DAN MOLDEA: I just wanted to call and touch base with you.
BILL KLABER: Yeah thanks a lot, I appreciate it.
MOLDEA: I’m sitting here just working on this stuff right now...
ZAC STUART-PONTIER: This is a phone call from almost 30 years ago between our own Bill Klaber and an investigative journalist named Dan Moldea.
MOLDEA: I thought, you know what, I’m gonna give Bill a call, just talk to him because I’m still trying to figure this goddamn thing out.
BILL: What’re you working on?
MOLDEA: My book.
ZAC: The world of RFK assassination conspiracy researchers was a small one and Bill and Dan were both working on books about the case.
MOLDEA: You know fuck, I still can’t figure the damn thing out!
ZAC: Nowadays a mention of Dan’s name will trigger a lighthearted joke from Bill about how he “went over to the dark side” or how my talking to him is like “sleeping with the enemy.”
MOLDEA: And if there’s anything you need, you have my number give me a buzz.
BILL: Thanks a lot. Talk to you Dan.
ZAC: That’s because Dan ended up with a very different theory about what happened in the case.
MOLDEA: Certain parts of this case are just nonsense. The polka dot dress girl to me is nonsense. The hypno program thing is nonsense. I think there’s a simple explanation for every single thing that happened.
ZAC: Today on the RFK Tapes, we follow Dan Moldea’s journey to a simple explanation. It’s actually pretty complicated. I’m Zac Stuart Pontier.
MOLDEA: You gotta understand, back in those days, I was I was a bad motherfucker back then. I'm not so bad anymore but when I was younger I was a bad motherfucker.
ZAC: I met up with Dan Moldea at a restaurant in Washington DC.
ZAC: How’d you get on the RFK case?
MOLDEA: How’d I get on it?
MOLDEA: I come from the world of the mafia, that’s my expertise. I was doing a book on Reagan and the mob and I was living in Los Angeles.
ZAC: Moldea had written extensively about organized crime and even managing to get murder confessions from some of the people he’d interviewed.
MOLDEA: I was - I was afraid of nothing. I would get it mafia guys faces. I don't do that anymore.
ZAC: In the mid-80s Moldea was contacted by a group of researchers who were convinced that there had been two guns firing in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel.
MOLDEA: They wanted an investigative journalist to come in and do something that would break open the files that had been sealed in the city of Los Angeles for all these years and so they thought of me and I said that I would pursue it and then I did.
They gave me a very persuasive argument that the LAPD had destroyed material evidence, they had misrepresented key facts in the case. You know that Kennedy wasn't in the right position when Sirhan shot him. That nobody had seen the gun get closer than a foot away from Kennedy's head when clearly Thomas Noguchi’s autopsy, which nobody disputes everyone agrees to Thomas Noguchi’s autopsy, it was brilliant. Clearly, the shots came from point-blank range, contact range. So that was troublesome.
ZAC: And then there was the talk of extra bullets seen in photos of the kitchen pantry door frames.
MOLDEA: The problem was that Sirhan has an eight-shot revolver, all eight shots have been accounted for. Three shots to Kennedy, one bullet taken out of each of the five victims. I'm not a ballistics expert or a firearms identification expert. I don't know a land from a groove but I could tell you this, an eight-shot revolver can't fire more than eight bullets. That I know.
ZAC: Moldea took a look at the evidence and wrote a feature article for a local D.C. magazine.
MOLDEA: And so I went through all of these issues- muzzle distance, extra bullets, basically alleging the very real possibility that there was a second gun in that room.
And I was really kicking up the conspiracies at the time. I was doing a lot of television.
MOLDEA: There is no way that Sirhan shooting this far away could have fired the fatal shots when he’s facing Kennedy.
MOLDEA: I was getting a lot of attention for this.
TV: So who killed Robert Kennedy? Dan thinks the question is still unanswered.
MOLDEA: I don't really know a land from a groove but I could tell you this, an eight-shot revolver can't fire more than eight bullets...
ZAC: And then.
JENNINGS: Today California officials released thousands of pages of documents and photographs which constituted evidence in the case.
