“We’re going to kill President Kennedy when he comes to Dallas”
On the night of November 20, 1963, Louisiana State Police Lieutenant Francis Fruge was called to Moosa Memorial Hospital in Eunice, Louisiana. There he was given custody of Rose Cheramie (also known as Melba Christine Marcades), a heroin addict who was experiencing withdrawal symptoms. One of the two men with whom she had been traveling had thrown her out of the Silver Slipper lounge in Eunice earlier that evening. Cheramie had been hit by a car, suffering minor abrasions.
Fruge took Cheramie by ambulance to East Louisiana State Hospital in Jackson for treatment of her withdrawal symptoms; and, during the two hour trip, she responded to his questions.
She said she had been driving with the two men from Miami to Dallas before they stopped at the lounge in Eunice, and stated “We’re going to kill President Kennedy when he comes to Dallas in a few days”. Their combined purpose, she said, was “to number one, pick up some money, pick up her baby [being kept by another man], and to kill Kennedy”. Because of Cheramie’s condition, Fruge did not take her words seriously, even though he later testified that Cheramie had been very lucid during their trip.
At the East Louisiana State Hospital on November 21, Rose Cheramie said again, this time to hospital staff members, that President Kennedy was about to be killed in Dallas.
Immediately after Kennedy’s assassination the following day, Lieutenant Fruge called the hospital, telling them not to release Rose Cheramie until he could question her further. When he did so on November 25, Cheramie described the two men driving with her from Miami to Dallas as either Cubans or Italians.
As Fruge related Cheramie’s story to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, “The men were going to kill Kennedy [in Dallas] and she was going to check into the Rice Hotel [in Houston], where reservations were already made for her, and pick up 10 kilos of heroin from a seaman coming into Galveston. She was to pick up the money for the drug purchase from a man who was holding her baby. She would then take the drugs to Mexico.
The Louisiana State Police had decided to test the reliability of Cheramie’s story with Chief Customs Agent for the Galveston region, Nathan Durham. Durham confirmed that the ship with the seaman Cheramie had described was about to dock in Galveston and the seaman was on it. The police found that the man holding the money was a suspected drug trafficker. Police and customs agents tried to follow and trap the seaman, though he eluded them, but at least that much of Cheramie’s story checked out.
Colonel Morgan of the Louisiana State Police phoned Captain Will Fritz of the Dallas Police to tell him about Cheramie’s prediction of the assassination, the confirmed parts of her story, and that the Chief of Customs in Houston was holding her for further questioning. When Morgan had hung up from his conversation with Fritz, he turned to the other officers in the room and said “They don’t want her – they’re not interested”. By that time, Oswald had been captured and the Dallas Police wanted no further witnesses.
The Chief Customs Agent called the FBI to pass on the information received from Cheramie, but was told they did not want to question her.
As Cheramie’s story was being confirmed, she also told Fruge that she used to work for Jack Ruby as a nightclub stripper and, because of that employment, she knew Lee Harvey Oswald, saying the two men “had been shacking up for years”. Her testimony, if anyone had been willing to hear it, would have contradicted the Warren Report’s assertion that Ruby and Oswald were both lone killers who never met.
After both Dallas and federal investigative authorities refused to question Cheramie, the Chief Customs Agent released her in Houston and she disappeared.
On September 4, 1965, Rose Cheramie’s body was found at 3:00 AM on Highway 155, 1.7 miles east of Big Sandy, Texas. Cheramie had reportedly been run over by a car. Jerry Don Moore, the driver of the car in question, said he’d been driving from Big Sandy to his home in Tyler when he suddenly saw three or four suitcases lined up in the center of the road. He said he swerved to the right to avoid hitting them and nearly ran into the prone body of a woman lying at a 90-degree angle to the highway with her head toward the road. Moore applied the brakes as hard as he could. Moore said he noticed a 1963 or 1964 red Chevrolet parked at a rest stop across from the scene of the accident.
