Steve N. Bochan
UNDERSTANDING SILVIA ODIO:
WHAT THE LA FONTAINES DON'T TELL YOU
Steve N. Bochan
In their long awaited book, OSWALD TALKED, Ray and Mary La Fontaine
devote an entire chapter to Silvia Odio. Unfortunately, there is
so much that is misleading and erroneous about their treatment of Odio,
it makes one wonder if the rest of the book is as egregiously
inaccurate. The only other book that I can recall in a similar vein was
CASE CLOSED. Both books made me angry enough to hurl them once or
twice across the room because I knew that the author(s) knew better
than what passed for their honest appraisal of the evidence. But
in this instance, the disappointment matched the level of my anger and
stung me: I thought the La Fontaines were good journalists!
I loved their piece titled, "The Fourth Tramp" on the Elrod
matter that appeared in The Washington Post two summers ago. (1) It was
and it seemed to be backed by startling new evidence. How could they
gone so wrong then on Silvia Odio, when so much of the official source
was readily available to them? Was journalistic integrity
by sensationalism, all in an effort to sell a new book on the
by adding a new twist to old evidence?
Rather than dissect the various and sundry errors in the chapter,
point-by-point, I will deal with the first one which also happens to be
the linchpin of their entire theory on Odio and, unfortunately for the
La Fontaines, is so intolerable that it destroys the remainder of their
convoluted fantasy regarding Silvia Odio and the assassination.
They need to go back to the drawing board - or at least review the
primary source documents - and do some serious research on Silvia Odio,
lest they be accused of malicious rumor mongering. They might even try
interviewing her in person, but after the way they treated her in the
book, I doubt that this living witness (a member of a group where
membership is declining with each passing year) will be very
cooperative with any future endeavor to shed more light on the JFK
Let's start at the beginning . . .
When I saw that Silvia Odio had rated an entire chapter (Chapter 9, "It
Takes a Woman to Know") in OSWALD TALKED, I eagerly turned to that
chapter. But my heart sank quickly when I read the first sentence:
How do we know that Oswald attended anti-Castro meetings in Dallas
during the fall of 1963?
"How do we know" is right. I didn't know that we did know! Where
is the evidence for this? In all the years since the
assassination, whenever this erroneous story about Oswald (and Odio)
attending anti-Castro meetings surfaces, no one has ever come forward
to substantiate it with any witnesses who had seen them at these
alleged meetings, or any other type of corroborative evidence that any
such meetings ever occurred with Oswald and Odio present.
That is, however, until the La Fontaines offered their "new evidence"
that Oswald attended such meetings by repeating this uncorroborated
(and untrue) story and then, amazingly, claimed that it was Silvia Odio
who told this lie.
Well, a female witness - termed "credible" even by J. Lee Rankin,
general counsel of the Warren Commission - let the matter out more than
three decades ago. Remarkably, no one has appeared to notice as yet,
possibly blinded by the klieg lights of her other, more sensational,
assertions. To this day, the latter have comprised an important
structural prop for conspiracy arguments, and continue to generate
enthusiastic assessments of the witness's reliability. Anthony
Summers has called her claims "the strongest human evidence" [of a
conspiracy], HSCA investigator Gaeton Fonzi remains "absolutely
convinced" she was telling the truth, and -no!- the angelic Sylvia
Meagher, mistress of reason and noblest spirit ever to examine the
Kennedy conundrum, titled the exposition of her tale "the proof of the
plot." But with both new and overlooked information at hand, the
flashy old tale suddenly looks very much like an invention, proving
only that even the Divine may (though
very seldom) err, like mere human scribblers.
It is important to note that Rankin considered Odio a credible witness
- that is true - as did Wesley Liebeler late in the summer of 1964,
when he warned Rankin that: There are problems. Odio may well be
right. The Commission will look bad if it turns out that she is. There
is no need to look foolish by grasping at straws to avoid admitting
that there is a problem. (2)
However, it needs to be emphasized that it is absolutely untrue that
Silvia Odio told anyone that she knew Oswald because he attended
several anti-Castro meetings. The fact is that "credible" Silvia
has always denied ever saying this. (3) The La Fontaines have created a
straw man by bringing it up, and then they make it worse by accusing
her of making it up.
