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Stalking RFK?

Robert F. Kennedy (center) visiting Eastern Kentucky in early 1968, just prior to running for the presidency.

Sirhan Sirhan's repetitive writing, his claimed failure to remember the events at the Ambassador hotel, the ease with which he could be hypnotized - for these reasons and more, many observers have speculated that Sirhan was some form of "Manchurian candidate," programmed via hypnosis to be the "patsy" in RFK's assassination.

However, there are several credible sightings of someone closely resembling Sirhan, in the company of others, apparently stalking RFK in the days leading up to June 5. Sirhan was seen in the company of a woman and at times other men, acting suspiciously and in some cases trying to get close to Kennedy or gain access to his schedule. Persons matching the same descriptions were seen in Sirhan's company on the evening of the assassination in the Ambassador hotel, and also fleeing the scene of the crime.

The LAPD eventually chose to repudiate, reject or filter all the witness observations suggesting that other individuals had any connection to Sirhan. But while even sincere eyewitnesses can and do make mistakes in details, what is noteworthy here is the consistent descriptions of physical appearance and aggressive demeanor in these independent accounts.

What is also noteworthy is the way in which the LAPD discounted these stories, in some cases justifying the rejection based on alleged retractions for which there is no record. Why weren't these witnesses afforded the standard police procedure of viewing a lineup including Sirhan, to see if they could make a positive id?

The earliest of these reports concerns an incident involving Sirhan and a young woman. at a campaign stop two weeks prior to RFK's murder. It was two days after Sirhan wrote in his notebook "my determination to eliminate RFK is become more the more [sic] of an unshakable obsession." Was this the start of the stalking of RFK?

Robbie's Restaurant, Pomona California, May 20

In Pomona, a 400-person campaign luncheon was being held for RFK in the second floor dining area of the restaurant. Bartender Albert LeBeau was called on duty to act as ticket screener on the staircase leading to the function. William Schneid, a Pomona police officer, was assigned to security duty in the restaurant.

Schneid encountered a young woman standing by the kitchen door of the restaurant, apparently trying to get inside through that door. He informed her that the door was locked and she then asked him which way Senator Kennedy would enter the luncheon. He told her that RFK “would probably go up the stairs to the second floor.”

Later, Schneid observed the same young woman, along with a young man, cross over a brick façade adjacent to the stairs, and then climb over the stair railing behind people checking tickets at the foot of the stairs. There, they were intercepted by LeBeau at his position further up the stairs. LeBeau, who heard a noise as the couple had apparently jumped over the banister. Le Beau challenged the pair, and the woman responded “we are with the Senator’s party.” LeBeau told them that they still needed tickets, and she replied, “we are part of the Senator’s party; he just waved us upstairs.” Since so many people were being allowed upstairs, Le Beau let them go at that point, only to encounter them again.

LeBeaus' interview by LAPD on June 26 has a wealth of detail about his interactions with the couple. He thought it "very odd" that the young man had a coat thrown over his arm even though it was a very warm May afternoon in southern California. When LeBeau encountered them on the second occasion he was made more suspicious because the couple were clearly not with the Seantor's party, and the man appeared to be in what amounted to be a “crouch”, his coat still over his arm. LeBeau began to confront them, saying "pardon me," at which point the young man turned on him and in a "surly" tone asked “Why should I?”

LAPD records show that LeBeau was fairly certain the young man was Sirhan but would not swear it under oath. That ended the LAPD investigation.

In his June 26 LAPD interview, LeBeau described the young man as "a male Latin type, 25 to 30 years, 5-5.....black hair, dark complected," and also successfully picked Sirhan’s photo from a sample set of 25 young dark skinned males (he also failed to pick out another photo of Sirhan taken from his Racing Commission ID). LeBeau described the girl thusly: "female Caucasian, 25-30 years, 5-4 to 5-6, trim nice figure, with shoulder length straight light brown hair," a good match for the "polka dot dress girl" seen in other circumstances.

While the final LAPD report asserts that LeBeau “initially stated the man was Sirhan, but later admitted he lied," there is nothing in the files to substantiate this alleged retraction.

Police officer Schneid apparently told the FBI that he "did not feel that the man observed by him on the stairs would have been Sirhan Sirhan," but the description he supplied fits Sirhan well - "Early 20's, 5'6" to 5'7", slender, dark curly hair, Latin or Mexican." His description of the girl also matches the "polka dot dress girl." LAPD records note the FBI interview but do not contain any LAPD interview with Schneid.

