Legal fight over letter written by Jackie Kennedy

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by CHRIS HAWES / WFAA

khou.com

Posted on July 7, 2011 at 11:16 AM

DALLAS -- "I love you so much."

Those are words of comfort written to Ethel Kennedy after her husband's 1968 assassination from the one woman who could know how she felt — Jacqueline Kennedy.

Jackie's note goes on to speak of Bobby's son, saying, "I'll take them around the world + to the moon + back."

During the following decade, however, the letter disappeared.

In 2006, it publicly resurfaced. Heritage Auctions in Dallas was preparing to sell it. The starting price was $15,000.

Sandra Palomino is Heritage Auctions’ Director of Historic Manuscripts. She declined to comment on the condolence letter specifically, but explained that intimate Kennedy family writings are valuable.

"The family is — rightly so — probably very guarded about a lot of that material, and it doesn't come on the market," Palomino said.

The Kennedys called the FBI. An investigation found the letter in question was given to or taken by a Kennedy family plumber, and has been resold several times since.

Heritage immediately put the letter in safe storage. Former U.S. Attorney Richard Roper reviewed the case for News 8.

"She could definitely say, 'If I were to give that letter to anybody, I wouldn't give it to a plumber working on my house,'" Roper said.

Then, last Friday, came the latest headline in the case: The government filed a lawsuit.

It says there will be no criminal prosecution. The filing calls on Ethel Kennedy — as well as the letter's most recent owner &mdsh; to prove whether the letter was really stolen.

A judge will decide who gets it.

It means that 43 years after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Ethel Kennedy — now in her eighties — could find herself forced to come to the city where John F. Kennedy was gunned down.

"I would be surprised if she doesn't testify that she gave no permission for anybody to take from her a letter so valuable," Roper said.

The letter written by Jacqueline Kennedy is now stored at the FBI office in Dallas. A spokesman said it is being "safely maintained."

E-mail chawes@wfaa.com

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