The two people the La Fontaines try to use to corroborate this
outrageous tale, always denied by Odio, do exactly the opposite: they
refute it - although you won't read that in the Odio chapter in OSWALD
TALKED. (In fact, after reading Chapter 9, you might feel a more
appropriate title for the book
might have been "SILVIA TALKED.") Nevertheless, the simple truth is
Dr. Burton Einspruch, her psychiatrist, and her jealous ex-best friend
Connell help destroy the tale that Silvia is alleged to have told, and
is where the confusion begins for some.
As most students of the JFK assassination know, Odio has always denied
ever saying that she knew Oswald from several anti-Castro meetings in
Dallas. She denied telling her ex-best friend Lucille Connell
this, and she denied telling her psychiatrist Dr. Burton Einspruch
this. Additionally, the evidence on record from these two
supports the fact that Silvia Odio never said this, to wit:
1). Lucille Connell did not recall Odio telling this tale of
Oswald and Odio at several anti-Castro meetings to the FBI when
interviewed by Gaeton Fonzi in 1976. In fact when asked if Silvia
Odio had told her that she
had heard Oswald speak at a meeting, Connell replied, "I really don't
her telling me that. I just recall that Oswald came to her
apartment and wanted to get her involved in some way." (4)
2). While under oath and answering a question about the Oswald
visit to Odio's apartment, Dr. Einspruch expresses his doubt that Odio
really saw the person we know as Lee Harvey Oswald, based on her ONE
TIME experience at her apartment:
EINSPRUCH: No. I don't think it was something she had just
casually fabricated. But I retained just my own, you know,
personal doubt, like I would even at this moment, that a mistake could
have been made with a one time kind of experience that she had with him
[Oswald] under those circumstances.
Now, if she had said that she had seen him a couple of times, then I
would feel stronger about it. (5)
Dr. Einspruch, under oath, suggests that IF Odio had seen Oswald "a
couple of times" then he would feel stronger about her ability to
identify Oswald at her apartment. Doesn't this testimony, under
oath, coming from someone who probably knew Odio better than anyone
else, demolish any notion that Odio
saw Oswald at any other time, let alone at anti-Castro rallies where
other witnesses could have also seen them there? Why would Dr.
under oath, say such a thing (that Odio had only seen Oswald once) if
believed she had seen Oswald previously at several anti-Castro meetings
Instead of using all of this evidence which is on the record and
available to the public at the National Archives II at College Park,
Maryland, the La
Fontaines chose to selectively excerpt from a memo written by WC
investigator Griffin on 4/16/64. In that memo, he asserts that
Einspruch related a story of Odio seeing "Oswald at more than one
anti-Castro Cuban meeting." This might be interesting except for
two things which are immediately apparent from reading the entire memo
in context: 1) the memo never quotes Dr. Einspruch directly and, 2) it
is obvious that either Einspruch or Griffin (or both) are confusing
these alleged meetings, with the "one time kind of experience" at
Silvia's house with her sister Annie present. How could this be?
Two things come to mind.
First, had the La Fontaines not relied exclusively on only the weakest
evidence that, when taken alone, *appears* to support their erroneous
theory that Odio
is a liar, they would have realized that the two people Griffin claims
him about Silvia seeing Oswald at the alleged anti-Castro meetings,
later either denied saying or negated the notion entirely as noted
The 4/16/64 Griffin memo is all secondhand information that never
quotes Dr. Einspruch directly. Instead, Griffin paraphrases
constantly and worse, he seems confused and "infers" what he thinks his
witness really means rather than following-up with a direct question to
the witness (Einspruch). In fact, on the very issue of the
alleged anti-Castro meetings and a remark about the term "inflammatory"
made by Dr. Einspruch, Griffin opines that:
"The term 'inflammatory' is Dr. Einspruch's and he could not clearly
indicate what it was that Oswald had said. In fact, I got the
impression these comments were pro-Castro." (6)
In other words, WC attorney Griffin is now actually interpreting things
rather than simply quoting directly from his witness, and he fails to
what it was that gave him "the impression these comments were
pro-Castro." (What comments? Einspruch couldn't "clearly indicate
what it was that Oswald said.")
