Sandra Moffett (Lillie Mae McMaines) - The Forgotten Witness
Updated: Oct 11, 2021
Sandra Moffett [born Lillie Mae Moffett] hung out with Perry Russo in New Orleans in the 1960s. She considered herself to be his girlfriend, but his interest was more in having her lure young men to Russo's apartment so they could be photographed or filmed.
When Russo was hypnotized in New Orleans, he said that Sandra Moffett was at the party with Clay Bertrand, David Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald. Here are a few excerpts from Russo's third hypnosis session from March 12, 1967:
So, Russo and his friend Lefty Peterson picked up Sandra Moffett and went to David Ferrie's house. And everybody is already there, including Clem Bertrand.
While Sandra Moffett and Lefty Peterson were there, the conversation turned to President Kennedy. Russo believed this made an impression on Peterson because he claims Peterson "said that everybody's nuts."
Some people left the party but Sandra Moffett stayed and, according to Russo, was there with Clem Bertrand, Leon Oswald, David Ferrie, and Lefty Peterson. One other person even tried to "put the make" on Moffett.
This made Sandra Moffett and Lefty Peterson people of extreme interest to Garrison [a future post will look at Lefty Peterson]. But, first, they had to find Moffett. She had gotten married to a truck driver and part-time minister and had made a new life for herself in Omaha, Nebraska. She was now going by her legal name Lillie Mae and her married surname McMaines.
Garrison sent two policemen to Omaha to try and convince her to return to New Orleans for questioning. They arrived at 10 P. M. and urged her to come to New Orleans. The next day Mr. and Mrs. McMaines went to the office of the County Attorney, Donald Knowles. The two officers came by for a discussion. Mr. McMaines consulted a lawyer who told them that they should not voluntarily leave Omaha. They left the meeting and were followed by the two policemen.
At 11 P. M. they returned to the McMaines' apartment, but the couple had left with all of their belongings. Knowles then told the detectives the next day that the McMaines had a lawyer, Richard Duskin, and they all huddled in a meeting. He offered to have Lillie Mae questioned in Omaha. The McMaines were scared that they would not be allowed to leave New Orleans if they went back for questioning.
Here is a memo that the two detectives wrote to Louis Ivon:
A few days later, Russo testified at the preliminary hearing and once again said that Sandra Moffett was at the party:
Russo had no issue with Dymond's question:
Moffett didn't just pop in, she stayed a couple of hours. So did Lefty Peterson.
The publicity from the preliminary hearing cause Mr. McMaines to lose his job as a truck driver. Lillie Mae McMaines also lost two jobs but did eventually find work in a cleaning company. Here is a story from the Omaha World-Herald from March 24, 1967:
Some comments about the article:
- Lillian McMaines had a child with Perry Russo in New Orleans, and the child was now living with her parents. When Russo found out she was pregnant, he told her to "get rid of it."
- She saw Perry Russo as "the big bully type."
- She was a party girl in New Orleans.
- The first time Lillian McMaines met David Ferrie was in 1965.
- In 1965, Perry Russo attempted suicide.
- Ms. McMaines never saw Lee Harvey Oswald, or Clay Bertrand.
- Ms. McMaines said that Russo mentioned here because "He probably thought 'good old Sandy; she'll stand up for me 'cause she loves me.'"
- Mr. McMaines said he lost his job because of the publicity from the case.
Jim Garrison then filed a warrant for the arrest of Lillie Mae McMaines. Bond was set at $5,000:
Lillie McMaines told the World-Herald that "she fears things in her past will be made public which are not relevant to Mr. Garrison's investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy." She added that she "would like to forget her New Orleans days."
Who can blame her? She knew that her private life would be ripped apart in New Orleans, let alone the possibility of being charged in the probe.
Detectives working for Clay Shaw's attorneys interviewed many friends of Perry Russo and they found many examples of Russo pimping out Moffett as a prostitute, or using her to lure boys to be photographed or filmed, while having sex with her. I have decided to leave their statements out of this blog. Perry Russo was a pretty horrible person.
By the way, it's interesting that not one friend of Perry Russo ever remembered him talking about Clay or Clem Bertrand, Leon Oswald, or about the party where the assassination of Kennedy was discussed.
I can clearly understand why Lillie McMaines wanted to just get on with her new life. Testifying in secret before the grand jury would have given a lot of material for Garrison to blackmail McMaines.
