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50 Years Ago Today: JACK RUBY: Lead up to the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald (A synopsis from Case Closed)
This morning, 50 years ago today, Ruby’s cleaning lady, Elnora Pitts, woke him up when she called between 8:30 and 9:00. She asked if she should stop by to clean the apartment later that day.
“He sounded just terrible strange to me,” she recalled. He told her to call him back at 2:00 before she came over.
Ruby got up about half an hour later. His roommate, George Senator, noticed he was a “little worse this day … the way he talked. He was even mumbling, which I didn’t understand.… His lips were going. What he was jabbering, I don’t know. But he was really pacing.”
Ruby turned on the television to listen to the latest news and read the morning’s Dallas Times Herald. At 10:19, while still lounging in the apartment in his underwear, one of his dancers, Karen Carlin, called (her phone record revealed the exact time).
“I have called, Jack, to try to get some money, because the rent is due and I need some money for groceries and you told me to call.”
Ruby asked how much she needed, and she said $25. He offered to go downtown and send it to her by Western Union – the only place in Dallas from which he could send money to her on a Sunday - but told her it would “take a little while to get dressed.…”
According to Senator, he got ready slowly. “Jack was never a fast dresser or never a fast washer.… He sure had a moody and very faraway look to me. It was a look that I had never seen before on him …”
Ruby left the apartment a few minutes before 11:00. His route downtown again took him past Dealey Plaza, where he saw the many new wreaths left overnight in memory of the President. Again, he cried. As he drove near the jail, he noticed a large crowd and assumed Oswald had already been transferred. At the police station, if everything had gone according to plan, Oswald would have been moved to the sheriff’s custody nearly an hour earlier. A crowd of several hundred had gathered before 10:00, in front of the jail, to watch the event. However, the transfer had undergone a series of last-second changes and delays.
Ruby parked across the street from the Western Union station, only one block from police headquarters, near 11:05. He left his favorite dog, Sheba, in the car. He would only be gone a few minutes. At Western Union, he filled out the forms for sending $25 to Karen Carlin. Then he patiently waited in line while another customer completed her business. According to the clerk, Ruby was in no hurry. It was impossible for him to know that Oswald had not been transferred, since there was no television or radio at the Western Union office. There was a public telephone, but Ruby did not use it. When he got to the counter, the cost for sending the moneygram totaled $26.87. He handed over $30 and waited for his change while the clerk finished filling out the forms and then time-stamped the document “Ruby’s receipt was stamped 11:17.
When he left Western Union, he was less than two hundred steps from the entrance to police headquarters. On the third floor, police had informed Oswald shortly after 11:00 that they would take him downstairs and move him to the sheriffs jail. He asked if he could change his clothes. Captain Fritz sent for some sweaters, and when they were brought to him, Oswald put on a beige one, and then changed his mind before switching to a black sweater. Then he announced he was ready to leave. If Oswald had not decided at the last moment to get a sweater, he would have left the jail almost five minutes earlier, while Ruby was still inside the Western Union office.
Now, Ruby walked the one block along Main Street and stopped near the eight-foot-wide ramp way. It was guarded by policeman E. R. Vaughn. At 11:20, about fifty-five seconds before Oswald was shot, Lt. Rio Pierce drove a black car up the Main Street ramp as part of the decoy plan. That ramp was normally a one-way entrance into headquarters, but Pierce had to use it as an exit since the large armored truck that was originally scheduled to move Oswald was blocking the Commerce Street ramp. Officer Roy Vaughn stepped away from the center of the ramp way, into the middle of Main Street, to stop the traffic so Pierce could safely exit.
Ruby slipped inside while Vaughn was distracted. He walked down the ramp and arrived at the back of a crowd of police and press only seconds before Oswald arrived.
Copyright @ Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, Gerald Posner, 1993