[Photo: Lee Harvey Oswald in police custody on Saturday, November 23, 1963, in Dallas]
It’s common in murder cases for police to encounter witnesses who claim incorrectly to have seen the defendant somewhere. These “mistaken identity” cases are more common within famous murder cases, like JFK’s. For some psychological reason, these people rush to insert their names into the historical record – although they have nothing correct or substantial to say.
In this blog post, we’ll review the Warren Commission (WC) testimony of witnesses who testified to having “sighted” Lee Harvey Oswald (LHO) at their place of business. No connection with the JFK Assassination is ever proposed – only that LHO once walked around Dallas and Irving. Some of these descriptions of LHO fail to match LHO in the slightest. Didn’t the WC attorneys notice how shallow these testimonies were? Did they include them just to dispel widespread rumors?
Some of these cases are well-known from film dramatization – and Jim Garrison muddied the waters with his theory that the CIA deliberately sent out “Oswald doubles” throughout Dallas and Texas, Mexico, and so on. We regard Jim Garrison as mistaken on that score – way off base. The most likely explanation for most of the random sightings of LHO from October through November 1963 is that they were simply cases of “mistaken identity.”
We can demonstrate this quickly simply by reviewing the WC testimony itself. (In a future blog post we’ll consider cases of mistaken identity in LHO’s trip to Mexico in September 1963 and on the day of JFK’s assassination. In this blog post we’ll search for cases of mistaken identity within the seven weeks before the assassination itself – not in the context of a crime, but merely in the context of mundane life. Let’s begin.
The several WC testimonies below were given in the context of seven places of business in Dallas and suburbs, viz.:
A. Western Union in Dallas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C.A. Hamblen, Aubrey Lewis & Robert Fenley
B. Irving Sports Shop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dial Ryder, Charles Greener & Hunter Schmidt
C. McAllister Downtown Lincoln-Mercury. . . . . . Albert Bogard & Frank Pizzo
D. Sports Drome Rifle Range . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Malcolm Price, Floyd Davis, Dr. Homer Wood & Son
E. Hutchison Supermarket in Irving. . . . . . . . . . . Leonard Hutchison
F. Shasteen Barbershop in Irving. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Clifton Shasteen
G. The Furniture Mart in Dallas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Gertrude Hunter & Edith Whitworth
Many readers know that LHO was alleged to have been seen around Dallas shooting at somebody else’s target at a rifle range. Or speeding off a used car lot for his demo ride. It may be less rumored that LHO was allegedly a regular customer at the Dallas Western Union office or seen at a local gun shop requesting a scope mounted on his rifle. Let’s begin with the alleged sighting of LHO at Western Union because this sighting should have been the easiest to prove by their corporate transaction records.
A. Western Union Telegraph, Dallas
One still hears the rumor that LHO and Jack Ruby used the same Western Union office for their secret political business with mafia boss Trafficante (or Fidel Castro, depending on the writer). A careful reading of the WC testimony, however, reveals that the Western Union official who was the ultimate source of that rumor retracted his story the very next day.
(1) Aubrey Lewis, 30, was an assistant branch manager at Western Union in Dallas. She was working the early night money order counter on one November night when a lone man approached her desk to cash a money order. She asked him for his ID. He didn’t have it with him, and he gave his address as only the YMCA. She insisted on an ID, so he left and returned with a Navy ID release card. She paid him on that basis. She couldn’t remember his name. As she recalled him, he had a dark complexion with dark hair and was perhaps of Spanish descent. He was nasty with her and so her supervisor Mr. Hamblen came to confront him.
(2) C.A. Hamblen, 49, was a supervisor for Western Union. He came to help Aubrey Lewis deal with a cranky customer. Later, after the assassination of JFK, Hamblen saw LHO on TV and decided that LHO had been that troublemaker. Hamblen then remembered that he had often seen this troublemaker receiving and sending messages there within the past several weeks. He decided to tell the police.
But first, he told a local reporter, and the next day the story hit the New York Times and instantly became an FBI investigation. Western Union executives pored over their corporate records of that period and location. That FBI investigation ended when Western Union records failed to support Hamblen’s claim – they were unable to identify any telegram as sent or received by LHO. Hamblen publicly retracted his story.
