Charles Murret

Biography

Charles (Dutz) Murret was born in New Orleans in 1901. In his youth he was a boxer but later worked as a steamship clerk. His wife, Lillian Murret, was the sister of Marguerite Oswald, the mother of Lee Harvey Oswald. When Oswald was a child he lived with the Murret family. Oswald returned to the Murret home after arriving back from the Soviet Union in 1962.

In the Warren Commission Murret was portrayed as a steamship clerk. However, the House Select Committee on Assassinations discovered that Murret was an illegal bookmaker. Murret was also an associate of Sam Saia, one of the leaders of organized crime in New Orleans. Saia was also a close friend of Carlos Marcello. Another of Murret's associates, Nofio Pecora, was linked to Jack Ruby. According to a FBI informant in 1979 Marcello admitted having known both Murret and Lee Harvey Oswald.

Charles (Dutz) Murret died in 1964.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Charles Murret was interviewed by Albert E. Jenner on behalf of the Warren Commission on 7th April, 1964.

Albert Jenner: What kind of a boy was Lee Harvey Oswald?

Charles Murret: Well, I'll tell you; I didn't take that much interest in him. I couldn't tell you anything about that, because I didn't pay attention to all that. I do think he was a loud kid, you know what I mean; he was always raising his voice when he wanted something from his mother, I know that, but I think a lot of times he was just the opposite. He liked to read, and he stuck by himself pretty much in the apartment the way I understand it...

Albert Jenner: When was the next time that you saw either of them?

Charles Murret: Well, the next time was when he came to New Orleans, and stayed at our house. That was just a year ago in May, I think. I don't remember what month, but it was about that.

Albert Jenner: About a year ago or in that neighborhood?

Charles Murret: Yes. That's when Lee came to town, and wanted to look for an apartment, and said he was going to get a job, and that he would like to stay with us until he found something.

Albert Jenner: All right; now, tell us about that.

Charles Murret: Well, when I walked in the house, he was standing in the kitchen.

Albert Jenner: That was after you came home from work?

Charles Murret: That's right.

Albert Jenner: You were surprised to see him?

Charles Murret: Yes; that's right. I was surprised all right.

Albert Jenner: All right. What happened then?

Charles Murret: My wife said, "Do you recognize who this is?" and I said, "Yes," and I said, "It looks like he has grown up or something." Of course, he looked older, but he hadn't changed too much in appearance, I don't think.

Albert Jenner: What was your impression of Lee then, after he had appeared at your house after all those years?

Charles Murret: Well, I don't know, but I just couldn't warm up to him, but he said he wanted to find a job and get an apartment and then send for his wife in Texas, so I wasn't going to stand in his way....

Albert Jenner: Did you ever have a discussion with him as to why he left Russia?

Charles Murret: No.

Albert Jenner: Did you ever have any discussion with him as to his political views in connection with Russia, as to what he thought of Russia?

Charles Murret: No, I didn't. To tell you the truth, after he defected to Russia and went there to live and everything, I just let it go out the window. I figured, "What's the use? and then after he came back here and got into this radio thing about Castro, and communism, and these leaflets and all, I didn't worry myself any more about him. My main concern was keeping peace in the family and seeing that he didn't disrupt anything around there.

Albert Jenner: In other words, you sort of gave up on him?

Charles Murret: I sure did, but now, Marina, I asked her how she liked America, and her face broke out in a big smile, like a fresh bloom, and she said, "I like America."

(2) Priscilla Johnson McMillan, Marina and Lee (1978)

It was six or seven years since Dutz had seen Lee. "He looked older," he recalled, "but he hadn't changed too much.'" But in Bogie's view, Lee had changed. He seemed really intelligent. Bogie (John Murret was Dutz's son) thought Lee had grown intellectually, especially his vocabulary, although he realized that Lee purposely picked his words to impress people. Still, Bogie says, "he was impressive." As for Marilyn, she had noticed even as a child that Lee would read an encyclopedia where anybody else would read a novel. She conceded that he was not outgoing, that he would be liked by some and "hated" by others, but she had always respected him precisely because he was "different." He was "refined," he loved nature, he liked to "sit in the park and meditate." And so once again, the whole Murret family was ready to help Lee if they could. Lee, as usual, stood on his pride, appeared to ask nothing, acting as if he did not want help and yet, as usual, accepting it.

