Coming full circle?

By Hugh Aynesworth


September 1, 2004

FORT WORTH, Texas - A small gold wedding band believed to have been worn by Lee Harvey Oswald until just a few hours before he purportedly assassinated President John F. Kennedy has been locked in a safe at a law firm here for more than a generation.

Oswald's friends and family, and lawyers and doctors involved in the case, say that the ring may be the one that the suspected assassin wore.

JFK investigator Dave Perry, of Grapevine, Texas, believes that the ring was Oswald's and might have been given to federal authorities in December 1963 either by Oswald's widow, Marina, or by Ruth Paine, the Irving, Texas, woman who let Mrs. Oswald and her two young children live with her during the fall of 1963.

Luke Ellis, a partner at the law firm of Brackett & Ellis here, concedes that he doesn't know what to do with the ring and a hefty sheaf of documents and newspaper clippings that had been stored along with the ring in his firm's safe for many years.

Most of the documents relate to legal representation of Mrs. Oswald by Forrest Marquart, a leading Fort Worth lawyer of that era and once president of the local bar association.

The ring was ensconced in a small, folded envelope, along with a sheet of paper that reads: "Receipt is hereby acknowledged of a gold wedding band which had been turned over to the United States Secret Service on December 2, 1963 by Mrs. Ruth Paine." The receipt was not signed.

Mr. Ellis said that Mr. Marquart had joined the firm in the late 1970s and just recently mentioned the materials in the firm's safe.

Mr. Marquart, retired for many years, did not return numerous phone calls from The Times. Mr. Ellis said last week that he had not been able to reach Mr. Marquart, either.

"We don't know who owns it. We just think it should be preserved, along with these other materials," Mr. Ellis said.

Scrawled on a file folder in Mr. Marquart's handwriting is a notation that material inside has "historical significance."

Mr. Perry, a retired insurance investigator who has spent years debunking some of the more fanciful conspiracy theories concerning the JFK assassination, said that the newly discovered ring probably was Oswald's and was the one he placed in a small cup on Marina's bedroom dresser the morning he left for the Texas School Book Depository building.

Last week, Mrs. Oswald, who now lives with her husband, Ken Porter, in a small community east of Dallas, told The Times that she did not recall ever seeing the wedding ring after the raid on the Paine home.

"Maybe Ruth Paine," she suggested, when asked what she thought happened to her former husband's wedding ring.

She then said: "Oh, I don't know. It's been so long ago."

Mrs. Paine, reached in St. Petersburg, Fla., said that she recalled seeing the ring in the cup that morning. She and Mrs. Oswald became estranged hours after the assassination and seldom have talked since.

"It's possible that I gave the ring to the Secret Service," she said last week. "I believe that someone, probably from the Secret Service, came to my house and said Marina had asked for the ring. My best memory is that I went with them to the room and we found the ring in the cup."

Though the ring's having been stored along with several legal documents might appear to indicate that Mrs. Oswald had given the ring to Mr. Marquart as payment for legal services, Mrs. Oswald did not recognize the lawyer's name and said that she could not recall having the ring at any time after the Kennedy assassination.

Originally, Mr. Perry and another investigator, David Murph of Grapevine, Texas, conjectured that the ring might have been removed from the casket when the body of Oswald, who was killed by Jack Ruby two days after Kennedy's death, was exhumed in 1981.

But Mrs. Oswald and the doctor who led the team that exhumed the body dispute that theory.

Dr. Linda Norton, a forensics specialist from Dallas, said last week that there was no male wedding band on Oswald when he was disinterred to confirm that the body buried under his name was indeed him.

"There were two rings, one small wedding band and a ring with a small red stone in it," she said. "The wedding band was too small even for his little finger - so that couldn't have been his.

"Afterward, I replaced both on his fingers before they closed the casket and reburied him," she added.

Mrs. Oswald last week confirmed that she had slipped her ring partially onto her husband's little finger before his casket was closed at his Fort Worth funeral, but recalled nothing about his ring.

"I don't have it. If somebody has it, let them have it. I don't care," she said.