(3) Robert Fenley, 36, was a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald. About noon, six days after the JFK murder, Fenley was sending a story to headquarters from Western Union Telegraph. Hamblen was behind the desk and he told Fenley that LHO had occasionally used this branch office to receive small money orders, between $10 and $15.
Hamblen told Fenley, “LHO was a cantankerous individual, and I had to deal with him because the other workers complained. LHO was living at the YMCA at the time.” Fenley asked Hamblen for official proof, but Hamblen said company records were above his head. Another DTH reporter double-checked Hamblen’s sincerity and decided to write the story. They came to regret that decision.
SUMMARY: Aubrey Lewis didn't dispute her supervisor's widely published claim that the cantankerous customer was LHO. Yet she didn't confirm it either. Her description of her customer suggested that it was somebody else, i.e., she recalled that the customer had a dark complexion and was perhaps Spanish while LHO was quite light-skinned. Supervisor C.A. Hamblen had jumped to a conclusion and then hastily told a newspaper reporter before the Western Union’s corporate search. Reporter Robert Fenley believed Hamblen and rushed the story to press, only to retract the story the very next day. This was an admitted case of “mistaken identity.”
B. Irving Sports Shop, Irving
One still hears the rumor that the Irving Sports Shop (owned and operated by Charles Greener in Irving, Texas) mounted the deadly scope on LHO’s deadly rifle. A careful reading of the WC testimony, however, reveals that the management and staff at Irving Sports Shop retracted their story. It all began around November 1, 1963, when Mr. and Mrs. Greener took their annual two-week vacation and left their foreman, D.D. Ryder, in charge.
(4) Dial Duwayne Ryder, 25, worked at the Irving Sports Shop repairing firearms for six years. In early November, a man named Oswald came to the store and started a work order to mount a scope on a rifle, which entailed a drill-and-tap and a boresight of the scope, for $4.50. Work order tag number #18374 was labeled with the name ‘Oswald’, with no date and no address.
Somehow or other, a rumor leaked out about this work order. After the assassination of JFK, the FBI showed Ryder and his supervisor a photo of LHO’s rifle and asked if Ryder had mounted that scope. Ryder and told FBI agent Emory Horton that the FBI photo was not the rifle he worked on. He knew because he always made a ‘three-hole drill and tap,’ while the rifle in the FBI photo showed a “two-hole drill and tap.” Ryder also failed to make a positive facial ID of LHO.
(5) Charles Greener, 50, was the owner of the Irving Sports Shop. On Thanksgiving Day 1963, Greener was watching the CBS evening news, and heard about LHO getting his rifle scope mounted at his shop! Greener rushed to confront Ryder, “Did you call the newspaper with this rumor?” Ryder replied, “No, the reporter called me with the rumor!” He showed Greener the work tag number #18374 with the single name Oswald on it – no date and no address. It was for a scope drill-and-tap and boresight. The Herald printed the story, and it immediately became national news. Could that customer truly have been LHO?
(6) Hunter Schmidt was a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald. In the November 28, 1963, edition he published a story about the possibility that LHO had a telescopic sight mounted on a rifle at the Irving Sports Shop. The rumor had come from the police department, he said. Schmidt contacted Ryder, who couldn’t deny the story, and even cited showed Schmidt the work tag number #18374. Ryder said it was a foreign-made rifle, and he itemized all charges for parts and labor. On the night of the publication, however, on the CBS evening news, Ryder denied the whole story.
SUMMARY: Was it truly LHO? Most likely not, because Ryder and Greener agreed that the scope on LHO’s rifle was mounted by using a lower level of workmanship than Irving Sports Shop standards. Most likely this was another case of
C. McAllister Downtown Lincoln-Mercury, Dallas
Images from Oliver Stone’s movie, JFK, include the rumor that LHO had visited the McAllister Downtown Lincoln-Mercury in Dallas to test drive a red Ford Comet, and LHO sped out to the Expressway where he continued speeding. Jim Garrison had guessed that all these alleged sightings of LHO around Dallas might have been the result of a CIA plot to seed public opinion with the wild antics of LHO. A careful reading of the WC testimony, however, shows that the staff at McAllister Downtown Lincoln-Mercury failed to uphold their original statement.
