Marita Lorenz is the star witness of Mark Lane's Plausible Denial. In this excerpt from Gaeton Fonzi's The Last Investigation, Fonzi demonstrates why most assassination researchers believe Lorenz simply cannot be trusted.
From Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation (New York: Thunder's Mouth, 1993), pp. 83-107:
A character like Frank Sturgis illustrates some of the dilemmas in investigating the Kennedy assassination: He can't be ignored. He is, by his own admission, a prime suspect. He had the ability and the motivation and was associated with individuals and groups who considered -- and even employed -- assassination as a method to achieve their goals. Any investigation would have to devote some time and resources to Sturgis. But there were other, similar characters who injected themselves into the investigation and drained time and resources far beyond any valid justification. In some of those cases, I thought I caught a glimpse of an intelligence connection and, in one, there was something more: A force deliberately manipulating the investigation into turns so weird and wild I sometimes wondered if what I was doing was serious reality or if I had been lured into a carnival and thrown onto the loop-the-loop.
The self-proclaimed former mistress of Fidel Castro, Marita Lorenz was a spin-off of Frank Sturgis, in more ways than one. As a result of my "discovering" her during my investigation for Senator Schweiker, she flashed into national notoriety and periodically reignited that flash for years afterwards. She became front-page news it the New York papers, headlined supermarket tabloids and hit most of the network TV celebrity shows, including Good Morning America, Geraldo, and A Current Affair.
Lorenz was a centerpiece of Mark Lane's best-selling book Plausible Denial [Thunder's Mouth Press, 1991] and, almost eighteen years after our first encounter, got herself a feature in, of all places, Vanity Fair. She shot to celebrity status on the strength of her revelation that she was unwittingly involved with the assassination team that killed President Kennedy. Strangely enough, in my initial interview with her she never mentioned a word about it. But that interview did kick off a bizarre series of events that would track their way from the Schweiker Subcommittee probe right through to the House Assassinations Committee investigation. There it exploded into a drama that, I now suspect, was as well orchestrated as any successful comic opera. It consumed a lot of the Committee's time and resources and achieved its covert goal of discrediting a key witness: Marita Lorenz herself. And that, in the end, is what gives it significance.
A "curvy, black-haired ...American Mata Hari" is how New York Daily News reporter Paul Meskil described Marita Lorenz in his six-part series called "Secrets of the CIA." Almost a year later, a few months after I began working for Schweiker and was beginning to spend time with Frank Sturgis, I stumbled across Meskil's articles. His series, sparked at the time by the Rockefeller Commission and Church Committee hearings on the CIA, dealt mostly with the Agency's role in anti-Castro activities and the action out of its Miami JM/ WAVE station at the height of Kennedy's secret war. But Meskil had devoted an entire article each to Sturgis and Marita Lorenz. (He called Sturgis a "bit player in the Watergate drama" but "a real-life James Bond when he did his big jobs for the CIA.") And, in fact, it was through Sturgis that Meskil first learned of Lorenz. Sturgis had casually mentioned that he helped Castro' s former mistress escape from Cuba but, strangely enough, could not remember her name. Later, Meskil recalled an article written in the early Sixties in Confidential, the defunct forerunner of supermarket sleaze sheets ("I may be the only guy in the world with a collection of old Confidential magazines," brags Meskil). "Castro Raped My Teenage Daughter!" had to be about the same girl Sturgis had mentioned, Meskil figured. He tracked Marita down and found her living on New York's Upper East Side.
Flashing his prodigious talent for lively tabloid writing, Meskil portrayed Marita Lorenz as a quixotic seeker of adventure and romance -- well, at least an opportunist. She was the vivacious nineteen-year-old daughter of an American mother and a German father who was captain of the luxury liner MS Berlin when it cruised into Havana harbor in February, 1959, one month after Fidel Castro came to power. Almost immediately after the Berlin dropped its anchor, out came an official Cuban launch carrying the big barbudo himself, along with a platoon of little barbudos, still in their rumpled victory celebration fatigues, dangling grenades and shoulder-slung machine guns. Bejeweled grande dames in evening gowns, thinking they were being raided, their minds flashing with visions of piratic atrocities, screamed, fainted or ran for cocktails, their dinner-jacketed husbands following suit. (Well, according to Meskil's colorful account, anyway.) "I am a friend," Castro shouted, waving in the manner of a non- hostile native. "I like Americans." (Why Castro should shout that at a boatload of Germans, Meskil doesn't explain.) Meskil then goes on to report Marita' s story about how Captain Heinrich Lorenz invites the welcoming party to stay for dinner and how, while seated next to little Marita, the feral-eyed Fidel is smitten by the time the Baked Alaska comes around. He offers her a job if she stays in Havana -- ever since he won the Revolution his fan mail has picked up and he is in dire need of a secretary. ("My father and I both laughed," Marita recalled, but he probably didn't think it was funny.) No, Captain Heinrich says, little Marita must go back to Germany and finish her education. Marita smiles like a dutiful daughter but, behind Daddy's back, slips Fidel a note with the address of her brother's apartment in New York where she'll be staying for a while after the ship heads back.
A few weeks later, a couple of Cuban officers knock on her brother's door with a message from their leader. Fidel's backlog of mail is worse than he thought, especially with letters from Germans who need to be answered in their mother tongue. Fidel is desperate, he needs her. A Cubana Airlines plane is waiting to bring her back to Havana. Marita does not suggest that Castro might solve his problem with a Kelly Girl. Instead, she hops on the plane.
"I was very idealistic then," she told Meskil. "I was going on an adventure and to my first job. I was going to help the new government. Instead I became Castro's plaything."
It wasn't quite a life of luxury that she lived with Fidel -- in fact, the Bearded One was a bit of a slob. And being permanently confined to Castro's living-and-working quarters on the 24th floor of the Havana Hilton eventually became a drag to the teenager. "All I could do was read books, study Spanish, listen to the radio or go on the balcony and look out over Havana," she told Meskil. She couldn't even go shopping for clothes, she said. Castro outfitted her in fashionable olive-green fatigues and gave her a lieutenant's star. What more did a girl need?
Then one night when she was with Castro and his bodyguards in the lobby of the Riviera Hotel, a rugged, wavy-haired fellow wearing a rebel uniform and the insignia of a captain in the Cuban Air Force sidled up to her when Castro wasn't looking and whispered in English: "I know about you."
"Can you help me get out of here?" Marita asked.
"Yes, I'm with the American Embassy," said the stranger. "I'll get you out."
And this, as Meskil wrote, "was her introduction to Commandante Frank Fiorini (later known as Frank Sturgis), Castro confidant and hired agent for the U. S. Central Intelligence Agency."
Sturgis eventually did get Lorenz out, but not before turning her into a spy. She began systematically scavenging among the papers, documents, files and maps that Castro had strewn about his suite and slipping them to Sturgis. "Frank said, 'Get all the data you can,' and I did. I was a regular Mata Hari," she told Meskil, unaware that she was writing his headline.