MOLDEA: As a result of my article, the city of Los Angeles forced the release of the LAPD’s files.
ANCHOR: 50,000 documents collected by the police after the murder of Robert Kennedy. Nearly 3,000 photographs and films of the police investigation, Sirhan Sirhan’s notebook...
ZAC: In April of 1988 the case file was unsealed. Photos, documents, interview transcriptions and many of the audio recordings that you’ve heard on this show. This was the moment it was all finally available to the public.
With all of this new information available, Moldea decided to write a book.
MOLDEA: My proposal guaranteed that I was going to show that there were two guns fired at the crime scene and that Sirhan was not the person who killed Robert Kennedy.
ZAC: And in the case file Moldea found a new angle to explore.
MOLDEA: I didn’t know who the cops were. None of us did. So when I got the list of cops who were part of the crime scene investigation. I decide to pick up the phone and start calling them.
I had a restaurant there were that the cops liked. A cop took me there one time and he told me this was kind of where guys like to come for a nice lunch.
WAITER: We have a steak sandwich, fresh salmon, beef brochette.
MOLDEA: Typical Southern California like steakhouse kind of place. It reminded me like of a hunting lodge or something inside, it was a manly man place. And so I would usually invite guys there.
MOLDEA: I’ll have the steak sandwich, please.
DAVID BUTLER: And I just think I’ll have the shrimp salad.
MOLDEA: And Dave Butler was one of the people I invited there.
ZAC: Officer David Butler worked the crime scene the Ambassador Hotel on the night Robert Kennedy was killed. Moldea wanted to know if Officer Butler remembered seeing any bullets.
MOLDEA: How was the crime scene when you first came to it? Describe the scene.
BUTLER: I got there around a quarter to two in the morning.
MOLDEA: And what was going on when you arrived?
BUTLER: There was a lot of police personnel. I was struck by the amount of people that were there. There just droves of people. The ballroom was still crowded. A lot of confusion, a lot of confusion.
MOLDEA: Excuse me, were you just struck by the history of what you were in the midst of at that point?
BUTLER: I was a trainee. I’d been in the lab all of a week. This was my first crime scene. And of course, I don’t want to make mistakes, I don’t want to miss evidence because everything is totally unknown basically going in the door. Basically, the first order of business is to locate and identify all the evidence that we could see- label it, photograph it, mark it, measure it.
MOLDEA: And the tape recorder is right there on the table so I wasn’t concealing anything. I had him on the hook and so I decide to reel him in.
MOLDEA: Who would be responsible for, say, taking two bullets out of the wall?
BUTLER: We are, our unit.
MOLDEA: And he gave me what I needed.
MOLDEA: Do you recall who took the two bullets out of the wall that night?
BUTLER: DeWayne Wolfer.
ZAC: DeWayne Wolfer was an LAPD criminalist assigned to the case.
MOLDEA: So then the bullets that Wolfer took out of the wall would just be the ones in the center divider there?
MOLDEA: Those are the ones you took out.
BUTLER: And we did investigate those other holes.
MOLDEA: But it was the center divider holes where he took out the bullet?
MOLDEA: Were you there when he took those bullets out?
MOLDEA: Dave Butler blew my mind where he said he actually saw them remove the bullets.
ZAC: Yeah, when you’re talking to him, he seems to not really understand what the relevance of what he telling you.
MOLDEA: The first interview he absolutely did not understand the relevance. I held my poker face and kept him talking.
MOLDEA: Were you there when he took the bullets right out of the center divider? What did he do, just tear it out? Because we’ve got pictures of it torn out.
BUTLER: Yep, just tear it out because we had to disassemble it to find the bullets.
MOLDEA: So you disassembled it and found the bullets? But you saw them digging into that thing?
BUTLER: That’s right.
MOLDEA: Believe me, I thought I made history that day. That was the evidence that we were looking for. I thought I proved that there were two guns in the room.
ZAC: But for Moldea the search for answers didn’t stop with Officer Butler.
MOLDEA: I had identified I think it was 180 some cops who were part of that and then I ended up interviewing 114.
