Lee Harvey Oswald’s widow Marina convinced he did not kill JFK – and thinks her phone is still bugged
The widow of John F Kennedy’s alleged assassin believes her husband was innocent – but lives in fear of being killed herself
Fifty years ago a gunshot rang out and Marina Oswald was left as a young widow with two young children. But she got little sympathy in a grieving nation rocked by the death of its beloved president. Her dead husband was one of the most reviled men in history – JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
And half a century later her haggard face and still-fearful eyes show she has never been able to shake off the curse of November 22, 1963.
Since her Soviet-defector husband was blamed for killing President John F Kennedy that day in Dallas, Russian-born Marina has lived the life of a near-recluse, enduring suspicion, hatred and even death threats from people who believe she was his co-conspirator in a KGB plot.
But as the 50th anniversary of the tragedy approaches Marina, now a 72-year old grandmother, has emerged from the shadows and is pictured in public for the first time in 25 years, shopping at her local Walmart.
Long remarried and living in rural Texas just 20 miles from Dealey Plaza, where Kennedy’s brains were blown out, Marina Oswald Porter is said to be in poor health and struggling to cope with international interest in the anniversary.
She originally told the Warren Commission investigating the assassination that she thought her 24-year-old husband WAS guilty of shooting the president.
But, after reading some of the 40,000 books and conspiracy theories about the shooting, she changed her mind and – like the majority of American citizens – now believes in a much more complex assassination conspiracy and cover up.
She insists Oswald was set up as “a patsy” to take the fall for plotters in the CIA and the Mafia, believes her own phones are still tapped by the Secret Service and has lived in fear of being assassinated by spooks herself.
“Marina certainly doesn’t believe the official story. She always told me Lee Harvey Oswald loved President Kennedy” reveals one of her closest friends, documentary film maker Keya Morgan.
“She has spent half a century fearing for her own life. She has had this constant burden on her shoulders and feared she would either be assassinated by the Secret Service or killed by vigilantes in revenge attacks.”
Mr Morgan says Marina has been inundated with bids to sell her story – including one $3million offer from a US TV network – but, despite struggling to get by on social security, she has refused to cash in on the anniversary.
But, after speaking to other friends and neighbours, the Daily Mirror can reveal that Marina says she is finally trying to exorcise the demons of “the worst day of my life.”
She has now sold her husband’s wedding ring at auction for $108,000 (£68,000). The gold band engraved with a tiny hammer and sickle was bought by Oswald in Minsk.
The former US Marine had defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 and met 19-year-old pharmacology student Marina Prusakova at a dance two years later.
They married after just six weeks and returned to live in Texas in June 1961. Marina spoke little English and concentrated on raising their two children, June, now 51, and Rachel, 50, who have escaped the shadow of their infamous father.
On the morning of the assassination, Oswald left the ring in a cup on their bedroom dresser. Like all his belongings it was seized by the Secret Service. It was returned to a lawyer representing Marina yet lay undiscovered in his files until 2004.
Marina sold it last month with a letter saying: “At this time of 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 is connecting with Nov. 22, 1963.”
But it has been a long struggle.
Her life – and the course of history – changed forever when the 35th President of the United States was shot by a sniper as he travelled in an open-top motorcade with his wife Jackie, Texas governor John Connally and his wife Nellie past the Texas School Book Depository where Oswald worked.
Just 70 minutes after the shot rang out, Oswald was arrested by Dallas police for the suspected murder of police officer JD Tippit, who was said to have stopped and questioned him in the street because he matched a police radio description of a suspect in the assassination.
Oswald was later charged with both murders. But two days later Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot and killed him as he was being transferred to the county jail.
Ruby later claimed he was devastated by the death of JFK and wanted to spare Jackie the anguish of a trial. But many have since claimed Ruby – who died in jail of lung cancer four years later – was part of a larger conspiracy.
The Warren Commission Report of 1967 claimed Oswald acted alone. But 50 years on the majority of Americans believe there was a conspiracy and cover-up.
Following the shooting Marina was held in isolation, interrogated by the FBI and accused of being a Russian spy. After 18 months she was cleared of any involvement and she married neighbour Kenneth Porter… hugely relieved she could use her new surname.
The couple have a son Mark, 47, and live in a small yellow brick home near Rockwall, Texas with “Keep Out”warning signs posted at the gate.
Marina spent many years working anonymously at a local store but has struggled financially throughout her life. She and her husband now live off his social security pension.
But, after initial fears, the pair have been accepted by their local community.
“She and Ken are good people – the best neighbours you could ever have,” said one local, Fred McCurley.
Although Marina has made several trips to her Russian home town she was determined to become a US citizen.
Neighbour Sheri Ann Clark, who helped her study for the citizenship exam in 1989, said: “Her home is very modest inside with lots of family photos, but none of Lee.
“She told me, ‘The FBI took them all, so my girls had nothing to remember their father by’.”
Two years ago Marina joined forces with locals to fight the opening of a local sex club. “She was as horrified as the rest of us when the swingers moved in,” said Sheri Ann.
On the 25th anniversary of President Kennedy’s death, she appeared on TV and changed her original story, insisting there had never been any solid evidence to convict her husband of the crime.
But she wants no part of the 50th anniversary bandwagon – and pal Keya Morgan fears it is seriously damaging her health.
“I am really concerned,” he said. “She has developed an immune deficiency
“Sometimes she can hardly walk, is constantly coughing, aches all over her body and has extreme pain in her abdomen. She has been in and out of hospital.
“The anniversary is a constant reminder of what happened and the attention on her has greatly intensified. Every day someone is trying to contact her to speak about Lee.
“Her life now is like a terrifying episode of the Twilight Zone, where every day she is forced to answer the same question about the most traumatic moment of her life.
“Financially, she is not very well-off, so it is truly amazing that she has never been tempted to share her story for financial gain.
“She was offered a $3million deal but still said no. She is terrified of what might happen to her if she allowed herself to be thrust back into the limelight.
Mr Morgan says Marina’s one joy is her family. Elder daughter June, a businesswoman, has two sons, daughter Rachel has a degree in the medical field and son Mark Porter lives with his wife and two boys in Royse City, Texas.
Mr Morgan added: “Marina has been a fantastic mother and raised three amazing children, who have faced their fair share of adversity.
“She is proud to be an American citizen but will always be haunted by how she has been, and still is, treated.
“To be hated by a nation for half a century for something you did not do is an ordeal I could never imagine having to endure.”