According to this story, Lorenz became terribly sick one day and Sturgis arranged for two Cuban officers working with him to slip her out of the Hilton while Castro was away. They put her on a flight to New York. Shortly afterwards, Sturgis himself flew out of Cuba with Air Force Chief Pedro Díaz Lanz and set up a base of anti-Castro operations in Miami.
The story then goes on to tell how in early 1960 when Lorenz, recovered from her illness, joined Sturgis in Florida "and volunteered for a mission that meant certain death if she was caught." She told Meskil the details of flying back to Havana in the guise of a tourist, checking into a fleabag hotel to change into her old rebel uniform and (having known Castro would be out of town) slipping back up to his suite in the Havana Hilton. ("Passing the desk was the main thing that bothered me because the desk clerks knew me. I had changed my hair style . . . nobody seemed to notice me . . . I had a snub-nosed .38 caliber Detective Special clipped to the inside of my waistband.") Once again, she scavenged the suite and fled back to Miami with packs of files, documents and maps, one of which had hand-drawn circles marking areas miles away from any population center. Sturgis was waiting at the airport. She didn't know the worth of what she took but Sturgis later told her that' 'the United States Government is very happy." Three years later, Lorenz told Meskil, another Government agent told her that the maps were "the original groundwork plans" for Soviet missile sites.
That, Lorenz told Meskil at that time, was her only mission back to Havana. She did talk about other anti-Castro exploits out of Miami, but said she was only on three quick boat trips, delivering guns and supplies to anti-Castro guerrillas.
As dramatically as Meskil portrayed Marita Lorenz's exploits, they weren't especially sensational or relevant; in fact, her story seemed quite plausible. Meskil had included enough documentation to give it legitimacy, including a photograph of Marita with Fidel. It was that aura of credibility that sparked my interest in one periodic Miami occurrence that Lorenz had described. She said that when funds were needed for an anti-Castro operation, it came from a CIA man she knew only as "Eduardo." Sturgis would meet him at a safe house from time to time to get cash.
"Years later," Meskil reported, "while reading about the Watergate break-in, Marita saw a newspaper photo of former CIA man E. Howard Hunt and immediately recognized him as the elusive 'Eduardo.' She also recognized a picture of Sturgis, whom she had know as Frank Fiorini."
Meskil hadn't realized how important that revelation was, but saw it as possibly confirming my suspicion of perjury by both Hunt and Sturgis before the Rockefeller Commission. It also intensified the question of why both men would want to cover up the fact that they were close associates in the early Sixties. If I could get a confirmation from Lorenz and arrange for her to give sworn testimony before Senator Schweiker's Subcommittee, it might be used to put pressure on Hunt and Sturgis. It might even be the first step toward finding out what they really knew about the Kennedy assassination.
I would later discover that the dominant characteristics in Marita Lorenz's life have been change and turmoil. Despite the fact that she was living in a luxury apartment when I first met her, Lorenz and her fourteen-year-old daughter, the illegitimate child of former Venezuelan President Marcos Pérez Jímenez, were collecting welfare from the State of New York. (Lorenz had met the wealthy ex-dictator in Miami in 1961, two years before he was arrested and deported to Spain. "Marcos said he wanted to meet me because he knew I was Fidel's girl," she told me. "He chased me and I finally gave in." Years later, on the Geraldo TV show, she would claim Jímenez was "an assignment" from the CIA.)(1) In 1970, Lorenz had married the manager of an apartment building near the United Nations. Since many of the units were rented to members of the Soviet and Soviet bloc UN delegations, the FBI recruited her husband as a paid informant. According to his FBI contact, Marita herself volunteered, going through the nightly trash in search of useful information. She eventually split with her husband, remarried and then took up with a Mob enforcer, who ensconced her in the upper East Side digs. Unfortunately, after setting her up, her paramour was irregular in providing financial support, probably due to the nature of his business. However, Marita had managed to survive over the years by being a paid informant for local and Federal police agencies, including the FBI, US Customs and the DEA. For Marita Lorenz, life was lived on the edge.
When I first approached Lorenz, I never mentioned my interest in the Kennedy assassination. I was simply an investigator for Senator Schweiker of the Church Committee who was interested in the relationship between the anti-Castro Cuban militants and the intelligence community. (At the time, the Church Committee was getting a good deal of media attention with its revelations of the CIA's attempts to kill Castro.)
Lorenz was cooperative and apparently more candid with me than she had been with Meskil. She confirmed what she had told Meskil about her relationship with Castro and showed me enough documentation, including photographs, that I believed her. She said, however, the reason she left Castro was that she had become pregnant and was forced to have an abortion. Originally she blamed Castro for the abortion but later decided it was arranged by his inner circle. Lorenz confirmed her secret mission to Havana to steal the documents and maps from Castro's Hilton suite for Sturgis. But she also said she made a second trip later on, this time to murder Castro. Sturgis was involved but wasn't the instigator. The idea, she said, came from his close associate Alex Rorke.
The story was that when Sturgis got Lorenz out of Cuba, she wound up in New York's Roosevelt Hospital, suffering from the effects of the sloppy abortion. Alex Rorke showed up and befriended her. He was a photographer, journalist, pilot, rabid anti-Communist, former FBI employee and the wealthy son-in-law of Sherman Billingsley, the celebrity owner of New York's famous Stork Club. Rorke also worked closely with Miami millionaire William Pawley, the ultra-right-winger who fronted and funded a number of Agency operations.(2)
Lorenz said that Rorke made the suggestion to kill Castro about two months after she returned to New York from her Havana trip for Sturgis. They then flew to Miami where Rorke and Sturgis put her up in a safe house and spent the next three weeks talking her into doing it. Lorenz said it was early January, 1960, when she returned to Havana with two poison capsules Sturgis had given her. Afraid she would be searched at the airport, she hid them in a jar of cold cream. Lorenz said Castro, obviously unaware that she had previously purloined his files, welcomed her warmly and asked her why she had run away. She said she had missed her mother and her home. After dinner, when Castro fell asleep on the bed, she went into the bathroom to retrieve the capsules and found they had melted into the cold cream. She said that Sturgis was very upset when she returned to Miami and chastised her for putting the pills into the cold cream. "Stupid, stupid, stupid," he said.
It was an incredible story and Sturgis himself later claimed it was true. But it was really of little importance to me in terms of the Kennedy assassination, so I steered the conversation to her anti-Castro activities with Sturgis in Miami. Eventually she confirmed the story about seeing Sturgis receive money from "Eduardo." She specifically recalled one incident when she was with a group of Sturgis's pals heading down to the Florida Keys to launch a gunrunning mission to Cuba. She remembered it, she said, because they were hungry and as they passed the farms and ranches of South Florida the men in the car started kidding her about shooting a horse and shooting it. She said she got upset and shouted at them. It was then that Sturgis said he had forgotten something and he immediately headed back to Miami. "We turned all the way around," she said, "and went back to the little house and Eduardo had the money."
