Frazier Speaks

John Hunt © 2005


The ballistic evidence collected during the Kennedy assassination investigation is integral to establishing Lee Oswald’s guilt. It is also fundamental to the conclusion that no evidence establishes that a second weapon was employed. Thus the integrity of that sum total of ballistic evidence is paramount to the issue of conspiracy. This essay (a massaged excerpt from my book) explores one area where legitimate questions about FBI handling of the Kennedy assassination ballistic evidence arise. It is but one piece of a much larger picture.

The FBI Machine

Kennedy assassination ballistic evidence began arriving in batches at the FBI Laboratory in Washington, D.C. the evening of the day of the crime. According to long-standing FBI Lab procedure, each piece of evidence was assigned its own individual moniker upon arrival. This tracking system served a crucial purpose; it allowed the FBI to account for the whereabouts of evidence as it passed from technician to technician while in FBI custody. This “chain of custody” preservation mechanism was designed specifically to preserve the integrity of evidence for possible criminal or civil litigation. That is not what happened with the JFK case.

The first “batch” of evidence was actually a single bullet; the “Magic Bullet,” allegedly found on a stretcher at Parkland Hospital. [1] At 7:30 PM on the 22nd, the man appointed Lead Examiner in the JFK assassination investigation, Special Agent (SA) Robert A. Frazier took possession of that bullet. [2] The first piece of “questioned” evidence to arrive at the FBI Lab was designated as Q1. [3]

At 11:50 that same night,[4] two bullet fragments recovered from the Presidential limousine by the Secret Service were delivered to Frazier at the FBI Lab. They were catalogued as Q2 and Q3, which is what they were; the second and third pieces of “questioned” evidence to arrive.

At 1:45 AM on the 23rd, two bullet fragments recovered from Kennedy’s head at autopsy were delivered to Frazier. [5] These fourth and fifth pieces of evidence were designated Q4 and Q5. [6]

At 7:30 AM on the 23rd, SA Vincent Drain of the Dallas FBI Field Office delivered the next batch of evidence, [7] which had been collected by the DPD. I term this the Dallas Evidence, which was catalogued as Q6 through Q13. (See Figure 1 below)

Figure 1 - The first two pages of Frazier’s original copy his 11/23/63 evidence report. [FBI HQ 62-190606-8307X, Box 111B, Folder 56C] Note that Frazier added the 7:30 arrival Q1 as marginalia. (All the marginalia on this document is in Robert Frazier's hand. [8]) Although his copy was “recorded” on “11/26” the date of its creation must have been 11/23/63 as the “Curry version” of Frazier’s report went out on that date (See Figure 2).

The following table summarizes the official arrival of ballistic evidence chronologically by batch, starting on the evening of the day of the assassination, and proceeding through to the morning of the 23rd:


Batch 1

7:30 PM [9]


November 22

Q1 - The "Magic" Stretcher Bullet


Batch 2

11:55 PM
11:55 PM


November 22

Q2 - The Limousine Nose Fragment
Q3 - The Limousine Base Fragment


Batch 3

1:45 AM
1:45 AM


November 23

Q4 - One Autopsy Headshot Fragment
Q5 - Another Autopsy Headshot Fragment


Batch 4

4:30 AM
4:30 AM


November 23

Q14 - Three Metal Fragments from the Limousine Rug
Q15 - Dust-like Residue Scraped from the Damaged Limousine Windshield


Batch 5

7:30 AM
7:30 AM
7:30 AM
7:30 AM
7:30 AM
7:30 AM
7:30 AM
7:30 AM

November 23

Q6 - One Fired Cartridge Case found in the TSBD
Q7 - Another Fired Cartridge Case found in the TSBD
Q8 - An Unfired Cartridge found in the Depository Rifle
Q9 - One of the Metal Fragments removed from Connally's Wrist
Q10 - A Bag Made from Wrapping Paper found in the TSBD
Q11 - LHO's "Arrest" Shirt
Q12 - A Blanket from the Paine Garage
Q13 - One of the Tippit Autopsy Bullets and a Smashed Uniform Button

Table 1. Chronological arrival of evidence at the FBI Laboratory on 11/22-23/63.

Earlier on the morning of the 23rd, Frazier had been directed to conduct a search of the Presidential limousine, [10] which was stored under guard at the White House Garage (WHG). Frazier returned from the limo search near 4:30 AM [11] on the 23rd with new evidence: three metal fragments recovered from the floor rug in the rear passenger compartment, and lead dust scraped from the damaged windshield. That ballistic evidence bears the numbers Q14 and Q15, respectively.

In all, five pieces of evidence had reached the FBI Lab by the time Frazier left for the WHG near 2:00 AM: Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4, and Q5. When Frazier returned from the WHG with the Limo Search evidence near 4:30 AM, the next Q number in line was 6. One would expect the three Rug Fragments and Windshield Residue to pick up with Q6. But that did not happen. "Why was that," and "Was it out of the ordinary" are the questions this excerpt explores.

