- Matt Crumpton
Episode 6: How Did Oswald Depart the Building - a Bus, Then a Cab or a Nash Rambler?
Updated: Jan 30
So far, we’ve concluded from episodes 3 and 4 that the eyewitness testimony weighs in favor of Oswald not being in place on the 6th floor at the time the shots were fired. Then, in episode 5, we talked about the presence of Oswald’s fingerprints on two boxes near the sniper’s nest (which is potentially not that incriminating since he worked on the 6thfloor and handled the boxes).
But, we also talked in episode 5 about how Oswald’s prints were also found on a long paper sack in the sniper’s nest (which means that either Oswald awkwardly brought the gun in the building holding it with his left index finger and right palm, then got it up to the 6th floor without being seen by anyone or putting any other prints on it – or the evidence was manufactured, which is a bold claim to make without proof).
We also learned that aside from Buell Wesley Frazier – no one else saw Oswald bring the paper sack into the Texas School Book Depository, including Jack Dougherty who saw Oswald enter the building. But, then again, the length of the paper sack Frazier and his sister describe seeing Oswald with is materially shorter than the one found in the building – which means the only people who saw Oswald with a paper sack appear to be describing a different one – or they are both mistaken. And Frazier insisted that Oswald put it under his armpit when he walked. There’s no way he could do that with a 38 inch bag like the one in evidence. Try it yourself at home with a yardstick.
It's kind of an inconclusive mess so far. We’re at a point where Oswald’s guilt could go either way based on what we’ve looked at so far.
Today on Solving JFK, we’ll continue to examine the evidence by taking a look at the two competing stories in the record of Oswald’s getaway: one on a public bus and the other in a Nash Rambler.
The Warren Report says Oswald left the schoolbook depository three minutes after the shooting at 12:33 and boarded a bus seven blocks away at the corner of Elm and Murphy. That bus was headed back towards the depository on its way to Oak Cliff. The bus driver, Cecil McWatters, identified Oswald at a police line up as being the man who boarded his bus, and then got off the bus at the intersection of Poydras and Lamar.
Oswald’s bus ride is not a disputed fact. Oswald himself told Captain Fritz that he rode the bus until it was stopped in traffic, which made him switch to a taxi. When he was arrested, Oswald was found with a bus transfer in his shirt pocket that was dated 11/22/63 and marked with a unique punchmark from McWatters bus. Also, Mary Bledsoe, Oswald’s former landlord happened to be on that bus and identified Oswald. She said that he “boarded the bus looking like a maniac, wearing a brown shirt with all the buttons torn off and a hole in the sleeve at the right elbow.“
To further hammer home the point that Oswald was on the bus, we have photographs of the bus that Oswald was on while he was on it. This brings us to a quick sidebar on photographer, Stuart Reed.
In addition to taking the only known photos of the bus that Oswald was on while he was on it, Reed was positioned across the street from the Texas Theater at the moment Oswald was escorted out the front door to snap a photo that has become iconic. This has led skeptics to wonder whether Stuart Reed had foreknowledge of the assassination plot – specifically that Oswald would be on a bus and that Oswald would be arrested at the Texas Theater.
It turns out that Reed was working in the Panama Canal zone for the Army’s Personnel Management Division at the time. He was in Dallas visiting his daughter on the day of the assassination according to FBI reports about the photos. Reed himself was never questioned by the FBI, the Warren Commission, or any other investigative body. And, that’s all I could find on Stuart Reed.
The bus photos are one thing. You can argue that he just took some pictures and he happened to capture Oswald’s bus. But, for Reed to get the bus photos and be positioned in front of the Texas Theater at the exact moment when Oswald was led out in handcuffs is a strange coincidence for sure. Ok, back to Oswald’s escape…
After Oswald gets off the bus, he walks to the Greyhound bus terminal and catches a cab driven by William Whaley. Oswald asks Whaley to take him to the 700 block of North Beckley, where Oswald’s rooming house was located. The Warren Report says it would have taken six minutes to drive from the Greyhound station to 700 North Beckley, putting Oswald at his rooming house at 1pm. But, Whaley, the cab driver, says it took nine minutes and Oswald arrived at 1:03. These three minutes will become very important when we look at whether Oswald killed Officer JD Tippit.
From Oswald’s interrogation notes, corroborated by the bus pass and his former landlord’s testimony, we know that Oswald got on that bus. We also know from Whaley, that Oswald then got a cab ride to his rooming house.
So, Oswald got on a bus, then got out and took a cab back to his rooming house. The Warren Report was correct about this. So, it’s settled then. Or is it?
