THE PHANTOM POLYGRAPH TEST
We know that during the last few weeks before the assassination Oswald lived in a furnished room in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, while his wife and children lived with Mrs. Ruth Paine in Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Oswald had applied for a job at the Book Depository at the suggestion of a neighbor of Mrs. Paine's, Mrs. Linnie Mae Randle. Mrs. Randle's brother, 19-year-old Buell Wesley Frazier, was employed at the Book Depository and traveled between Irving and Dallas every day.
Oswald spent his weekends with his wife at the Paine home in Irving. He would ride out on Friday evenings with Frazier, and Frazier would drive him back to Dallas on Monday mornings. This pattern, however, was interrupted on November 21st, Thursday, before the assassination, when Oswald rode out to Irving with Frazier.
On Friday morning, the morning of the assassination, he rode back to the Book Depository with Frazier, carrying the brown paper parcel the Commission concluded contained a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. Here is a 1964 television interview in which Frazier describes the incident:
FRAZIER: Well, he come to me on the Thursday, November the 21st, and asked me could he ride home with me that evening. And I said, "Why, yes," and I said, "Why are you going home this afternoon?" And he replied that he wanted to go home and pick up some curtain rods so he could put some curtain rods up in his apartment. And I said, "Oh, bery well," and then I said, "Well, will you be going home with me tomorrow, also?" And he said, "No." He said he wouldn't be going home with me on the 22nd.
CBS REPORTER: So he told you that he wanted to come out there and pick up some curtain rods, and this was on Thursday morning?
FRAZIER: Yes, sir.
CBS REPORTER: And at that time he told you that he would not ride home with you Friday night?
The first time that Frazier told that story was on the night of November 22nd, 1963, and as a matter of fact, at the time that he told it he was under arrest. And that incident did not come across in the Warren Report and it is not mentioned by any of the students of the Warren Commission. But it is documented in Volume XXIV of the Hearings on pages 292 and 293, which is a Dallas Police report of the incident.
A warrant was issued for Frazier's arrest in the early evening, and he was tracked down in Irving, Texas, where he was visiting his father at a hospital. He was placed under arrest and taken to his home, where his room was searched. An Enfield .303 rifle was confiscated, along with a box of ammunition and other personal effects. And he was taken to the Dallas Police Headquarters for interrogation. And that's where he first told that story.
At some time around 9 PM that eveing, he was sent home by Captain Will Fritz, who was conducting the investigation. He was put into a Dallas Police car and taken in the general direction of Irving. But before the police car reached Irving, it received a radio message from Police Headquarters to bring him back.
Upon his return, he was asked if he'd be willing to take a polygraph test regarding the circumstances of the story he had told about the curtain rods and about driving Oswald to and from the Book Depository. Apparently he agreed to take that polygraph test.
O'Toole- 2 (of
And when I was in Dallas in 1973 I spoke with Mr. Paul Bentley, who at that time was the senior polygraph examiner on the Dallas Police force:
O'TOOLE: There's one other area that I didn't get into, that I really don't know about- this guy Frazier who knew Oswald before the assassination. I haven't had a lot of success trying to hunt him down. Apparently he is in the Army now.
BENTLEY: I see.
O'TOOLE: But I did discover something of interest: that he was arrested by Captain Fritz the night of the assassination and given a polygraph examination. I was wondering- I know that you had a problem with your ankle, so I assume you were not the one-
BENTLEY: I don't recall that even occurring. I think, had he been given an examination, I would have known about it. But this may be 100% true and I can't recall-
O'TOOLE: This is in the Warren Report. I think it's in- wait a minute, I'm not sure if it's in the Warren Report. Our researchers for Penthouse noticed that-
BENTLEY: I can't recall. Frazier may have been and if this was the night of the assassination, I would not have been on duty.
BENTLEY: So it would possible have been R.D. Lewis-
BENTLEY: When the examination was given. I think R.D. was working for me at that time.
