If Judyth Vary Baker is telling the truth, it will change the way we think about the Kennedy assassination. Judyth offers an account that integrates much that has been written about the assassination into a more or less coherent whole, and puts myriad facts about the assassination in an entirely new light. She has recently been in the Netherlands, getting some attention in the Dutch media, and has opened a museum dedicated to telling her story. She was the subject of “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” which aired in November, 2003 on the History Channel. Her supporters have promised a book. She may turn into someone important on the JFK assassination scene.
But is she to be believed?
Star Science Student Recruited into Deadly Conspiracy
Judyth’s saga begins when she was a student at Manatee High School in Bradenton, Florida. Among fellow students who remember her, opinion is about evenly split between remembering her as “intelligent” and remembering her as “weird,” but she appears to have been an excellent science student who conducted “cancer research” with mice.
She received a fair amount of recognition for her academic prowess, attending national workshops for science students. But her life took an important turn when she came to the attention of Dr. Canute Michaelson in 1958. Michaelson (supposedly a “CIA asset” engaged in bioweapons research) somehow targeted her for future intelligence use. She was thus drawn into the orbit of very sinister people and eventually into a plot that had the intention of killing Castro, but ended up killing JFK instead.
The “interesting” time in her life was the summer of 1963, when she was in New Orleans. It was there that she began, she claims, a torrid sexual affair with Lee Harvey Oswald, in spite of having been recently married to Robert Baker, a student and future petroleum geologist who was working for an oil company. What brought Judyth and Lee together was a plot, centered in New Orleans, to produce a bioweapon for the purpose of killing Fidel Castro. The plotters got them both “cover” jobs at the Reily Coffee Company while they were carrying on an affair and trying to produce a “cocktail” to administer to Castro. The “cocktail” would include both a virus designed to knock out Castro’s immune system, and cancer cells that would infect him and cause his death.
Other participants in the plot included David Ferrie – every conspiracy author’s favorite suspect – and Dr. Mary Sherman, a physician at the Ochsner Clinic. The research was done in the apartments of Ferrie and Sherman.
Oswald’s famous trip to Mexico City was, according to Baker, for the purpose of delivering the poison “cocktail” to an agent who would see to it that it got into Cuba and was administered to Castro.
Oswald made it to Mexico City, but unfortunately the agent never arrived to claim the materials, and the plotters decided to kill John Kennedy instead. However, instead of using their sophisticated bioweapon concoction on him, they decided to simply shoot him. Oswald, who liked Kennedy, was an unwilling participant in the plot, but never defected nor told the authorities about the plan. He was in Dealey Plaza as a shooter, but intentionally missed Kennedy, although other shooters, of course, killed the President.
Some readers may be tempted to stop reading right now, given the sheer implausibility of the tale.
That the CIA would need to develop a bioweapon to kill Castro is farfetched, since they had a variety of poisons that would have killed him – including some that would do so without it being obvious he was in fact murdered.
Further, when the CIA wanted scientific research done, they were able to recruit top-notch Ph.D.-level university talent. Their research on toxins was headed by a renowned biologist. For the MK/ULTRA project (dealing with “mind control”) they recruited top university scientists. Yet we are supposed to believe that this particular project was carried out by a high-school dropout (Oswald), a college student with no advanced science classes (Baker), a fellow who had a mail order doctor’s degree from an institution in Italy (Ferrie) and a reputable doctor (Sherman) who was in fact an orthopedic surgeon.
Ferrie, at one point, did own some mice, and told his friends he was engaged in “cancer research.” But then he also, at one point, had a large tank in his back yard which he claimed he was going to convert into a submarine to attack Castro’s Cuba.
The mice, by the way, were long gone from his apartment by the summer of 1963.
And somehow the plotters couldn’t supply a proper facility, so the research was done in the apartments of two members of the team. Real CIA research was done in university labs, or at secure military installations.
Judyth’s supposed encounter with Michaelson would have taken place when she was a first semester sophomore in high school. Given the CIA’s ability to recruit top-notch Ph.D. talent, it’s a bit odd to be told that they were scouting high school students.
The notion of injecting Castro with cancer cells is pretty far-fetched. Knocking out his immune system would have resulted in his death without any additional ingredient in the “cocktail.”
Judyth’s treatment of scientific issues is pretty slipshod. For example, in one e-mail she asked rhetorically “I would like to see a list of people involved in this case who died of lung cancer, especially if they did not smoke, such as Jack Ruby. And how many heart attacks (sodium morphate).” She further explained to researcher Gary Buell that:
Gary, David Ferrie told me about it. I actually believed at that time that there was nothing Dave did not know. In medical matters like this he described this as a method he could use to commit suicide and people would think it was a heart attack. There would be no way to discern it wasn’t a natural death.
Buell investigated this, and found that there is no such thing as “sodium morphate.” But if there is no such poison that can induce a heart attack, where did Judyth get this? Her apparent source is a crackpot conspiracy essay that appeared in 1975 titled “The Skeleton Key to the Gemstone File.” That document states that sodium morphate is “a favorite Mafia poison for centuries. Smells like apple pie, and is sometimes served up in one, as to J. Edgar Hoover. Sometimes in a pill or capsule. Symptoms: Lethargy, sleep, sometimes vomiting. Once ingested, there is a heart attack – and no trace is left in the body.” Thus a poison Ferrie supposedly told Judyth about in 1963 is nowhere in the medical literature, not part of crackpot conspiracy literature until 1975, but all over the internet by the time Judyth was sending out her e-mails circa 2000.
“Deadly Alliance” says that the virus in the “cocktail” on which the little band of researchers was working was the AIDS virus, but she told various Dutch media outlets that she was working with SV-40 (Simian Virus 40). This latter virus, which contaminated early batches of Polio Vaccine, does not cause cancer in humans and isn’t the AIDS virus nor a related one. Thus it wouldn’t in fact be of much use in a bioweapons program. When she was interviewed for “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” in 2003, the virus to knock out Castro’s immune system had been replaced by a plan to expose Castro to repeated doses of radiation to help the cancer along.
How the CIA – which failed to even once expose Castro to any of the toxins it had – was going to arrange for the repeated doses of radiation is something Judyth didn’t explain.
Does She Have Evidence?
Even if Baker’s account sounds implausible, one might take it seriously if she has actual evidence to support her story. Indeed, she does have “evidence.” For example, she has employment records showing that she did work at the Reily Coffee Company at the same time Lee did. She has a green glass, of the sort that Reily gave to customers as a premium, that she says that Lee stole and gave to her, and which she treasures. How do we know that Lee gave it to her? She says he did.
She has a letter from Senator George Smathers commending her for her prowess in the sciences. She says this shows that people in high places had noticed her and were slating her for a covert mission. But it is, in reality, evidence that senators have staffs who comb newspapers for names to which letters can be sent to ingratiate the senator with constituents.
There is at least one witness who confirms part of Judyth’s account. Anna Lewis, the former wife of one David Lewis, confirms Judyth’s claim that she and Lee went on several dates with Anna and David. This might seem like solid corroboration, but David Lewis was in New Orleans during the Garrison investigation, and was telling all kinds of stories – stories which even the Garrison people came to reject. But he said nothing at all about any “double dates” with Lee and someone who could have been Judyth. So to believe Anna Lewis, we have to believe that her husband told the District Attorney’s office a bunch of implausible tales, but concealed one genuinely explosive thing that he knew.
Interestingly, Anna Lewis, with her important “corroboration” of Judyth’s story, doesn’t appear in “The Men Who Killed Kennedy.”
The dates with David and Anna Lewis don’t appear in the earlier versions of her story. For example, she told researcher Robert Harris that she and Lee double-dated with an old girlfriend of hers from high school and the girlfriend’s fiancé. The two got married in September of 1963. Harris grew suspicious of the story when Judyth could not recall the name of the woman, in spite of their supposedly having been best friends in high school.
Judyth told Harris that Marina was constantly alone at night, due to the attention Lee was paying to her. But Marina told Ray and Mary La Fontaine that Lee never failed to come home after work and was almost never late. Marina said the same thing in her testimony at the Clay Shaw trial.
It in fact is unlikely that Judyth or anybody else spent evenings out with Lee Oswald in the summer of 1963.
She also claims to have at least one handwriting sample from Lee, in the form of inscriptions written in the margins of a book. The inscriptions are, conveniently, written in pencil, which means they cannot be dated as ink inscriptions could be. Are they in Lee’s handwriting? Judyth says they are, but when Judyth’s supporters, known to critics as “Team Judyth,” are asked about the verdict of questioned documents experts, they simply claim that “preliminary reports” are favorable.
Since it has been several years, one has to wonder why there isn’t a definitive assessment.
Interestingly, early on she wasn’t mentioning any handwriting samples from Lee. For example, in an e-mail she wrote in late July 2001 she claims:
1. Two sheets of stationery from the Reily coffee company.
2. Dated streetcar transfers
3. An ink bottle Lee supposedly used to fill his fountain pen
4. A W-2 form from Reily Coffee Company
She then claims to have “hundreds of documents and other items.” In another e-mail she claimed to have Lee’s “shower shoes.” But in spite of mentioning such inconclusive pieces of evidence, she failed to say anything about the writing samples.
The “shower shoes” are interesting. In fact, the Warren Commission did indeed enter a pair of Lee Oswald’s flip-flops into evidence as Warren Commission Exhibit 148. But these flip-flops remain in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. Perhaps Lee had another pair of flip-flops. But why would a wife trying to conceal an adulterous affair keep a pair of her lover’s shoes?
The “shower shoes” appear to be yet another example of Judyth latching onto some piece of assassination trivia and weaving it into her narrative.
Judyth does have several love letters that she says she wrote to Lee. Unfortunately, the name of the addressee has been torn off each of the letters, and Judyth’s word is the only evidence they were actually written to Lee. Robert Baker’s second wife, Rose Boory-Baker, provides a suggestion as to the real nature of the letters.
I have seen those letters. Judy wouldn’t even have them if I had not sent them to her daughter years ago. She left those personal letters in Norway when she flew the coop. There is nothing in the letters between her and Bob that would give any type of evidence of which you are implying. Quite frankly, how in the heck are you going to present a love letter from Judy to “Lee” when she tore off the name. She wrote many love letters to Bob. Gosh, if I knew now what I knew then [sic], the box would have never been sent . . . .
If Judyth’s pieces of “evidence” point to a pretty prosaic life, independent sources show her life to have been much more mundane than she portrays it. For example, her former husband remembers that, rather than being mysteriously “set up” with the job at Reily Coffee Company, she got it when she got tired of flipping hamburgers at a local burger joint.
After the summer in New Orleans, she and her husband were at the University of Florida in Gainesville. According to Robert Baker:
Back in Gainesville, we heard about the assassination during the school term – like everyone else I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. Later in the day or the next day, she brought home a newspaper and was studying it closely and said, “I think I may have seen this guy. He was a stocker or something. I think I saw him in the back room.” [capitalization corrected]
Her classmates at Manatee High School do indeed remember her doing cancer research, but it was a rather amateurish sort. One day, all her mice escaped, and the “experimental” and “control” groups got mixed up. To prevent this happening again, she started color coding the mice – something no serious researcher would do since it violates the notion of a “double blind” research design.
How Judyth Met Lee
Judyth can’t resist adding implausible scenes to her account. Consider, for example, how she supposedly met Lee Oswald.
It was through this amazing coincidence that Lee thought I knew so much.
He was standing behind me [at the post office] for general delivery, April 26, when I went to get a letter from the general delivery.
. . .