The problem with knowing for sure that Oswald took the bus and then a cab is that it leaves open questions about what other witnesses saw that day: Namely, Oswald fleeing Dealey Plaza in a Nash Rambler station wagon.
We mentioned Carolyn Walther last episode. She is the witness who saw a man with a rifle in a window on the 4th or 5thfloor of the Building, and a man behind the shooter in a brown sport coat.
James Worrel, who was standing four feet away from the building, says he saw a man in a dark sport coat running out of the back of the building shortly after the shooting.
Richard Randolph Carr corroborates the idea of a man in a sport coat being on the 6th floor of at the time of the shooting. Carr was in the courthouse walking up the stairwell. He was going to inquire about construction work with the foreman whose office was on the ninth floor.
Carr stopped for a rest while walking up the stairwell and looked across the street at the Schoolbook Depository Building. He noticed a man on the 6th floor of that building looking out the second window from the southeast corner. He was a “heavy set individual, who was wearing a hat, a tan sport coat, and horn rimmed glasses. Carr then heard what he thought was a car backfire, and then two more reports in quick succession. He then went down the stairs to see what happened.
When Carr got outside to Houston Street, he saw the same man in the tan sport coat who had been in the Sixth floor window. Carr watched the man walk a block East, and get into a 1961 or 62 Rambler station wagon parked right behind the Depository on Record Street. Carr says the driver was a “young [black] man”.
The Carr story gets even more interesting as you follow his life in the years after the assassination. According to Carr, an FBI agent pressured him to change his story and told him that “if you didn't see Lee Harvey Oswald in the School Book Depository with a rifle, you didn't see it." Later, the Dallas Police Department raided his house in the middle of the night, claiming that they were looking for stolen goods.
Carr says he received threatening phone calls telling him to leave Texas. When Carr listened to the warning and moved to Montana, he later found dynamite taped to his car ignition (in Montana!) Just before Carr testified in the Jim Garrison led New Orleans trial related to the Kennedy assassination, a gunman attempted to kill him. A third attempt on Carr’s life took place in Atlanta where he was stabbed but he managed to kill one of the two men who attacked him.
Richard Randolph Carr’s story sounds fantastical, especially the part about all of the attempts on his life after the fact. But, Carr was not the only person who saw the green Rambler near Dealey Plaza that day.
When Marvin Robinson was driving through Dealey Plaza immediately after the assassination, He had to slam on the brakes in his Cadillac to avoid hitting the light-colored Rambler just ahead of him that had suddenly pulled over beside the curb. Robinson says the Rambler picked up a man running down the grass from the Depository. Robinson’s story is supported by Roy Cooper, Robinson’s employee who was in the car behind Robinson. Cooper says he saw the man coming down the incline wave at the Rambler and then jump in. Neither Robinson nor Cooper were able to identify the person they saw running to the Rambler.
Helen Forrest and James Pennington, however, did get a good look at the man. Both Forrest and Pennington also say they saw a man running from the rear of the Depository building, down the incline into Dealey Plaza, and then get into a Rambler station wagon. They both said that the man they saw looked exactly like Lee Harvey Oswald.
To summarize, we have Carr saying he saw the man in the tan sport coat from the 6th floor get in the Rambler a block away from Dealey Plaza on Record Street. And we now have a total of four witnesses who saw a man run from the back of the Depository and get into a Rambler in Dealey Plaza: Robinson, Cooper, Forrest, and Pennington.
Sheriff Roger Craig is the fifth witness to corroborate that story. Sheriff Craig was standing in front of the same courthouse that Carr was in when the motorcade passed. He heard gunshots and started running into Dealey Plaza, where he began looking for bullet marks.
Here’s Roger Craig talking about what he saw:
“As I was searching the South curb of Elm Street, I heard a shrill whistle. And I looked up. It just drew my attention. It was coming from across the street. And there was a light green Rambler station wagon driving real slow West on Elm Street and the driver was leaning to his right, looking up at a man running down the grass.
So, I immediately tried to cross the street to take these two people into custody for questioning. Everybody else was coming to the scene. These were the only two people leaving. And this was suspicious in my mind. I wanted to talk to them, but the traffic was so heavy across the street that I couldn’t get across to them. But, I did get a good look at the man coming down the Grassy Knoll and he got in the station wagon and he drove West on Elm Street.”
Craig described the driver of the station wagon as a “husky looking Latin, with dark wavy hair, wearing a tan wind breaker type jacket.” Sheriff Craig then went into the School Book Depository Building and up to the sixth floor to see what evidence he could find. (We’ll talk about all the evidence that was found on the sixth floor by Craig and other law enforcement next time.) After securing and searching the depository building, Craig contacted the Dallas Police to let them know what he had seen regarding the suspicious man getting into the Rambler.
