Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Andrew 'Moo Moo' Sciambra, who worked on Jim Garrison investigation of JFK assassination, dies at age 75

by JOHN POPE / The Times-Picayune

Andrew "Moo Moo" Sciambra, who as an Orleans Parish prosecutor worked on the investigation that his boss, Jim Garrison, was conducting into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, died Tuesday at River Region Hospice of complications of a stroke. He was 75.

Even though that inquiry came to naught, Mr. Sciambra was "a true believer" in what Garrison was doing, said David Snyder, who covered the case for The States-Item.

"He was incredibly loyal to Garrison," Snyder said. "He was straightforward and not trying to con anybody."

The only person charged in the case was Clay Shaw, a New Orleans businessman. Mr. Sciambra was the Garrison aide who was sent to Shaw's French Quarter home on March 1, 1967, to tell him he was about to be arrested in the plot to kill Kennedy.

Mr. Sciambra's duties included developing the testimony of witnesses, including Perry Raymond Russo, who claimed he had seen Shaw and Lee Harvey Oswald, the man the Warren Commission identified as the lone gunman, at a gathering where, he said, the assassination was planned.

However, Russo changed his story several times and recanted the story two years after the 1969 trial.

Exactly two years to the day after Shaw's arrest, a Criminal District Court jury acquitted him after deliberating less than an hour.

After Garrison left office in 1973, Mr. Sciambra went into private practice. In 1978, he was appointed a commissioner in the Magistrate Section of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, a position he held for 20 years.

A lifelong New Orleanian, Mr. Sciambra grew up in the Royal Street building that was later used in the 1958 movie "King Creole" as Elvis Presley's house, said his wife, Evelyn Sciambra.

During his childhood, she said, her husband acquired his nickname from a French tenant who lived in the building. "She called him 'Boo Boo,'" Evelyn Sciambra said, "and it turned out to be 'Moo Moo.'"

When he was 9 years old, Mr. Sciambra started boxing at St. Mary's gym in the French Quarter. In college, he won three Golden Gloves championships in the light-welterweight division.

In the ring, "he was a dancer," Evelyn Sciambra said. "He wasn't a fighter; he was a boxer."

Mr. Sciambra, who had been at LSU, turned professional, his wife said, because his coach was leaving the school to coach professional boxers.

But, she said, Mr. Sciambra had a form of anemia that put an end to his boxing career after only two bouts. So he returned to LSU to finish his undergraduate degree and then went to Loyola University's law school.

During the Garrison investigation, when the district attorney's office was the object of worldwide attention, Snyder said he was impressed by Mr. Sciambra's devotion to his job.

"While most of these guys were looking for a judgeship, that didn't seem to be his deal at all," Snyder said.

In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, Dean Sciambra; three daughters, Gia Dermody, Antoinette "Toni" Marchese and Jodi Balestra; a sister, Angela Tolan; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

A Mass will be said today at 1 p.m. in the Chapel of Garden of Memories Funeral Home, 4900 Airline Drive, Metairie. Visitation will begin at 11 a.m.

Burial will be in Garden of Memories Cemetery.

Source: The Times-Picayune

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