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  • Matt Crumpton

Ep 41: Oswald Back in Dallas (Part 3)

Updated: May 7

 In the Spring of 1963, as George De Mohrenschildt was getting ready to leave Dallas for his new oil contract in Haiti, Marina Oswald began to form a relationship with Ruth Paine, whom she had just met at a party at Everett Glover’s house.

 

A few other things happen around this time that are pivotal to the story of Lee Harvey Oswald. On March 13, an order for a Manlicher Carcano rifle was sent to Klein’s Sporting Goods from Oswald’s alias, Alek Hidell. We don’t know when the rifle was picked up, if it was, because there is no record of it actually being picked up by Oswald. We covered the details of whether Oswald did or did not order the rifle in episode 7.

 

According to the Warren Commission, on March 31, 1963 the infamous backyard photo of Oswald showing him with a pistol on his side, holding the Manlicher Carcano rifle, and two Russian newspapers, was taken by Marina. A few days later, on April 10, a racist general named Edwin Walker was shot at from outside of his home. After President Kennedy and Officer Tippitt were killed, the authorities tied the Walker shooting to Lee Harvey Oswald. In upcoming episodes, we’ll cover the backgrounds of Ruth and Michael Paine, the backyard photos, and the General Walker shooting.

 

But first, in this episode, we have a lot more to unpack from George de Mohrenschildt to help us determine what he was really up to, including his business contacts related to Haiti, his relationship and written correspondence with former president George H.W. Bush, the story of Willem Oltmans, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding de Mohrenschildt’s death by shotgun blast.

 

De Mohrenschildt in Haiti

 

Since George de Mohrenschildt is potentially such a huge character in the assassination, a more thorough look into his activities before and after he knew Oswald may help to clarify his motive for building a relationship with Oswald.

 

In the late 1930s, when he first arrived in the United States, de Mohrenschildt worked for Shumaker Company, whose CEO Pierre Fraiss was a French intelligence agent.[1] De Mohrenschildt even did some intelligence on behalf the French government in the United States, which involved him contacting American oil companies and asking them to sell to the French instead of the Germans as competition for oil increased during the lead up to World War II.[2]  

 

On March 13, 1963, as he was nearing the end of his time with Oswald, de Mohrenschildt secured a surveying contract with the Haitian government for $285,000 (worth about $2.85 Million in today’s American dollars).[3] In the Spring of 1963, as he was preparing for his upcoming contract in Haiti, de Mohrenschildt met in Washington, D.C. with Department of Defense personnel, and his Haitian business partner, Clemard Joseph Charles.[4]

 

Declassified CIA files show that on May 7, 1963 Dorothe Matlock from the office of the Army Chief of Staff for Intelligence arranged a meeting between Clem Charles, herself, and a Tony Czaikowski of the CIA. She also made hotel reservations for Clem Charles and George de Mohrenschildt.[5]  Matlock had been informed about Clem Charles visiting the United States by an army intelligence colonel who encouraged her to speak with him, given Haiti’s strategic importance when it came to Cuba and Charles’ close ties to Haitian dictator, Papa Doc Duvalier.[6] When it came time for the meeting, Matlock was surprised when George and Jeanne de Mohrenschildt both attended, even though they had not been invited. Matlock told the HSCA that she felt that de Mohrenschildt quote “dominated” Charles in some way, but she didn’t know what his role was.

Joseph Dryer worked for a Federal Government program to encourage Caribbean countries to grow jute, which is a hemp-like crop that can be used to make rope and fibers. Dryer met de Mohrenschildt while he was doing work on jute promotion in Haiti. When Dryer was interviewed by an HSCA committee investigator, he was given a list of names and asked whether he had heard de Mohrenschildt mention any of them. He said that he recognized two of the names on the list: Dorothy Matlocke the woman de Mohrenschildt had met with from Army Intelligence and William Avery Hyde, who worked for the US Agency for International Development, and before that, the International Cooperation Administration. William Avery Hyde was also the father Ruth Paine.[7]

 

So, we have De Mohrenschildt meeting with Army Intelligence and the CIA shortly before going to Haiti. And then we have the somewhat tenuous, but showstopping nonetheless, claim that de Mohrenschildt knew Ruth Paine’s father.

