In the months leading up to the JFK assassination, some very strange incidents involving “Lee Oswald”, or men who were impersonating him occurred at the Texas Employment Commission (TEC) in Dallas. Laura Kittrell worked for 30 years for the TEC. What is known as the “Kittrell Manuscript” was part of the HSCA documents that was deep sixed by the HSCA. John Armstrong used some of her story in his book “Harvey and Lee”. He later posted the manuscript at his repository at Baylor University in Box 4 Notebook 4B.
This is an amazing story. A very brave woman who was in a position to know and find out many things about the JFK assassination, Kittrell tried her best to bring out the truth about Lee Oswald being impersonated in the months leading up to the assassination at the Texas Employment Commission. Her 90 page manuscript, which contains her recollections is enhanced by Gaeton Fonzi’s 10 page interview for the HSCA dated 7/18/78, located at the end of the document. Given the time between her manuscript and her interview in 1978, it must be stated that her power of recollection was outstanding. This is why the FBI and later Blakey did not want to touch her with a “10 foot pole”. This was the witness who could overturn the proverbial apple cart.
The “enigmatic” Larry Crafard (Craford)
Where do we start with Craford? To begin with, the name “Crafard”, which was used in the Warren Commission is not the correct spelling of his name. His Army records show his correct name as “Craford”:
Here are some notes:
• There was a concerted effort by Hoover and the FBI to discredit her exactly the way they tried to do with Shirley Martin. This is a sure sign of her veracity and truthfulness. She was not a quack.
• She had to reconstruct her conversations with the principals because she was conveniently away the Friday of the assassination, where she was supposed to attend the luncheon at the Trade Mart. All records had already been confiscated by the time she came back the following Monday. In at least 3 different sessions, she spent hours interviewing, testing, and speaking to an “Oswald”.
• Tried to blow the whistle by writing RFK but was referred to the FBI. (fox guarding the chicken koop)
• Positively identified Larry Crafard (Curtis L. Craford) as the loud “biker” type, “teamster talking” man she interviewed as “Oswald”. (Craford was from Michigan, a hotbed for teamster activity) Craford at one point knocked a flower vase on her desk in a fit of rage. He told her he had worked at the Texas State Fair (Fonzi Interview pgs 1&6), (this is where he “met” Jack Ruby who immediately employed him as a handyman)
The only problem with this is that Lee Oswald has never been placed at the Texas State Fair.
• Had met and worked for Murray Chotiner, (pronounced “Shotner”, ex aid for Nixon in California. (ibid)
• Strange goings on about Murray Chotiner – Chotiner is mentioned as an employment reference by a “colored woman” who sees Kittrell in early October 1963. She remarks that she worked for him as a maid, and he is a big man out there, a gangster. (pg6) The Teamster guy is hanging out within hearing distance with two other people and after the colored woman leaves he comments about Chotiner. When she scolds him for repeating privileged and private information he slams his palm on her desk and tips over the small vase with flowers and expresses “I’ll just be damned!” twice and leaves. (The beginning of creating a false aura of violent behavior, even over insignificant things.)
• Teamster man comes back in a referral from a “Mrs. Elrod” to get him “re interviewed” due to a mistake in his claim. She asks him about Chotiner and he remarks he is a crook (using a southern accent). (Pg 14-18) Was incredulous that this “Oswald” could not drive a car. Was incredulous that “Oswald” had NOT worked for Chotiner (pg 20) On page 22, while she is interviewing him, a Cuban man walks in asking for directions and after she does so in her “Tex-Mex” Spanish, he remarks that her Spanish is not that bad, the conversation turns to how many languages he can speak and he makes sure she knows he also speaks Russian. The conversation turns then to politics as he asks her about Batista, etc. (pg 23) She thinks his wife is Cuban (pg 26).