As I got the letter, I reached for it, and dropped the newspaper, and when Lee picked it up, without realizing it, I thanked him in Russian. I was always practicing Russian (which I’d been required to learn to level of conversational by my doctors, etc – and which is on record at Manatee (then Jr.) Community College–) – so now Lee heard me saying, “Karashaw, tavarish!” in Russian, and he answered me quickly, “That’s not a very wise thing to do, to be speaking Russian in a place like this.”
That did it, we began talking together.
Judyth supposedly learned Russian because the conspirators who were controlling her demanded that she do so, but she could never give a coherent account of why they would do that. But a worse problem stems from the fact that Judyth maintains that both she and Lee were being controlled, at the time they met, by the plotters. The mystery is why the plotters would not simply invite both to (say) the Café du Monde, sit them down and say “Judyth, this is Lee. Lee, meet Judyth.” Why did they meet in a vastly improbable chance encounter? Or if the encounter was “set up” (as Judyth claims to suspect), why such an elaborate plot to have them meet? And why would Judyth speak Russian to a random stranger at the post office?
By 2003, when Judyth was interviewed for “The Men Who Killed Kennedy”, the business about speaking Russian to Lee was missing, and instead Judyth explained that Lee was so “clean cut” that when he offered to walk her home she agreed.
Judyth’s Cast of Shady Characters
Judyth’s story implicates quite a lot of people in the plot to kill Castro – and then Kennedy – and virtually all of the people she implicates have had a more-or-less prominent place in JFK assassination conspiracy books.
Dr. Alton Ochsner
Ochsner was an important physician in New Orleans who founded the Ochsner Clinic, one of the nation’s top treatment centers. Ochsner was part of the New Orleans civic elite, and therefore knew Clay Shaw and served on some of the same civic projects as Shaw. Further, Ochsner was anti-Communist (as was, of course, virtually all the New Orleans civic elite), and was a key supporter of the Information Council of the Americas (an anti-Communist propaganda organization), so in the reverse McCarthyism that is typical of left-leaning conspiracists, he is suspect. According to Judyth’s account:
Her appearance [as a teenager] at an international science fair brought her to the attention of other medical figures with military or intelligence backgrounds, as well as top officials of the American Cancer Society: Dr. Harold Diehl and Dr. Alton Ochsner (of the famed Ochsner Cancer Clinic in New Orleans). Ochsner was Judyth’s principal behind-the-scenes mentor through her late teen years.
Interestingly, there was no “Ochsner Cancer Clinic,” but rather only an Ochsner Clinic – although of course the latter could treat cancer as it could treat most diseases.
Judyth’s account finds Ochsner sinister because:
Author Thomas Karnes (Tropical Enterprise) describes Ochsner as a consultant to the US Air Force “on the medical side of subversive matters.”
It then goes on to claim . . .
In early May, Judyth was told Ochsner had set up both Ferrie’s home-based cancer lab, as well as a smaller lab in the apartment of Dr. Mary Sherman, a luminary at Ochsner’s Clinic. The labs were devoted to “the medical side of subversive matters,” i.e., a form of biological warfare.
In the first place, the Air Force isn’t the same thing as the CIA, and it’s the latter, not the former, that Judyth has as a key mover in the plot. But worse, Judyth (and her coauthor Platzman) fail to mention the source of the “medical side of subversive matters” quote. In fact, it first appeared in the conservative tabloid Human Events, which identified Ochsner in a 1967 article as “a world-traveled consultant to the surgeon general of the U.S. Air Force on the medical side of subversive matters . . . .” Thus Ochsner’s connection to the Air Force wasn’t something revealed by declassified top secret documents, but rather something he seems to have bragged about to Human Events. Whatever that phrase meant, it didn’t mean a secret bioweapons program. Further, Ochsner had an outstanding reputation as a humanitarian – a fact that left-leaning conspiracists, obsessed with his anti-Communism – never bother to discuss.
A favorite villain of conspiracy writers, Banister could hardly be left out of Judyth’s story:
Often Lee would go through The Crescent City Garage, next door to Reily’s, to get to the offices of ex-FBI man, now-CIA operative, Guy Banister, who was deeply involved in anti-Castro causes. This necessitated his befriending garage owner Adrian Alba.
Why Oswald would have to go through the garage to get to Banister’s office is hard to fathom, since it would be much easier to just walk out on Magazine Street and then up Lafayette. A further mystery is why he would have to befriend Alba to do so. Judyth here seems to be taking a piece of assassination lore (Oswald really did befriend Alba, and the two discussed firearms), and weaving it into her story.
Judyth claims that “Banister used Lee to collect the names of Communist sympathizers at area colleges” and that “Lee sometimes used a work area on the second floor of the 544 Camp building that housed Banister’s offices.” Further, “Judyth saw Lee sign out guns from Banister’s weapons storeroom on the third floor of 544 Camp Street in New Orleans. Lee also kept his own guns there.”
In fact, Banister’s office was at 531 Lafayette Street, in the same Newman Building as 544 Camp, but with no connection with the offices at 544 Camp. To get from Banister’s office to 544 Camp, one had to leave the building and walk around the corner.
In spite of extensive investigation by the Secret Service, the FBI, the Garrison office, the House Select Committee, and private researchers, no one has ever placed an Oswald “work area” on the second floor of the Newman Building, nor a “weapons storeroom” on the third floor. No one has placed Oswald at 544 Camp offices, with only one exception. Banister’s secretary Delphine Roberts did indeed claim that Oswald had an office there, but Roberts suffers from an extreme lack of credibility. She failed to come forward with her story until the late 70s, in spite of having been interviewed numerous times prior to that. Further, the building’s landlord, Sam Newman, the janitor and all the other tenants denied ever seeing Oswald there.
Secret internal CIA documents, now released, show Banister not to have been any sort of CIA operative. He was, at the time Kennedy was shot, a washed-up former FBI agent who dabbled in anti-Castro and racist politics and had a drinking problem.
According to Judyth’s account:
While Judyth was in Lee’s company, she met Jack Ruby twice, in May and June of 1963, once at Ferrie’s apartment and once at The 500 Club, a Marcello hang-out. Ruby worked with Banister and Marcello in running guns to Cuban exiles.
Judyth knew Ruby as “Sparky” Rubenstein. When Lee was killed, she did not know that Jack Ruby and Sparky Rubenstein were the same man! The shock of seeing Lee killed on TV caused her to avoid all further coverage of the assassination. . . .
In the first place, it’s extraordinarily implausible that Judyth could have been introduced to Jack Ruby as “Sparky Rubenstein” in the summer of 1963. Ruby had had the nickname since early childhood, and he became incensed at the mention of it. His sister told the Warren Commission that Ruby would fight when called by it. Reporter Hugh Aynesworth, who worked for the Dallas Morning News in 1963, says that “Never did I ever hear anybody in Dallas call Jack Ruby ‘Sparky.’ I knew him reasonably well, [and] was acquainted with scores of others who interacted [with] him in various ways.”
The notion that Ruby was involved in “gun running” is an old one in conspiracy literature, and has been based on extremely flimsy evidence. There is only one documented instance when Ruby was in New Orleans in 1963: in June he traveled to the city to hire stripper Janet Conforto (stage name “Jada”) to work in his club. Neither Ferrie nor any of his roommates and friends have ever mentioned Ruby and Ferrie being together in New Orleans.
When first introduced to Judyth, Ruby already knew Oswald. He told Judyth “I’ve known him ever since he was a little boy, when he was at parties and things like that.” According to Judyth, Ruby was the “bag man” who brought money from Texas to finance the New Orleans plot.
Judyth portrays Ruby as having a compassionate side, in spite of the nefarious activities in which he was involved.
Sparky was a very circular thinker, and had never had much education, but he wasn’t stupid. He understood that the means existed to mentally and physically torture somebody so that nothing would show. This knowledge terrified him: he could imagine it happening to each of us for getting involved as we were. I’ll never forget that he said he’d rather shoot any of us than see us go into a situation that might mean this kind of unseen and unknown torture. Certainly, he was ordered to kill Lee in the end. But if he had to convince himself that it was for the best, this is how he would have been able to do it: saving Lee from a fate worse than death by a mercy killing.
Carlos Marcello, Dutz Murret
New Orleans mob boss Marcello has been a hardy perennial among assassination suspects, and we could hardly expect Judyth to overlook him. Oswald’s uncle Dutz Murret had an apparent peripheral connection to the Marcello organization, which has provided conspiracy writers with a means of connecting Oswald with Marcello. Quoting the Judyth account:
Judyth personally met other plotters, including Banister, Shaw, and Marcello, though, as a girl of 19 or 20, she was often treated as if she were wallpaper. Wallpaper with ears, a 160 IQ, and the ability to do cutting edge cancer research.
Lee told Judyth that he first met Sparky when he was just 15, and that he spurned Ruby’s attempts to recruit him into Mob business. Even so, he ran errands for his uncle, Dutz Murrett [sic], who ran a bookmaking operation for Marcello. Judyth accompanied Lee on one such errand.
Lee told Judyth that he was trusted by Mob figures, up to and including Marcello, for his ability to keep his mouth shut. Marcello told Ruby to look after the boy when the family moved to Texas.
Needless to say, the established historical record, and even the “historical record” as recounted in conspiracy books, provides no corroboration for this. It’s exceedingly unlikely that Lee, living in New Orleans at age 15, would have met Ruby, who lived in Dallas. And Lee’s Uncle Dutz took a decidedly negative view of his nephew in New Orleans in 1963, being put off by Oswald pro-Castro sympathies and his failure to get a job and support his family.
In a draft chapter of Judyth’s manuscript titled “Before the Silence Came: Lee’s Last Telephone Calls” she explains a phone call from Lee to her shortly before the assassination.
Of particular note was Lee’s remarks that Carlos Marcello wanted to make sure his deportation trial (fueled by a personal vendetta run by Bobby Kennedy to kick Marcello out of the country for good) was going to end in New Orleans in his favor – the very day Kennedy visited Dallas. “Just to show how much power he really has,” Lee told me, “he is going to time it to coincide with –” Lee broke off, but of course I understood.
“He has that much power,” I said, almost whispering into the phone.
“He wants to rub Bobby’s nose in it.”
Meaning, Marcello would deal a double dose of venom: if he could manage it, Marcello would time the very hour of his victory over Bobby Kennedy with Jack Kennedy’s assassination.
That Marcello could control the exact time of his legal vindication is, or course, absurd. He was doubtless elated merely to be vindicated.
Working for Marcello did, according to Judyth, have its perquisites.
I ate with Lee downtown, we had free access to The Five Hundred Club, a free tab, had to pay nothing, same for Court of Two Sisters and a couple of other places run by Marcello’s people, where we could come in as long as it wasn’t night-time and order anything we wanted, tab on Marcello.
Like Banister, Ferrie is an absolutely essential figure to include in any New Orleans-based plot. According to Judyth, soon after she arrived in New Orleans:
Lee arranged for Judyth to meet David Ferrie, who she would soon learn was an associate of New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello, a CIA-operative who flew missions into Castro’s Cuba, and an “amateur cancer researcher.”
In “The Men Who Killed Kennedy”, Judyth vividly describes Ferrie wearing an airline pilot’s uniform and cap. In reality, Ferrie had been fired by Eastern Airlines in September, 1961, and never flew for them or for any airline again.
