Chapter 19


[The Honorable Harry J. Anslinger - Our first Drug Czar]

It is this author’s sincere opinion that Victor Licata was innocent.     Whatever else Victor Licata was, he was no murderer.     This was no opinion conveniently derived in order to write a book, but a conclusion reached by happenstance while examining the evidence.     For like so many others I believed that Victor was guilty and as long as the Medical Marihuana was not responsible for his actions, and simply accept his actions as those of a deranged madman.     It was only after learning that there was a serial axe murderer operating in the Tampa area that my natural skepticism began to kick in and begin to question the established viewpoint.

Soon however, as I examined the evidence, that skepticism turned into pure shock.     How could I have fallen for yet another of Harry Anslinger’s lies.     I who have disproved so many Reefer Madness era lies, had fallen for the biggest one out there.     And the evidence itself made it clear that I had.     How would that Comedian Groucho Marx have stated it: “Lady, Half the Evidence was Fake, and the Other Half isn’t all that much better!”

As we have already shown, that is to say that we can state with a more than a 95% certainty:
  • That there is no evidence (physical or otherwise) that Victor Licata had ever even tried Marihuana let alone be classified as a "Marihuana Addict", as claimed by the police.     We have been able to trace the source of this rumor back to Chief Detective W.D. Bush and have shown that he was less than an honest individual about the facts dealing with this case.     Additionally, Victor Licata himself (to his dying day) refuted the story, claiming that he had never used it.     And (granted) people do lie, logic and reason would dictate that the lie would have gone in the other direction.     Once more there simply is no physical evidence to back up this claim.

  • That there was NO MARIHUANA found in the Licata house.     And as we have identified the source of this rumor and have shown that he was less than an honest individual, it can be stated that any such reports were false.

  • That there is no evidence that his fingerprints were on the bloody axe, nor any evidence that his underwear “was soiled” with the blood of his victims.     Pictures of him taken at the time show a young man wearing a clean white shirt (not a spot of blood anywhere) and nowhere on the police report will you find mention of fingerprints or bloodied clothing.

  • That Victor Licata DID NOT sign a confession.   Granted being in a state of shock at the time, it is possible that he could have signed a piece of paper without knowing what it was, but if such a piece of paper exists, it has long ago disappeared.

  • Victor Licata DID NOT kill any other patient while he himself was a patient at the State Hospital – There simply is no evidence to establish such a claim.

  • While Victor did have a mental illness, he DID NOT have Homicidal Tendencies.     The only reason for such an allegation seems to have been the killings at his family home.     The psychiatrist on the case simply believed what the narcotics police had told him and assumed that he had done it.     However, if Victor Licata was innocent, then what does this make of the “Homicidal Tendencies” allegation?
THE FOLLOWING conclusions, we can state with at least a 75% certainty:
  • Being in a state of shock, it is very probable that he made mention of a bad dream.     HOWEVER, these reports also detail how he was mumbling incoherently at the time.     In all likelihood the police interpreted his words as being what they wanted to hear (the Margaret Mead effect), etc.     Also, there is no mention of this great speech made anywhere on any official police document or psychiatric report.     Thus, in all likelihood it probably is yet another fabricated story – courtesy of your local narcotics police.

  • There was no Licata family dog, and thus no dog that had (allegedly) fingered Victor Licata as the murderer.     Granted, there is a picture of the dog, but that could have come from almost anywhere.

  • Victor DID NOT have blood under his fingernails.     There simply is no evidence to that effect.

  • That the Narcotics Police deliberately lied about Victor’s age so that he would not be treated as a Juvenile in court.
The evidence that does look incriminating consists solely of the following:
  • Victor Licata was indeed found at the scene of the crime, inside a locked house-- the police having to enter through an unlatched window screen.

  • Additionally, the bathroom (where Victor was found) is adjacent to the back porch (located physically inside the house – see house sketch), where the axe was found.
However, as we have seen, both of these facts can be explained by the fact that Victor Licata (duh-ah) lived in the house.     And that he was mentally autistic, as well as in a state of shock at the time didn’t help matters much either.