Lorenz said she saw Eduardo provide funds to the group at least three times. "Eduardo would come to the door and give Frank the money."
When I asked if she was certain that the man she saw was E. Howard Hunt, she said she was very certain. She had recognized him immediately when she saw his photo -- along with Bernard Barker's and Sturgis's -- in the newspapers when the Watergate story broke.
The day after I interviewed Lorenz in New York, I called her to confirm her statement that she had seen Hunt and Sturgis together the early Sixties. She did, but as I was going over the details of that mission to the Keys and the backtrack to get money, it struck me at I had neglected to ask her who was with her and Sturgis on that mission.
Her recollection seemed a little fuzzy: "There was me, Frank, Patrick [Gerry Patrick Hemming], Alex [Rorke] and . . . there were two cars . . . I don't remember. Just those I mentioned. Maybe someone else. Could be one of the Cubans . . . Rafael Del Pino or . . . I'm not sure. I think it was Rafael Del Pino or Orlando Bosch. I'm not sure. Why, is it important?"
No, not really, I told her, I was just curious. I didn't realize how very important it would later become.
During our interview, I asked Marita Lorenz when was the last time she had been in contact with Frank Sturgis. She said she had not seen him for more than a dozen years, but she had spoken to him a couple of years before when she had seen his photo in the paper in connection with Watergate. She had been so shocked she had decided to give him call at the Federal prison in Danbury, and he was surprised and delighted to hear from her. He suggested she come to visit him, she intended to but, she told me, she never did. In fact, she never got round to calling Sturgis again.
Except for Daily News reporter Paul Meskil, no one outside of Senator Schweiker's office knew I had interviewed Marita Lorenz, but I would later learn that a few weeks after our interview, Frank Sturgis just happened to get back in touch with her again. Just to say hello, renew an old friendship, he said. Soon he was visiting her in New York and involving her in spy games. He had her dating an important Soviet UN delegate and she even scored an espionage coup for the FBI by coming away with a box of papers that included the Albanian intelligence code. It was like old times.
I had thought I could convince the staff at the Church Committee of the importance of Marita Lorenz in its probing of the CIA' s off-the- book activities, but it decided that since the CIA had truthfully confessed to all the Agency's assassination plots against Castro, it didn't need the Sturgis-Lorenz poison pill attempt to muddy up its report. What most disturbed me, however, was the staff's lack of interest in pursuing the lead indicating that Sturgis and Hunt had possibly committed perjury in their sworn testimony before the Rockefeller Commission. One staff member candidly told me, "I don't think perjury would scare either one of them." Maybe not, but I didn't think that was the point; I thought it had something to do with upholding the law.
In the months that followed our interview, Marita Lorenz called me intermittently, usually to ask what was going on in Washington and whether she was going to be called to testify. I had to be noncommittal because, at the time, I didn't know. But whenever she called she made it a point to bring up her old anti-Castro fighting days in Miami and to drop a few names: "Guns and Trafficante? Are we talking about the Bel Aire Hotel? I used to drive up to the back of the hotel and pick them up. Frank arranged it. And someone else who furnished money for guns was Elliot Roosevelt. He lived on DiLido or Star Island, I forget which. This went through Irwin Charles Cardin, the Cobbs Fruit fortune. I used to live with him. Roosevelt would give the money and Cardin would buy the guns."
In these conversations, Lorenz kept inviting me to return to New York because she had since found boxes of material, old notes and documents she had forgotten to tell me about on my visit. She also always mentioned something about her concerns for her safety and the security of her children. (Besides her teenage daughter, Marita also had a four-year-old son by a man she married after she and the apartment manager divorced.) The last thing she wanted, she said, was publicity. About a week after one these calls from Lorenz, a huge photograph of a youthful Marita with Fidel Castro graced the front page of the New York Daily News's Sunday edition. The story, by Paul Meskil, was headlined: "CIA SENT BEDMATE TO KILL CASTRO IN '60."
It was the poison-pill story told in long and deftly melodramatic fashion, mostly in Marita's own words, right up through the finding of the melted capsules: "'It was like an omen. I couldn't just dump a glob of cold cream in his coffee, so I shut the jar and went back to the bedroom and I watched him sleeping. Finally I lay down on the bed beside him. I thought, "To hell with it. Let history take its course."'"
The story was picked up by most of the major newspapers around the country, including the Miami Herald. That brought the local television reporters to Frank Sturgis's front door, where he obligingly confirmed the episode in modest but colorful narrative. He was damn proud of his attempts to kill Fidel.
When I called Marita she blamed Frank Sturgis for instigating the publicity. "It wasn't my doing," she told me. "The article started because of Frank talking. Meskil called me and said, 'You want me to write it my way or are you going to talk to me?' I had to talk because Frank told everything anyway."
She said she was sorry she cooperated with Meskil. "Now it's getting out of hand," she said. "I don't want any more out because I'm getting all sorts of threats. But I can't stop Frank because he knows too much about me. I don't know why he's doing this. At this point, I'm afraid."
I could understand her concern. I lived in Miami where bombings and assassinations in the Cuban community were sparked by even the slightest rumor of a pro-Castro lean. Marita Lorenz had failed to kill Castro. That would be enough to raise skeptical eyebrows among the old Brigade 2506 members sipping café Cubano at the sidewalk counters in Little Havana.
I thought of that when I heard the fear in Marita's voice the next time she called. She was sobbing. She had been beaten and threatened, but it wasn't by a Cuban, it was by her Mafiosi boyfriend.
"He says he wants me to keep my mouth shut about Trafficante if they call me to the [Church] Committee," she said. Now, she said, she suspected that someone had broken into her apartment. "I had a box of Albanian codes that I had gotten when I was working with Frank and the Bureau," she said. "Evidently someone took a few pieces of that code because I got a piece back with the message to keep my mouth shut."
Lorenz asked me if Senator Schweiker could do anything to protect her. "I just want to stay alive," she said.
Whatever the Church Committee's interest in Lorenz, Schweiker was concerned about the welfare of a potential witness whose importance hadn't yet been determined. He sent a letter to the Attorney General asking the Justice Department to "take whatever steps are available . . . to insure Ms. Lorenz's safety." In order to avoid further endangering Lorenz with additional media attention, I suggested to Schweiker that his letter be kept confidential. He agreed.
A few days later, Paul Meskil pulled another big headline in the Daily News: "ASKS U.S. GUARD SPY IN CASTRO DEATH PLOT." Wrote Meskil: "A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee has requested Justice Department protection for Marita Lorenz, the shapely spy who told the panel she had been recruited in 1960 by the CIA to kill her former lover, Fidel Castro." Not only did Meskil describe her as "an undercover agent for the CIA in the early 1960s," he also revealed she had "performed similar work for the FBI for about 15 years." In fact, the story noted, in 1971 Lorenz had received a letter of commendation from the Bureau's New York office.