Second, and perhaps more importantly, the La Fontaines describe Griffin
as one of the WC attorneys who was left out of the loop and not
on matters such as Jack Ruby. (7) If that is true, then it would follow
ask why the La Fontaines would use a document from someone whom they
was uninformed, to support their theory that Odio said she knew Oswald
anti-Castro meetings? (It is true they say that Griffin was
on Ruby, but Ruby is part of the Silvia Odio matter as we will see in a
Parenthetically, in the same paragraph they discuss Griffin, the La
Fontaines write that Leon D. Hubert, another WC attorney, resigned from
the WC investigation "in frustration." Hubert and Griffin were
the two attorneys who were aggressively looking into Ruby's past and
apparently were being kept in the dark about many things. The
problem is, after reading the La Fontaine book, you never find out just
how much in the dark they really were, or how much in the dark the La
Fontaines really are about the Silvia Odio incident.
In order to understand how Odio came to the FBI's attention in the
first place and how the reported actions of Jack Ruby led them, albeit
circuitously, to her, we have to examine the statements of Silvia
Odio's ex-best friend, Lucille Connell.
From Gaeton Fonzi's April 5, 1976 memo to Dave Marston, the following:
Connell says that she was speaking on the telephone with a friend of
hers who was secretary in a law office when Oswald was shot. "We both
had our television
on," she recalls, "and saw Ruby shoot Oswald. And she said to me,
my goodness, Ruby was in our office last week and had power of attorney
for his sister." (8)
Connell was speaking to her friend, Mrs. Sanford Pick, who worked for
attorney Graham R.E. Koch in Dallas. (9) The La Fontaines
reference Koch on page
216 in another chapter titled, "You Don't Know Me" and unfortunately
the connection to Odio, although they do understand the significance of
wanting to set up the power of attorney. However, they write (as does
Kantor in his book) that the power of attorney was to be with his
Koch - not his sister:
Ruby's chief concern now would be in making the [Oswald] shooting look
a spur-of-the-moment matter so he could be back out in the street as
soon as possible and reap the rewards of being a popular hero. He
already had the perfect reason for being in the same block as the
police station by going on a legitimate errand to the Western Union
office there [to wire the money to Little Lynn]. Next he would
need a reason for the gun. He stuffed
nine $100 bills, 30 $10 bills, 40 $20 bills and a number of smaller
into a pocket. It was supposed to be the federal excise tax money Ruby
By carrying it with him, he created an understandable reason under
law to pack the gun, too, even though he had no license to carry any
weapon. But the excise tax payment story is phony. Only five days
he had signed the power-of-attorney in the office of his tax lawyer,
Koch, granting Koch the right to negotiate with the IRS for an extended
period to make those federal tax payments. There is no logical
for Ruby to be carrying all that money, except to establish an alibi.
The La Fontaines use Seth Kantor for this information but, ironically,
even though they had spoken with Fonzi over the past few years before
book, no mention is made of how this part of Ruby's story led the FBI
Silvia Odio. (10) In fact, the La Fontaines, in describing the
deteriorated friendship between Odio and Connell after the
assassination, erroneously state
Lucille Connell called the FBI on the heels of her conversation with
Silvia. (pp. 257)
This is completely misleading. It was the FBI that called Connell
- not the other way around - and it was after they spoke with Connell,
and Connell eventually bringing up the Oswald visit to Odio's
apartment, that Odio entered the picture.
According to Fonzi's documentary record, later on the same day that she
spoke to her friend Mrs. Pick, Connell also spoke to another friend,
Insua, the daughter of the man who ran the Cuban Relief Committee.
She mentioned to Insua what her friend said about Ruby being in her law
office. Miss Insua happened to have a class of American children
whom she was teaching Spanish. In class, she got into a
of the Kennedy assassination and mentioned that she knew someone who
dealings with Ruby. It also happened that in Miss Insua's class
the son of FBI agent Hosty, who immediately went home and told his
about the Ruby connection. The FBI contacted Insua who, in turn,
them in contact with Connell. And for some unknown reason, that's
the investigation stopped.
