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Who owns a casket after it has been buried in the ground? That question formed the basis of a legal battle over ownership of Lee Harvey Oswald’s casket. Oswald was buried in 1963 in a casket bought by his brother Robert Oswald. In 1981 Oswald’s body was exhumed to confirm the identity of his remains (due to all the conspiracy theories, some suggesting that the coffin held the body of a Soviet spy). After dental records proved the remains belonged to Oswald, the body was reburied in a different casket, because the original casket was found to be unfit to be used in the reburial. The original casket sat in storage at a funeral home until the funeral home attempted to sell it in 2010.
Robert Oswald brought suit claiming he is the owner of the casket because he purchased it. The Funeral home argued that the casket was a gift to the deceased and that only his estate has a claim to it, which is not a party in the case.
But Judge Donald J. Cosby of the District Court in Fort Worth recently ruled that by concealing the coffin’s existence from Oswald’s family members and later offering it for sale, the Baumgardner Funeral Home engaged in “wrongful and wanton and malicious conduct”, according to a story by the New York Times. The judge ruled that the coffin must be returned to Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother.
For more information see:
Jason Whitley, Judge to Decide Fate of Oswald’s Original Casket, USA Today, Dec. 9, 2014.