Sometimes in person sometimes over the phone. I would sometimes ambush these people at their house I would go to their house and ambush them.
I went to these guys I asked them two basic questions- “What did you do?” and “What did you see?”
There were a lot of the cops who said, “Yeah, I saw bullet holes there. Identified. And so I used that for my next story for the Washington Post.
ZAC: Moldea published an article in the Washington Post where he laid out many of the police accounts he’d collected.
Patrolman Al Lamoreaux told Moldea "I do recall seeing one or two holes in the door around wherever he had shot at him. It was just obvious. Just being a dumb cop, you look and see where the bullets went."
LAPD photographer Charles Collier told Moldea "A bullet hole looks like a bullet hole if you've photographed enough of them."
Sgt. James R. MacArthur told Moldea that he had seen "quite a few" bullet holes.
Lt. Albin S. Hegge said... "I know there were some, because they took out...
Sgt. Raymond M. Rolon told Moldea that during a tour of the pantry, "One of the investigators pointed to a hole in the door frame and said, 'We just pulled a bullet out of here.’
MOLDEA: I was at a party and Ben Bradlee came up to me.
ZAC: Ben Bradlee was the executive editor of the Washington Post.
MOLDEA: He put a hand on my shoulder and he just looked at me and he said, “Good job.” And he walked away.
ZAC: When I heard all this from Moldea I knew what I had to do. I had to find a police officer who was at the Ambassador Hotel that night and convince him to talk to me. It wasn’t going to be easy. But I could be like bad motherfucker Dan Moldea I could ambush a guy in front of his house. I could do whatever it takes!
RENEE KADNER: Hi Honey. I’m not familiar with podcasts though.
ZAC: But as it turned out, I just needed to talk to my friend’s mom. Her name’s Renee Kadner. I was staying at her house in Los Angeles when over dinner she said that she had been at the Ambassador the night Kennedy was killed.
ZAC: What do you remember?
RENEE: People were saying “They killed him, they killed him.” So we thought he lost the election, we said well let’s go back upstairs and see what’s going on. So as we started up the stairs we saw two police officers with a guy between them and as we got closer you know we realised that the police officer lived with my friend Paul, he was one of his roommates. And so he goes “Danny hi, what’s going on?” And I was so close to Sirhan I could of reached out and touched him. And Danny said, “Can’t talk now, I’ll tell you later.” And continued down the stairs so Paul and I followed him.
ZAC: Renee hadn’t spoken to her friend’s roommate, Danny, in decades but she said she’d try to find him for me.
RENEE: So I googled and there was a Danny Jensen but I wasn’t sure it was the right one so I phoned and it went to a message service and I just said, “Hi Danny, this is Renee” you know I said, “I’m sure you remember me now if this is the right Danny please call me back, and if it’s not the right Danny call me back so I can keep looking.”
ZAC: But then, so what I remember is like, the next day you came into the room and you had the phone and you just handed it to me and said, “It’s Danny.” I talked to Danny and boy did he have a story to tell.
ZAC: Renee’s friend Danny, after the break.
ZAC: Thank you so much Renee for the help, I really appreciate it.
RENEE: You’re welcome, I’ll talk to you soon. Bye honey.
ZAC: Talk to you soon. Bye.
JENSEN: The neighborhood I lived in, you were going to be a cop or a fireman or a priest but I’m not much of a priest. And fires scare me.
ZAC: This is Daniel Jensen. In 1968, he was a 21-year-old rookie cop with the Los Angeles Police Department. And he remembers the day of the California primary very well.
JENSEN: There had been a lot of friction that day between LAPD and the Kennedy people.
ZAC: Can you say a little more about that? What kind of friction?
JENSEN: Well we were told that day at roll call, you know, before the event, that the Kennedy people are in town.
They didn't want anything associated with LAPD because of the bad reputation LAPD had with the African-American community.
ZAC: And why did the LAPD- what was their beef with Kennedy?
