Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Assassination and Mrs. Paine-Part One Did Ruth Incriminate LHO?

Filmmaker Max Good's narration introduces yet another series of allegations about perennial conspiracy villain Ruth Paine. This time, Good and his cohorts allege that Ruth almost single-handedly incriminated Lee Harvey Oswald:

Good: "Other than Marina, Ruth Paine had been history's most important witness against Lee Harvey Oswald. Ruth and her garage provided much of the incriminating evidence..."

Researcher Greg Doudna has made a series of posts on the Education Forum about Good's film. In one of his posts, Doudna notes:

"Up to that point the presentation has the overt structure of a neutral narrator... The words of the narrator above depart from that overt stance of neutrality and now favor the side of Ruth’s accusers."

Good's "featured" expert James DiEugenio lays out the case regarding the first item of evidence that he believes Ruth found too conveniently (1:13:10):

DiEugenio: "Seven or eight days after the assassination Ruth Paine says she has to return a couple of books to Marina. Out of nowhere, in one of those books, she accidentally finds this note which the FBI turned into a piece of evidence about the [right wing General Edwin] Walker shooting. By the time that gets to the Warren Commission, this is supposed to be a precedent for Oswald shooting Kennedy."

The Walker note and other evidence indicating Oswald's involvement in the crime certainly pointed to his willingness to take violent action for a political cause. And the so called backyard photos were indeed one thing that tied Oswald to the JFK murder weapon. But these items are just a tiny subset of the voluminous evidence that pointed to his guilt in the JFK, Tippit and Walker matters.

Author Vincent Bugliosi chronicled 53 points of evidence indicating Oswald's complicity in his book Reclaiming History. But most of these points have nothing to do with Ruth. For example, no one is arguing that Ruth made Oswald tell the numerous and demonstrable lies about the evidence that he related to authorities after his arrest. Nor did she have anything to do with the evidence in the Tippit case which points to Oswald's guilt in that crime.

What of the evidence mentioned in the Good film? Would any of it have been crucial in a legal case against Oswald? Would alleged conspirators really have risked fabricating it? Let's start with the Walker note.

Like several other claims he made in the film, DiEugenio's statement that Ruth found the Walker note is incorrect. Ruth had asked the local police to return some miscellaneous items to Marina Oswald. Among these items were two Russian books. Unbeknownst to Ruth, the police gave the items to the Secret Service instead of Marina and it was they who found the note in a tome titled Book of Helpful Instructions.

Such a false statement by DiEugenio is not surprising. Those in the know have come to expect this from him. But what is somewhat unexpected is that Good uses a clip of Ruth in an apparent attempt to bolster DiEugenio's false claim. At 1:13:40, Ruth says this:

"If I hadn’t taken that book to Marina, we might not even know that he had made the attempt on Walker. I was sending things to Marina and of course [waving fingers] they look through books to see what might fall out. And out fell this note that I didn’t know was there."

The clip of Ruth immediately follows the segment where DiEugenio makes his false claim that Ruth found the note. Two things in this clip could lead an uninitiated viewer to believe DiEugenio's assertion. First, Ruth says that she had "taken" the book to Marina. But it would have been more accurate for Ruth to say that the book was taken to the Secret Service who gave it to Marina. Secondly, Ruth says "out fell this note that I didn’t know was there," again removing the Secret Service from the equation. But one must listen closely to hear Ruth say "they" which confirms a third party—the Secret Service—having possession of the book and uncovering the note.

DiEugenio provides his version of what happened next:

DiEugenio: “The Secret Service returned that note to Ruth saying, This is yours, isn't it? (laughs) (laughing) That's how suspicious the Secret Service was of Ruth Paine. They thought she wrote the note!”

DiEugenio's inappropriate jocularity aside, since the Secret Service knew Ruth had sent the books to Marina and the Walker note was in one of the books, it was natural for them to ask Ruth about it. Because the note was in Russian, it is unclear if the agents even knew what it said. And despite DiEugenio's statement, there is no reason to believe the Secret Service was generally "suspicious" of Ruth and her statement to them cleared up the matter to their satisfaction.

And unfortunately for theorists who believe that Ruth planted the note in the book, Marina testified otherwise:

Mr. RANKIN. What did you do with the note that he had left for you after you talked about it and said you were going to keep it?
Mrs. OSWALD. I had it among my things in a cookbook. But I have two--I don't remember in which.