R.D. Lewis was, in fact, the polygraph examiner. He had given the polygraph examination to Buell Wesley Frazier, according to the police report published in Volume XXIV of the Hearings. In 1973 R.D. Lewis was still on the Dallas Police force, and I called him there, and this is the conversation that we had:
O'TOOLE: Detective Lewis, my name is George O'Toole. I'm a freelance writer and I'm working on a story about the Kennedy assassination. And I was wondering if I might have a few moments of your time now, if this isn't an inconvenient moment, I'd like to discuss a couple things with you.
LEWIS: Well, I don't know where I could be of any assistance.
O'TOOLE: I was talking to Mr. Paul Bentley, and I asked him- I interviewed him at some length and- about his recollections with the evening of the arrest of Oswald.
O'TOOLE: And I asked him would he think Oswald was given a polygraph examination. He said he didn't think he had. He would have been the one to do it. Although he was- was also he- I found out he injured his ankle during the arrest. He said that if there was such a polygraph examination given, it probably would have been yourself who did it.
LEWIS: Well, I didn't give him one. He wasn't given a polygraph examination.
O'TOOLE: He was not?
LEWIS: No, sir.
O'TOOLE: OK. There was another question. I found- my researchers tell me that there was a polygraph examination given to this gentleman who was an associate of Oswald's. A man named Buell Wesley Frazier. On the night of November 22nd. Would you have been the gentleman who gave that examination?
LEWIS: I'm not familiar with it. I don't remember conducting any examination whatsoever on Oswald or anyone connected with Oswald.
O'TOOLE: In other words, you didn't- you did not give anybody a polygraph examination that night?
LEWIS: No. Not connected with Oswald.
O'TOOLE: Not connected with Oswald. I see.
LEWIS: I'm sure of that, now that you mention it. But that's alright. I didn't give him one.
This is especially interesting because in 1963 there were only two polygraph examiners on the Dallas Police force, Paul Bentley and R.D. Lewis, and both of them told me they knew nothing about the Buell Wesley Frazier polygraph examination. Additionally, in the Dallas Police report published in Volume XXIV, it says that Lewis was called from home sometime late in the evening of November 22nd and made a special trip to the police station to give this polygraph examination, which took place between half past 11 and 20 past 12 that night.
And so, if I'm to believe R.D. Lewis, then either he did not give this examination, orelse he forgot being called in the middle of the night to give this examination in connection with the presidential assassination.
I started to seek out detectives' stories further by calling Lieutenant Gerald Hill, who was one of the officers who played a major role in the events of November 22, 1963. And he was still on the force in 1973. And I called Lieutenant Hill on the telephone, and this is what he told me when I raised the subject of the Frazier polygraph examination:
O'TOOLE: Let's see- I've been trying to get a hold of a guy named Buell Wesley Frazier. And this is the guy who had his car pool out to Irving.
O'TOOLE: Did you know him?
HILL: No, I never did even see him.
O'TOOLE: Hmm. OK. So he- OK. Frazier is an interesting character, by the way. My researcher sent me a copy from one of the 26 volumes that said he had been given a polygraph examination-
O'TOOLE: On the night of the assassination. Apparently he seemed pretty suspicious to Captain Fritz. But I haven't-
HILL: Well, now, he had to be suspicious to somebody else other than Fritz, because Fritz didn't believe in polygraphs.He didn't use 'em.
O'TOOLE: Is that right?
HILL: This is right.
HILL: He'd lose a case before he put anybody on the polygraph.
O'TOOLE: Well, now this is interesting, because according to the Warren Report, a polygraph examination was administered by a gentleman named Lewis, R.D. Lewis.
HILL: Yeah. Uh-huh.
O'TOOLE: But I spoke to Mr. Lewis, and he said he didn't recall giving him a polygraph examination or anybody else that night.
HILL: Yeah, like I say, if it was Fritz's show, probably no. Now this may be a situation where he was arrested either by the Sheriff's Office or arrested by the Irving PD, and they utilized our polygraph section to give the test. But if this guy was Fritz's prisoner, he did not get a polygraph, because
Fritz's own men, as long as he was there, if they wanted to put somebody on a polygraph, they had to do it behind his back.
O'TOOLE: Is that right?
O'TOOLE: Well, that's interesting.
HILL: He was, uh- he didn't- he didn't believe in it.