As far as spying goes, I thought keeping secrets wasn't one of Marita Lorenz's strong suits. I was beginning to doubt her claims that she didn't want publicity and that she would be a reluctant witness if called to testify before the Church Committee. Still, whatever her motivations now, I still thought she was credible and, based on what could be checked out, that her claim of being involved in anti-Castro activities in Miami was valid. And she remained a convincing witness to the possibility that perjury was committed by E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis.
Marita Lorenz remained in touch with me down through the months the Church Committee was wrapping up and the end of Schweiker's investigation. "Did I get in the report?" she would ask.
"I don't know yet, but I don't think so," I would tell her.
"That's good," she would say. "I don't need the problems."
Yet, again I was getting the impression she wasn't averse to getting herself into situations that might cause problems. She was still working with Sturgis in developing informant deals with the Bureau, the DEA and, likely, the CIA. She told me she was beginning to travel to Miami regularly, working with the US Customs service in uncovering illegal arms sales. (I assumed she had a backlog of information from former lovers connected with the Mob.) One of the Customs agents she was working with in Miami was a knowledgeable veteran named Steve Czukas, whom I had met while working for Schweiker. Czukas was a tough, streetwise fed who had been helpful to me. Maybe not the most sophisticated guy, but I thought he was dedicated and levelheaded enough to handle Marita.
After I first joined the House Assassinations Committee, the calls from Marita Lorenz came more frequently. She had by then learned that my primary interest was in the Kennedy assassination, not in the CIA's anti-Castro plots; now she would tell about new books and articles on the assassination as they appeared. And, inevitably, she would probe me for information about her possible role in the investigation.
"My lawyer called me yesterday and said I'm going to get subpoenaed," she told me one night.
"Where did he get that?"
"He said he heard it over the UP wires," she said. "That's why I'm calling you. I moved and want to give you my new address."
I couldn't tell her how disorganized those early months of the House Assassinations Committee's investigation were, but I assured Lorenz no subpoena was being prepared for her. Then, as the weeks went by and the Committee's direction became clear, I knew Marita Lorenz wouldn't fit into the game plan. The information she had about Castro assassination plots and possible perjury by CIA agents was relevant to the Kennedy assassination as far as probing the Agency's credibility, but the Committee, even early on, appeared reluctant to press that. I eventually told Lorenz it was highly unlikely she would ever be subpoenaed. Her calls dropped to zilch.
In fact, in the months that went by, the only time her name popped up, it came from an unlikely source. Jim Garrison, whom I had met during the Schweiker investigation, called and said he had just returned from a vacation at a spa in Arizona where he met a lawyer from New York who happened to be a deal packager and film promoter. The conversation, naturally, came around to the Kennedy assassination, and the lawyer mentioned he had a client who could put Frank Sturgis and Lee Harvey Oswald together. His client's name was Marita Lorenz. Garrison said, however, that he subsequently learned the lawyer had a sleazy reputation and wouldn't trust the information the guy gave him. But, nevertheless, he thought I should know about it.
Like Garrison, I dismissed it as a wild tip. I had known Marita Lorenz for almost a year and a half, had spent dozens of hours talking with her and I didn't remember her ever mentioning Oswald.
Then, several weeks later, 1 was at the Assassinations Committee staff headquarters in Washington when someone came up from behind, slapped me on the back and said, "You're fired!"
It was Jack Moriarty. A former Washington, D.C., homicide detective, Moriarty's handsome Irish countenance could have gotten him the stock part of the precinct cop in any Bing Crosby movie. I thought he was one of the best investigators on the staff; smart, soft-spoken and charming enough to ease a confession from a guilty rock. He was smiling when I turned around.
"Just kidding," he said. But Moriarty had news that wasn't a joke. "Someone is trying to get you fired," he said.
"Who besides the dozen people I could name off the top of my head?" I asked.
"Marita Lorenz," he said.
That wasn't one of them. Then Moriarty told me he had been asked to take a report from a Customs agent named Steve Czukas who had come to Washington at the orders of his Miami chief to file a complaint with the Assassinations Committee about a member of its staff who was leaking information to Frank Sturgis. That information, said Czukas, came from a Customs informant named Marita Lorenz. She claimed that Sturgis had shown her a "classified Government document" which he said was given to him by a Committee staff member named Fonzi. As a result, said Czukas, Lorenz now does not trust that Committee staffer and will no longer deal with him. Or, as Moriarty's report would later put it, "her concern is of sufficient magnitude to preclude further contact with Fonzi."
Besides the complaint, however, Czukas brought new information he thought the Assassinations Committee should have directly. He said that the Customs Service had put Lorenz and her two children under protective custody in a Miami hotel for two months after she expressed fears that her life was in danger. While there, she admitted that she had been unwittingly involved in the plans to kill President Kennedy. She said she had driven from Miami to Dallas in two cars with a group of men, including Frank Sturgis and Lee Harvey Oswald, with high-power rifles. Two days before the assassination she was ordered to fly back alone to Miami.
It sounded like an incredible story, said Czukas, but there was some documentation. During the time that Lorenz was voluntarily sequestered in Miami, she filled sixteen pages of a green notebook with the details of her involvement. She subsequently gave him the notebook for safe keeping and he had it under lock and key in Miami.
I was stunned and then infuriated. It would take time and effort to deal with this development. I felt Customs was allowing itself to be manipulated by an informant.
I deliberately dawdled. It was more than three months before I put a response on the record. I had no concern about the reactions of my bosses, Chief Investigator Cliff Fenton and Chief Counsel Bob Blakey, because I had documented all encounters with both Sturgis and Lorenz. But in sending Czukas to the Committee, it seemed to me that Marita wanted attention and wanted to be called to testify at the public hearings. What was she trying to accomplish?
Then there was the matter of the "classified Government document" that Frank Sturgis said I had given him. Actually it was an unclassified memorandum written in 1964 by Al Tarabochia, an investigator with the Senate Security Committee, then headed by Mississippi's notorious Commie hunter, George Eastland. The memorandum concerned a rumored visit to Cuba by Jack Ruby. (As mentioned earlier, Sturgis himself had also given me a story about a Ruby visit to Cuba, this one a detailed account of a meeting to plot Kennedy's assassination.) A copy of Tarabochia's memorandum was in Schweiker's working files and, one night, Sturgis called me and asked if he could have a copy, saying he had Tarabochia' s permission. I called Troy Gustavson in Schweiker's office, Troy got the OK from Tarabochia and a copy of the memo was sent to Sturgis directly from Schweiker's office.
So much for the "leak." When I called Marita Lorenz, she admitted that Sturgis had shown her "that Tarabochia thing," but denied she said it had come from me. She also denied that she had ever told Czukas she no longer trusted me or that she didn't want to speak with me. On the contrary, she was delighted to hear from me.