I petitioned the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for access to virtually all of the physical evidence relating to the delivery of the ballistic evidence under discussion. NARA granted me access to most of that evidence in July, 2004. On a sunny summer day last year, I personally examined the original Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4/5, and Q14 FBI evidence pillboxes at the National Archives. During my examination of these historic artifacts, I discovered that Frazier had originally marked the evidence pillbox containing the Rug Fragments as Q11, Q12, and Q13. He scribbled that out, and then wrote “Q14” over the “Q11.” I knew from examining FBI photographs the year before that Frazier also originally marked the Windshield Residue pillbox as Q[indeterminate]. Perhaps Frazier wrote Q17, but I cannot be sure. Frazier then scribbled that out, and wrote Q15 over whatever it was he'd originally written. I had petitioned NARA for access to the Q15 pillbox during the same trip in which NARA granted me access to Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4/5, and Q14. My goal was to attempt to read what was written under Q15 by microscopic examination. Unfortunately, although NARA granted me access to the rest of the artifacts I'd requested, I was denied me access to the original "Q15" pillbox. NARA's reason? There was still lead in the pillbox, they said, and moving it might cause the lead to disappear from the tightly sealed container (yes, you read that sentence correctly). I am still attempting to gain access to the Q15 pillbox, but it doesn't look good; NARA is determined to prevent that from happening.

Questions arise: Why did the Limo Search evidence not receive Q6 through Q8, and Q9? Why was it marked as Q14 and Q15 instead? Was it a simple bureaucratic mix-up? If not, why the delay in cataloguing the Limo Search evidence? Why does the Drain Dallas Evidence bear Q numbers sequentially lower than evidence that arrived at least three hours earlier? Did the Limo Search evidence go into a holding pattern? If so, why? This evidentiary anachronism is what I term the Q-Timeline Problem. It is but one important piece of a much larger, more disturbing picture.

If the FBI handling of the Kennedy assassination ballistic evidence was on the level, some plausible, rational explanation should emerge for the incongruously disjointed Q numbering sequence. The possibilities include:

  1. Frazier did not catalog the evidence when he returned because he was tired and took a nap. (I found a document at NARA where Frazier received a commendation for working 24 hours in a row, apparently for the time period of the 22nd and 23rd. Additionally, Frazier confirmed to me that he worked through the night of the 22nd and the 23rd without sleeping.)
  2. Frazier was not responsible for assigning Q numbers and any problem we find has nothing to do with him.
  3. Frazier made an error and marked what should have been Q6-8 and Q9 as Q11-13 (nee Q14) and Q15.
  4. Frazier simply did not catalogue the Limo Search evidence, even though testing was being performed on it.
  5. For whatever reason, the Limousine Search evidence was not immediately integrated into the “Official Stream of Evidence.” It went into a holding pattern, officially emerging only after the Drain Dallas Evidence had arrived and been catalogued.

For various reasons, explanations 1 though 4 do not work as plausible scenarios for dispelling the Q-Timeline Problem. I figured that if one person on the planet could explain what happened, it would be Robert Frazier. And so I located his phone number and placed a call that would ultimately confirm my suspicions. Frazier was gracious and we talked for over two hours on January 6, 2004. Although he was 85 years of age, Frazier’s recall of the evidence in the JFK case was excellent. I had by that time discovered that the FBI threw out the Harper Fragment lead and the 3rd Headshot Fragment. [12] I’d also identified the Q-Timeline Problem. Below is the pertinent part of our conversation:

JH - OK. And the reason I’m curious is because the rug fragments were given Q14, and the stuff that Vincent Drain brought from Dallas that evening, its, that morning, was Q6 through 13. And I’m just curious, do you recall what time Mr. Drain arrived? I know its been a long, long time.

RF - What are you talking about? Are you talking about Drain when he brought the rifle?

JH - Correct. The rifle, the Tippit bullet-

RF - That was about 6 o’clock.

JH - About 6 o’clock in the morning?

RF - That’s about as near as I–No; evening. 6 o’clock that evening.

JH - 6 o’clock PM?

RF - PM, yes. [Frazier’s memory was off concerning the exact time of Drain’s arrival, which is perfectly understandable when recalling a small detail after more than forty years. JH] Near as I can remember, that’s about the time we got the rifle. Now this other things [sic] you’re talking about [Q14 and Q15], we got hundreds of items that day or the next day, and so it’s all recorded as to when it was received.

JH - Right. So I guess my question is just a procedural question; lets say that you came back from the limousine [search] and you had the lead fragments from the rug and the scrapings from the windshield on the inside-

RF - Right.

JH - ...So I guess the procedure would be that you went back to the lab and normally you would put your “RF” on the evidence, but I guess the, those fragments were really tiny and so you really couldn’t mark them. But, would the first thing–just procedurally, you would give them a “Q” number and document them through photographs, and then do Spectro or whatever? What would be the, what would be the standard process for, like when new evidence came into the Lab?