Now let us also look at the evidence that was NEVER introduced or much talked about.     On the cover of this book, we stated the following: DID YOU KNOW
  • That there was a serial Axe murderer operating in the Tampa area at the time.
  • That the Licata family was NOT the only Tampa family cut down by an Axe murderer.
  • That one of the other families slain by the serial Axe murderer was the Rowell Family --same last name as the author of -- "On the Trail of Marihuana, the Weed of Madness”.
  • That Victor Licata (to his dying day) DENIED that he has ever used Marihuana.     And that there was never a scratch of evidence to even suggest that he ever had.
  • That at least one of the major players (the Detective chief who had accused Victor Licata of having committed the murders) has been caught (documented) lying about the matter.
  • That much of the (alleged) evidence against Victor Licata was fabricated and so fake it wouldn’t have stood the light of day in a courtroom.
  • That many of the higher-ups within the Tampa judicial justice system knew the truth – and choose (for whatever reason), to deliberately keep quiet.
WHY, one must ask, were these (above) facts NOT brought out by anyone?     Not by Harry Anslinger and his Bureau of Narcotics and not by a number of people in positions of authority who knew the truth -- all of the truth.

Then there is the evidence that contradicts the evidence:
  • According to his 1933 State Hospital admission records, Victor Licata weighed only 113 lbs -- AGAIN he only weighed 113 pounds.     Additionally, his lunacy inquest papers state that he was in poor physical health as well.  
    QUESTION: Would it have been possible for Victor to have swung an axe (at least) five times with such precession?

  • The Bed – According to the newspaper reports, Mike Licata’s body was pinned between the wall and his bed.
    QUESTION: Given Victor’s small stature and poor health, would it have been possible for him to have pushed a 48-inch-wide metal frame bed inward, while at the same time punch his father back into such a position?

  • That a crime scene photograph clearly shows a large blood stain NOT where the newspaper reports stated that they should be found.     But instead on the middle of the floor -- where it wasn't supposed to be.

  • That Victor was wearing clean clothes (a clean white shirt to be exact), at the time and did not show a spot of blood anywhere on him.
Which yet again brings up the question;   WHY hasn’t anyone (especially someone in authority) mentioned any of the above facts?

That there was a conspiracy is not in question; --The evidence is overwhelming.     But as to the exact nature of the conspiracy, HERE there is much room for debate.     Here let us go over the facts as we see them:

Granted, it is possible for a person in authority (years removed from the incident), to have simply repeated the facts as stated to him/her by others.     And it would have been possible for a lower-level person (say a police officer) who did not have all the information to have believed.     However, this would NOT have been the case for the higher-ups originally involved.     They (by shear position) would have had to have known the truth.     And as such were either participants in the conspiracy or (by their decision to keep quiet), also participated.     Here let us go over three of the big names involved:

J. REX FARRIOR (the local DA)
As the local District Attorney (a post he held until well into the 1940’s) there is no way this man could not have known the truth.     And there is no way he could not have known what was being said around him about the case.     As one of the leading characters in the July 1938 ‘Inside Detective Magazine’ article, “Marihuana Maniac”, would it not have been his place to have made corrections on the matter?     Instead, he either played along or worse yet, actively became involved in the cover up.     And in fact, wasn’t it his office that gave Earl Rowell the dis-information that he then repeated in his book, “On the Trail of Marihuana, the Weed of Madness”?
“On our tour of the states we arrived in Tampa a few months after this horrible crime took place.     The police and district attorneys' staff who worked on the case told us the entire terrible and fantastic story, and took us to the house where the crime had been enacted.

The police confided to us also that the father, who had been murdered, was by no means blameless, for he had been making these cigarettes and having his son Victor peddle them to the students at the high school he attended. In time, Victor sampled his own product.     Then came the quintuple murder.     Thus the father, who had sown the wind, reaped the whirlwind.”
  And if so, then this would mean that Farrior was not just keeping quiet, but was actively involved, if not directly in the murders, then certainly in the cover up that followed.