(7) Frank Pizzo was an automobile sales manager at McAllister Downtown Lincoln-Mercury in Dallas. He testified that LHO was on his lot in the middle of a November day. On that day, his salesman, Al Bogard let a prospect have a speedy demonstration ride on a red Ford Comet. Bogard then brought the man to see Pizzo, explaining that this prospect said he would have the down payment of $200 in a couple of weeks.
The prospect said nothing to Pizzo. Bogard wrote the last name, ‘Oswald,’ on the back of one of his business cards. Soon after the JFK assassination, while all salesmen at the lot were watching the TV news, and LHO’s name and photo appeared on TV. Pizzo exclaimed, ‘that is definitely the man!’
(8) Albert Bogard sold cars at Downtown Lincoln Mercury. On Saturday, November 9, at about 2 p.m. Bogard testified, a man walked up and introduced himself as Lee Oswald and asked to test drive a red Ford Comet. They got in the car and the prospect sped to the Expressway and drove around 70 mph. “He was a real experienced driver,” testified Bogard. He took the prospect to meet his boss and wrote the name Oswald on a business card.
After the assassination of JFK, as all the salesmen watched TV news, LHO’s photo flashed and Bogard exclaimed, “He won’t be a prospect anymore because he is going to jail!” and Bogard ripped up the card and threw it away. Bogard also failed to make a facial identification, admitting, “The truth is, I have already forgotten what he actually looked like. Just to tell you what he looked like that day; I don’t remember. He gave me the name of Lee Oswald.”
SUMMARY: As with Western Union, the only material evidence that LHO was at their used car dealership was a single name on a single document (in this case a business card). Even if it was LHO, there was nothing to connect LHO with JFK. Besides, we have sufficient WC testimony to show that LHO was still learning to drive a car – and had no driver’s license. Finally, without a positive ID from mug shots, we are left with a single name. How many men around Dallas were named “Lee Oswald” what to speak of just the surname? The logical conclusion is that this, too, was a case of mistaken identity.
D. Sports Drome Rifle Range, Dallas
Concerning sightings of LHO at the Sports Drome Rifle Range in Dallas, the WC interviewed seven witnesses – more than for any other place of business. Again, Jim Garrison had guessed that this alleged sighting of LHO was part of a CIA plot to multiply the LHO character. In this case, the seven witnesses referred to a man who was over six feet tall and weighed over 250 pounds, though with a face that allegedly looked like LHO. A careful reading of the WC testimony of these seven witnesses, however, shows that the witnesses failed to positively identify LHO. In what follows we’ll refer to this Sports Drome customer as BUBBA.
(9) Malcolm Price, 36, was a partner in the Sports Drome Rifle Range along with Floyd and Virginia Davis. Sometime during November 1963, Price saw a man at his rifle range whom he came to believe was LHO (and we call him BUBBA for clarity). It was the final Saturday of September at dusk when BUBBA arrived by himself in a 1941 Ford. He wanted his rifle scope sighted on his foreign-made rifle. Price sighted it to BUBBA’s satisfaction for $1.
Two weeks later, BUBBA returned to the Sports Drome Rifle Range for the Sunday turkey shoot. BUBBA came with a companion, a big fellow with a big black beard. A conflict broke out between BUBBA and another customer, Mr. Garland Slack, about BUBBA shooting at the wrong target. Floyd and Virginia Davis broke up any hostilities.
The third time that Price saw BUBBA he was again accompanied by the big fellow with the big black beard. BUBBA boasted about his foreign-made rifle with its 4-power Japanese scope on Redfield mounts that he got from a gunsmith in Cedar Hill. Price never knew BUBBA’s name until he saw LHO’s photo on TV. At that point, Price decided that BUBBA must have been LHO.