I found this very difficult to believe. I called Captain Fritz, who at that time was living in a hotel in downtown Dallas. And Captain Fritz very politely declined to discuss any aspect of the case with me, including what his attitude was toward the polygraph test.
I called Mr. Paul Bentley, who was the senior polygraph examiner I had first discussed the Frazier matter with. And I asked him if he could confirm what Hill had told me:
O'TOOLE: Mr. Bentley, this is George O'Toole again.
BENTLEY: Yes, George?
O'TOOLE: I'm sorry to bother you again. I just had one or two details I wanted to check with you.
O'TOOLE: I heard that Captain Fritz had absolutely no faith in the polygraph and he never used it. Can you confirm that?
BENTLEY: I cannot confirm that. It was used constantly in the Homicide & Robbery Bureau.
O'TOOLE: The individual who told me this said that Fritz just didn't believe in the polygraph and-
BENTLEY: I've run many, many examinations for Captain Fritz personally.
O'TOOLE: Uh-huh. OK.
BENTLEY: Many of 'em.
O'TOOLE: This gentleman told me no. I thought he had. I just wanted to check with you.
I found it very surprising that Gerald Hill had gotten that story wrong, because he served on the force since 1958, and Fritz had retired around 1970. And that meant that they were both on the force together for 12 years, during which time Fritz was chief of the robbery & homicide bureau. So it struck me as peculiar that a senior detective such as Lieutenant Hill wouldn't know whether Fritz had faith in the polygraph. And, as a matter of fact, it was extraordinary he would be misinformed on the subject.
I decided to check the matter further with another detective still on the force named Richard Stovall, who, by all accounts, was present during the Frazier polygraph examination:
O'TOOLE: Sergeant Stovall, my name is George O'Toole. I'm not sure whether I have the right Richard Stovall or not. But I'm looking for the gentleman who was involved with investigating Wesley Frazier during the Kennedy assassination time, with Detective Gus Rose. Was that yourself?
O'TOOLE: I was trying to reach Detective Rose and apparently he's away at school and I don't know where to reach him. I wonder if you'd mind chatting with me for a few moments? Won't take too much of your time. Uh, would that be all right?
STOVALL: Well, of course, it just depends. Uh-
O'TOOLE: Have you had a-
STOVALL: I don't know you and what you want.
O'TOOLE: OK. Well, let me- let me describe what I'm doing. I'm writing a magazine article on the-
some kind of history on the Kennedy assassination and it's just really a recapitulation of the assassination and then the things that have happened since then. And I was talking to Gerry Hill and Paul Bentley and a number of other people who were involved with the arrest. And we got to talking about polygraph examinations and whether Oswald had been given one. But I was looking in the Warren Report and it said there that Buell Wesley Frazier had been given a polygraph examination.
And I was trying to- I was trying to find out who had given him this examination and what the circumstances surrounding that were. And I was wondering if you recall that.
STOVALL: Mmm- I don't remember one was. In fact, I don't- I don't know that he did. That he had one at that time.
O'TOOLE: Uh-huh. But do you recall that he was given an examination?
STOVALL: Well, now, I don't know, I tell you. With that- with that being (as long as) that and then you- 25 years, that being that time.
STOVALL: Like I say- for what had happened.
STOVALL: Without looking back at my notes or anything, I couldn't tell you for sure.
O'TOOLE: Uh-huh. You don't recall-
STOVALL: But I do feel like he did have one.
O'TOOLE: Uh-huh. But you don't remember the details of it?
STOVALL: No. Because, see, when they gave those examinations, we weren't up there. Just the polygraph examiner was.
O'TOOLE: Just the polygraph examiner and the subject?
STOVALL: Well, as far as I know.
O'TOOLE: Uh-huh. Then- OK.
Apparently Mr. Stovall forgot that he himself had been present during the Frazier polygraph examination. Because that's what he told the Warren Commssion under oath in 1964. And I'll quote briefly from the transcript of his testimony. He was examined by Mr. Ball of the Commission staff:
MR. BALL: When you took the polygraph, you were present during the polygraph examination of Frazier, weren't you?