FRANK S. CASTOR - State Drug and Narcotic Inspector
As stated elsewhere; --- Conspiracy, laziness, compliance, whatever it is that happened, this guy is obviously up to his neck in it.     No question about it, he was one of the conspirators.

According to Tampa Morning Tribune Oct 18, 1933 p1, “Crazed Youth Kills Five of Family with Ax in Tampa Home”
“Had Smoked Marijuana"   W.D. Bush, city detective chief, said he had made an investigation prior to the crime and learned the slayer had been addicted to smoking marijuana cigarettes for more than six months.     This he said, had unbalanced his mind, at least temporarily.     A similar statement was made by Frank S. Castor; state drug and narcotic inspector, who said he had aided Bush in the investigation, and was prepared to make charges against the youth when he heard of the ax slayings.     He had also learned of several places where Licata bought the doped cigarettes. “
  Note however, that in another version of the story by W.D. Bush (July 1938, Inside Detective)
“Get the marihuana fiends” And then I added, “Telephone Frank Caston and get the files of all the cases on which he and I worked a couple of months ago.     Work with Frank in the roundup of addicts.” Frank S. Caston is drug and narcotic inspector for the state of Florida.     Only a month before the bloody day in the Licata house, Frank and I had made a sortie into the realms of the reefers, confiscating supplies of the drug, placing the pitiful victims of its craving in institutions.     Our investigations had revealed much that could be of value now. “
  Chief Detective Bush then goes on to tell about how he interrogated a Marihuana Fiend in jail and that that was how he discovered that Victor was a Medical Marihuana addict.     NOT via the investigation as stated in the newspaper article above.     In addition, in the 1933 (actually 1934) "Annual report - State Board of Health, State of Florida" Frank S. Castor writes as follows:
Annual report - State Board of Health, State of Florida"
Frank S. Castor; state drug and narcotic inspector,
"The work of the Division of Drug Inspection has continued to the satisfaction of all but a few of the pharmacists of the state and has been instrumental in maintaining pharmaceutical practices on a high plane, the work has been greatly increased by new duties in the enforcement of the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act (Laws of 1933).     The work of the drug inspectors has revealed a serious smuggling of marihuana cigarettes, which is one of the worst of the narcotic evils.   The marathon dance halls have been found to be favored hangouts for criminals engaged in marihuana smuggling. "
  That’s it, that’s all.     No actual mention of the Licata case, nothing, --Obviously someone is trying to ignore and bury the whole thing at this point.

Detective Chief W.D. Bush (Tampa, Florida)
About this (very untruthful) Tampa Police Chief Detective we have already said so much.     Here it is enough to say that he and everything that he has said has been discredited.

However, here the issue is not; Was he telling the truth?     But rather, why was he lying so much about the case?     --- I remember when I was in the military, being told that if we were ever captered, the best answer we could give our interrogators was, “I don’t know”.     If we tried lying, the interrogators would (by the direction of our lies) and those of the other prisoners, be able to get at the truth.     Here it might be interesting to apply that same logic to Mr. W. D. Bush.     He has been caught lying --- But in what direction was he going.     What was it that he was trying hard for us NOT to find out?

Obviously he knew that Victor was innocent, and equally obviously he was trying to frame him good and solid.

Here in answer, we must remember that we are actually dealing with two basic concepts.
  • The first being, why would anyone want to murder the Licata family?
  • The second, why would respectable members of their community want to frame Victor Licata?
In one of the previous chapters, we went over some scenarios dealing with the first question, to which we can add nothing here.     Thus, let us address the second question --- BUT PLEASE NOTE; obviously some speculation is involved here on my part, so let us try to stay with factual information -- WHICH IS AS FOLLOWS:
  1. [THE SERIAL AXE MURDERER] -- Let us first begin by (once more) bringing up the fact that there was a suspected serial axe murderer on the loose at the time.     One that just a few years ago had been terrorizing the whole of Tampa, AND NOW he was on the loose again and on the KILL again.