The investigating officer, J.A. Andrews, stated that Moore said “although he had attempted to avoid running over her, he ran over the top part of her skull, causing fatal injuries”. Moore, on the other hand, swore he never hit Cheramie. Instead, he took her to the nearest doctor in Big Sandy, and an ambulance took her from there to Gladewater Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. Although officer Andrews expressed some uncertainty about the incident, he closed the case as an accidental death because the woman’s relatives did not want to pursue the investigation.
Cheramie may, in fact, have been shot in the head before Moore found her on the highway and been left there along with the suitcases to create an accident to cover the murder. Records at Gladewater Hospital describe a “deep punctate stellate” (starlike) wound to her right forehead. Dr. Charles A. Crenshaw commented in his book, JFK: Conspiracy of Silence, that “The wound in Cheramie’s forehead as described, according to medical textbooks, occurs in contact gunshot wounds – that is, when a gun barrel is placed against a victim’s body and discharged. It is especially applicable to a gunshot wound of the skull…”
Cheramie’s autopsy “cannot be found” according to the authorities. Because of the suspicious conditions and unanswered questions surrounding her death, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison wanted to exhume Cheramie’s body, but the local Texas authorities refused to cooperate.
After her death, Rose Cheramie continued to be a source of critical information on the assassination of President Kennedy.
In 1967, the Louisiana State Police assigned Lieutenant Fruge to work with Jim Garrison in his investigation of JFK’s murder. Fruge then interviewed the owner of the Silver Slipper Lounge, where Cheramie had been thrown out and hit by a car on November 20, 1963, before she shared her prediction of Kennedy’s murder. Mac Manual had continued to be the owner of the Silver Slipper, a known house of prostitution.
Mac Manual remembered that night quite well when the two men and Rose Cheramie got into a fight. Manual said they had several drinks when they arrived and that Cheramie “appeared to be intoxicated when she got there; she started raising a ruckus; one of the men kind of slapped her around and threw her outside”.
Manual told Fruge that he recognized the two men with Cheramie as soon as they walked in, since he had worked with them. They were “pimps who had been to my place before, hauling prostitutes from Florida”.
Lieutenant Fruge had brought a stack of photographs from the New Orleans District Attorney’s office, and Mac Manual picked out his two business associates. They were more than just pimps, however. The two men he identified were Sergio Arcacha Smith and Emilio Santana, two anti-Castro Cuban exiles with CIA credentials.
Emilio Santana admitted in an interview with Jim Garrison’s office that the CIA hired him on August 27, 1962, the evening of the day he arrived in Miami as an exile from his native Cuba. Santana was immediately employed by the Agency as a crewmember on a boat sailing back to Cuba, carrying weapons and electronic equipment for CIA-sponsored guerilla actions. He was a CIA employee, he said, during 1962 and 1963. As a Cuban fisherman, he had intimate knowledge of the Cuban coastline, which made him a valuable asset in piloting boats that smuggled CIA operatives in and out of Cuba.
He acknowledged piloting a boat that was off the coast of Cuba for twenty days at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis – a boat which would have been carrying one of the unauthorized commando teams that CIA Special Operations organizer William Harvey dispatched to Cuba at the height of the crisis, igniting the fury of Robert Kennedy for the CIA’s covert provocation of nuclear war. President Kennedy’s refusal then, as at the Bay of Pigs, to attack Cuba, and his crisis-resolving pledge to Khrushchev never to do so, provoked a counter-anger in the CIA extending down into the exile community that included Emilio Santana.
The man Mac Manual identified as Rose Cheramie’s other companion, Sergio Arcacha Smith, had a more commanding role in the CIA’s anti-Castro network.