"I was down in Miami for a while and was looking for you," she said. I didn't tell her I knew that Customs had picked up her tab for a couple of months and I didn't mention anything about her reported trip to Dallas with Frank Sturgis and Lee Harvey Oswald. Neither did she.
What I found fascinating, however, was that Sturgis was still in such close contact with her, and how much she knew about his current activities. She said, for instance, that Sturgis had recently called, telling her he was "doing something" in Africa. "He was with some heavy people over there," she told me, "some major and some wealthy people who are sponsoring his thing there, raising an army to fight Castro's army in Angola." Sturgis also said he had been in Paris, Switzerland and London, in addition to Africa, and that he had asked her to go to Europe to work with him. "He sent me a first-class, round-trip plane ticket on TWA," she said. She discovered, however, that she couldn't go because on her last trip to Madrid to see her daughter's father, General Jímenez, she didn't have the return fare. Until she repaid the State Department, she couldn't travel abroad.
After I spoke with Marita, I called Steve Czukas, who confirmed she was behind his trip to Washington. She had pressed him very hard, he said. "I went up there just to get them to talk with her. What I'd like to do is get rid of her story, whether she's got something concocted or not. I'd just like to get rid of it, and I'm sure my Service would too. I don't know what's going on, it's so far out of my field, but the sooner she gets to Washington the happier I'll be, I tell you that -- however she gets there."
To that end, said Czukas, he would turn over her green notebook. In fact, he was anxious to get rid of it; he just wanted to get back to catching simple, tricky smugglers.
In reviewing her notebook, I discovered that Marita Lorenz has very nice handwriting, very legible and graced with a modest flair. "In case of my death or injury or the death of any of my family," she began, "I, Ilona Marita Lorenz, born 8/18/39 in Bremen, Germany, want Mr. Steve Czukas, of Miami, Fla., to hand this letter over to the proper people or Committee."
She wrote sixteen pages of narrative, only five of which actually dealt with the Kennedy assassination.
After the extradition of my daughter's father, General Marcos Pérez Jímenez . . . I felt lost and drifted back to my old associates, Frank Fiorini/Sturgis and his followers (The International Anti-Communist Brigade), Miami, Fla. I owe Frank Fiorini and Alex Rorke (NYC) my life (Cuba, 1959) after my close, personal involvement with Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz. I was active in Miami towards the end of 1959, became a member of the International Anti-Communist Brigade and took a blood oath to join Frank Fiorini's secret Assassination group in early 1960.
Marita briefly mentions the poison-capsule caper with Sturgis, attributing the scheme to higher authorities ("I firmly believed Frank F. to be a member of the CIA"), but admits her heart wasn't in it: "It is not in my makeup to take the life of another human being deliberately."
She uses most of the narrative, however, to vent anger over what she claims was an attorney's scheme to cheat her out of the trust funds set up for her and her daughter by General Jímenez before he was arrested and extradited in August of 1963. She also puts a bit of suspicion on the General himself: "The General often personally said he would like to eliminate (kill) both of the Kennedy brothers." Although it's segmented because of the General's intermittent role in the narrative, here's what Marita wrote about the Kennedy assassination:
A month or so prior to November 22nd, 1963, I joined Frank Fiorini, Ozzie (Lee), others, Cubans in our group and drove in two cars to the home of Orlando Bosch. It wasn't unusual for Frank Fiorini to study maps (in the past, often we studied waterways, tides, currents, islands in the Bahamas where I was to navigate stolen crafts laden with arms to a certain destination later to be picked up by others.) . . .
This certain, "highly secret meeting" in Bosch's home was to discuss certain streets in Dallas, Texas. I was under the impression we were to "take another armory." I paid little attention and thought more of how I would start life again with my baby. There was talk of a "highly powerful rifle" and discussions of "feet," "building," "timings," "contacts," "silence," etc.
Another car with 4 men waited outside -- the windows were closed tightly, a fan was put on, Mrs. Bosch served Cuban cafe and a child was told to leave the room.
I was rather disinterested, bored, worried and disgusted and felt I had "outgrown" the Cuban scene. My thoughts were of Marcos, Venezuela, my baby girl . . . and the extradition.
The word "Kennedy," spoken by Frank to Bosch made me say, "What about him?" All eyes were on me, studying me when Ollie started a dispute with Frank and Bosch about my presence. I then told Frank, "Who needs this hostile, slimy bastard?" I wanted to leave when Frank spoke to all the men on my behalf. . . .
After a major digression into her legal battle for the trust funds, the narrative flows on:
. . . Going back now to the flare-up in Bosch's home and this secret meeting with a street map of Dallas, Texas on the table. I had my mind on other things and I wanted to talk to Frank Fiorini about starting a search party to look for Alex Rorke who was missing. . . .
In Bosch's house that eve. I called Ollie a "chivato," to Frank and when Ollie challenged me, I asked him "How did you know the meaning of that word?" (It was Fidel's favorite word for "informant, traitor.") He said he heard it in Cuba.
This meeting seemed more secretive as Frank and the others spoke in whispers.
Sometime in Nov. 1963, still associating with Frank Fiorini and feeling lost, hiding from the press, I told Frank "sure," I'll go with him and others in two cars to Dallas.
I was under the impression we would "take an armory," as we had done before, and which was the reason for the prior "secret meeting" at Bosch's home.
I left my daughter for a few days with my dear friend and baby sitter, Willie May Taylor, who was my maid while I was living with General Marcos Pérez Jímenez.
We left after midnight in two beat-up looking cars, about 8 or 9 of us with Frank's "baby," a high powered rifle, scope and silencer attached, in the trunk of our car. Before we left, we were briefed by Frank, Bosch, Pedro Díaz Lanz. No phone calls, no speaking Spanish in Texas, no leaving for restaurants, complete obedience. Supplies, food, and "kits" were dumped into the trunk. We wore dark street clothes and got into the cars.
We drove all night along the coast and nobody spoke much. Frank drove, I sat in the back seat and slept. It was hot & crowded and I sat next to a Cuban. We drove through the city of Dallas to the outskirts to a drive-in motel. . . .
Frank and Pedro registered. We had two rooms . . . each room had 2 double beds. Ozzie brought in a newspaper and everybody read it.
Dressed, I fell asleep on top of one of the beds. Frank brought in food for sandwiches & soda.
Only Frank and Bosch were to answer the phone if & when it rang. That first night, Frank waited for a 'member,' Ruby. Frank spoke to him outside in the parking lot. This Ruby seemed surprised at my presence and questioned Frank about me, I'm sure.
I later told Frank, "Where'd you get that Mafia punk?" And, "What's really going on? What the hell are we really here for?" Frank studied me and escorted me outside. He replied by saying "You make me nervous. I made a mistake, this is too big, I want you to go back to Miami, take the baby and go home." I agreed and told him that I didn't like his selection of men -- Ozzie, Ruby -- who were new and not true members. As I was leaving, "Eduardo" (H. Hunt) drove up and there was a discussion on who would drive me to the airport for Miami. Frank and Bosch did, Eduardo waited at the motel. I flew under the name of Maria Jímenez (I am almost sure). I stayed in Miami about one day, and was very happy to be back with my baby. I decided to cut all ties with Frank and his anti-Castro group. I would get nowhere and I was sick of the whole situation.
