Texas Brother sues over sale of Oswald's coffin

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Lee Harvey Oswald's brother is suing a Texas funeral home and California auction house after the presidential assassin's original coffin was sold at an auction.

Robert Edward Lee Oswald said he thought the water-damaged wooden coffin had been destroyed after Lee Harvey Oswald's body was exhumed from a Fort Worth cemetery in 1981 amid conspiracy theories surrounding the death of President John F. Kennedy. Another coffin was used for the reburial.

The lawsuit filed last week in Fort Worth accuses Baumgardner Funeral Home of invasion of privacy, negligence, gross negligence and breach of contract. Robert Oswald, 76, of Wichita Falls, is seeking unspecified damages, including the proceeds of last month's auction that raked in at least $160,000 for various items, including Lee Harvey Oswald's death certificate and porcelain embalming table.

Oswald was shot to death at a Dallas police station two days after Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Oswald was never put on trial, but authorities concluded he was the killer.

An anonymous bidder bought the coffin for nearly $87,500 after a spirited round of bidding.

Neither the Fort Worth funeral home nor Nate D. Sanders Auctions immediately returned calls Tuesday. Oswald referred questions to his attorney, who did not immediately return calls.

Robert Oswald told The Associated Press last month that he had no plans to sell the coffin. Oswald also gave the AP a copy of his original funeral home receipt, showing he paid $710 -- including $300 for the casket and $25 for flowers in 1963.

"The funeral items sold were of a personal and sentimental value. The damages suffered by (Robert Oswald) as a result of the circulation of these confidential items far outweighs the market value brought at auction," Oswald said in the lawsuit.

Oswald tried to stop the sale after learning about it through media reports, according to the lawsuit. He gave the auction house's attorneys a copy of documents showing he owned the items, but the sale was held anyway, the suit says. Oswald also is upset that pictures of his brother's body in the casket were shown as part of the auction's publicity.

Allen Baumgardner, the funeral home's owner, previously told the AP that he kept the coffin in a storage room at the mortuary, saying he hoped someone interested in its historical significance would buy it.

Published: Thu, Jan 20, 2011

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