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Richard Bernabei

Marina Oswald: “It’s Lee”

Marina Oswald: “It’s Lee”

 

By Ed Ledoux and Bart Kamp.

Some photos and text has been added and amended. Feb. 22nd 2019.

In June and July of 2018 the core ROKC members were discussing amongst themselves whether to get in contact with Marina Oswald and ask her what she thought of the whole Prayer Man situation. We agreed to put it forward to her, nothing ventured nothing gained right?

Stan Dane printed one of the better shots of the Wiegman and Darnell films alongside a picture of the book cover and sent these enlargements to her. No photo of Doorway man (a.k.a. Billy Lovelady) was sent to her at any time. Stan did not receive a reply so  Ed Ledoux rang her and left a message on her answer machine not expecting to hear back from her. But less than 25 minutes later she rang back.  He asked her whether she had received the images and she said she had.

Prayer Man enlargements sent to Marina Oswald. Pic. Stan Dane.

Out Of The Shadows Into The Light Prayer Man book cover. Pic. Stan Dane.

What follows is Ed Ledoux’s story abut this particular phone call:

I wanted Marina Oswald to tell me about that figure seen in the Darnell and Wiegman films Stan Dane had sent to her, a figure who was standing in the dark shadowy top left corner, one whom was labelled Figure J. in drawings by Richard Bernabei.

Occupants front steps of the T.S.B.D. by Richard Bernabei. Click pic. to enlarge.

I felt the need to explain everything first, as she immediately asked what this was all about and began to tell all the details as best as I could relate quickly to her about Weigman and Darnell, the steps, our research and that of others.

Sketch of Prayer Man and Bill Shelley on the front steps of the T.S.B.D. by Richard Bernabei. Click pic. to enlarge.

Sketch of Prayer Man, Billy Lovelady, Otis Williams and Bill Shelley on the front steps of the T.S.B.D. by Richard Bernabei. Click pic. to enlarge.

When I was about to mention Richard Bernabei’s annotated sketches of Weigman from the late 60’s, which were not sent to her,  with the unknown figure marked J. she stopped me.

Marina interjected and said “That’s Lee” I was taken aback as she knew exactly what and who I had asked about. She volunteered her answer. I exclaimed “What?” to make sure I had heard her correctly. And she replied to me “It’s Lee.” and did so as quite a matter of fact.

There I was thinking, here is the one person besides Marguerite Oswald whom would know the likeness of Lee better than any armchair detective or internet warrior could. Here she was confirming the identity of her husband and in effect the work done by Sean Murphy until the 50th anniversary of the murder, and now carried on by the ROKC crew as a litmus test in the Kennedy assassination.

When I asked Marina about the images of Prayer Man to Lee she said, “Yes, seen it many times” like it was old news.
Well I was dazzled by her quick wit and retorts. She is no slouch when it comes to her late husband and the case.
She said “They have dropped the assumed part, and just say he is guilty” so I explained the FBI and Justice Dept. have both closed the case and retroactively declared Lee guilty.
I asked if she knew of a way to help and she understood the problem.
She wanted to know my age, she sharing hers first like a lady. I shared mine and she said “Good, you’re young enough to get something done.”
I told her about the book, “Prayer Man, Out Of The Shadows And Into The Light” by Stan Dane.
Marina asked when it was published. I said it has been out three and a half years.
When I told her what information it had about documenting Lee on the first floor and in the vestibule, she responded resolutely, “I don’t need to be convinced.”
Marina was kind and soft spoken, wanted me to help her children who suffer the most by having a father wrongfully called a murderer. No jury, no trial, no full investigation, yet the United States legal system allows this.
As Marina Oswald called me back in such a short time after I had left a message I did not record this call. But I did call her back again two weeks later, this was after I sent her Stan Dane’s book and asked her to give me her blessing to what she had said to me two weeks prior. In this conversation she stated that she had not read the Stan Dane book, as there were too many characters involved and that all they had to do is compare two faces; Lee and Billy Lovelady. The rest didn’t matter. Listen to the short recording below.

NBC Universal holds the original footage of Darnell and Wiegman from that day in 1963 when The President, John F. Kennedy, was murdered.
These original 16 mm films contain much better detail than the circulating ones. The copies that are around were transferred to 3/4 inch VHS tape nearly 60 years ago and are overall not very clear due to the generational gap and the artefacts it inherited due to the transfer.

Poor quality images allow the weak and timid to say it might be Lee or dispute it, and until better images they retort that they can’t agree it is Oswald, until its shown and proven to be Lee.
Thus the Prayer Man litmus test has enabled ROKC to sample those researchers genuinely looking to end all debate as to Lee’s innocence.
The naysayers dismiss with a wave of the hand the literal mountains of physical and documented evidence that puts Lee on the first floor during the assassination and outside during the shooting.
Naysayers accomplish this by saying the images taken from the films are to blurry.
Blurry yes, but good enough for them to identify Buell Frazier, and Billy Lovelady without second guesses.

