Was it Suicide or Murder?
[Picture Taken Just Months Before His Murder]
16 - VICTOR LICATA’s STRANGE AND SUSPICIOUS DEATH
Was it Suicide or Murder?
Much of what follows is speculation; the author openly admits that simple coincidences (no matter how many of them we keep finding), do not constitute proof. However, as we have already seen a conspiracy of some kind did take place, and thus what is to prevent us from extending the boundaries of this conspiracy a bit. If we were to do so (assuming the same players), then a lot of the loose pieces of this jigsaw puzzle (very clearly) start coming together.
Simply put, it is the author’s viewpoint that Victor Licata DID NOT commit suicide but was instead murdered as part of a cover up. In addition (again in the authors opinion), Victor was NOT the only one killed as part of this cover up. A second prominent individual being Courtney Ryley Cooper – Ghost writer to both J. Edgar Hoover (head of the F.B.I.) as well as Harry J. Anslinger (head of the Bureau of Narcotics – aka the D.E.A.) himself.
Let’s examine the evidence behind Courtney Ryley Coopers strange and very mysterious death first, before moving on to the equally mysterious death of Victor Licata.
16.1 - Courtney Ryley Cooper -- Was it Suicides or was it Murder?
Let us first start by looking at this interesting article, taken from the Evening Independent (St. Petersburg, Fla.). Keep in mind that Sebring Florida (where C.R. Cooper had his home residence) is only 91 Miles away from Tampa Florida. Also note the publication date, only two years away from the Licata family murders.
--------------------To the author, this all sounds kind of familiar, almost exactly like what would have happened to Victor Licata had he not been found insane.
Now, what does this prove ---- of and by itself, absolutely nothing; other than the fact that an axe murder occurred in C.R. Coopers home town, located just 91 miles away from the Licata home. It could have been just plain coincidence. Even the fact that it occurred just two years before the Licata murders, could also have been coincidence.
However, one thing that was no coincidence was the fact that Courtney Ryley Cooper was one hell of a good writer. One who served both J. Edgar Hoover as well as Harry J. Anslinger very well indeed. Just look at the following example of his work (written in corroboration with then Drug Czar Harry Anslinger):
The American Magazine Vol. 124 No. 1 (July 1937).For those of you interested in old 1930’s stories about the J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, Mr. Cooper’s books are highly recommended. Maybe not for their technical accuracy, but they do make for good entertainment and exciting reading. Simply put, Courtney Ryley Cooper had a natural knack for writing, and by the late 1930’s was extremely well connected within both law and narcotic enforcement circles.
ALL of which made C.R. Cooper a powerful ally, and a good friend to have -- as long as he was on your side. But could also make him a very powerful and frightful enemy; ---- should he ever turn against you. --- WHICH is exactly what this author believes happened. Such a powerful enemy that he had to be silenced by any means necessary.
Now let’s look at the way C.R. Cooper was supposed to have committed suicide. According to the New York Times:
------------------------------------------------There are various other newspaper accounts which give us more details about his mysterious death, and even more mysterious funeral. [16A] A summarization of these accounts is as follows:
C.R. COOPER’S HOME:
TIME OF DEATH
[MUSEUM COMMENT] -- While NO AXE was used in this murder (thus making it a bit too obvious that it wasn’t a suicide), note the exact method used. The same method supposedly used at a later time by Victor Licata.
TYPE OF DEATH
According to the newspaper accounts.
[MARIHUANA TURNS MEXICAN INTO NAZI’S]
Vidette Messenger - July 19, 1940
From the authors viewpoint, this sounds so familiar, ---- a tactic used by the Narc’s to cover things up to this very day. This author will never forget the shooting death of Donald Scott (some innocent so and so, killed by the drug police in a raid) – the next day, the newspapers read – “Reclusive Millionaire” etc., etc.
It is the opinion of the author (one he has held long before deciding to write a book about Victor Licata) that Courtney Ryley Cooper was murdered and DID NOT commit suicide.
Admittedly we have no real solid evidence, no proof that this was the case. Still, circumstantial evidence seems to point in that direction. The scenario goes as follows:
Courtney Ryley Cooper, while loyal to the concepts of Law and Order, and bitterly against the use of narcotics drugs; ---still he was a man of honor. You know, one of those who believes in truth, justice and the American way, etc., etc. Anyway, although he had written much of the early literature for the Reefer Madness Hysteria and/or dis-information campaign. He now began to figure out that much of what he had been writing about had been built up lies, pure and simple. That the whole thing was not about ending drug abuse but about going after Mexicans and people of color, etc.
