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  • Matt Crumpton

Episode 5: How Did Oswald Get the Gun Into the Building? Are his Fingerprints in the Sniper's Nest?

Updated: Apr 23

Today, on Solving JFK, we’re looking for evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald brought the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle in to the building? Did anyone see Oswald with the rifle or anything else that could have been the rifle? FRAZIER 1 If Lee Harvey Oswald fired any of the shots that hit President Kennedy or Governor Connally, it logically follows that Oswald would have had to actually get the rifle into the building at some point. When, exactly, did he do that? According to the Warren Report, Oswald asked his acquaintance and sometimes ride to work, Buell Wesley Frazier, for a ride to Ruth Paine’s house on Thursday, November 21. Paine had met Lee and his wife, Marina, in the Spring of 1963 at a dinner party. Shortly after that Paine invited Marina and her two year old daughter to live at her house, so that Paine could help with childcare while Oswald lived in a rooming house during the week. Oswald was allowed to stay at the Paine house on the weekends. Frazier was a neighbor of Paine’s who also worked at a warehouse very close to the Schoolbook Depository. Oswald, who did not have a vehicle himself, would usually get a ride over to the Paine’s house with Frazier on Fridays after work to be with his family for the weekend. (Sidebar: If you are thinking this living arrangement between the Oswalds and Ruth Paine is a little weird, you are not alone. It’s an interesting story that we may come back to if we determine that the Warren Report was wrong.) Back to the Warren Report’s story on how Oswald got the gun in to the Schoolbook Depository - Frazier asked Oswald why he needed a ride on a Thursday instead of a Friday. Oswald said, “I’m going home to get some curtain rods for an apartment.”[1] So, according to Frazier, picking up curtain rods was the reason why Oswald was making a special Thursday trip to the Paine house, instead of his usual Friday trip.

Frazier and his sister Linnie Mae Randle both said that on the Friday morning of the assassination, Oswald had a brown paper sack with him when he showed up at their house for a ride to work.[ii]

Here’s Buell Wesley Frazier talking about the curtain rod package in the TV series, The Men Who Killed Kennedy.

The first time I saw the package it was on the back seat of my car. I just glanced at it and said “What’s that, Lee?” He said, “That’s curtain rods. Remember, I was going to bring them? The length of the package I saw that morning was roughly two foot long. It was made out of the same type of packing material that you would find any company that packed material for shipment. Just the brown paper and tape that you would normally find.”[iii]

This two foot long brown paper sack is the one that the Warren Report says contained the disassembled Manlicher-Carcano bolt action rifle that Oswald used to kill JFK.

We’ll come back to Frazier’s story in just a minute. But first, I want to share with you what I believe is one of the most interesting and tragic tales from the Kennedy assassination. It’ s the story of a man named Ralph Leon Yates.


We talked about Yates before in Episode 1, but here’s a deeper dive on the Yates story in the context of curtain rods, paper sacks and entering the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building.

On Wednesday, November 20 at 10:30am – one day before Oswald asked Frazier for a ride to pick up curtain rods from the Paine house – Ralph Yates picked up a hitchhiker near Beckley Avenue who he claimed was a “dead ringer” for Lee Harvey Oswald. Yates said the man had a four-foot long package covered in brown wrapping paper. And he told Yates that the long paper sack contained curtain rods.[iv]

This hitchhiker asked Yates “if he thought a person could assassinate the President.” Yates said, he supposed it was possible. The man then asked Yates, “Could it be done from the top of a building or out a window high up?” Yates said it would be possible if someone had a good rifle with a scope and was a good shot.[v] The man then asked Yates if he knew the President’s motorcade route. Yates said he did not, but that it was in the paper.