RF - Well, it all depends on when it came in. There were things coming in all the time. There documents coming in. There were fingerprints coming in. There was everything coming in.

JH - Right. Fingernail scrapings.

RF - And they kept track of that in what we called our Laboratory Files Section. When the next- You called up and said “what’s the next K-item, what’s the next Q-item” and they’d give it to you and they’d mark it down as to what it was and so when somebody else gets something, it comes in and they give it the next one.

JH - Right. So it’d be sequential.

RF - It can be. It’s not necessarily in the same order as it was received. But it’s in the order in which the Laboratory became aware it. Because they had to keep track of all those numbers so they would not be duplicated.

JH - But I assume the first thing you’d do when you got back to the lab would, I guess before anything else happened, it would get a Q number, and then it would go through the various examinations?

RF - Well, that’s what’d happen to it yes. It would be in a vial or a pillbox and it would be marked as to where it came from and eventually it would get a Q or a K number.

JH - Right.

RF - When it got that number has nothing to do with the time of its arrival. If we got back to the Lab at 4:30 in the morning, then there’s nobody in Lab Files until 8:30 the next morning, so, ah, it may be some time in the afternoon before it ever got a Q or K number.

JH - So it wouldn’t necessarily - Say, Jay Cochran, the night supervisor was on duty and present, would he have been able to give it a Q number?

RF - I don’t know whether Jay would have done that or not. You see, Jay Cochran was at that time the Supervisor in the firearms section in the Laboratory. He and I worked together for several years. But his office was right next to mine in the Laboratory. He just happened to be on duty that night as the Duty Agent. We took turns over the year. Usually about once a year you’d have to be the duty agent at night, all night long.

JH - Right.

RF - Anyway. In this case there was somebody on all night long. But he [Jay Cochran] would not assign Q and K number, I’m pretty sure. [Emphasis added]

I revisited the issue later on in the conversation, asking Frazier, “So you were not responsible for assigning the evidence numbers?” Frazier’s response was direct and definitive; “Nope,” he said.

What was Frazier’s explanation for the Q-Timeline Problem? Frazier told me it was not his responsibility to assign Q numbers. The task of assigning Q numbers, he said, fell to the “Laboratory Files Section” people, who were nine-to-fivers and would not have been present at 4:30 AM. Thus the evidence was not catalogued upon receipt. According to Frazier, the Lab Files people would have assigned the numbers well after the fact, which is why the Q sequence is disjointed. Does that explanation fit with the facts? Is it plausible in light of FBI Standard Operating Procedure for handling evidence?

Logic, three living sources, and Frazier’s own contemporaneous documents belie the notion that the Laboratory Files Section assigned the Q numbers. What we find is that they merely kept track of the numbers after they’d been assigned. What we also find is that, despite his claims to the contrary, the job of assigning Q numbers fell to Robert Frazier.

The Logic – Imagine the scenario: You’re Robert Frazier. You’re the most experienced Firearms and Toolmark man in the entire FBI Laboratory. When it comes to handling cases involving the examination of firearms evidence, you are the best the FBI has. That’s why you’ve just been handed the biggest headache of your career; you’ve been appointed Lead Examiner in the FBI Kennedy assassination investigation.

The country is reeling and word arrives that ballistic evidence has been recovered in Dallas. You are informed that attempts are being made to get that material to Washington for examination. You also learn that an intact bullet was found on a stretcher at the hospital where the wounded men were brought for treatment. That bullet is on its way to the Lab; you know you won’t be going home at 5:00 o’clock on this Friday.

SA Elmer Todd walks into the Lab with a small white envelope in his hand. [13] It’s the Dallas stretcher bullet. It is also the first piece of Kennedy assassination evidence to arrive in the FBI investigation. But you cannot designate it for what it was–Q1. Why? The Lab Files folks are home enjoying TV dinners and watching Ed Sullivan. Even so, you examine the bullet, taking copious notes detailing its class characteristics, weight, and condition.

Shortly before midnight, SA Orin Bartlett walks in with a 6 x 10 manila envelope. [14] Inside are two copper-jacketed bullet fragments, one of which has human tissue mashed into it. More examinations are made, more notes are taken, Optical Emission Spectrography (OES) tests are performed. And so on, and so forth until the 9-5ers get back to work the next morning (assuming they were called in on a Saturday).

By the time the Lab Files people roll into the Lab on the 23rd, bright eyed and bushy tailed, you have fifteen “questioned” and three “known” pieces of evidence in your possession. None have been assigned Q numbers, yet various scientific examinations have been conducted throughout the night. After at least thirteen hours of handling and testing (!), the Lab Files people arrive and the evidence finally gets recorded with Q numbers.

According to Frazier, the evidence was examined, weighed, photographed, passed around, tested, cut up, and burnt (OES) all without the benefit of the time-honored, Cover Your Ass, chain-of-custody preservation mechanism; the internal FBI Laboratory Q number tracking system.

