The Kennedy assassination and the documents related to it have so many stories. Some real, some fake. It is sometimes hard to see the forest through the trees. This story is about someone who befriended Lee Harvey Oswald who claims to have ridden around in Carlos “The Godfather of New Orleans” Marcello’s Automobile, to have met Guy Bannister, and to have partied with David Ferrie.(1) In 1962 and 1963, New Orleans was an interesting place filled with all of the hatred and vitriol that the cold war could muster. There were Cubans who hated Castro, Americans who were pro-Castro, secret operations and infiltrators. And the 60’s. in all of its psychedelic drug induced free love, gave birth to one of the most interesting people involved in the whole Kennedy assassination. This person is Kerry Thornley.
If Thornley had lived in the age of Facebook he would have told some crazy stories about Oswald his marine buddy. He would have told stories about being mobster Johnny Roselli’s doorman, and Roselli telling him that the CIA killed Kennedy.(2) He would have shared Discordianism, the religion that he created with his boyhood friend, Greg Hill. There would be a group dedicated to “the worship of the goddess Eris” and his title Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst.(3) Perhaps Thornley said it best, “If organized religion is the opiate of the masses, disorganized religion is the marijuana of the lunatic fringe.”(4)
In reading through his affidavit signed on February 16, 1976 one does get the sense Thornley was without a doubt one interesting person. There are many revealing things, sometimes, too much information for polite company in this affidavit. What makes Thornley one of the most unique stories in the whole realm of the aftermath of the assassination of President Kennedy is that he wrote two books about Oswald. One book was written BEFORE the assassination, and the other one after. Thornley served in the Marines with Oswald in 1959. He was so intrigued by Lee and his defection to the Soviet Union, that when he was discharged and living in New Orleans, the place of Oswald’s birth, he decided base a fictional character on Oswald in his book titled “Idle Warriors”. Unfortunately for Thornley, his book was never picked up by a publisher prior to the assassination (5)
I therefore decided to write a novel about a young marine who becomes disillusioned with the United States as a result of his overseas tour of duty in the Marine Corps and in the end defects to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The title that I chose for this first novel attempt was The Idle Warriors.(6)
The question is, what did Thornley do after the assassination? It appears that he himself began to tell people about his novel. He admitted around New Orleans bars, like the Bourbon House, that he knew Oswald. When friends would introduce him to other patrons he would say, “Yeah, I masterminded the assassination.”(7) After researching Thornley, it is clear that he was not taking these types of statements seriously and it was this sense of humor and enjoyment of being a mischief maker, that eventually got him noticed by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison who was made famous by Oliver Stone’s movie JFK.
Jim Garrison called Thornley to testify before the Orleans Parish Grand Jury on February 8, 1968. Thornley was asked if he had contact with Lee Harvey Oswald while he was in New Orleans. (8) Thornley was one of the Marines who testified about Oswald to the Warren Commission in 1964. In both instances, 1964(9) and in 1968,(10) his testimony is 100% consistent. He did not speak to or see Oswald after he left the Marines in 1959.
District Attorney Garrison charged Thornley with perjury. He believed that he had enough witnesses to clearly place Kerry Thornley with Oswald in the summer of 1963. His star witnesses were two patrons of the Bourbon House, Barbara Reed (11) and Peter Deangeano (12). Both claimed that sometime in late August/September Oswald was with Thornley at the Bourbon House. What is important to note is that Jim Garrison charged Thornley with perjury specific to the month of September 1963 at a time when some recent authors claimed he was with Oswald in May and June of 1963. (13)
The founder of the religion Discordianism, the god of chaos, found himself in trouble. Jim Garrison charged him with perjury, but what ensued was a witch hunt of epic proportion. Jim Garrison questioned Thornley about a great many things when he was under oath. His investigation of Thornley was conducted with suspicious methodology. Thornley’s photograph was altered. The image was flipped and and an artist was asked to draw on the photograph to make Thornley look like Oswald. It was not until Thornley’s attorney stepped in that the photographs were disavowed by James Alcock, a member of Garrison’s staff.