Yates then dropped off the man where he asked to be taken - the intersection of Elm and Houston Street, which happens to be where the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building is located. After the hitchhiker exited the vehicle, Yates saw the man carrying the long brown paper sack across Elm Street.[vi]

When Yates returned to work that Wednesday afternoon, he told his co-worker, Dempsey Jones, about the hitchhiker and what the man had said about killing the president.[vii] Once Yates heard about the assassination and saw Oswald on the news, he said the man he gave a ride to was “identical with Oswald.”[viii]

Yates immediately went to the FBI to tell them his story. But the FBI told Yates that he was mistaken. They interviewed Yates over 4 days on November 26, December 10, and then again January 3rd and 4th, 1964.[ix] We know that Yates’ testimony must have been at least somewhat important to the case because FBI director J. Edgar Hoover personally wrote an urgent teletype regarding the Yates testimony and ordered Yates to be re-interviewed with the polygraph lie detector, which was administered on January 4th.[x]

After the January 4th interview, the FBI told Yates that he had passed the lie detector test because the test showed that Yates believed what he was saying was true, BUT because the FBI said that they knew what Yates was saying could not be true, Yates was mentally insane and needed to immediately check in to a mental institution.

Yates, who was a twenty eight year old husband with five children, was then admitted immediately to Woodlawn Hospital for the Mentally Ill as a psychiatric patient.[xi] From that point on, Yates spent most of the remainder of his life in and out of mental health hospitals until he died at the age of 39.[xii] He received over 40 shock treatments, but he never backed down or changed his story about picking up the hitchhiker who looked like Oswald and had foreknowledge of the curtain rods, the long paper sack, the shooting from high up with a rifle, and Oswald’s place of employment.[xiii]

When I first read the story of the FBI forcibly committing Yates, I could not understand why. Yates was providing information that was consistent with Oswald wanting to kill Kennedy and potentially possessing a rifle to do it. How was this problematic to the Warren Report?

Well, it’s problematic because there is already an official story for how Oswald got the rifle into the building, which, incidentally, also uses curtain rods in a brown paper bag as the concealment method for sneaking the rifle in. The official story is the story of Frazier giving Oswald a ride to work on Friday morning. Not the story of Yates dropping off a hitchhiker on Wednesday morning.[xiv] We know that Oswald was working his regular hours at the depository on Wednesday when Yates says he picked up the hitchhiker. So, Yates hitchhiker CAN NOT be the real Lee Harvey Oswald![xv]

This story sounds crazy. But, the facts of Yates 4 interviews with the FBI and his subsequent involuntary commitment to a mental health facility are not disputed. There are multiple FBI documents discussing the interviews with Yates. The FBI also checked Yates whereabouts on Wednesday morning at 10:30am, and, sure enough, Yates was out on a service call, which corroborates his story.[xvi]

Ralph Yates is where the analysis of the case really starts to diverge between conspiracy researchers and lone gunman researchers. For people who are suspicious of Oswald acting alone, the Yates story is a showstopper. The Feds committed this man to a mental institution without due process all because he told what was apparently an inconvenient truth.

And what was his truth that got him in trouble? - Telling the FBI that he picked up an Oswald lookalike who was obviously impersonating Oswald given his foreknowledge of Oswald’s place of work and curtain rods in a paper sack. Yates relayed his encounter with the hitchhiker to his co-worker Dempsey BEFORE the assassination on that Wednesday. How could Yates have possibly known to make that up?

For Warren Report defenders, the Yates episode is an interesting coincidence that is a red herring. They note that Dempsey, Yates co-worker who Yates had shared his hitchhiker encounter with on Wednesday, told the FBI that “Yates is a big talker who always talks about a lot of foolishness.”[xvii] Many of Yates’ family members did not have positive things to say about him either.[xviii] Additionally, there is the question of “If there was a conspiracy plot, and the hitchhiker was supposed to be an Oswald lookalike, why would the conspiracy plotters risk Yates going to the authorities about the plot, which could then lead to the plot being stopped?”

I don’t see what Yates has to gain by making this story up. If you think about it, Yates lost everything because of it. And, again, he told his co-worker about the story in advance. How could he have foreknowledge of all of those things if he wasn’t involved? But, I agree with the point about giving away the plot. If this was a fake Oswald, then why risk exposing the plot and having it stopped? I mean, at a minimum, I would expect high level conspirators to be able to get their curtain rod stories straight.