If Frazier’s explanation were the truth, that he did not assign Q numbers, then the Lab Files people did a remarkable job of reconstructing the Q-Timeline sequence, for all the evidence received Q numbers exactly matching the sequence of their arrival: The first got Q1, the second got Q2, etc... Except, of course, for the Limo Search evidence, whose numbers are a touch too high.

This is Frazier’s January 6, 2004 explanation for the Q-Timeline Problem. Is this scenario plausible?

The Living Sources – Jay Cochran, the FBI Night Lab Supervisor on the evening of the assassination, and Burt Wilson [15] (employed in the FBI Lab Spectrographic unit) explained the FBI Lab procedures to me at length. They advised that the Lead Examiner (Frazier in this case) would assign Q numbers to each piece of evidence as it came into the Lab. That served to initiate the FBI Lab’s chain of custody. From that moment on, the FBI was accountable for the evidence.

The process went like this: Step one was to physically mark the evidence, if practicable (Frazier was “RF”, Cortlandt Cunningham was “JH," [16] etc…). Step two was to assign the evidence a Q or K number depending on whether the evidence was a “questioned” or “known” item. Step three was to photograph the evidence in its “as received” condition. Step four was for the Lead Examiner to conduct appropriate testing and/or direct that testing beyond his bailiwick be performed. Cochran and Wilson both confirmed that the Laboratory Files Section did not assign Q numbers. They merely kept track as to which Q evidence was which. According to Henry Heiberger (Spectro Unit), Cochran, and Wilson, the Lab Files people were purely paper pushers. Only when the number of Q items became burdensome would the Lead Examiner call the Laboratory Files Section to confirm that he had the next Q number in line.

I’d already talked to SA Henry Heiberger before I placed the call to Frazier. Heiberger explained the FBI evidence handling procedure, which matched precisely what Cochran and Wilson would later tell me. I was thus aware when I talked to Frazier that his explanation about the Lab Files people being responsible for assigning Q numbers was untrue.

I talked to Jay Cochran shortly after I talked with Frazier, but did not share with him Frazier’s controversial comments. I informed him that I was writing a book on the Kennedy assassination that was concerned in part with the FBI Lab procedures and had talked to Frazier about the subject. The pertinent parts of the conversation are reproduced below:

JC - Hello.

JH - Yes, could I speak with Mr. Jay Cochran please?

JC - Who’s calling?

JH - My name is John Hunt.

JC - What do you want?

JH - I wanted to speak to Mr. Cochran. I had a couple of questions for him about his work for the FBI Laboratory.

JC - You’re talking to him, but I don’t understand who you are.

JH - Oh. My name is John Hunt. I’m calling from Rhode Island. I’m just a private citizen.

JC - You’re calling from where?

JH – Rhode Island.

JC - OK.

JH - And, I just had a- I wonder if I could ask you a couple of questions about the work you did for the FBI Laboratory?

JC - You can ask. I don’t know if I’ll answer.

JH - OK. Sure. That’s fine. Actually, Mr. Robert Frazier remembered working with you in the 60’s, and I had a question about the procedure in the Lab. When evidence would come in, would it be given a Q number or a K number, whether it was a Questioned item or a Known item? And the process as I understand it would be that the evidence would be marked, and it would be assigned with a Q number or a K number as it came in? Is that correct?

JC - As I recall. Before you go any further, what’s the nature of your inquiry?

JH - I’m writing a book on the Kennedy assassination, and part of it deals with the FBI Laboratory. Sort of a history of how they came to have responsibility for collecting the evidence, and all the work that they did, you know, the ballistic stuff, the spectrograph and fingerprints. And uh, actually, I had a really nice conversation with Mr. Frazier a couple of days ago, about an hour and a half on the telephone. And I’m just trying to make sure I have my facts straight because there’s, there is actually very little in the literature on how the FBI Lab went about its work. Not necessarily, specifically, you know problems, or, ah any problems with the evidence, or anything like that. But specifically the procedure of the Lab.

JC - Well, when evidence came in, in those days, and I was the Night Supervisor the night that Kennedy was killed.

JH - OK.

JC - In the Lab.

JH - Right.

JC - My stint started at 4 o’clock, which was a couple of hours after the assassination.

JH - That would be 4 o’clock in the afternoon?

JC - Yeah.

JH - OK.

JC - And, ah, anyway. When evidence came in, the Examiner, the Preliminary Examiner, the #1 Examiner, the main Examiner, ah, the one to whom the case was assigned...

JH -Yes?

JC - ...Would list those items of evidence as either Questioned or Known. The Q and the K relating to the source of the item.

JH - Right. And in this case, Mr. Frazier was appointed Lead Examiner.

JC - Yes. He was the Principle Examiner and, ah, he would then be responsible for farming the evidence out any, ah, any other examinations, including latent fingerprints, and, ah whatever.

JH - Right.