I called Captain Fritz at his office and gave him a description of the man I saw get into the Rambler. He told me, “It sounds like the suspect we have in custody. Come on and take a look at him. So, I went directly to Captain Fritz’s office… and a man was sitting at a chair behind a desk and there was another gentleman, I assumed he was one of Fritz’s people because he had the white cowboy hat on which was the Trademark of the Dallas Homocide bureau. And Fritz turned to me and said “Is this the man you saw?” I said yes. And it was.
Sheriff Roger Craig’s positive identification of Oswald running down the hill getting into the Rambler makes Craig the third witness to see the same thing. He backs up what Helen Forest and James Pennington saw. But, what Craig says he heard Oswald say to Captain Fritz next is a real head scratcher.
Then, he turned to the suspect and said this man saw you leave. Then, the suspect became a little excited and he said, “I told you people I did.” And Fritz said, “Take it easy, son. We are just trying to find out what happened here. What about the car?” He didn’t say station wagon. He said “what about the car?” at which time the suspect leaned forward with both hands on the desk and said “That station wagon belongs to Mrs. Paine. Don’t try to drag her into this.” Then, he leaned back and very disgustedly said, “Everybody will know who I am now.” This was not a brag. I know it’s been blown up to be a brag by the Warren Commission. This was not a brag. This was a man who was disgusted that he had blown his cover or been caught.
Let’s break down what Craig says Oswald told him and Captain Fritz. First, Oswald does not admit to leaving in the Rambler. He just admits to leaving the scene. In fact, Oswald himself is on record saying that he took the bus, and then a cab to his rooming house, which matches the Warren Report story.
When Captain Fritz said, “This man saw you leave.” Oswald responded, “I told you people I did.” When Fritz asks Oswald, “What about the car?” Oswald’s response of “That station wagon belongs to Mrs. Paine. Don’t try to drag her into this” is disorienting for a few reasons.
First, neither Captain Fritz nor Sheriff Craig told Oswald that the car at issue was a station wagon. Oswald is the one who says “station wagon” for the first time. Oswald had no way to know the make or model of the vehicle that he was accused of fleeing in. So, it is important to note that Oswald didn’t say “That Rambler belongs to Mrs. Paine.” He said, “that station wagon belongs to Mrs. Paine.”
Second, Oswald’s answer about the station wagon raises the question of whether Ruth Paine did, in fact, own a Rambler? The FBI looked into this issue and determined that Paine owned a light blue 1955 Chevrolet Belair station wagon.
Some people want to believe that Paine’s station wagon was used to pick up the Oswald lookalike based on what Oswald told Craig. But, there is just not evidence to support that idea. Yes, it’s weird that Oswald immediately mentioned a station wagon when he was accused of fleeing the crime scene by car. How would Oswald have knowledge of that unless there was some elaborate conspiracy charade going on? I don’t know. What I do know is that Ruth Paine did not own a vehicle that matched the description of the fleeing Rambler seen in Dealey Plaza that day.
It’s not surprising that Warren Report defenders have serious issues with Sheriff Craig’s testimony. Vincent Bugliosi says he believes Craig was telling the truth about seeing a man run down the hill and get into the Rambler because it was corroborated by other witnesses. But, as far as Craig’s testimony that the man he saw looked like Oswald, Bugliosi says Craig is either lying or made a sincere mistake because we know where the real Oswald was at that time. (And Bugliosi is right about this.) But when it comes to the encounter with Oswald and Fritz at the police department, Bugliosi, and the Warren Report itself, argue that Sheriff Craig fabricated or at least exaggerated the story.
Captain Fritz said “I do remember a man coming to my outer office and I remember one of my officers calling me outside the door of my private office. I talked to this man for a minute or two and he started telling me a story about seeing Oswald leave the building. I don’t remember all the things that this man said, but I turned him over to Lt. Baker who talked to him.” Bugliosi says that Lt. TL Baker, one of Captain Fritz assistants, confirmed Fritz’s story when Bugliosi asked him about it.
So, ultimately, Fritz and Baker corroborate all of Sheriff Craig’s story about the Oswald encounter at the police department, except for the part about what Oswald said, which they deny. Like so many issues in the Kennedy Assassination, the answer comes down to the question of who do you find to be more credible: Sheriff Craig or Captain Fritz and Lt. Baker?
