Nina Rhodes-Hughes, a key witness to the RFK assassination, has come out and said she believes that convicted RFK murderer Sirhan Sirhan did not act alone in the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
Rhodes, a long-overlooked witness to the murder, tells CNN in an exclusive interview that she heard two guns firing during the 1968 shooting and that authorities altered her account of the crime.
There were more than eight shots, and it's interesting that you read whatever the FBI issued, everybody else said eight shots, Rhodes-Hughes said.
Sirhan Sirhan is the only person to have ever been arrested, tried and convicted for the murder of RFK.
As he is currently serving a life sentence at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, Calif., The U.S District Court in Los Angeles is set to rule on a request by the 68-year-old Sirhan that he be released, retried or granted a hearing on new evidence, including Rhodes-Hughes' firsthand account.
For me it's hopeful and sad that it's only coming out now instead of before -- but at least now instead of never, Rhodes-Hughes told CNN by phone from her home near Vancouver, British Columbia.
Rhodes-Hughes, now a 78-year-old Vancouver resident, is an American-born television actress and local theatre enthusiast, who was serving as a volunteer fundraiser for Kennedy's campaign when he was fatally shot in a kitchen pantry at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968.
Forty-four years after the shooting, Rhodes-Hughes has brought one of the great American tragedies back in to the news spotlight, as she tells CNN that she heard at least 12 shots that day -- not eight as argued by the California prosecutors who convicted Sirhan as the lone gunman.
In the 1969 trial of Sirhan Sirhan, the defense at no point made an attempt to challenge the prosecution's case that he was the one and only shooter in Kennedy's assassination.
Sirhan went on to testify that he had killed Kennedy with 20 years of malice aforethought, and was convicted and sentenced to death, which was eventually reduced to life in prison in 1972.
It was only after the trial that Sirhan then recanted his courtroom confession.
Despite the recent court filings by Sirhan, state prosecutors argue that even if Rhode-Hughes' testimony was confirmed, Sirhan would still be guilty of murder under California's vicarious liability law.
Nonetheless, Sirhan's new legal team disputes Harris' assertion about that state statute.
Rhodes-Hughes' recent recollection, which has never been argued before a judge, is one of the main pieces of evidence being brought forward by Sirhan's new lawyers.
On the prosecutions side, the attorney general's office is sticking by their original claim that Rhodes-Hughes heard no more than eight gunshots during the assassination.
In court papers filed on February, prosecutors argue that Rhodes-Hughes was among several witnesses reporting that only eight shots were fired and that all these shots came from the same direction.
But according to an argument by Sirhan's lawyers from back in February, Rhodes-Hughes identified fifteen errors including the FBI alteration which quoted her as hearing only eight shots, which she explicitly denied was what she had told them. The account cited a previously published statement from Rhodes-Hughes.
While FBI reports from the night of the shooting indicate that Rhodes-Hughes was definitely inside the kitchen service pantry of the Ambassador Hotel during the key moment of the Kennedy shooting, the new witness insists that the FBI got the details of her story wrong, including her assertions about the number of shots fired and where the shots were fired from.
Rhodes-Hughes tells CNN in the interview that she informed authorities in 1968 that number of gunshots she counted in the kitchen pantry exceeded eight - which is more than the maximum Sirhan could have possibly fired -- and that some of the shots came from a location in the pantry other than Sirhan's position.
What has to come out is that there was another shooter to my right, Rhodes-Hughes said. The truth has got to be told. No more cover-ups.
According to the interview with CNN, Rhodes-Hughes says that during the FBI interview in her Los Angeles home, one month after the assassination, she told the agents that she'd heard 12 to 14 shots. There were at least 12, maybe 14. And I know there were because I heard the rhythm in my head, Rhodes-Hughes said.
She says she believes senior FBI officials altered statements she made to the agents to conform with what they wanted the public to believe, period.
When they say only eight shots, the anger within me is so great that I practically -- I get very emotional because it is so untrue. It is so untrue, she said.
Nina Rhodes-Hughes CNN Interview
My name is Carey Vanderborg and I'm a journalist working in New York City. I love food, travel, craft beer, live music and writing about all of the above.