I specifically asked Connell whether she told the FBI about her friend
and about Jack Ruby's visit to the law office to get power of attorney
his sister. She said: "Yes. The FBI has that information. I
it to them at the interview." She said she has been puzzled about
it never came out in the Warren Report. She said: "I was rather
that they didn't see fit to mention it myself because I thought it was
pertinent information. Ruby had never had power of attorney drawn
his sister before."
I think that last sentence is especially significant, in view of my
follow-up investigation, because it implies that Connell and her friend
did discuss the particular matter of a power of attorney and her friend
obviously told her that Ruby had not done that before.
I asked Connell about the FBI reporting that she told them that Silvia
Odio told her she had heard Oswald speak at a meeting. She said: "I
really don't recall her telling me that. I just recall that
Oswald came to her apartment and wanted to get her involved some way.
But as I recall Silvia herself didn't tell me that, it was her sister
who told me that."
Connell said she couldn't imagine why the FBI didn't put that in
their report. "Frankly, I was not impressed with these two
FBI investigators," she said. "They were rather new on the job I
think. They were not very smart in my opinion and I did
more interviewing of them than they did of me. They made
no notes at the time, so whatever they wrote down after
they left I'm not sure would be a hundred percent correct."
The La Fontaines claim that Gaeton Fonzi, "perturbed" by the
revelations of Connell's 11/29/63 remarks to the FBI "now claims that
his HSCA investigative notes indicate that the information about prior
meetings with Oswald was not
told to Mrs. Connell by Silvia, but by one of Silvia's sisters, and
that, moreover, the FBI misunderstood what was said." (12)
As anyone can see from reading the excerpt above from Fonzi's 1976 memo
to Dave Marstan, that is exactly the case: 1) that Connell didn't
Silvia telling her about Oswald being at any meetings, it was Silvia's
who said this (according to Connell in 1976), and 2) the FBI took no
when they first interviewed Connell which could certainly explain all
confusion about what was actually said. Even Connell was astute
to realize that she was not sure what they wrote down afterwards would
"a hundred per cent correct."
But the La Fontaines, ever ready to discredit Odio, plunge ahead and
include in the chapter notes at the back of the book:
Mrs. Connell herself, however, confirmed to Mary in March 1995 that (as
she told the FBI) it was Silvia who told her she had met Oswald more
once prior to the assassination. (13)
So, after selectively excerpting "out of the loop" Griffin's 4/16/64
memo, and after ignoring Dr. Einspruch's sworn testimony in 1978 about
Oswald's visit to Odio being only a "one time experience," the La
Fontaines now apparently want their readers to believe that their 1995
interview with Lucille Connell has more import than all the earlier
evidence. They fail to provide the substance, context or specific
question(s) asked of Connell in 1995 - just a short note about
"confiding" to Mary. This is supposed to supplant sworn
deposition and testimony taken much closer to the actual events in
Really, now. To accord more significance to a whispered
confidence (now blatantly betrayed by writing about it in the book)
that is out-of-context, over the evidence on record, is what the La
Fontaines expect their readers and the research community to do?
But what's worse, the La Fontaines mislead when they imply that after
Odio told Connell her story of Oswald visiting her apartment, that
Connell then called the FBI. Remember - it was the FBI that
contacted Connell (not the other way around) after they met with Insua.
Some investigative work this is!
To recap: although the La Fontaines had access to one of the HSCA
investigators (Fonzi), and although they apparently had access to the
original source documentation at the Archives (which is also available
to the public), they either ignored or somehow missed important
evidence that it was the reported actions of Jack
Ruby just days before the assassination that actually led the FBI to
Odio (in a roundabout fashion) in the first place; they ignored Dr.
sworn testimony, that if Silvia had seen Oswald more than once -
the notion that she knew him previously from several anti-Castro
- maybe he would have more confidence that one of the men who visited
was actually Lee Harvey Oswald; and they apparently missed the evidence
record, since 1976, that Connell did not recall Silvia ever telling her
knowing Oswald previously!
The obvious question that the La Fontaines should have asked themselves
is: Where is the evidence that there were any anti-Castro meetings with
both Oswald and Odio in attendance, anyway? And why doesn't the
original source documentation support the notion that Odio lied to
Connell and Einspruch about this?
This is crucial for their theory to work, yet, it doesn't seem to
matter to them that there is simply not a shred of evidence for such a
fantasy. And once this house of cards collapses, the remainder of
their groundless theory on Silvia Odio collapses as well.