JC - Those, obviously the latent fingerprint exams would have been conducted first.

JH - I’m sorry, what? The preliminary-

JC - No. The latent fingerprint examinations. The examination of the evidence. For example, the rifle for fingerprints.

JH - Oswald’s rifle.

JC - Right.

JH - Yeah.

JC -That would take place before anything else was accomplished, I believe.

JH - Now, with bullet fragments. I know there were a number of bullets and bullet fragments recovered. I guess, the process- what would be the process for those as they came into the Lab?

JC - As they came in Frazier would have designated them. I’m surprised he didn’t mention this to you. Or did you not ask him this question? [Emphasis added.]

At this point, Cochran exhibited a clear hint of suspicion. My immediate sense was that what I was asking Cochran was so basic that he could not conceive of Frazier not relating the processes to me. I was determined to not make Cochran aware of Frazier’s “odd” version of the FBI Lab procedure, and so I quickly, if not smoothly changed the subject.

JH - No, I, uh- So Mr. Frazier would designate them, say, “OK this is a questioned”?

JC - He was the Preliminary Examiner, and those bullet fragments would have come in from the autopsy, I believe that was at Walter Reed, if I’m not mistaken.

JH - Actually, I think it was Bethesda.

JC - Was it?

JH - Yeah. OK. So it would be Mr. Frazier as they came in the door would say, “OK This is a questioned item and it’s the next in line, and it’s Q number”...?

JC - Yeah. One, two. One up [from the preceding number].

JH - So that’s how that’d work?

JC - Yeah.

JH - SA Drain wrote in his report that he gave the [Dallas] evidence to [Ivan] Conrad [Assistant Director in charge of the FBI Lab].

JC - I don't know why Drain would have written that, but if he did, it's wrong. He might have turned the evidence over in Conrad's office, but he gave the evidence to Frazier. He was the Lead Examiner.

JH - Would Conrad have logged the evidence in?

JC - (Chuckles) No. No way. The Lead Examiner did that.

JH - Would Conrad have performed any of the tests?<

JC - (Bigger chuckle) No way. I'll guarantee that.

JH - Just out of curiosity, oh what was it? The um…um. Oh… There was an office that catalogued evidence, or something. The um…

Here I played dumb to see if Cochran would independently recall the Lab Files Section.

JC - Lab Files?

JH - Yeah. The Lab Files. If they were closed-

JC - They would not- Their function was- They never had evidence, per se.

JH - Right.

JC - Their function was the maintenance of the Laboratory portion of the files if it became – the examiner’s note, worksheets, and ah, whatever dictation he may have made.

JH - Would they [the Lab Files section] be responsible for assigning Q numbers?

JC - No. No.

JH - That would be the Lead Examiner?

JC - The Lead Examiner assigned those. They [the Lab Files] would be responsible for keeping track of ‘em.

JH - Oh. They kept track of them but they didn’t assign them?

JC -The Lab Files wouldn’t even know the Q numbers until the file was actually turned over from the Examiner.

JH - Right. OK. So they were more or less just a bookkeeping-type operation.

JC - Well, just an administrative filing operation, really.


SAs Jay Cochran, Henry Heiberger, and Burt Wilson all say the same thing; the Lead Examiner was responsible for assigning Q numbers, which makes sense. The Lead Examiner in any case the FBI handled was ultimately responsible for the evidence under his guardianship. If anything came up missing, his head was on the chopping block. Frazier confirmed this during our conversation. It was for that reason, according to Heiberger and Wilson, that every effort was made to have the evidence handed directly to the Lead Examiner, even if that meant the person delivering the evidence had to wait for hours. That strict CYA methodology makes sense, for if something went wrong, you knew right where to go for an explanation or for accountability. Frazier alone tells a far less plausible story about FBI Lab procedure; one that serves to artificially insulate himself from the Q-Timeline Problem.

Could it be that 85 year-old Frazier has simply forgotten the Lab procedures? Perhaps, but Frazier’s excellent recall and sound mental state make that highly unlikely. Frazier retired on April 11, 1975 after 33 years of service in the FBI Lab. [17] Is it plausible that Frazier remembered minute details about the Kennedy case, but forgot the most fundamental of Lab procedures he carried out for 33 years? Had Frazier exhibited signs of a shaky or unstable mental state, that might well explain why he told me the Lab Files people assigned the Q numbers. But make no mistake, Robert Frazier was sharp as a tack and his recall of the facts, names, and dates was generally excellent. Cochran’s comments about the Lead Examiner’s responsibility for assigning of Q numbers come back to us: “I’m surprised he didn’t mention this to you. Or did you not ask him this question?” I sure did ask Frazier the question.

