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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Jim Garrison Names the Grassy Knoll Gunman!

Updated: May 1, 2023

Yes, Jim Garrison suspected that Larry Crafard, a handyman who cleaned up Jack Ruby's nightclub every morning, was a grassy knoll gunman, and perhaps that Crafard also killed J. D. Tippit.

Just who was Larry Crafard?

Larry Crafard

Crafard was a drifter and worked many jobs, usually for a few days or slightly more, before meeting Jack Ruby at a carnival in Dallas. Even though he was in his early 20s, he had so many jobs that he could barely keep track of where he had worked when he testified before the Warren Commission. He did odd jobs for Ruby and cleaned the club every morning to get ready for the next night. He actually slept in the office. At about noon on November 23, 1963, Crafard hitchhiked to Michigan to stay with his sister.

You can read Crafard's Warren Commission testimony here and here. It's long and tedious with details on his hitchhiking trip, questions about Jack Ruby, and a thorough examination of his notebook in which he kept phone messages at the Carousel Club.

Mark Lane wrote in Rush to Judgment that Crafard "neither told Ruby nor any other employee of the Carousel of his decision to leave and began to hitchhike to Michigan with only seven dollars in his pocket." (page 270)

But, Crafard had already given notice to Jack Ruby a few days earlier.

Leaving abruptly was completely in character.

Jim Garrison also read Crafard's testimony and he marked it up with comments.

Volume XIII, page 404-405. Garrison is interested in Crafard's stint in the U.S. Army. He was only in for thirteen months and was then discharged for medical reasons.

Volume XIII, page 408-409. Garrison makes a note about Crafard's "remarkable memory" and then wondered about Crafard's work at the carnival - "as what? A sharpshooter?" Then Garrison marveled at his memory once again, "Did you ever see a memory like this Every week in order." All Crafard was doing was just going over all of his places of employment.

Volume XIII, Page 414-415. Garrison notes that "Crafard seems to travel unusually."

Volume XIII, page 448-449. Garrison notes that "Crafard actually is unaccounted for during the shooting." Crafard was up late the night before - actually talking to a woman who had called about dancing at the club. Crafard was interested in a date and they spoke for hours. He slept in on Friday morning, and was woken up by Andy Armstrong, the manager of the club, right after the assassination.

On page 449, Garrison believe he has caught Crafard in a slip. He is asked why Anderson had not woken him up earlier since he knew Crafard wanted to go to the parade. His answer; "He knew I said something about it. I don't know, I think maybe he had been down and saw us - down to see some of it or something and then come back to the club or something." And then Garrison's notes, "Hubert [of the Warren Commission] nails it down as not unusual."

Volume XII, page 454 - 455. Jack Ruby invites Crafard to go over to his sister's house on the late afternoon of November 22. Garrison finds this very suspicious and notes "what does he almost say here?"

Volume XIII, page 486 - 487. For some reason, Garrison is extremely interested in Union Drilling.

Volume XIII, page 488 - 489. Pure propinquity. Garrison says "Note: Nancy Perrin went to Dallas to find her husband." Nancy Perrin Rich had nothing to do with Larry Crafard - she claimed to have worked for Jack Ruby as a waitress for a short time. She had been living in New Orleans, and her husband left her - she eventually found him in Dallas. By the way, Garrison ended up believing that her husband was a grassy knoll gunman. See my book, On The Trail of Delusion, chapter 16: "Arsenic and Old Perrin."

Volume XIII, page 506. Unfortunately "they never got back to Union Drilling."

Volum XIV, page 3. Boeing Insurance was very suspicious - was it involved in the military industrial complex? Check our earlier blog post about the military industrial complex.

Volume XIV, page 4. There appeared to be some pages missing in Crafard's notebook, although he wasn't at all certain. But Garrison writes "who took out? Dal PD [Dallas Police Department] or FBI?" I'm surprised he didn't consider the CIA.

We've previously blogged about Jim Garrison, the Cryptologist. Well, he put his cryptographic skills to use in examining the notebooks of Crafard and Oswald. Here is an entry from the Tom Bethell diary:

"Garrison has been doing a great deal of research into the various Ruby or Crafard notebooks published in the 26 vols, and the Oswald address book. He's quite proud of this research, and reckons he's probably the world expert in this sub-topic. (He probably is.) He says the annotation "Midland 2550" occurs in the Crafard book and "Newton 2550" in the Oswald book. Garrison suggest these are "Callsigns" on some radio frequency. (I'm not sure that G is right that both these annotations do occur, but he might be. I checked and could only find one, the Oswald one I think.)"