 

On top of all of that, we learned in 2022 from a declassified memo that the CIA was actively looking for de Mohrenschildt in late April of 1963, but they couldn’t find him.[8] We never learned exactly why they were looking for him, or why this document was so sensitive that it was just de-classified in 2022.

 

BUSH

 

Not only did De Mohrenschildt know Jackie Kennedy’s mother, and possibly, Ruth Paine’s father, he also knew the future 41st president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush. One of de Mohrenschildt’s early oil business partners, Eddie Hooker, was Bush’s roommate and close friend while at Phillips Academy in Massachusetts.[9] De Mohrenschildt also did oil consulting work with Thomas Devine, who was Bush’s business partner in his oil company, Zapata Offshore.[10] At the same time Devine was working with George H.W. Bush, it turns out that he was also working for the CIA.[11]

 

In September of 1976, George de Mohrenschildt began to notice that he was being surveilled, but he didn’t know by whom or for what reason. He reached out with a handwritten letter to his old friend, George Bush, who by that time had risen to the position of Director of the CIA. The letter said QUOTE:

 

Maybe you will be able to bring a solution into the hopeless situation I find myself in. My wife and I find ourselves surrounded by some vigilantes; our phone bugged; and we are being followed everywhere. Either FBI is involved in this or they do not want to accept my complaints. We are driven to insanity by this situation . . .  tried to write, stupidly and unsuccessfully, about Lee H. Oswald and must have angered a lot of people . . . Could you do something to remove this net around us? This will be my last request for help and I will not annoy you anymore.[12]

 

Bush’s then wrote an interoffice memo that said, QUOTE

 

I do know this man, de Mohrenschildt. I first met him in the early 40s. He was an uncle to my Andover roommate. Later he surfaced in Dallas. He got involved in some controversial dealings in Haiti. Then he surfaced when Oswald shot to prominence. He knew Oswald before the assassination of President Kennedy. I don’t recall his role in all this. At one time he had or spent plenty of money.[13]

 

Bush wrote a letter back to de Mohrenschildt in a friendly tone. The substance of the letter was QUOTE:

 

         In your situation, I can well imagine how the attention you described in your letter affect both you and your wife. However, my staff has been unable to find any indication of interest in your activities on the part of Federal authorities in recent years. The flurry of interest that attended your testimony before the Warren Commission has long since subsided. I can only speculate that you have become “newsworthy” again in view of the renewed interest in the Kennedy Assassination, and thus, may be attracting the attention of people in the media.[14]

 

There is more to discuss as it relates to former president George H.W. Bush’s relationship to the Kennedy Assassination, and whether he was involved with the CIA before he became the director of the Agency. We’ll cover those issues in a future episode.

 

Willem Oltmans

 

In March of 1977, de Mohrenschildt agreed to disclose some new information about the Kennedy Assassination to Dutch journalist, Willem Oltmans. Oltmans claimed that de Mohrenschildt told him that, when it came to the assassination of President Kennedy, he was part of a QUOTE “Dallas conspiracy” of oil men and Cuban Exiles with a QUOTE “blood debt to settle.” He also told Oltmans that Oswald had QUOTE “acted at his guidance and instruction.”[15]

 

As part of Oltmans’ interviews with de Mohrenschildt, the two men traveled together to the Netherlands, where de Mohrenschildt left his personal belongings at Oltmans’ home. A few days later, the two men flew to Brussels to meet a Soviet Diplomat for lunch. After the diplomat said something to de Mohrenschildt in Russian, it spooked him so much that he left the restaurant in Brussels, never to be seen again by Oltmans, even though Oltmans had de Mohrenschildt’s luggage and keys at his house.[16]

 

Oltmans even testified to the HSCA in a closed door session about what de Mohrenschildt had told him. Here’s an ABC News Clip of the day Oltmans testified:

 

For 3 hours, Willem Oltmans was questioned closely about his uncorroborated story by the House Assassinations Committee. Although his committee testimony is secret, in public, he had been told of a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, allegedly involving Texas oil interests, the late millionaire HL Hunt, three Anti-Castro Cuban gunmen, Lee Harvey Oswald, and George de Mohrenschildt, a friend of Oswald’s who committed suicide this week when the assassinations committee tried to get him to testify. 

