Pictures of the Paines

There is no single piece of evidence directly tying Ruth or Michael Paine to involvement in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It is important to always bear that in mind.

But there are innumerable indicators throughout the Warren Commission literature suggesting Ruth and Michael Paine might not be the innocents they seemed. And as recently as the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination, Michael Paine was seen on CBS; what he said then runs counter to what he told the Warren Commission in 1964. All of this has, quite naturally, given rise to suspicion and speculation of a possible role played by the Paines in the assassination drama.

It may well be that the Paines were exactly what they appeared to be: a young Dallas-area couple who chanced to befriend the man later accused of murdering President Kennedy. Indeed, they have vociferous defenders to this day, staunch advocates of the official version of events who insist Ruth and Michael Paine have been slandered by conspiracy-minded, amateur Sherlocks. It is not the intent of this article to pass judgement on the Paines--only to examine the known record and what it says about them.

Officially, the Paines met Lee and Marina Oswald early in 1963. Ruth Paine told the Warren Commission that she met them at a dinner party not attended by her husband: "That was on the 22d of February looking back at my calendar." There will be more on Ruth Paine's calendar a little later in this article.

It is possible that Ruth Paine expressed interest in the Oswalds much earlier than 1963. According to an endnote in James DiEugenio's Destiny Betrayed, "...researcher Michael Levy has unearthed a Navy Department document which reports that Ruth Paine was requesting information about the family of Lee Harvey Oswald in 1957."[1] It appears this is an area requiring additional research.

Ruth Paine's father had worked for the Agency for International Development, an organization with "extensive" ties to the CIA, according to researcher Philip Melanson. [1.1] Michael Paine's brother also worked for AID. George DeMohrenschildt, alleged to have been Oswald's intelligence "handler," also once worked for AID. [1.2]

In any case, in the months leading up to the assassination Marina Oswald was living with Ruth Paine in the Paine home in suburban Dallas. Like Marina and Lee, Ruth and Michael were experiencing marital problems, and they had separated. Returning from a long trip east in September, Ruth Paine swung by New Orleans, where the Oswalds had lived that summer. She picked Marina up and took her home to live with her. Michael Paine was at this time living in an apartment in Grand Prairie, another Dallas suburb.

When Lee himself showed up in Dallas in October, Ruth Paine was indirectly responsible for him getting a job at the Texas School Book Depository, where of course the Warren Commission concluded all the shots fired at the motorcade originated. She knew he was looking for work, and heard of an opening at the Depository: "I looked up the number in the book, and dialed it, and was told I would need to speak to Mr. Truly, who was at the warehouse...I talked with him...and I said I know of a young man whose wife was staying in my house, the wife was expecting a child..."[2] Oswald got the job, of course, and a rendezvous with destiny.

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The Colleague

Another curiosity are the statements of one Raymond Franklin Krystinik. Some contradict those made by Michael Paine. Krystinik also quotes Paine making some unusual comments upon hearing of Lee Oswald's arrest.

In 1963 Krystinik was a research engineer at Bell Helicopter Research Laboratory in Arlington, Texas, where he worked with Michael Paine. Bell, a defense contractor, later sold thousands of helicopters to the United States Army during the Vietnam War. Through Paine, Krystinik had met Lee Oswald at an ACLU meeting several months before the assassination; in fact, the two men had discussed economics when the meeting was over. Krystinik recalled that Oswald seemed to be talking down to him, and that consequently, "I was irritated by the man a little."[3]

It is a truism of our times that anyone alive and alert on November 22, 1963, remembers what he or she was doing when news of the Kennedy assassination came down. But there is a discrepancy with Michael Paine. Krystinik told the Commission he was with Paine, but Paine didn't seem to remember that.

Mr. Paine. I was having, at the time of the assassination I was at work, of course, but at the time of the assassination I was in the cafeteria associated with the bowling alley having lunch.
Mr. Liebeler. Who was with you?
Mr. Paine. A student, a co-op student called Dave Noel happened to be with me. We happened to be talking about the character of assassins at the lunchtime, of all things.
Mr. Liebeler. Prior to the time you heard of the assassination?
Mr. Paine. That is right.[4]

The issue must have meant something to the Commission, because this was the second time Michael Paine was asked about who he was with when he learned of the assassination. The first was during his testimony the day before:

Mr. Liebeler. ...let me ask you this, who was with you at the first time you heard the assassination?
Mr. Paine. Dave Noel.
Mr. Liebeler. Was Mr. Krystinik with you?
Mr. Paine. No.