I had a feeling, a suspicion, that Frank's group was in Texas to kill somebody, because of the secrecy of the whole thing. Never in a million years did I put 2 and 2 together, or was ever even hinted to what they were up to. All I know is that everything I have written, and am writing is the truth, so help me God.
What struck me about that story were its similarities, at least at the beginning, to the incident Marita Lorenz had told me about almost a year and a half before when I first interviewed her. The details about the two cars and the group members were all the same. In her green book, Lorenz simply turned the cars west and had them head for Dallas.
As I said, at the first interview Marita Lorenz had impressed me as a fairly credible witness. Even her story of attempting to assassinate Castro with poison capsules, told without the dramatic embellishments of a tabloid presentation, had elements of plausibility. Now, for whatever reasons, Marita Lorenz seemed determined to befog her credibility. At any rate, I sent her green-covered notebook to Washington, where I knew it would be given an identification number and put into a file. Since the Assassinations Committee's investigative game plan was already in place, it was unlikely that even this apparent ploy would get Marita the attention she seemed to want.
What I didn't realize, however, was that there were other forces at work. It was a couple of weeks after the green book had gone to Washington and, after being away from Miami for a few days, I returned home late one evening to a call from the Daily News's Paul Meskil.
"I've been trying to get in touch with you," he said, "because I think something really big is going down. Unfortunately, I'm not at liberty to tell you the whole thing yet, but I can give you part of it."
The reason Meskil knew something big was going down was that he was going to help it go down. He was going to break a big story. And although, he said, he couldn't provide me with names and places yet, he did begin telling me, in his cryptic newsman style, what it was about: "What this involves is a statement made, and it's down there. It supposedly involves Sturgis and some other people with Oswald and supposedly Oswald was in a training camp down there in the Everglades with them and they all went to Dallas together right before the Kennedy hit."
I interrupted him. "That's from Marita Lorenz."
"I couldn't say it," he said.
I told Meskil about Jim Garrison having some time ago met the lawyer who claimed his client could put Sturgis and Oswald together. Meskil knew the lawyer as a promoter and, as he put it, "a known crook." Said Meskil: "He had a connection to Bernie Spindel, the greatest wiretapper of all time. There was a link to the CIA. I wonder if that guy put the idea in Marita's head. That's funny, because I thought she first told the story to a Federal guy down by you and then she told it to me.
"I gave the piece to the managing editor on Monday and he says the only way we can run this is if we get some official to say we're investigating. So not being able to reach you for a few days I get desperate, so I call Blakey, the Chief Counsel. I didn't give him any names either. I just said I had someone who has made this statement to a Federal officer and to me and it involves this matter. And, boy, he wanted to move on it right away. He says, 'I'll send a couple of people up to talk to you tomorrow.' I said, 'Wait, not so fast. I don't trust some of your people.' I told him I knew some of them are ex-New York cops and before I know it my exclusive will be blown."
I couldn't figure Blakey's reaction. Either he hadn't been paying attention to the whole Marita Lorenz escapade or he was playing games with Meskil.
"Yeah, he seemed excited," Meskil said. "He was even talking about sending her out to Dallas to try to find the motel she says they were at. But I think she'll balk at that because she told me she doesn't want to testify, she doesn't even want to talk to the Committee."
Then Meskil thought about that for a moment and added: "But I don't know how she figures she's going to dump it on the News and have it splash all over the country and then avoid any follow up, because it's inevitable somebody is going to come around to her and say, 'Hey, what's with all this horse shit?'"
Whatever the horse shit, Meskil wasn't going to let it stand in the way of a fat front-page story. He worked on it a few more days, called Frank Sturgis to get his reaction ("I have never met Lee Harvey Oswald in my life") and then called me the night before it hit the paper. As Meskil put it: "The shit is in the fan now."
The headline said it all: "EX-SPY SAYS SHE DROVE TO DALLAS WITH OSWALD & KENNEDY 'ASSASSIN SQUAD.'" The story was almost consistent with the one Lorenz had written in her green notebook. Frank Sturgis, Orlando Bosch and Pedro Díaz Lanz were still the men she claimed went on the trip; however, she added "two Cuban brothers whose names she does not know" and some additional embroidery: "She said Oswald [had earlier] visited an Operation 40 training camp in the Florida Everglades, but . . . she knew him only as 'Ozzie.'"
At the end of the piece, Meskil noted: "Statements she made to The News and to a federal agent were reported to Robert Blakey, chief counsel of the Assassinations Committee. He has assigned one of his top investigators to interview her."
Of course, what Blakey had decided, now the story had hit the papers, was that he had no choice but to put the Lorenz tale into the record -- part of his policy to touch every base, no matter what. I didn't exactly rush into the assignment. In fact, I decided to wait until I had to go up to Washington on other matters, and then hop up to New York to get Marita Lorenz into the record. That turned out to be more than a month after Meskil broke his big story.
It was a Friday when I called Marita from Washington to say I planned to visit her the next day. She was even more agitated than usual.
"Frank is coming to kill me."
"Yes. He's been threatening me. He doesn't want me to testify before the Committee."
"When is he coming?"
"I don't know. He may be on his way. My daughter is very upset about it. I think she went out to buy a gun. I need help."
If I hadn't gotten all those distraught calls from Marita over the years, I guess I would have reacted with a greater sense of urgency. But I had planned to join a group from the staff for Chinese food at the Szechuan East that evening and I knew I didn't want to get in the middle of a shoot-out on an empty stomach. I told Marita I'd fly up first thing the next morning.
Since I didn't think it prudent to visit Marita alone now, two other staffers joined me: Al Gonzales, the former New York cop who had become my investigative partner in Miami; and Eddie Lopez, the young researcher whose Puerto Rican parents lived in New York. Lopez happened to be standing in front of the peephole in Lorenz's door when I knocked. The door quickly flew open and Eddie went bug-eyed at the barrel of the shotgun, inches from his nose.
"Marita!" I yelled.
She turned her wild stare from Eddie and, recognizing me, dropped the gun to her side. The tension slid from her face.
"Oh, it's you," she said. "I thought it was a Cuban Frank had sent to kill me."
Suddenly I felt it was all getting too ridiculous. Is this what the official Kennedy assassination investigation was getting down to, the stuff of drama from an arroz-con-pollo western?
Marita put the shotgun down beside the door and invited us in. She looked tired and drawn. She hadn't slept, and her teenage daughter was out trying to buy a pistol to head off Sturgis before he arrived. Marita had spoken to him yesterday and he said he was on his way up. What should she do?