 

Mr. de Mohrenschildt told me on the 23rd of February (1977), that Oswald acted at his instructions and they discussed the Kennedy Assassination from A-Z. And that he knew that Oswald was going to kill President Kennedy sooner or later.[17]

 

So, if Oltmans is telling the truth, George de Mohrenschildt’s position was that Oswald WAS involved and that he was not just a patsy, but that there was also a conspiracy with additional shooters. What I find interesting about this story is that the CIA is nowhere to be found in the conversation. We’ve outlined de Mohrenschildt’s many intelligence connections, but if we are to believe Oltmans, the assassination was exclusively about oil and Cuban exiles.[18]

 

In an interesting move that is a tip of the cap to those with deep knowledge of the JFK assassination, director Oliver Stone cast Willem Oltmans to play the role of George de Mohrenschildt in Stone’s classic film, JFK.

 

GDM Dead                      

 

We’ve already discussed the many intelligence connections of George de Mohrenschildt, including French Intelligence, the CIA, and Army Intelligence. The circumstances of de Mohrenschildt’s death also add fuel to the idea that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to George de Mohrenschildt.

 

On March 29, 1977, de Mohrenschildt was meeting with author Edward Epstein to give an interview for Epstein’s book, Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald. While he was out meeting with Epstein, HSCA investigator Gaeton Fonzi stopped by the beach house where de Mohrenschildt was staying in Manalapan, Florida and left his card with George’s daughter, Alexandra. Fonzi told Alexandra that he would be calling her father that evening to set up a time for him to be questioned for the HSCA.[19] She told Fonzi to call back after 8 o clock.[20]

 

Around 6:30 that very same evening, Fonzi got a phone call from a friend of his who was a television reporter in Dallas at the time, and would go on to cable news superstardom a few decades later – Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly told Fonzi that he was reporting on a story about de Mohrenschildt finally being found by the HSCA, but he had heard that de Mohrenschildt was dead from suicide. He wanted to confirm with Fonzi.[21]

 

Unbeknownst to Fonzi, it was true that de Mohrenschildt was dead. Around 2:20pm – a few hours after Fonzi had left his business card, George de Mohrenschildt died of a shotgun blast to the head.[22]

 

Here's a clip of Alexandra de Mohrenschildt talking to O’Reilly the day after her father died.

 

O’Reilly:  Getting back to Epstein for a minute, he came back from the interview with Epstein and that’s when the tragedy happened. Did he say anything to you about Epstein or was he upset when he came back?

 

Alexandra: No. I talked to him and I said how is everything going and he said fine. I said how is Mr. Epstein. He said he was very nice and very intelligent. I asked do you have to go and see him again today. My father said “no, I do not have to go and see him again until tomorrow.” Which I understand was not true.

 

O’Reilly: Wait a minute, you understand that was not true?

 

Alexandra: He had an appointment with Mr. Epstein at 3 o clock but he told me he didn’t have to go back.

 

O’Reilly: Did you find out what went wrong there?

 

Alexandra: No. I did speak to Mr. Epstein, but he doesn’t know.[23]

 

Bill O’Reilly went on to write a best-selling book defending the Warren Report called, Killing Kennedy. In that book, O’Reilly claimed that he showed up at de Mohrenschildt’s house on the day he died and – as O’Reilly was knocking on the door he actually heard the shotgun blast that killed de Mohrenschildt.[24] Of course, this is inconsistent with the story from Gaeton Fonzi. But, O’Reilly’s claim was later proven to be a lie because Fonzi recorded O’Reilly’s phone call to him where he is asking about the details and O’Reilly point blank says that he is coming to Florida, tomorrow, which conclusively shows O’Reilly could not have been standing at the front door when the shotgun was fired. Here’s the tape:

 

O’Reilly: Hi Gaeton, Bill O’Reilly. Something definitely did happen.

 

Fonzi: Yeah, I got it. He committed suicide here, where I was trying to locate him.

 

O’Reilly: Ok, where is that?

 

Fonzi: It’s a place called Manalapan, Palm Beach County.

 

O’Reilly: That’s a town? Manalapan?

 

Fonzi: Yeah, it’s a section of Lantana.

 

O’Reilly: So, he committed suicide, he’s dead? What time?

 

Fonzi: Yeah. Late this afternoon.