Garrison's investigators were even looking into her child:
They actually bothered Mrs. McMaines' father. He asked them not to get in touch with his daughter, 'as it would cause her too much mental anguish."
He is the birth certificate of the child:
Garrison went to court in New Orleans to get an order for the extradition of Lillian McMaines, and she was arrested in Omaha:
New Orleans States-Item, April 10, 1967
Lillie Mae was released on $1,000 bond.
Fortunately, a court in Omaha ruled against extradition. McMaines had moved to Iowa which did not have an agreement on extradition. I have to laugh that they used the conspiracy theory of "mysterious deaths" to help get the court to rule in her favor.
New Orleans States-Item, April 25, 1967
In June 1967, Lillie McMaines' lawyer Lex Hawkins had her take a polygraph examination.
She repeated her story about David Ferrie:
She also gave her opinion why Perry Russo was telling his story about a conspiracy party:
Lillie McMaines passed her lie detector test:
Interestingly, the polygraph examiner, Leonard Harrelson, informed the FBI that Perry Russo had failed a polygraph test in New Orleans. He had heard this from the examiner, Edward O'Donnell. See the last two pages of the above document.
You can read more about Perry Russo's lie detector test here.
Lillie McMaines' lawyer then wrote both Jim Garrison and Clay Shaw's attorneys, offering them an opportunity to depose her in Des Moines.
Edward Wegmann replied:
Unfortunately, Judge Haggerty would not allow them to take Lillie McMaines' deposition.
Having lost in court, Wegmann then sent another letter to McMaines' lawyer:
Lillie McMaines' deposition was finally taken on June 24, 1968. Here is a transcript. Only one side showed up:
Once again, Ms. McMaines denied being at the party with Perry Russo:
McMaines picked up her baby from the Infirmary on September 20th and then moved to Mobile, Alabama to live with her current boyfriend.
She only met David Ferrie in 1965:
She never met Clay Shaw:
Perry Russo never mentioned any of the names brought up in the Garrison investigation:
Her description of their encounter with the men from Garrison's office was harrowing:
Needless to say, Clay Shaw's defense was anxious for Lillie McMaines to come to New Orleans as a witness in his trial. However, she was scared:
The only way she would go to New Orleans was with an offer of immunity, and a motion was heard on the first day of the Clay Shaw trial:
The court then heard from James Alcock, Garrison's second-in-command:
The court ruled against Shaw's attorneys and Lillie McMaines did not testify in the Shaw trial.
At the trial, Perry Russo would not testify that Moffett was at the party:
Yes, Perry Russo only said that Moffett was at the party because Irvin Dymond forced him to:
So, how do the conspiracy books treat Sandra Moffett McMaines?
Jim Garrison, in On the Trail of the Assassins, said that Sandra Moffett was at the party, but only "for a while." (page 152) He then complains about the lack of cooperation from other states in extraditing witnesses: (page 181)
"This was the first time our office had ever failed in an extradition case, but unfortunately, as we continued to investigate the J.F.K. assassination, it would not be the last. Most of the extraditions I sought in this case were blocked as if a giant foot had stepped on my office. These included an attempt to extradite from Nebraska Perry Russo's ex-girl-friend Sandra Moffett, who had been at the party at David Ferrie's about which Russo had testified."
Not one word about her consistent denial that she was ever at the party; and the fact that no one from his office showed up at her deposition. Not one word about Russo's changing testimony. Had he agreed with a protective order from the court, she could have testified. But her testimony would have been most unwelcome.
James DiEugenio, in his book Destiny Betrayed, also says that Moffett was at the party but "both [Lefty Peterson as well] left early." (page 218) The only other mention of Moffett in his book relates to Garrison's extradition attempt. Not one word about her deposition, her denial of being at the party, and that fact that Russo had never mentioned to her the names of Oswald, Bertrand, or any other of the principals in the case. He ignores what Russo said about Moffett during hypnosis or in the preliminary hearing - that she was there for quite a bit of the party.
Bill Davy, in his book Let Justice Be Done, doesn't mention Moffett at all.
Joan Mellen is much the same in her book, And Justice For All, except that she does say, but only in a footnote, that Moffett "had met Ferrie only in 1965 ... so she could not have attended the party described by Russo." (page 529)
Lille Mae McMaines deserves more than a footnote.