Silvia Odio’s Visitors
A large community of anti–Castro Cuban refugees was living in Dallas in 1963. One of them, Silvia Odio, claimed that she was visited one evening in late September by three anti–Castro sympathisers: two Hispanic men and one American, who was introduced to her as ‘León Oswald’.1 The conversation was largely in Spanish, which the American did not appear to understand. One of the Hispanic men claimed to be a friend of her father, who was a political prisoner in Cuba. She was told that:
- the group had arrived in Dallas from New Orleans,
- they were about to go on a trip,
- and that ‘León Oswald’ might join the resistance movement in Cuba.
Lee Harvey Oswald had been living in New Orleans during the summer of 1963, and was about to travel to Mexico City, where he would attempt to obtain a visa to visit Cuba.
An Incriminating Telephone Call
The next day, one of the Hispanic men telephoned Odio and described ‘León’, the American, as:
- a former Marine,
- a crack marksman,
- someone who thought that President Kennedy should have been assassinated after the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs,
- and, in her words, “kind of nuts.”
When Silvia Odio saw the television coverage of the assassination, she immediately recognised Oswald as her American visitor.2
Corroboration of Silvia Odio’s Account
Silvia Odio’s story appeared to be reliable:3
- Her sister, Annie, who was staying with Silvia at the time of the visit, saw the men and independently recognised Oswald when she saw him on television after the assassination.4
- Before the assassination, Silvia Odio had written about the episode to her father. A letter from him refers to Silvia’s letter and to an unknown person who claimed to be his friend.5
- Silvia Odio had mentioned the incident before the assassination to her psychiatrist, Dr Burton Einspruch, who considered her a reliable witness.6
- Silvia and Annie Odio were reluctant to publicise their stories. The episode became known only by chance.7
A Clash of Dates: Where Was Oswald?
According to Odio, the meeting may have occurred on Wednesday 25 September, but was more likely to have occurred on Thursday 26 September.8 Either way, there was a problem: both of these dates coincided with Oswald’s Mexico City adventure.
Oswald is presumed to have been in New Orleans on the morning of 25 September, when a cheque in his name was cashed.9 He is presumed to have arrived in Mexico City early on 27 September, when he registered at a hotel and made his first visits to the Soviet and Cuban diplomatic compounds.10
Oswald could not drive,11 and had little money. The bus was the only suitably economical mode of transport that Oswald could have taken if he had travelled to Mexico without an associate.
Just one itinerary fitted the available dates. It involved three separate bus journeys:
- leaving New Orleans shortly after mid–day on the 25th, and arriving in Houston, 350 miles away, very late the same day;
- leaving Houston early on the morning of the 26th, and arriving in Nuevo Laredo on the Mexican border that afternoon;
- leaving Nuevo Laredo an hour or so later, and arriving in Mexico City shortly before 10am on the 27th.12
In order to arrive in Mexico City on the 27th, Oswald must have set off from New Orleans on the 25th. New Orleans, however, is more than 500 miles by road from Dallas. Without assistance, Oswald could not have reached Dallas in time to visit Silvia Odio on the 25th and then travel the 240 miles to Houston in time to catch his bus.
Impostor or Accomplices
This created several uncomfortable options:
- Either the real Oswald was on a bus hundreds of miles away when Silvia Odio was introduced to ‘León Oswald’ in Dallas;
- or Oswald met Odio in Dallas and then travelled to Mexico City by some other means, which must have involved assistance from at least one accomplice.
- Or Oswald did not visit Mexico City at all.
The episode posed a similar problem to that of the impostor in Mexico City:
- either Oswald had associates;
- or he was impersonated in Dallas as well as in Mexico City.13
‘León Oswald’ and the Telephone Call
Apart from the question of whether or not Oswald was impersonated, the more sinister issue is the telephone call which planted specific information linking Oswald to the assassination, and which strongly suggests that he was being set up to take the blame.
- Silvia Odio’s account: Warren Commission Hearings, vol.11, pp.377ff. Silvia, not Sylvia, Odio is the correct spelling of her name.