Kennedy Campaign headquarters, Azuza California, May 30

Ten days after the incident at Robbie's Restaurant, Laverne Botting, a 41 year old RFK campaign worker, observed a young woman and two young men enter the Azuza campaign office. One of the young men approached Botting at her desk and said that he was from the RFK headquarters in Pasadena (Sirhan lived in Pasadena at the time). He wanted to know if RFK would be visiting that area; Botting told the young man that the Senator would not. In an interview with the LAPD, Botting picked Sirhan out of a photo line up as closely resembling the man who spoke with her. She accurately described Sirhan’s height, black eyes and kinky black hair.

Independently of Botting, Ethel Crehan, another volunteer in the office, called police and told them that she was “fairly certain” that Sirhan had come into the office. She said she could be sure if she could see him in a line-up, as had Botting. Neither was offered the opportunity.

The police did check with the Pasadena RFK office staff and were told that no one had been sent from that office on that day. Thus, a potentially innocent explanation for this event does not appear to hold up.

No transcript exists of the Botting interview; the officer in charge closed out her file with the remark that she “had obviously made an honest mistake.” Although no one other than the police and FBI should have known of Botting’s report, she later received a threatening phone call at home – “I hear you think you saw Sirhan; you had better be sure of what you are saying!”

Crehan’s report was closed because the officer noted that her estimate of the man’s height was three to four inches above Sirhan’s actual height - although still relatively short at 5’8” - and despite her selecting his picture out. For this reason he felt “it was doubtful she observed Sirhan.” This dismissal seems premature at best, given the rest of her description and the corroborating account of Lavern Botting.

Santa Ana Mountains, South of Corona, California, June 1

Dean Pack, an insurance executive, was hiking with his son in a secluded part of the Santa Ana Mountains on June 1, two days after the Azuza visit. After the assassination, he recognized Sirhan as “strongly resembling” a young man whom they had encountered during their hike. The young man was shooting with a pistol at cans set up on a hillside. He was in the company of a girl in her early twenties with long brunet hair and another man who was around six feet tall, with sandy colored hair and a ruddy complexion.

According to a 1969 interview with author Jonn Christian, recounted in the book The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the main thing that struck Pack “was how unfriendly they were.” Pack told Christian:

"The person who looked like Sirhan didn't say a word. He just stood there and glared at me. The other fellow was the only one who would talk."

Pack added:

"Sirhan was shooting a pistol.....As I walked away from them, you know, you get the funny sensation that it would be possible for them to put a bullet in your back. I was relieved to get out of their sight."

Pack reported the incident to the FBI, offering to take them to the spot to recover bullets or shell casings and look for fingerprints on the bottles and cans being handled by the three. The FBI was uninterested: "I got the attitude that they had their man so why spin wheels about anything else."

A two-sentence LAPD report on Pack states that he “viewed a photograph of Sirhan” and said that the man he saw “strongly resembled” the man he encountered with the pistol, but that he “could not be positive of the identification.” When interviewed by Christian in 1969, however, Pack stated that he had only talked to the police on the telephone, had been shown no picture and still felt that the young man he and his son had seen shooting with a pistol was Sirhan.

At the Ambassador, June 2

Karen Ross reported to the LAPD that, while attending a Kennedy rally at the Grove room in the Ambassador the Sunday before the assassination, she had observed a young woman in a polka dot dress at the rally. Her description of the dress matches that of witnesses to the girl at the assassination scene. The woman was medium height, somewhat “husky” with dark blond hair worn with a “short flip" and "puffy.” Ross thought there was something unusual about the girl's nose, possibly it had been “fixed”, another recurring feature of polka dot dress girl descriptions.

Sirhan was also at the Ambassador that evening. According to author and defense participant Robert Kaiser, who wrote the book RFK Must Die!, Sirhan told his attorney Grant Cooper that he had been to the hotel on June 2, "to hear him talk." He said the same thing to defense psychiatrist Dr. Bernard Diamond. He denied being in the kitchen that night, calling two individuals who had seen him there liars. Ultimately he testified at his trial about being at the Ambassador on June 2, though was not asked about being there in the presence of a girl. About seeing Kennedy there: "I was really thrilled, Sir.....he looked like a saint to me. I liked him.

At the Ambassador, June 4/5

A girl in a polka dot dress, whose description matches that given by the witnesses previously noted, was seen at the Ambassador Hotel on the night of RFK's assassination by several witnesses. Some saw her in the company of Sirhan. She was even seen in the pantry where Kennedy was shot, and fleeing the scene in the company of another man.

