What follows is an excerpt from my latest book, The President’s Mortician: A Story of How and Why JFK’s Murder Was Executed and Covered Up:
“Running the country and the world required that the CIA raise its own money in order that its operations be kept secret. Using more than its rationed share of public funds would have risked exposure. Even though the Empire’s millionaires chipped in for big events, like the murder of a sitting U.S. president, the CIA had to be mostly self-sufficient. It did this by, among other things, selling narcotics and running guns. And in order to sell drugs it needed pilots who could fly all over the world to make pick-ups and drop-offs. So the CIA came up with an ingenious idea—it would recruit young, impressionable, adventure-seeking cadets from the Civil Air Patrol who aspired to a life, whether for the US Air Force or not, of daring and stealth. The ideal recruit would also lack morals or a social conscience, or, in the alternative, would be a loner, willing to commit abnormal or questionable acts without resistance.
“An unusually high number of Louisiana Civil Air Patrol cadets became psychopathic killers, CIA pilots, or gullible, low-level fall guys. Among them were John Liggett, Charles Rogers, Lee Harvey Oswald, Barry Seal, and James Bath. In order to facilitate its recruitment of LCAP cadets, the CIA needed mesmeric leaders who had sway over young men. It found one such leader in David Ferrie, a defrocked priest, a skilled pilot, a hypnotist, and a pedophile. Ferrie, we now know, was well acquainted with numerous players in the JFK assassination drama, including Lee Harvey Oswald. While serving in a Louisiana Civil Air Patrol unit in 1955, Oswald was recruited into the CIA by ‘Captain’ Ferrie. While Oswald did not become a drug-running pilot, there were plenty of other LCAP members who did, like Barry Seal and Charles Rogers.
“Seal, whose incredible life is well-chronicled in Daniel Hopsicker’s stunning book, Barry and the Boys, became an adept pilot at a very young age under Ferrie’s tutelage. Subsequently, Seal was entrusted by the CIA to fly drugs out of Southeast Asia, Central America, and South America; guns in and out of troubled nations across the globe; and operatives to secret CIA missions whenever it needed a democratic or socialist leader overthrown. Hopsicker writes, ‘[Seal] was a high-rolling mercenary, a rogue pilot, an infamous gun-runner, the chief Mena narcotics trafficker, a fast-talking, self-assured, 300-pound pilot and Special Forces veteran, a notorious drug smuggler, a mystery man, and the most valuable informant in DEA history.’ Seal, according to Hopsicker, was also something else—one of the getaway pilots flying out of Dallas after JFK was killed.
“Another LCAP alumnus who became notorious was Texas native Charles Rogers, CIA pilot and murdering psychopath. Rogers was as brilliant as he was disturbed. A graduate of the University of Houston, Rogers worked as a seismologist for Shell Oil in the 1950s before joining the CIA. It is a seismologist’s job to determine if the underlying rock or substrata of any particular area is fertile ground to drill for oil or natural gas. This was and is vital information to oil companies; thus, seismologists and geologists are in great demand. But that kind of life was apparently not adventurous enough for Charles. So in 1956, he applied with the CIA and was interviewed in the offices of Shell Oil’s law firm, Fulbright-Jaworski (yes, the Leon Jaworski of Watergate fame). It was most likely George DeMohrenschildt who interviewed Rogers for the CIA. A long-time CIA asset and, later, Lee Harvey Oswald’s handler in Dallas, DeMohrenschildt was also an expert in knowing where to drill for oil. He had an advanced degree in petroleum engineering, and he was associated with many Texas oil millionaires, including H.L. Hunt. Thus, it made sense that he would be the one to assess Rogers’ worth as an intelligence asset.
“On DeMohrenschildt’s recommendation, and with a good word from David Ferrie, Rogers was hired by the ‘Company.’ He was assigned to Latin America, where his piloting experience came in handy. As an avowed anti-communist, Rogers enthusiastically flew men and weapons into and out of Guatemala and points south in preparation for the Bay of Pigs invasion.
“When the CIA began planning its next big covert action, Rogers became a central player. What his exact role was is unclear, but Rogers was photographed in Dealey Plaza, the JFK kill zone, on November 22, 1963. Several pictures snapped by news photographers on the scene show three ‘tramps’ being led away from the scene of the crime by men dressed as Dallas police officers. One of the tramps bears a remarkable resemblance to Charles Rogers. In fact, a Houston police department forensic artist named Lois Gibson is convinced that Charles Rogers is one of the tramps.
“One James R. Bath turned out to be another ‘illustrious’ grad of Byrd’s Civil Air Patrol. He served in his CAP unit in the mid-1950s, about the time Oswald, Ferrie, Seal and the other CIA recruits were active members. But it’s what he accomplished after his CAP training that makes him notorious. Bath began a lucrative CIA career sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s, after leaving active duty with the Air Force. He joined the Texas Air National Guard in 1965 where he met his great pal, George W. Bush, just as the Vietnam War was escalating. The Air National Guard was a great hideout for those pilots who wanted to avoid combat. According to author Pete Brewton, Bush claimed that he and Bath never went into business together; however, ‘…records filed in a Houston lawsuit involving Bath contradict the [Bush’s] son: they show Bath was an investor in a Bush oil and gas enterprise.’
“Another mysterious and unique individual who served in the Louisiana Civil Air Patrol with Ferrie and Oswald was a man named John Liggett, a brilliant, quirky guy who became a master mortician/reconstruction artist. Little is known about his days in LCAP, except that he was almost certainly recruited into espionage and criminal work by Ferrie. In the early 1960s Liggett was working at Restland Funeral Home in Dallas where he bragged that he was the best at rebuilding injured and deformed bodies. Even his colleagues admitted that he was quite skilled in this area. He rebuilt skulls, eye sockets, noses, ears, and any feature necessary to make the deceased look whole again. Mourners at the funeral home often raved about his abilities, abilities that came in handy when the mob or the CIA needed to cover up the cause of someone’s death. But Liggett was more than just a mortician; he was a killer, and, like Charles Rogers, he had a preference for bludgeoning his victims with a hammer. The Dallas police caught up to Liggett in 1974, when he was arrested for the attempted murder of Dorothy Peck, wife of Jay Bert Peck. Jay Bert Peck was Lyndon Johnson’s cousin, and according to some, bore a remarkable resemblance to LBJ. Liggett never divulged his reasons for viciously beating Peck and burning her home. The Dallas Times Herald reported that ‘…a suspect [Liggett]…will be questioned by Dallas police about the bizarre sexual mutilation slaying of a legal secretary whose apartment was set afire to conceal the homicide.’ It seems Liggett’s modus operandi was known to the local police.
“To those who were close to him at the time, Liggett’s role in the JFK scenario is no less mysterious than it is memorable. On November 22, 1963, Liggett was officiating the funeral of his wife’s aunt at Restland Funeral Home, when he was suddenly called away from the graveside. He returned after a few minutes to tell his wife that Kennedy had been shot and he had to go to Parkland Hospital. When Lois asked him if Restland was going to get the job, John replied that he did not know but that she should not try to contact him. This was quite unusual. Normally when Liggett was on a job or on call, his wife and kids visited him at the funeral home. Never before had he instructed them to stay away. Equally as strange, Liggett did not return home until the next day. When he arrived he seemed worn and disheveled, quite unlike his customarily cool comportment and dapper dress. He quickly ordered Lois and the kids to pack up; they were going to hit the road.”
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