I thought of a few things to say but not anything that would look good in the next day's headlines ("ASSASSINATIONS COMMITTEE TELLS MARITA. . . .") All I wanted was to get her statement into the record and get the hell out of there. Not that I thought Sturgis would come slamming through the door with his high-power, sniper-scoped, silencer-equipped "baby." I think Sturgis has made some dumb moves in his life, but he wouldn't be foolish enough to provide a trail via telephone threats and warnings.
Anyhow, with Marita jumping up periodically to peek out the window and check noises at her front door, it took us a few hours to get her to repeat the story of the Dallas trip. Her cast of characters remained the same as in the green book -- herself, Sturgis, Bosch, Díaz Lanz and "Ozzie" -- but this time with the two unnamed Cuban brothers. And now she also added Miami soldier-of-fortune Gerry Patrick Hemming. The caravan was not only getting crowded, it was getting damn uncomfortable -- Hemming was six foot six and weighed about 270 pounds. (Later, Marita would remember the names of the two brothers and identify them as the Novo brothers. Still, the coalition made sense because all the individuals were publicly known as associates: Sturgis and Hemming, you may recall, had made headlines as cofounders of an anti-Castro group; as had the Díaz Lanz flight from Cuba with Sturgis; the Novo brothers were in the news, linked to Bosch in Cuban terrorist activity. "Ozzie" was the odd man out.)
I was glad to get back to Miami, where the only danger was getting shot by an irate motorist on I-95. A call from Frank Sturgis was on my answering machine, but all he said was to call him back when I got the chance. Since I didn't hear from Marita on Sunday or Monday, I assumed the drama had faded to a close. It must only have been a commercial break. I received a call from Paul Meskil late Monday afternoon.
"They arrested the kid," he said.
"Did Sturgis show up?"
"No, not yet. But Marita was bugging me all morning so finally I told her to call the cops. So she calls these two cops she knows in the Intelligence Division because she's been working with them on a guns and pornography thing with the Mob and about noon today they go out and pick her up. The kid supposedly had gotten a .22 pistol and was waiting for Sturgis to show up."
"Is Sturgis still supposed to show up?"
"That's what she says. He's been calling her."
"It's been coming up on High Noon now for three days," I said.
"Yeah, I know," Meskil laughed. "Maybe the train broke down."
The train didn't break down. It was about one o'clock in the morning when my telephone rang. The caller said he was Detective James Rothstein from the New York Police Department.
"I just arrested Frank Sturgis and he asked me to call you," he said. "It's on the complaint of what'shername, Marita Lorenz. He threatened her in reference to talking with you. I understand you were up here on Saturday."
I felt as if I were suddenly in the middle of Take Five, Scene Four.
"Sturgis said you wanted him to call you if anything happened," said Detective Rothstein.
"I don't know what the hell is going on myself."
That's the last thing I would have told Sturgis, but I figured I'd better talk with him anyway.
"It's so damn confusing," Sturgis said when he got on the line. "No, it's not confusing, there's something behind it."
I was beginning to think that myself. I asked him what had happened.
"Well, I come up here to see my lecture people but I had been in touch with Marita because she had wanted me to come up here to tell me about the pressures she was under to put those articles in the paper about me. So I come up here and I had my appointments and I called Marita and she says, 'No, call me later on in the evening. ' So I went out with my friend Frank Nelson and we finished dinner about ten-thirty and I called Marita and said, 'Listen, I'll see you tomorrow because it's getting late.' But she says, 'No, come on over this evening.' So I says, 'All right, I'll be over in a half hour.' So I caught a cab and I walk into her apartment and, Christ, these two detectives have guns on me. They tell me I threatened her and that her kid went out and bought a shotgun to kill me. This whole thing is flabbergasting!"
"And you never said anything to her about her Dallas trip story?" I asked Frank.
"No, no, no," he said. "I never asked her to retract any story. All I asked is why she said those things to Paul Meskil. And her answer was that she was pressured. And I says, 'Well, can you tell me?' And she says, 'No, I can't tell you, I got to see you in person.' There's got to be something behind all this."
Frank Sturgis wound up spending 48 hours in the slammer. His bail was set at $25,000, surprisingly high for harassment charges, until his lawyer went to another judge and had it lowered to $10,000. Sturgis's wife, Jan, had to ship up cash and bonds to post it. When he was arraigned, more than a hundred reporters and photographers descended on the human zoo at 100 Centre Street. A courthouse regular who calls himself "Cochise" and wears a red loincloth and fur anklets, got upset at being ejected by the court officers and, after doing a little dance, made yellow rain on one of the photographers waiting for Sturgis. Cochise get [sic] arrested.
Timothy Crouse, then writing for the Village Voice, provided a perspective: "There was a full moon. Not just any full moon, but the most potent of them all, the one that signals harvest time-the change of seasons, and the cruel lunar tug on many a soft brain. . . . The most bizarre event of all happened just before midnight on Halloween, when two of the most notoriously unreliable sources in America magically turned into a front-page news story that lasted four days. How else but with the aid of occult powers could Marita Lorenz have convinced the Manhattan district attorney that Frank Sturgis had phoned from Miami to threaten her life? Maybe with a little help from Sturgis himself, the press and even the police."
The day after Sturgis was booked I received a call from his wife. Jan is a dark-haired, attractive, very personable woman and, compared with Frank, rather articulate. "It's my own personal opinion," she said, "that Marita is not intelligent enough to think up all these devious plots, and I'm concerned about who is behind her. As soon as I heard the plan about the fourteen-year-old daughter being set up to kill Frank, the first thing that came to my mind was the Lana Turner scenario. I don't know, but I hope it's only a publicity stunt on her part. But if it's not, and it's somebody trying to get to Frank, then it's frightening. I don't mean to be speaking cryptically, but all these things are going through my mind."
Jan didn't call just to give me her opinion. She said she had proof that Frank was set up. She had been talking with him and he gave her permission to play for me the recording he had made of his last telephone conversation with Marita.
When I got to the Sturgis home, Jan was still fiddling with the tape recorder, trying to find the place on the tape where the conversation with Marita began. She pressed a button and I heard a familiar voice.
"Ooops," she said, smiling as she quickly hit the stop button. "You won't tell Frank you heard that, will you?"
Frank had also recorded all his conversations with me.
The opening lines of Frank's call to Marita set the tone of their conversation:
"Marita? This is Frank."
"Hi, love! Wait, let me go into the other room, the kids are making noise, hold on. . . . Well, hi! I just came back from Mount Sinai, my mother's in Mount Sinai. How are you, are you gonna come up?"
It's a rambling but revealing conversation that goes on for about a half an hour. Sturgis repeatedly attempts to bring the topic around to the story about the Dallas trip. At one point, he mentions he has been talking with me.
"Fonzi says he's going to try to get up to New York," he says.
"For me? Does he want me? Tell him I have memory lapse, I forgot everything."
"He told me also, he says, 'Tell her not to worry about being subpoenaed. I'm not gonna subpoena her.'"
"No, I don't want to be subpoenaed."
