Was Jack Ruby Involved in the JFK Assassination?
Two days after the JFK assassination, the official suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald, was shot dead by Jack Ruby, a Dallas strip club owner. Oswald’s famous remark that “I’m just a patsy” (Warren Commission Hearings, vol.20, p.366) inevitably led to suspicions that his murder was a convenient execution.
Rumours suggested that Jack Ruby had been involved not only in the cover–up but also in President Kennedy’s assassination itself. The Warren Commission attempted to show that these stories were mistaken and that Ruby’s murder of Oswald, just like Oswald’s murder of Kennedy, was simply the act of a deranged lone gunman (Warren Report, pp.333–373). The House Select Committee on Assassinations was more critical: HSCA Report, appendix vol.9, pp.127–148; see also What Did the Warren Commission Say about Jack Ruby?.
Nevertheless, the rumours and conspiracy theories persisted. Ruby was supposed to have:
- delivered a rifle to the grassy knoll;
- known Lee Harvey Oswald before the assassination;
- been a spectator in Dealey Plaza during the assassination.
Julia Ann Mercer: Jack Ruby and the Rifle
Shortly before 11 o’clock on the morning of the assassination, Julia Ann Mercer was driving through Dealey Plaza. Her car was held up in traffic on Elm Street, close to a parked pick–up truck containing two men. She noticed one of the two men take a package, the size and shape of a rifle case, out of the back of the pick–up. The man carried the package to the top of what would later become famous as the grassy knoll.
Julia Ann Mercer’s Official Statements
A few hours later, she gave a statement to the Sheriff’s Department in which she mentioned “what appeared to be a gun case”, and that she felt able to identify the two men: Warren Commission Hearings, vol.19, p.483.
The next day, Mercer was interviewed by the FBI. The FBI’s statement of the interview is essentially a third–person version of her earlier, first–person, account: Warren Commission Document 205, p.313.
After Ruby’s public killing of Oswald, Julia Ann Mercer had two further encounters with the FBI, on the 25th (ibid., p.315) and the 27th (ibid., p.316), in which she was shown photographs of two men but was unable to identify either of the men as Jack Ruby or Lee Harvey Oswald.
Julia Ann Mercer’s Later Statements
In January 1968, Mercer came to the attention of Jim Garrison, who had begun to investigate the New Orleans aspects of the assassination. In conversations with Garrison, and later with other researchers, Julia Ann Mercer claimed that the official versions of her statements to the Sheriff’s Department and the FBI were false. In particular:
- On Saturday 23 November, she had positively identified a photograph as that of the man in the driver’s seat of the pick–up truck. She had turned the photograph over and saw Jack Ruby’s name written on the back.
- After seeing Ruby murder Oswald on television, she contacted the FBI and told them that Ruby had been the man sitting in the pick–up.
- Her signature on the statements had been forged.
Mercer was wary of publicity, and did not appear before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, so her claims remain untested.
For detailed accounts of Julia Ann Mercer and her apparent identification of Jack Ruby, see:
- Henry Hurt, Reasonable Doubt: An Investigation into the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Henry Holt, 1985, pp.114–6.
- James Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, Orbis Books, 2008, pp.254–7.
- Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins, Warner Books, 1991, pp.252f.
- HSCA Report, appendix vol.12, pp.16f.
Rose Cherami: Jack Ruby Knew Oswald
Rose Cherami (sometimes spelt ‘Cheramie’), whose real name appears to have been Melba Christine Marcades, came to the attention of a police officer, Francis Frugé, on 20 November 1963. According to Frugé’s testimony to the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978, Cherami claimed that she had been travelling by car from Florida to Dallas, in order to do a drug deal. She had shared the car with two men, who stated that they were planning to kill President Kennedy during his imminent visit to Dallas. She is supposed to have repeated her claim to a doctor the day before the assassination. Because she was suffering withdrawal symptoms from heroin and alcohol addiction, her warning was not taken seriously.
After the assassination, her story expanded: she had been a stripper in Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club, where she had met Lee Oswald. She claimed that Oswald was a good friend of Ruby’s, and that the men who had plotted to kill Kennedy were associated with Ruby.
Certain aspects of her account were plausible. Some of the details of her drug deal were confirmed by US Customs investigators. The Dallas police and the FBI, however, ignored her, and her information about a link between Ruby and Oswald was not investigated.
Other aspects of the story turned out to be less plausible:
- The alleged assassins appear to have been remarkably talkative: “Need a ride? By the way, we’re off to shoot the president!”
- There is no independent evidence that Rose Cherami, who would have been about 40 years old at the time she is supposed to have met Oswald, had been a stripper at Jack Ruby’s club.
- Frugé’s earliest statements, made in 1967, do not mention Cherami’s prediction of the assassination. Dr Victor Weiss, who was alleged to have heard the prediction on 21 November, claimed that he had not met her until 25 November, and that he had been told about her prediction by a colleague, Dr Donn Bowers. In an interview with a researcher several decades later, Dr Bowers denied this, and claimed that he had not met Cherami until 24 November.
In short, there appears to be no credible evidence that Rose Cherami had known about the assassination before it occurred, or that she had ever met Oswald or Ruby. Rose Cherami died in 1965, apparently having been run over by a car. For more about Cherami’s story, see HSCA Report, appendix vol.10, pp.199–204.
Photographs of Jack Ruby in Dealey Plaza
Phil Willis is best known for his slide no.5, a photograph of President Kennedy taken at around the time of the first gunshot, in which Kennedy’s posture and the location of his jacket disprove the single–bullet theory.
Another of Willis’s photographs, his slide no.14, shows the crowd milling around the front of the Texas School Book Depository a few minutes after the shooting. The photograph includes a middle–aged man with a receding hairline, wearing a dark jacket and dark glasses. Jack Ruby was a middle–aged man with a receding hairline, who was known to wear a dark jacket and dark glasses. The similarity between Ruby and the man in the photograph was spotted by several FBI agents and by Willis himself.
Unfortunately, one of the many images taken by the freelance photographer, Jim Murray, includes a very clear view of the same man in front of the TSBD at about the same time. It is obvious that the man in the photograph is not Jack Ruby.
For an illustrated account, see Richard Trask, Pictures of the Pain: Photography and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Yeoman Press, 1994, pp.177f.