But Frank Krystinik recalled it differently.

Mr. Liebeler. Was Michael with you when you first heard of the fact that the President had been fired at?
Mr. Krystinik. Yes.[5]

Could this difference in recollection be due to something else Krystinik remembered, and how it reflected on Michael Paine? Krystinik told the Warren Commission about an odd comment Michael Paine had made when they were first sorting out the news of the assassination. Radio reports said shots may have come from the TSBD, and Krystinik asked, "Isn't that where Oswald works?" Paine replied in the affirmative, but added he didn't think Oswald would shoot the President.

Mr. Krystinik. And it wasn't but just a little while later that we heard that Officer Tippit had been shot, and it wasn't very long after that that it came through that the Oswald fellow had been captured, had had a pistol with him, and Michael used some expression, I have forgotten exactly what the expression was, and then he said, "The stupid," something, I have forgotten. It wasn't a complimentary thing. He said, "He is not even supposed to have a gun." And that I can quote, "He is not even supposed to have a gun." Or, "Not even supposed to own a gun," I have forgotten.[6]

With the guidance of Warren Commission attorney Wesley Liebeler, Krystinik went on:

Mr. Krystinik. Now that you mention to me that he isn't supposed to own that gun, it is possible that he did say that, but the way I remember is that he said, "He is not supposed to have a gun."[7]

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The Calendar

Oswald, the Paines, and a gun.

Ruth Paine had a pocket calendar for 1963, and it wound up being Commission Exhibit 401. For the month of March, there is, in the margin, a note saying "Oct. 23," followed by a star, and the words "LHO purchase of rifle" (see illustration). The note is in Ruth Paine's handwriting, which Mrs. Paine readily acknowledged.

CE 401: Ruth Paine's calendar[8]

According to the Warren Commission, Oswald bought the alleged assassination rifle via mail order from Klein's Sporting Goods, which shipped the weapon on March 20, 1963.

Mr. Jenner. ...I direct your attention to the upper left-hand corner of that card, and it appears to me that in the upper left-hand corner are October 23, then a star, then "LHO" followed by the words "purchase of rifle." Would you explain that?
Mrs. Paine. Yes. This was written after.
Mr. Jenner. After?
Mrs. Paine. This was written indeed after the assassination.
Mr. Jenner. All right.
Mrs. Paine. I heard on the television that he had purchased a rifle.
Mr. Jenner. When?
Mrs. Paine. I heard it on November 23.
Mr. Jenner. Yes.
Mrs. Paine. And went back to the page for March, put a little star on March 20 as being a small square, I couldn't fit in all I wanted to say. I just put in a star and then referring it to the corner of the calendar.
Mr. Jenner. That is the entry I have read?
Mrs. Paine. Put the star saying "LHO purchase of rifle." Then I thought someone is going to wonder about that, I had better put down the date, and did, but it was a busy day, one of the most in my life and I was off by a month, as to what day it was.
Mr. Jenner. That is you made the entry October?
Mrs. Paine. October 23 instead of November 23.
Mr. Jenner. And the entry of October 23, which should have been November 23, was an entry on your part indicating the date you wrote on the calendar the star followed by "LHO purchase of rifle" and likewise the date you made an entry?
Mrs. Paine. On the 20th.
Mr. Jenner. This is the square having the date March 20?
Mrs. Paine. Yes.
Mr. Jenner. Is that correct?
Mrs. Paine. I might point out that I didn't know Lee had a middle name until I had occasion to fill out forms for Marina in Parkland Hospital.
Mr. Jenner. That is when you learned that his middle name was Harvey and his initial was H?
Mrs. Paine. Right.[9]

Assassination researcher Jerry Rose had an interesting speculation on Ruth Paine's calendar note, in an article published in The Third Decade:

[Mrs. Paine] says that, on the day after the assassination...she went back and made this notation in her calendar, with no explanation of her motive for doing so. Thinking she might need to explain the notation, she then dated it as of the date she was making the notation; she just happened to make a one-month "mistake" by writing October 23 rather than November 23. This does not seem to be a mistake that a woman of Ruth Paine's orderly habits would make. My guess is that it is just about as likely that, for whatever reason, Mrs. Paine became aware of the rifle's purchase at the time she dated this note, October 23. (Perhaps she found a March 20 shipping document from Klein's among Oswald's papers stored in her garage.) It may have been a vital part of the plan to set up Oswald as "the assassin" to know that Oswald had a rifle that could be passed off as the assassination weapon and that it was a mail-ordered weapon that could easily be traced to Oswald. If Ruth Paine had this information as early as October 23, she clearly could have made it available to the alternative interpretation of the October 23 notation...[is] that, as a pacifist, Ruth Paine was involved with Oswald in undercover work on behalf of efforts to legislate against the mail order sale of weapons.[10]

Did Michael and Ruth Paine know more about the assassination than they ever dared tell? One can only wonder. The FBI may have wondered about the Paines, too, because they put a tap on the their phone,[11] and on the afternoon of November 23, 1963, heard an extraordinary exchange. As Anthony Summers relates:

... a telephone call was intercepted in Dallas in which a "male voice was heard to say that he felt sure Lee Harvey Oswald had killed the President but did not feel Oswald was responsible, and further stated, `We both know who is responsible.' " ... the tapped telephone numbers were those of Michael Paine and his wife, Ruth Paine, the woman who was playing host to Marina Oswald at the time of the assassination.[12]

Although he fails to state it involved an FBI phone tap--not an inconsequential fact--Commission attorney Liebeler asked Michael Paine about this phone call during his testimony on March18, 1964.

Mr. Liebeler. Now, there has been a report that on November 23, 1963, there was a telephone call between a man and a woman, between the numbers of your residence and the number of your office, in which the man was reported to have said in words or substance, "We both know who is responsible for the assassination." Have you been asked about this before?
Mr. Paine. I had heard that--I didn't know it was associated with our numbers. I had heard a report that some telephone operator had listened in on a conversation somewhere, I don't know where it was. I thought it was some other part of the country.
Mr. Liebeler. Did you talked to your wife on the telephone at any time during Saturday, November 23, on the telephone?
Mr. Paine. I was in the police station again, and I think I called her from there.
Mr. Liebeler. Did you make any remark to the effect that you knew who was responsible?
Mr. Paine. And I don't know who the assassin is or was; no, so I did not.
Mr. Liebeler. You are positive in your recollection that you made no such remark?
Mr. Paine. Yes.[13]

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The Searches

The Paines have also come under suspicion because of circumstances surrounding police searches of their house on the afternoon of the assassination. Ruth Paine testified that when the cops came to her home that afternoon, "I said nothing. I think I just dropped my jaw."

That wasn't quite how the police remembered it. Guy F. Rose, a homicide detective with the Dallas Police Department, told Warren Commission attorney Joseph Ball about his arrival at the Paine home that day.

Mr. Rose. ...just as soon as we walked up on the porch, Ruth Paine came to the door. She apparently recognized us--she said, "I've been expecting you all," and we identified ourselves, and she said, "Well, I've been expecting you to come out. Come right on in."
Mr. Ball. Did she say why she had been expecting you?
Mr. Rose. She said, "Just as soon as I heard where the shooting happened, I knew there would be someone out."[14]

If Ruth Paine "knew," as soon as she heard where the assassination occurred, that the police would be visiting her home, then something doesn't add up. At that point, according to her own testimony, she thought Oswald was working at a second TSBD building--not the one at 411 Elm Street, where the Warren Commission ultimately placed Oswald and his rifle, but one that was located several blocks from Dealey Plaza.

Mr. Jenner. I heard you mention the Texas School Depository warehouse. Did you think the warehouse was at 411 Elm?
Mrs. Paine. No... [some material deleted] ...the first I realized that there was a building on Elm was when I heard on the television on the morning of the 22d of November that a shot had been fired from such a building.
Mr. Jenner. For the purpose of this record then I would like to emphasize you were under the impression then, were you, that Lee Harvey Oswald was employed?
Mrs. Paine. At the warehouse.
Mr. Jenner. Other than at 411, a place at 411 Elm?
Mrs. Paine. I thought he worked at the warehouse. I had in fact, pointed out the building to my children going into Dallas later after he had gained employment.
Mr. Jenner. Did you ever discuss with Lee Harvey Oswald where he actually was employed, that is the location of the building?
Mrs. Paine. No; I didn't.
Mr. Jenner. Did he ever mention it?
Mrs. Paine. No.[15]

Joseph Ball asked Richard S. Stovall, another DPD Homicide Detective, about their arrival at the Paine home.