Ferrie did indeed do detective work for Marcello, but Ferrie was not a “CIA-operative” nor did he ever “fly missions into Castro’s Cuba.” Both are common conspiracy book factoids. Ferrie did apparently fancy himself a “cancer researcher” at one point, but lacked the knowledge and training to do any serious research. Even worse, his amateur “cancer experiments” ceased long before the summer of 1963, and Judyth’s claim of lab mice in Ferrie’s apartment at that time is flatly contradicted by several witnesses who knew Ferrie. Judyth’s account continues:
Ferrie had lost his job as an Eastern Airlines pilot because of his homosexuality. The 15-year-old Lee had spurned Ferrie’s homosexual advances when Ferrie captained Lee’s Civil Air Patrol Unit (CAP).
Lee and Ferrie taught combat techniques to Cuban exiles at the CIA-established training camp at Lake Pontchartrain (other camps were in Florida), and portions of these training sessions were filmed. Judyth saw this film in Ferrie’s apartment.
This “training camp” account apparently stems from Robert Tanenbaum, who was for a short time Deputy Counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations and who claims to have seen such a film. Not surprisingly, no such film exists, and there is no evidence it ever existed beyond Tanenbaum’s assertion. Judyth appears to have gotten wind of the Tanenbaum claim and written it into her story.
Shaw and Ferrie knew each other well. Judyth accompanied Lee to an airfield where Ferrie took the other two men on a flight to Canada.
This appears to be taken from the testimony of a Garrison investigation witness named Jules Ricco Kimble, whose stories proved too wild for Garrison to use during the Clay Shaw trial, perhaps melded with elements drawn from a bogus Ferrie “flight plan” supplied to the Garrison investigation by a convict named Edward Girnus. The “flight plan” was discussed in William Davy’s book Let Justice Be Done which is critiqued on this web site.
Ferrie is woven all through the Judyth story. Judyth claims, for example, to have traveled to Jackson, Louisiana (near Clinton) as part of a notorious expedition that included Shaw, Ferrie, and Oswald. The real purpose of that trip, according to Judyth, was to test the lethal “cocktail” intended for Castro on an unfortunate patient in the local mental hospital. The “Clinton trip” is, of course, another staple of the conspiracy literature that doesn’t hold up under historical scrutiny.
Further, Judyth’s account of the mental patient got “enhanced” a bit when she talked to “The Men Who Killed Kennedy.” In that documentary, she claimed the experiments were carried out on a group of prisoners from Angola Prison, an entire “convoy.” A car containing David Ferrie, Lee Oswald, Clay Shaw, and an orderly entered the gates of the Jackson mental hospital immediately behind the prisoners.
And just as the plot against Castro got “adjusted” to include multiple doses of radiation rather than a virus to destroy the immune system, the 2003 account has an experimental subject in the Jackson hospital exposed to a “high dosage x-ray.”
Ferrie’s relationship with Judyth extended through the days following the assassination, which Judyth says Ferrie opposed. According to the outline “Deadly Alliance:”
Lee and Judyth had made plans for an escape and rendezvous in Mexico. Judyth tells of Ferrie sobbing uncontrollably during phone calls with him because it had all gone so wrong.
Earlier versions of Judyth’s account add other dimensions to Ferrie’s role. Judyth told researcher Louis Girdler that Ferrie showed her the “manual” for the CIA’s top secret MK/ULTRA program. Unfortunately, there was never any such thing as a “manual” for the highly sensitive program that researched “mind control.” Further, it’s absurd to think that the CIA would give such information to a New Orleans oddball. Even trusted agents would not have been shown any MK/ULTRA materials unless they had a clear “need to know.” Judyth backtracked a bit, and in a later version of her story said Ferrie had “MK/ULTRA materials” or “MK/ULTRA” documents. But this is equally implausible.
While many conspiracists have rejected Jim Garrison’s “case” against Clay Shaw, Judyth embraces it wholeheartedly. She claims that Shaw “represented Texas money in New Orleans.” Shaw is portrayed as a thoroughly cold-blooded fellow by Judyth. For example, it is he who is behind the trip to Jackson and Clinton.
Lee and Judyth were heartsick over the plan to treat a prisoner/mental patient, but were powerless to stop it. Several days after the first trip, Lee took Judyth to the hospital to see the test subject. Shaw OK’d it, as he wanted her professional assessment of the patient’s condition.
The test was a success, as the subject died within weeks.
Lee and Judyth began to realize that they were trapped. They could not back out of the plot for fear they would be killed.
. . .
Based on a message from H.L. Hunt conveyed to a Shaw associate, those involved with the labs had reason to fear for their lives once they had outlived their usefulness.
But Shaw apparently did have a compassionate side. According to Judyth’s account:
At the end of August, Shaw paid for the last of several hotel trysts for Judyth and Lee. According to Judyth, Shaw felt sorry for them.
Judyth adds some salacious details in an e-mail:
And our feelings had been out of control for quite awhile now. We were so desperate we even slept together in a red van that was being overhauled in Adrian Alba’s garage for the City of New Orleans (or some such thing). We roasted – and almost got heat stroke doing that (funny now).
That’s how Clay Shaw learned about our plight, that we needed a place to go. He arranged for us to have meetings in hotels, and the first week we got to do this was the week between July 27 and ending August 2nd.
It seems that Shaw, who didn’t mind the cold-blooded killing of a mental patient, couldn’t stand for a couple of adulterous lovers to lack a place to shack up!
Judyth can’t pass up an opportunity to portray Shaw’s death as mysterious. She claims that “Clay Shaw died suddenly of cancer in 1972. . . . He was being treated for an undisclosed illness at Ochsner’s Hospital just prior to his death.” In fact, Shaw died after a long bout with cancer, not of any “undisclosed” illness.
Judyth has also claimed that Guy Banister was killed by conspirators, saying that in the aftermath of the assassination “. . . everybody was so afraid. . . . . Banister holed up for months and quit his work entirely – they killed him (called it a heart attack, but my mafia friends tell me he had a bullet in him).” In reality, neither Banister’s death certificate nor the police report of his death mentions any bullet wound.
“Deadly Alliance” continues:
Of the 8 persons Judyth knew who were connected to the New Orleans cancer project, 5 were dead by 1967. After 1972, only she and Ochsner remained – and she was in hiding.
This might seem sinister – unless of course the five dead people were not actually people Judyth knew, but rather got included in her story at least partly because they died “mysterious deaths.”
Judyth cannot resist tying everything together, and she suggests that the “cocktail” that was intended for Castro got recycled:
However, these [bioweapons] materials certainly didn’t vanish, and I suspect they were also involved in Jack Ruby’s death, perhaps Clay Shaw’s, and others.’ I would like to see a list of people involved in this case who died of lung cancer, especially if they did not smoke, such as Jack Ruby. And how many heart attacks (sodium morphate).
As we have seen, the business about “sodium morphate” is scientific nonsense Judyth picked up from some Internet conspiracy web site.
David Atlee Phillips
No conspiracy theory would be complete without someone from the CIA, and one key suspect featured in many conspiracy books is David Atlee Phillips, a propaganda expert serving as chief of Cuban operations in Mexico City. To quote Judyth’s account:
At a meeting arranged by Ochsner’s group, INCA, held to prepare for a radio interview of Lee, someone accidentally uttered the name “David Atlee Phillips.” Lee came to believe his CIA handler, “Mr. B.,” was actually Phillips. Judyth waited in the car as the meeting took place at Reily’s.
Of course, this creates a huge problem, since Phillips was working at the Mexico City CIA station during the summer of 1963, and could hardly have been the handler of Lee Oswald in New Orleans. So the “outline” fudges a bit and admits “Mr. B may not have been Phillips.”
Unfortunately for the sanitized version, we have an early version of a chapter of Judyth’s book titled “Before the Silence Came: Lee’s Last Telephone Calls.” One emotional passage reads as follows.
I could hear him crying. We were in the very depths of hell. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t even stand. I leaned against the phone and cried, too.
“Just go!” I urged him. “Get out – it’s too late to help him.”
“Even if I wanted to, which I do not,” Lee said, his voice trembling, “I couldn’t. Not only me – they’d come after my family. They’d find you. You’d all die – ”
What could I say? I knew it was true.
“You just remember –,” Lee said, “David Atlee Phillips.”
“I won’t forget.”
“I’m going to get out alive,” Lee said, trying to choke back his emotions. “You’ll see – ”
Thus Phillips is firmly present in the early version of Judyth’s story. She seems to have backed off when she – or some member of Team Judyth – noted the implausibility of Phillips as Lee’s “handler.”
James Jesus Angleton
Judyth has rather firmly insisted that Lee Oswald was sent to the Soviet Union as a “fake defector” at the behest of the CIA. The CIA person in charge of this supposed operation was James Jesus Angleton, fabled and controversial Chief of Counterintelligence. Oswald, at the time he defected to the Soviet Union, had applied to and been accepted at Albert Schweitzer College in Switzerland. According to Judyth:
Lee told me he was told to “apply” there (without adding at this time other details I know), but that he had the choice of either destination, the college or Russia – he had been groomed to go into Russia so that eventually he could be sent into Cuba. Lee personally felt if he had chickened out of going to Moscow and decided to go to A.S. in Switzerland, instead, which was supposed to be his ‘choice,’ he felt he would have been eliminated by Angleton.
This was one of the very few names Lee gave me, he did not trust this person Angleton, he worried a great deal how to get Angleton to stay off his back when he returned from his so-called defection, as others who returned were all under suspicion. He worked out a magnificent solution.
I have details on what he did. Actually I brought up this person after that, only got the full name (James Jesus Angleton) much later after he commented more extensively on his return from Russia. I know I supposedly was not supposed to hear any of these names, but this is one that I DID hear. [Emphasis in original, capitalization corrected]
No fake defector program has ever been discovered by scholars studying the CIA, even in the wake of a massive release of documents in the 1990s. But what is most bizarre about this is the notion that Oswald would have known Angleton’s actual name, rather than some alias.
H.L. Hunt was a Texas oil millionaire, an extreme conservative, and thus, in the minds of many conspiracists, a likely plotter. We have already seen that Hunt supposedly passed a message to plotters in New Orleans making it clear that plot members who had “outlived their usefulness” would probably be killed. Judyth’s account explains the motivation of “Texas Money” in standard conspiracist terms:
This group – led by H.L. Hunt – detested JFK’s Cuba policy, as well as his integrationist stance, but mostly they were threatened by his vow to repeal a major tax windfall, the oil depletion allowance. They wanted a man in the White House they could control, i.e., LBJ, and they needed to get him there fast, as the Bobby Baker and Billy Sol Estes scandals threatened his continuation as Vice President.
Frank Ragano, Johnny Roselli
Ragano was a lawyer who defended mobsters, and claimed to have relayed assassination orders from Jimmy Hoffa. Roselli was a mobster involved in CIA plots against the life of Castro. Judyth described the involvement of both men to researcher Rich DellaRosa. But DellaRosa came away skeptical. Quoting DellaRosa:
We exchanged e-mails and at one point she rambled on about knowing Carlos Marcello and attorney Frank Ragano. Having met and spoken with Frank Ragano, I asked her some questions. She failed every one. I am certain that she did NOT know Ragano, and probably never knew Marcello either. She described Ragano as being tall and “looking like a movie star.” No offense to Frank, but he wasn’t tall and was a bit homely. I suggested that perhaps she meant Johnny Roselli. She replied that no, she also knew Roselli and it was Ragano who looked like a movie star. There were other things. Once she was aware that I had met Ragano, she never mentioned him again. [Emphasis in original]
She would, apparently, have been prudent never to mention Roselli or Ragano in the first place.
