ABILENE, Texas -- Wayne Dorothy was reading his Sunday Abilene Reporter-News when he almost fell out of his chair, he said.
On Page 8A, in black and white, was a photo of part of a letter Gene Boone wrote to Dallas County Sheriff Bill Decker on Nov. 22, 1963.
Boone was a Dallas sheriff's deputy when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. On the day of the shooting, Boone discovered a rifle later linked to Lee Harvey Oswald on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. As part of his duties, Boone said, he was required to notify the sheriff of anything peculiar that occurred during his shift.
So he wrote his "Decker letter" saying he had been involved in the search of the building, and had found what "appeared to be a 7.65 Mauser with a telescope sight on the rifle."
That's what nearly unseated Dorothy.
"That was the first document I've ever seen -- from someone who was there -- that indicated the rifle they found was a Mauser, not a Mannicher-Carcano," Dorothy said.
The exact make and model of the rifle is one of the controversies that continue to swirl around Kennedy's assassination 48 years after the fact.
Dorothy, who is the director of bands at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, said he became interested in the various theories surrounding Kennedy's death while teaching in Tennessee in 1984.
While the band director at Abilene's Tullahoma High School, Dorothy said he attended a continuing education course about the assassination taught by the high school's head football coach.
"He had always enjoyed reading about the assassination, and ever since taking his course, I've been fascinated," Dorothy said.
For almost 30 years, Dorothy and his father, who also is an armchair assassination enthusiast, have amassed a large library of films, videos and books on the topic.
The more than 40 books Dorothy currently owns is just a tiny portion of the corpus of material that exists pertaining to just what happened in Dealey Plaza in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
"There are theories out there that run the gamut from absolute crackpot to more sober ideas," Dorothy said. "You have some real nuts, and you have serious scientists weighing in on it."
Dorothy said he has his own questions about the case, but he doesn't think they will ever be fully resolved.
"There's enough variation in all the theories out there that I don't think we'll ever be able to prove anything beyond a shadow of a doubt. Look, we have two different official government reports (the 1964 Warren Commission report and the 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations report) that basically contradict each other," he said.
The Warren Commission ultimately decided that Kennedy was assassinated by a lone gunman, and that gunman was Lee Harvey Oswald. The House Select Committee reported that it was likely Kennedy was killed as the result of a conspiracy.
Boone, who found the rifle, said he doesn't put much stock in conspiracy theories. He said he believes the Warren Commission's finding that only one shooter was involved.
"But, because of the political climate at the time, if it ever came out that there was a conspiracy, I wouldn't be surprised," Boone said. "If there was a conspiracy, I'd say it involved getting Oswald into the right place at the right time."
Any possible conspiracy could only have involved a handful of people, Boone said, "otherwise, something would have come out already."
Dorothy said he doesn't believe Oswald was the lone assassin, and that he doubts whether he even fired a single round. The amount of metal recovered from bullet fragments raises doubts about the number of shots fired, he said. Discrepancies between official medical reports from Parkland Hospital in Dallas, and the official autopsy performed in Maryland several days later need to be explained, he said.
But as for the rifle, identified initially as a German Mauser then later as an Italian infantry rifle?
"Well, I was mistaken," Boone said. He said he used the term "Mauser" to describe the weapon -- which he only saw from two to three feet away -- as a bolt-action rifle, not the particular brand.
Dorothy, however, is skeptical.
"The very first information out of Dallas said the rifle was a Mauser. Then it all changed, and it was said to be a Mannlicher-Carcano. How did three police officers all misidentify it?" he said.
"You know, the more I read about the assassination, the more questions I tend to have," he said.