On November 20, 1963, Lt. Francis Fruge of the Louisiana State Police received a phone call from Moosa Memorial Hospital in Eunice. A Mrs. Louise Guillory, the hospital administrator told him that there was an accident victim in the emergency ward. Guillory knew that Fruge worked the narcotics detail and she felt that the woman was under the influence of drugs.
Fruge immediately left for the hospital. When he got there he encountered a middle-aged white female sitting down in the waiting room outside emergency. There were no serious injuries; only bruises and abrasions. She was only partly coherent. But Moosa was a private hospital and since the woman seemed bereft of funds, Guillory had called Fruge to see what he could do to help. The woman identified herself to Fruge as Rose Cheramie.
Fruge had no choice at the time except to place Cheramie in the Eunice City Jail. He then went out to attend the Eunice Police Department’s Annual Ball. About an hour later a police officer came over to the function and told Fruge that Cheramie was undergoing withdrawal symptoms. Fruge came back and, after recognizing the condition, called a local doctor, Dr. Derouin, from the coroner’s office. Derouin administered a sedative via syringe to calm her down. The doctor then suggested that she be removed from the jail and taken to the state facility in Jackson. After Fruge agreed, Derouin called the facility at about midnight on the 20th and made arrangements for her delivery there. Afterwards, Fruge called Charity Hospital in Lafayette and ordered an ambulance for the transport to the hospital.
Fruge accompanied Cheramie to the hospital. And, according to his House Select Committee deposition, it was at this point that Rose began to relate her fascinating and astonishing tale. Calmed by the sedative, and according to Fruge, quite lucid, she began to respond to some routine questions with some quite unusual answers. She told him that she was en route from Florida to Dallas with two men who looked Cuban or Italian. The men told her that they were going to kill the president in Dallas in just a few days. Cheramie herself was not part of the plot but apparently the men were also part of a large dope ring with Rose since Cheramie’s function was as a courier of funds for heroin which was to be dropped off to her by a seaman coming into the port of Galveston. She was to pick up the money for the drugs from a man who was holding her child. It seemed a quite intricate dope ring since she was then to transport the heroin to Mexico. The two men were supposed to accompany her to Mexico but the whole transaction got short-circuited on Highway 190 near Eunice. In the confines of a seedy bar called the Silver Slipper Lounge, Cheramie’s two friends were met by a third party. Rose left with the two men she came with. But a short distance away from the bar, an argument apparently ensued. And although some have written that she was thrown out of the vehicle and hit by an oncoming car, according to Fruge, Rose said that the argument took place inside the Silver Slipper, and that the two men and the manager, Mac Manual, threw her out. While hitchhiking on the 190, she was hit by a car driven by one Frank Odom. It was Odom who then delivered her to Moosa. As Fruge so memorably recalled to Jonathan Blackmer of the HSCA, Cheramie summed up her itinerary in Dallas in the following manner: "She said she was going to, number one, pick up some money, pick up her baby, and to kill Kennedy." (p. 9 of Fruge’s 4/18/78 deposition)
At the hospital, Cheramie again predicted the assassination. On November 22nd, several nurses were watching television with Cheramie. According to these witnesses, "…during the telecast moments before Kennedy was shot Rose Cheramie stated to them, ‘This is when it is going to happen’ and at that moment Kennedy was assassinated. The nurses, in turn, told others of Cheramie’s prognostication." (Memo of Frank Meloche to Louis Ivon, 5/22/67. Although the Dallas motorcade was not broadcast live on the major networks, the nurses were likely referring to the spot reports that circulated through local channels in the vicinity of the trip. Of course, the assassination itself was reported on by network television almost immediately after it happened.) Further, according to a psychiatrist there, Dr. Victor Weiss, Rose "…told him that she knew both Ruby and Oswald and had seen them sitting together on occasions at Ruby’s club." (Ibid., 3/13/67) In fact, Fruge later confirmed the fact that she had worked as a stripper for Ruby. (Louisiana State Police report of 4/4/67.)
Fruge had discounted Cheramie’s earlier comments to him as drug-induced delusions. Or, as he said to Blackmer, "When she came out with the Kennedy business, I just said, wait a minute, wait a minute, something wrong here somewhere." (Fruge, HSCA deposition, p. 9) He further described her in this manner:
Now, bear in mind that she talked: she’d talk for awhile, looks like the shots would have effect on her again and she’d go in, you know, she’d just get numb, and after awhile she’d just start talking again. (Ibid.)