J. Edgar Hoover
After the plot to kill Castro failed, the plotters turned to “Plan B,” the assassination of Kennedy. Oswald, according to Judyth:
. . . had penetrated the assassination ring, and was in too deep to withdraw without retribution to his family, to me, and others whom he loved and cared about. He stood his ground and sent information to the FBI to the very last. But J. Edgar Hoover didn’t want Kennedy to live. JFK was going to force him to retire. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was Hoover’s next-door neighbor, literally, for years in Washington, made Hoover Director of the FBI for life when he came into office after JFK was murdered.
It’s nice to know that Johnson was a good neighbor! But the most striking thing about this is that unless Lee was phoning Hoover directly, multiple people in the FBI chain of command would have had to know about the plot and conceal it, never going public with the explosive fact that the FBI had foreknowledge of the assassination.
Other Sinister Characters
The list above includes only the most central and best-known characters included in Judyth’s account. Also popping up are:
William Reily – Owner of the Reily Coffee Company, who as part of the plot got Lee and Judyth their jobs. Reily, like Ochsner, was a member of INCA.
Gerry Patrick Hemming – Former Marine who claims to have participated in a variety of covert military and paramilitary activities, and has in turn been fingered as an assassination plotter. Both his claims and accusations against him lack credibility.
Herbert Philbrick – FBI informant in the Communist Party whose story was made into a TV series titled “I Led Three Lives.” This was a young Lee Oswald’s favorite TV show. Lee supposedly met Philbrick at an event sponsored by INCA, and was unimpressed.
Jack Martin – Employee of Guy Banister who called reporters on the weekend of the assassination suggesting that David Ferrie might have taught Oswald how to shoot. As his story got better over the years, he placed Oswald in Banister’s office.
Kerry Thornley – Friend of Lee’s in the Marine Corps, and incredibly an assassination suspect of Jim Garrison. Judyth says that he and Marina Oswald were carrying on an affair. Thornley was, in fact, not even in New Orleans at the time of the supposed affair.
Carlos Quiroga – Anti-Castro Cuban in New Orleans.
Alex Rorke – Anti-Castro activist lost in flight over Cuba in September 1963. Judyth claims she heard the name from Lee, and that it was “confirmed” by Ferrie.
Antonio Veciana – member of a militant anti-Castro group, who claimed to have a CIA contact named “Maurice Bishop,” whom many conspiracists believe was David Atlee Phillips (see above).
Sergio Arcacha Smith – Yet another anti-Castro Cuban, and a favorite conspiracy suspect because his group had an office at 544 Camp Street, the address that Oswald put on some of the leaflets he handed out in New Orleans. Both Smith and his group had been gone from 544 Camp for over a year by the time Oswald arrived in New Orleans.
Layton Martens – roommate of Ferrie’s. Judyth says he knew her simply as “the girlfriend.”
Francis Gary Powers – Pilot of the U-2 spy plane shot down by the Soviets in 1960. Judyth claims Lee told her he gave the Soviets information they needed for the successful interception. Judyth adds that “Without a doubt, Lee told me that he conversed with Gary Powers.”
Richard Case Nagell – Mentally ill man whom conspiracy books claim got himself arrested a few weeks before the assassination because he knew of it and feared that he would be a patsy.
George DeMohrenschildt – Lee’s friend, a man of extensive contacts and travels, who is routinely labeled a CIA agent by conspiracists.
William Gaudet – man with some CIA connections who got the visa to go to Mexico immediately before Lee Oswald in 1963. In later years he started describing seeing Oswald with Ferrie and Banister on the streets in New Orleans.
Bobby Baker, Billy Sol Estes – Associates of Lyndon Johnson, accused of corruption.
Santos Trafficante – Mafia boss in Tampa. Judyth claims that David Ferrie called her almost two weeks after the assassination to inform her that Trafficante would be watching her, and that she was to keep a low profile.
Janet Conforto (“Jada”) – a stripper recruited by Jack Ruby in New Orleans. Judyth “reveals” that she “was forced by the mob to go to Dallas, she did not go willingly . . . .”
Ron Lewis – an author who wrote a book claiming to have been a friend of Oswald’s in the summer of 1963 in New Orleans. Lewis’ story is almost universally disbelieved among assassination buffs, and when Judyth discovered this she quickly dropped any mention of him.
Roscoe White – Dallas cop who, years after his death, was accused by his wife and son of having shot Kennedy from the Grassy Knoll. In support of this claim, they eventually produced “cables” that instructed White to kill Kennedy. The story collapsed when the “cables” were determined to have been forged. White was a part of Judyth’s account early on, but she appears to have discovered that the story had problems, and began back peddling. Her manuscript fragment “Before the Silence Came” shows her backtracking, saying it was only an officer named “Rocky.”
All of these people are discussed in conspiracy books – most in many conspiracy books. And Judyth claims “inside knowledge” about all of them, either from her personal experience, or via conversations with Lee or David Ferrie. DellaRosa summarized his contacts with her by saying that “Judyth came off like she was the Forrest Gump of the JFK case – that she came in contact with an incredible number of principals: Ruby, Ferrie, Garrison, Marcello, Roselli, and several others.”
Judyth and the Paul Hoch Ratio Test
Avid readers of conspiracy books are likely to favor accounts, like Judyth’s, that include a large number of familiar names. After all, they have read about how these people are “suspects” and are generally sinister people. The fact that there is “evidence” that they were involved in the plot renders credible any witness who provides a first-hand explanation of their role. Thus what they have read will appear to “corroborate” the witness – and vice versa.
In fact, having too many familiar names an any account is the tipoff that the account is bogus. As researcher Paul Hoch put it:
I suspect that a useful measure of the plausibility of an allegation could be derived from the percentage of well-known names. If a source claims to have met with David Ferrie, Allen Dulles, and Fidel Castro in Jack Ruby’s nightclub, I’ll go on to the next document. Any post-Garrison story with Clay Shaw in it starts with a heavy burden of skepticism to overcome.
Hoch’s point is based on the unavoidable intuition that the vast majority of plotters fingered in conspiracy books must in fact be innocent – else a literal cast of thousands was involved in killing Kennedy. Further, it’s vastly implausible that anywhere near a majority of the real plotters have been identified. Thus accounts that include too many familiar names appear to have been drawn from conspiracy lore, and not real life experience.
A corollary of the Hoch Ratio Test holds that an account is suspect when it includes few names of people who are still alive – and who might denounce the account or even sue for libel. Thus the fact that one’s roster of conspirators consists almost entirely of dead people doesn’t suggest a sinister “clean up squad” going around killing people off. Rather, it suggests a story concocted to be “safe” in a way that a story accusing live individuals of conspiring to murder the president can’t be.
The Many Elements of Judyth’s Story
Indeed, it’s sometimes clear that not merely names of people but stories of events and artifacts must have been drawn from conspiracy lore. Both the late Jean Hill and self-professed Grassy Knoll gunman James Files have claimed inside knowledge of the “changed parade route” that took Kennedy down Elm Street on the day of the assassination. Unfortunately for both, the parade route was never changed, and both claimed knowledge of events that could not have happened.
With Judyth, one such element of her story concerns “Oswald’s Minox camera.” Judyth claims to have seen Lee with “an expensive Minox camera, typically used in espionage work.” And according to Judyth’s manuscript:
The minutiae about the Minox and its film records are too detailed to go into here, but Lee had arranged with some officer to intercept the film before it reached the wrong hands, and to make sure that it would be kept in a safe place so that its contents, which may have included photos of the notes he wrote to the FBI, could be used to prove his innocence, should he be captured.
That Lee owned a Minox camera is a staple of conspiracy books, and sounds quite “spooky” since the Minox is indeed used by spies. The Dallas police were convinced that they recovered a Minox camera among Oswald’s effects, and the fact that the FBI later insisted that they had recovered not a Minox camera but rather a Minox light meter makes this seem even more spooky, suggesting an FBI cover up. But the Dallas Police photo of the evidence they recovered shows no Minox camera, but rather a Minox light meter and an empty Minox case with a chain. Michael Paine owned a Minox, and rolls of Minox film recovered by the police were all shot by him. Thus Judyth’s story about Lee and his Minox appears to be another conspiracy book factoid that has gotten woven into the testimony of a “witness.”
Judyth, apparently aware of the “light meter versus camera” issue, has claimed that (in the words of “Deadly Alliance”) “Lee’s Minox was so sensitive that he never needed to use a light meter in her presence. She never saw him with one.” Any photography buff will recognize this as malarkey. In the first place, the Minox is not particularly “sensitive,” having an F:3.5 lens. Further the small negative size limits the ability to use (relatively grainy) high speed film. But worse, the things that render a camera “sensitive” to low light (large lens aperture, fast film) risk overexposure, so photographers using a large aperture lens and fast film need a light meter as much as anybody else.
In an attempt to discredit the FBI’s “light meter” claim, Judyth appears to have invented a story that is photographic nonsense.
Lee’s Trip to Irving
On the evening before the assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald caught a ride to Irving, Texas so that he could talk with his wife Marina, who was living at the residence of Ruth Paine. According to Judyth, she talked to Lee Oswald on the previous evening (Wednesday), and Lee told her he was going to Irving to “say goodbye” to Marina and his two daughters. In reality, Lee pled with Marina to move to Dallas so that they could both live together in an apartment he would rent.
Bill Greer’s Reaction to the Shooting
When the shooting began in Dealey Plaza, Kennedy’s Secret Service driver William Greer did not accelerate the limousine, but instead slowed down. Conspiracists and lone gunman theorists differ as to whether this was sinister, but it clearly happened. Judyth weaves it into her account in the context of her last conversation with Lee.
Lee told me that the driver’s habits had been studied, and a shot going off would cause him to brake, which would slow the vehicle down. This was desired because even this cabal feared Aristotle Onassis, who would send killers out to track down anyone who killed Jackie Kennedy, or so the rumor went – and besides, everybody liked Jackie and orders were out not to hit her. It was to spare Jackie that some very expert marksmen missed or delayed their shots that day in Dealey Plaza: she was in their line of sight a great deal of the time, according to David Ferrie, who got the report from Marcello’s henchmen as soon as he arrived in the Houston area.
How anybody could have studied Bill Greer’s reactions to a shot without actually firing a weapon during a presidential motorcade is something Judyth doesn’t bother to explain. But doing that would, to say the very least, attract quite a lot of attention.
Jack Ruby and Officer Tippit
According to Judyth, Jack Ruby (whom she knew as “Sparky”) and Officer J.D. Tippit were friends. Judyth claims to have been in telephone contact with David Ferrie after the assassination, and . . .
Dave told me that he still had a chance to get Lee out, and that he had only been connected so far with Officer Tippit’s death, which he believed was a total set-up. Tippit and Sparky, he said, were friends, and it was Tippit who was supposed to drive Lee to Red Bird airport. Unless Tippit turned out to be a traitor.
Judyth here appears to be recycling an ancient factoid which dates back to Mark Lane’s claims to the Warren Commission. Jack Ruby most certainly did know an Officer Tippit, but it was a different Tippit, and not the cop shot in Oak Cliff less than an hour after the assassination.
Red Bird airport has long been a part of conspiracy lore.
The Visit of Adlai Stevenson to Dallas
A few weeks before the assassination, U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson visited Dallas, and was treated roughly by noisy right-wing protestors. According to Judyth, Lee told her that he had himself egged on the protests, in hope that a row during the Stevenson visit would cause security during the JFK visit to be tightened. Judyth recounts a phone conversation she had with Lee.
“I read about it in the paper,” I told him. “He was spit on. He was hit with some placards.”
Lee in his conversations referred to JFK as “the Chief” – and he might also have used JFK’s code name, which I had forgotten, but have been told was ‘Lancer.’