Newton 2550 does occur in Crafard's notebook, and he was asked about it. He said someone else wrote it down. I don't see a notation for Midland 2550 in Oswald's notebook. Not that it matters - since the suggestion that these are "callsigns" is insane.

William Boxley also examined Crafard's testimony in a memo to Garrison. I don't know which came first - the Boxley memo or the annotated testimony above.

This is an insane memo. Right at the start Boxley writes that Crafard's testimony is "textbook quality for any intelligence service's course in 'Resistance to Interrogation.'" Crafard is "travelling in the off-beat church league, perhaps as a courier or better." And that phone call with that girl he was trying to get a date with, well, "Could this have been cover to have accounted for the telephone having been busy that length of time in case reporters or others may have tried to call RUBY and learned it was busy, while RUBY was supposed to be out of the club?"

You can see the Garrison notation at the bottom: "Q: Where is Crafard now? Doing what?"

Suspicions about Crafard went into overdrive with this Penn Jones article from 1972, in which he accuses Crafard of killing J.D. Tippit:

Where did Penn Jones get this from? Well, either from Garrison or vice-versa. After the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the perjury proceedings against Garrison in November 1972, journalist Ron Rosenbaum called Garrison. Here is his entire article from the Village Voice from January 18. 1973. The man referred to with blanks is Crafard.

Garrison blamed the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the assassination, but Rosenbaum probed further:

"I confessed to Garrison that I was less interested in the global motivations of the four Joint Chiefs than I was in the worldly ambitions of the four hired killers he mentioned in his statement. Who were they and what had become of them?
"Well actually there were more than four," he told me. "You had four gunmen, but each one had an assistant gunman, and you had to have a man in charge, and you had to have a communications man, and - I didn't bother to go into it, but you had two people who created a diversion just as the parade rounded from Main."
Well, what about the man who fired the fatal shot? What was his name and what became of him?
"Well I have no way of hunting any of them down now. If I gave you, off the record, the name of one of the two who was firing from the grassy knoll, which is where the fatal shot came from maybe you could track him down all right?"
"Okay," said I.
"All right?" said Garrison
"Uh huh."
"I don't want it surfacing."
"All right. One of the men on the grassy knoll was named _________"
"Uh hum."
"________ is a nickname. His full name is __________."

Later in the article, Garrison is quoted as saying "...we came across - just to give you a rough idea - such things that seemed to be mysterious like the Tippit slaying, cease to be mysterious. That was _________ again."

Here is a letter that Harold Weisberg sent someone regarding the Rosenbaum article.

"The full meaning of what Julia Ann Mercer said (+ of its concealment by authorities) will grow upon you, I am sure. For one thing, it puts into the proper perspective the real Jack Ruby (and his anti-Castro activities, as a member of the Mafia branch of the Agency in the late '50's and early '30's). For another, it clarifies how - by the time Sunday came - Ruby had been maneuvered into a posture, from which he could not extricate himself, when he was told to eliminate Oswald. And finally, it provides a lead for one of the men on the grassy knoll who is, as well, an excellent candidate as the man who killed Tippit (with an automatic, needless to say, and not a revolver). You might want to photostat the Mercer statements and cross-file the copies under Laverne Crafard - wherever he is now."

In 1986, Jim Garrison contacted researchers Fred Newcomb and Larry Haapanen asking for more information on Fred Crisman for his book. On 9/24/1986, Haapanen talked to Garrison on the phone, and here is his transcription of his notes from the call:

"Beckham admitted he was in Banister's operation
Crafard -- from Dallas, OR -- 15 mi. from Crisman
Julia Ann Mercer -- Crafard was man w/rifle?
Tippitt shooting -- Crafard?
Reilly's -- LHO's 'nesting place' ... 'never seriously worked there.'
--- LHO visited anti-Castro group n. of Lake w/TV station cameraman one day.
Boeing confirmed FC worked there --but that's all they'd say."

