Monday, December 2, 2013

What happened to Lee Harvey Oswald's wife, Marina, and their children?

Fifty years have passed since Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of assassinating John F. Kennedy, was shot to death by Jack Ruby.  At 11:21 on a Sunday morning, November 24, 1963, Oswald was being led through the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters on his way to a transfer to the county jail.  Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner and two-bit mobster, burst from the crowd and shot Oswald in the chest.  Oswald was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital, the same hospital where President Kennedy had passed away two days earlier, and he died there at 1:07 p.m.  His shooting was witnessed by millions of shocked viewers who were watching the transfer on television.

Many are surprised to learn that Lee Harvey Oswald (born October 18, 1939) was only 24 years old when he died (I've always thought he looked older than that).  Oswald was also a married man with a 22-year-old Russian wife and two very young children.  In March of 1961, he met Marina Prusakova (born July 17, 1941) at a dance in the city of Minsk in Belarus, then a Soviet Republic.  Oswald, a former U.S. Marine, had defected to the Soviet Union in October 1959. Marina, a 19-year-old from Molotovsk (now known as Severodvinsk) in western Russia, had come to Minsk to live at the home of her aunt and uncle, Valentina and Ilya Prusakov, while studying pharmacology. When she met Lee, she was employed as a pharmacist at a hospital.

Marina and Lee wed on April 30, 1961 at the home of Uncle Ilya who worked for Soviet intelligence (He was employed by the MVD, the Ministry of Internal Affairs).  Marina gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter named June Lee Oswald, on February 15, 1962.  In June of that same year, Oswald returned to the United States with his family and settled in the Dallas/Fort Worth area where his mother, Marguerite, and brother Robert (Bob) lived.  Marina was shy and she spoke little English at that time.

In May of 1963, the family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, Lee's birthplace.  In September, they returned to Dallas where Oswald found employment with the Texas Book Depository.  He began working there on October 16, 1963. Four days later, on October 20th, the couple's second daughter, Audrey Marina Rachel Oswald (known as Rachel), was born. Rachel was barely a month old when her father apparently shot JFK from the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository.

Prior to that fateful November day in Dallas, Marina was estranged from Lee.  She and the children lived at the home of her friend Ruth Paine in the suburb of Irving, Texas in Dallas County. Ruth, who had been studying Russian for several years, had recently divorced her husband, Michael.  Marina assisted Ruth with housework and Lee visited on weekends.  It was Ruth who had informed him about the job at the Texas Book Depository.

On the Thursday night before the assassination, Lee made an unannounced visit to the Paine home in an attempt to reconcile with Marina.  He stayed the night but his attempt at a reconciliation with his wife did not succeed. The following morning, November 22, 1963, Lee headed for work at the Texas Book Depository, leaving his wedding ring in a cup on a dresser and $170 in one of its drawers.

After the Kennedy assassination and the subsequent arrest of her husband, Marina was placed under Secret Service protection.  She remained under protection until the completion of her testimony before the Warren Commission's investigation into JFK's death.  As a key witness, she made four appearances before the commission and said she thought her husband was guilty of shooting Kennedy.  In 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and was not involved in a conspiracy.

In Marina's fist television interview after the murder of her husband, the young widow talked with KRLD-TV in Dallas. When asked whether she believed Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated the President, she replied, "I don't want to believe, but I have too much facts and facts tell me that Lee shot Kennedy."  She stated that she wished to remain in Texas and had no plans to return to Russia.

Marina during her firs interview after Oswald's death

In 1965, Marina married Kenneth Jess Porter, a twice-divorced electronics technician.  According to a June 24, 1973 article in the Reading Eagle, a daily Pennsylvania newspaper, Ken started his own business as the operator of a bar soon after they wed.  When that didn't pan out, he reportedly turned to repairing sewing machines.  Now 75, Ken Porter is also a former drag car racer.  At the time the 1973 article was written, he and Marina were living in "a red brick home with a shingle roof " in Richardson, Texas, an inner suburb of Dallas. Since the mid-1970s, however, the couple have resided in a ranch style home in Rockwall, Texas, (northeast of Dallas).  Their 47-year-old son, Mark Porter, lives in East Texas.

Marina retired from her job at a now-defunct Army Navy Surplus store where she was employed for over 20 years.  It was located in the Uptown section of Dallas, not far from where John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Marina with husband Ken Porter in 1983 NBC interview

It was not until 1989 that Marina became a naturalized citizen of the United States.  Now 72 years old, and a grandmother, she has lived a quiet life in recent years.  Last month, the Daily Mail. a British tabloid, published the first photos of Marina seen in over 20 years.  In the photograph and videos, she and her husband are seen leaving a Walmart store near their home in suburban Dallas. According to a November, 2, 2013 article by Lizzie Parry and Damien Gaylea (appearing on the website of another British newspaper, the Daily Mail), Marina is said to be "convinced that her phones are still tapped by the. Secret Service and lives in fear of being targeted and killed by spooks herself."

Over the years, Marina has changed her mind about Oswald's culpability.  In 1977, she announced at a press conference that "I believe that Lee acted alone in this murder and shot the President, ironically a man whom he respected and admired."  By 1988, however, she spoke of a conspiracy in  the following statement to Ladies Home Journal.