“Better Stevenson getting bops on the head, than the Chief getting bullets in the head,” Lee told me. . . “Stevenson wasn’t in any real danger. I made sure of that.”
Given Oswald’s amateurish and transparent effort to infiltrate Carlos Bringuier’s anti-Castro organization in New Orleans, it’s difficult to see how Oswald could do such a dandy job of infiltrating and manipulating right-wing elements in Dallas.
Adding Details to the Story
Weaving a story around the things written in conspiracy books is a bit dangerous: some of the “facts” in the resulting story might be demonstrably untrue. In contrast, writing about private, personal experiences might seem safer. If somebody claims to have had a conversation with Lee Oswald, how can anybody know what was said?
Thus we find, in Judyth’s manuscript, a tearful exchange between her and Lee Oswald on the Wednesday before the assassination:
Because time was so short now, Lee told me there wouldn’t be another call from him unless he reached Laredo.
“Lee,” I said slowly, “you didn’t say until. You said ‘unless.’”
“I apologize,” he answered. I heard him suck up his breath. We were both very close to tears. Outside, it was sunset.
“You’ll go to Cancun,” Lee said. “You’ll stay in a fine hotel. I’ll be there — if they – “
We were both speechless.
“You know,” he said then, “if I don’t make it out— you have to go on with everything.”
“Oh, sure!” I said, bitterly. I told him that I would never allow anyone to replace him in my heart.
Thus Lee and Judyth were to meet in Cancun – or Judyth was to go there if Lee failed to escape – and stay in a “fine hotel.”
Unfortunately, there were no fine hotels in Cancun in 1963. The popular vacation destination has been developed since, and the place was a series of deserted sand dunes in 1963.
When Team Judyth became aware of this problem, they did some quick footwork. First, they explained that it wasn’t really Judyth who said that, but rather it was put in the manuscript by coauthor Howard Platzman. Judyth also claimed an interest in anthropology, and asserted that she was interested in Mayan ruins in the area. The first problem with this is that even an anthropological interest in this area isn’t plausible.
The claim that the “Cancun” business was put in by Platzman was quickly replaced by the claim that Judyth’s “first agent” had added a bunch of nonsensical material to the manuscript. Supposedly, the version of the final chapter that was leaked (and appears on this web site) was a “partially corrected” version that somehow still had Cancun left in.
The individuals to whom the chapter was sent were told nothing about it being “partially corrected.” Indeed, it would be foolish to distribute a draft before corrections were complete.
Judyth also told David Lifton (in a phone conversation) and Mary Ferrell that she was to meet Lee in Cancun. Neither account includes “fine hotel,” but neither does either mention Mayan ruins.
But the story gets more convoluted.
Talking on Black Op Radio, Judyth described her “first book.”
I was terrified . . . I was scared . . . I wrote a bunch of nonsense because I didn’t want to get sued. All I wanted to do was to get some publishers interested in my story and then I would give them the other book, which by the way a number of people saw my original book . . . it’s not what was put out there to begin with, that was I guess you would call it a “teaser” I put that out there to try to get interest. . . . (click here to listen to the clip, and forward to about the 6:07 mark.)
How this “nonsense” version got replaced by a “good” version which was handed over to the agent to be edited back into a “nonsense” version which was then sent out before it was fully “corrected” is something of a mystery.
To further complicate matters, Judyth has admitted to lacing the manuscript with further disinformation. As she explained in an e-mail to Dave Reitzes:
The book has what I call “flags” in them [sic]. A couple of us have the true version, and the other version has some things in it that will keep it from getting pirated.
Judyth, in fact, claims to have put thirty untrue statements in the manuscript. Supposedly, if the manuscript is stolen, one or more of the “flags” will reveal who stole or leaked it.
Thus she has all kinds of excuses for why various versions of her story are filled with malarkey. It’s because she was scared, or because her agent put it in there, or because it’s a “flag” intended to frustrate piracy.
All these might seem to give her enough wiggle room to wiggle out of “fine hotel in Cancun.” But the comments at the head of the chapter say nothing about it being “partially corrected,” and indeed state “the next section will deal with the last two telephone calls====thanks.j.” This appears for all the world to be Judyth’s introduction to material she has written. Even worse, Judyth herself e-mailed the draft with “Cancun” and “fine hotel” to several people, including her “coauthor” Howard Platzman. In the e-mail she says:
Dear Howard and all:
I am resending the “end of line” realizing it isn’t quite finished – it doesn't have a goodbye, for example, from Lee, no hang-up – I really couldn’t go there.
. . .
I went over the attached file and it’s a little better than the earlier version now, so please just delete the earlier version, unless you want to compare them and see how my memory gets contaminated! The only police names I ever heard was “unusual name” Tippit, a “Rocky,” and somebody called “Wayne” – and that’s it. File attached.....thanks everyone for your patience, this has been hard to finish. j
In one of my emails that you might have, I also described some of the last phone call. it lasted a little shorter than the others, probably forty-five minutes, I’d guess. I’d like a copy, since I lost hundreds of emails, apparently to a hacker. So if you come across it, thanks for sending it along. It has a partial reconstruction of the phone call, and there is something I might have rendered a little better there. As you know, these conversations are reconstructions as best as I can recall them. . . .
And of course, I do remember the gist of it all.
Ok, that's all, folks.
[File extracted: ENDofLINE.doc]
Indeed, I hope that “end of line” will have the same effect on the house of cards that was constructed, that a similar end-of-line scenario had in the movie TRON!
love from judyth [minor spelling and capitalization errors corrected]
The file attached to the e-mail is the precise draft included on this site, with the only change being a conversion to Acrobat .PDF format for web reading. So “Cancun” together with “fine hotel” was in a version that Judyth explicitly said she wrote, and which she e-mailed to several people.
Not surprisingly, her most recent account entirely omits Cancun and “Mayan ruins.” In “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” she claims that she and Lee were to escape to Mérida, a town on the Yucatan Peninsula (a two-hundred-mile drive from present-day Cancun) because it was a place “that had CIA contacts located there.”
Where Did it Come From?
Judyth’s story appears to have come from a variety of sources. People familiar with the JFK assassination literature may notice a distinct similarity between Judyth’s account and a story told by Ed Haslam in a book titled Mary, Ferrie, and the Monkey Virus. The Haslam book plays on the notion, taken seriously in some quarters, that the AIDS virus was concocted in a secret government lab.
Judyth’s supporters insist that the Haslam account is “corroboration” of Judyth’s story. But the first edition of the Haslam book came out in 1995, years before Judyth began to tell her tale. How does Team Judyth know that her account is independent of Haslam’s? Because she told them it was.
Judyth in “The Men Who Killed Kennedy”
To believe that Haslam and Baker are giving two independent corroborating accounts, it’s necessary to believe that something this implausible might really have happened. If it didn’t happen, Judyth’s account must be derived from Haslam’s.
Judyth clearly got one piece of nonsense from Haslam. She points out that Mary Sherman was murdered on July 21, 1964, and says this was the day “when the Warren Commission came to get her testimony. . . . They killed her the same day. You can imagine how many people wouldn’t even say a word after that.” In fact, the Warren Commission didn’t even know that Mary Sherman existed. She entered the world of conspiracy theorizing due to Jim Garrison’s investigation. Haslam pointed out the coincidence of dates in a 1996 article, and Judyth repeated it, upping the ante with a claim that the Warren Commission was going to interview Sherman.
Judyth’s inclusion of David Atlee Phillips as Oswald’s CIA “handler” apparently stems from something Luis Urrea, one of her English professors, told her. Urrea had been told by Sean Phillips, nephew of David Atlee Phillips, that the latter made a deathbed confession of having been Oswald’s Mexico City handler. Urrea passed that information along to Judyth, without necessarily vouching for its accuracy, and was a bit surprised when it appeared in her account.
Researchers who were in contact with Team Judyth have added their bit of spice to the soup. For example in August 2000 one of them reported to Team Judyth “information” that David Ferrie had collected toys for a Christmas toy drive organized by Dr. Mary Sherman. When Judyth talked to Black Op Radio in 2004, she reported that Ferrie and Sherman had met during Sherman’s big toy drive.
Judyth and Garrison
Judyth says she first watched the movie “JFK” in 1998, and became moved to “tell her story.” So it’s not surprising that many on Judyth’s list of plotters seem to have come from the Garrison investigation. Judyth implicates Clay Shaw, the man Garrison tried for the murder of Kennedy. Anti-Castro Cubans figured prominently in his thinking, as did Banister and Ferrie.
But many of her plotters aren’t found on the movie “JFK,” and she appears to have done considerable reading on the assassination. Ochsner and Reily were Garrison suspects and the DA was, at one time, close to arresting both of them. His only evidence against them was that they were anti-Communist activists. Garrison suspected Mary Sherman, whom he believed had a sinister link with Ferrie. Garrison even thought Kerry Thornley was a suspect, mostly on the basis of Warren Commission testimony that portrayed Oswald in an unfavorable light.
Including the Mob
One set of plotters who were not Garrison suspects were the mobsters. The Orleans Parish district attorney quite conspicuously ignored the Mafia in this “investigation.” Judyth remedies this defect by adding them to the mix. But she also provides an explanation for his steering clear of the mob. Garrison, Judyth explains, carried on a sexual relationship with an hermaphrodite stripper named Sandra Sexton and was “compromised” since the Marcello organization knew about it. In an e-mail she sent to a researcher, she elaborated on this theme:
Sandra had silicone implants, which supposedly conveniently gave trouble about the time, I think, that Garrison needed her in town the least. Off s/he went to New York, and though s/he was a famous attraction, Mac [McCullough] said he never saw Sandra again and wonders if s/he is still alive.
I think Sandra wisely hid itself . . As others of us did. S/he supposedly cared for Garrison. Sandra worked in The Five Hundred Club but I think I remember independently that s/he also worked in the one across the street to start with, then came top billing, and a “room at the top” on second floor at The Five Hundred Club, where Garrison most likely, by the way, was not the only client. This exotic dancer was idolized by many a man who did not know the anatomical peculiarities as Garrison had to know them, despite operations and implants.
Admit I smile at thinking about the film JFK and Jim Garrison’s true “family matters.”
Judyth has a demonstrated tendency to inflate her importance and accomplishments. One example of this is her foray into dog breeding. Before she moved to the Netherlands in early 2003, she was a breeder of the “American Cream Dog.” Quoting her own description of the breed:
The American Cream is a rare breed of dog developed for Guide and service and Canine Companion use. ACPBA [American Cream Puppy Breeders Association] headquarters is in Palmetto, LA, near the University of SW Louisiana, where their high intelligence is under study.
Her web page on this “breed” is, at this writing, still visible on the Internet. It claims:
They are beautiful dogs. Clean, intelligent, wise. They are a new breed of dog, developed to be a special companion for home and family, and for every stage of human life. They were created in honor of an unrecognized American patriot.
The “unrecognized American patriot” is Lee Harvey Oswald.
She goes on to explain that her dogs:
Have been tested in psycholinguistics experiments at University of Louisiana. One learned American Sign language.
Another dog named “Susan” she explains, “has been tested to know more than 250 words.”
What was the ancestry of this dog? It traces back to a mutt that Judyth brought back to the United States after living briefly in Norway. Of course, established breeds of dogs are typically cross-breeds from existing stock, but a legitimate breed must go through several generations so that it will “breed true.” The American Kennel Club does not recognize the American Cream Dog.
When some Internet newsgroup posters who are dog lovers first noticed Judyth’s web page about her new “breed,” they proceeded to caustically trash the whole idea.
