple seemed to be in a state of glee, shouting, “We shot him, we shot him, we killed him.” The woman stated that she asked the lady, “Who did you shoot?” or “Who was shot?” and the young lady replied, “Kennedy, we shot him, we killed him.”
The only defining characteristic of the young lady that the witnesses could give was that she was wearing a white dress with polka dots. Sharaga immediately put out an all point bulletin for police to be on the lookout for a woman in a polka dot dress in the company of a man.
And then something very strange happened that, as far as we know, has never happened before or since in the history of the LAPD. For about 15 to 20 minutes, all police radio communications were lost on all frequencies. This was ample time for the woman in the polka dot dress and her companion to get off the streets and out of reach of the police.
The elderly couple Sharaga had interviewed were lost and have never come forward. Serrano, being the sole witness to the woman in the polka dot dress claiming, “We shot Kennedy” was brought to the notorious Rampart Division of the LAPD for extensive questioning. I encourage you to follow the link on the Rampart Division. The story of the ongoing corruption in the LAPD and the Rampart Division in particular is very informative. The Bobby Kennedy assassination is not the only one in which the Rampart Division has taken part.
In this case, however, the witness was not so much questioned as she was browbeaten and verbally tortured into renouncing her testimony. The “questioning” was performed by Sergeant Enrique “Hank” Hernandez who, according to his resume, played a key role in “Unified Police Command” training for the CIA in Latin America. As is clear from the questioning, Hernandez had one goal in mind—to discredit Sandy Serrano and anything having to do with the story of the woman in the polka dot dress.
Here, for your listening pleasure, are two excerpts from that taped session which, amazingly, survived after the LAPD had attempted to destroy all evidence that would discount the official story of the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Keep in mind as you listen that Sgt. Hernandez is allegedly questioning a material witness who has nothing to gain from lying.
Serrano and Hernandez part 1
Serrano and Hernandez part 2
A piece of the web
Hernandez played a key role in the special LAPD task force created to investigate the Kennedy Assassination, called Special Unit Senator, or SUS. SUS was headed by LAPD Lieutenant Manuel Pena.
Interestingly, Pena had officially retired from the LAPD in November of 1967, less than a year before the Kennedy assassination, to take a position with the Agency for International Development Office of the State Department, or AID. AID, a known cover agency for the CIA for its counter insurgency and torture operations in South America. AID is probably best known for one of its most infamous agents, a man who Pena allegedly had worked with, Dan Mitrione. From 1960 to 1967, Mitrione worked with the Brazilian government under the cover of AID, torturing then killing, without trial, political dissidents.
Though Pena's farewell was a well attended and publicized event, sometime around April 1968 he returned to the LAPD quietly, without fanfare. His explanation was that the job with AID had not turned out to be what he had hoped. Within two months, he would find himself in charge of the most important murder investigation every conducted by the LAPD, the man who would have the final say on virtually everything that would happen in the investigation.
And here, we have an interesting piece of web to examine. Two of the most important investigator's of the case, Hernandez and Pena, are both ex (or perhaps current at that time) CIA operatives, both involved in CIA operations in South America. Pena, the man running the entire investigation, had just returned from duty with AID, a CIA front organization that specialized in crushing political dissidents and likely worked with Dan Mitrione.
In 1970, Mitrione was kidnapped by the Tupamaros, a leftist guerrilla organization fighting against the U.S. sponsored dictatorship in Uruguay. Though his name was changed, that event was the basis of the movie State of Siege. Mitrione's funeral, much like Pena's “retirement” from the LAPD, was a well publicized and attended affair. Following his funeral, a benefit concert was held in his home town of Richmond, Indiana, headlined by none other than Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis (go figure).
Sinatra, as you may remember, was one of the stars of the John Frankenheimer film The Manchurian Candidate. The film is a fictional account of a man, played by Lawrence Harvey, who is hypnotically programmed to perform assassinations without conscious knowledge of doing so. Following the Kennedy assassination, Sinatra purchased the rights to The Manchurian Candidate and removed it from circulation until 1987.
On June 3rd, Bobby Kennedy had dinner with his friend John Frankenheimer (who, coincidentally, drove him to the Ambassador Hotel that fateful night) along with a pretty actress named Sharon Tate and her husband, Roman Polanski.
Now, please bear with me as we descend into something of an abyss. When trying to see the web, we run across strange coincidences that may seem on the surface to be tenuous, improbable or even downright laughable. It's the nature of the beast. If you want to know what is really going on, these things must at least be put on the table, even if they are discarded later. Remember, though, webs are tenuous things made from very delicate threads. Often times, the most obvious and easily accepted data turns out to be nothing more than something caught in the web—an artifact, if you will, rather than the web itself. That said, here we go.
In August 1969, Tate was murdered by members of the Manson Family, who had strong connections to the Laurel Canyon music scene. Curiously, the year Kennedy was shot Sharon Tate was in the process of making a film entitled The Wrecking Crew, which costarred Dean Martin. That same name was taken by a group of Los Angeles studio musicians associated with Phil Spector, who were also closely connected with the Laurel Canyon music scene. And Dean Martin, her costar in that film, was of course a long time collaborator with Jerry Lewis, who shared billing with Frank Sinatra at the Dan Mitrione benefit concert following his funeral. During the filming of that movie, Tate would be trained to do her own stunts by the martial arts expert Bruce Lee, with whom she would become close friends and who also later died under mysterious circumstances.
Tate, it should be noted for those who don't remember her, was a movie star on a meteoric rise. She was beautiful and talented. As the Hollywood Reporter stated concerning her role in The Wrecking Crew, "Sharon Tate reveals a pleasant affinity to scatterbrain comedy and comes as close to walking away with this picture as she did in a radically different role in Valley of the Dolls."
Tate, it should also be noted, had taken a keen interest in Bobby Kennedy's campaign. She was a frequent attendee at Kennedy campaign dinners. It's funny (and not in a humorous way) how often it seems that those in the public eye who take a political stance that is in favor of human rights, human dignity and simply doing the right thing are found in a pool of their own blood.
As for Dan Mitrione, he was not the only famous former resident of Richmond, Indiana. For a fairly small town (the 2000 census shows a population of only 39,124) it has had more than its fair share of celebrity. Richmond can boast at least four NFL players, one of whom was a rookie of the year, an NFL coach, two NBA coaches, an Olympic gold medalist, Margaret Landon (the author of The King and I), Orville and Wilbur Wright, the legendary and cutting edge R&B singer Baby Huey and actress Polly Bergen along with Mitrione and a street preacher there who Mitrione befriended while he was Chief of Police in Richmond. A man by the name of Jim Jones.
But that is another story for another time.
More to come...