• Cannot pinpoint his duties in Minsk (pg 28) She ends up not believing his story about Russia. Page 29 he makes sure she knows he has an undesirable discharge from the Marines. Page 29 quote: “I felt that I knew several things about him for sure now: that he had worked in California for Murray Chotiner, that his wife was a Cuban, and that he had not been to Russia.”
• ETI Realty – She writes in his file about his previous employment above but notes the place as Murray Chotiner Investment Co. When she realizes it is ETI Realty and tries to correct it, the file has already been picked up. This notation disappears along with the file.
• When he leaves she is left with the impression he is a liar and possibly a murderer (pg 31)
• Page 34 messenger job in CA on a motor scooter at 16. He tries to scam her into a white collar office job.
• The FBI tried to establish that Chotiner did not exist! (pg 41)
• Page 42 – Realizes the TEC documents in the Warren Commission are from 1962 and that the work done in the fall of 1963 is not there.
• Was perplexed to meet the same Teamster guy, more polite, military acting, clean looking, intelligent “Oswald” who also happened to know of Murray Chotiner.(pg 45) Page 46 & 59 “President Kennedy will find out! He’ll find out! Loved to talk about guns (pg 47) and marksmanship. Talked about shooting classifications in DD214 from Marksman, to Sharpshooter, to Expert. (pg 48) Page 50-52 turns to his reading habits, where he tells her he likes to read James Bond and the president does the same, then he offers that he likes to read Karl Marx. Page 54 tells how he would like to be a sharpshooter and pronounces “well” as “weh-yul”. Companion “wife” looked Hispanic and spoke Spanish, did not look like Marina.
• Strange call number one: The housekeeper – page 61 (Don’t know what to make of this.) The housekeeper answered Kittrell’s phone call, when she asked for Mr. Oswald the housekeeper is confused and refers to a “Mr. Lee”. Kittrell then asks to speak to his wife and she answers they don’t live together. A confused Kittrell backs off and hangs up. This could be a clear path to Ruby. If Crafard provided “Mr.Lee’s” boarding house telephone number to Kittrell, perhaps it came from Ruby.
• Strange call number two: Ruth Paine called her to advise LHO had already secured a job at the TSBD. When she asked to talk to his wife in Spanish, Paine laughed and advised his wife was Russian, from Russia and only spoke Russian. (pg 65-66) (see discussion below)
• Later on page 68 she shows how dismayed she was that the Commission never confronted her with Marina to confirm her story about the people in his company the first day. Same with Robert Oswald.
• Page 71 “I must say that my doubt that he was Oswald is enormous” “I am satisfied that if he was not Oswald then he was somebody pretending to be Oswald.”
• Page 73 describes Crafard’s appearance, his hair, etc. Specifically, it shows how important it was that it be known that “Oswald” had joined the Teamsters, even though supposedly he could not drive.
• In 1976, while still at the TEC, she met and interviewed one Tom Bowden, who had worked as a janitor at the Texas Theatre in the early 60’s and was there for many years. His cleaning duties were early in the morning, before opening time. Bowden told her how the DPD searched the empty Texas Theatre on 11/22/63 BEFORE the assassination occurred. He was positive about this because they “interfered with his
duties that morning”.
• In 1965, met and interviewed Eva Grant, whose unemployment benefits had expired and could not find a job in Dallas because she was Ruby’s sister, not even with Jewish employers. After a while, she lost track of her. (Pg. 86-87)
• Page 88, happened to see pictures of Crafard from the Warren Commission (WH17 CE 453-456) and had this eureka moment as she realized what had happened. The “teamster biker type” turned out to be Larry Crafard!!