But it sadly gets worse, for if we are to ignore all the documentary
evidence, what are we to accept and believe? The La Fontaines
provide the answer by relying on a love story "with attitude," written
by Marianne Sullivan (who
hated Silvia Odio) to bolster their beliefs and theories that Odio and
Father MacChann know more about the assassination than they have
And just in case relying on this romantic novel - rather than evidence
- isn't bad enough, the La Fontaines then proclaim authoritatively that
this romantic fantasy "KENNEDY RIPPLES: A TRUE LOVE STORY" is "a memoir
despite its title."
A memoir? "Kennedy Ripples"? Is this part of the "New
Evidence in the JFK Assassination" that the title of their book heralds?
At this point you might begin to wonder, as I did, how the La Fontaines
lost their way in the case, and how they could have made the serious
mistakes they made. Were they on a deadline? Shouldn't they have
interviewed Silvia Odio personally - instead of via a phone call -
since she was so important to their theory as to rate an entire
chapter? Shouldn't they have used Fonzi's knowledge and original
notes on his investigations of Odio, Connell and Einspruch? Where
is their proof that Silvia Odio is a liar? Where is the evidence
that Odio or Father MacChann know more about the assassination than
they've ever revealed?
Are these answers to be found in a romantic novel?
Such unhinged logic is distressing and depressing. There is more
distortion, selective use of documentation and sheer speculation in
this chapter than I have ever seen from some authors that support the
"official version" of the assassination. This kind of "research"
hurts us all because it sets
us back and confuses issues that were resolved long ago.
Some of the resolved issues that still stand despite the efforts by the
La Fontaines include:
1). Silvia Odio is, without a doubt, a reliable and credible
witness, despite the La Fontaines' new spin, 32 plus years after the
fact. Her story of the visit by Oswald and the other two
strangers was corroborated by both her sister Annie and, perhaps more
importantly, by her own psychiatrist, Dr. Einspruch. Under oath,
Einspruch testified that he recalled her mentioning the visit of the
three men before the assassination.
2). There were no other anti-Castro meetings with Oswald and Odio
present. Dr. Einspruch's 1978 sworn HSCA deposition of Odio only
Oswald once, clearly supports this as do Connell's remarks to Fonzi
she didn't recall Odio telling her such a tale of knowing Oswald from
meetings. This is a pointless red herring and straw man that the
Fontaines have resurrected to support their mistaken notion that Silvia
is a liar. They do this to one of the few remaining living
in the case, rather than explore the possibility that Griffin could
simply been wrong in his memo, and that since the FBI took no notes
interviewing Lucille Connell, they could have easily gotten a detail or
3). The two witnesses (Einspruch and Connell) whom the La
Fontaines use to bolster their argument that Odio told a tale of
knowing Oswald from seeing him at anti-Castro meetings, have both
either denied or negate the argument by their own comments in
interviews which are part of the original and primary source
documentary record - read: evidence - in this case.
In addition to the resolved issues noted above, the tactics used to try
and paint Odio a liar fail miserably when the primary source documents
checked against the book. For example, the La Fontaines
the very first FBI interview with Dr. Einspruch on 12/19/63, wherein
Einspruch tells Hosty unequivocally that "Miss ODIO is telling the
truth and not exaggerating." They want their readers to believe
that Einspruch believes Odio is telling the truth about Oswald at
anti-Castro meetings - something that is not mentioned in that memo,
but they are inferring what Einspruch meant (not what Hosty wrote) much
the way Griffin did. However, after all the Griffin nonsense and
confusion over the tale of Oswald at anti-Castro meetings; after Odio's
July WC testimony where she once again, under oath, denied ever telling
Connell or Einspruch such a tale; and after Rankin wrote to Hoover
about either proving or disproving Odio's story, the FBI interrogated
Dr. Einspruch once again on September 11, 1964. In that interview
by SA Alphonse J. Sutkus, Sutkus
claims that Einspruch "expressed the opinion that if subject gave any
testimony, it probably was the result of her misunderstanding the
posed to her rather than a deliberate attempt to prevaricate."
So much for disproving Odio's story.
