I found myself wondering more and more about the accumulating signs of Oswald's manipulation. He was like a pawn on a chessboard, going where he was told to go, ending up where he was placed. When had the manipulation begun? Were there some early signs? My mind was taken back to El Toro Marine Base in California, even before Oswald's trip to the Soviet Union. I thought about Kerry Thornley the one Marine whose testimony about Oswald was so different from that of the other Marines.
I read through Thornley's testimony again in Volume I I of the hearings-all 33 pages of it. Most of the testimony of the other Marines around Oswald had been reduced to half-page affidavits, but Thornley had been kept on the stand longer than most of the witnesses in the entire inquiry.
I had my staff begin inquiring about him and learned, to my surprise, that Thornley-who had been in the Marines with Oswald in 1959-had arrived in New Orleans as far back as 1961. In a routine check of police records we found that he was also in New Orleans in 1962. He had been arrested in August for putting a sign on a telephone pole on Royal Street, in the French Quarter, in violation of a city ordinance. We located the arresting police officers. When questioned however, they no longer could recall the subject of the sign Thornley had posted.
From his own admission, as well as from the statements of Barbara Reid and a number of others, we learned that Thornley had been in New Orleans in 1963, finally leaving the city only a few days after Kennedy's murder. Reid, a long-time French Quarter resident who had known both Thornley and Oswald, described seeing them together on several occasions. One of them was in early September 1963 at the Bourbon House, a combination bar and restaurant in the French Quarter. Thornley, who usually wore his hair extremely long, had just returned from a trip out of town. This time he was wearing his hair unusually short and closely cropped, as Oswald invariably did. Reid recalled having said to them, "Who are you guys supposed to be? The Gold Dust Twins?"
We were eager to talk to Kerry Thornley, but he was not an easy man to locate. It took us a lot of legwork and more than a year to do it. We had investigators going to every place in the French Quarter until we learned what had been his main hangout-Ryder's Coffee House. Except for occasional visits to the Bourbon House on Royal and Bourbon Streets, Thornley seldom went anywhere else.
Ryder's Coffee House had been small, dimly lit, and most unprepossessing. You wondered how such a small place, serving mostly coffee, had survived. However, rent was low at its Vieux Carre location, and apparently beer and wine sales kept it going. Thornley was very much into conversation, and Ryder's was a place where young people gathered to talk. When Ryder's closed down, its regulars simply moved to nearby places.
We picked our most sociable investigators and had them canvass a small cluster of bars that had sprouted up near the old Ryder's. A large number of the patrons knew Thornley. When our investigators found someone willing to help us, they would bring him in to see me and we would have a casual talk. It was all most unauthoritarian, extremely relaxed-and very productive. While Thornley did not seem to be a person inclined toward deep relationships, he had an unusual facility for developing widespread casual relationships. Moreover, Thornley, who moved around quite a bit, was that rarity of the 20th century-an inveterate letter writer. From his friends we obtained a letter here, a postcard there-no address stayed at very long.
However, mostly they came from three cities: Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Tampa, Florida. When we finally caught up with him, he was living in Tampa. It was early 1968, and our case was very far along. I had a Grand jury subpoena served on him, and a few weeks later we had Kerry Thornley visiting the Criminal District Court Building in New Orleans. (On the Trail of the Assassins, pp. 70-72.)As is usual with Garrison, the reality was very different. Researcher David Lifton, an early conspiracy theorist, knew Thornley and believed that Thornley might have information that would help Garrison's investigation. He therefore contacted Garrison, and put Garrison in touch with Thornley.
Lifton then watched in horror as Garrison concocted a bizarre theory that had Thornley as a coconspirator.