FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - The ruling is in: The final resting place for Lee Harvey Oswald's casket belongs to the assassin's brother.
In a lawsuit dripping in historical significance, state District Judge Don Cosby of Fort Worth ordered the pinewood casket returned to Robert Oswald, who lives in Wichita Falls, after a local burial service, Baumgardner Funeral Home, claimed it was the rightful owner.
Cosby didn't buy the funeral home's argument, ordering the return of the casket, after 32 years, to Robert Oswald, and telling the funeral home to pay him more than $87,000 in damages because of its "malicious and wanton conduct."
"Baumgardner intentionally made no effort to contact anyone that he had possession of the 1963 casket because Baumgardner saw the historical and market value…and the financial windfall that the sale of (the casket) could bring…," the judge said in his ruling.
"We're disappointed in the ruling. We'll review it. And then consider what steps to take after that," said Brett Myers, attorney for the funeral home and its owner, Allen Baumgardner Sr.
With ownership finally decided, Robert Oswald wants to destroy the historical casket, not sell it, said his lawyer, Gant Grimes.
"It's going to be good to get it destroyed," Grimes said. "It's just a symbol of a lot of things that he's had to put up with over a lifetime."
In November 1963, days after allegedly shooting to death President Kennedy and then being killed by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald was laid to rest in Rose Hill Cemetery, east of Fort Worth.
Robert Oswald paid $710 for the small graveside service, $300 of which was for the plain pine casket.
Now, in ordering Baumgardner to pay for shipping the casket back to Robert Oswald, Judge Cosby said the casket must be insured for no "less than $100,000."
Cosby's ruling is just the latest twist in an odyssey that continues to evoke beliefs of dark conspiracy -- 50 years after JFK died in a Dallas sniper attack.
In 1981, the casket containing Oswald was lifted from the ground, and the body re-examined, at the behest of Oswald's wife, Marina, and a British writer, Michael Eddowes, who falsely believed the casket actually contained the body of a Russian spy who had stolen Oswald's identity.
After pathologists at Baylor University Medical Center verified the body was, in fact, that of Lee Harvey Oswald, "a determination was made that the 1963 casket had deteriorated to a condition that LHO's body could not be reburied in it," records in Cosby's court said.
But instead of attempting to return the original casket to Robert Oswald, the records say, Baumgardner kept it in storage until recently attempting to auction it off in California.
In doing so, Cosby wrote, the funeral home "wrongfully converted the 1963 casket for their own personal benefit and gain, and such actions caused harm to Robert, to which Robert is entitled to judgment."
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