And then Dr. Ken Rahn entered into the story. Rahn, who has written about the evidence in the case, put up a message at the alt.assassination.jfk internet newsgroup offering to forward questions to Robert Frazier, with whom he was in contact. Having read Rahn’s post, I suspected that Frazier had become aware of my publicly stated conclusions regarding his handling of the JFK evidence. I’d intended to call Frazier again and gently confront him with my scenario as to what all occurred on the morning of 11/23/63. But I procrastinated. Rahn’s post inspired me to telephone Frazier a second time. As I’d expected, Frazier was hostile. He hung up on me after a few short responses, which is his prerogative. Frazier had obviously been made aware of my take on his work on the JFK case. So I took Rahn up on his offer and posted some questions for Frazier relating to the issues discussed above and below. Rahn promised to send them to Frazier but did not, begging off on his presumably sincere offer.

Among those on the cc list for the private e-mail communications with Frazier was Chad Zimmerman. Zimmerman kindly forwarded my questions to Frazier.

"Why did you give me the faux explanation for the queer Q-Timeline sequence by stating that the Laboratory Files section paper-pushers were responsible for assigning the Q numbers, and because those 9-5ers were at home, none of the evidence got Q numbers until later on the 23rd??"


"Why did you originally mark the pillbox containing the three fragments recovered from the limousine rug as "Q11, 12, 13", scribble them all out, then change the "Q11" to "Q14"?"


"What did you originally write underneath the "Q15" notation on the pillbox?" [18]

Frazier's first and second responses to Chad are produced here in their entirety with Chad’s consent. Frazier responded to the first email communication as follows:

"Months ago Hunt asked the same questions. [19] The answers are the same. [20] For your background information, We [sic] recovered the three fragments the same night as the assassination in the Secret Service garage by feeling through blood clots and inspecting the interior of the vehicle. When we returned to the Laboratory our Lab [F]iles unit which had the responsibility of recording all evidence received and noting Q and K numbers to avoid duplication was closed. I therefore marked the container with what I thought to be the next three in order but on Monday found that those numbers had been already assigned so I changed the three fragments in their container to Q14."

Frazier’s explanation to Chad is materially different from what he told me. Frazier still contends that, “When we returned to the Laboratory our Lab Files unit…was closed,” and I’m inclined to believe that is the truth. Why? Because the Lab Files people were ancillary to the Laboratory process. Had their participation been integral to the processing and testing of evidence, you can bet your bottom dollar they would have pulled an all-nighter with the rest of the essential staff. But the Lab Files people were not in the Lab at 4:30 AM because they weren’t needed.

Frazier then elaborated, stating that “[he] therefore marked the container with what [he] thought to be the next three [Q numbers] in order.” [Emphasis added] That was not what Frazier told me in 2004. According to Frazier, he did not assign any Q numbers, ever. Now Frazier has a New Story; he admits to assigning Q numbers, but says he did so incorrectly. If Frazier’s new explanation is the truth, the mystery has been solved.

It is interesting to note that I provided no one with the computer scans of the “Q11, 12, 13” (nee Q14) pillbox I made at NARA. The fact that Frazier marked, then re-marked the evidence pillbox had never been made public until I discovered it and discussed the fact in the alt.assassination.jfk newsgroup. Therefore, Frazier had not seen my image of the pillbox. Nor could it have been provided to him. The last Frazier saw of the “Q14” pillbox was in 1964 when the FBI turned it over to the National Archives for permanent storage. Yet Frazier did not dispute or even question my contention that he originally marked the pillbox as “Q11, 12, 13” and then scribbled that out. Frazier’s definitive remarks, offered without qualification, make it seem as if he remembers changing the Q numbers on the “Q14” pillbox. Indeed, Frazier copped to changing the numbers without blinking an electronic eye. Are we then to believe that Frazier remembers “adjusting” the Rug Fragment evidence Q numbers, and yet he cannot remember that he was responsible for assigning the numbers in the first place?

The Documents – Frazier explained that he “marked the container” as “Q11, 12, 13” because he thought those were the “next three in order,” and only found out “on Monday” that “those numbers had been already assigned so [he] changed the three fragments in their container to Q14.” Frazier’s own contemporaneous documents send that explanation packing.

By the time Frazier left for the WHG, Q1, Q2, Q 3, Q4, and Q5 had been collected. Frazier’s explanation would have us believe that he returned to the Lab and was confused, thinking that the number 11 follows the number 5. Either that, or he thought that Q6, Q7, Q8, Q9, and Q10 had arrived in his absence. Yet, officially, no evidence arrived at the Lab while Frazier was at the WHG. If his New Story is the truth, counting to 6 gave Bob Frazier trouble.

However, Frazier’s own 11/23/63 report puts the lie to the notion that he didn’t discover his “ ‘Q11, 12, 13’ mistake” until Monday, November 25, 1963, when the Lab Files paper-pushers returned to work.

On 11/23/63 Frazier authored a report on the results of the FBI’s examination of the evidence. That report, which went out under Hoover’s name, was flown to Dallas aboard a supersonic fighter jet. (See Figure 2.) The Lockheed F-104D that carried SA Vincent Drain and the Frazier Report back to Dallas took off shortly before midnight on the 23rd.