I have spoken with Buell Frazier and I got the sense he recognises the figure but cannot allow himself to say what Marina effortlessly stated.  “It’s Lee.”

Buell has identified himself in the films.

Buell Frazier in Darnell.

He has said he thought the figure near him called Prayer Man is Bill Shelley, Buell may default to Bill but he also realises Bill left the steps with Billy Lovelady to walk down to the rail yard and knoll area. Buell cant reconcile the figure with the logistics of those present.
I want to show Buell a better image too.

Slowly these things help to settle this important matter. Just over a week ago Bart managed to show a note made by FBI agent James Hosty which clearly stated that “He went to 2nd floor to get coca cola to eat with lunch and returned to 1st floor to eat lunch. Then went outside to watch P. parade.”

This document and the Fritz interrogation notes show that Lee himself is giving his alibi to the police and knowing that Bill Shelley was there with him, only for police authorities to twist things and use it against him.

Lee said he stepped out to see what all the excitement was about as reported by Detective Ed Hicks.
Reporters were documenting this statement.

In his interview shortly before Lee was murdered by Jack Ruby, Postal Inspector Harry Holmes asked about Lee’s alibi.
Specifically that Lee was in the Vestibule or nearing the vestibule when the shooting took place. There is only one vestibule proper. It is between the two outer columns flanking the steps, up to the front door.
That is in part Oswald’s alibi, being out in the vestibule and knowing who else was on the steps.

I wanted to see the best images of those steps and who was in the vestibule and asked for and was granted a license for the Darnell film. Additionally I made an offer to transfer Darnell into 4k or 8k resolution, using the vendor of their choice to perform the scan and at my cost, but I was soon told that the powers that be had denied access to the film.

Rather than provide me the best quality image available NBC asked that I use a high quality format but media that was from a 3/4″  tape circa 1970’s era.
I declined to accept this paltry material.

I thank the folks who helped with the project, especially Bart Kamp, Greg Parker, and Stan Dane who have searched for the original films with me.

Thanks to the fine folks at ROKC I knew beyond a shadow that Lee was Prayer Man and I continued based on evidence that the films were in New York at the NBC ‘archives’ there.
The films are still awaiting a new Executive to allow access to study them.
Greg Parker has sent a public letter asking NBC Universal for the films to be accessed by researchers and students.

We are still waiting their reply.

Thanks to Marina I realised the truth has just begun.

Marina asked me about the films timing, she said its important. I explained that the limo is still seen exiting Dealey Plaza in the Dave Wiegman film, which syncs up with Wiegman and then Darnell, so its a matter of seconds.
Marina said that makes Lee innocent.

I agreed,…

I’ve spoke to Marina a few more times to update her on the Prayer Man project and various aspects of the case. I am going to tell her about the Sixth Floor Museums donation they received of a 2k copy of Darnell.
Alan Dale asked Stephen Fagin at the Lancer conference about the film and Fagin told that it can be viewed in the museum’s viewing room, but there is no zooming or slowing the playback there unfortunately.
I had mentioned to her that I would find better footage, as she was not positive NBC would ever allow access. So we are hopeful to have more to discuss in the near future.
Cheers and ROKC on.

Richard Bernabei

Richard Bernarbei (1933-1979) was a college professor at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Richard Bernabei (1951). Thanks to Mati Bernabei.

About a year and a half ago I was wondering whether anyone else had noticed Prayer Man in the Wiegman and/or Darnell films before Sean Murphy started his quest less than ten years ago. I was already loosely checking out where this all originated from but I could not find anything from before the millennium until I came across Bernabei’s name  while trawling through Harold Weisberg’s archive. I read his correspondence from the late 60’s, between them and Richard Sprague and almost fell off my chair and made mention of this after I regained my composure  at ROKC. There is quite a bit of correspondence in this archive.

And by chance I came across his discovery of another person on those steps besides doorway man (a.k.a. Billy Lovelady). I shall post some of these pages of his correspondence below. These pages are the first signs of discovery of Prayer Man, although he was not named as such, that credit belongs to Sean Murphy.

Knowing that Richard Bernabei’s material was held at his workplace in Kingston  I emailed Queens University in June last year and was told that the archives were not indexed nor digitised, so a dead end for me unless I or one of my fellow ROKCers made their way over there.

I left the whole thing for what it was, as I had plenty to go on until I emailed roughly 6 months ago to see if I could get a local person to investigate for me instead. Little did I know that an individual by the name of Sean Adessky had gone through all of Bernabei’s  archive a few months before and had made an index. From that index one section jumped out to me.

Folder, “Man in the TSBD Doorway” 

–      Documents relating to the individuals seen in the doorway of the TSBD at the time of the shooting.