But apparently, at the time of the assassination Cheramie appeared fine. The word spread throughout the hospital that she had predicted Kennedy’s murder in advance. Dr. Wayne Owen, who had been interning from LSU at the time, later told the Madison Capital Times that he and other interns were told of the plot in advance of the assassination. Amazingly, Cheramie even predicted the role of her former boss Jack Ruby because Owen was quoted as saying that one of the interns was told "…that one of the men involved in the plot was a man named Jack Rubinstein." (2/11/68) Owen said that they shrugged it off at the time. But when they learned that Rubinstein was Ruby they grew quite concerned. "We were all assured that something would be done about it by the FBI or someone. Yet we never heard anything." (Ibid.) In fact, Cheramie’s association with Ruby was also revealed to Dr. Weiss. For in an interview with him after the assassination, Rose revealed that she had worked as a drug courier for Jack Ruby. (Memo of Frank Meloche to Jim Garrison, 2/23/67) In the same memo, there is further elaboration on this important point:
I believe she also mentioned that she worked in the night club for Ruby and that she was forced to go to Florida with another man whom she did not name to pick up a shipment of dope to take back to Dallas, that she didn’t want to do this thing but she had a young child and that they would hurt her child if she didn’t.
These comments are, of course, very revealing about Ruby’s role in both an intricate drug smuggling scheme and, at the least, his probable acquaintance with men who either had knowledge of, or were actually involved in, the assassination. This is a major point in this story which we will return to later.
Although Fruge had discounted the Cheramie story on November 20th, the events of the 22nd made him a believer. Right after JFK’s murder, Fruge "…called that hospital up in Jackson and told them by no way in the world to turn her loose until I could get my hands on her." (Fruge’s HSCA deposition, p. 12.) So on November 25th, Fruge journeyed up to Jackson again to talk to Cheramie. This time he conducted a much more in-depth interview. Fruge found out that Cheramie had been traveling with the two men from Miami. He also found that the men seemed to be a part of the conspiracy rather than to be just aware of it. After the assassination, they were supposed to stop by a home in Dallas to pick up both around eight thousand dollars plus Rose’s baby. From there Cheramie was supposed to check into the Rice Hotel in Houston under an assumed name. Houston is in close proximity to Galveston, the town from which the drugs were coming in from. From Houston, once the transaction was completed, the trio were headed for Mexico.
How reliable a witness was Cheramie? Extermely. Fruge decided to have the drug deal aspect of her story checked out by the state troopers and U. S. Customs. The officers confirmed the name of the seaman on board the correct ship coming into Galveston. The Customs people checked the Rice Hotel and the reservations had been made for her under an assumed name. The contact who had the money and her baby was checked and his name showed that he was an underworld, suspected narcotics dealer. Fruge checked Cheramie’s baggage and found that one box had baby clothes and shoes inside.
Fruge flew Cheramie from Louisiana to Houston on Tuesday, the 26th. In the back seat of the small Sesna 180, a newspaper was lying between them. One of the headlines read to the effect that "investigators or something had not been able to establish a relationship between Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald." (Fruge’s HSCA deposition p. 19) When Cheramie read this headline, she started to giggle. She then added, "Them two queer sons-of-a-bitches. They’ve been shacking up for years." (Ibid.) She added that she knew this to be true from her experience of working for Ruby. Fruge then had his superior call up Captain Will Fritz of the Dallas Police to relay what an important witness Cheramie could be in his investigation. Fruge related what followed next:
Colonel Morgan called Captain Fritz up from Dallas and told him what we had, the information that we had, that we had a person that had given us this information. And of course there again it was an old friend, and there was a little conversation. But anyway, when Colonel Morgan hung up, he turned around and told us they don’t want her. They’re not interested.
Fruge then asked Cheramie if she wished to try telling her tale to the FBI. She declined. She did not wish to involve herself further. With this, the Cheramie investigation was now halted. Rose was released and Fruge went back to Louisiana. So, just four days after the assassination, with an extremely and provably credible witness alive, with her potentially explosive testimony able to be checked out, the Cheramie testimony was now escorted out to pasture. Eyewitness testimony that Ruby knew Oswald, that Ruby was somehow involved in an international drug circle, that two Latins were aware of and perhaps involved in a plot to kill Kennedy, and that Ruby probably knew the men; this incredible lead—the type investigators pine for—was being shunted aside by Fritz. It would stay offstage until Jim Garrison began to poke into the Kennedy case years later.