Irene Gizzi of Students for Kennedy and a 14-year-old student named Katherine Keir noticed a group of three people who didn't seem to fit in with the exuberant crowd. The young woman in the group had on a polka dot dress and was with a young man with a dark complexion, dark hair and a gold colored shirt. Gizzi felt that the third man might well have been Sirhan. Katherine Keir even told police that later that evening, the woman had run by her saying "We shot Kennedy," but Keir revised her statement when re-interviewed in the presence of her parents (three fellow students who gave corroborating accounts were also re-interviewed in this manner).

During Kennedy’s speech, Roy Mills observed a group of five people (including a woman) in the hallway outside the Embassy room. He identified one as Sirhan, remembering him specifically for his baggy pants. Pauline Walker also saw a girl in the polka dot dress in this general area, in the company of a man (apparently not Sirhan).

Photographer Conrad Seim and other witnesses observed a girl with a "funny nose." Seim told the LAPD that the girl had asked him for his press pass and was "very persistent."

Darnell Johnson, one of the pantry shooting witnesses, described four men and a girl in the pantry as RFK was entering. One of the men was Sirhan. The girl was in a polka dot dress. The girl and the men walked out of the pantry as everyone was rushing to RFK and wrestling with Sirhan.

Several witnesses - George Green, Booker Griffin, Dr. Marcus McBroom, Jack Merritt - observed the young woman and man hurrying out of the pantry and corridor, through the Embassy room and out towards the rear stairs and parking lot.

Campaign worker Sandra Serrano, out at a staircase behind the hotel, later heard some "backfires," and then watched as a woman in a polka dot dress and a male companion burst out of the hotel shouting "we shot him, we shot him" Serrano asked who, and the woman replied "Senator Kennedy."

This incredible account was corroborated by LAPD Officer Paul Sharaga, who arrived quickly at the back lot of the hotel and set up a command post there. He was told a nearly identical story by an elderly couple named the Bernsteins, who told him that a man and a woman in a polka dot dress ran past them, gleefully shouting "We shot him! We shot him!" When queried, the girl replied, "Kennedy, we shot him! We killed him!"

An All Points Bulletin was issued by the Los Angeles police, looking for two additional suspects. A few hours later the APB was canceled by Acting Chief of LAPD Detectives John Powers. Powers is quoted on the LAPD radio logs: "don't want them to get anything started on a big conspiracy."

Coming soon: The Polka Dot Dress Girl expands on the sightings of Sirhan's accomplices at the Ambassador Hotel, and the manner by which the LAPD dealt with this stark evidence of a conspiracy involving Sirhan.

This article is adapted from an essay written by Larry Hancock, and is based on the research of Robert Kaiser, Dr. Philip Melanson, Jonn Christian, Lisa Pease, and others.

Comments On This Page


    May 20: Robbies Restaurant, Pomona

    Phone Call Record. Notes on phone call from Felicia Manns (owner of Robbie's) reporting LeBeau's story.

    June 26 interview of Albert Richard LeBeau. This three-page detailed interview summary contains quotes from LeBeau, but no recording or transcript exists in the files. There are also no records of the interviews conducted prior to this "re-interview." See also two handwritten notes of interviews with LeBeau conducted by the Pomona police.

    SUS Conspiracy Team Progress Report. Summarizes interviews with LeBeau and others regarding the Pomona incident.

    SUS Final Report, p.1038. Summary of LeBeau allegation, with unsubstantiated claim "Le Beau initially stated the man was Sirhan, but later admitted he lied."

    June 20 FBI Interview of William Schneid. Schneid was a Pomona police officer who corroborated LeBeau's story.

    LAPD Interview Record I-3020. Dated 24 Jun 1968, this interview sheet simply makes reference to the FBI interview of William Schneid.

    SUS Final Report, p.1148. Summary of Schneid account, which ends with "However, he did not feel the man he observed was Sirhan."

    May 30: RFK Campaign HQ, Azuza

    July 219 FBI interview of Lavern Botting. She described the appearance of Sirhan and two companions to the office, and noted co-worker Ethel Creehan's presence.

    Aug 16 LAPD interview of Lavern Botting. Botting described Sirhan and female companion, and picked out Sirhan's photo. She also related a phone call where she was warned: "I hear you think you saw Sirhan. You had better be sure of what you are saying."

    SUS Final Report, p.887. Summary of Botting account, ending with "the only way she could be sure of her identification would be to view Sirhan in person." She was never given that chance.

    June 7 LAPD interview of Ethel Crehan. She described Sirhan and his two companions.

    July 19 FBI interview of Ethel Crehan. Crehan's story corroborated Lavern Botting's, and Crehan was "fairly certain that the individual.....is Sirhan."

    SUS Final Report, p.916. Summary of Crehan account, noting that Ms. Crehan did pick out Sirhan's photo, but supplied an incorrect height of 5'8".