They talked a little about Russia, but the Murrets noticed that Lee seldom spoke of the country unless they asked. They, for their part, did not pry. The person from whom he would take more frank talk than from anyone else was his sixty-three-year-old Aunt Lillian. She was a small woman, a little plump, with a calm, unruffled look. She saw the faults of others, but did not hold them to account for them. It was to Lillian that Lee owed most of his happy memories, and there was little she could say that would put him off. As soon as he arrived from the bus terminal, it was to her that Lee confided his plans. He wanted to stay with her a few days while he looked for work. When he found a job, he would send for Marina and the baby. Lillian asked what Marina was like. "Just like any American housewife," came the reply. "She wears shorts." Lillian was impressed by Lee's eagerness to bring her to New Orleans.

(3) Edward Jay Epstein, Legend: The Second World of Lee Harvey Oswald (1978)

For the next three weeks Oswald lived in the Murrets' home on French Street. His uncle, Charles "Dutz" Murret, who had been a fairly well-known prizefighter manager, offered to lend him $200 until he got settled, but he declined the offer. He preferred not to take on any debts.

Oswald got on particularly well with his cousin Marilyn Dorothea Murret, a tall attractive woman with long black hair. A schoolteacher by profession, she was also, like him, a world traveler, who had been to many of the same places, including Japan, where she had taught science, and East Berlin. She remembered Oswald as a quiet boy who "read encyclopedias like somebody else would read a novel," and now that he was back from Russia, she wanted to hear all about his travels. In telling her how he was able to arrange for his wife to accompany him out of Russia, he explained that her father was a "Russian officer" who used his influence to assist them.

(4) Anthony Summers, The Kennedy Conspiracy (1980)

The Assassinations Committee discovered that Charles "Dutz" Murret was more than the "steamship clerk" he was painted in testimony by his family to the Warren Commission. Murret, who lived beyond the means of a man with that occupation, cropped up as early as 1944 - in a survey of vice and corruption in New Orleans. An FBI report named him as being prominent in illegal bookmaking activities - a report which nobody brought to the attention of the Warren Commission. Murret was for years an associate of one Sam Saia, and Saia was a leader of organized crime in New Orleans. The Internal Revenue Service identified him as one of the most powerful gambling figures in Louisiana, and according to Crime Commission Director Kohn, "Saia had the reputation of being very close to Carlos Marcello." Marguerite Oswald protested, "Just because Mr. Murret worked for those people, and may have known Marcello, that doesn't mean anything about Lee." That, in the sense that Oswald himself is a highly unlikely candidate for a Mafia role, is partially true. It does nothing to dispel the notion that people in the Marcello network "spotted" Oswald.

For Oswald, whose father died before he was born, Murret was a father figure. At the age of three Oswald actually lived with the Murrets and subsequently went to see them frequently on weekends. He visited them while serving in the Marine Corps and - most worrying of all - saw a lot of his Uncle Charles in the New Orleans period before the assassination. He stayed with Murret for a while after he arrived in the city, and Murret lent Oswald money. When Oswald was arrested following his street fracas with Bringuier, he called the Murrets for help in getting bail.

(5) House Select Committee on Assassinations (1979)

Murret was a minor underworld gambling figure... who served as a surrogate father of sorts throughout much of Oswald s life in New Orleans, was in the 1940s and 1950s and possibly until his death in 1964 an associate of significant organized crime figures affiliated with the Marcello organization. The committee established that Oswald was familiar with his uncles underworld activities and had discussed them with his wife, Marina, in 1963.

(6) G. Robert Blakey was interviewed by Frontline in 1993.

Q: Was there a connection between Oswald and organized crime?

A: At this point in time, New Orleans was corrupt, and the principle figure behind that corruption, gambling etc, was Carlos Marcello. Oswald at this time brushed up against organized crime in its worst forms. Oswald's uncle, a man named Charles "Dutz" Murret, was an ex-prize fighter and promoter who was also a bookie. He was under the control of Carlos Marcello, who at that time was the head of the Mafia in New Orleans. These were the people who were in the sphere of Lee Harvey Oswald's life as a child.