Lawrence Howard

Lawrence Howard

Lawrence Howard was a member of Interpen (Intercontinental Penetration Force) that was established in 1961 by Gerry P. Hemming. Other members included Other members included Loran Hall, Roy Hargraves, Steve Wilson, Howard K. Davis, Edwin Collins, Dick Whatley, James Arthur Lewis, Dennis Harber, Ramigo Arce, Ronald Augustinovich, Joe Garman, Edmund Kolby, Ralph Schlafter, Bill Dempsey, Manuel Aguilar and Oscar Del Pinto.

This group of experienced soldiers were involved in training members of the anti-Castro groups funded by the Central Intelligence Agency in Florida in the early 1960s. When the government began to crack down on raids from Florida in 1962, Interpen set up a new training camp in New Orleans. The group carried out a series of raids on Cuba in an attempt to undermine the government of Fidel Castro. This involved a plan to create a war by simulating an attack on Guantanamo Naval Base.

In 1963 Howard travelled around America with William Seymour and Loran Hall. Michael Rohde, a lawyer who met them during this period, described Hall and Seymour as "two extremely dangerous, committed individuals."

Loran Hall re-established contact with Santo Trafficante in Florida in 1963. In his book, The Road to Dallas, the historian, David Kaiser claims: "Loran Hall had been involved in many discussions of assassination plots against Castro - including one failed attempt known as the Bayo-Pawley raid in the previous June - and had also heard a good deal of talk about assassinating President Kennedy."

During this time Hall travelled with William Seymour and Lawrence Howard. Michael Rohde, a lawyer who met them during this period, described Hall and Seymour as "two extremely dangerous, committed individuals."

On 25th September, 1963, a Cuban exile, Silvia Odio had a visit from three men who claimed they were from New Orleans. Two of the men, Leopoldo and Angelo, said they were members of the Junta Revolucionaria. The third man, Leon, was introduced as an American sympathizer who was willing to take part in the assassination of Fidel Castro. After she told them that she was unwilling to get involved in any criminal activity, the three men left.

Silvia Odio discovered after the assassination of John F. Kennedy that Leon was Lee Harvey Oswald. Odio gave evidence to the Warren Commission and one of its lawyers commented: "Silvia Odio was checked out thoroughly... The evidence is unanimously favorable... Odio is the most significant witness linking Oswald to the anti-Castro Cubans."

On 16th September, 1964, FBI agent Leon Brown interviewed Loran Hall on behalf of the Warren Commission. Brown claims that Hall admitted that he, Lawrence Howard and William Seymour made a visit to a woman who could have been Silvia Odio. However, when Hall was re-interviewed on 20th September and was shown a photograph of Odio, he claimed she was not the woman he met in New Orleans.

In December, 1967, Jim Garrison claimed that Howard was associated with David Ferrie in New Orleans. It was also suggested that he was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Howard denied this claiming that he was in Louisiana on 22nd November, 1963.

The author, Anthony Summers, suggests that the visit had "been a deliberate ploy to link Junta Revolucionaria, a left-wing exile group, with the assassination".

Lawrence Howard died in 1998.

Primary Sources

(1) Report by Leon Brown concerning his interview with Loran Hall on 16th September, 1964.

HALL stated that during the latter part of September, 1963, he was in Dallas, Texas in company with LAWRENCE HOWARD and WILLIAM SEYMOUR. HALL had gone to Dallas to solicit aid in the anti-CASTRO movement HALL said they contacted three professors at the university of Dallas who are Cuban refugees. One of these professor's name HALL recalled, was ODIO. These professors furnished HALL with a list of Cubans living in the Dallas area who could be contacted to solicit assistance in this movement.

HALL said that he recalled that while in Dallas on this particular occasion, the three of them, HALL, HOWARD, and SEYMOUR, had gone to the apartment of a Cuban woman who lived in a garden style apartment located on Magellan Circle in Dallas. HALL said that he could not picture this woman in his mind now. He said that her name was possibly ODIO. He said that he seemed to recognize this woman's name as ODIO because of the association with the name of the Cuban professor who had the same name.

(2) Warren Commission (27th September, 1964)

On September 16, 1964, the FBI located Loran Eugene Hall in Johnsondale, Calif. Hall has been identified as a participant in numerous anti-Castro activities. He told the FBI that in September of 1963 he was in Dallas, soliciting aid in connection with anti-Castro activities. He said he had visited Mrs. Odio. He was accompanied by Lawrence Howard, a Mexican-American from East Los Angeles and one William Seymour from Arizona. He stated that Seymour is similar in appearance to Lee Harvey Oswald; he speaks only a few words of Spanish, as Mrs. Odio had testified one of the men who visited her did. While the FBI had not yet completed its investigation into this matter at the time the report went to press, the Commission has concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was not at Mrs. Odio's apartment in September of 1963.

