JFK Part 2: The Evidence

Okay.  Having reviewed the timeline of events during those infamous Four Days, we will next summarize the evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin of President Kennedy.  We’ll dig deeper into some of the questions and doubts in the next post.

The connection between the two murders

If Oswald murdered Officer J. D. Tippit, while it does not directly prove he killed JFK, it tells us first of all that he was willing to commit murder.  Since eyewitnesses saw the shooting of Tippit take place when he seemed to be questioning a man, it also suggests that whoever killed Tippit was trying to avoid arrest, which would mean he had done something else to merit being questioned/arrested.

Since Officer Tippit was killed, we cannot ask him why he pulled Oswald over, but it is generally presumed to be on account of the JFK suspect description which had been broadcast over DPD radio.

The provenance of the two murder weapons

By checking serial numbers, it was found that the rifle found on the sixth floor of the Book Depository, and the revolver Oswald had on his person when arrested, were both mail-ordered and sent to the same post office box (no. 2915 in Dallas) addressed to an “A. Hidell.” (The revolver’s address included a middle initial: “A. J. Hidell.”)  Even if A. Hidell is a completely different person than Oswald, this establishes a connection between the two weapons.

Oswald denied owning a rifle (see below under “the backyard photos”) and claimed that he bought the revolver in Fort Worth, though its serial number showed that it had been mail-ordered from a firm in Los Angeles.

The weapons’ connection to the murders

The Carcano rifle was found, by ballistics testing, to be the gun which fired two bullet fragments found in the Presidential car and a third, mostly-intact bullet, found next to Governor Connally at Parkland Hospital, where it presumably worked its way out of his leg wound while he was being undressed and moved.

The revolver was found, by similar testing, to be the gun which fired four bullets removed from the body of Officer Tippit.

Therefore, it was concluded that these two weapons were involved in the murders.

The identity “A. J. Hidell”

So who was A. J. Hidell, to whom the guns had been shipped?

When Oswald was arrested, his wallet contained a variety of ID cards, which included:

  • a Selective Service notice of classification in his name
  • a Selective Service registration certificate in his name
  • a certificate of service in the U.S. Marine Corps in his name
  • a Selective Service notice of classification and a Marine certificate of service in the name of Alek James Hidell

The Hidell Selective Service card bore the signature, “Alek J. Hidell,” but a photograph of Oswald.  The Warren Commission report says: “Experts on questioned documents from the Treasury Department and the FBI testified that the Hidell cards were counterfeit photographic reproductions made by photographing the Oswald cards, retouching the resulting negatives, and producing prints from the retouched negatives. The Hidell signature on the notice of classification was in the handwriting of Oswald.”  (Ch. 4, p. 121.)

During interrogation, Oswald denied knowing anything about the Hidell card, why it was in his wallet, who Hidell was, etc.

The post office box

Although Oswald did not admit to being A. J. Hidell, he did admit to a postal inspector, during his interrogation, that he rented PO Box 2915.  He denied receiving the rifle through that box, or any package addressed to Hidell.

The backyard photos

Photographs taken by Oswald’s wife in April of 1963 in their backyard show him holding a rifle which looks identical to the Carcano.  During his interrogation on Saturday the 23rd, Oswald denied owning a rifle, and when confronted with the backyard photos, claimed that the photos were composited together from photos of him taken the previous day during his booking.

Marina Oswald would later testify that she did in fact take the photographs, and that Oswald did in fact own the rifle.

Fingerprints and fiber evidence

Oswald actually pulled the revolver during his arrest, so there was no question of him handling it.

As for the rifle, fibers found on the rifle matched fibers from the shirt Oswald was wearing that day.

Additionally, Oswald’s palmprint was found on a box of schoolbooks in the sixth floor “sniper’s nest”.  Although this is interesting, it is less definitive proof, since his employment in the Depository meant that he would handle boxes in the course of his job.

Oswald’s palmprint was found on the underside of the rifle’s barrel.

The man in the window at the Depository

Howard Brennan, who said he saw the gunman in the window of the Book Depository at the time of the assassination, picked Oswald as the most likely candidate in a police lineup that night.  His only hesitation in making a positive ID was that he had seen Oswald’s picture on TV during the afternoon and he did not want that to impact his judgement (a wise observation).

The missing Depository employee

Oswald was the only Book Depository employee who disappeared from the building in the first few minutes after the assassination, and furthermore was placed on the sixth floor just before the assassination by coworkers and by his clipboard being found there.

Visiting his wife on Thursday rather than Friday

Oswald rented an apartment in Dallas where he stayed during the week, but his Russian-born wife Marina lived with their Russian-speaking friend Ruth Paine in Irving, a Dallas suburb.

Normally Oswald only visited Marina on weekends.  But the night before the assassination (which was a Thursday night), Oswald went to Irving to visit his wife, a day sooner than he normally would, and furthermore when he left for work Friday morning, he left his wedding ring behind.

The Warren Commission explanation is that he went home to get his rifle to commit the assassination the next day, and to leave his wedding ring for his wife since he thought he might not see her again.

The “curtain rods”

Wesley Frazier, who drove Oswald to work in Dallas, said that on the morning of the assassination, Oswald had a long package with him.  Oswald said that it contained curtain rods for his Dallas apartment. The Warren Commission explanation is that the package actually contained the rifle.

Oswald’s nonchalance

When everyone else in the Book Depository was trying to find out the cause of the commotion outside, Oswald was calmly buying a Coca-Cola in the second floor lunchroom.

When Oswald took a taxi from downtown (where he had given up on taking the bus) back to near his apartment, and the cabbie tried to make conversation about everything going on, Oswald said nothing.

Oswald was one of the most politically active and aware employees of the Book Depository, yet he seemed to avoid any conversations about Kennedy’s visit to Dallas in the weeks leading up to the assassination.

The murderer of J. D. Tippit

In addition to the bullet evidence linking Oswald’s revolver to Tippit’s death (see above), ten different eyewitnesses said that Oswald was the person they saw shooting J. D. Tippit or fleeing from the scene of the murder.

About the time police sirens went down the street nearby, Johnny Brewer, manager of Hardy’s Shoestore, a few storefronts east of the Texas Theater, saw a man run into the “lobby” of his store, a recessed area between the sidewalk and front door.  The man looked “funny” to Brewer and like he had just been running. The man then took off again, towards the theater, as the sirens grew faint in the distance.

Julia Postal, the ticket clerk at the Texas Theater, claimed that Oswald ducked into the theater around the time the sirens passed.  Then Brewer came over from Hardy’s Shoestore and asked Postal if that person had bought a ticket.  They knew about the assassination from radio broadcasts.  Brewer checked the theater exits while Postal called the police, who arrived and arrested Oswald.

 

Conclusion

All the above facts were considered by the Warren Commission as proof that Oswald owned and, on the sixth floor of the Book Depository, used the rifle which killed JFK and wounded Gov. Connally.  He then fled from the Book Depository to his Dallas apartment, taking first a bus and then hailing a cab.  He changed into a light jacket and got his revolver.  He was stopped by Officer Tippit, presumably for questioning, whom he then shot four times, killing him.  From there, he stopped momentarily in the front of Hardy’s Shoestore before ducking into the Texas Theater, where he was arrested.

In the next post we will look at some of the commonly raised questions about the assassination which give rise to conspiracy and coverup theories.

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