Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Brother says he tried to halt Oswald casket sale

by JOHN ROGERS / The Associated Press

The brother of Lee Harvey Oswald said Monday that a casket that once held the body of the presidential assassin should have been destroyed years ago rather than being auctioned off last week.

Robert L. Oswald, 76, of Wichita Falls said he didn't know the coffin existed until he read in a newspaper that it had been put up for sale.

Oswald said he tried to contact Allen Baumgardner, the retired Fort Worth funeral home owner who had the casket, to halt the sale, but his call was not returned. Oswald said a similar request was ignored by the auction house that handled the sale.

"This is not about money on my part," Oswald said. "The coffin should have been destroyed years ago, and that is what I desire now."

On Thursday, an anonymous bidder bought the water-damaged coffin, which held Oswald's body until it was exhumed in 1981 for forensic testing to disprove conspiracy theories.

The purchaser agreed to pay $87,469 after spirited bidding that Nate D. Sanders Auctions of Santa Monica, Calif., said continued two hours past the original closing deadline.

Robert Oswald said he paid for the first coffin in 1963 and believes that makes him its rightful owner. He has no plans to sell it and no immediate intent to file a lawsuit, he said.

"We're going to evaluate all the legal options and see what needs to be done," he said.

Sanders was unavailable for comment Monday, but auction house spokesman Sam Heller said he was unaware of any ownership dispute.

Baumgardner did not return calls. He previously said he swapped the coffin for a new one with Oswald's family when the body was reburied in 1981.

Robert Oswald said he never heard from Baumgardner in 1981 and didn't believe anyone else in the family had, although he couldn't say for sure whether his brother's widow had been contacted.

Baumgardner kept the coffin in a storage room at Baumgardner Funeral Home, saying he hoped that someone interested in its historical significance would buy it.

In the past, Robert Oswald has sold letters written to him by his brother while Lee Harvey Oswald lived in the Soviet Union, including one explaining his decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship and live in the Soviet Union.

Source: Star-Telegram.com

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