MR. STOVALL: Yes, sir.
MR. BALL: And during this examination, did you have before you the affidavit which Frazier had made?
MR. STOVALL: No, sir; I didn't.
MR. BALL: Who did the questioning?
MR. STOVALL: R.D. Lewis, he's the polygraph operator.
Since it appeared that R.D. Lewis was in fact the polygraph operator and he had given Buell Wesley Frazier a polygraph examination, I decided to call him once more and try and refresh his memory:
O'TOOLE: Mr. Lewis.
O'TOOLE: This is George O'Toole. You and I had a telephone conversation about two weeks ago. I'm a freelance writer. Do you recall the conversation?
O'TOOLE: I hate to bother you again and make a nuisance of myself, but there's something that I'm trying to check on. It's a small detail, and I'd like to try and jog your memory just a little bit. We were talking about polygraph examinations that you gave on the evening of the 22nd of November, and as I recall, you did not recollect giving one to Buell Wesley Frazier at that time.
LEWIS: Offhand, no, I don't remember giving anybody one.
O'TOOLE: Well, I spoke to Gus Rose, and he recollects that you did. And I also found a reference to it in the Warren Report that said you gave this man Buell Wesley Frazier a polygraph. And it's also in Jim Bishop's book- not that that's an authority-"The Day Kennedy Was Shot". And you have absolutely no recollection of this?
LEWIS: I don't remember it, no. I may have, but I don't remember running the guy. Of course I've run about, you know, 15 thousand-
O'TOOLE: Yeah, I know, and it's 10 years ago, but in the book it says that- and also in the Warren Report- it says that you were called at home that evening to come in and give the polygraph examination.
LEWIS: What day was Kennedy shot on?
O'TOOLE: He was shot on a Friday.
LEWIS: What- what was the date?
O'TOOLE: The 22nd of November.
LEWIS: 22nd. And, uh- I worked that evening.
O'TOOLE: You worked that evening. So, what time would you have gotten off?
LEWIS: 11 o'clock that night.
O'TOOLE: 11 o'clock?
LEWIS: I remember, because my son, I had a son down here. I remember when Kennedy got shot, I was on my way to work, and I stopped at a pawn shop to look for a radio or something. I don't remember what I was looking for, but I stopped at a pawn shop somewhere on South Haskell.
LEWIS: And just before i got out of the car, around one or something like that, I got out of my car to go in the store- might have been later than that- and it came out over the news that he had been shot. And I came on downtown and went to work. I went to work at 3 that day and got off at 11. So there wouldn't be any reason for them to call me from home.
O'TOOLE: Well, this was- according to the report they called you about 11. I think it was after 11 o'clock.
LEWIS: Oh, well, that may have been so then.
O'TOOLE: Do you recollect giving anybody a polygraph test that day? That evening?
LEWIS: Well, now that you bring that up, it seems like I did get off that night and went home, and then they called me back. But I don't remember any of the details about it or anything.
O'TOOLE: You don't remember who it was that you gave the test-
LEWIS: No. I couldn't. If my life depended on it I couldn't remember.
O'TOOLE: Hm-hmm. Hm-hmm.
LEWIS: If I read a report, you know, I might recollect, I might remember. But just to say I run anybody. I do remember running a case or two regarding the Kennedy deal, you know. But I have to say that- not people who were accused of shooting him or something, but I don't remember the details or the circumstances.
O'TOOLE: I see, I see. Well, that would have been-
LEWIS: I don't remember it being that day, you know.
LEWIS: Matter of fact, I think I run several people, but it seems to me, about the best I can remember, it was days after, and not the same day. I just- but there again, I could be mistaken about that part of it.
O'TOOLE: Well, it was a long time ago, and I guess you do run a lot of cases. OK, well, I'm sorry to bother you again-
LEWIS: If I had some, you know- what was the details supposed to have been regarding it, do you know?
O'TOOLE: Well, according to the Warren Report, this is the sequence of events: Frazier, who was Oswald's associate- he drove back and forth with him to Irving on weekends- Frazier was questioned by the police and he told them that Oswald had come in that morning with a package Oswald claimed contained curtain rods. And he also said that Oswald declared he wouldn't he wouldn't be going back to Irving that weekend.