Judyth has been willing to engage in some chicanery to support her claims about her dogs. On one occasion she and several other students were in the home of Professor Urrea, for an informal seminar meeting. Judyth profusely praised the American Cream dog she had brought along, touting the breed’s intelligence. As the seminar progressed the dog was on the floor next to her, and she surreptitiously reached down and unfastened the dog’s collar. As the dog bounded free, she enthused over how smart it was to escape the collar. But both Urrea’s wife and Urrea himself observed her releasing the dog.
Judyth As Mormon Scholar
Judyth joined the Mormon Church with her husband in 1969, and for several years seemed to prosper in the church. She said that she:
. . . [r]ose through Mormon ranks and met most of its leaders – very hard to do – and got inside the machinery of that religion, being a state and regional official in different areas of function, including publicity and achieving [sic] historian. What I wrote became the final version of the church’s history of its members and its official activities in a wide section of Texas. Can I recount historical events accurately? Mormon Apostles, Stake Presidents and Bishops thought so.
Yet she eventually became disillusioned. She posted the story of her disillusionment on an Internet web page, in response to another post about Mormonism.
My dear friend, you have just hit the tip of the iceberg. I was a Mormon in high places for ten years in a seventeen year long membership. The church evolves. What any dead prophet ever said is never considered as “true” as what a living prophet says. In this manner, the church has not built upon a solid foundation, but upon Swiss cheese. The church is filled with good people, but they are being led by men who well know the true history and teachings of the church, which are in direct conflict with many ideas and doctrinal interpretations being dished out today. If the foundation is rotten, this house will not stand. I was a regional publicity director and historian in the church. I left the church because, having studied ancient Egyptian as a linguist for over a decade, I could no longer condone that Joseph Smith had translated ANYTHING correctly from “Egyptian” in the Book of Abraham. I had Hugh Nibley, the church’s ex officio Egyptian and Semitic language specialist, contradic [truncated in original, spelling and capitalization corrected, emphasis in original]
The Book of Abraham was a “translation” of an ancient Egyptian manuscript produced by the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith and was claimed by Smith to supply new information about Abraham of the Old Testament, father of the Jews. In fact, the manuscript had nothing to do with the biblical Abraham, and Smith simply concocted a fanciful story and claimed it to be a translation. But would Judyth need to study ancient Egyptian, and be an historian in the Mormon Church to determine this?
The “Book of Abraham” was debunked in the 1860s. Quoting from Fawn Brodie’s fine biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History, pp. 174-175:
Moreover, the [Book of Abraham] laid Joseph open to the ridicule of future scholars, for his papyri were almost certain to be examined at some later date by experts in the Egyptian language. Unlike the golden plates [of the Book of Mormon], which had been whisked back into heaven, the mummies and papyri were kept on exhibit in both Kirtland and Nauvoo. The actual papyri escaped scholarly examination for many years. After Joseph’s death they were sold by a friend of William Smith to the Wood museum and were thought to have burned in the great Chicago fire. Such a disaster might have ended all chance of exposing Joseph’s mistake had he not preserved three facsimiles of the papyri, which he published in 1842 with elaborate interpretations.
These interpretations were first challenged in 1860, when a French traveler, Jules Remy, who had become interested in the Mormons, called them to the attention of the Coptic student Theodule Deveria in the Louvre. Remy arranged the two strikingly divergent interpretations in parallel columns and published them in 1861 in his A Journey to the Great Salt-Lake City.
Later the half-dozen leading Egyptologists who were asked to examine the facsimiles agreed that they were ordinary funeral documents such as can be found on thousands of Egyptian graves.
So did Judyth, in the 1980s, finally figure out that the Book of Abraham was bogus? Was she entirely oblivious to all the writings critical of Smith’s work? Even assuming that she was insulated from non-Mormon sources, had she never come across the definitive scholarly translation of the papyri published in Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought in the Summer of 1968? Note that Judyth claims to have been important in Mormon circles, to have been a church historian, and to have met church “bigwigs.”
Yet she told W. Tracy Parnell that she was the first “Mormon in good standing” to “confront the Mormon church with findings 100% at odds with the so-called ‘translation’ by Joseph Smith of the Book of Abraham papyrus.”
She also claims to have studied the papyri as part of her “anthropology honors thesis.” Did she “reinvent the wheel” as the result of her great linguistic talent, or did she claim credit for a discovery that had been made a century before she ever became a Mormon? The former is about as plausible as finding an “A” student in a college calculus class who can’t do long division.
Interestingly, Team Judyth has never tried to substantiate her fluency in ancient Egyptian.
Judyth and Bertrand Russell
Not only does Judyth involve a very large cast of Americans in her saga, she also includes Britisher Bertrand Russell. Russell was one of the great philosophers of the 20th century, although by the 1960s he was very old, bitter, and virulently anti-American. But Judyth’s interest in him seems to have been more personal than political. According to Mary Ferrell:
She claims she wrote to Bertrand Russell about her reluctance to have sex with Lee because she and he were both married at the time. She says that Russell wrote to her that she must not let anything hold her back if they were in love. They must have sex.
Russell’s papers do indeed contain a letter that Judyth wrote to Russell. Unfortunately for Judyth’s story, it is dated May 19, 1968, almost five years after her extramarital affair with Lee began.
On November 8, 2000, this writer posted a message describing the contents of her letter on the Internet newsgroup alt.assassination.jfk. Two days later, Judyth e-mailed several people with an “explanation” of her correspondence with Russell.
I first wrote Lord Bertrand Russell in early 1962, after receiving a telegram from the entertainment mogul Arthur Godfrey, who contacted the Damon Runyon Foundation. Lord Russell heard of me from a member of the foundation and sent me an encouraging note about my cancer research. . . .
In early 1964, I wrote again, this time asking him to destroy both that first letter and a letter that had been sent to him from New Orleans in May, 1963, by the “FPCC.” (Lee, me, Dave Ferrie, and two Cubans, one named Carlos, had all signed the letter – this terrified me in early 1964).
I told him in this January, 1964 letter that I had been forced to leave the medical field, and was even forced to stay married, to keep my maiden name unknown, for having personally associated with the accused assassin. I added that I feared for my life. I also told him that Lee was innocent.
Lord Russell kindly sent me a reply, a real letter, a few weeks later, saying he routinely destroyed all letters such as the politically dangerous one written to him, and that I must do the same, since many people considered him a communist. He agreed that Lee was innocent and said nobody in Europe thought he had done it. He then gave me advice that ended with “Live! Death is when you cease to die!” which I later incorporated into a poem.
Four years later, ten days before giving birth to a daughter . . . I wanted to cheer Lord Russell, as I heard he was quite ill.
I believed it was now safe to write again, at last.. So I did, reminding him of his positive impact on my life. His secretary eventually sent me an letter that Lord Russell expressed regret that he was too ill to write to me. I still own that reply.
Judyth’s attempt to explain away the fact that the documents in the Russell papers don’t support her story has several problems. In the first place, she claims to have saved a letter from Russell’s secretary. But she failed to keep the letter from Russell himself, which was supposedly “too dangerous.” Yet she claims to have kept writing samples from Lee Harvey Oswald. Much worse, the 1968 letter she sent to Russell makes no mention of any previous correspondence. Instead, she thanks him profusely for his published works. There seems to be a sharp conflict between Judyth’s current story, and the documents in the archive.
This appears to be another example of her taking a scrap of material out of her old belongings and concocting an elaborate tale around it, like the letters from important people that recognized her achievements in science (but supposedly show that nefarious plotters had taken notice of her), and bus transfers which show she took the bus to work (but which supposedly show that she rode to work with Lee Oswald).
My Dog Ate the Evidence
If Judyth doesn’t have any solid evidence to connect her to Oswald, she has lots of excuses. Consider, again, her green glass. It supposedly contained a note from Lee, which she kept with the glass. But her daughter threw it away, not thinking that it was valuable. As Judyth explains:
Yes, Jack Ruby knew about the Green Glass because that was one of the excuses used to finally fire Lee. These green tea glasses on crystal pedestals were included as premiums in large boxes of tea. They were inserted just before the boxes were closed by a machine on the packing line. One of Lee’s jobs was to oil the packing rollers, etc. . . .
I can prove I know the packing and shipping back there and what Lee was doing. He actually reached into a box and got me a green glass over an altercation where I should have been given a glass and was not, so he ‘stole’ one from a box as they were being sealed. Because nobody knew which box it was and they couldn’t reopen the boxes, the line boss was really angry at Lee for doing this, and this last report ended up being used as one of the reasons to bring his name up once more for termination. Because Lee was ready to leave, he didn’t care about this infraction anyway – he knew he was going to be terminated soon so that he could be more openly pro-Castro, an impossibility while working at Reily’s.
I kept the glass, which also had a note Lee had written kept inside it (another part of the story) which my daughter observed but, not knowing it was valuable, tossed away only five years ago when we were packing our best glassware for moving.
I had told her to be careful with the glass but had forgotten to tell her to keep the paper inside it. However, she does remember the note was in there and dated from 1963. It was a “fake receipt” which Lee created in the back room so I would not be in trouble for having the glass, with no obvious box of tea, at my half-desk.
So my children knew the green glass was from Lee, but didn’t even know who he really was, as I NEVER spoke of this matter. So she threw the note away. She remembered doing it and has apologized.
What kids do! (which is why I basically kept everything tucked away just so things like that would not happen! She did not know who “Lee H. Oswald” really WAS, she hadn’t thought about it. I am too tired to write more at present and hope this helps assuage your curiosity. ===j== [spelling, punctuation, and capitalization corrected, emphasis in original]
So her daughter threw out the “note” that looked just like a receipt. She did it because she didn’t know who Lee Harvey Oswald “really was” and “she hadn’t thought about it.” Circa 1997, when this supposedly happened, her daughter was grown, and it’s hard to believe she didn’t know the name of the most famous assassin/patsy in all of American history.
That Lee would steal a glass from a packing line, when whole pallets of glasses doubtless resided in some storeroom at Reily, is odd. And of course the Warren Commission, and numerous researchers since, have examined Lee’s firing at Reily and found no evidence whatsoever that the theft of a green glass had anything to do with it.
Then there is this, from an e-mail written in September 2000, to explain the “disappearance” of other evidence.
About this time last year, my former landlord, a drug addict, stole my diary, some jewelry and other things. He stole valuables from the other two trailers he also owned, at the same time, and the police were on their way. So he built a bonfire – under my window – and burned the evidence – probably what happened to the diary that had four pages from 1963 in it – before he was taken off to jail anyway – and of course, seeking a more secure habitat, at the urging of my good friends, I moved into the most secure – and nicest – apartment complex available here, even though it’s pricey for me. . .
So she would have a diary showing contemporaneous mention of her affair with Oswald and perhaps her role in the assassination plot, but the drug addict landlord of her trailer park home burned it.
Team Judyth has pointedly ignored questions about whether they ever sought a police report that could confirm this incident. Judyth gave a similar account to a researcher Louis Girdler, and According to Girdler:
I asked for the same thing when she told me her “apartment” was burgled. When I asked for a cc of the police report [which she would need for an insurance claim], she admitted that it was her neighbor’s apartment that was broken into – but (she added quickly) her “window screen had been cut.”
Judyth has all kinds of excuses for why absolutely critical evidence isn’t available. For example, in one e-mail she gave an extended account of her preservation of “evidence.”
We’ve been accumulating NEW AND SUPPORTING evidence for a year and a half. That’s because people are being asked about me. They were not asked before. And others are finding evidence nobody knew to hunt for before.