JENSEN: He was a Democrat. You have to understand this is in the 60s the Los Angeles Police Department in public you couldn't call a black person the N word. They just referred to them as Democrats. And that was one of the worst insults you could make of someone, you'd call him a Democrat and that was the code word for other derogatory terms.
ZAC: According to Jensen, Kennedy and his staff decided to spend their time in Los Angeles without the help of the LAPD.
JENSEN: They didn’t want any Los Angeles cops around them. None. Uniform or nonuniform. They declined the VIP protection and even declined a motorcycle escort from the airport to the hotel. So LAPD- this is what I was told and the guys laughed about it because we were talking about a roll call- the LAPD motorcycle officers then lined up from the airport to the Ambassador Hotel at all the red lights and as the motorcade came through then the LAPD was pull them over and give them citations for running red lights.
ZAC: And this is the morning he was...
ZAC: This is the morning of that he gets...
ZAC: Assassinated. Wow.
POLICE RADIO: Police department.
HOTEL PHONE: Yes this is this Ambassador Hotel. They have an emergency they want the police to the kitchen right away.
POLICE RADIO: What kind of an emergency.
HOTEL PHONE: I don’t know honey they hung up I don’t know what happened.
POLICE RADIO: Well find out we don’t turn out without-
HOTEL PHONE: I beg your pardon.
POLICE RADIO: We have to know what we’re sending on.
HOTEL PHONE: Well honey they want ambulance too so I don’t know I’ll ring back hold on.
POLICE RADIO: Alright.
HOTEL PHONE: You know we have Mr. Kennedy here.
POLICE RADIO: Big deal.
HOTEL PHONE: I don’t know what happened but it’s something. I think somebody was shot.
POLICE RADIO: Oh great.
JENSEN: We’d just come on duty and we went up near Wilshire Blvd when radio said that they had shots fired at the Ambassador Hotel.
POLICE RADIO: 2L30 reporting Senator Kennedy has been shot at the Ambassador. All available units meet me at the rear parking lot of the Ambassador Hotel.
JENSEN: And so I responded.
POLICE DISPATCH: All units additional at the shooting at 3400 Wilshire Boulevard, there is a large crowd.
JENSEN: It was a big hotel and I'd never been to the Ambassador and we were directed to the kitchen area and when we got near it, you could hear the screaming and yelling still going on. There was my gosh, close to 100 people in this somewhat restricted area. It was kind of- it was a mess. People were yelling and screaming and and the cops were having a hard time and it was a lot of shoving.
Sirhan was still on the ground being handcuffed and the other officers got - got him up and then four of us walked Sirhan Sirhan out.
POLICE RADIO: The suspect is described as a male latin 25 to 26, 5 feet 5, bushy hair, dark eyes, light build wearing a blue jacket, blue Levis, and blue tennis shoes, the weapon used was a pistol.
JENSEN: He was very quiet, didn't say one word. I remember looking at him, glancing back at him. He had this calmness with this- almost like a half smile on his face and he never said a thing. And then we marched him out.
And then as we got to the street it was it was a mess all over again. People are screaming and yelling- I guess the word got out what had happened.
POLICE RADIO: Yeah boy we’re at the rear of the Ambassador and they’re just taking the suspect away here and there’s a hell of a crowd forming trying to capture the prisoner I’ll let you know a little more later.
JENSEN: And there was a car there with two officers waiting right there at the doorway. And we went to shove Sirhan into the car and some young kid tried to jump over the top of me to get at Sirhan Sirhan and as he came over the top of me I just pushed him a little bit higher so I went over the top of the patrol car and slid it down on the other side and then the patrol car had a little bit of problem getting out and we had to clear people out of the way. So the patrol car could get the heck out of there because it was, it was pretty wild.
POLICE RADIO: 2X348 advising they have the suspect and we’re en route to Rampart Station.
POLICE RADIO: 2X348 roger.
ZAC: Wow. And then what so what did you do after that?
JENSEN: Went back on patrol. We had the rest of the night to work, workin’ on the midnight shift. You know, we knew it was a big deal.
