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Lee Harvey Oswald Coffin Must Be Returned to Family

The rotting coffin of JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald

It came to light late last year that the pine coffin which once held the remains of JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, was the subject of a court battle in Texas. After the 1981 exhumation to confirm the identity of the remains and silence conspiracy claims, Oswald was reburied in a different coffin due to deterioration of the original.

See: Court Battle Over the Coffin of Lee Harvey Oswald

Oswald’s brother Robert, who purchased the original coffin in 1963, believed it had then been destroyed. He had no idea it was sitting in storage at the Baumgardner Funeral Home in Fort Worth until Allen Baumgardner Sr., an assistant at the exhumation, put it on the auction block in 2010 along with other relics from Oswald’s funeral.

The coffin, a grim reminder of the Oswald family’s dark and tragic past, sold for $87,468.

In court proceedings, Baumgardner claimed the coffin was a gift from Robert to his brother, and therefore belonged to the funeral home. Last month, however, a Tarrant County, Texas judge ruled in favor of Oswald. He said the coffin was intentionally saved and its existence concealed because Baumgardner understood the value of the object. He ordered the coffin be returned to the family and awarded $87,468 in damages.

Robert’s lawyer said Oswald will probably have the coffin destroyed “as soon as possible.”

via New York Times

Lee Harvey Oswald’s Coffin

Side view of Lee Harvey Oswald's coffin

Regardless of its condition, the coffin of a presidential assassin would surely make a ghastly great addition to anyone’s macabre collection.

The body of Lee Harvey Oswald in the original pine coffin

Here is the description from the original auction listing:

Original pine coffin that held the body of Lee Harvey Oswald from his burial on 25 November 1963 until his exhumation on 4 October 1981. Amidst conspiracy theories that a look-alike Russian agent was actually buried in place of Oswald, a fierce legal battle erupted between Robert and Marina Oswald with the former trying to stop the exhumation and the latter pushing it forward. Marina’s side prevailed, forcing an exhumation to determine who was actually buried in Oswald’s grave. As Lee Harvey Oswald’s coffin was lifted, evidence of extensive water damage to the casket was apparent — the cover was weak in many areas and in one place had caved in partially exposing the remains. The coffin’s wood exterior was very soft from moisture damage, and had dark areas of discoloration. Visible along the sides were the tarnished original metallic ornamentation. The interior of the casket also showed splotchy dark discoloration and moisture-softening of the wood. A portion of the original fabric that lined the top of the casket had fallen upon the decomposed remains. After a thorough medical examination, the pathologists assigned to the case officially identified the body as Oswald’s as dental records positively matched. At a press conference later that day the following famous statement was made, “The remains in the grave marked as Lee Harvey Oswald are indeed Lee Harvey Oswald.” After the news conference, Oswald’s remains were transported back to Rose Hill Cemetery for re-interment in a new casket and vault. The original deteriorated coffin offered here, measures 80″ long x 24″ deep, with the thickness of the sides of the casket approximately one inch. Sitting on wood crate which measures 84″ x 24″. Accompanied by a Letter of Authenticity by Funeral Director Allen Baumgardner, who assisted at the original embalming of Lee Harvey Oswald and later purchased the Miller Funeral Home along with all of its property.

Inside the coffin of Lee Harvey Oswald

The original pine coffin that once held JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald

Court Battle Over the Coffin of Lee Harvey Oswald

The coffin of JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is the subject of a case being heard in a Texas Court.
The coffin of JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is the subject of a case being heard in a Texas Court

48 hours after he gunned down President John F. Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963, assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was shot himself by a distraught local while being transported by police. Robert Oswald, Lee’s older brother, made funeral arrangements and buried him on November 25th in a No. 31 Pine Bluff coffin.

The coffin was exhumed in 1981 to confirm the identity of the remains inside. After medical tests confirmed it was, in fact, the JFK assassin and not a Soviet imposter as conspiracy theories suggested, Oswald was returned to the grave in a new coffin. The original remained in storage at Baumgardner Funeral Home in Fort Worth.

In 2010, the funeral home sold the rotting pine box for $87,468 through a Los Angeles auction house, along with the embalming table and Oswald’s death certificate.

Robert Oswald, now 80 and in failing health, recently became aware of the sale. He is petitioning a Texas court to block it, claiming it is “ghoulish” and in bad taste. He just wants the coffin destroyed as he thought it had already been.

Funeral home owner Allen Baumgardner Sr., who assisted in the 1981 exhumation, insists it is “part of history” and his right to sell it since it was never claimed.

via New York Times

Update: Judge makes a decision in case of Lee Harvey Oswald coffin