- Silvia Odio had observed the American visitor at close range for about twenty minutes; she was convinced that the man was Lee Oswald: HSCA Report, appendix vol.10, p.26. An erroneous story emerged that Silvia Odio already knew Oswald because he had attended anti–Castro meetings in Dallas: see Warren Commission Hearings, vol.26, p.738 (Commission Exhibit 3108). Although there is some evidence that he had indeed attended such meetings (see Warren Commission Document 205, p.646), Odio herself denied that she knew Oswald: Warren Commission Hearings, vol.26, p.837 (Commission Exhibit 3147). See Steve Bocham, ‘Understanding Silvia Odio: What the LaFontaines Don’t Tell You,’ Kennedy Assassination Chronicles, vol.2, issue 2 (Summer 1996), pp.28–31 (reproduced in image format here: http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=4255&relPageId=28, and in HTML format here: http://www.cuban-exile.com/doc_001-025/doc0008.html).
- Even the Warren Commission accepted that Odio was a believable witness. Wesley Liebeler, who interviewed Odio for the Commission, stated that “a number of details in the woman’s story coincided with facts she could not possibly have known.” See Edward Epstein, Inquest: the Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth, Viking Press, 1966, p.102. The House Select Committee on Assassinations likewise found “that Silvia Odio’s testimony was essentially credible.” See HSCA Report, appendix vol.10, p.31.
- FBI report of an interview with Annie Odio: Warren Commission Hearings, vol.26, pp.362f.
- Silvia Odio’s account of the correspondence: Warren Commission Hearings, vol.11, pp.383f. Amador Odio’s letter: Warren Commission Hearings, vol.20, pp.688–91.
- Dr Einspruch: HSCA Report, appendix vol.10, p.30.
- Immediately after the assassination, the third Odio sister, Sarita, mentioned to Silvia’s friend, Lucille Connell, that Silvia had met Oswald. The FBI learned that another friend of Connell’s had met Jack Ruby. The bureau eventually interviewed Connell, who told them about the Odio incident. See HSCA Report, appendix vol.10, p.28
- The date of the visit: Warren Commission Hearings, vol.26, p.836 (Commission Exhibit 3147).
- Oswald could not have obtained the cheque before 25 September: Warren Commission Hearings, vol.24, pp.716f (Commission Exhibit 2131, pp.3f). The Warren Commission was aware that Oswald may in fact have begun his bus journey to Mexico on 24 September, the day before the cheque arrived in New Orleans (Warren Commission Hearings, vol.26, p.596 [Commission Exhibit 3045]), but did not attempt to resolve the problem.
- Guillermo Garcia Luna, the owner of the Hotel del Comercio, claimed that Oswald checked in between 10:00am and 11:00am on Friday 27 September 1963: Warren Commission Hearings, vol.24, p.597 (Commission Exhibit 2121, p.54).
- Oswald began taking driving lessons a few weeks later, according to Ruth Paine, with whom he and his family were staying at the time: Warren Commission Hearings, vol.17, p.151 (Commission Exhibit 425) and Warren Commission Hearings, vol.2, p.514.
- This itinerary was the one used in the Warren Commission’s reconstruction of Oswald’s bus journey; see Warren Report, p.731. Oswald appears to have crossed the border on the 26th (ibid., p.323), but the documentary evidence that he entered and left Mexico by bus is inconclusive and suspicious. One list of passengers for the return journey, provided by the Mexican government, had the name ‘Oswld’ [sic] added fraudulently; see Warren Commission Hearings, vol.24, pp.619ff (Commission Exhibit 2121, pp.99ff). There is some evidence that Oswald may have travelled by car, according to a memo from J. Edgar Hoover to the FBI office in Mexico City: “Until we can prove Oswald was on a bus, the possibility will always exist that he left by automobile as indicated in Mexican immigration records.” (FBI Oswald Mexico City File, 105–3702–5).
- The Silvia Odio incident created huge difficulties for the Warren Commission and the FBI. After some urgent prompting as the Warren Report was about to go to press (Warren Commission Hearings, vol.26, p.595 [Commission Exhibit 3045]), the FBI produced three men who, it alleged, were Odio’s visitors. This allowed the Commission to explain away the problem as one of faulty identification; see Warren Report, p.324. But this story fell apart even before the Warren Report was published. All three men denied it, and the one who was supposed to have been ‘León Oswald’ had a cast–iron alibi. For a refutation of the Warren Commission’s version, and a good general account of the problem, see HSCA Report, appendix vol.10, pp.21–32.