 

O’Reilly: Gun?

 

Fonzi: Yeah, I think they said he shot himself.

 

O’Reilly: Ok. Jesus Christ. We gotta get this guy Epstein. I’m coming down there tomorrow. I’m coming to Florida. We gotta get this guy. He knows what happened.

 

Fonzi: I’m gonna be up there trying to secure the papers.

 

O’Reilly: Ok. I’m gonna get in there tomorrow. I’m gonna get a car.[25]

 

Even when confronted with this recording, O’Reilly doubled down on his statement and said that he was there as it happened, without ever addressing in any way the smoking gun recording we just played that proves O’Reilly was lying.[26] This is not central to the case. But, it tells me all I need to know about the trustworthiness of Bill O’Reilly’s reporting.

 

Homicide or Suicide?

 

The big question around de Mohrenschildt’s death is whether or not it was a suicide. I always assumed that it was obviously a homicide, given that de Mohrenschildt had just hours earlier spilled the beans to Edward Epstein about J. Walton Moore asking him to contact Oswald, and him requesting help from the US Embassy in Haiti with an oil contract – which he did receive and was in fact paid for – in exchange. Plus, de Mohrenschildt had just been put on notice that the HSCA wanted to talk to him hours earlier. If someone wanted to keep de Mohrenschildt quiet, it seems that the time to do it would be before he told the HSCA the same things he was telling Epstein.

 

So, is there any actual evidence that de Mohrenschildt was killed by someone else? There seems to be some, but it is highly disputed.

 

First, there is the coincidence that mafia hitman, Charles Nicoletti, who was rumored to have ties to the Kennedy Assassination was shot to death in a clear hit on the same day de Mohrenschildt died – March 29, 1977. I file that under, “oh, isn’t that interesting.” It proves nothing as it relates to de Mohrenschildt’s death.[27]

 

Author Dick Russell asked Jeanne de Mohrenschildt, George’s wife, whether she believed he had taken his own life. She said QUOTE “Nobody that knew him does.”[28] At the time de Mohrenschildt was shot, the maid had been instructed to make an audio tape recording of a soap opera on television. Attorney Mark Lane, who attended the Coroner’s Inquest into de Mohrenschildt’s death, said that they played the tape at the Inquest. Lane said on the tape that right before you hear the gunshot, you hear a home security alarm going off with 5 consecutive beeps.[29]

 

Lane said QUOTE “I said “Does that sound like someone came into the house?” and the Coroner said “We’re not going to go into that.” When Lane asked why, the Coroner told him QUOTE “You understand why. This is bigger than all of us. We have to do what we have to do.” [30] Lane said that a woman on the grand jury at the Coroner’s Inquiry said that the beeps sounded like her security system, but the Coroner gave her the same answer that he gave Lane, that they weren’t going to get into that.

 

So, we have a fact that makes it seem like there could have been foul play – the beeping security alarm, plus the doubting family. But, the possibility that de Mohrenschildt fired the weapon himself still seems most likely to me. Here’s why:

 

De Mohrenschildt suffered from chronic bronchitis. In the spring of 1976, he had severe bronchitis and sought medical treatment from a new doctor - Dr. Charles Mendoza -  who had been referred to them. Jeanne could not remember who had referred the doctor.[31] Jeanne says that the bronchitis was gone quickly, but her husband’s personality suddenly changed and he became increasingly paranoid. He had also lost his trademark confidence in this period of time according to his wife.

 

Jeanne began to question Dr. Mendoza about what type of treatments he was giving her husband and insisted on being present during the treatments, but Dr. Mendoza would not allow it. She found out that Dr. Mendoza had been giving her husband some sort of injections that Dr. Mendoza would not disclose to her. In the Fall of 1976, Jeanne insisted that her husband stop the treatments he was getting from Dr. Mendoza. But, by that time, De Mohrenschildt’s condition had deteriorated to the point where he was checked into a mental hospital and had to undergo electroshock therapy.

