Skip to main content

R. L. Studebaker

Dallas Police Detective Robert L. Studebaker in alleged sniper's perch

Det. R. L. Studebaker leans out the window of the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot the president.

With only a couple hours left on his shift, Detective Robert Lee Studebaker of the Crime Scene Service Section in Dallas received a call. Only a half hour after President Kennedy was shot, Studebaker and his supervisor Lt. J. C. Day were called from their office to document the scene of the crime: the Texas School Book Depository. 

Studebaker was the man behind the camera, taking pictures of the spent bullet shells, the cardboard boxes used as a gun rest, the Dr. Pepper bottle left on the floor, every piece of possible evidence, all submitted with the Warren Commission.

Speed Graflex Camera

Camera similar to the one used by Studebaker to photograph the sixth floor.

Studebaker's Warren Commission testimony largely revolves around his identification of the objects in his photographs. At that point, he had less than two months of on-the-job crime scene photographing experience, having only started on October 1st. The photographs he presented to the Warren Commission were self-made prints of varying quality. Some better quality prints exist.

The Investigation

Around 1:15, Studebaker and Day arrived at the scene, having to walk up to the sixth floor because of crowds. Studebaker noted that the scene was crowded with dozens of journalists and police officers, none of whom he recognized or particularly noticed. He speculated that some of these may have touched the evidence and moved boxes around.

A few minutes after arriving at the scene, other officers discovered three shell hulls, and Studebaker went over to examine them, and began taking photographs (below, Exhibit A and B). 

Sketch of the Southeast corner of the Sixth Floor

Drawing of the Southeast corner of the sixth floor prepared by Studebaker, indicating the box they were looking at. (Top of the map is South)

Soon after, the gun was found, tucked between boxes. Studebaker and Day both took pictures of the location (Exhibit C) before the gun was picked up by Day.

They then proceeded to dust several boxes for fingerprints. Notably, no pictures were taken before any boxes were moved, so the exact locations aren't certain.

Studebaker also found a long brown bag near the window, the one allegedly used to carry the gun. However, no pictures that he took included the bag. He found a partial print on it, and sent it off for evidence.

He then dusted for prints on the box next to where the bag was, and found a palm print on a box that was the furthest into the corner. He photographed the box (Exhibit G), and later marked where the paper bag was on that print.

He then photographed a bag of chicken bones and a Dr. Pepper bottle that were left on the floor, although there were no prints on any of them.

He also rearranged the cardboard boxes to resemble how they were initially found, and photographed them (Exhibit J). One of these boxes, marked "3" in the photograph, had an indent. Studebaker speculated that the boxes would make "a good gun rest," particularly with the box stacked in the window (marked "4" in the photograph) being lower than the box behind it (marked "3), allowing the shooter to point the gun down.

After taking these photographs and fingerprint records, Studebaker had very little involvement in the investigation. According to him, evidence was seized from his office by one in the morning.

Warren Commission Exhibits