Notice the propinquity - Crafard once lived in Dallas, Oregon, some 15 minutes from Fred Crisman, and thus they might be connected.

In 1992, Ron Rosenbaum wrote an article for Time Magazine about the film JFK and conspiracy theories. And he concluded his Larry Crafard story:

Rosenbaum writes, in the last section:

"And then in the early '80s, just when his life seemed to have settled down, renewed interest in the J.F.K. case made his name an object of speculation again: it appeared in a book on the organized-crime connections to Ruby and the assassination. His new wife read the book and began to get a little paranoid. She wondered about the serious car accident they had had: Was it really an accident? Eventually, things began to go awry: his marriage broke up, he lost his job."

The book that Rosenbaum referred to was Contract on America by David Scheim. Here are two paragraphs from his book - first from page 133:

And a paragraph from page 148:

"The fleeing Larry Crafard...."

Researcher Peter Whitmey tracked down Crafard and spoke to him in 2001. Like other witnesses in the case (Kerry Thornley comes to mind), Crafard started to become a little paranoid:

"I also learned from Curtis that in 1980 he and his wife, along with two of their four children, were involved in a serious car accident, caused by faulty steering, even though the vehicle was quite new. Curtis was convinced that someone had tampered with the steering, which has made him fearful for his safety ever since. After his wife read Contract on America, by David Scheim, which I had recommended, she too seemed suspicious of the accident. I also recall when I was speaking to Craford in the late 1990s on the phone, apparently my voice was fading in and out, which caused Curtis to believe that the line was tapped."

Crafard told Whitmey he had been a hit man in San Francisco; had been selected for covert operations as a demolitons expert; and involved in intelligence work. Few people would believe any of this (except for people like Joan Mellen), but it gets worse. Mort Sahl even managed to mention Larry Crafard in his act:

During the course of my research, I had been notified by another researcher in the late 1990s that Craford was referred to by the veteran stand-up comedian and former Garrison supporter, Mort Sahl, in an off-Broadway play entitled “Mort Sahl’s America”, which had been reviewed in the April 25, 1994 issue of The New Yorker by the senior drama critic John Lahr. Sahl gave the impression during his off-Broadway performance that he was reading from the Warren Report (he had all 26 volumes as part of the set). Obviously he wasn’t, as some of the details related to the Warren Commission’s interview with Craford were not correct.
According to Sahl, Earl Warren and Gerald Ford had conducted the interview, when, in fact, it was lawyers Leon Hubert and Burt Griffin; Craford was described as having been a bartender at Ruby’s club, when he was a handyman, who occasionally worked behind the bar; also, Craford claimed to have been a “master sniper while in the Marine Corps”, when apparently he received only basic weapons training while serving in the U.S. Army (from which he was released after only fourteen months service); he had supposedly been “seized” by the FBI while “hightailing it” out of Dallas, suggesting he was arrested at some point, when, actually, he was contacted by agents in northern Michigan a week later and brought to the local office for questioning, as well as being photographed; and he allegedly stated to someone before being “seized” that the authorities were not going to “pin this on me.”
After obtaining a copy of the review, along with a speech based on it made by former HSCA researcher Gaeton Fonzi (given at a Dallas JFK conference and later published in the JFK magazine “Lancer” and website), I wrote to Debra Conway at “JFK Lancer”, Craford, Fonzi, Sahl (through his website) and The New Yorker. As a result of my e-mail to Ms. Conway, the section about Craford in Fonzi’s speech was initially deleted in the on-line version of Fonzi’s speech, but later was reinserted with a footnote quoting from my e-mail with Ms. Conway’s response. Amazingly, Craford was more amused than upset by the reference to him and the numerous factual errors. Even though there was a strong suggestion made that he might have been involved in the assassination, he had no desire to speak to a lawyer in regard to a possible defamation suit, prefering to remain out of the media spotlight. Fonzi was somewhat defensive, but clearly had been under the impression that Sahl’s reading of the Warren Commission’s interview with Craford was accurate, and not a humorous means by which Sahl could make his point. No one at Sahl’s website got back to me.

Note that Whitmey refers to Crafard as Craford; at one point he changed his last name.

Whitmey discusses more of the nonsense about Crafard in his article - so have a read if you want to learn more..

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