That’s what is so hard about the JFK case. Are all these little loose end facts part of a thread you can tie together or are they just random strings?


Ok, Back to Buell Wesley Frazier. On the Friday morning of the assassination, Frazier said Oswald had a two foot long brown paper sack with him that he put in the back seat of Frazier’s car. Once they arrived at the schoolbook depository parking lot, he saw Oswald bring the package with the curtain rods into the building.

“I parked in the parking lot at the Texas Schoolbook Depository. Lee got out of the car, took the package that he said contained curtain rods, and he put one end of the package in the cup of his hand and the other up under his armpit. And he walked off toward the Texas Schoolbook Depository on Elm Street.”[xix]

Frazier’s sister, Linnie Mae Randle, lends support to his story about the brown paper sack because she also says that she saw Oswald with it. But Warren Report critics have noted that Randle’s view from where she says she was standing at the time would have been blocked by the carport wall such that Randle wouldn’t have been able to see Oswald.[xx] Randle says she is the one who told Frazier that Oswald was outside. Frazier and Randle’s mother, Essie Mae was at home on Friday morning and says that she was the one who told Frazier that Oswald was outside. Mrs. Mae did not mention anything about Oswald having a brown paper sack with him in her statement to the FBI.[xxi]

Another thing about Frazier that is kind of strange is the midnight polygraph.

At midnight on the Friday of the assassination, Dallas Police Detective R.D. Lewis administered a polygraph to Frazier on the direct orders of Captain Fritz (who had been questioning Oswald.) When asked later about this polygraph, Detective Lewis initially denied giving the polygraph to Frazier and then said he remembered it when he was shown the police report about it. The polygraph test showed no difference between the readings on the machine for different questions.[xxii]

Journalist Jim Bishop was given access to the Dallas Police Department for his 1967 book, The Day Kennedy Was Shot.[xxiii] Bishop says the reason for the inconclusive results was that Frazier QUOTE “bordered on controlled hysteria.”[xxiv] The needle jumped no matter what the question was. Bishop says the police QUOTE “scare[d] the wits out of him.”[xxv] This is probably because for a brief period of time, Frazier was considered to be a suspect, both because he gave Oswald a ride and because a rifle was found at his house when the police searched it.[xxvi]

Anyone who gave the accused killer of the president a ride on the day of the assassination would likely be nervous. Even if you are innocent and tell the truth, you could always be falsely blamed. So, while it is notable that Frazier’s polygraph was unusable, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Frazier has something to hide. He could just be a nervous guy in a nerve wracking situation.

But, what is notable is that Despite the results of the test being unusable, the final police report said that Frazier passed the lie detector test – not that it was unusable.[xxvii] Detective Lewis did not sign the police report stating that Frazier passed the test. The Warren Commission did not interview Detective Lewis.[xxviii] We cannot examine the test for ourselves because there is no record of the Frazier polygraph test existing.

For what its worth, Oswald denied Frazier’s story about the curtain rods and the paper bag when he was asked about it by Captain Fritz. Oswald said he did have a regular sized brown paper lunch bag with him that morning, but that bag just had his lunch in it.[xxix]


We have seen that Frazier and Randle both say they saw Oswald with a long brown paper sack that morning. Did anyone at the schoolbook depository see the paper sack when Oswald entered the building?

According to Frazier, after he and Oswald arrived at Schoolbook Depository parking lot, Oswald retrieved his brown paper sack from the vehicle and then sprinted up ahead of Frazier, which Frazier said was out of character for Oswald to do.[xxx]

One person who should have seen the curtain rod package if Oswald had it like Frazier says, is Jack Daugherty – one of Oswald’s co-workers. Daugherty saw Oswald as he entered the building that Friday morning. When asked if Oswald was carrying a long paper sack he said he did not see it.[xxxi] But, then again, Daugherty says that he saw Oswald “out of the corner of [his] eye,”[xxxii] – not exactly the level of certainty needed to guarantee that Oswald didn’t have a curtain rod package.