 

Researchers have attempted to track down Dr. Mendoza so that they could get his side of the story and to put any claims to rest about Dr. Mendoza being some sort of intelligence connected doctor who was giving de Mohrenschildt harmful treatments to silence him. But, Dallas County Medical Society records show that Dr. Mendoza registered in Dallas in April 1976, less than two months before he began treating de Mohrenschildt, and Dr. Mendoza left Dallas in December 1976, a few months after de Mohrenschildt stopped treatment. The forwarding address Dr. Mendoza left with the Dallas County Medical Society turned out to be a nonexistent address.[32] Dr. Mendoza was gone without a trace.

 

The police report for de Mohrenschildt’s death provides a lot of important context. The report says that when de Mohrenschildt’s daughter told him about Fonzi, the HSCA investigator wanting to talk to him, she could tell that he was upset by that news.[33] The shotgun found next to de Mohrenschildt’s body belonged to the homehowner – Nancy Tilton, who was the sister of one of de Mohrenschildt’s ex-wives. Tilton was out of town at the time.[34] The headline for me from the police report is that de Mohrenschildt had recently told his daughter that he was considering suicide, and that he had made several attempts to take his life in the last year.

 

So, in the end, we are left with a few possible explanations for de Mohrenshchildt’s death: a straight forward suicide, a suicide that was influenced by injections given to him by the mysterious Dr. Mendoza, or a homicide that involved a beeping security alarm that was never investigated.

 

I tend to believe that de Mohrenschildt took his own life because of the previous attempts and the condition he was in after being treated by Dr. Mendoza. But, no matter how you look at it, the circumstances of de Mohrenschildt’s death are mysterious. They serve to underline the idea that, if the CIA was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy in any way, George de Mohrenschildt is a prime suspect for acting as the Agency’s connection to Lee Harvey Oswald from the Fall of 1962 until the Spring of 1963.

 

NEXT TIME ON SOLVING JFK: We begin studying the background of Ruth and Michael Paine, and the relationship that the Paines had with the Oswalds.

 


[2] Id.

[3] Id. at 55.

[4] Id. at 56.

[5] Id. at 56.

[6] Id.

[9] DiEugenio at 152.

[10] Russ Baker, Family of Secrets, at 13.

[15] Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation, at 189.

[18] Oltmans isn’t the only person who says de Mohrenschildt confessed to involvement in the JFK Assassination. Gary Taylor, Alexandra de Mohrenschildt’s ex-husband, had some interesting things to say about his former father-in-law. He told the Warren Commission QUOTE “If there was any assistance or plotters in the assassination, it was, in my opinion, most probably the de Mohrenschildt’s.” Taylor told the HSCA that his ex-wife, Alexandra, had told him that her dad wrote a confession, which was among the papers of his estate. If it ever existed, the document has never come to light.

[19] Id. at 192.

[20] Id. at 190.

[21] Id. at 192.

[28] Dick Russell, The Man Who Knew Too Much, at 173.

[29] Mark Lane, G de Mohrenschilt – The Security Alarm, excerpted from Inside Edition (with Bill O’Reilly) CBS Television. (The YouTube link to the tape recording has been disabled because the account hosting the video was terminated.)

[30] Id.

[31] Jim Marrs, Crossfire at 285.

[32] Id. In episode 39, we covered some of George de Mohrenschildt’s intelligence ties. It’s indisputable that de Mohrenschildt had a consistent and friendly working relationship with J. Walton Moore of the Dallas CIA. It appears likely that de Mohrenschildt, aka Phil Harbin, was personally on Allen Dulles’s radar as early as 1954. On top of these CIA connections, de Mohrenschildt told Edward Epstein that an associate of J. Walton Moore asked him to go and meet Lee and Marina Oswald. The reason this matters is because Warren Report critics have long argued that George de Mohrenschildt was Oswald’s handler who kept an eye on him and steered him on behalf of the CIA. If there is some other plausible reason for why de Mohrenschildt was hanging out with the Oswalds so much, then this idea of de Mohrenschildt as Oswald’s CIA babysitter could be dismissed. But, from what we’ve looked at, de Mohrenschildt certainly could have been the CIA’s conduit to Oswald. He knew all the right people to be that person. And he admitted right before he died that his local CIA contact asked him to go meet Oswald. And then right before he is out of the picture with Oswald, de Mohrenschildt gets his friend Everett Glover to host a party where Glover invites Ruth Paine – who many Warren Report critics believe is Oswald’s next CIA handler after de Mohrenschildt.

[34] Id.


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