  2. One can only imagine the terror faced by the local officials, Police, DA’s Office, Judicial Courts, etc.     Through their minds must have run ONLY one thought; -- Did we convict and execute the wrong man for the Axe murders just a few years ago?   (See Chapter 5 for more details on what happened in 1927).     Obviously, this was the same M.O. (Modus Operandi) and in all probability the handiwork of the same man.

  3. The hunt for a scapegoat was now on --- BUT who?     Was one of the judges or someone from the District Attorney's office going to admit error?     Who was it that was going to take the blame?

    Then someone got an idea – who exactly it was we will probably never know (W.D. Bush, district attorney Farrior, etc.), does it really matter?     In the end (for whatever reason) Victor Licata was elected as the scapegoat, and one must admit that he was an ALL SO convenient one.     Mentally autistic, in a state of shock, he made for the perfect goat.

  4. Thus, the need to take an autistic, but clean cutkid, and make him look a bit more (ah) homicidal.     Thus (in all probability) was how the Marihuana angle came into play; How the emphasis on his mental state being caused by the Marihuana came into play, as well as the obviously fake stories about him talking about dreams in his jail cell etc.
Only such a goal (the need for a scapegoat) to cover up their past actions, could have brought together so many different, and powerful, and otherwise, respectful members of their community.     Out of need for shear self-preservation, a conspiracy was born.     This and only this would explain the behavior of (again otherwise respected) leaders of their community taking part in such a conspiracy to frame an innocent young man at the time.

Just ask yourself, why would W.D. Bush (still chief of Detectives at the time) want to lie about the incident as he did in the Inside Detective magazine article?     And why did none of the others (in the know) not question him on the matter?     Why did no one make corrections to the numerous statements made by Harry Anslinger and his Bureau of Narcotics (the old name for the DEA) during the Reefer madness hysteria campaign?

The answer is obvious, but we have to give them one thing.     They (quite literally) took this matter to the grave with them.     And in their minds (one can believe) they were probably thinking that they were also doing the kid a favor by sending him to a loving home away from the Tampa area.     One full of nice young men in their clean white coats, who would take care of him, etc.

BUT there was one fly in the ointment.     This would only work as long as the real axe murderer was silenced PERMANENTLY.     For if he killed again (in the same manner) all hell would break loose.     Which is why this author believes that Mafia hit angle as opposed to a long serial killer.

Throughout the course of writing this book, (due to its controversial subject matter), we have tried to keep things as well documented as possible.     I will not bore the reader with the number of governmental agencies we have contacted, grave yards we have looked at, newspaper and magazine articles we have examined etc.     And yet have been frustrated by the shear lack of available documents.

For those of you who are still not convinced that a conspiracy took place – ONCE MORE, one must ask; How is it possible for so many vital (and normally available) documents to have simply disappeared into thin air?

But unfortunately, that also means that there simply is no way to establish (with 100% certainty) that Victor Licata was innocent.     HOWEVER, we can state with 100% certainty, that if Victor had had a fair trial today, he would without a doubt be found INNOCENT.     In fact, given the fact that the evidence (as we have seen) was in many cases fabricated or misleading, or just plain non-existing, one must question whether a modern-day judge would not have thrown the whole thing out of court on the first day.

However here we are dealing with the past and history has already made its verdict.     And barring any newly discovered “major smoking gun” (and again time is working against us), this author fears that, the legend of Victor Licata, may live on as the “Kid with an Axe.”

And unfortunately, his sad story of injustice, also lives on.     In America today, each and every year, well over half a million citizens are arrested – courtesy of the legacy done by the injustice that befell Victor Licata.     America’s first Drug Police Czar, Harry Anslinger and his co-conspirators had done their job well.

DEA took Daddy away


Due to space / download time considerations, only selected materials are displayed.     If you would like to obtain more information, feel free to contact the museum.     All our material is available (at cost) on CD-Rom format.     Please contact:

Left Arrow
Back to
Chapter 18


Right Arrow
On to
Chapter 20