Sergio Arcacha Smith had been a prominent Cuban diplomat for the Batista regime before it was overthrown by the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro. He had been Cuba’s diplomatic consul in Madrid, Rome, Mexico City and Bombay. Later, he was a successful businessman with a factory in Caracas, Venezuela. After becoming active there in the anti-Castro movement, he was arrested by the government of Venezuela on June 29, 1960, but the American Embassy came to his assistance, issuing non-immigrant visas to him and his family.
After arriving in the US, Arcacha Smith became the New Orleans delegate to the FRD (Frente Revolucionario Democratico), which a CIA document states “was organized and supported by the Agency”. The FRA “was used as a front for recruitment of Brigade 2506 for the [Bay of Pigs] invasion”. Arcacha admitted that he had helped train the Bay of Pigs invasion force. When the FRD was phased out, Arcacha established the New Orleans chapter of the Cuban Revolutionary Council, the Cuban “government in exile” organized by the CIA.
Guy Bannister, the detective/intelligence agent who would guide Oswald in the summer of 1963 in his New Orleans Fair Play for Cuba leafleting ruse, also worked closely with Arcacha Smith in 1961-62, helping to raise funds for the Cuban Revolutionary Council.
David Lewis, a former employee of Guy Bannister, told the New Orleans District Attorney’s office that he had witnessed a meeting in the late summer of 1963 at Mancuso’s Restaurant between Sergio Arcacha Smith, Lee Harvey Oswald, and a man named Carlos, who “were involved in some business which dealt with Cuba” and that Arcacha “appeared to be the boss”.
Arcacha had also been named by CIA double agent Richard Case Nagell as one of the participants along with Oswald in a late August 1963 planning meeting for killing Kennedy. On September 20, 1963, in El Paso TX, counterintelligence agent Richard Case Nagell walked into a bank and fired two pistol shots into a plaster wall just below the ceiling. He then waited outside to be arrested and told the FBI, “I would rather be arrested than commit murder and treason”.
Dick Russell’s book, The Man Who Knew Too Much, tells the story of Nagell being recruited by the Soviet KGB to kill Lee Harvey Oswald and thereby prevent JFK’s assassination.
Richard Case Nagell had been a US Army counterintelligence officer from 1955 to 1959. He was assigned to Field Operations Intelligence (FOI), which he later described as “a covert extension of CIA policy and activity designed to conceal the true nature of CIA objectives”. During his training in Japan, Nagell was familiarized with “simple and intricate weapons to be used in assassinations”. He was also “advised that in the event I was apprehended, killed or compromised during the performance of my illegal FOI duties, the Department of the Army would publicly disclaim any knowledge of or connection with such duties, exercising its right of plausible denial”.
In the late fifties, Nagel’s role as a double agent in liaison with Soviet intelligence allowed his path to converge with that of Lee Harvey Oswald. Both men worked in a counterintelligence operation with the code name “Hidell”, which Oswald later used as part of his alias, “Alek James Hidell”.
Assigned by the KGB to monitor Lee Harvey Oswald, Nagell became involved in New Orleans and Texas with Oswald and two Cuban exiles using the “war names” “Angel” and “Leopoldo” in what he saw was a large operation to kill JFK. He identified Angel’s and Leopoldo’s CIA-financed group as Alpha 66. (Leopoldo and Angel were also the names given by the two men who showed up with “Leon Oswald” in September 1963 on the doorstep of Sylvia Odio, the daughter of imprisoned anti-Castro organizer, Amador Odio.)
Alpha 66 was a group of Cuban exile paramilitaries who were directed by David Atlee Phillips, Chief of Covert Action at the CIA’s Mexico City Station. In early 1963, Phillips deployed Alpha 66 in attacks on Russian ships in Cuban ports to draw JFK into a war with Cuba.
In September of 1963, Nagell was ordered by the KGB to convince Oswald that he was being set up by Angel and Leopoldo as the assassination patsy – or, if that failed, to murder Oswald in Mexico City. Nagell met with Oswald in New Orleans and warned him, but Oswald was evasive and unresponsive to Nagell’s appeals to quit the assassination plot.
