Judge to decide ownership of 'Jackie letter'

AP News
Posted: Jul 08, 2011 3:24 PM
Judge to decide ownership of 'Jackie letter'

A federal judge will decide who owns a condolence note Jacqueline Kennedy wrote to her widowed sister-in-law following Robert Kennedy's 1968 assassination, after one of the former senator's children raised concerns it might have been stolen.

The FBI seized the note in 2009 from Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries. Jacqueline Kennedy addressed it "My Ethel," and in it, she expresses concern for the couple's children following their father's death in the midst of his presidential campaign.

The letter appears to have been written shortly after Robert Kennedy's funeral. It has changed hands several times over the years and sold for as much as $25,000. It was put up for sale in 2006 by collector Richard Goodkin, of Framingham, Mass.

Then Max Kennedy learned of the offer and sought an investigation into whether the note had been stolen from his parents' home in McLean, Va. Neither his mother nor other family member ever gave, loaned or sold the note to anyone, he said.

The FBI closed its investigation July 1 with no charges filed, according to court documents. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Parker has asked U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis to determine whether the Kennedy family or Goodkin should get the two-page note, which remains with the FBI, The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday.

Goodkin said Thursday he has not decided whether he will continue his claim as the letter's owner.

"Basically, I am aware of the court filing, and I need to think through what the proper approach is," said Goodkin, who is also an attorney. "I am absorbing all this and thinking about it."

Another one of Robert Kennedy's sons, Joe Kennedy, is handling the matter on behalf of his family and did not immediately return a message Friday from The Associated Press.

The FBI traced ownership of the note to the son of a plumber who once worked at the Kennedy home, according to a probable cause affidavit from FBI Agent John Skillestad. The son found the letter while going through his father's papers after the plumber's death in 1999. He sold it to a Connecticut dealer of Kennedy memorabilia for $6,000.

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. Former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy died in 1994.


Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com