Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Parrot Jungle Incident - Jorge Soto Martinez


DOB: 2/15/28. POB: Havana, Cuba. Granted a US resident visa at U.S. Embassy, Havana, on June 28, 1960. Arrived Miami via Pan Am Airways July 21, 1960. His "sponsor" was Michael J. McLaney, 4855 Pine Tree Dr., Miami Beach, FL.
CD 829, pp. 1-9


The Parrot Jungle incident involved different characters.  Initial information in this case came from former Dade Circuit Judge Alfonso Sepe, whom I contacted about the Milteer tape.

During our discussion, Sepe revealed a "super-secret investigation" he had directed as assistant state attorney in 1967.  He had initiated it because of exciting information he received from a friend.

What he discovered was disturbing.  In sworn testimony taken by Sepe, Mrs. Lillian Spingler, an employee of the Parrot Jungle gift shop in 1963, told how a Cuban man had entered the shop in late autumn and "initiated a conversation with her in which he stated that he could write with both hands simultaneously and that he was a sharpshooter.  This Cuban male allegedly told Mrs. Spingler that he had a friend named Lee who could speak Russian and German and was living in Texas or Mexico, and that Lee was also a sharpshooter.  Mrs. Spingler told some friends, but the conversation she had with the Cuban male was passed off until the night of President Kennedy's assassination (22 days later) when Mrs. Spingler was riding in a car with her husband, a close friend and a relative from New Jersey, on their way back from Key West to Miami.  Mrs. Spingler said that before she heard the name of the President's assassination, she remarked that she knew who the assassin was.  Because she had told several friends, the incident was reported to the FBI.

"I interrogated Mrs. (Ruth) Bastholm, Mr. (William) Vander Wyden (Mrs. Spingler's boss at Parrot Jungle), and Mrs. (Aliese) Trigg.  Mrs. Trigg remembered learning of Spingler's conversation from Mrs. Spingler prior to the assassination, and corroborated to some degree Mrs. Spingler's version."

He also said he hated the President and "could shoot Kennedy between the eyes."

Sepe said the incident was relayed to the FBI in late December 1963 when Mrs. Spingler called them.  After a quick investigation, FBI agent in charge, James O'Connor told her to "just drop it and not mention it."  Mrs. Spingler is still taking O'Connor's advice and has refused to comment, saying only, "They told me not to talk about it.  Goodby."  The FBI would say nothing.

The investigation the FBI conducted bears examining.  Several months after the threat relayed by Mrs. Spingler, the man who made the threat was identified when he returned to the Parrot Jungle and was spotted.  Alertly, Parrot Jungle employees wrote down the license number of his car.  They informed the FBI.

Several weeks passed before Special Agent O'Connor called Mrs. Spingler to tell her that he had in custody Jorge Soto Martinez.  O'Connor told her that Martinez, at the time of the threat, had been employed as a Fontainebleau Hotel bellhop.

Martinez didn't deny having a conversation with Mrs. Spingler.  He did deny making threats against the President or saying he knew Lee Oswald.

From Sepe's report: "Agent O'Connor asked Mrs. Spingler if she wanted to come to the FBI office and identify the man.  Agent O'Connor and Mrs. Spingler both state that Mrs. Spingler refused to go to the FBI office to identify Martinez because she was afraid of personal harm."  Still, O'Connor was satisfied the Mr. Martinez was not involved in an attempt to assassinate President Kennedy and did not know Oswald.  So the FBI closed its investigation.

In 1967, Sepe threw some light on the FBI's earlier report.  He called O'Connor and received the opinion that Martinez had nothing to do with the assassination.  O'Connor offered the theory that Mrs. Spingler had "exaggerated the conversation she had with Martinez and that in all probability (had) misunderstood Martinez when he said that he would like to kill Castro."  O'Connor also obligingly pointed out that because of Martinez' heavy accent, Mrs. Spingler thought Martinez said "Lee," when he had said "he."

"Lee" could certainly be mistaken for "he," but "Kennedy" doesn't rhyme with "Castro," even when spoken with an accent.  Or by an FBI man.

In her statement to Sepe, Mrs. Spingler reasserted her belief that she had heard Martinez correctly.  "I know – was sure he said Lee because I associated General Lee with it . . . That's my way of remembering, like ‘He's a sharpshooter, General Lee,' you know."