    SUS Final Report, p.1170. Notes Maxine Stell "does not recall anyone being sent from her [Pasadena] headquarters to the Azuza Headquarters on that day."

    June 1: Santa Ana Mountains

    SUS Final Report, p.1099. Two-sentence summary of Dean Pack's story. While Pack's name appears in a few lists of witnesses (see for instance Pack's name listed under "Range" witnesses), no record of any interview exists in LAPD files.

    June 2: Ambassador Hotel

    June 6 LAPD interview with Karen Ross. Ross described a girl in a polka-dot dress which closely matched descriptions others gave of the girl seen in Sirhan's company the night of the assassination: "dark blond hair wore in short flip puffy.....nose maybe fixed." The dress was also described as "wht background blk dots dots the size fo [sic] a dime." The next page connects this to "Serrano" and has "story phony" written in by Lt. Pena, along with "No further int.[erview]."

    SUS Final Report, p.1135. One-sentence writeup says simply: "Ross observed a woman wearing a polka dot dress at Kennedy Ambassador Hotel rally June 2, 1968."

    Sirhan Sirhan Trial Testimony, pp.5137-5146. On 6 Mar 1969, Sirhan testified about being at the Ambassador Hotel on the evening of June 2, 1968.

    June 4/5: Ambassador Hotel

    June 6 LAPD interview with Irene Gizzi. Gizzi noted three people who seemed out of place, including a girl in a polka dot dress. See also a separate August 6 interview of Gizzi, and SUS Final Report, p.970.

    August 7 LAPD interview with Katherine Keir. See also SUS Final Report, p.1021.

    August 16 LAPD report of re-interviews of Students for Kennedy members. In particular Katherine Keir revised her statement about the polka dot dress girl when re-interviewed in her parent's presence.

    June 6 LAPD interview of Roy Mills. Mills saw Sirhan in the company of others, including a girl, in an open area off the ballroom. See also an August 9 LAPD interview.

    [:mffabspageid: 1106980 |August 6 LAPD interview of Pauline Walker]], who also saw the polka dot dress girl in an area off the ballroom.

    July 1 LAPD interview of Conrad Seim, who was asked for his press badge by a persistent woman in a polka dot dress. See also his June 7 interview and SUS Final Report, p.1151.

    June 6 LAPD interview of Darnell Johnson, who reported seeing Sirhan and a girl in a polka dot dress, along with three others, in the pantry just prior to RFK's shooting. See also his June 7 FBI interview and a July 24 interview, and SUS Final Report, p.1013.

    August 1 LAPD interview of George Green. See also his July 15 FBI Interview.

    June 5 LAPD interview of Booker Griffin. See also his July 25 interview.

    July 5 LAPD interview of Dr. Marcus McBroom.

    June 13 FBI interview of Jack Merritt.

    June 7 LAPD interview of Sandra Serrano, who saw two men and a woman enter the back of the hotel and then later rushed from it, saying "we shot him, we shot him." See also June 10 interview of Deputy D.A. John Ambrose, to whom Serrano told the story shortly after the shooting.

    Sep 26 LAPD interview with Officer Paul Sharaga. This recounts the episode with the Bernsteins, but adds that "he believes.....what was said was misinterpreted." Sharaga has disputed this interview report in a signed affidavit.

    Books of Interest

        R.F.K. Must Die!
    Robert Blair Kaiser
    E.P. Dutton and Co., 1970
        Shadow Play
    William Klaber and Philip H. Melanson
    St. Martin's Press, 1997
        The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm X
    James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, eds.
    Feral House, 2003
        The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy
    Jonn Christian and William Turner
    Random House, 1978
        The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination
    Philip H. Melanson
    Shapolsky Publishers, 1991
        The Forgotten Terrorist
    Mel Ayton
    Potomac Books, 2007
        Special Unit Senator
    Robert A. Houghton with Theodore Taylor
    Randhom House, 1970

    See all RFK books.


    Sirhan and the RFK Assassination, Part II: Rubik's Cube, by Lisa Pease.

    Incomplete Justice: At the Ambassador Hotel, by Larry Hancock.

    See all RFK essays.

    Other Links

    The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Archives Collection. This archive at the University of Massachusetts was created by Professor Philip Melanson, who wrote several books on the assassinations of the 1960s.

    California State Archives: Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Investigation Records. The California State Archives holds the physical evidence of the crime as well as voluminous reports.

    Real History Archives - RFK Assassination. Lisa Pease website includes essays on political assassinations, including RFK's.

    Sirhan's longtime research Rose Lynn Mangan has a website devoted to the case, with many scanned primary source materials.

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