(3) FBI letter on interview with Silvia Odio (9th November 1964)

Review of record of Beach Welding and Supplies Company, Miami Beach, Florida, on September 22, 1964, confirmed WILLIAM SEYMOUR's employment with that company throughout the period September 5 to October 10, 1963.

On September 24, 1964, CELIO CASTRO ALGA, employed at the South Florida Sugar Company, Belle Glade, Florida, stated he had traveled with LORAN HALL and LAWRENCE HOWARD from California to Dallas, Texas, to Miami, Florida in September, 1963, but he had not met any person at Dallas named ODIO, nor had he heard the name ODIO mentioned by HALL or HOWARD in Dallas.

On October 1, 1964, SYLYIA ODIO, presently residing at 1711 S.W. 83rd Avenue, Miami, Florida, stated she had moved to Miami from Dallas, Texas, with her four small children, about a week ago.

Mrs. ODIO was shown photographs of LORAN EUGENE HALL, taken at Wichita, Kansas on December 16, 1961; LAWRENCE HOWARD taken at Key West, Florida on December 4, 1962; WILLIAM HOUSTON SEYMOUR taken in March, 1959 at San Diego, California; and CELIO CASTRO ALGA taken in November, 1961 at Miami, Florida.

Upon viewing the photographs of HALL, HOWARD, SEYMOUR and CASTRO, Mrs. ODIO stated that none of these individuals were identical with the three persons, including the individual she believed to be OSWALD, who had come to her apartment in Dallas in the last week of September, 1963. She said she is not certain that the could identify photographs of the two individuals accompanying the one she believed to be OSWALD because of the passage of time since the incident and because photographs sometimes differ from the real appearance of an individual.

Mrs. ODIO added she did believe, however, she could recognize the individual who gave his name as LEOPOLDO. She indicated that the photograph of CELIO CASTRO was similar to the appearance of LEOPOLDO but that LEOPOLDO's hair line me receding at the temples. She also thought that the photo of CELIO CASTRO did not give the Mexican appearance that she recalled LEOPOLDO to have...

Also on October 1, 1964, the photographs described hereinbefore were displayed to ANNIE LAURIE ODIO, younger sister of SYLVIA ODIO, who stated she had opened the door of the ODIO apartment in Dallas to the three individuals including one believed to be LEE HARVEY OSWALD, who called at the apartment in the last week of September 1964. ANNIE LAURIE ODIO stated none of the photographs appeared similar to the three individuals in her recollection.

(4) Army Intelligence interview of Roy Hargraves (7th August 1970)

According to Jerry Hemming, both Howard and Hall met with Lee Harvey Oswald in Texas while en route to Florida prior to the John Kennedy assassination. After President Kennedy was killed, Hemming related to Source that he felt that the assassination was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plot to do away with Kennedy since Howard and Hall were believed to have been connected with the CIA. Source, at a later date, confronted Howard with the question concerning his part in the alleged connection with the Kennedy assassination. Howard "clammed up" and became nervous concerning the matter and avoided the subject completly.

(5) Select House Committee on Assassinations (1977)

Although the Warren Commission stated that the FBI had not yet completed its investigation at the time its report went to press, it was only 2 days after its September 16, 1964, interview of Loran Eugene Hall that the FBI interviewed William Seymour, who denied he ever had any contact with Silvia Odio and that he had been in Dallas with Hall in September 1963. The FBI subsequently confirmed the fact that Seymour was working in Florida during September 1963. On September 23, 1964, the FBI interviewed Loran Hall's other associate, Lawrence Howard. Howard also denied he had ever contacted Silvia Odio. The FBI then went back and re-interviewed Hall who then said that he had been accompanied on his trip to Dallas not by Seymour but by a Cuban friend he knew as "Wahito" and that he no longer recalled any contact with Odio. The FBI determined that "Wahito" was Celio Sergio Castro who, when interviewed, said he had never heard of or met Silvia Odio. On October 1, 1964, the FBI showed Silvia Odio photographs of Loran Hall, William Seymour, Lawrence Howard and Celio Sergio Castro. She examined the photographs and said that none of the individuals were identical to any of the three men who had come to her apartment door in Dallas.