It’s easy to write Craig off as a kook – but, remember, most of what he said is corroborated by other witnesses. And Craig wasn’t just some random Sheriff. He was well respected by his peers, having won the Dallas County Sheriff’s Man of the Year award in 1960 after capturing an international jewel thief. He had been promoted 4 times at the sheriff’s department before the assassination.
Craig had four separate attempts on his life after the assassination. It appears that Craig either made a powerful and relentless enemy OR he was just very coincidentally unlucky. This is how Craig explains the repeated attempts to kill him: QUOTE
“I was shot at in 1967. In 1970, my car was blown up. In 1971, I was run off a mountain road in West Texas… so I have suffered somewhat. And to top it off, my wife left me in 1973. And when I do think I’m getting it together, someone blows my shoulder off with a shotgun.”
On May 15, 1975, Roger Craig was found dead from a gunshot wound to the chest from a rifle. His death was ruled a suicide. Craig’s son and many people who knew him well believe that Craig was murdered. There are a few weird facts surrounding Craig’s death that raised suspicions of foul play.
First, the wound that killed Craig was on a downward angle. It would be very difficult for a person to hold a rifle and shoot themselves in the chest from a downward angle.
Second, the rifle that killed Craig was laying on the bed, while Craig’s body was found in the middle of the bedroom floor. You would expect the rifle to fall to the ground if Craig shot himself.
Third, there was a .45 caliber handgun on the dresser next to Craig in the bedroom. Why would he use a rifle when he could use a handgun?
Fourth, Craig did not have suicidal tendencies according to those who knew him best. He had just renewed his driver’s license three days prior to his death and was said to be making jokes and in good spirits on the day he died.
Finally, there’s the burglary. When Roger Craig, Jr. went to the morgue, the police had gathered his dad’s things from the house where he lived – including his records and notes from the assassination – and brought them to the morgue!
There were 6 or 8 boxes. Craig, Jr. says that he brought those boxes back to his grandmother’s house and one night later, the house was burglarized and all of the boxes that were at the morgue with Craig’s personal effects had been stolen. On top of that, when Craig, Jr. went to the bank to take control of his dad’s account which had more than $60,000 in it, he was told that the checkbook he presented was for an account that never existed at the bank. The money and the records of Craig’s bank account had simply disappeared.
I bring up the attempts on Craig’s life and, ultimately, his death only because a major part of the case hinges on Craig’s credibility. If he wasn’t telling the truth about what he saw, then that means no one was trying to kill him and his concerns were just paranoia. It’s hard to square that with the 4 attempts on his life and the circumstances surrounding his death.
So, how did Oswald leave the crime scene? Was it on a bus and then a taxi or was it by jumping in to a Rambler being driven by a dark complected man? There is overwhelming evidence for both!
For the bus and taxi, we have testimony from the bus driver, Oswald’s former landlady who happened to be on the bus, and William Whaley the cab driver. Most importantly, Oswald has the bus ticket in his pocket when he is arrested. There is also a unique punchmark that ties the ticket to the specific bus the Warren Report says Oswald was riding. All of this evidence makes it almost certain that Oswald took the bus, and then a taxi. Also, William Whaley would not know where Oswald’s rooming house was if he didn’t take Oswald there.
But, that’s a disturbing conclusion to make because you have to account for all of the Rambler witnesses who say a man ran down the hill and got in the car then sped away. Three of those witnesses (Helen Forrest, James Pennington, and Sheriff Craig) identified the man getting in the car as looking just like Lee Harvey Oswald (the other two could make no positive identification.) We also have Richard Randolph Carr saying that he saw the same man that he saw in the tan sports coat on the sixth floor get into the Rambler on Record Street.
Ralph Yates swore that he gave a hitchhiker identical to Oswald a ride to the depository on the Wednesday morning before the assassination, and that man had a 4 foot long brown paper sack that he said contained curtain rods. After passing a polygraph showing that Yates believed he was telling the truth, Yates was forcibly committed to a mental institution after he refused to change his story for the FBI.
Yates story and the uneven authoritarian response to it from the FBI, tends to show that there could have been an Oswald lookalike involved in the assassination. If you think that sounds crazy, I agree. I dismissed it for the longest time as being absurd. But, how else do you account for the testimony of the three witnesses, including Sheriff Craig, who say they saw someone who looked just like Oswald get in the Rambler, if it was not in fact Oswald himself? But we know the man running down the hill was not Oswald. So was he a lookalike? Was the man running to the Rambler the same hitchhiker Yates dropped off at the Schoolbook Depository Building with a long brown paper sack on Wednesday?