Mr. Ball. Now, when you first went in, did Ruth Paine say anything to you about expecting you, or something of that sort?
Mr. Stovall. Yes, sir; when we first came to the door and knocked on the door, she came to the door and she says, and we identified ourselves, she said, "I have been expecting you. You are here about this mess that's on television," and the "mess that's on television" at the time she was talking about was when they were talking about the President's murder. [16]

Detective Stovall also told the Commission about Ruth Paine's attitude toward a police search of her home: "We explained to her that we did not have a search warrant but if she wanted us to get one we would, and she said, `That won't be necessary'--for us to come right on in, so we went on in the house and started to search out the house."[17]

Of course, it could be that a shocked Ruth Paine was simply trying to be as cooperative as possible during a difficult time. Still, this proved to be a pivotal search, the one in which police were told by Marina Oswald, with Ruth Paine interpreting, that Lee Oswald owned a rifle and that it was stashed in the Paine garage. When the officers were lead to the rifle's hiding place, they found only the empty blanket in which it was allegedly wrapped.

The police, now armed with a search warrant, returned to the Paine home the next day. This time Mrs. Paine let the police in, then left on a shopping expedition. Marina at this time was visiting her jailed husband. This search yielded further incriminating evidence against Lee Harvey Oswald, including the disputed photographs of the suspect holding the alleged assassination rifle, a pistol strapped about his hips, brandishing leftist literature.

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Sound Bite

The Paines have been readily available to the media since their Warren Commission testimony more than thirty years ago, and for the most part they have been consistent: Oswald dunnit. As recently as the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination, both Ruth and Michael appeared on national television--Ruth on a Frontline episode, and Michael on CBS News. Ruth Paine stuck to the story she's told for thirty years. Michael, however, seemed to deviate.

First, consider what Michael Paine told the Warren Commission on March 18, 1964, when he was asked about seeing Oswald on the night of November 22.

Mr. Dulles. The only question I have in mind is as to what took place as far as Mr. Paine is concerned on the night of the assassination. Were you in the police station?
Mr. Paine. We went down to the police and stayed there until about 8 or 9 o'clock. Then Marguerite came home with us and spent the night.
Mr. Dulles. You didn't see Lee Harvey at that time, did you?
Mr. Paine. They asked me and I declined to see him at that time. I changed my mind. When they immediately asked me, I declined. I did not know what he would ask me, so I did not see him.
Mr. Dulles. You did not see him?
Mr. Paine. No.[18]

No uncertain terms: Michael Paine, under oath, testified he did not see Lee Oswald on the night of November 22, 1963.

But that isn't what he said in 1993. On the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the JFK assassination, Michael Paine told CBS that he had seen Oswald that night.

At the police station when I saw him later on that night, he was proud of what he'd done. He felt that he'd be recognized now as somebody who did something.[19]

Perhaps, with the passage of thirty years, Michael Paine was simply incorrect in his recollection of that night, in spite of its historical significance. Perhaps he saw Oswald in jail on Saturday.

The chance for Mr. Paine to tell the Commission he had seen a "proud" Oswald came up several times. There is this exchange with Wesley Liebeler:

Mr. Liebeler. Can you recall any conversations that you had with Oswald that you think would be helpful for us to know other than the ones you have already mentioned?
Mr. Paine. I don't recall one now.[20]

Then, at the conclusion of his testimony, Liebeler asks him again:

Mr. Liebeler. Mr. Paine, is there any other subject that we haven't covered in the testimony that you think the Commission ought to know about in connection with the assassination?
Mr. Paine. I don't believe there is anything else that I know.[21]

It is a matter of record that Oswald never confessed to either the assassination or the murder of Tippit; if he had bragged about it to Paine, it would have been highly significant. If Oswald was "proud of what he'd done" then why didn't Paine tell the Warren Commission?

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The Rambler

There was a mysterious getaway witnessed in Dealey Plaza on November 22. Dallas County Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig told the Warren Commission that he saw a man run from the TSBD about fifteen minutes after the assassination. The man jumped into a Nash Rambler station wagon on Elm Street, which was driven off by a second, dark-complected man.