"You won't be subpoenaed. He's just going ahead and checking up on all the things that came out in the paper, the statements and so forth."
"Are you gonna come up? You want me to send you the fee? I can. Can't you come up?"
"Yeah, but I don't have the money."
"I'll send it to you today. I'll send it to you tonight."
"Well, you see, my problem is, I went to the doctor yesterday and had to get an ingrown toenail taken out."
"Oh, Jesus, that hurts!"
"Yeah, it smarts."
I am listening to this conversation and I am trying to remember I am part of a serious investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy. The talk finally rambles away from ingrown toenails to deals about movies and books. Marita mentions the lawyer who first dropped the Sturgis-Oswald connection on Jim Garrison in Arizona.
"He's been pressuring me to sign this thing for seventy-five thousand dollars, with a seventy-five hundred advance, but it stinks, I won't sign it."
Frank suggests she not sign anything until he talks to her about contracts and legalities. "Well, I'm not doing anything," Marita says. "I'm not saying anything. In fact, I'd like to retract everything. But then I'm gonna get in trouble. I've been warned."
"You've been warned?"
"From a visit with two people. They wanted to know where I was on September twenty-second. . . . I mean, November twenty-second, 'sixty-three."
"Were these Government agents?"
"FBI or CIA?"
"Yeah. That's why I want to talk with you. I got myself in over my head. . . ."
"What I'm trying to figure out is, who pressured you into making these statements? You said two agents. What are their names?"
"I'm not going to tell you. I'll tell you when you get up here."
"Well, OK, then I'll be up there. Why don't you send that to me and then I'll be up there."
"You want me to send that tonight? I'll send it tonight. Jesus, I don't know where?"
"Just leave it at Eastern Airlines?"
"Right, I'll call Eastern and pick it up."
Through the whole conversation Sturgis sounds like an innocent and naive victim being lured into a trap. Perhaps a bit too naive. I began to wonder -- and still do wonder -- if there wasn't an element of collusion in this scene. Frank Sturgis hasn't survived a life cobwebbed with dangerous clandestine missions by being naive.
At any rate, Sturgis picked up that Eastern Airline ticket that Marita Lorenz had sent him and flew to his destiny in New York. In the end, the entire episode seemed to have about as much significance as "Cochise" pissing on a photographer. But, in retrospect, one result of this whole soap-opera scenario -- the factor that still feeds my suspicion of collusion -- was a successful diversion, from the Schweiker probe through to the House Assassinations Committee, of our limited investigation resources. And, in the process, it injected a dose of slapstick that would impair any future attempt to conduct a serious investigation into the possible involvement of E. Howard Hunt at Frank Sturgis in the Kennedy assassination.
The Village Voice's Timothy Crouse reflected the tone of the entire affair when, after Sturgis was released and the charges dropped he reported that the New York Police Commissioner was opening an investigation into the farce:
". . . Will the cops dig up information linking Marita Lorenz, Frank Sturgis, the Daily News and certain members of the New York Police Department? Will a conspiracy be uncovered at last? Or will the police report conclude that the whole brouhaha was the work of single dingbat acting alone? Where is Mark Lane now that we need him?"
He would come later.
Back to the top
Back to JFK features
Back to JFK menu
Dave Reitzes home page
1. A Miami FBI report dated October, 1962, and labeled as an investigation into the "White Slave Traffic Act," reveals another version of her first encounter with the ex-dictator. According to the report, Lorenz complained that she had been threatened by a Ruben ("Rubenzito") Prats as a result of an incident that had taken place in May, 1961. She had been introduced to Prats by "Pepe" Acosta, a pimp who worked out of Miami Beach's Bel Aire Hotel, one of mobster Santos Trafficante's hangouts. Prats had sent her to a party at a Biscayne Boulevard apartment where she and a "few other Latin girls," as the FBI report described them, were to entertain a "Mr. Díaz, Lorenz claimed she left the party early but, according to the FBI report, "Prats demanded $75 from Lorenz, stating he knew she received $100." Lorenz denied she received any money from "Mr. Díaz," but did admit she later received a message from him asking her to visit him. "Mr. Díaz" turned out to be Pérez Jímenez. "Thereafter," said the FBI report, "Lorenz became sexually involved with Pérez Jímenez."
2. Rorke would later disappear after a mysterious plane flight that arrived in Mexico City on the same day that Oswald reportedly arrived. According to an FBI report, Rorke and his copilot Geoffrey Sullivan had left Miami in a rented twin-engine Beechcraft on September 24th, 1963, headed for Honduras for a "lobster-hauling business deal." That same day they arrived in Merida, Mexico. On September 27th, Rorke and Sullivan departed Merida and arrived in Mexico City, where they remained for four days. On October 1st, Rorke and Sullivan flew back to Merida accompanied by .'a nervous person who appears eager to resume flight," according to the FBI report. The trio then departed for Cozumel and, upon arriving, immediately took off again. It is unclear whether the third person was still with Rorke and Sullivan when they left Cozumel the last time, but the plane was never seen again. The rented Beechcraft had been due back on September 28th. An FBI report dated November 13th, 1963 notes that two wealthy New York right-wingers financed Rorke's venture, which was meant to be a bombing mission to Havana. (Against President Kennedy's directive banning such raids after the Cuban missile crisis, Rorke had already run one successful bombing mission on Havana on April 25th, 1963.) Later in November, the FAA said the CIA reported that the plane crashed in Cuba during Hurricane Flora. However, that hurricane didn't arrive in Cuba until a week after Rorke and Sullivan left Cozumel. I recently discovered a note to me written by Committee researcher Patricia Orr after an FBI file check. She reported that on October 24th, three weeks after the Beechcraft disappeared, a search party was organized by Frank Sturgis's cohort Gerry Patrick Hemming and fellow members of the International Anti-Communist Brigade. The search party set out in a DC-3 on October 31st and was ultimately unsuccessful. Hemming recently told me that Rorke and Sullivan's flight was part of a Castro assassination plan. The third person on the plane, said Hemming, was a anti-Castro veteran named Molina, who was to be infiltrated into Cuba to monitor Castro's movements for the hit teams that were to come in later. (A report dated January 11th, 1962, reveals that Miami Police's intelligence unit was notified by the Secret Service that a Rafael Anselmo Rodriquez Molins, known as "Rafael Molina," was a suspect in a plan to assassinate John F. Kennedy when he visited the family home in Palm Beach. Molina, said the report, was to contact Armando Lopez Estrada, a Miami Cuban later charged with smuggling guns and drugs while working for the CIA in the illegal Contra-supply network.) According to Hemming, meetings to plan the Castro assassination were held aboard a Guatemalan warship in dry dock at Miami Shipbuilding. The ship was to be used in recovering the hit teams after the assassination. Involvement of the Guatemalan government, claims Hemming, meant the CIA had to have coordinated, or even instigated, the mission.
Back to the top
Back to JFK features
Back to JFK menu
Dave Reitzes home page