Thursday, January 5, 2017

Paul Groody

On November 22, 2006, 87-year-old Paul Groody, the mortician who embalmed and prepared the body of Lee Harvey Oswald for burial in 1963, appeared on the Coast to Coast AM radio program with George Noory. This lead-off 40-minute segment of Noory's JFK special would give Groody one of the largest blocks of time to date to discuss his allegations regarding Oswald's 1981 exhumation and identification. This article will summarize Groody's comments, describe his theory of what occurred that October day and offer a critical evaluation.

Here are a few bits of trivia before the main discussion. Groody stated that he was aware of John Armstrong's Harvey & Lee theory but that he didn't know much about it and his son was a more serious student of the assassination. He also claimed that Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade told Marina there was no body in the grave. When quizzed about the mastoid scar, he said he didn't see one but admitted he could have missed it. He also mentioned that he was planning to write his memoirs at some point. When asked by Noory to describe the feeling of being a "part of history", he said it was "eerie.”

Groody set the stage by saying that the casket and vault were both broken, which is quite true and confirmed by the Norton Report (named for the forensic team leader Linda Norton) prepared by the forensic experts who performed the examination at the request of author Michael Eddowes and Marina Oswald (Porter at the time). But "broken" implies that something out of the ordinary had been done when there is no evidence that anything occurred other than the vault cracking and the casket, and unfortunately the contents, rotting from the resultant water damage. It is a fact that things like normal shifting of the ground and heavy equipment can cause vaults to break. The Wilbert Vault Company’s (the same brand LHO was buried in) own web site admits the problem and advises customers to seek:

...superior long-lasting protection against subsoil elements and the weight of heavy cemetery maintenance equipment.


Groody admitted that the body was the same one that he had buried and he knew that from his identification of Marina's rings that he had helped her place on the body. He repeated his usual claim that the head had no craniotomy even though the official photos show the craniotomy line clearly. In response to a question from a caller, Groody stated that the head was attached to the body when the casket was opened. Since he admits this and verifies that the body was the same one he buried, that would seem to be the final blow to any conspiracy.

However, Groody had his own theories about what happened, one of which he first revealed in the documentary The Men Who Killed Kennedy. In that broadcast he spoke of a head switch being made which necessitated the vault and casket being brought to the surface resulting in the vault cracking. However, in the ensuing years, Groody had refined his theory. By 2006, he apparently thought that at some point after the original 1963 burial, the conspirators dug up the body, which was not that of the real Oswald but a double. They then replaced the head with that of the real Oswald, which they somehow conveniently had access to and was in at least a similar condition as the rest of the body.

In support of this, he offered the "absent" craniotomy as well as the condition of the skull, which he says was much worse than that of the body, and one other important item. He remembers Linda Norton saying that the removal of the skull from the body to facilitate the examination and x-rays was "only a matter of clipping" which makes sense considering the deteriorated condition of the body. But Groody believed there was "something fishy" about this clipping and was incredulous that the skull could be removed this easily. This was apparently, in his mind, the proof of the plot. It should be noted that there are at least three people who can verify the head was removed from the body and none of these witnesses report anything unusual about the "clipping.” These people are William Dear, who ran security for the exhumation, John Cullins, a friend of Marina's, and a researcher who viewed a copy of the videotape of the procedure who prefers to remain anonymous.

So, it was Groody's belief that the conspirators somehow had reattached the head to the decomposed body and this, rather than the poor condition of the body, enabled Norton to remove it with little effort. Aside from the obvious difficulty of pulling off such a feat undetected, it is unclear how a plot like this would come together. Norton and her entire team would have had to be in on it since they certainly would have noticed any reattached skull. They would have also seen that the condition of the skull was not the same as that of the body. Indeed, Groody referred to the skull as "bare bones" and a "Halloween skull" more than once, even though the official photos show otherwise.

Additionally, they would have had to provide phony photos that showed the craniotomy since Groody maintained there was none. But how could the plotters know who Eddowes and Marina, who chose the forensic team, would get to do the examination and that those doctors would go along with the plot? Indeed, they could have hired anyone, including private pathologists who had no connection to government entities (who presumably controlled the plot) at all. Add to all this the difficulty of bringing the 2700-pound vault to the surface undetected. Groody himself said in a 1963 newspaper article that it would be "almost impossible" to unearth the massive vault.

All the evidence shows that Groody's time with the body was extremely brief. Before the examination, he stayed in the room only long enough to identify the body. After the identification, he again had a chance to see the remains when he and assistant Allen Baumgardner placed them in a new casket for reburial. But newspaper reports state that the men placed the remains in a body bag before transferring them to the casket. So, the amount of time they had to observe the remains was again minimal.

An additional point is the "evolution" of Groody's statements. In a November, 1981, UPI article, Groody and Baumgardner never mentioned the "missing" craniotomy. Instead, they only talked about the cracked vault, the fact that the vault lid was easily dislodged (which Groody admitted was likely because of the crack) and only stated that it was "possible" that the casket could have been tampered with. As far as I know, Groody never discussed the missing craniotomy until the 1983 Coverups! series by Gary Mack. To be fair, Groody stated in his early interviews that he was frightened to speak out, although he apparently became fearless as time went on.

I believe the record shows that Groody (who died in 2010) was simply mistaken in his allegations regarding the exhumation and identification of Lee Harvey Oswald. Groody's role that day was to facilitate the exhumation, identify the body and rebury the remains. It is almost certain that a false memory was responsible for his mistaken observations.

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