There are two more open questions with the Rambler. First, who was the dark complected person (described as either latin or black) who was driving the Rambler? Second, who was the man in the sport coat that was seen by Carr (who described the sport coat as tan), Walther (who described it as brown), and Worrell (who described it as “dark”). If those three witnesses are correct, they saw someone who is at least a person of interest since he was seen on the same floor as the shooter by Carr and Walther. And Carr saw that person get into the Rambler that three other people said the Oswald lookalike had just gotten into. Or, maybe there were just a lot of men in sport coats that day in Dealey Plaza.
On top of all of this, Sheriff Craig says he confronted Oswald at the police department with the information about the Rambler and Oswald said it belonged to the woman his wife and kids were staying with – Mrs. Paine? What!? Something does not add up here.
The Warren Report ultimately rejected Roger Craig’s testimony about Oswald in the getaway Rambler and Oswald telling him it was Mrs. Paine’s car. The commission said it believed Captain Fritz and Lt. TL Baker, not Sheriff Craig. But, as we discussed earlier, Roger Craig did have numerous attempts on his life. So, he was either a lying attention seeker who was coincidentally very unlucky and experienced 4 unrelated attempts on his life: OR he was a courageous truth teller who lost everything because of it.
As for the big question for this episode- what can we learn about how Oswald departed from the Depository? The answer to this question is a lot! But, we learn less about what Oswald was doing and more about the enigmatic Rambler and its mysterious passengers.
While the Warren Report got Oswald’s post-assassination bus and taxi travel correct, it diminished and swept under the rug the importance of the Rambler that was seen by at least six witnesses. Richard Carr’s story about the man in a tan sports coat that he saw on the sixth floor before the shots were fired then getting into the Rambler is a huge fact that needs further inquiry. If we determine that the Warren Report was wrong, then the Rambler, its driver, and the man in the tan sport coat are key figures in the assassination.
It’s too bad that the Warren Commission was not more concerned with the Rambler. If they were, maybe we would have a better idea about the identity of the mystery men inside it.
Next episode on Solving JFK: we’ll go deep down the rabbit hole of Oswald’s rifle. Is there proof that Oswald ordered the rifle? We’ll look at the fingerprint evidence, the cartridges, and the ammunition.
 Warren Report at 157.  Id.  Id.  Id. at 157-163.  Id. at 157.  Sylvia Meagher, Accessories After the Fact (1967) at 76.  https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=111185#relPageId=85  Testimony of William Whaley - 2H 259  Commission Exhibit 2086, WCH, vol 24, p22.  Id. at vol 16, p 959; vol 2, p 195-96.  FBI Interview of Richard Randolph Carr by Special Agent Paul L. Scott, Feb. 4, 1964, reproduced in CD-Rom for Harvey and Lee by John Armstrong http://jfk.hood.edu/Collection/Weisberg%20Subject%20Index%20Files/C%20Disk/Carr%20Richard%20Randolph/Item%2002.pdf  Id.  Id.  Id.  Id.  Id.  J. Gary Shaw and Larry Harris, Cover Up, (1976) at 57  Id.  Id.  Id.  HSCA Report at 97. https://archive.org/stream/investigationofa12unit/investigationofa12unit_djvu.txt  FBI Memorandum by Special Agent Earle Haley on Interview with Roy Cooper, November 23, 1963, Reproduced in Harvey and Lee by John Armstrong.  HSCA Report at 97; https://archive.org/stream/investigationofa12unit/investigationofa12unit_djvu.txt  Helen Forrest interview by Michael L. Kurtz, May 17, 1974. Michael L. Kurtz, Crime of the Century: The Kennedy Assassination from a Historian’s Perspective (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993), p 132.; For James Pennington, see Id. at 189.  Roger Craig, When They Kill A President, P. 9; James Douglass, JFK & the Unspeakable at 275  JFK Assassination: The Roger Craig Story - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TLHx8dlGjE, at 4:20  Craig at P. 9; Douglass at 275  JFK Assassination: The Roger Craig Story - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TLHx8dlGjE, at 9:40  Id. at 9:42. CE 2125 – FBI Report of March 2, 1964, https://www.history-matters.com/archive/jfk/wc/wcvols/wh24/pdf/WH24_CE_2125.pdf.  Vincent Bugliosi, Reclaiming History at 890.  Bugliosi at 891.  Bugliosi at 891.  Steve Cameron, The Deputy Interviews at 5.  Id.  Id. at 103.  Id. at 49.  Id. at 50.  Id.  Id.  Id. at 51.  Id. at 54.  Warren Report at 160-61