I for one would not at all be surprised if he had figured out that Victor Licata (who at the time was the main celebrity of Harry Anslingers gore file), had been framed and had been innocent all along. It was at this point that he became disillusioned with Anslinger, with the whole Reefer Madness campaign in general.
Again, he was a powerful ally to have on your side, but also a powerful enemy if he was against you. Additionally, he also knew the truth about the whole of the Reefer Madness campaign. One can only imagine what would have happened had he gone to the newspapers with his story. Obviously most of them, either through fear of Anslinger or just plain dumbness, would not have carried the story, but some of them would have. Cooper was no ordinary man and could not simply have been ignored.
Thus Courtney Ryley Cooper, could have taken down a lot of people and Harry Anslinger knew it. Thus the need to silence him, -- And there was only one way to silence him, permanently.
If this sounds like a fanciful work of fiction; well maybe so. But as was mentioned in Chapter 2, Harry Anslinger was no angel. In fact he was out and out evil. And if anyone doubts that he would order an assassination of C.R. Cooper, just look at the fact that he himself knew all along that his whole hysteria campaign was nothing more than a big LIE. Yet he did nothing while so many innocents were sent to jail, ---all in the name of his Drug War.
Then look at it from his perspective. If Cooper started shooting his mouth off (as I believe he was about to do), that would have been the end of him. Of his career, of his whole reefer madness campaign and one suspects that if his co-conspirators were anything like him, of his life itself. After all, they might start worrying that he also might start talking, etc. Thus with the stakes so high, it is obvious what had to be done.
16.2 - VICTOR LICATA -- A MYSTERIOUS DEATH
On December 7, 1950, the Tampa Tribune ran the following article:
Tampa Morning Tribune Dec 7, 1950 p10[MUSEUM COMMENTS] – [Victor was 5’ 8” – a double-decker bed would only go up so far, --- No way, can’t be done-- AND please explain how can you be hanged but then be found on the floor? ]
In Cell aloneIn order to understand all the ramifications of the above article, maybe it would be best to step back a bit. As mentioned in the previous chapter, on Oct 1945 (after spending 12 years at the State Hospital), Victor Licata (along with four others) made good his escape. And although the four others were quickly recaptured, Victor Licata himself was no where to be found.
It would be five years later (again see previous chapter) until Victor would be recaptured and only because he had made the mistake of making contact with a cousin in New Orleans who turned him in. Which in turn would now seal his fate.
Why he made contact with his cousin (his fathers brother) we can only speculate on. Maybe he was trying to obtain his help in clearing his name, or maybe . . . the maybes could go on and on. [16B]
As per our research:
Even when he was brought back to Florida, the paper trail related to Victor’s last days is also almost non-existent.
As per our research:
Next, there is the matter of his death itself. Again as per the above article:
“Superintendent L.F. Chapman, of the prison, said Licata’s body was found on the floor of his cell with a bedsheet around his neck. The sheet had been tied to the end of his double-decker bed. He was discovered at 2:30 P.M. Monday by an orderly, who said Licata had not been dead long. “QUESTION: How do you find the body of someone who (allegedly) just hanged himself on the floor?
Also, Victor was five feet, eight and a half inches tall, while the highest point in any double-decker bed that I’ve ever seen is no more then 6 feet high. So how was it possible for him to have hanged himself?
Now please, I am not saying that it was not possible that the above could have taken place. Yes, Yes, it is possible for the bedsheet that he was (allegedly) using as a rope to have gotten loose, and it is possible that he weighed his 127 lb., body down with some kind of lead weight and then gone on his knees allowing the short rope to do its work. --- But overall, it just doesn’t sound right and again should raise a few more eyebrows.
To this author it sounds more like the work of an assassin. And in all probability (judging by the M.O.), the same one(s) that took care of C.R. Cooper.
16.3 - WAS IT SUICIDE OR WAS IT MURDER
Obviously this author has already sided with MURDER, and let’s be frank, (while having no solid proof), this case simply has too many weird things going on for it to have been anything else but.