(10) Dr. Homer Wood, 54, was a dentist in Dallas. He brought his son to the Sports Drome Rifle Range in early November 1963. As his son practiced BUBBA was sitting to his right using a foreign-made rifle from which large sparks came out of the barrel. Wood said, “Be careful, son, I’m afraid that rifle is going to blow up!” His son replied, “It’s OK dad, it’s an Italian carbine!” BUBBA smiled and helped the boy sight his rifle scope. When LHO’s photo came out on TV as the JFK killer, Wood whispered to his wife that it looked like BUBBA.
(11) Sterling Wood, 13, was a student at Boude Storey Junior High. His dad took him to the Sports Drome Rifle Range to sight his rifle for deer hunting. Sterling was shooting next to BUBBA, a good shot who had an Army surplus, 6.5 Italian carbine. Young Sterling knew rifles very well. He asked BUBBA if that was a four-power scope, and BUBBA was impressed that a young boy could know that. BUBBA helped Sterling after that. BUBBA then left with another man in a fairly new Ford hardtop that the other man drove. On the evening that JFK was assassinated, a photo of LHO was broadcast on TV and Sterling exclaimed, “Dad, that’s the guy sitting next to me at the rifle range!” The Wood family chose to tell the FBI.
(12) Floyd Davis, 32, operated the Sports Drome Rifle Range. He testified that some people told him that they saw LHO at his range on three occasions: November 9th, 10th, and 17th. On November 17th, Garland Slack loudly complained that someone else shot at his target. Davis went over to calm the men, and he saw BUBBA and that companion, the big man with the big black beard. David testified that BUBBA was quiet, over six feet tall, and over 250 pounds. Davis and Price could agree with the Woods that his face resembled LHO. However, when the FBI showed Davis some photos of LHO, Davis couldn’t make a positive ID, but he said that the tall one looked more like LHO.
SUMMARY: Obviously, Davis and Price didn’t know that LHO was only 5’8” tall and weighed only 135 pounds. The faces probably looked similar as four witnesses agreed. Yet the rest of the descriptions did not match. For example, LHO was widely known as a non-driver.
Three other WC witnesses from Sports Drome declined to say that BUBBA was LHO. Virginia Davis, the wife of Floyd Davis, testified, “I didn’t see anybody who looked like Oswald.” Garland Slack, the man whose target was violated by BUBBA, testified only that, “Malcolm Price said he was Lee Harvey Oswald.”
Theresa Wood, the wife of Dr. Wood, only testified that her husband and her son had claimed that “they saw Lee Harvey Oswald there.” It’s unclear why the WC attorneys sought so actively to establish whether or not BUBBA was LHO. It had no clear connection with JFK’s assassination.
E. Hutchison Supermarket, Irving
The case of Hutchison Supermarket was also lonely. The store owner only claims to have seen LHO shopping regularly for cinnamon rolls and milk. Once, he said, LHO asked to cash a personal check. Let’s look closer to see why Mr. Hutchison believed his customer was LHO.
(13) Leonard Hutchison, 50, operated a retail grocery store in Irving, Texas, about 8 blocks from Ruth Paine’s house. Ruth was a drop-in customer he said; she always came alone, without children. Ruth had testified that she gave LHO a driving lesson at a supermarket parking lot about 8 blocks from her home. Hutchison denied that Ruth could have meant the Hutchison Supermarket lot because his store was open all week, even on Sunday. His parking lot was always crowded, with never enough room for driving lessons.
As for LHO himself, Hutchison testified that a very quiet, silent man would walk to his store alone quite early on weekend mornings to buy milk and cinnamon rolls. Hutchison later came to believe that this customer was LHO. Hutchison then testified that late on a Wednesday evening, an hour before closing, this customer, his wife, and an elderly lady in her 60’s, were shopping and Hutchison heard them speaking in Russian. Finally, he testified, this customer once came in with a two-party personal check for $189. Hutchison told him, “I can’t cash this check; my limit is $25.” (Remember, this was 1963 when a gallon of gas cost about 35 cents in Southern California).
SUMMARY: While it’s plausible that LHO might enjoy an early morning walk to buy cinnamon rolls and milk at Hutchison’s grocery store, it’s clear that Hutchison’s customer was not LHO because: (1) LHO never slept in Irving on Wednesdays – the day that Hutchison saw this customer with his wife and an elderly lady shopping; and (2) Marina Oswald testified that LHO never had a check as large as $189. Nor did the Oswalds know anybody who’d give LHO such a large check. We may safely surmise that this was another case of “mistaken identity.’