In view of the premature character of the Warren Commission's conclusion based on the impeached Loran Hall allegation and the unresolved question of Oswald's whereabouts at the time, the Odio incident remains one of the lingering enigmas in the original assassination investigation. Unfortunately, the nature of the incident makes it, from an investigative standpoint, particularly susceptible to the erosive effects of time. The canvassing, for instance, of both pro-Castro and anti-Castro groups in Dallas, New Orleans, and Miami in search of descriptive similarities to the men who visited Odio might have been fruitful at the time; today it is impractical. The construction of a composite sketch of the individuals when their features were still fresh in Odio's memory might have provided productive evidence 15 years ago; today it is of questionable value considering the natural adulteration of recall over that period of time. A search for the car that the men were driving might have been very productive at the time; today it is useless. The committee was, therefore handicapped by the limitations of the initial investigation and the paucity of evidence developed. The valid investigative approaches remaining were distressingly limited. Nevertheless, because of the potential significance of the Odio incident to a possible conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination, the committee decided that, in addition to pursuing any substantive leads it possible could, it would also attempt to verify the record regarding Silvia Odio's credibility and the details of her allegations.

Also of interest to the committee, of course, were the initial assertions of Loran Hall that he and two associates, William Seymour and Lawrence Howard, were the ones who had visited Odio in September. All three had been actively involved in anti-Castro activity and were members of a group of soldiers of fortune called Interpen. The group was arrested at No Name Key, Fla., in December 1962 as part of the Kennedy administration's crackdown on anti-Castro operations. That policy, which highly incensed the anti-Castro and right-wing factions, was the result of an agreement Kennedy had made with Khrushchev and Castro. Those factions considered the agreement a "betrayal."

The committee interviewed Lawrence Howard on May 23, 1978. Howard stated he has never met Silvia Odio. The committee also interviewed William Seymour, who acknowledged his relationship with Hall and Howard but did not recall any details of a trip to Dallas, including meeting any Cubans there.

The committee believed it important in its investigation to examine in detail the substance of Silvia Odio's allegations as well as their credibility. One of the problems faced by the committee was Odio's negative attitude toward a governmental investigation of the Kennedy assassination. Her attitude, she said, was the result of her relationship with the Warren Commission. She expressed sharp disillusionment with the Warren Commission and said that it was obvious to her that the Commission did not want to believe her story. A committee investigator noted that her whole demeanor was "one of sharp distrust of the Government's motives. She claims she feels she was just used by the Warren Commission for their own ends and she does not want to be put in the same position." Nevertheless, after contact was established by the committee, Odio's cooperation with the committee was excellent, and she voluntarily submitted to interviews and, subsequently, sworn testimony.

Evidence indicated that Odio's story remained basically consistent with her Warren Commission testimony. There are, however, details concerning Odio, her background, and certain points of her story developed by the committee, which should be noted. Silvia Odio was one of 10 children of Amador and Sarah Odio who were sent out of Cuba when their parents began taking an active part in a counterrevolutionary movement shortly after Castro took power. Amador Odio was among Cuba's wealthy aristocracy, the personal friend of diplomats and Ambassadors, including, during the last days of the U.S. presence there, American Ambassador Phillip Bonsal. Odio was owner of the country's largest trucking business and was once described in Time magazine as the "transport tycoon" of Latin America. Yet, from their youth, both he and his wife were active, frontline fighters against the succession of tyrants who ruled Cuba. During the reign of Gen. Gerardo Machado in the 1930's, Sarah Odio was captured and beaten with a machete until her ribs were broken. Twice during the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, the Odios were forced into exile for their revolutionary activity. Amador Odio's trucks were the main supply line for the weapons and ammunition which kept Castro's hopes alive in the mountains. Yet when the Odios decided that Castro had "betrayed the revolution," they were among the founding members, with Manolo Ray, of one of the early, most aggressive anti-Castro groups, the Movimiento Revolucionario del Pueblo (MRP).

Amador and Sarah Odio were arrested by Castro on October 26, 1961. Their arrest was the result of the capture of MRP national coordinator Reynaldo Gonzales in hiding on their country estate. Ironically, the Odios had once hosted the wedding of one of Fidel Castro's sisters on the very estate, a large, resort-like retreat in El Cano, outside of Havana. Later, Castro would turn it into a national women's prison and Sarah Odio would spend 8 years incarcerated there, while her husband was placed in a cell on Isla de Pinos. Reynaldo Gonzales had been wanted in connection with his involvement in the assassination attempt on Castro that had been organized by Antonio Veciana.