Monday, July 7, 2008

The Tale of the Two Wallets

Students of the assassination are familiar with the chain of events. First, Oswald reportedly takes his three shots from the sixth floor. He is then seen in the second floor lunchroom calmly drinking a Coke. Next, he’s off to the rooming house via bus and taxi to retrieve a .38 revolver. In a typically odd Oswald scheme, he heads off to the movie theater where he is apprehended in a scuffle with Dallas police officers. Along the way he runs into officer J. D. Tippet who is allegedly murdered by Oswald. I say allegedly, because eyewitness testimony on the murder of Tippet is a controversy all of its own. I’ll leave that for a future post.

Meanwhile, after Oswald is arrested at the movie theater he refused to identify himself. After searching him, his wallet is retrieved, containing an ID for Lee H. Oswald and a second ID for the Alek Hidell alias. Here comes the rub. Back at the Tippet murder scene the wallet is now in the hands of Dallas police captain
W. R. Westbrook. FBI agent Robert M. Barrett appears and is asked by Westbrook if he knows whom Lee Oswald or Alek Hidell is. Apparently Capt. Westbrook examined the contents. Barrett says no. You would think this would be a damning piece of evidence to put Oswald away for the Tippet murder, but that is not the case. The wallet seems to fade in out of the story. Barrett does not report this incident in his official FBI report but does tell James Hosty when he is writing his book (Assignment: Oswald, 1966) about the details of his visit to the murder scene and being asked about Oswald/Hidell.

At the Tippet murder scene is found a wallet. It is unknown when or who first discovered it. Apparently most people arriving at the scene—police, detectives, ambulance crew—did not recall seeing it anywhere lying about. Evidently, the police officers seen in the tape (it’s on found it first or were handed to them from someone else. Later, the FBI will list the two wallets as coming from his belongings taken out of Ruth and Michael Paine’s garage. However, neither of the wallets were initialed by the Dallas police investigators. Nor does the Dallas police list them in their handwritten or typed inventory of items taken from the Paine residence.

The arrest wallet and second wallet from the Tippet murder scene are separated for a time, with the arrest wallet going to Washington with the second wallet ending up for a while in Captain Fritz's desk drawer where it remained until November 27th. It is eventually sent to FBI headquarters in DC, but they forget to photograph it and the contents. A formal request to the FBI to provide photographs of it is ignored.

The only thing that can be certain is that a wallet was found at the Tippet murder scene. That’s because a news cameraman, Ron Reiland, from WFAA was there at the scene to film two police officers, examining a wallet.

I read with great interest Vincent Buglosi’s struggle with this issue in the End Notes of his book, Reclaiming History (see review). He finally concludes it is Tippet’s wallet and moves on. But, it’s not that easy of a conclusion to come to. I have yet to find any evidence log listing Tippet’s wallet. Par to the course, there are meandering rabbit trails all through this further confusing the mess that it already is (i.e., photographic evidence). Buglosi settles for an assumption and I can see why he did. That matter gets obscured quickly.

Obviously, no man runs around with two wallets on him with two sets of ID’s, one set of which is an alias. Unless he really is the nut the Warren Commission and its defenders claim him to be, going about with two wallets on his person. To mistakenly leave a wallet at a murder scene would be damning evidence of Oswald’s involvement with Tippet’s murder, yet it was never utilized—one of the strangest parts of the whole episode. It is as if the whole thing embarrasses them. Unless of course, it was planted, framing Oswald. But why frame a guilty man? And then, who are the framers?

I conclude that the Tippet murder scene wallet belongs to Oswald. This of course implies a frame-up. I base this mainly on the statements of FBI agent Barrett, a man with an excellent service record with the Bureau. He has no reason to lie about the incident and his recollections remain consistent. It’s also verifiable that Captain Fritz had a second wallet belonging to Oswald in his desk drawer for some days after the assassination. Oswald was either fated to drop one wallet at the murder site, or else it was planted by a person or persons unknown. We know there was a wallet found. Of whom did it belong to?