Figure 2 - The evidence report authored by Frazier that went to DPD Chief Curry on 11/23/63 under Hoover’s name. Note that Frazier listed the Rug Fragments as “Q14.” Notice also the “PC-78243 BX” notation. The PC stands for the Physics and Chemistry Section of the FBI Lab. The PC control number 78243 refers to the evidence being reported on. Frazier confirmed what I’d suspected; he was “BX” and “AX” was James Cadigan.

Note that Frazier listed the “Q11, 12, 13” Rug Fragments as “Q14” before midnight on 11/23/63. Therefore, his new, positive recollection that he did not realize his “mistake” until Monday, the 25th is simply not what happened. Whatever “situation” existed with the Limo Search evidence, it had been “resolved” before history kissed November 23rd goodbye.

Frazier second reply to Chad reads:


There seems to be a lot of second hand micromanagement going on, particularly by John Hunt.

As to when Q numbers were assigned, suffice it to say that the numbers were assigned and used by all concerned. [Emphasis added] The days after the assassination seemed to run together pretty much. We went to work Friday and as I recall finally got home sometime Sunday. At any rate, We did get a break to watch the funeral parade on Monday and went back to work. I wish I had a better memory for details but after 40 years I should not attempt to provide any facts except to say that there was not any conspiracy on the part of the FBI. Everything we did was checked and double checked at headquarters, in Dallas, by Secret Service and later by the Commission. I keep seeing facts reported by "investigators" that are not TRUE facts. For instance, recently I read that the bullet jacket fragments recovered from the front seat of the limo were handed to me by the Secret Service. Not so. They were given to Special Agent Orin Bartlett, our Liasion [sic] Officer with the Secret Service who gave them to Cunningham, Killion and myself in the Laboratory on the night of the assassination.

In the recent past, there was some dialog about specimen Q15 - I believe John Hunt was involved. Today [sic] I opened the attachment [my scan of the FBI negative of the “Q14 pillbox] to your (?) email of some marking on what appeared to be a specimen pillbox. [21] I do not remember what Q15 was but you can be sure whatever the contents of the container was it WAS Q15 and was so marked or photographed for record. [22]

From what I have seen and heard of John Hunt I have come to the conclusion that his pencils do not have erasers. Too bad. mine [sic] do!


Frazier’s Story has changed once again. Now, according to Frazier, “the [Q] numbers were assigned…by all concerned.” [Emphasis added.] In Frazier’s Story No. 3, everyone assigned Q numbers in the JFK case! What happened to, “You called up [Lab Files] and said ‘what’s the next K-item, what’s the next Q-item’ and they’d give it to you and they’d mark it down as to what it was and so when somebody else gets something, it comes in and they give it the next one.?” [Emphasis added.]

Frazier has given three explanations for “Q14 and Q15” not being catalogued on arrival, while all the other 11/22-11/23 evidence was correctly and sequentially marked:

1. I didn’t assign the Q numbers, so who knows.

2. I did assign the numbers, but I was mightily confused. I thought the number 11 came after 5.

3. Everybody assigned Q numbers, and so, there you go. Mistakes happen. That’s why pencils have erasers.

In the end, Frazier offered up differing accounts to explain away the evidentiary anachronism that is the Q-Timeline Problem. Why the Limo Search evidence was not immediately integrated into the Official Stream of Evidence remains a mystery, for none of Frazier’s “explanations” bear the indicia of credibility or truthfulness. Nor do they stand up under light scrutiny. Surely, a man of Frazier’s intelligence (as well as those who worked along side him) had no problem counting as high as 6. Frazier also knows that he alone was responsible for initiating the FBI chain of custody by assigning the Q numbers on November 22nd and 23rd, 1963.

The bottom line is that former FBI SA Robert A. Frazier offered up three differing, unreasonable, implausible “stories” for why the Limo Search evidence went into limbo for at least 3 hours on 11/23/63. It is my firm belief that Frazier knows exactly why the Limo Search evidence went into its holding pattern. The question, What really happened between 2:00 and 7:30 AM? remains unanswered.

Files and evidence I found in the FBI records at NARA provide clues to understanding what “trouble” surfaced on November 23rd. The speculation I’m about to offer is based upon evidence which has never been published before. That evidence and my analysis of it form the basis for the book I’m currently writing on the JFK ballistic and medical evidence. I look forward to putting that case before you someday. For today, suffice it to say that evidence exists indicating that the FBI was in possession of ballistic material which scientifically confirmed that a conspiracy had taken Kennedy’s life. The time period in which this occurred comports with the limo evidence “being put on hold” until the FBI could figure out 1) what to do about it, and 2) how to eventually make the evidence point exclusively at Lee Oswald. In the end, the scenario was far simpler than I’d ever imagined.