In his House Select Committee interview, Fruge states that he was contacted by Frank Meloche of Garrison’s staff who wanted to verify "the story of whether I’d brought a woman to the hospital in Jackson, a woman that had stated what we’ve talked about." (p. 24) Meloche evidently had heard of the Cheramie story from a friend of Dr. Victor Weiss, one A. H. Magruder. Magruder had gone on a hunting trip with Weiss in early 1964. Weiss had related the Cheramie story to him on their return while in his home in Francisville which is near the Clinton-Jackson area. (Meloche memo to Garrison of 2/23/67) Evidently, Magruder contacted the DA’s office shortly after his secret investigation of the Kennedy assassination was made public in February of 1967. (The Meloche memo of Magruder’s information is the earliest memorandum I have been able to locate in the Garrison files concerning the Cheramie case.)
After Garrison read the Meloche memo containing Magruder’s information he sent Meloche to meet with Fruge in Baton Rouge. After this, as Fruge noted in his HSCA deposition:
And I’d say maybe a couple of three days later is when Colonel Burbank said, "You’re now working for Jim Garrison. You’re assigned to him on the Kennedy assassination. (p. 25)
Garrison’s first assignment to Fruge was to locate Cheramie. Fruge had not taken a mugshot of her or fingerprinted her. So he went back to Jackson and her medical records located there. He found out she was born in Houston. With the help of the local police he located her sister and found out Rose was now dead. She had been hit by a car in 1965 on a small highway between Tyler and Dayward Texas. The sister, Mrs. Morris Wall, related the information that Rose had been killed on September 4th of that year while walking on Highway 155 about one and one-half miles east of Big Sandy, Texas at about 2:00 AM.
Fruge and Frank Meloche then began an inquiry into Cheramie’s death. Garrison actually wanted to exhume the body. This was refused by the local authorities who were generally unfriendly to Meloche and Fruge. There were other odd things about her death. First, if Rose were trying to hitchhike, Highway 155 was a poor choice. The highway was a farm-to-market road running parallel to U. S. highways 271 and 80. They would have been much better choices for Rose to hitchhike on. Fruge and Meloche also found out that the driver of the car that supposedly hit Rose was one Jerry Don Moore. Moore had been driving out of Big Sandy towards his home in Tyler. Moore’s story is that while driving on 155, he noticed three or four suitcases lying along the yellow line in the middle of the road. He swerved to his right to avoid hitting them. In front of him was the prone body of a woman lying at a ninety degree angle to the highway with her head toward the road. Moore applied the brakes as hard as he could. Some reports on this accident quote Moore as saying that he wasn’t sure he hit her (e.g. Dateline Dallas July 1994). But in Fruge’s written summary of his interview with the investigating officer, one J. A. Andrews, Fruge writes that although Moore attempted to avoid Cheramie, "he ran over the top of her skull." After a rather cursory investigation, due to the reluctance of Cheramie’s family to pursue it, Andrews reluctantly closed the probe as an accidental death.
Furthermore, there are oddities in the extant medical records at Gladewater Hospital. Moore states that Rose was still alive at the scene. So he drove her to Big Sandy and asked for the nearest doctor. The doctor gave her a few shots before the ambulance arrived to take her to Gladewater. On Cheramie’s death certificate, in 3 different places, she is listed as DOA (dead on arrival). Yet also on this document, we are informed that a period of eight hours elapsed between the onset of injury and her death. This eight-hour time period would coincide with the time of death, which is listed as 11:00 AM. So what happened at the hospital in the intervening hours?
According to researcher J. Gary Shaw in the book Conspiracy of Silence, the official autopsy of Cheramie has now disappeared. But in the records he did find, he discovered that in addition to her other injuries, she had suffered a "deep punctate stellate wound above her right forehead" (Dateline Dallas, Nov. 1993). Shaw researched this type of injury and found out that, according to medical textbooks, it often occurs as the result of a contact gunshot wound. When a gun is fired in contact with flesh, the resultant gasses, trapped between a layer of skin and the underlying bone, can cause a bursting, tearing effect on the surrounding tissue leaving a star-shaped wound. (Punctate stellate means a star-shaped puncture.) Whatever the true facts of Cheramie’s passage, she certainly does quality as one of the mysterious deaths that surround the JFK murder.