Mrs. Spingler told Sepe she had never been contacted by anyone representing the Warren Commission.  "Mr. Conley (sic) told me to forget it all and I figured, well, I told what I knew to the FBI.  If they want to further investigate it, then do it.  I was just following his instructions."
Curiously, the FBI never even had her identify the man she saw.  She was shown some pictures of possible suspects, but never one the could identify.  Sepe asked her if she was certain the FBI had picked up the man she had talked to.

"I really don't know for sure," she replied.  "It didn't even dawn on me until now that you are questioning me.  I just had the license number and I never met him again or saw his picture."

Sepe probed, trying to learn how the FBI had identified the man they had picked up.  He asked Mrs. Spingler why she hadn't gone to the FBI office and identified him through a one-way mirror.  She answered that the agent-in-charge had never suggested it.

Mrs. Spingler finally identified Martinez as the man she had talked to, in 1967, when Sepe located Martinez and obtained a photo.

Martinez was totally cooperative during Sepe's investigation, even submitting to a lie detector examination.  During the test, he denied all Mrs. Spingler's allegations.  Warren Holmes, nationally recognized polygraph expert, determined that Martinez probably was telling the truth "with the exception that in a temperamental outburst to Mrs. Spingler, (he) might have said some unkind things about President Kennedy which he had originally denied to (Sepe).  Specifically, he showed deception in his denial to the question: "Did you tell the woman at the Parrot Jungle that you were going to Washington and shoot the President between the eyes?"  He later admitted to Holmes, following the examination, that he recalled making some stupid statement like that . . . He stated he had a habit of shooting his mouth off, but vehemently denied mentioning the name of Lee."

Sepe still thinks Mrs. Spingler was truthful in her statements concerning Martinez.

If the FBI had chosen to check into Martinez' life more thoroughly, his alleged remarks might have been taken more seriously.

Martinez had gotten his job at the Fontainebleau because of a plug given him by a Mike McLaney.  McLaney had been Martinez' employer in Havana.  He had hired Martinez to clean out slot machines at the casino he operated at the Nacional Hotel.  When Castro banned gambling, both McLaney and Martinez fled to Miami.  McLaney lived in a houseboat docked across Collins Avenue from the Fontainebleau and prevailed on them to help get Martinez a job.  Both McLaney and Ken Humphreys, Martinez' boss at the Fontainbleau, confirmed McLaney's role in the hiring.

Told of the allegations against Martinez, McLaney said that he knew nothing about any assassination plot and offered his impression of Martinez.  "George (Jorge) wouldn't harm Mickey Mouse.  He has the courage of a little less than a mouse.  It's startling to me to hear this."  He said he doesn't know where Martinez is now.  I made repeated efforts to locate Martinez to no avail.

Do the tangled facts that surround both the Milteer and Martinez incidents mean anything?  Perhaps not, but the fact that they were never sufficiently explained is unsettling.

There are numerous implications that have been raised by this investigation.  Ponder this list of questions that still need answers.

-Why were Milteer and Brown picked up after Kennedy's assassination and not before?
-If, as Gelber says, Milteer and Brown were under surveillance during the President's Nov. 18 trip to Miami, were they also being watched on Nov. 22?  If they were, why doesn't the FBI says so?
-Why did the FBI round up the two extremists for questioning on Nov. 27, ruining a Miami police plan to spy on them?
-Why did the FBI take Milteer's denial that he threatened the President when they had him on tape saying the opposite?
-Why did it also take him at his word when he denied knowledge of the Birmingham bombing?
-Why didn't they investigate the threats he made in New Orleans and Indianapolis?
-What was the significance Milteer's Utah bank account?
-Why did he use an alias?
-Why are there still unanswered questions about his death?
-Why does the FBI continue withhold evidence concerning the tape?
-Why did the Warren Commission report fail to mention this Miami connection?
-Why did the FBI tell Mrs. Spingler to forget about the Parrot Jungle incident and not to mention it to anyone?
-Why do Warren Commission files fail to make mention of it?

Sepe thinks the Martinez incident is important. "It is far more significant in hindsight than it was at the time," he believes.  "So man facts have surfaced, and so much intrigue has been suggested, that gives rise to challenges to the authenticity and thoroughness of the Warren Commission investigation.  I believe a new investigation is fully warranted, and all record should be unsealed and everybody who has any relevant information should be questioned exhaustively.  

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