Bill Hunter


Bill Hunter worked as a reporter for the Long Beach Independent Press Telegram. He was involved in the investigation of the killing of President John F. Kennedy. On 24th November, 1963, Hunter and Jim Koethe of the Dallas Times Herald interviewed George Senator. Also there was the attorney Tom Howard. Earlier that day Senator and Howard had both visited Jack Ruby in jail. That evening Senator arranged for Koethe, Hunter and Howard to search Ruby's apartment.

It is not known what the journalists found but on 23rd April 1964, Hunter was shot dead by Creighton Wiggins, a policeman in the pressroom of a Long Beach police station. Wiggins initially claimed that his gun fired when he dropped it and tried to pick it up. In court this was discovered that this was impossible and it was decided that Hunter had been murdered. Wiggins finally admitted he was playing a game of quick draw with his fellow officer. The other officer, Errol F. Greenleaf, testified he had his back turned when the shooting took place. In January 1965, both were convicted and sentenced to three years probation.

Jim Koethe decided to write a book about the assassination of Kennedy. However, he died on 21st September, 1964. It seems that a man broke into his Dallas apartment and killed him by a karate chop to the throat. Tom Howard died of a heart-attack, aged 48, in March, 1965.

Primary Sources

(1) Penn Jones, Jr, Disappearing Witnesses included in The Rebel (22nd November, 1983)

Shortly after dark on Sunday night, November 24, 1963, after Ruby had killed Lee Harvey Oswald, a meeting took place in Jack Ruby's apartment in Oak Cliff, a suburb of Dallas, Texas. Five persons were present. George Senator and Attorney Tom Howard were present and having a drink in the apartment when two newsmen arrived. The newsmen were Bill Hunter of the Long Beach California Press Telegram and Jim Koethe of the Dallas Times Herald. Attorney C.A. Droby of Dallas arranged the meeting for the two newsmen, Jim Martin, a close friend of George Senator's, was also present at the apartment meeting. This writer asked Martin if he thought it was unusual for Senator to forget the meeting while testifying in Washington on April 22, 1964, since Bill Hunter, who was a newsman present at the meeting, was shot to death that very night. Martin grinned and said: "Oh, you're looking for a conspiracy."

I nodded yes and he grinned and said, "You will never find it."

I asked soberly, "Never find it, or not there?"

He added soberly, "Not there."

Bill Hunter, a native of Dallas and an award-winning newsman in Long Beach, was on duty and reading a book in the police station called the "Public Safety Building." Two policemen going off duty came into the press room, and one policeman shot Hunter through the heart at a range officially ruled to be "no more than three feet." The policeman said he dropped his gun, and it fired as he picked it up, but the angle of the bullet caused him to change his story. He finally said he was playing a game of quick draw with his fellow officer. The other officer testified he had his back turned when the shooting took place.

Hunter, who covered the assassination for his paper, the Long Beach Press Telegram had written:

"Within minutes of Ruby's execution of Oswald, before the eyes of millions watching television, at least two Dallas attorneys appeared to talk with him."

Hunter was quoting Tom Howard who died of a heart attack in Dallas a few months after Hunter's own death. Lawyer Tom Howard was observed acting strangely to his friends two days before his death. Howard was taken to the hospital by a "friend" according to the newspapers. No autopsy was performed.

Dallas Times Herald reporter Jim Koethe was killed by a karate chop to the throat just as he emerged from a shower in his apartment on Sept. 21, 1964. His murderer was not indicted.

What went on in that significant meeting in Ruby's and Senator's apartment?

Few are left to tell. There is no one in authority to ask the question, since the Warren Commission has made its final report, and the House Select Committee has closed its investigation.

(2) David Welsh, Ramparts (November, 1966)

Hunter covered the Kennedy assassination more or less on a lark. He was a police reporter for the Long Beach paper and a good one, with a knack for getting along with cops. He drank with them, played cards with them in the press room-- he was a sharp and lucky player - and they would often call him at home when a story broke. Hunter was a big man, described by friends as rough, jovial, "very physical," with an attractive wife and three children.

There was no real need for the Long Beach paper to send a reporter to Dallas, but Hunter, who grew up there, managed to promote a free trip for himself with the city desk. In Dallas he ran into Jim Koethe, with whom he had worked in Wichita Falls, Texas. Koethe asked him to come along to the meeting in Ruby's apartment; they arrived to find Senator and Tom Howard having a drink.

Bill Hunter was killed just after midnight on the morning of April 23, 1964 - only a few hours after George Senator testified before Warren Commission counsel that he "could not recall" the meeting in Ruby's apartment. Hunter was seated at his desk in the press room of the Long Beach public safety building when detective Creighton Wiggins Jr. and his partner burst into the room. A single bullet fired from Wiggins' gun struck Hunter in the heart, killing him almost instantly. The mystery novel he was reading, entitled Stop This Man!, slipped blood-spattered from his fingers.

Wiggins' story underwent several changes. His final version was that he and his partner had been playing cops and robbers with guns drawn when his gun started to slip from his hand and went off. The two officers were convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Sentnece was suspended. There were so many contradictions in Wiggins' testimony that Bill Shelton, Hunter's city editor and old friend from Texas, is "still not satisfied" with the official verdict. He declines to comment about any possible connection between Hunter's death and the Kennedy assassination. "But I'd believe anything," he says. It is a curious footnote that Shelton's brother Keith was among the majority of Dallas newspapermen who found it expedient to leave their jobs after covering the assassination. Keith was president of the Dallas Press Club and gave up a promising career as political columnist for the Times-Herald to settle in a small north Texas town. One reporter who was asked to resign put it this way: "It looks like a studied effort to remove all the knowledgeable newsmen who covered the assassination."

(3) Bill Sloan, JFK: Breaking the Silence (1993)

At approximately 2 a.m. on the morning of April 23, 1964, Hunter was sitting at his desk in the press room of the Long Beach police station and reading a mystery novel entitled Stop This Man, when two detectives - both of whom were later described as "friends" of Hunter - came into the room.

Initially, there was considerable confusion over exactly what happened next. One officer was first quoted as saying he dropped his gun, causing it to discharge as it struck the floor. Later, he changed his story to say that he and the other detective were engaged in "horseplay" with their loaded weapons when the tragedy occurred.

Whatever the case, a single shot suddenly rang out, striking Hunter where he sat. An autopsy later showed that the .38-caliber bullet plowed straight through Hunter's heart.

He died instantly, without ever moving or saying a word.

"My boss called me at 2 a.m. and told me Bill Hunter had been shot," Bill Shelton recalls. "He wasn't satisfied with the story that the cop had dropped his gun, and as it turned out, that wasn't what happened at all."

The newspaper charged police with covering up the facts in the case, which Long Beach Police Chief William Mooney vigorously denied. Detectives Creighton Wiggins, Jr., and Errol F. Greenleaf were relieved of their duties and subsequently charged with involuntary manslaughter. In January 1965, both were convicted and given identical three-year probated sentences.

Two weeks after the shooting, in a letter of resignation to his chief, Detective Wiggins wrote: "It is a tragic thing that this must come about in this manner, for I have lost a wonderful friend in Bill Hunter and so have all the police officers of the department... he was truly the policeman's friend."

While Hunter's death made sensational headlines in California, it was scarcely noted 2,000 miles away in Dallas. Jim Koethe surely mourned his friend, but if he connected Hunter's death in any way with their visit to Ruby's apartment five months earlier, he didn't mention it to any of his acquaintances at the Times-Herald.