As assistant counsel Jonathan Blackmer queried Fruge in his HSCA deposition: "After you learned of Rose Cheramie’s death, did you have occasion then to go back and interview the manager of the Silver Slipper Lounge in Eunice, Louisiana?" (p. 27) The manager was one Mac Manual. Manual told Fruge that he recalled the incident with Cheramie. After Fruge talked to Manual the first time, he visited him again with a set of photos from Garrison’s office. Fruge was so inexperienced with the JFK case that he did not even know most of the suspects depicted in the pictures. (Ibid. p. 28) This is the point at which the Cheramie story grows into genuine legal significance. The two photos Manual picked out of the stack were of Sergio Arcacha Smith and Emilio Santana. Manual’s identification of the two Cuban exiles is reliable because, as Fruge told Blackmer, the two had been there before. In other words, Manual was not relying on a one-time sighting. How many times Manual had seen the pair is not certain, and Manual died before the HSCA geared up. But it was probably several times since Fruge strongly implies that Manual’s bar was a stopover point for not just a drug ring but a prostitution ring from Miami. The two Cubans were a part of both apparently.
It should be noted at this point that there exists some confusion about Manual’s identification of Santana. Writers like John Davis have said that the man’s last name was ‘Osanto’. This is based on Patricia Orr’s summary of the Cheramie episode in Volume 10 of the HSCA volumes. Apparently Orr was working only from Fruge’s 4/18/78 deposition transcript. There, Fruge states that the second man was, to the best of his memory, Osanto. But this confusion is now cleared up with the declassification by the ARRB of the rest of the HSCA records. For in the summary of Fruge’s deposition, and in the accompanying index, Blackmer notes that Fruge identified the actual photos that Manual picked out. The photos were of Smith and Santana.
With the identification of these two men, the Cheramie story now leads somewhere quite significant because Smith and Santana, even outside the Cheramie story, are quite compelling characters. As Fruge told Blackmer, he recalled Smith’s name in 1978 because it kept on coming up in the investigation. (Ibid. p. 30) Arcacha Smith is a character who has popped up in several different assassination books. Yet, in almost every instance, the discussion of Smith is relatively brief and sketchy. This is as good a time as any to fill in what has been missing about this fascinating character.
Smith was born in Havana in 1923. He entered the United States in 1945 on a student visa to attend college at Columbia in New York. He also studied international law at Havana University for three years. This was all in preparation for a career in Cuba’s diplomatic corps under dictator Fulgencio Batista. Smith served as Cuban consul in Madrid, Rome, Mexico City, and Bombay, India. He later served as manager of the Lago Hotel in Caracas, Venezuela in 1954. After this, for the next five years, Smith switched over to the business sector. He concentrated on public relations and advertising for companies like Ford Motor and Gillette. During those years he visited America on a number of occasions which included a visit to the International House in New York. Smith grew wealthy enough from representing these companies to open up his own factory in Caracas in 1959. (The above synopsis was culled from Smith’s own resume and a 2/13/67 memorandum to Jim Garrison from Sgt. F. Sedgeber.)
When Castro succeeded in ousting Batista, many of the old regime’s former employees fled the country before the takeover was complete. Some of them had the help of the American government. In a recently declassified HSCA memo, Guy Banister’s investigator Jack Martin described what he said was a moving scene at Belle Chase airfield in 1959 where two Navy jets flew in from Cuba, carrying Smith, his family and furnishings. So it appears from the moment Smith arrived in the states he was closely involved with the American government. In 1960, when the CIA began organizing a government in exile to oppose Castro, two friends of Smith’s played prominent roles in it: Jose Miro Cardona and Manuel "Tony" Varona. This skeletal coalition, created by the CIA, was popularly referred to as the FRD. Smith became the chief New Orleans delegate to this organization prior to the Bay of Pigs invasion.
It was in New Orleans that Smith encountered many of the suspicious characters that would get him into trouble with Garrison. Almost immediately, Smith came into contact with the ad hoc intelligence community set up there by the CIA. As part of his Agency-connected functions, he encountered electronics wizard Gordon Novel. Novel describes this meeting in his deposition for his libel lawsuit against Playboy magazine for printing Garrison’s comments about him in that famous interview. The meeting was instigated by Ed Butler, the radio host of Dr. Alton Ochsner’s INCA network. Smith was trying to arrange a citywide radio telethon to raise funds for the Cuban exile community. Novel’s electronics skills would have come in handy in this endeavor. But further, in that same deposition, Novel describes a meeting about the telethon. What is interesting about the meeting is where it took place: in Guy Banister’s office. This was a short walk for Smith. Why? Because when Banister was in the Balter Building, prior to moving to 544 Camp St. (the Newman Building), Smith’s FRD office was also in the Balter Building. When Banister moved to Camp Street, so did Smith. At the meeting at the Balter Building, Novel described four people in attendance. There was himself, Banister, Smith and a quite interesting fourth gentleman that, as both Lisa Pease and Bill Davy have noted, fit the background and physical description of David Atlee Phillips. But Smith not only connects to Phillips, but to E. Howard Hunt. Because it was the Spanish speaking Hunt who oversaw the formation of the FRD. Anyone as high up in that organization as Smith must have known Hunt. As both myself and Davy have noted, more than one witness has placed Hunt at the Balter Building in New Orleans.
