|From the July-August 1999 issue (Vol. 6 No. 5)|
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 Departments 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 coroners 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 Cheramies 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, Cheramies 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 Fruges 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 Cheramies 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 Rubys 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 Cheramies 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: shed talk for awhile, looks like the shots would have effect on her again and shed go in, you know, shed just get numb, and after awhile shed 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 Kennedys 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, Cheramies 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 didnt want to do this thing but she had a young child and that they would hurt her child if she didnt.
These comments are, of course, very revealing about Rubys 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 JFKs 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." (Fruges 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 Roses 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 Cheramies 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." (Fruges HSCA deposition p. 19) When Cheramie read this headline, she started to giggle. She then added, "Them two queer sons-of-a-bitches. Theyve 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 dont want her. Theyre 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 leadthe type investigators pine forwas being shunted aside by Fritz. It would stay offstage until Jim Garrison began to poke into the Kennedy case years later.
The rest of this article can be found in The Assassinations, edited by Jim DiEugenio and Lisa Pease.
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