But long before that – for three and a half decades, in fact – I have never let the evidence be out of my possession, and it has always been at my side whenever I entered or left any country (as an anthropologist – B.S. degree in anthropology, with additional graduate hours and lots of field work – and as the wife of a geologist-mathematician, I have lived out of country and also traveled extensively ) .
[ . . . ]
5) I HAVE FULL DOCUMENTATION FOR ALL MY ASSOCIATIONS WITH LEE HARVEY OSWALD, INCLUDING SOME PERSONAL ITEMS AND HIS HANDWRITING.
6) For thirty-seven years, carried THE EVIDENCE everywhere. Even to Norway and back, by plane. Even to Mexico, lived an entire summer there.
I carried the evidence in my suitcase, never out of my sight at any time, when moving. THAT is the kind of evidence it is. There was no rummaging through attics for it.[emphasis in original]
OK, so Judyth has all the “evidence” – including things such as the “green glass” (see above) with her. But there is one class of evidence she was much less careful with.
I DID NOT CONSIDER LEE’S HANDWRITING AS EVIDENCE
FINDING LEE’S HANDWRITING
I have a library of books, some of which are on display in my living room. Many more are in boxes. My daughter, Sarah, has rummage through all my books. She or another of my five children even took the book Lee wrote in to school and put yellow magic marker underscoring in it! That’s how useless I thought Lee’s handwriting would be – because there was no signature. I am just glad the book wasn’t lost or damaged more than it was.
The other books where Lee had written marginal comments was in bad shape, though. It [sic] had been badly chewed by puppies (the box of books had been on the big porch where the puppies were kept, as part of a barrier, and they chewed through the box one day and dragged out these paperback books) . . . (I had raised guide dog puppies and canine companion puppies, that’s why there were puppies on my porch).[spelling and capitalization corrected, headings capitalized in original.]
So Judyth would have more samples of Lee’s handwriting – if her dogs hadn’t chewed up the books that contained them.
Victim of Harassment?
Judyth is, as of this writing, living in the Netherlands, supposedly driven out of the U.S. by “harassment.” She has claimed:
I lost my job for speaking out. I was hounded, harassed, made fun of. But I will never waver, even though I am now forced to live in a foreign country where I have been kindly treated.
I’m over here because I was threatened, harassed, followed . . . my life was made miserable in the United States just because I started talking.
What was the precise nature of the harassment? According to Martin Shackelford
(1.) a friend’s home filled with piles of excrement, requiring the family to move out of the house, (2.) a white van which began to show up wherever Judyth was, and which was seen (and identified as the same van each time) by neighbors, (3.) firing from a teaching job as a result of a campaign organized by an FBI employee who didn’t want their child taught by “a friend of Lee Harvey Oswald,” and (4.) ransacking of Judyth’s home and disappearance of some Oswald-related materials (fortunately only copies).
Needless to say, Team Judyth has not verified the accuracy of any of this. Why conspirators would put excrement in the house of Judyth’s friend, rather than in Judyth’s own home, is difficult to understand, and the obvious conclusion is that her friend had enemies or was the victim of an act of random vandalism.
The “white van” is also claimed by Judyth to have harassed her friend Debbee and her sister:
My sister and Debbee – who has been spending significant time at Dallas archives public library, where they let her, she says, have only one file at a time, are upset again because they were again being followed by a white van. This time there was a satellite dish of some kind on top of the roof, they said. Anyway, I told them to write an affidavit and get it notarized.
Judyth’s problems with white vans appear to go beyond mere harassment, however. In a rather irate post on the Internet newsgroups, she said that:
ALTHOUGH I AM QUITE ILL AT PRESENT DUE TO BEING STRUCK BY A PERSON DRIVING A WHITE VAN WHO CANNOT PRESENTLY BE LOCATED, THE NAME OF ‘JUDYTH VARY BAKER’ HAS ALWAYS BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH GOOD DEEDS AND HONEST REPORTAGE IN THE PAST. I WILL NOT ALLOW MY GOOD NAME TO BE CARELESSLY SULLIED BY OTHERS. [capitalization in original]
People who have talked at some length to Judyth usually come away with a list of implausible tales she has told them. Robert Harris, for example, talked to her for three hours on the phone, and exchanged some e-mails. Judyth told him that somebody stole the hard drive out of her computer. They didn’t steal the entire computer, which would have been easier and would give the appearance of a routine robbery. No, they apparently wanted to save her the expense of buying a whole new computer!
Judyth has repeatedly claimed to have gotten death threats. And she told Robert Harris that (in Harris’ words):
She was on a flight which had to make an emergency stop in St. Louis, due to a passenger having a heart attack. A sinister looking character sitting near her, said, “If we can do that to him, think what we can do to you.”
Given the ruthlessness of these supposed plotters, why they would stage an elaborate tableau to intimidate Judyth rather than simply killing her is a huge mystery.
Judyth, in fact, has constantly claimed harassment from sinister people supposedly out to silence her. In an e-mail sent to several people on October 4, 2000, she gave a more interesting variation on the “hard drive” story she told Harris.
As my confidence in [Joe] Riehl grew, finally showed him some of the original manuscript, which was afraid [sic] every moment would be stolen (he finally got a truncated version of it to read), as at that same time, my office got broken into etc. I had very stupidly gone to the CIA website trying to find the old code names I remembered, I was hunting for “MEDEC-ZOA” and for “ZOE” and “ZIM” – from that time, the trouble started, with hard drives in English Dept. where I wrote the book being stolen. Until nobody would let me use the English dept’s computers, for though I am “a student,” I am also an instructor there, moving close to ABD of the PhD. [spelling, capitalization, and punctuation corrected]
At the time this was written, easily-accessible web pages about Judyth included one on the subject of short stories, and another promoting her “American Cream Dog.” She also had a web page at the University of Southwest Louisiana, so it’s difficult to believe the CIA needed to wait for her to access their web page in order to find her.
But the most impressive high-tech form of surveillance/harassment was not against Judyth herself, but against Debbee and her sister Lynda. Judyth titled an e-mail to several supporters “Subject: my sister is being harassed, and so am I; confidential to my closest allies . . . .” She then quoted her sister:
. . . when debbee would say a certain word that they would “key in” on, the phone would go dead for a moment and then return. debbee put her son-in-law and her mother on the phone, and they each would say the same words as well, and each time the phone would go dead on them as well, and then return.
some of the words were ..28 days, monkey virus, ruby, cia, fbi, protection, thelma and louise, body, ignore, and a few others i can’t recall at this time. during all of this, and during one of the times there was dead air on my end, debbee said “too bad, 2 days” to me. i asked her why she said that, and that is when she told me there was dead air on her end of the line, and she did not say anything but “hello..are u still there”.
i told her it was her voice and sounded just like she had said it without any hesitation. this is a concern, because it tells me someone wanted us to know either for our own good, or for not so good reasons that they are not only recording our conversations, but are able to quickly “play back” their altered version as to make it sound as though we are saying something we never said.
i hope u are able to follow this...it’s hard to explain it very clearly...but u can understand why i won’t contact u by phone until this is over.
i love u very much, honey. please tell h i am also getting hang up calls...it’s been going on all month at different times of the day.
u will know this is your sis...just in case u aren’t sure....remember how our dad would sign off on his ham radio? 73’s and 88’s. write back and let me know u got this ok. i will wait for your reply. all my love, lynda. [as written, all errors in original]
So it seems some sinister forces not only were listening in on phone conversations, they had the ability to alter transmissions in real time!
But at other times, according to Judyth, the phone tapping was ludicrously inept. In an article in a Dutch magazine, the author gives the following account:
During her many telephone conversations she got the impression that she was being listened to. During one of the conversations she heard two unknown people on the line at the same time. The one said to the other that they had to end Baker’s life, whereupon the other one told the first one that he should be quiet because people could hear them. That affected her. She had already been threatened several times, and had been attacked and seriously wounded. The feeling of insecurity became too much for her, and she decided to flee from America. She thought that living abroad would bring her less danger.
Although Judyth, as we have already seen, believes that many people have been killed to conceal the plot, somehow the plotters have, rather than killing her, been content merely to harass her, and to do so in rather ham-handed ways.
Fired Because of Her Friendship With Oswald?
The final supposed act of “harassment” she has suffered is “firing from a teaching job as a result of a campaign organized by an FBI employee who didn’t want their child taught by ‘a friend of Lee Harvey Oswald.’” One has to wonder if it happened exactly that way, and in the wake of the airing of “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” a former student of hers came on the History Channel discussion board to give his version:
Let me just tell you that I am 18 and a senior in high school. Mrs. Baker, Judyth, was hired at my school last year as our english teacher. What a mistake it turned out to be. She never taught us, she just went on about her “stories” which we all claimed were lies and that she needed to be cooped up somewhere. She was crazy because every time she heard a “loud noise” she would act like she was having a seizure in the classroom. Our school realized the mistake and fired her after a month and a half. (Post by Paulio, dated 7:55PM PST Nov 19, 2003).
Of course, anybody can post anything on a web discussion board, but Team Judyth member Martin Shackelford responded and admitted that “Paulio” was the son of the sinister “FBI employee” who supposedly “got her fired.”
Judyth’s “Boring Life”
Judyth’s claims seem almost endless. When David Lifton accused her of concocting the story of her role in an assassination plot in order to make her boring life more interesting, she responded with an e-mail sarcastically titled “My Boring Life.” The missive outlines a very interesting life indeed! She claims, for example:
At the same time , was marching for peace, writing for underground newspapers, and got arrested by the FBI in a raid for writing subversive material, against the vietnam war, but we were all let go (my family knows about this from day One) . . . marched and supported Cesar Chavez sometime in the next few years, too . . . one of my anti-war friends was shot and thrown into a freezer. It was Texas, after all. [ellipses in original]
She goes on to claim that as a reporter she got Mafia bordellos raided, and uncovered the Mafia headquarters in the Houston region. She further claims to “[h]ave painted portraits of racehorses for millionaires and advised surgeons in New York hospitals how to stop abdominal adhesions from forming.” Impressive for someone with no medical training. Further,
Also broke up a witch’s coven and uncovered its head warlock. Sent police and a Mormon bishop to rescue, I am not kidding, a crippled virgin from their midst, Judy Devries, who was going to be burned alive in a telephone booth. My family will verify this, too. Happened on Hazard St. near the Diablo Club in Houston.
Admittedly, not many people have rescued a crippled virgin from a witch’s coven. And especially not one who was about to be burned alive in a telephone booth!
The fact that Judyth’s story bears a distinct resemblance to the famous parody college entrance essay is only the beginning of the problem. Many of these events occurred at a time when “Deadly Alliance” claims that Judyth was “in hiding” – living in fear that she would become yet another of those untimely deaths. Indeed, she claimed in an e-mail that:
I did not speak out for many years because I was afraid. Oh, yes, I knew what would happen if my roles had been known. I even plucked my eyebrows to make them thin instead of as thick as before (I had posed as Marina Oswald . . .).
Likewise, she claims to have been forced out of medical research by fear.
In short, I was accidentally allowed to learn much more than probably originally was intended, and that’s also why – after the events of Nov. 22, 1963 – that I found myself constrained to leave medical research behind, if I wanted to stay alive. It is as simple as that.
And in another e-mail (discussing herself in the third person) she claimed:
In the end, Lee Oswald was murdered for his part in penetrating the assassination ring he had joined in hopes of destroying. Judyth, liked by Marcello, was spared IF she would keep her mouth shut and withdraw from the medical community. Judyth complied.