Smith was also close to Garrison’s prime suspect, David Ferrie. In a polygraph test taken in Dallas on March 8, 1967, Smith admitted that Ferrie walked into his office and asked to train Cubans in advance of the Bay of Pigs. In the notes of reporter Dick Billings, dated 2/21/67, he writes that Ferrie and Smith helped train the Bay of Pigs invasion force with M-1 rifles and they masked the training as being sponsored by the Civil Air Patrol. But just in case, they were ready to produce an official who would testify that it was CIA sponsored.
The Bay of Pigs enters into another controversial event that directly connects Smith, Banister, and Oswald. Most Kennedy researchers are familiar with the famous Bolton Ford incident. This occurred in January of 1961 in New Orleans when two young men, a Cuban and a Caucasian, visited a Ford dealership and asked about buying ten pickup trucks. They wanted to purchase the vehicles at cost since they were involved in a patriotic cause, namely the Friends of Democratic Cuba. The Cuban told the salesman that his name was Joseph Moore. His sidekick, the man who was actually going to do the buying was named ‘Oswald’. (The real Oswald was in Russia at the time.) One of the founders of the Friends of Democratic Cuba was Banister. Furthermore though, according to a declassified CIA memo of 10/26/67, "Arcacha Smith was also one of the promoters of a New Orleans organization known as the Friends of Democratic Cuba, Inc." In fact, according to the HSCA volumes (No. 10, p. 126) the FDC was "set up as the fundraising arm of Sergio Arcacha Smith’s branch of the Cuban Revolutionary Council." (The CRC itself was the successor organization to Hunt’s FRD.) And this particular report then goes on to note just how close Banister was to Arcacha Smith.
And there can be no doubt that Smith was plugged into the actual Bay of Pigs operation at a high level. He predicted the invasion three months in advance in a talk before the Junior Chamber of Commerce (New Orleans Times Picayune 1/15/61). According to an interview he gave Gus Russo, Smith was also involved with one of the supposed diversionary sea attacks at the eastern end of the island. In that regard, he helped prepare the ill-fated voyage of Nino Diaz, who never completed his mission. A week before the invasion, Smith informed the New Orleans press that "preparations are almost complete for an anti-Castro Cuban invasion." He went on to add that the invasion "could begin this afternoon, tomorrow, anytime. We are just waiting for the signal." (New Orleans Times Picayune, 4/11/61.) After the invasion, the press went out to ask him for a comment. Smith revealed that he knew the exact coded message for the launch, which came through his short wave radio transmitter. It is almost needless to add that Ferrie was at Smith’s home on the day of the invasion. (Destiny Betrayed p. 365.)
After the Bay of Pigs, an embittered David Ferrie would take some of his CAP pals over to Smith’s to discuss what went wrong. They went to Smith’s because, amazingly, Smith had actual film footage of the invasion. (Sciambra memo to Garrison, 3/23/67.) Before the invasion, when the CIA wanted arms originally intended for the OAS shifted to the Cuban operation, Smith was involved in the famous Houma raid on the Schlumberger bunkers along with Gordon Novel and Ferrie. A CIA memo of 6/9/67 reveals that Smith actually had a letter of marque, i.e. a clearance note from the Agency so he could not be arrested for any of his Agency-connected actions, like the Houma raid. Smith’s connections to the CIA superstation in Miami, JM/WAVE were revealed during a 1/24/67 talk with his landlord at 544 Camp, Sam Newman. Newman stated that Smith told him his funds came in from Miami. With friends, Smith went even further in defining his relationship with the Agency. To Richard and Jane Wolfe, "Arcacha stated he was under the thumb of the State Department. (In public he called it the State Dept., in private he referred to it as the CIA.)" (Memo from Gary Sanders to Lou Ivon, 1/13/68.)