–      Photographs, commission documents, sketches, few pages of handwritten notes.

Totalling 35 pages I was dying to get hold of all of this material, which they promptly helped me with. The whole document is more focused on Doorway Man (Billy Lovelady) but by researching it from every possible angle he also deals with Prayer Man for  about 4-5 pages. These pages are very valuable since they contain sketches made by Richard Bernabei and  diagrams as well of the people on the front steps of the Texas School Book Depository. This material is the first hard evidence of someone actually recognising a person in that shadowy area of those front steps of the Texas School Book Depository when JFK was assassinated and also actively documenting it. How he did this is a bit of an enigma, since the material of Wiegman he had in his collection there is not much to see there. Check for yourselves in the picture gallery below.

Bear in mind that at that time no one had gotten hold of the Jimmy Darnell film where Prayer Man is seen a lot clearer than in the Dave Wiegman film. The other sources, regarding this particular segment of the case, Bernabei had were Altgens 6 and the Hughes film.

Great stuff indeed, not just from a find p.o.v. but also what else he wrote inside that document. He followed the same ‘tactic’ Sean Murphy and Richard Hocking used. Not only did he study the film and photo material but he also looked at all the available testimonies and brought Oswald’s interrogations and whereabouts and TSBD employees Carolyn Arnold and Victoria Adams into the fold. Furthermore I plaster some scans of the images he had during his research. Two copies of Altgens 6, Willis 4, 8 & 10, Wiegman, Towner and Bell.

The letter below is from Richard E. Sprague who writes in good detail about Wiegman and his film to Richard Bernarbei.

  • Sprague managed to buy a copy of the film on 35 mm, where this film is, is not known at this time. He also mentions that he has clipped some of the frames out of his film, therefor the possibility exists that the film was kept in a cut up state.
  • He explains the many generations of the film.
  • Wiegman had not seen his film at the time of their telephone interview.

The large format negatives Sprague is talking about are at the National Archives in Washington, we at ROKC managed to get copies of these.

And then the trail went dead, for almost 40 years………………..why?

 

Addendum Dec 30th 2016:

Mati Bernabei (Richard’s daughter) contacted me through Facebook and shared the following info with me, which she has allowed me to share:

She was 14 years old when he died in 1979. He was very unwell the last two years due to alcohol related deterioration of body and mind.

” I knew that he was deeply interested in JFK, I didn’t understand what he was working on. I was too young. Close to the time of his death (when he, and everyone, understood that his death was imminent), my mother and other friends of his convinced him to donate his JFK files to the Archives at Queen’s University. They didn’t want the work to be lost”

“. I’ve always imagined that his work would remain in dusty boxes in the Archives forever, so I am truly delighted that you found it useful . My father was an artist, heart and soul (before academia, he studied art), hence his drawings, and his understanding of visual perspective, light and shadow, etc. I’m sure he would be deeply gratified that his work is still of interest in some way. Very interesting for me to read your analysis too! Thank you!”

“When looking for the photo I reread a short bio of my father that my mom wrote in the 1990s when she doing a hobby genealogy project (for my sister and I). That mentions the donation to the archives, and I remembered more details. My father was a true mess in the last two years of his life. He had a heart murmur due to childhood rheumatic fever, thus the collapse of his body due to chain smoking and alcohol was accelerated. In June of 1979 my uncle (his brother) came to visit — by that time it was clear that there was no turning back – organ failure was occurring, and father would die soon (he died 2 months later). At that time my uncle and my mom convinced Pa to donate the JFK material. My father had already destroyed much of his artwork, in a fit of self loathing, I think. So, my mom and uncle rightly worried that he might do the same with his JFK documents.”

“My father’s struggles were obvious to people who knew him in the last few years, thus there was no need or purpose in in trying to create a facade. And, he talked and wrote about too. He was a kind, loving, tragically self-destructive person in those last years.”

*****

 

Special thanks to Heather Home and Susan Office at Queens University.

Mati Bernabei for the portrait and the additional info.

And many thanks as well to Francesca Brzezicki for making the Bernabei correspondence and photo scans for me.

Wiegman scans by ROKC from the Richard E. Sprague archive at the National Archives in Wa.

Anatomy of the second floor lunch room encounter.

Anatomy of the second floor lunch room encounter.

 

Last updated Sept 9th 2017

This essay got too big for its own good, more than 23,000 words which resulted in the blog software unable to cope and ended up crashing numerous times.

Thanks to Bernard Wilds webmaster of DPUK we now have a PDF of the Anatomy of the second floor lunch room encounter available, at 134 pages a light read ;)

Update Dec 6th 2016: this article has been awarded the Mary Ferrell and JFK Lancer New Frontier Award in late November.

 

Credit: Stan Dane.

Credit: Stan Dane.

Credit: Stan Dane.