Marina also told the Warren Commission the complete story of her husband's assassination attempt against Walker including details like a notebook he kept that included photographs and a map. The Walker note itself contained instructions for Marina in the event Oswald was captured. Given the solid evidence pointing to Oswald as the would-be assassin in the Walker matter, theorists like DiEugenio must do what they can to solicit doubt:

DiEugenio: "There were seven fingerprints taken off the so-called Walker Note. None of them match Lee. None of them match Marina."

But Doudna points out that it was about seven months between the time the note was written and when it was handed over to authorities and examined for fingerprints. And according to a reference work on the subject by M. Edwin O'Neill:

...under ordinary circumstances successful development [of fingerprints from paper items] cannot be effected after a few weeks, and in some cases the impressions may be lost after a few days.

As Doudna mentions, the method used by the FBI to obtain the prints is not documented. But it is reasonable to assume that it was the silver nitrate method since that was the method used on other paper and cardboard items of evidence.

Doudna quotes a second reference source on the effectiveness of the silver nitrate method on paper items:

The silver nitrate method is a simple and effective technique to develop latent fingerprints on normal porous substrates and some water-repelling surfaces. However, it is suggested that the age of latent fingerprints should not be older than one week.

So, there is no reason to assume that the methods used by the FBI would find the fingerprints of either Lee or Marina Oswald after several months. The fingerprints the bureau did find were likely those of the FBI people who handled the note and/or the Secret Service agents. Doudna sums up the matter succinctly:

"The only purpose served by DiEugenio’s mention of the fingerprints, and the inclusion of that soundbite in the film, seems solely to insinuate suspicion of Ruth to viewers who have no means to know better..."

The final nails in the coffin for those who believe the Walker note is suspect are separate handwriting analyses performed by the FBI for the Warren Commission and by the HSCA as part of their investigation in the late seventies. As Doudna notes:

"'The Assassination & Mrs. Paine' fails to inform the viewer of the highly relevant information that the handwriting of the [Walker] note was conclusively found to be Oswald's."

Good next turns his attention to another conspiracy favorite:

Good:"...the Walker note wasn't the only piece [of evidence] that curiously popped up after the initial police search of Ruth's house. The infamous Backyard Photos were found in the second police search the day after the assassination. And Ruth later handed over the cameras that had supposedly been overlooked. One was matched to the Backyard Photos."

Good's implication is that Ruth planted the backyard photos and the camera used to take them. Using that logic, the photos would have been fabricated by her CIA superiors. But Good's statement that Ruth "handed over" the camera doesn't begin to tell the full story. Answering several key questions helps to get at the truth. How did the authorities gain possession of the camera? Did Marina take the photos? Are the photos authentic? Once all the facts are known, a plot involving Ruth becomes untenable.

In February of 1964, the FBI conducted an investigation to see if they could locate the camera that had taken the backyard photos. On February 18th, Marina described the camera that she had used to take the photos. She told bureau agents it was a "grayish" camera that took photos by "looking down into a viewer at the top of the camera." But there was no camera of this type in the inventory of Oswald's possessions.

On the 19th, Detective John McCabe of the Irving Police told bureau agents that he was sure he had seen a "light gray box camera" in a box of items at the Paine home during the initial search. McCabe later told agents that he did not seize the camera because he believed it had "no evidentiary value" since it was in "poor condition" and he felt it was "not capable of taking pictures."

On the same day they spoke to McCabe, the FBI went to see Ruth Paine. She told them that Lee Oswald's brother Robert had visited her after the assassination and requested possession of the "remaining property" of Lee and Marina. Ruth directed Robert, who was accompanied by Marina's business manager and another individual, to the garage where the things were stored and the three men took them.

The FBI obtained the camera, an Imperial Reflex model, from Robert five days after speaking to Ruth. Robert kept the camera because, as he told the bureau, "he could see no evidentiary value" in the "cheap camera." Robert was very familiar with the camera, which he said his brother purchased in about 1957, since he had possession of it from about 1959 to mid-1962 while Lee was in Russia. On February 25th, Marina identified the Imperial Reflex as the camera she had used to take the backyard photos. The camera looked exactly like the one she described several days before–a "grayish" camera with a "viewer at the top of the camera."

In addition to her testimony that she took the photos, and in spite of the fact that she has fallen under the sway of theorists who have convinced her that her husband was innocent, Marina has told several private researchers that she took the photos. In 1991, she told Harrison Livingstone "I did take those pictures of Lee. . . . I took them one Sunday. Yes. I swear on my children I'm telling the truth." In 2000, Bugliosi and conspiracy researcher Jack Duffy interviewed Marina and she again stated that she took the infamous photos. Underestimating the ability of Good and others to beat a dead horse, Duffy quipped "That settles that issue."