I'm not saying that Lee is innocent, that he didn't know about the conspiracy or was not a part of it, but I am saying he's not necessarily guilty of murder.  At first I thought Jack Ruby was swayed by passion; all of America was grieving.  But later, we found that he had connections with the underworld.  Now I think Lee was killed to keep his mouth shut.

Marina also told Ladies Home Journal that she believed Oswald "worked for the American government." She questioned why Lee had been given instruction in the Russian language while he was in the Marines.  Do you think that is usual, that an ordinary soldier is taught Russian?" she asked rhetorically.  She also pointed out that "he got in and out of Russia quite easily, and he got me out quite easily."

In an open letter to John Tunheim, Chairman of the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board (dated April 19, 1996), Marina wrote the following:

The time for the Review Board to obtain and release the most important documents related to the assassination of President Kennedy is running out.  At the time of the assassination of this great president whom I loved, I was misled by the "evidence" presented to me by government authorities and I assisted in the conviction of Lee Harvey Oswald as the assassin.  From the new information now available, I am now convinced that he was an FBI informant and believe that he did not kill President Kennedy.

The previously mentioned 2013 Daily Mail piece by Lizzie Parry and Damien Gaylee, quotes Marina's friend, documentary film maker Keya Morgan, as saying that Marina "now believes her husband was set up to take the fall for conspirators in the CIA and Mafia."


* Rachel Oswald, (known as Rachel Porter) recently turned 50 years old.  When she was 28, she was interviewed by David Lifton, author of the 1981 bestseller Best Evidence: Disguise and Deception in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy.  At the time of the interview, Rachel was a single woman, living in Texas and studying to be a nurse.  She had come to believe that her father was a victim and that he was framed for the Kennedy assassination.

My whole outlook on life has changed just by hearing that there's evidence that completely exonerates this man of the crime of killing the president.  Now I'm not saying that he is not involved. I believe he's involved or else why would he be there?  But I don't know. I really believe, though, that he didn't kill the president. And my whole life has been plagued by this idea that my father is the murderer of one of the most loved person in the world.  And if he's not responsible for that, then that means a great part of the burden that I have to carry is gone.

* Rachel's Soviet-born sister, June Oswald Porter, now 51, took the name of her stepfather upon entering public school.  June's marriage ended in 1992.and she is the mother of two sons in their early 20s. In a 1995 New York Times Magazine interview with Steve Salerno, she described the time she was told about her father and the assassination.

Something had come up where Mom had old boxes of letters out.  People sent us money following the assassination, because Mom was young with two small children and didn't speak the language. Somehow those boxes came down and she was reading, and I guess she felt it was time to tell us.  She sat us down with my stepfather, and started to explain who our father was - that it wasn't Kenneth - and who Lee was and what he had done.  I just remember crying a lot because Mom was crying. 

* Lee Harvey Oswald's wedding ring was put up for auction this past October.  His gold wedding band, with a mini hammer and sickle engraved on the inside of it, was purchased in the then-Soviet city of Minsk, Belarus in 1961.  It was sold for $108,000 to a Texan who wishes to remain anonymous.

Seized by the Secret Service after the Kennedy assassination, Oswald's ring was eventually returned to Marina's lawyer and remained in his files until 2004.  It was one of many items linked to John F. Kennedy that were auctioned by R.R. Auction in Boston. The gold band was accompanied by a hand-written letter from Marina (dated May 5, 2013) stating that "At this time in my life I don't wish to have Lee's ring in my possession because symbolically I want to let go of my past that's connecting with Nov. 22, 1963." It is no surprise, then, that Marina turned down requests for interviews as the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination approached. She rejected large amounts of money to appear on television. Still, the paparazzi (especially the British tabloids) stalked her and made it difficult for her to bury her past.

* Robert Oswald, 79, Lee's older brother, is a retired salesman, living in Wichita Falls, Texas.  In a 1993 interview with PBS's Frontline, he said that he is convinced that his brother was solely responsible the Kennedy assassination.

There is no question in my mind that Lee was responsible for the three shots fired, two of the shots hitting the president and killing him. There is no question in my mind that he also shot Officer Tippit. How can you explain one without the other?  (About 15 minutes after the assassination of President Kennedy, Officer J.D. Tippit of the Dallas Police Department was shot and killed after confronting a man who fit the description of a suspect in the Kennedy murder (slim white male, 1.78 m. tall (5 ft. 10 in.), 68 kg. (150 pounds) at autopsy).  Oswald was later arrested by police after behaving suspiciously while sneaking into the Texas Theatre, a movie house, without purchasing a ticket).

Robert Oswald also told Frontline that "the facts are there. … What do you do with his rifle?  What do you do with his pistol?  What do you do with his general opportunity?  What do you do with his actions? To me, you can’t reach but one conclusion. There’s hard physical evidence there. True, no one saw him actually pull the trigger on the president but … his presence in the building was there. What he did after he left the building is known: bus ride, taxi ride, boardinghouse, pick up the pistol, leave, shoot the police officer. Five or six eyewitnesses there. You can’t set that aside just because he is saying, “I’m a patsy.” I’d love to do that, but you cannot. …"


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- Joanne