The (almost deliberate) lack of paper work, the similarities between this death and that of Harry Anslinger’s ghost writer ( C.R. Cooper), etc. However, one must admit that it would have been a bit hard for anyone other than an extremely well placed assassin to have committed the crime. Example; how did the assassin get all the proper permits to actually get into the prison in the first place. Then there is the issue of logistics --special keys to the cells, maybe even special guard uniforms so as not to draw unwanted attention, etc. You had to have had a map of the prison, one showing where all the doors, cell blocks etc., were. And last of all the timing would have had to be right. Victor was found dead in his cell around 2:30 or around an hour and a half after he got back from lunch etc. BUT most important of all, you had to have the knowledge of exactly when and where, Victor was going to be left alone in his cell.
Things that most ordinary assassins just wouldn’t have, which leads me to the suspicion that higher ups -- very higher ups were involved in his murder. Which now leads to the obvious question --- WHY would anyone want to go to so much trouble to KILL Victor Licata in the first place?
Once more, speculation must come into play here, BUT WHAT IF, Victor Licata (who was now around 37 years of age) was now talking openly about his case. Telling those around him that he was innocent etc. AND at this point in his life, he was back in the news.
Now, try putting yourself into Harry Anslinger’s shoes AND you just got wind of what was going on. And knowing that sooner or later one reporter or another was going to listen. Wouldn’t you hit the panic button also. Just think of it, his whole career of evil would go down the drain. And as we have seen from chapter 2, while a genius in some ways, he just wasn’t a very good man. Given all the human misery that he created, many of us today would agree that he was out and out evil. And if to save his career meant murder then so be it, he already knew a good assassin (maybe the one that fixed Cooper) that would be just perfect for the job.
Fortunately or unfortunately as the case might be, as can be seen from the newspaper article below, destiny took another turn in Victor Licata’s life.
St. Petersburg Times - Aug 16, 1950 p20This meant that the murder (if such it was) must take place in a State Prison as opposed to the Florida State Hospital. But it didn’t matter, Anslinger thought his contacts would be able to obtain internal diagrams of the prison, prisoner information, guard schedules etc., and most important of all, some excuses for having someone enter the prison (unescorted) at just the right time. Granted, Anslinger faced disgrace if his plan failed, but he stood to do so either way. This path, his mind would have calculated stood the best chance of success. And as for poor Victor, so what, he would be but just one of whom he had already done so much harm to.
[16A]—The following newspaper articles deal with Mr. Coopers death:
Chicago Daily Tribune
[ ]- 1940-Sep-30 "cooper Morose Over Snub, His Widow Reveals" [by the AP]
Los Angeles Times
Sep 30, 1940 p1 Cooper suicide Linked to Snubs at Washington -- Mrs. Cooper became hysterical when she identified her husband's body and was placed under a doctor's care."
[ ]- Oct 1, 1940 "The Cooper Mystery"
[ ]- 1940-apr-9 "Big Show boasts Real Live Novelist"
[ ]- 1940-Sep-29 C.R. cooper, author, Kills himself Here"
His body was hanging in a clothes closet, suspended from a rod used as a support for clothing."
[ ]- 1940-Sep-30 Funeral of Cooper Set for tomorrow - Wife Prostrated by his suicide -- Motive for act unknown to writer's family Mr. Cooper was found dead, hanged from a steam pipe in a closet of a two-room suite. Mr. cooper had been for several days, in a state of nervous exhaustion as the result of overwork.
[ ]- NYTimes1940-Oct-2 "Courtney R. Cooper Rites"
[Cremation took place in Union City, N.J. ]
[ ]- 1940-Sep-30 "D.C. Snub Blamed in suicide of Courtney Ryley Cooper"
[Detective Gaswell Jacobs, who pronounced his death a suicide, said he found an unsigned note in cooper's room.
It said: "In my clothes is $43 in cash. I think my bill is about $32. give the hotel $32."
[16B]- Here I hate to shoot myself in the foot, but from the accounts that we know of, Victor Licata did not bring up that fact at all. During his short meetings he had with his cousin, it appears that the subject never came up.
[16C]- Granted we have been able to locate Victor’s death certificate as well as (through private means) his burial records. However, very little else (paperwork wise) has been found.
VICTOR LICATA - A RUSH TO JUDGEMENT
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