Now, they released Frazier and put him in a police car. I think- I think it was Officer Stovall who was driving him home. And halfway out to Irving, he got a radio message to bring him back. And they brought him back, and they asked him if he'd take a polygraph test.
Now, according to- according to the report I've got, they called you at home and asked you to come in. It took you about an hour to come in. You got in about midnight, I guess. And he was given the test. Now, I don't know precisely what they asked him, but I presume it was to verify his story that Oswald had this package of curtain rods- what he claimed to be curtain rods.
LEWIS: yeah, now I remember running some guy regarding a package and knowing Oswald and curtain rods and so forth. I do remember that, but I don't remember it being the same day or even in the same 24-hour period that the killing happened.
O'TOOLE: I see.
LEWIS: But I do remember running somebody regarding curtain rods and was riding back and forth with Oswald, and did the guy see any gun and so forth.
O'TOOLE: I see. That's the guy. Now, I know this is asking a lot, but do you remember offhand the results of that polygraph examination? Did you get a clear indication that the man was telling the truth?
LEWIS: I don't offhand remember, but I would say that he did, otherwise it would have stuck with me.
LEWIS: 'Cause I remember things more or less most of the time that are adverse, and-
O'TOOLE: Yes. Right.
LEWIS: That are negative. Because if you had a man that was guilty- what I'd consider a man that was guilty- my intention would have been to apply the verdict.
LEWIS: And if I don't make one- now remember this is police talk, so I'm not-
O'TOOLE: Hm-hmm. Right.
LEWIS: If I didn't break him, then I would feel that I had applied and let them go. And so I don't remember what I did along that line. So I didn't- must have been like I'd give a tourist- give me adverse effects or something.
O'TOOLE: There was one detail I wanted to check with you. According to the Jim Bishop book- which admittedly isn't any kind of authority- when you gave the polygraph to tis guy there were 5 officers standing either in the room or in the doorway.
LEWIS: Uh-huh. Everyone stands in the room when they're giving the test.
O'TOOLE: That's what- that's what I thought. That's where i'm not certain.
LEWIS: Remember that while we were doing the test, specifically- we were standing. Everybody was standing in the room while we're giving the test.
O'TOOLE: You just- your standard procedure would be just you and the test subject. That's what I thought.
O'TOOLE: Uh, and as a- you never gave a test to Oswald?
O'TOOLE: OK. OK, well look, I'm sorry to bother you again. I just wanted to clear up that one detail. And I certainly appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.
LEWIS: You bet.
One has to make up one's own mind as to what the significance of all this is. But I think I should point out that Buell Wesley Frazier is the only source of the story that Oswald claimed- with the brown paper package that he allegedly brought to the Book Depository- contained curtain rods. And Frazier and his sister are the only witnesses who can even attest that there was a brown paper package.
This was a keystone to the Warren Commission's theory that Oswald was a lone nut. Because if he decided the day before the assassination to go out to Irving to get his gun, then obviously it was, in fact, a spur of the moment decision, and it was not a concerted effort by a conspiracy. Thus, Buell Wesley Frazier's credibility is really pivotal to the Warren Commission's lone-assassin, lone-nut theory.
And it is extremely interesting that the polygraph examination was given in the first place. That it was given to Buell Wesley Frazier while he was under arrest and his Enfield rifle had been seized by police.
And I think it's interesting, and perhaps very significant, that R.D. Lewis denies any recollection of being called from his home in the middle of the night to give a polygraph examination related to the presidential assassination. That Richard Stovall denied being present during the test, when he had sworn he was before the Warren Commission 10 years ago.
And I think it's very significant that Lieutenant Hill claimed that Captain Fritz didn't believe in the polygraph. And that therefore the examination couldn't- could not have taken place. Because this is a very gratuitous falsehood. And it sounds as though it were offered in desperation.
R.D. Lewis never testified before the Warren Commission, never signed an affidavit and never gave any sworn testimony to the substance of this matter. And I should hope that in any new investigation he and Frazier and the other principals would be called to discuss this, once again, under oath. *******
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