A few hours later, Deputy Craig said he again saw the man who had fled the TSBD. This time the man was under arrest and in the office of Sheriff William Decker. That man, Craig told the Warren Commission, was Lee Harvey Oswald.

Mr. Craig. ...Captain Fritz then asked him about the--uh--he said, "What about this station wagon?" And the suspect interrupted him and said, "That station wagon belongs to Mrs. Paine"--I believe is what he said. "Don't try to tie her into this. She had nothing to do with it." And--uh--Captain Fritz then told him, as close as I can remember, that "All we're trying to do is find out what happened, and this man saw you leave from the scene." And the suspect again interrupted Captain Fritz and said, "I told you people I did."[22]

Craig's story is among the most bitterly disputed testimony in the assassination controversy, and not just because it implicates Ruth Paine--however indirectly. Obviously, if what Craig says is true, there is clear-cut evidence of conspiracy.

There is a witness whose testimony strongly supports Deputy Craig's assertions. Marvin C. Robinson told the FBI that shortly after the assassination, as he drove his car through the intersection at Elm and Houston, he saw a man walk from the TSBD to a waiting Rambler wagon on Elm. The vehicle then drove off in the direction of Oak Cliff--where Oswald's rooming house was.[23]

A third witness, Richard Randolph Carr, also saw a Rambler in Dealey Plaza. Carr was a steelworker working adjacent to Dealey Plaza at the time of the assassination. He saw a suspicious man on the fourth floor of the TSBD before the assassination, and again on the street afterward. He said he followed the man for several blocks and watched him get into a Nash Rambler wagon, driven by another man--whom Carr described as dark-skinned, like the driver Craig saw.[24]

According to the Warren Commission, Oswald was at this time riding on a city bus. No eyewitness can reliably place him there, however; a transfer ticket from that bus, found in Oswald's possession, is the strongest piece of evidence against him--and it isn't that strong. As researcher William Weston wrote:

It is a measure of the success of the conspiracy cover-up that the confused circumstances of the bus story became the official version, whereas the more credible Nash Rambler story was rejected.[25]

Did Ruth Paine own a Rambler? She said no, telling the Warren Commission that she owned a light green Chevrolet wagon. They seem to have taken her at her word, and the matter was not pursued. Although he was a reputable public servant, once voted "Officer of the Year," Deputy Craig was written off as a liar.

* * *

A Small Favor

In what was probably the greatest hour of need in his entire life, Lee Harvey Oswald asked Ruth Paine for a favor. This was on Saturday, November 23, when he was jailed in connection with the murders of JFK and Officer Tippit. He talked to her on the phone and asked her to call a certain lawyer for him, a man named John Abt of New York.

Ruth Paine told the Warren Commission: "...he sounded to me almost as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened...I felt, but did not express, considerable irritation at his seeming to be so apart from the situation, so presuming of his innocence if you will...I was quite stunned that he called at all or that he thought he could ask anything of me, appalled, really."[26] Ruth Paine said she tried without success to call Abt, but never told Oswald that she couldn't reach him. Author Sylvia Meagher editorialized,

Mrs. Paine's conscience did not remind her that the accused must be considered innocent until proved guilty in a court of law...and there is no precedent for Mrs. Paine's new principle: that the accused may not "presume" his own innocence...apparently she did not consider the possibility that he might be innocent or that he was straining to exercise control and stave off panic at his predicament...her failure to notify Oswald that she had been unable to reach Abt, so that he would realize the urgency of obtaining legal assistance elsewhere, is unforgivable.[27]

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One must be cautious not to jump to any conclusions when considering the evidence that reflects poorly on Ruth and Michael Paine. There is nothing that proves indisputably that they were involved in setting Oswald up as the fall guy in a plot to assassinate John F. Kennedy. But the record is filled with hints that they were not the innocent bystanders they appeared to be--hints that were apparently ignored by the Warren Commission, that body ostensibly empowered to investigate everything and overlook nothing, whose only client was truth.

In the case of the Paines, as in so many other aspects of the JFK investigation, we are confronted with strange testimony that was never adequately explained or followed up. With all of the loose ends, which will probably never be tied together, the Warren Commission leaves us a legacy of doubt and shame.

Copyright © 1995 by John Kelin

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