. . .
There was no opportunity to reveal such a complex matter in late November, 1963. . . . Ochsner would deny all, and the CIA – which did not want its activities with the mafia exposed – would have quickly moved in – or have the mafia move in – to shut her mouth. She had been warned that she would be killed. Of course she removed herself from her medical career – quite suddenly – deeply disappointing her family (her new husband never noticed) – and did not even get a degree in ANYTHING for twenty-five years. [Emphasis in original]
Yet she is, in her response to Lifton, claiming to have been very visible, an activist, and pretty much “in the face” of both the Mafia and Federal authorities.
If Judyth currently has two contradictory accounts of her life in the years following the assassination, one wonders what a source from those years would show. Indeed, such a source exists, in the letter she wrote to Bertrand Russell (see above). In the letter, she says:
Today I am handsomely married! We love each other, but it would all have been ruined if, six years ago, I had not chucked the silly moral tic-tac-toes for reality, via your counsels. We will try to be so good to our coming child. Further, today I am an artist and hope to become a good writer – though still interested in science, I realize my limitations in that field despite the prestige it might have accorded me – and have avoided a career in same. I am politically active, even though frightened at the cost of this, since the United States powers-that-be are increasingly punitive in their outlook on such things as student dissent and assembly, to say nothing of their attitudes, in general, to the ordinary duty of becoming passionately involved with the daily problems of ordinary people relative to religion, poverty, and minorities – they wish to ignore, or, when forced to see, to punish.
This version is consistent with her current claims to have been involved in late-60s liberal/left activism, but it doesn’t show her having been forced out of science by fear. Rather, she says “I realize my limitations.” But in a response to critics written in 2003 she says: “All I ever wanted to do was to get into a lab and cure cancer.”
Rather than pining for Lee Oswald, her lost love, she is proud of her marriage and forthcoming child.
But what is most striking is that the letter mentions nothing at all about the Kennedy assassination or Lee Oswald. Russell was a famous and outspoken assassination conspiracist, and the letter was written during the Garrison investigation in New Orleans. But her litany of the evils of American society has nary a mention of the assassination.
Of course, according to Judyth, her life was interesting all they way back to childhood. Judyth told Prof. Luis Urrea that as a child she was a close friend of Dr. Seuss, and used the word “nerd” (which she had invented) in his presence. He liked it, and used it in one of his books, making it a common word in the language.
Spying on LBJ
Among the “interesting” things she claims to have done after the assassination was to “get inside” the Lyndon Johnson family to gain revealing information.
At the time of Susie’s birth (Susan Mavinee – her middle name reflected “Lee” in rhyme) (she was named after Susie Hanover in New Orleans, my landlady who hid Lee so Robert didn’t catch him, several times) I penetrated so close to the LBJ household that my obstetrician was LBJ’s daughter’s obstetrician.
I paid this high price myself (Robert would not have had a pricy O.B./GYN!) by painting him a hunting dog scene. His name: Dr. Robert Zschappel, and you can look it up. Now WHY do you think I would have ferreted out somebody close to the LBJ family, such as Zschappel, there in Austin, Texas?
To get inside info on the LBJ family, the Robbs, etc. And I did, too, and sent it to the Village Voice, Space City News, and the Rag. [spelling, capitalization, and punctuation corrected, emphasis in original, emphasis added to periodical titles]
Just what sinister information did Judyth get as a result of having the same obstetrician as LBJ’s daughter? When Martin Shackelford, a member of Team Judyth, was confronted with this question, he responded that “[s]he was awaiting a doctor’s appointment, and Luci and some of her friends walked in and struck up a conversation.” That claim sounds plausible enough, but how this allowed Judyth to get sinister inside information on the Johnson family is puzzling.
The name “Mavinee” was the middle name of Robert Baker’s mother, not a name concocted to rhyme with “Lee.”
So just what are we to make of Judyth? Her story appears to be a elaborate tapestry woven around several kinds of elements. First, she has taken the artifacts of a fairly ordinary life and invested them with huge significance. A form letter from Bertrand Russell’s secretary becomes the remaining trace of a string of letters concerning sex and politics. A letter from Senator George Smathers congratulating her on her prowess as a science student is evidence that people in high places have noticed her and have slated her for covert use. A copy of Pushkin’s “Queen of Spades” becomes a book that she and Lee read together.
Another element is bits of the folklore surrounding the assassination. The fact that Greer slowed the presidential limo when the shooting started, or that Adlai Stevenson got rough treatment in Dallas a few weeks before Kennedy arrived, or that Oswald (supposedly) owned a Minox all get knitted into the narrative. So do most of the usual suspects of conspiracy writers.
Finally, as David Lifton has pointed out, she has found the interstices in the biography of Oswald and inserted herself. For example, two of the witnesses to Oswald in Jackson, Louisiana (Edwin McGehee and Mary Morgan) described a woman in the car that Oswald drove. Since Marina denied that she made any such trip, this might seem to cast doubt on the notion that this was Oswald. But Judyth claims that she was the woman. Likewise, photos of Lee Oswald leafleting at the Trade Mart in New Orleans show some unidentified women at the scene. Judyth claims to have been one of them.
The Credit Report
The classic case of Judyth inserting herself in the historical record involves a “Character – Financial Report” on Lee Oswald that can be found in Warren Commission volume XXIV. It’s a rather odd document, attributing to the Oswald’s a net worth of $2,500, failing to mention Oswald’s defection to the Soviet Union, and saying that Oswald enjoys a “favorable business reputation.” Judyth claimed to have written the report as part of an operation to provide a “cover” for Lee concealing questionable aspects of his life. Unfortunately the FBI had, on the day following the assassination, interviewed the man who really wrote the report, one Henry Desmare of the Retail Credit Company. When Judyth and her supporters learned of the FBI interview, they began to claim that the Desmare interview was suspect, and that he (and perhaps the FBI agents who did the interview) were covering something up. In reality, investigators for the Retail Credit Company were badly overworked and had to resort to vague and innocuous boilerplate, guesses, and some outright fabrications.
Judyth’s compulsion to explain even trivial details sometimes helps her, as researchers search the record and find that, yes, she is right about the detail she is “explaining.” But this compulsion gets her in trouble when she gets confused as to what her explanation is. Consider, for example, the fact that Lee Oswald, on his application for a tourist card to visit Mexico, listed his religion as “Catholic.” In fact, Lee was an atheist. Judyth had an explanation for this. In a newsgroup post in July, 1999, she claimed:
. . . Lee was raised Lutheran, and at this time in his life, he didn’t believe in God, but on the application he put “Catholic” because to put “atheist” would have looked commie-suspicious. Because he knew both me and David Ferrie, and because his cousins were Catholic, Lee began using “Catholic” rather than “Lutheran” or “none.” Simple as that. Thanks for your response. Judyth [capitalization, punctuation and spelling errors corrected]
But five years later, she told Black Op Radio that the reason was so that she and Lee could get “quickie divorces with a corrupt priest and go ahead and get married as Catholics.”
I ended up getting a job at Royal Castle, not knowing it was (as Lee told me later) the drop where FBI and snitches dropped their information on Carlos Marcello, who was not far away at Town & Country. I have my check stub to prove I worked at Royal Castle out there.
People who want to believe a problematic witness will often respond to criticisms with the query “why would she [or he] lie?”
In the first place, the line between fantasy and reality can be much more slippery than most of us assume. Judyth, for example, has stated that:
Dr. [Joseph] Reihl was the first one to gently suggest how to retrieve so many of my repressed memories, memories I had planned to take to the grave.
The notion that a person has memories that are “repressed” and can be “recovered” is radically suspect in the eyes of modern social science. The “recovered” memories often turn out to be fantasies – which however come to be believed.
Along similar lines, she has asserted “the writing of this book, including the reconstruction of the telephone calls I received . . . is based on principles I learned at the feet of Luis Urrea, 1999 American Book Award winner. . . .” She goes on to say, “[i]n Urrea’s ‘Creative Non fiction’ courses taught at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, I learned how to better recreate my memories into the most accurate reconstruction of the actual events. Urrea’s creative nonfiction works successfully bring to life his own extraordinary experiences, and include reconstructed dialogues. I have used Urrea’s methods in reconstructing the events between April and December of 1963 in that same manner.”
Contrary to Judyth’s claims, Urrea insists he has “no magic formula” to aid anyone’s memory. “I just taught her in a writing workshop” he says. Judyth’s prose may have improved under Urrea’s tutelage, but it’s extremely unlikely her memory did.
Judyth insists that her motivation is the vindicate her lover, Lee Harvey Oswald, whom she insists has been unfairly maligned as the killer of John Kennedy. She told Black Op Radio, for example that “someday there will be, like, a Lee Harvey Oswald action figure.”
One might suspect that a witness is telling a particularly interesting story “for the money.” And indeed Judyth, as early as April 1999, had an agent named Peter Cox who was “shopping around” her book manuscript. One usually hires an agent when one wants to make some money. Indeed, it’s generally impossible to hire an agent if there is no money to be made. Someone who actually participated in a plot that killed two people – one of them the President of the United States – would probably be looking for a lawyer, or at least a journalist. In a biographical blurb to her high school classmates, she promised not only that a book titled Judyth and Lee would soon be out, but also said that “[w]e expect movie and television productions, etc.”
Judyth has flatly claimed that the National Enquirer offered her $600,000 for her story. But when confronted on this by Louis T. Girdler, both she and Howard Platzman (a member of Team Judyth) admitted that there was no such offer, but rather that her agent thought that the account might be worth that much. But then in December, 2003, she was again claiming that she “refused to sell the story to The National Enquirer, that offered me a lot of money.” Indeed, when Judyth was first “shopping around” her manuscript to top New York publishers, she made it clear that she wanted a million dollars for the story. Reactions ranged from scorn to mild interest, but there were no takers at that price.
But if simple venality was a large part of the story early on, her crusade to be believed took on a life of its own. While Team Judyth has worked on the “big score,” Judyth has been compulsively telling her story to anybody who would listen. She has made numerous posts on alt.assassination.jfk, and on the JFK Research message board. She has sent hundreds, if not thousands, of e-mails and spent many hours on the phone telling her story to anyone who expressed an interest. At one point, she was preparing to go to Dallas during the annual conspiracy convention (JFK Lancer’s “November in Dallas”) and tell her story to anybody who would listen. Team Judyth dissuaded her.
She has had little success in convincing researchers. Most of the people with whom she has shared her story have come away skeptical – some immediately, some after spending a great deal of time absorbing her story and believing it for a while. Five years after her agent began “shopping around” her story, there is still no book. CBS News’ “60 Minutes” considered her story at length, but decided they didn’t believe her.
Nigel Turner, producer of “The Men Who Killed Kennedy”, taped an entire segment based on her story that aired in November, 2003. Few, even among the conspiracy-oriented viewers who post on assassination message boards, were convinced.
As of this writing, she is in the Netherlands, proprietor of a small museum/art gallery that both sells her art and displays the artifacts that she claims connect her to Oswald. She continues to be very generous with her time with people interested in her story. She appears to be a woman who cares more about being believed than about making money. But it is more likely that she’ll make some money off the unending fascination with the JFK case than that people familiar with the historical record will believe her.
And the Lee Harvey Oswald action figure isn’t in the cards.
Acknowledgments – Thanks to the following people who have provided helpful information and critical comments on various drafts of this essay: Joe Biles, Robert Chapman, Dennis Frank, Louis Girdler, Paul Hoch, Robert Johnson, John Leyden, David Lifton, Dave Reitzes, and Paul Seaton.