Edward Shields, a co-worker of Frazier’s at the warehouse, told the House Select Committee on Assassinations that when he saw Frazier in the parking lot that Friday morning, Frazier was alone. When someone Shields knew asked Frazier where Oswald was, Shields said Frazier’s response was, “I dropped him off at the building.”[xxxiii]

But if Frazier dropped Oswald off at the building first, then he could not have seen Oswald run up in front of him as they were walking in from the parking lot together. It’s a small detail. But, why would Frazier lie about that?

Outside of Buell Wesley Frazier and his sister Linnie Mae Randle, there were no other witnesses who identified Oswald carrying a long brown paper sack with him that morning. And Frazier is the only one who says he saw Oswald carry the sack into the school book depository.[xxxiv]

One more thing about the length of this brown paper sack: The size of Oswald’s rifle, when disassembled, would have been too long to fit into a two foot long paper sack. When a Carcano of the variety Oswald allegedly owned is disassembled, the wooden stock of the gun is still 34.8 inches long.[xxxv] When you zoom in to Frazier and Randle’s testimony, it turns out that Randle’s claim was 28.5 inches and Frazier’s was 27. But Frazier actually measured the back seat of his car where he saw the package to get a precise number.[xxxvi] Either way, there is no possibility that a 40 inch Carcano, disassembled to be 34.8 inches, could fit in a bag that was approximately 27 inches.

Maybe Frazier and Randle were both mistaken and the paper sack was actually long enough to hold the Manlicher Carcano. But then again, maybe Oswald was telling the truth and he only had a brown paper lunch sack.


Ultimately, we know that there was a long brown paper sack that was found on the sixth floor. It was thirty eight inches long.[xxxvii] That’s 10 inches longer than Frazier and Randle said, and easily long enough to fit the disassembled Carcano. But what more can we learn about the case from the paper sack in evidence itself?

The Warren Report says it was made from paper and tape secured from the depository.[xxxviii] The report linked Oswald specifically to the paper sack through a right palm print and left index fingerprint.[xxxix] There were no other prints on the bag, not even from the police officer who handled it.

You would think that Oswald, as an employee of the schoolbook depository would have access to the brown paper and tape. But, Troy West, the man responsible for dispensing paper and tape at the depository, said Oswald did not approach him for paper or tape.[xl] I suppose Oswald could have stolen it from the building. But, if he did, how did he get it to the Paine house without Frazier ever seeing it? Frazier gave him rides on the weekends, but never saw him bring a long brown paper sack home. The depository paper dispenser did not give him the paper. So where did Oswald get the paper for the long paper sack and how did he get it back to the Paine house?

Warren Report critic, James DiEugenio, notes that the Carcano was soaked in Cosmoline, a lubricant to prevent corrosion, before being transported across the ocean.[xli] When FBI agent James Cadigan examined the brown paper sack, he did not mention that he found any oil or grease marks on the inside of the sack.[xlii] But, you would expect there to be oil or grease marks if the rifle was ever in it. Cadigan also said there were no creases in the paper or other markings from the rifle.[xliii]

Let’s listen again to Frazier’s description of how Oswald carried the paper sack into the schoolbook depository building.

“He put one end of the package in the cup of his hand and the other up under his armpit. And he walked off toward the Texas Schoolbook Depository on Elm Street.”[xliv]

If Oswald is carrying the package in the cup of his hand, as Frazier says, you would expect to see the fingerprints confirm that. How could Oswald have handled the bag and taped it and only gotten a palm print and a single index finger print on it? How would Oswald carry the bag with just his right palm and left index finger? You can try picking up something fairly heavy with just your right palm and left index finger. It’s a pretty awkward way to carry the bag. And it’s not the way Frazier describes Oswald carrying it.