Significantly, according to the Warren Commission and an extensive analysis by the HSCA, the photos are genuine and show no signs of fakery and were taken with the Imperial Reflex camera to the exclusion of all other cameras. Additionally, in 2015, a study of the photos by Hany Farid at Dartmouth University used 3D modeling to deconstruct several conspiracy claims having to do with lighting and shadows.

Additional evidence that the photos preexisted the assassination and are therefore genuine comes from several sources. Author Gus Russo found several witnesses at the offices of the Socialist Workers' Party who remembered seeing a photo sent by Oswald. This group published The Militant, a newspaper Oswald is seen holding in the photos. Additionally, the HSCA determined that Oswald's handwriting appeared on a print (item #31) found after the assassination by George de Mohrenschildt and his wife. The inscription reads "To my friend George from Lee Oswald" and was dated April 5, 1963.

In summary, the evidence proves that Marina took the photos with the Imperial Reflex camera and they are genuine and predated the assassination. Similarly, Robert had pre-assassination knowledge of the Imperial Reflex camera. Obviously, there would have been no reason for Ruth to plant these items.

In the case of the Walker note, handwriting experts proved Lee Oswald authored it. But for the sake of argument, say that the note was somehow fabricated. The bulk of the evidence regarding that shooting comes from Marina. But none of it does anything to legally implicate Oswald in the assassination of JFK. Indeed, most of the Walker evidence would have been useless in court since a wife could not be compelled to testify against her husband. Since any deception carries with it the possibility of discovery, why would conspirators assume the added risk of fabricating a note that would do little to incriminate their "patsy?"

See also Steve Roe's refutation of the notion that Ruth forged the Walker note.

Part Two will discuss the items related to Mexico City found by Ruth.


  1. DiEugenio just can’t seem to ever get it right. Of course Ruth Paine did not “find” the Walker note. It was contained within a book that she sent via the authorities to Marina. They found it and came to Ruth to question her about it.
    As a further illustration of DiEugenio’s ineptness and disregard for factual information: I appear briefly in the film. I explain to Max Good that I’m a friend of Ruth and as a collector she has given me a number of items to include a filing box with a Warren Commission sticker and her box of FBI files. I explain that I was a former government background investigator with the Defense Investigative Service and show him a plaque with that designation. I also read from an email in which Ruth thanks me for doing some research on the box. I state that Ruth has books on the assassination and that she is an avid student of the assassination herself. So what does Mr. DiEugeno have to say in a June 2022 interview with Max Good to promote the film? He misidentifies the agency that I worked for as the "Defense Intelligence Services”. He says that I’m wearing a hat that says “Defense Intelligence Services” and I take it off and show it to Max. I have never owned any such hat. He goes on to say that I do certain jobs for Ruth such as “finding these boxes for her.” Ruth merely gave me the one box she had and asked me to research it on the internet. He derides my statement that Ruth is well informed on the assassination and has a number of books on the assassination by saying that Ruth reads religiously and works a lot on the case. Of course she doesn’t. I’m “honored” that DiEugenio considers the one scene in which I appear to be “worth the whole movie” as he derisively laughs. This man is not serious, he is exceedingly sloppy and cannot be believed. He is incapable of getting even basic information and facts straight.

    1. Thanks very much for your comment. DiEugenio is not to be taken seriously as you indicate. He is an activist and pseudo historian as opposed to a researcher.

  2. So Biermbau, what did your research on the contents of the box of records show? And Parnell, didn't the backyard photo Oswald gave to deMornschilts also say "Hunter of Fascists, ha ha!" And why did you leave that our?*

    1. I presume that he left out "hunter of fascists haha because it is unknown who write that part. The rest was in Oswald's handwriting supporting the authenticity while the "hunter..." was likely written by someone else.
      Off topic but the photo is very suggestive that George was aware of Oswald's attempt to shoot Walker. Had George notified authorities it seems likely Oswald would never have been able to murder Kennedy and Tippit. I speculate he felt a great deal responsible.

    2. Oldgolftop: You are right, thanks.

  3. So Biermbau, what did your research on the contents of the box of records show? And Parnell, didn't the backyard photo Oswald gave to deMornschilts also say "Hunter of Fascists, ha ha!" And why did you leave that our?*


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