Rather than carry out the KGB’s order to kill Oswald, Nagell sent a registered letter to J. Edgar Hoover on September 17, 1963, warning of the president’s impending assassination. The FBI later denied any knowledge of such a letter.
Having put his warning on record, Nagell then decided to remove himself from any possible role in the assassination plot. He had little choice. His CIA case agent had suddenly cut him off to sever his connection to the Agency. If Nagell had followed his KGB orders to terminate Oswald, he would be viewed by the CIA as a traitor. If he went along with the plot to kill Kennedy, he would be a traitor to his country as well as his KGB handlers.
On September 20, 1963, Nagel walked into a bank in El Paso TX and calmly fired two shots from a Colt .45 pistol into a plaster wall just below the bank’s ceiling. He then went outside and waited in his car until a police officer came to arrest him. When questioned by the FBI, Nagell made only one statement: “I would rather be arrested than commit murder and treason.”
In 1967 as a federal prisoner in Springfield, Missouri, Nagell contacted New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison and offered to turn over a secret tape recording of a meeting of Oswald, Angel and Arcacha, planning the assassination of President Kennedy. When Nagell learned, however, that Garrison’s staff member and intermediary revealed he had been a CIA officer, he withdrew the offer.
For the rest of his life, Richard Case Nagell kept his secrets to himself, fearful for the safety of his family, and survived three attempts on his life in the late 1960s.
On October 31, 1995, the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB) mailed Nagell a letter seeking access to documents he claimed to have had about a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, and wanted a sworn deposition as well. Nagell’s friend and biographer, Dick Russell, believed that “if an official government body ever took him seriously”, Nagell “would probably cooperate”.
On November 1, 1995, the day after the ARRB letter was mailed, Richard Case Nagell was found dead in the bathroom of his Los Angeles home. The autopsy concluded that he died of a heart attack, but his niece said he had no history of heart problems and that his health had been good until a week and a half before his death when his equilibrium suddenly failed and he fell and required hospitalization. Concerned and suspicious, Nagell had phoned his niece and asked neighbors to check on him every day.
Nagell had, however, entrusted his niece with the knowledge of a purple trunk in which he had stored “what everybody is trying to get ahold of”. Robert Nagell, Richard’s son, discovered in his father’s house after his death the address of a Tucson, Arizona storage unit, and drove immediately to the site but found only family items and no purple trunk. While Robert was racing to Tuscon to retrieve the evidence of an assassination conspiracy, his own house in California was being broken into and ransacked.
Leroy Fletcher Prouty (1917 – 2001) served as Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President John F. Kennedy. A former colonel in the United States Air Force, he retired from military service to become a banker, and subsequently became a critic of U.S. foreign policy, particularly the covert activities of the CIA about which he had considerable insider knowledge. Prouty, along with Richard Case Nagell, was the inspiration for the character “Mr. X” in Oliver Stone’s movie JFK.
In the JFK film, Mr. X tells Jim Garrison: “The organizing principle of any society, Mr. Garrison, is for war. The authority of the state over its people resides in its war powers. Kennedy wanted to end the Cold War in his second term. He wanted to call off the moon race and cooperate with the Soviets. He signed a treaty to ban nuclear testing. He refused to invade Cuba in 1962. He set out to withdraw from Vietnam. But all that ended on the 22nd of November, 1963.”
Jim Garrison: “I never realized Kennedy was so dangerous to the establishment. Is that why?”
X: “Well that’s the real question, isn’t it? Why? The how and the who is just scenery for the public. Oswald, Ruby, Cuba, the Mafia. Keeps ’em guessing like some kind of parlor game, prevents ’em from asking the most important question, why? Why was Kennedy killed? Who benefited? Who has the power to cover it up? Who?”
by Robert Riversong: may be reproduced with attribution for non-commercial purposes
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