The brown paper sack that we just discussed was found in the sniper’s nest. It wasn’t the only item in the sniper’s nest that had Oswald’s fingerprints. Oswald’s fingerprints were also found on some boxes inside the sniper’s nest. The boxes there near the window of the Southeast Corner “appeared to have been arranged as a convenient gun rest according to the Warren Report.[xlv]

There were two stacked boxes of books, which were up against the windows. There was another carton on the floor. So, in total, it appears that three boxes were moved to aide the shooter.[xlvi] These boxes were sent to FBI fingerprint expert Sebastian Latona. There were a total of 20 identifiable fingerprints and 8 palm prints on these boxes.[xlvii] Two of the three boxes (the bottom stacked box and the one on the floor) did not have any fingerprints belonging to Lee Harvey Oswald.[xlviii]

However, Oswald’s left palm and right index fingerprints were found on the top stacked box. He also had his right palm print on a box that was on the floor behind the three boxes that had been moved.[xlix] FBI Expert Latona could not determine how long the fingerprints had been on the stacked box. However, Oswald’s right palm print was on the box near the floor for no more than 3 days according to Latona.[l] Two other fingerprint experts verified that the fingerprints belonged to Oswald.[li]

The Commission addressed the idea that Oswald would have touched the boxes as part of his normal job duties, given that he regularly worked on the 6th floor. There were 12 other employees who would have moved these boxes as part of their job. But none of those 12 employees left their fingerprints on the boxes.[lii]

Okay, so, on its face, this information looks pretty bad for Oswald. He is the only employee with his fingerprints on any of the boxes that were moved within the sniper’s nest. This was hard for me to understand – how there could be no other fingerprints found at all on the boxes from any of the 12 other employees who worked on the 6th floor. But, apparently, according to the Warren Report, a person could handle the boxes and not leave identifiable fingerprints.[liii] That would also potentially explain why Oswald’s prints were not on the other two boxes.

But, Oswald did work on the 6th floor and part of his job was to move those boxes. So, even though no other employees had their fingerprints on those boxes, this fact of finding Oswald’s fingerprint on 2 snipers nest boxes is a fact that weighs against Oswald, but is by no means conclusive of his guilt or even presence in the sniper’s nest when the shots were fired.


Let’s revisit the questions we asked at the top of the episode: is there any evidence that Oswald brought the rifle to the building? My final answer is, yes, but there are problems with the evidence.

When it comes to Ralph Yates, his testimony to the FBI does not prove that Oswald brought the gun in on Wednesday because we know that Oswald was working at the Schoolbook Depository at the time the hitchhiker’s ride would have happened. But the Yates story is a total mystery that does not add up. But, I don’t think it has anything to do with how Oswald got the gun in the building.

Aside from Ralph Yates, the sole evidence that Oswald had an opportunity to bring the package into the building is from testimony of Buell Wesley Frazier and his sister, Linnie Mae Randle. However, there are two other witnesses who contradict Frazier’s story of walking with Oswald from the parking lot to the building. If Frazier lied about whether Oswald walked with him from the parking lot, that does not mean that Frazier didn’t see the long brown paper sack. But, it does hurt Frazier’s overall credibility as a witness.

Additionally, Oswald’s finger prints on the paper sack do not make sense compared to the testimony of how he held the bag. But, then again, two of Oswald’s finger prints WERE on the paper sack. So, if you conclude that the paper sack was not the way Oswald got the gun into the building, you still have to account for the fact that Oswald’s fingerprints were on the paper sack. The most likely possibilities are 1) Oswald carried the sack with his right palm and left index finger but Daugherty didn’t see him with it and Frazier was mistaken about how Oswald was carrying it, or 2) the fingerprints were planted on the sack. Either way, the paper sack fingerprint evidence is far from definitive.

The length of the bag as described by Frazier (27 inches) was too short to fit the rifle allegedly used by Oswald (which was 34.8 inches disassembled). For all of those reasons, I do not find that the evidence supports the idea that Oswald brought the rifle into the schoolbook depository under the cover of curtain rods in a brown paper sack.

While it’s unlikely that Oswald actually brought the rifle in the way the Warren Report says he did, I leave open the possibility. He could have that 1) both Frazier and Randle were wrong about the length of the sack, 2) Frazier was wrong about the way he saw Oswald carry the sack (since it only had a palmprint and index finger on it), 3) Frazier made an honest mistake and got his story mixed up about dropping off Oswald at the door versus walking with him in the parking lot.