After the Bay of Pigs, Hunt and the Agency reorganized the Cuban exile leadership. The FRD now became the Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC). Again, Smith was the top New Orleans representative. According to the New Orleans Times Picayune (12/10/61), Smith began soliciting funds for the CRC which would be eventually handled "by Dr. Miro Cardona, chairman of the revolutionary council in Miami, Fla." The four top New Orleans members of the CRC, whose pictures appeared in the paper with Smith, were Manuel Gil, Gilbert Melia, and, revealingly, Carlos Quiroga, whom we will discuss later. At about this time, Smith accompanied Banister in his switch from the Balter Building, and down the street to the Newman Building at 544 Camp. But later in 1962, several Cubans complained about Smith’s leadership of the CRC and his close association with the homosexual Ferrie. Smith was actually accused of embezzling funds from the CRC. He was then ousted and replaced by Luis Rabel. He moved to Texas, first to Houston and then to Dallas. Reportedly, at the time of the assassination he was living in Dallas.
Finally, to knit Smith in even more completely with the New Orleans intelligence group surrounding Oswald, Smith admitted in his above mentioned polygraph that he knew Clay Shaw and hit him up for funds for the CRC. Also, according to the notes of Garrison investigator Jim Rose, Shaw made many direct calls to Smith’s attorney Frank Hernandez during the time of the Garrison probe when both men were suspects.
All of the above shows that Smith certainly warranted close inspection because of his direct relationship to the CIA and the people surrounding Oswald in New Orleans. But evidence exists that is even more suggestive. As most serious commentators have concluded, and as the work of John Newman and Bill Davy demonstrates, Oswald was being set up in advance for the assassination beginning with his sojourn in New Orleans in the summer of 1963. Smith knew and closely worked with the Cubans who were involved with Oswald in strange occurrences in New Orleans: Carlos Bringuier, Frank Bartes, and Dr. Frank Silva. Bringuier and Bartes were involved with Oswald in his famous street leafleting incident of August 9th in which Bringuier was supposedly upset about Oswald’s allegedly switching sides from anti-Castro to pro-Castro in just a matter of days. When Bringuier heard about this, he accosted Oswald on the street and they engaged in some pushing and shoving. Oswald was later charged and fined in court while nothing happened to Bringuier. But as Bill Davy notes in Let Justice be Done, there are at least three notable oddities about this event. First, on all of Oswald’s leaflets prior to this, he had stamped either a post office box or his home address on the literature. But yet in this instance, the address read: FPCC, 544 Camp Street, New Orleans, LA. This, of course, was the address for Guy Banister’s offices. Further, this particular piece of literature, entitled The Crime Against Cuba, had gone through three printings by 1963. Yet the edition handed out by Oswald in 1963 was from the first printing issued in 1961. Where did Oswald get the 1961 edition which was printed while he was in Russia? As I revealed in my book Destiny Betrayed, the CIA, in 1961, bulk ordered this pamphlet from its author Corliss Lamont (p. 219). Did the CIA send their leftover copies to Banister in 1963 for Oswald’s use and distribution?
Another oddity about the incident was that once Oswald arrived at the police station, he asked to be interviewed by the FBI. FBI agent John Quigley was dispatched to do the job. According to FBI employee William Walter, before Quigley left, he asked Walter to check and see if there was an existing file on Oswald. Walter did find a file on Oswald which he said carried an ‘informant’ classification. The name of Warren deBrueys, the FBI’s man on Cuban exile-CIA activity in New Orleans, was stamped on the file. (Davy, p. 287) What true leftist would be working with the FBI so closely?
Further, Oswald wrote to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee headquarters in New York informing them of this altercation. After all, he was their alleged member in the Cuban-exile-saturated New Orleans. As Davy points out, the problem with the letter is that it was written on August 4th, five days before the incident happened! (Davy, p. 38)
John Newman brings out another curious aspect about this likely staged incident. Although Bartes accompanied Bringuier to court to confront Oswald, and although Bartes claimed to have warned the FBI about Oswald, he later denied having any knowledge of Oswald at all. (Newman, Oswald and the CIA, p. 337.) Why did he lie? As Davy points out, Bartes took over as Cuban delegate to the CRC when Arcacha Smith left town. (Davy, p. 300)