It is quite evident from Kittrell’s account that the real Lee Harvey Oswald never set foot in the TEC in October 1963. The official Warren Commission records place him there in October 1962 (See Cunningham Exhibit No. 4) According to Kittrell, he was impersonated there in the fall of 1963 by Larry Crafard, who made his best effort to paint him as a violent and hateful man who loved guns, was capable of murder, was a Teamster, and was out to kill Kennedy. He also spoke at times with an accent which was not Oswald’s. I believe this was the actual Plan “A” – to make Oswald look like a lunatic in a public state institution, ranting about Kennedy, talking about Cuba and Batista, talking about being a sharpshooter, Russia, Karl Marx, etc. However, when Laura Kittrell got accidentally involved in the “Oswald referral”, and being as thorough as she normally was in her job with 30 years experience, she created a paper trail (pg 21) and made some very important notations in his file regarding Craford’s employment at 16 as a messenger boy in California working for Murray Chotiner, a close aid and collaborator of Richard Nixon. The Chotiner account is extremely important. It suggests that Craford may have over played his role with Kittrell, gotten sloppy, and given information he was not supposed to give. Even though she repeatedly writes that she erred when she wrote in his file about Chotiner, because Craford did not explicitly admit he had worked for him, (only ETI Realty) she was left with the impression that he HAD worked for Chotiner in Encino, California. Clearly, Craford was not supposed to give this information. Once the FBI confiscated the TEC records the weekend of the assassination, with the inference being that all roads now led to Chotiner, and hence Nixon, the tainted “Oswald” file would never see the light of day. Moreover, she caught him lying about details of his supposed life in Russia, the “deaf” woman who accompanied him the first day and other details that led her to believe this was indeed a setup. Employment Commission counselors are trained to spot liars and con men due to the high rate of benefits fraud that is committed. Furthermore, and in her
particular case, she was able to glean information about the assassination that others would not normally have had access to. Two cases in point are the Eva Grant and Tom Bowden incidents mentioned above.
Another item to consider has to be why they wanted to involve the Teamsters Union in this. At this time Jimmy Hoffa was president of the Teamsters, and over the years his name has always come up as a possible conspirator in the assassination of JFK. Was this a fallback scenario? (in case a. Oswald was killed as planned at the TSBD or Texas Theatre, or b: The lone nut case would not hold and a conspiracy had to be declared? win-win) The Paine phone call provides further confirmation that Ruth and Michael were very deeply involved in setting up Oswald. When Kittrell finds out from Paine it is the TSBD he is working at, she immediately sees red flags and wonders how this could have happened. She has deep roots in Dallas and knows the Ross Carleton family, who owned the company until a year before the assassination, as “one of those Dallas vigilante groups a little to the right of the John Birch Society.” (pg 68) Moreover, she had vast experience with the TSBD Human Resources department and personally knew how strict and picky they were about prospective employees. In the past, they had given her a hard time about this, which is why she clearly remembered their attitude when dealing with dishonorable discharges. In her mind, and from her experience, the “Oswald” she dealt with at the TEC in 1963 was a person the TSBD would never have hired.
What immediately comes to mind here is the Billy Lovelady affair and the double standard that was applied here. As a running felon, BNL started working at the TSBD on December 16, 1961 (CE1381) while they were still located at the Dal Tex Building. More than a year later, January 7 1963, he was arrested there by the FBI after he skipped town in Maryland on a gun theft and illegal sales of arms conviction and subsequent court martial and dishonorable discharge at Andrews Air Force Base. In Lovelady’s case, the TSBD arranged to pay his bond and balance of the money he owed from the fines he defaulted on in Maryland. All of this would have qualified Lovelady as a possible patsy, depending on the circumstances of
November 22. More layers of the onion keep peeling away. Brian Burden wrote in The Continuing Inquiry that Crafard’s movements coincidentally mirrored Lee Oswald’s in 1962-63. (5/22/78 Vol II No. 10)
A huge question mark that remains is why were Oswald’s Texas Employment Commission 1962 records not used by and shown to Laura Kittrell in 1963? She only knew these existed when she read the Warren Commission and found them there as Cunningham Exhibit #4.
Why did the TEC start from scratch and open up a new claims file when one already existed which had been closed after he began to work at Jaggers in 1962?
Dishonorable discharges and/or courts martial: Lee Oswald, Larry Crafard, Billy Lovelady