Finally, there were no other fingerprints, creases, or oil on the paper sack despite Oswald taping the paper together himself and the gun being soaked in Cosmoline.

The fingerprints found on the boxes in the sniper’s nest are the most damning evidence against Oswald we have looked at so far. You can argue that Oswald worked there and you would expect to see his prints, but the absence of the prints of any other worker seems to shut that argument down.

On the other hand, the lack of any fingerprints from other employees is hard to believe. How could none of the other 12 employees have left fingerprints on any of those 4 boxes? Also, all that the fingerprints on the boxes evidence establishes is that Oswald did touch the one box with his right palm at least within 3 days. The other box we don’t know how long the prints were there – and, Oswald did work there.

My bottom line on the fingerprints in the sniper’s nest is that they are inconclusive. They don’t look great for Oswald, but they also don’t prove Oswald was there at the time the shots were fired.

Next time on Solving JFK: we’ll look at Oswald’s departure from the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building. Did he take a bus and then a cab? Or did he jump in a green Nash Rambler? What can we learn about Oswald’s state of mind that day from the way he left?

[1] Warren Report, p. 130 [ii] Commission Exhibit 2003, p. 25; WCH Vol. 24, p. 209 [iii] The Men Who Killed Kennedy, Episode 4, at 5:00. [iv] Ralph Yates FBI Statement, December 10, 1963 - [v] Id. at [vi] Id. [vii] Id. at [viii]James Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable, p 351, citing Statement by Ralph Leon Yates to FBI special agent Ben S. Harrison, November 26, 1963, Dallas, Texas, reproduced by John Armstrong on his CD-Rom for Harvey and Lee, image 22. [ix] Id. at 351. [x] “To Special Agent in Charge Dallas from Director, FBI (105-82555), January 2, 1964, JFK Record Number 180-10033-10242; See also [xi] January 17, 1964 FBI Report, C. Ray Hall - [xii] Douglass at 353-54 (citing Author’s interview with Dorothy Walker, formerly Dorothy Yates, widow of Ralph Yates, October 6 and 16, 2006). [xiii]Id. [xiv] Id. [xv] Douglass at 352. [xvi]; [xvii]Dempsey Jones statement to FBI Agent Arthur Carter, November 28, 1963 -"dempsey_jones" [xviii] Douglass at 355 (citing Authors interviews of James Orvis Smith (uncle of Ralph Yates) and Ken Smith (cousin of Ralph Yates), October 9, 2006). [xix] The Men Who Killed Kennedy, Part 4, at 6:06. [xx] James DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland at 184; [xxi] Commission Document 205, p 147 - [xxii] Commission Exhibit 2003 [xxiii] DiEugenio at 183. [xxiv]Jim Bishop, The Day Kennedy Was Shot, (1968) p 472. [xxv] Id. [xxvi] Id. [xxvii]DiEugenio at 183. [xxviii]Id. [xxix] Id. at 176. [xxx] Warren Commission Vol. 2, p. 228 [xxxi]Warren Commission Vol. 6, p 377 [xxxii] Jack Daugherty Warren Commission Testimony - [xxxiii]DiEugenio. At 185 (citing John Armstrong, Harvey and Lee, at p. 787). [xxxiv] Sylvia Meagher, Accessories After the Fact, p.58. [xxxv] [xxxvi] Warren Report at 134. [xxxvii] Warren Report at 132. [xxxviii]Warren Report at 134-35 [xxxix] Warren Report at 135. [xl] Warren Commission Testimony of Troy West - [xli] DiEugenio at 177 (citing Henry S. Bloomgarden, The Gun, (New York: Bantam, 1976), p 113. [xlii]Warren Commission Vol 4, p 97 [xliii]Id. [xliv] The Men Who Killed Kennedy, Episode 4, at 5:00. [xlv] Warren Report at 140. [xlvi] Warren Report at 140; CE 1301 (Photo of Sniper’s Nest Fingerprints) - [xlvii] Id. [xlviii] Id. [xlix] Id. at 141 [l] Id. [li] Id. [lii] Id. at 141. [liii] Id. at 141.

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