Even before the assassination weapon had been found at the Texas Schoolbook Depository, Lee Oswald was considered a suspect, at least by his supervisor, Roy Truly. Shortly after 1 pm (approximately 30 minutes after the assassination) Truly had noticed that Oswald was not standing with the other employees, immediately raising his suspicions. According to Truly’s Warren Commission testimony, “I first called down to the other warehouse and had Mr. Akin pull the application of the boy so I could quickly get his address in Irving and his general description, so I could be more accurate than I would be.” The address he was given, 2515 West 5th Street, in Irving, was the home of Ruth and Michael Paine. By 2 pm, Oswald had been apprehended as a suspect in the shooting of Dallas policeman J.D. Tippit, and was sitting in custody. Detectives Guy Rose, Richard Stovall, and John Adamcik were ordered by Captain Will Fritz to get a search warrant and investigate the Irving residence. The three policemen waited outside the home, a half block down the street, for approximately 40 minutes until the arrival of Deputies Harry Weatherford, E.W. “Buddy” Walthers, and J.L. Oxford, detectives for the Dallas County Criminal Investigation Division. Ruth Paine answered the door, and, according to Detectives Walthers, Rose, and Stovall, welcomed them inside as she stated she was expecting them. 1
Upon entering the residence, Paine was notified that the detectives did not, as of yet, have a search warrant, but she indicated that it would be acceptable for a search of her home to be conducted. After Marina Oswald indicated that her husband did own a rifle and it was usually stored in the Paines’ garage, Detective Rose went in search of this most important piece of evidence. He stated: “…I asked Marina if she would show me where his rifle was and Ruth Paine interpreted and Marina pointed to the garage and she took me to the garage and she pointed to a blanket that was rolled up and laying on the floor near the wall of the garage and Ruth Paine said, ‘Says that that’s where his rifle is.’ Well, at the time I couldn’t tell whether there was one in there or not. It appeared to be–it was in sort of an outline of a rifle.” Detective Walthers describes this initial impressions of the garage that day in his Warren Commission testimony: “We were just–not actually knowing what we were looking for, just searching, and we went into the garage there and found this–I believe it was one of these things like soap comes in, a big pasteboard barrel and it had a lot of these little leaflets in it, “Freedom for Cuba” and they were gold color with black printing on them, and we found those and we also found a gray blanket with some red trim on it that had a string tied at one end that you could see the imprint of a gun, I mean where it had been wrapped in it.”2 This blanket was to become an important piece of the case against Oswald, linking him to the rifle found at the scene of the crime, the sixth floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository. The rifle was not to be found on the premises, but many other items were collected as part of the investigation into its purported owner.
Michael Paine, despite being separated from his family at the time, returned home while the search was underway. According to Detective Rose, “(W)e had only been there a few minutes and we were in plain cars, so I don’t know whether he (Michael) knew we were there. He didn’t appear to know we were there, and he walked up the sidewalk and just walked in the door without knocking, and I was standing just around the corner talking to Ruth Paine and she was standing in his view and he didn’t see any of the officers–we were all out of sight at that time, and he walked in and he said, “I came to help you. Just as soon as I heard where it happened, I knew you would need some help.”3 Michael was a witness to some of the mysterious items being removed from the home, including seven filing cabinets purportedly kept by Lee Oswald that contained files on pro-Castro sympathizers. Concerning these filing cabinets, Detective Walthers stated: “We didn’t go through them at the scene. I do remember a letterhead-I can’t describe it-I know we opened one of them and we seen (sic) what it was, that it was a lot of personal letters and stuff and a letterhead that this Paine fellow had told us about, and he said, “That’s from the people he writes to in Russia”; he was talking about this letterhead we had pulled out and so I just pushed it all back down and shut it and took the whole works… I picked up all of these file cabinets and what all of them contained, I don’t know myself to this day.”4 An early DPD inventory lists one gray metal file box containing “youth pictures and literature,” a black and gray metal box containing letters, as well as three metal boxes containing record albums. These items were found in Ruth Paine’s bedroom.5 In his testimony, Michael Paine seems to corroborate that some files were removed. “He (an officer) collected all the useless stuff in our house, he went around and collected all the files of Ruth, and a drawer of cameras, mostly belonging to me. I tried to tell him one of the files contained our music or something like that, and the more I suggested it, that he not bother taking those, the more insistent he was in taking those objects. So with the various boxes and piles of stuff, mostly of our stuff, we got in the car and went off.”6 Officers Moore, Rose, and Stovall returned the next day with a search warrant and gathered additional evidence.7
In the years since the investigation, the Paine Family home has become famous as the location in which some of the most incriminating evidence against Lee Oswald was to be found. Indeed, photographs of the area show numerous items piled throughout the garage. In her Warren Commission testimony (a portion of which was taken in the garage, itself), Ruth Paine was asked about the contents. Along one wall, were a large work bench and some chests of drawers. Between these pieces of furniture, the belongings of Lee and Marina Oswald were stored in cardboard boxes. However, not all of the evidence was found in the garage. Detective Stovall searched the front bedroom where Marina Oswald had been staying, and stated that several items were taken from that location, including a large amount of photographic equipment. Conspicuously missing from that particular search, however: Lee’s wedding band that he had supposedly left on the night stand for Marina. This item was handed over to the Secret Service by Ruth Paine on December 2; not the only piece of evidence that was to turn up at the Paines’ after this initial search.