Do the La Fontaines mention this? Of course not - they need
to characterize her as a liar despite the earliest FBI and WC evidence
all subsequent evidence gathered during the HSCA investigations that
support her credibility.
Most importantly, however, it seems to me that the La Fontaines missed
a golden opportunity to tie neatly together some loose ends that many
people have either forgotten about, or, could be unaware of since the
FBI did not pursue them. It was the reported actions of Jack
Ruby, who, according to Mrs. Sanford Pick, came to the law office where
she worked to obtain a power of attorney for his sister just days
before the assassination (and days
before killing Oswald), that eventually led the FBI to a very reluctant
Odio. That bears repeating: It was the reported actions of
Ruby that eventually led the FBI to a very reluctant Silvia Odio. (15)
Odio was a reluctant witness too scared to have ever come forward on
her own. So was Connell, albeit to a lesser extent. The FBI found
them. In the days since the assassination, Silvia Odio has
maintained her privacy. She has not profited in any way from the
tragic assassination - unlike the La Fontaines who have produced a
segment for the trashy HARD COPY tabloid television show - and she has
never sought any publicity via the lecture circuit
or any other public venue. She simply wants to be left
alone. I can only imagine how she will react to the La Fontaines
joining others who
have called her a liar over the years. Sadly, she will have
confirmation, once again, after all these years, that the American
people don't really want
to know the truth...
How is Silvia Odio today? According to Gaeton Fonzi, she is
living a quiet life in Miami. (16)
~~~ NOTES AND SOURCES ~~~
(1) The Washington Post, Sunday, August 7, 1974, OUTLOOK, "The
Fourth Tramp" by Ray and Mary La Fontaine.
(2) Leibeler memorandum to Rankin, cited by Fonzi, pp. 114:
One month later, with the Report already in galleys, the Odio incident
was still a critical concern for staffers. In a memo to his boss,
Staff Counsel Wesley Liebeler wrote: "There are problems. Odio
may well be right. The Commission will look bad if it turns out that
she is. There is no need to look foolish by grasping at straws to
avoid admitting that there
is a problem."
(3) See Odio Warren Commission testimony, July 22,'64. Subsequent
to her testifying, the FBI once again questioned her and Silvia
"emphatically denied that she ever told Mrs. C. L. Connell that Lee
Harvey Oswald had made talks to small groups of Cuban refugees in
Dallas." See FBI Report DL
100-10461, 202 (9/9/64).
(4) Interview with Gaeton Fonzi, 4/26/96. Also, see HSCA
Doc. 180-10101-10283, Box 233, Memorandum dated 4/5/76, from Gaeton
Fonzi to Dave Marston.
(5) HSCA Sworn Testimony of Dr. Burton C. Einspruch, 7/11/78,
p.28. HSCA Doc. 180-10071-10440.
(6) WC Doc. 179-40002-10171, Griffin memo to Slawson dated
4/16/64, 3 pages; Box 17B.
(7) OSWALD TALKED, Ray and Mary La Fontaine, p. 17.
(8) HSCA Doc. 180-10101-10283, Box 233, Memorandum dated 4/5/76,
from Gaeton Fonzi to Dave Marston.
(10) Interview with Gaeton Fonzi, 4/26/96. Fonzi told me that the
La Fontaines called him several times over the past few years, though
could not recall any specific questions they had on Odio, which is
since Fonzi was the HSCA investigator who researched and interviewed
Odio, and certainly could have helped them in their "research" of her.
(11) HSCA Doc. 180-10101-10283, Box 233, Memorandum dated 4/5/76, from
Gaeton Fonzi to Dave Marston.
(12) Since, according to Connell, the FBI "made no notes at the time,
so whatever they wrote down after they left I'm not sure would be a
correct" it is very easy to understand how confusion might have
with reporting the story later, from memory, as it were. Even
acknowledges this in her interview with Fonzi. See HSCA Doc.
(13) OSWALD TALKED, Ray and Mary La Fontaine, p. 426, footnote 43.
(14) FBI (WC) Doc. 105-9958-164, 9/11/64, Einspruch interview by SA
Alphonse J. Sutkus.
(15) See HSCA, Vol. X, p. 34, n. 126.
(16) Interview with Gaeton Fonzi, 4/26/96.
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