On This Day: The killer of JFK’s assassin dies weeks before he could speak out in second trial
JANUARY 3, 1967: Jack Ruby, the killer of JFK’s assassin, died on this day in 1967 – just weeks before a planned new trial against him that may have shed new light on the president’s murder.
The alleged Mafia man, who shot Lee Harvey Oswald in front of TV news crews after John F Kennedy’s death in 1963, succumbed to a pulmonary embolism due to cancer.
Doctors found the disease had riddled his liver, lungs and brain only two months after his earlier murder conviction and death sentence had been overturned when aged 55.
Ruby, who argued that his 1964 Dallas trial – shown in a British Pathé newsreel – was unfair since JFK was shot in that city, had suggested that he was part of a conspiracy.
The Jewish nightclub boss, who changed his name from Jacob Rubenstein, initially said he wasn’t involved in an assassination plot, but later claimed he was “framed”.
Notably, Ruby, whose new trial was moved to Witchita, told a press conference: “The world will never know the true facts of what occurred, my motives.
“The people who had so much to gain, and had such an ulterior motive for putting me in the position I'm in, will never let the true facts come above board to the world.”
When Ruby, whose lawyers had tried to argue was insane, was asked by a reporter “Are these people in very high positions, Jack?”, he responded “Yes.”
On another occasion, he surreptitiously passed a letter to lawman Al Maddox that said: “If you will keep your eyes open and your mouth shut, you're gonna learn a lot.”
Weeks before dying, he reportedly told a psychiatrist that JFK’s death was “an act of overthrowing the government” and that he knew “who had President Kennedy killed.”
The Sunday Times also reported that Ruby said: “I am doomed. I do not want to die. But I am not insane. I was framed to kill Oswald.”
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The conspiracy theory surrounding Ruby concentrates on his apparent links to the Mafia bosses Carlos Marcello, Jimmy Hoffa and Santo Trafficante Jr.
They allegedly ordered JFK’s assassination because they were angry at the president and his later murdered brother Robert Kennedy’s attempts to destroy organised crime.
[On This Day: Jack Ruby found guilty of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, John F Kennedy’s alleged assassin]
Author David Scheim, who first claimed the trio masterminded the hit, revealed a raft of phone calls between Ruby and these mobsters’ associates shorly beforehand.
Bill Bonanno, the son of New York Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno, also claimed that Ruby had been a personal acquaintance of Chicago gangster Sam Giancana.
However, others believe Ruby, who got involved in petty crime while growing up in Prohibition America’s most lawless city, had more innocent intentions.
Vincent Bugliosi, a former attorney, claims the investigating Warren Commission was told that these calls nearly all centred around asking for help dealing with competitors.
However, he concluded: “The possibility of other matters being discussed could not be dismissed.”
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Another conspiracy theory claims Ruby may have been in a plot involving the CIA, which, among other Cold War-related reasons, disliked the fact Kennedy refused to assassinate Cuban communist dictator Fidel Castro.
This centres around an allegation that the nightclub boss told his erstwhile defence lawyer Tom Howard that mentioning the name “Davis” might harm his case.
It later emerged that Eli Davis III, as well as being known to Ruby as a gunrunner for anti-Castro Cuban rebels, was a CIA-connected mercenary.
Yet no conclusive evidence supports any of these allegations and there has also been widespread criticism of these conspiracy.
Ruby told the Warren Commission, which was chaired by Chief Justice Earl Warren, that he was not part of any conspiracy to kill Kennedy.
He also reportedly revealed on his deathbed that he alone killed communist sympathiser Oswald because he was deeply upset about the president’s assassination.
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He was seen crying on occasions and went so far as to close his money-losing clubs for three days as a mark of respect.
Dallas reporter Tony Zoppi, who knew Ruby well, also claims that plotters “would have to be crazy” to involve him since he “couldn't keep a secret for five minutes”.
He and others describe Ruby as the sort who enjoyed being at “the centre of attention” – and this was the one thing he did that is undisputable.