F. The Shasteen Barbershop, Irving
We can expect more excitement from a barbershop sighting in Irving, Texas, because Mr. Shasteen, the barber in question, was a manifestly colorful fellow. Let’s look closer:
(14) Clifton Shasteen testified under oath that he saw LHO in his Irving barbershop every two weeks, from October through November 1963. Shasteen testified, “As I was watching TV on November 22, 1963, I realized I had once been the barber of Lee Harvey Oswald there in Irving.” We are moved to ask, “So what?” (We’ll refer to Shasteen’s client here as CUST).
Shasteen testified that (a) this CUST often wore yellow shoes; (b) CUST promised to buy Shasteen such a pair of yellow shoes next time he was in Mexico; (c) CUST usually wore green GI coveralls that buttoned in front; (d) CUST would drive up to his shop in a 1955 two-toned Chevrolet station wagon, with sometimes one lady and sometimes two ladies as passengers; (e) CUST would often bring a silent 14-year-old boy into the barbershop with him; and (f) although CUST was usually very quiet, on his final Saturday morning he contributed to a discussion of politics by bursting forth a condemnation of capitalism. CUST never returned.
SUMMARY: Those familiar with the biography of LHO can tell that Shasteen wasn’t describing LHO. His description didn’t match. LHO wasn’t known by those closest to him to get a haircut every two weeks. Or to wear yellow shoes or green GI coveralls that button in front. LHO didn’t drive a 1955 two-tone Chevy because LHO couldn’t drive. Nor was LHO known by those closest to him to be in the regular company of a 14-year-old boy. Shasteen’s identification of CUST with LHO seems to be based only on possible facial similarities, or perhaps based on articles he’d read in newspapers. It’s another case of “mistaken identity.”
G. The Furniture Mart, Dallas
Another place of business where the owner saw somebody who resembled LHO was the Furniture Mart in Dallas. Gertrude Hunter and Edit Whitmore agreed that the young Oswald family was certainly shopping in their store. Since Marina Oswald flatly denied ever shopping there, the WC attorneys asked Marina to be present when Gertrude and Edith were questioned. So, the three testified together.
(15) Gertrude Hunter claimed that once in November 1963, she saw LHO, Marina, and baby June Oswald in her store, the Furniture Mart in Dallas. Gertrude insisted that she had seen Marina Oswald and some other woman shopping in her store several times. Marina, however, denied ever setting foot in that store. Perhaps the WC questioned Gertrude only because of Marina’s denial – because although the sighting of a defendant shopping is trivial; it was rather important whether Marina was a liar or not. That WC testimony proceeded with Gertrude affirming and Marina denying to no resolution.
(16) The WC also questioned Edith Whitworth, who repeated the main points of her good friend, Gertrude Hunter, that the Oswald family shopped in the Furniture Mart once in November 1963. She had little further to add.
SUMMARY: Marina testified that Gertrude and Edith were mistaken on many grounds. First, Marina had just given birth to Rachel Oswald on October 20th – and so in November, she had two babies – not just one. Secondly, Marina had no reason to shop for furniture, since she had no home of her own. Third, so many women shop with their friends so often that sooner or later one pair will resemble Marina and Ruth. Fourth, so many young families shop for furniture together that eventually one young family will resemble the Oswald family. Without further material evidence, this “sighting” of LHO was likely an ordinary case of “mistaken identity.”
CONCLUSION: We have reviewed the WC testimony of 16 witnesses who claimed to have seen LHO on their business premises. Although none of these sightings were remotely related to the assassination of JFK, several rumors persist that (at the mildest) many people saw firsthand the nasty personality of LHO, or that (at the harshest) the CIA planted multiple LHO actors in the Dallas area in late 1963. The third and most likely scenario is that we have here 16 cases of “mistaken identity.”
In our next blog post, we’ll explore further cases of “mistaken identity” that will have substantial significance regarding the JFK Assassination itself.
© Copyright 2021 by Paul Trejo. All rights reserved.