The Pen is Mightier…

In July, 2004, I went back to the Archives for, among other things, a fourth pass at the FBI Laboratory files. It was then that I re-discovered a document authored by Frazier which I had examined on prior trips. The information on the umber-colored file cover, which had meant nothing to me before, now fairly jumped off the page. A smile came to my face as I scanned Frazier's Evidence Handling Roadmap into my notebook computer. (see Figure 3)

Figure 3. The Frazier Evidence Handling Roadmap.

Forty-one years ago Robert Fraizer listed by hand the detailed steps for handling the JFK evidence in his absence. According to Frazier, Step 1 was to “Advise Lab Files of new Q and K numbers.”

Today, Frazier speaks. But he does not tell the truth.

[1] Parkland Hospital employee, Darrell Tomlinson found a bullet on a stretcher that may or may not have been related to Kennedy or Connally. 6H130.

[2] On July 30, 2004 at the National Archives, I examined the original envelope in which the Q1 bullet had been delivered to the FBI Lab. I discovered that the FBI/Secret Service liaison who delivered the bullet to Frazier, SA Elmer Todd preserved the chain of custody by noting the time he took possession of the bullet. Todd noted that he “Received [the bullet] from Chief Rowley, USSS, 8:50 PM.11-22-63. E. L. Todd.” Frazier’s notes detailing Todd’s delivery of the Q1 “Magic Bullet” are not in the FBI files at NARA. However, Frazier added “7:30 PM” as marginalia to denote the time of arrival on his copy of the Work Sheet created on the 23rd. (See Figure 1) Where Frazier’s after-the-fact 7:30 time notation comes from is a mystery. What is not a mystery is that Frazier acknowledged receipt of the bullet by putting his personal mark (RF) on the “Todd” envelope. The same envelope with Todd’s 8:50 PM notation. How Frazier could receive the bullet at “7:30 PM” in the Lab when Todd did not take possession of it until “8:50 PM” at the White House remains unknown.

[3] The term “questioned” evidence generally refers to the to the fact that there is some “question” about the evidence or its origin. Conversely, evidence was also categorized as “known” evidence. Consider the following examples: The bullet found on the stretcher was a “questioned” item. The test round the FBI fired through the “Depository” rifle for comparison purposes was a “known” item. According to Frazier, the Lead Examiner made the decision as to whether a “Q” or “K” number would be assigned.

[4] FBI HQ 62-190606-8307X, Box 111B, Folder 56C (see Figure 1), 5H67.

[5] FBI HQ 62-190606-8307X, Box 111B, Folder 56C (see Figure 1), 5H73.

[6] As with Q1, whatever notes Frazier made to record the arrival of Sibert and O’Neill, the autopsy headshot fragments, and the time the Lab officially took possession of them are not in evidence.

[7] See

[8] See

[9] As noted, the actual time Q1 arrived at the FBI Lab is in serious question.

[10] Interview with the author, Jan. 6, 2004.

[11] Frazier’s various claims have him returning to the Lab at 4:00 AM, 4:15 AM, and 4:30 AM.

12] See my 2003 Wecht JFK Symposium presentation as reproduced in DVD format at

[13] Personal examination of the envelope by the author at the Archives.

[14] Personal examination of the envelope by the author at the Archives.

[15] Burt Wilson is a pseudonym.

[16] Cunningham was really “JH.” I knew that the JFK investigation was the only one in which more than one examiner was appointed. Frazier was the Lead Examiner, and per Hoover’s direction, two other firearms examiners would confirm Frazier’s work: Charles Killion and Cortland Cunningham. The initials of the agents who marked the evidence kept coming up as RF, CK, and JH. Frazier was RF. Killion was CK. But who was JH, I wondered? I suspected it was Jack Handley, who was assisting Malley in Dallas. But I also knew Cunningham was involved, and so I had a mystery on my hands. Who was “JH?” Frazier informed me that JH was Cunningham. Frazier related that if Cunningham were to mark a question document with “CC” it might get confused with “cc”. To avoid confusion, Cunningham became JH.

[17] Weisberg, Post Mortem, p. 442. According to Weisberg, Frazier retired the day after FBI Director Clarence Kelley delivered a letter to Weisberg regarding the FBI's compliance in turning over long-suppressed Neutron Activation Analysis materials.

[18] A high quality image of the pillbox and writing accompanied Chad's email to Frazier.

[19] Frazier’s contention that I asked the same question in January, 2004 is simply untrue. I did not discover that Frazier had originally marked “Q14” as "Q11, 12, 13" until I examined the un-photographed pillbox at NARA on July 30, 2004. That was nearly seven months after I talked with Frazier (January 6, 2004). I had, however, asked Frazier about the Lab process and explained the Q-Timeline Problem.

[20] They are not, as you will see.

[21] Frazier was specifically asked what he had written underneath the “Q15” on the Q15 pillbox.

[22] My question did not concern the contents of the pillbox, or any controversy thereof. The question was, “what did you write underneath the “Q15” notation. Frazier did not answer my question, which does not depend upon a 40-year old memory.