As pointed out in a conference in the Bahamas a few years ago by members of Castro’s security forces, Bartes was supposed to be related to Dr. Frank Silva. Castro’s agents also added that Silva was a Cuban exile who was also active in the anti-Castro cause. Silva was on the payroll of Tulane University Medical School—Alton Ochsner’s pride and joy—while he was listed on the staff of the hospital at Jackson i.e. East Louisiana State Hospital, the place where Fruge took Cheramie. Silva is interesting because when Oswald was being questioned by voter registrar Henry E. Palmer during his visit to the Clinton-Jackson area in late August of 1963, he allegedly stated that he lived in the area and that he was rooming with a Cuban doctor, one Frank Silva. (Ibid. p. 107) This startling piece of information cries out for explication. How could Oswald know about Silva’s residency? One way could be through Sergio Arcacha Smith. For in 1968 Garrison’s office interviewed a witness who had attended a get together at another hospital member’s home. To quote from Davy again: "At that party Dr. Silva introduced him to New Orleans anti-Castro activist, Sergio Arcacha Smith." As those who have read Let Justice Be Done know, the Oswald sighting referred to is one of the most extensively documented and incriminating incidents on record. It truly shows Oswald being manipulated by sinister forces prior to the assassination. So here we have Smith’s three friends involved, however tangentially, in two such incidents within a few weeks of each other well in advance of the assassination. Just on the above evidence, William Gaudet’s statement to the HSCA about Smith rings true: "Another vital person is Sergio Arcacha Smith. I know he knew Oswald and knows more about the Kennedy affair than he ever admitted." (Ibid., p. 41)
There is another very close associate of Smith’s who should undergo scrutiny: Carlos Quiroga. Quiroga was a Cuban exile security agent who worked with both Smith and Bringuier. According to Sam Newman, Quiroga was Smith’s right hand man. (Statement to Garrison of 1/24/68) Quiroga actually visited Oswald at his home in New Orleans. Although Quiroga said he was there to return leaflets dropped by Oswald on Canal Street, as Davy shows, it is much more likely he was delivering the material. (Ibid., p. 39.) When Quiroga was given a polygraph by Garrison he was asked a related question: "You have said you tried to infiltrate Oswald’s ‘organization’. Isn’t it a fact that you knew that his "Fair Play for Cuba" activities were merely a cover?" When Quiroga replied in the negative, the polygraph indicated he was lying. (Ibid.) There are two other interesting questions that Quiroga appears to have lied about: 1) "According to your own knowledge, did Sergio Arcacha know Lee Oswald?" and, 2) "Prior to the assassination of the President, did you ever see any of the guns which were used in the assassination?" (Davy, pp. 287-288) What makes this last shocker even more tantalizing is there is a recently declassified FBI memo that notes that a man named Quiroga, first name unspecified, was shipping a rifle similar to Oswald’s through the Mexico-Texas border on November 22nd.
As noted above, Sergio Arcacha Smith left New Orleans sometime in late 1962, though, as Quiroga and others have stated, he stayed in close contact with his former colleagues in New Orleans after the move. It would seem that, when he moved to Dallas, Smith got into the lucrative drug and prostitution business that ran interstate from Miami to Dallas. This trade seems to be an evolution of the gunrunning business that was ebbing in the last year of the Kennedy administration as Operation MONGOOSE wound down. It would have been quite natural for Smith and Santana to have hooked up with Jack Ruby in Dallas since Ruby had previously been involved in that gunrunning with CIA contract agent Thomas Eli Davis as detailed by author Henry Hurt in Reasonable Doubt. Further, as Paris Flammonde notes in his book The Kennedy Conspiracy, one of the fascinating tidbits that Santana dumped on Garrison before he fled to Miami was that he knew of a trip taken by Shaw with Ruby to Cuba in 1959. Santana should know, since as he related, he used to work for Shaw. (Flammonde, p. 167) If this is true, it provides a nexus point between Dallas and New Orleans, not just for the Cheramie story, but also for the assassination itself.
Santana is one of those mysterious characters about whom much misinformation has circulated. Although some have written that Santana actually said he was one of the assassins in Dealey Plaza, I have come across no information in Garrison’s files to substantiate that statement. But according to Perry Russo, Santana was often at Ferrie’s apartment. Russo described him as one of the scariest people he had ever met. Russo actually feared him and tried to stay clear of him. Santana admitted working for the CIA to Garrison. Recently declassified documents show he worked under the Directorate of Plans, that is, the operational unit, from 1960 to 1963. Also, when asked on his polygraph if Bringuier cashed a check for him to put him up in a hotel in the summer of 1963, Santana replied in the negative. The indications on the machine were of deception to this response. According to Lou Ivon, when things got too hot in New Orleans in 1967, Santana fled to Miami and disappeared into the Cuban underground. This is interesting because, another Miami Cuban, Bernardo De Torres came to Garrison from Miami to infiltrate his investigation. De Torres then disappeared after the death of Ferrie back into Miami, never to surface again. According to an HSCA report, "De Torres has pictures of Dealey Plaza in a safe deposit box. These pictures were taken during the assassination of JFK. Life offered De Torres twenty or thirty thousand dollars but he refused." As Peter Dale Scott has noted in Cocaine Politics, De Torres eventually got into the Miami drug trade in a big way.