Got a court order within a day or two that we were not allowed to talk to anybody about it. We weren’t allowed to discuss it with anyone of any of the events witnessed that night. We were to give no statements to the press. And that was my first and last. That had never happened before. That was it, they kept everything very confidential.
ZAC: Any sense of why that would have been done?
JENSEN: Avoid Criticism? Don’t want a bunch of people like me talking about extra bullet holes and a second gun and things of that nature, do they? Christ, we’re gonna start another conspiracy here.
But then the next night at roll call- Now remember, this is just a bunch of cops sitting around talking- that’s when the discussion came up of the second gun.
ZAC: So what do you remember hearing?
JENSEN: Just remember that they found like one or two many bullet holes. The guy had a .22 and it was a seven shot or nine shot but there were too many bullet holes and you don't reload a revolver in a situation like that.
ZAC: Sirhan’s gun held eight shots.
JENSEN: That makes sense. So that means that I think then that if he had eight and they found ten- that was the way I recall. There were two too many bullet holes. But you remember, I’m hearing all of this stuff- locker room talk.
And one of the other officers had noted that the security guard had a .22 which is an unusual gun to carry.
OFFICER: Sit down on the other side over there. I’ll be right with you.
JENSEN: And the cops started speculating, "You know what? I bet you he capped off some rounds."
OFFICER: What is your name?
THANE CESAR: Cesar. C-E-S-A-R.
JENSEN: I mean, the guys were all laughing about it because they just thought that was funny. Probably the security guard capped off a couple rounds when the shooting started.
OFFICER: Ok, what’s your first name?
CESAR: Thane. T-H-A-N-E.
ZAC: This is an LAPD witness interview from the night of the assassination with Thane Eugene Cesar.
OFFICER: You’re a special officer employed by?
CESAR: Ace Guard Service.
OFFICER: Ace Guard Service.
CESAR: Retired after tonight. I like those quiet jobs.
OFFICER: Can you tell us what you saw and what you did tonight?
ZAC: Cesar tells the cops that after Kennedy left the stage, he took Kennedy by the arm and led him through the kitchen pantry.
CESAR: Now at that time, I was right behind him all the way down to where the steam table was and just as he got to the steam table, I was up to him where I had a hold of his arm here and I was pushing people with my other arm.
OFFICER: You were on which side of him?
CESAR: I was on his right side. And at that moment, he had reached out and sort of turned to shake hands with somebody. Now at that time I just happened to look up and that’s when I seen- all I could see was an arm and a gun. And I reached for mine.
ZAC: Cesar says he reached for his gun as Sirhan Sirhan began firing at the Senator
CESAR: I reached for mine but it was too late. He had done fired five shots and when he did, I ducked because I was as close as Kennedy was. And from what I can remember from what I did, I grabbed for the Senator and fell back and then the Senator fell right down in front of me.
ZAC: The whole interview lasts about 10 minutes and the cops never ask to see Cesar’s gun or if he fired it. And despite being one of the closest witnesses to Kennedy at the time of the shooting and having one of the best vantage points, Cesar was notably not asked to testify at Sirhan Sirhan’s trial.
OFFICER: Alrighty, ok, you going into semi retirement?
CESAR: I am, I don’t know about anybody else down here.
MOLDEA: This Gene Cesar guy had gun in hand and powder burns on face.
ZAC: In the 80s when Dan Moldea heard about Cesar he thought that he had found his guy.
MOLDEA: I thought he did it. I really did. Accidentally, maybe, but he did it. Although I don’t see how I could shoot someone 3 times by accident.
Basically, he was under the radar screen so I made it my mission to go after Cesar. I was ready to spend every day going after this guy. I wanted to find him and so I called the DA’s office in LA and I talked to some assistant DA over there, I forget who it was, and he told me that Cesar was dead.
ZAC: But Cesar had done an interview with a journalist soon after the shooting.
TED CHARACH: Is there any chance that that gun could of gone off?
CESAR: My gun?
CESAR: The only way it would have gone off is if I had pulled the trigger because the hammer wasn’t cocked. It wouldn’t have been something where I’d have slipped on the trigger. It wouldn’t have been that easy, you’d of had to put pressure against the trigger and pull it.