What is extremely important to this story is that Thornley was not in New Orleans for the bulk of the time that Oswald was in New Orleans. Kerry Thornley was travelling. Thornley was consistent in his Warren Commission testimony in 1964, in his Orleans Parish testimony in 1968, and in his 1976 affidavit that he was travelling to California, leaving in early May, and arriving in California on May 5, 1963. He stayed in California until arriving back in New Orleans on September 4, 1963. In 1977 the House Select Committee on Assassinations once again followed up on Thornley. Famed assassination researcher Gaeton Fonzi investigated Thornley. His investigation in to Thornley concluded that he was not in New Orleans until September. His investigation concluded that Thornley’s story had been “corroborated” and was true that he did not have contact with Oswald during the time period that Oswald was in New Orleans. He concluded that there was little time for the two of them to have been in contact with each other.(15) Therefore we have three separate investigations, all placing Thornley outside of New Orleans from early May 1963 until early September 1963.
In 2010, Kerry Thornley was once again accused, this time by author Judyth Vary Baker in her book Me & Lee: How I Came to Know, Love and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald. Much like Kerry Thornley, Ms. Baker meets a virtual pantheon of people from assassination lore, in some cases the same people Kerry Thornley bumped into, including a ride in Marcello’s car. Ms. Baker, new to New Orleans, meets nine people associated with the assassination of President Kennedy in eleven days after meeting Oswald, including, much like Thornley, Godfather, Carlos Marcello’s car and later in her story Clay Shaw.(16)
Kerry Thornley has been wronged by Ms. Baker. He was not in New Orleans when she claims she and Oswald encountered him on May 8. He was not in New Orleans on May 28, when she alleges that Thornley was going into Lee’s apartment without knocking, implying that he was having an affair with Marina. And finally, Thornley was NOT in New Orleans on June 4, 1963 to have picked up materials for Oswald. Both Jim Garrison and Gaeton Fonzi both concluded that Thornley was in California visiting his relatives at that time. I am hopeful that Ms. Baker can explain how Kerry Thornley could have possibly be in two places at once.
Vindication for Kerry Thornley
Matt “The Hitman” Scheufele
January 16, 2015
(1) Collection JFKCO: John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection, 12/28/1992 – 09/30/1998 Series: Papers of Jim Garrison, 1965 – 1992 File Unit: Thornley, Kerry
(3) Kerry Thornley Bio, kerrythornley.com
(4) Kerry Thornley Quotes, http://www.rugusavay.com/kerry-thornley-quotes/
(5) Collection JFKCO: John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection, 12/28/1992 – 09/30/1998 Series: Papers of Jim Garrison, 1965 – 1992 File Unit: Thornley, Kerry
(8) Orleans Parish Grand Jury Testimony of Kerry Thornley, 8 Feb 1968
(9)Testimony of Kerry Thornley: May 18, 1964
(10) Orleans Parish Grand Jury Testimony of Kerry Thornley, 8 Feb 1968
(11) Affidavit Barbara Reid, HSCA Record #: 180-10088-10486 AGENCY FILE #: 007271
(12) Affidavit Peter Deageano, HSCA Record #: 180-10088-10485 AGENCY FILE #: 007271
(13) “Third Indictment for Garrison”, March 8, 1968, Los Angelos Free Press
(14) National Archives Identifier: 647054 Creator(s): Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office (Most Recent) From: Series : Investigative Files, compiled ca. 1967 – ca. 1969, documenting the period ca. 1963 – ca. 1969 Collection JFKCO: John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection, 12/28/1992 – 09/30/1998
(15) HSCA Report, Volume X Current Section: XIII. 544 Camp Street and Related Events
(16) Me & Lee: How I Came to Know, Love and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald, Judyth Vary Baker, Trine Day 2010