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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Did Clay Shaw Take Lee Harvey Oswald to the Gay Baths? The Fred Leemans Story, Part One.

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

Fred Leemans came forward during the Garrison investigation with an incredible story. Here is his statement from May 5, 1967.

So, Fred Leemans operated a Turkish bath and Clay Shaw used to visit using the name Clay Bertrand. Occasionally he would be in the company of man called "Lee" who was small, slender, described as a beatnik, and had a beard, Might that have been Oswald? It fits the description of Oswald given by Perry Russo. In addition, they were accompanied a few times with some "Latins."

Leemans sold the Baths to John Emrold, and here is his statement from May 23, 1967:

Here is that article that mentioned the Canal Street Baths, New Orleans Times-Picayune, October 11, 1961:

The Canal Street Baths were closed by the police in 1963, New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 20, 1963;

Fred Leemans then had a change of heart and called Irvin Dymond, Clay Shaw's trial attorney. Here is Dymond's note on what happened:

Leemans did write Jim Garrison a letter, and here it is, dated May 30 1967:

NBC aired its special "The JFK Conspiracy: The Case of Jim Garrison" on June 19. 1967. Fred Leemans comes on at about the 49-minute mark.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Lee then signed an affidavit telling his side of the story and denying that Leemans had been bribed. In Lee's version, Leemans called him to talk about Clay Shaw, rather than the way around. Lee says he prepared Leeman's written statement after interviewing him; and then he says that his story was taken down by Lorraine Schuler.

There was increasing pressure on Leemans. Here is a note to Irvin Dymond from his secretary, December 10, 1968.

And, in January 1969, Leemans changed his story back and signed an affidavit for Garrison:

After the Clay Shaw trial, author James Kirkwood interviewed Irvin Dymond, and he mentioned Fred Leemans:

"Fred Leemans, as I ... He ran a Turkish bath establishment on Canal Street. Here, back in 1963. The first that I knew of Fred Leemans was when he came here to my office, oh it must have been a year and a half ago, told me that he had been back, had given a statement to Garrison. Let's see, I've forgotten whether it was to Garrison personally . . . Charlie Ward or somebody else. To the effect that during 1963 Clay Shaw and Lee Harvey Oswald frequently visited his Turkish bath together. He told me that - very veiled, indefinite promises of reward had been made to him by the representatives of the D.A.'s office. He later learned that I had defended his daughter, a girl by the name of Colleen Leemans, and decided to come in and made a clean breast of it. And tell me that his statement to the D.A.s office was untrue. I took an affidavit from him to that effect. For about the next year, I received intermittent phone calls from Leemans. Oh, maybe one every four months. Each one with a hint that he wanted money. He left a couple of messages here that he was at the end of his rope, his place was about to be foreclosed, his wife was sick, and all kinds of stuff. Needless to say, I didn't offer him any money. I didn't offer anybody any money, in this case, or in any other case, for that matter. Well the next I heard, Fred Leemans had gone back to the D.A.'s office, refuted the affidavit that he had given me, reinstated his original claims that Shaw and Oswald had frequented the Turkish bath."

There you have it. The good, the bad and the ugly.

So what really happened? Well, since I don't believe Shaw went to the baths with Lee Harvey Oswald, and since I don't believe he used the name Clay Bertrand, I do believe that Garrison's office did use leading questions to get the information they needed. But Leemans was desperate for cash - any side that gave him money would have been ok with him. Garrison probably dithered in his financial support, and Leemans went to Dymond.

After the TV cameras left town, I wouldn't be surprised if Garrison did put pressure on Leemans - Al Beauboeuf told me about the pressure they put on him to change his testimony that he had been offered a bribe. Garrison's men followed him around town and made it hard for him to get a job. Leemans probably felt the best way to co-exist in New Orleans was to recant and say he had not been bribed.

Part Two will look at how conspiracy authors treat Fred Leemans.

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