We will conclude with two final startling pieces of evidence about Smith and the assassination. When Richard Case Nagell got into contact with Garrison’s office in early 1967, he was actually eager to be interviewed. Although he wished to speak to Garrison directly, the DA sent one William Martin to interview him in Springfield, Missouri. This turned out to be a mistake since, as it turned out, Martin was a CIA agent. Nagell later discovered this and decided to clam up. But in the first encounter with Martin, Nagell was quite forthcoming. After garnering from Martin that Garrison felt that the assassination had much to do with Kennedy’s Cuba policy and the failure of the Bay of Pigs which inflamed the Cuban exile community against Kennedy, Nagell responded, "That is absolutely right, as a general picture, but of course there are some fine points here and there that you have not covered." (Memo, Martin to Garrison of 4/18/67) Nagell then offered to give to Garrison evidence "of such a nature as to wrap up and put a seal on the entire investigation." (Ibid.) Nagell went on to say that he had been able to infiltrate the assassination plot and "make a tape recording of four voices in conversation concerning the plot which ended in the assassination of President Kennedy." (Ibid.) Martin recorded Nagell’s description of the contents of the tape:
Concerning the content of the tape recording in question, the subject stated that it was a tape recording made of a conversation of four individuals and that the tape was primarily in Spanish although on certain occasions in the tape certain of the participants lapsed into English. When questioned as to the identity of the persons speaking on the tape the subject stated openly that one of them was "Arcacha" and another individual whom the subject would only identify as "Q". The subject did not wish to go into more detail concerning the tape at that time since he, all during our previous conversations, had indicated that our conversation could possibly be bugged. (Ibid.)
Arcacha has to be Sergio Arcacha Smith and the man named "Q" is very likely Carlos Quiroga. Unfortunately this tape has never surfaced and it is highly likely that Martin tipped off the CIA as to its existence. This was par for the course in the Garrison investigation.
Up to now, we have seen that Smith was connected to just about every major player involved with Oswald in New Orleans, from Dave Ferrie up to Phillips and Hunt. Through Bartes, Silva, Bringuier and Quiroga, we have seen that Smith was closely related to people who seem to be in on the sinister setting up of Oswald prior to the assassination. Through Nagell, we have testimony that Smith was a part of this cabal at its lower level, and through Quiroga’s failed polygraph, it appears that Smith tried to conceal this fact by denying he knew Oswald and having his friends back him in that false claim. Through Rose Cheramie and Mac Manual we have evidence that Smith and Santana knew in advance that Kennedy was going to be killed in Dallas. But there is one more piece of evidence that makes Smith even a more fascinating character. In an earlier interview that Fruge did with HSCA investigator Bob Buras, the state trooper tossed off an astonishing piece of information in an almost off-handed manner. At the bottom of page seven of Buras’ summary of the interview, the following paragraph appears:
Mr. Fruge asked if this Committee had found that diagrams of the sewer system in Dealey Plaza were found in Arcacha Smith’s apartment in Dallas. He thinks that captain Will Fritz might have mentioned something about that, but Mr. Fruge was not sure on this point.
If this is true, I do not have to tell the reader how important it could have been. If the diagrams existed and could have been produced in court, they are the kind of evidence that could be presented in a court of law to show the planning of a conspiracy, intent and premeditation. Linked with the De Torres photos and the evidence on the Nagell tape they tend to indicate that Smith’s involvement in the assassination went even beyond the foreknowledge indicated by the Cheramie story. As has been shown here, newly released evidence strongly implies that Arcacha’s involvment was likely operational.
It is often said by those who oppose a reopening of the JFK case that there is no point in pursuing it today because all the players involved in the conspiracy are dead. This is wrong on two counts. Even if it were so, this would leave many possible suspects open to obstruction of justice charges in the cover-up phase after the murder. Needless to say, some of those people are still alive. But the fact is that some of the possible suspects in the conspiracy itself are still alive. In my short dream list of candidates to be called before a Dallas grand jury I would include: Ruth Paine, Michael Paine, John Thomas Masen, Richard Helms, Anne Goodpasture, and now, Sergio Arcacha Smith. (According to Gus Russo’s book, he is still around.) And one of the questions that needs to be asked of HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey is, "Did you ever follow up on Fruge’s lead about the diagrams of the sewer system in Dealey Plaza?" As long as Blakey and the others are still alive, this case is not dead. The ARRB, without whom this article could not have been written, guarantees this case renewed life. This powerful new evidence cries out for a grand jury to hear it.