ZAC: And then he started talking politics.
CESAR: I’m not a Democrat.
CHARACH: Now, who did you vote for in November?
CHARACH: Pardon me?
CESAR: George Wallace.
ZAC: George Wallace was the former Governor of Alabama who was notorious for his adamant opposition to desegregation and the civil rights movement.
CESAR: I definitely wouldn’t have voted for Bobby Kennedy because he had the same ideas as John did and I think John sold the country down the road. He gave it to the commies, he gave it to whoever he wanted to, he literally gave it to the minority. The black man now for the last four to eight years has been cramming this integrated idea down our throat so you learn to hate him. One of these days, we’re gonna fight back. First of all, I think the white man is going to try to do it with his voting power and if they can’t do it by getting the right person in to straighten it up then he’s gonna take it into his own hands. I can’t see any other way to go.
MOLDEA: And so I started to do a public records check on him to see whether I could find an heir or or find a spouse or a relative or a will. And then I found him. I found out that this guy was alive and well.
ZAC: And so Moldea went to meet Cesar, in his lawyer’s office for an interview.
MOLDEA: Cesar’s sitting in a chair against the wall, and I’m seated in between and I’ve got three tape recorders on.
MOLDEA: It’s basically- let me just tell you that I am not affiliated with any law enforcement agency, police, FBI, any of that stuff. Anytime you want to go off the record, just tell me we’ll turn all the tape recorders off.
MOLDEA: I was dressed completely in black. Black leather jacket. I looked like the Prince of fucking Darkness that day.
I mean I wanted to solve this fucking murder. I was ready to do whatever was necessary to solve this fucking murder.
MOLDEA: You’ve shown me a lot of respect by letting me have this interview - we’ve been talking, this is history here. We’re talking history here.
MOLDEA: I’ve gotten murder confessions in my past. I’ve gotten two previous ones. And this one I thought I was gonna get, this was gonna be my third and biggest.
MOLDEA: I’m gonna have minimal questions about your personal politics because you look real bad about the Wallace business.
CESAR: I wasn’t ashamed of what I said. I still like Wallace. I’d still vote for Wallace. Wallace had a lot of good ideas. I’ve never cared for the Democrats since John F. Kennedy. I had no use for the Kennedy family. None of em. I mean, I read a lot of history on the Kennedy family. I think they’re the biggest bunch of crooks ever walked this earth. And I’m not ashamed to say it today.
MOLDEA: I mean I wanted to solve this fucking murder. I was ready to do whatever was necessary to solve this fucking murder. was gonna break this mother fucker down and he was gonna confess to me that he killed Senator Kennedy.
ZAC: NEXT WEEK. THE INTERVIEW.
Crimetown is Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling.
The RFK Tapes is made in partnership with Cadence 13.
The show is produced by Jesse Rudoy, Bill Klaber, Ula Kulpa, and Max Miller.
Our senior producer is Austin Mitchell.
Editing by Marc Smerling. Fact checking by Jennifer Blackman.
This episode was mixed and sound designed by Sam Bair, with a score by Kenny Kusiak and additional music by John Kusiak.
Our title track is Maria Tambien by Khruangbin. Our credit track is Revolucionando by Los Yetis.
Music supervision by Josh Kessler and Dylan Bostick at Heavy Duty Projects.
Recording help from Sean Cherry, Shelby Royston, Marcus Sterne and the crew at Tony Kornheiser’s Chatter studio.
Archival footage courtesy of Dan Moldea, the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and the California State Archives.
Archival research by Brennan Rees. Production assistance by Kevin Shepherd.
Our website is designed by Curt Courtenay.
Thanks to the Kadners, Emily Wiedemann, Greencard Pictures, Alessandro Santoro, Ryan Murdock, Paul Schrade, David Mendelsohn, Judith Farrar, Elizabeth Benham, and the team at Cadence 13.
For more information on the Robert Kennedy murder, pick up a copy of Dan’s book, The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @theRFKtapes.
If you like the show, consider leaving us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. It really helps others find out about the show. Thanks!