What was discovered at the home, however, was an intriguing glimpse into the lives of Lee Oswald, the globetrotting ex-Marine, and his Soviet wife. Hundreds of items were confiscated, catalogued, and photographed. Many of the objects were quite normal, such as Christmas cards, a Ft. Worth library card, bottles of pills, numerous personal letters, a flashlight, or a fountain pen. Other objects were clearly mementos of the young family’s time in the Soviet Union: notebooks full of paper souvenirs, photographs of Russia, small pieces of Soviet jewelry, tie tacks with the famous “Hammer and Sickle” emblem, and numerous books and forms in the Russian language. Many pieces of literature were in English, such as Ideology and Revolution by Jean-Paul Sartre, The Coming American Revolution by James Cannon, a publication titled “The McCarran Act and the Right to Travel,” and The Socialist Worker’s Party by Joseph Hanson. There were various pamphlets, including: “Automation: A Job Killer,” “The Dobbs Weiss Campaign Committee,” and “Castro Denounces Bureaucracy and Sectarianism.” Many forms and documents relating to the Oswalds’ immigration struggles were also present, issued by both the Soviet Union and the United States, such as an alien registration card for Marina Oswald, Immigration and Naturalization Services documents in the names of Lee and Marina Oswald, as well as identification cards and folders printed in the USSR. The birth certificates for both of the Oswald children were found at the Paines’, as well as Oswald’s tax statements for the years 1955-1956.
The meaning of some of the items can be more difficult to ascertain, such a metal stamp die with the number “386,” ostensibly gathered from his former workplace Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall, which was a typesetting facility. An ink stamp with Oswald’s address in New Orleans. Various drawings and diagrams in pencil. A single key to a MasterLock brand lock. A postal label with the name of Dallas White Russian, George Bouhe, who had briefly befriended Marina after the Oswalds had moved to Texas. His address was 4710 Homer Street, a large apartment complex directly across the street from a former residence of his old neighbor, Jack Ruby (4727 Homer Street).
Oswald’s love of maps is quite apparent, as he stored several of them with the Paines, including maps of Russia, Texas, the Middle East and Africa, and the cities of Minsk, Moscow, New York, and New Orleans. Many of the items seem as though they could have been owned by any average American man: paper clips. A pocket knife. A compass. Some of the items didn’t even belong to Oswald at all, such as a small bag which bore a military label with the name of Michael Paine and contained some foreign coins. Some of the items, however, seem to corroborate the case that was being built against him: an advertisement for Kline’s Sporting Goods (the company from which Oswald evidently ordered the Mannlicher Carcano rifle that implicated him to the assassination), hundreds of handbills for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, along with two poses of the famous “Backyard Photos” in both print and negative form. Perhaps most curious of all was the abundance of photographic equipment, film, negatives, and optical equipment found at the Paine household, which included the mysterious Minox “spy” camera. The assassination of the President was an uncommon crime; the evidence gathered against the suspect indicated that Lee Harvey Oswald had an uncommon life history.
1 Warren Commission, Stovall Exhibit C
2 Warren Commission, Testimony of E.W. Walthers
3 Warren Commission, Testimony of G. F. Rose
4 Warren Commission, Testimony of E.W. Walthers
5 Warren Commission, Testimony of Richard Stovall
6 Warren Commission, Testimony of Michael Paine
7 Warren Commission, Commission Document 81 – “Attorney General of Texas Letter with attachments”, , p.774.