Battle over Oswald's gravestone brews in Illinois

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ROSCOE, Ill. (AP) -- A quirky auto museum in northern Illinois has somehow become the home of what's believed to be Lee Harvey Oswald's original tombstone. But how it got there is a bit murky and now a Texas music club owner claims he's ready to pursue legal action to get it.

Historic Auto Attractions, a private museum which is about 90 miles northwest of Chicago, features classic cars along with artifacts of presidential history. In one wing dedicated to President John F. Kennedy, there are clothes belonging to the family and the gravestone of his suspected assassin, according to the museum website.

Museum owner Wayne Lensing said he acquired the original 130-pound granite slab bearing Oswald's name, birth and death dates and a cross more than a year ago and it has been on display in his museum in Roscoe.

However, David Card, the owner of Poor David's Pub in Dallas, said it belongs to him and his attorney has sent a letter to Lensing saying he's ready to pursue legal action.

Card claims Oswald's mother put the stone in the crawl space of her Fort Worth, Texas, home because she feared it would be stolen from the cemetery and a simpler gravestone was placed on his grave. After she died Card's father and stepmother bought the house, inheriting the stone. Card alleges that years later a step-cousin wrongly sold it to Lensing.

"This isn't a crank pursuit of a quirky item," Card told the Rockford Register Star (http://bit.ly/GVohNW). "It's a serious pursuit of a historical artifact. We want the artifact returned to its rightful owners. I'd like to see it displayed here in Dallas in one of our local museums. We want to put it in its proper place."

The authenticity of the tombstone remains uncertain. The Illinois museum's website, which has detailed online descriptions and some verification documents next to pictures of some artifacts, only gives a backstory for the tombstone. A message left Tuesday at the museum, which is closed for the season, wasn't immediately returned.

Officials at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, a Dallas facility which chronicles Kennedy's life, said they had never seen the tombstone and could not comment on it.

While no official estimates have been made, Kennedy-related items continue to fetch high prices at auction. Card believes it is worth up to $100,000.

Meanwhile Lensing said he legally bought the item -- for an undisclosed amount -- and it belongs in his Roscoe museum.

"Nobody ever wanted anything to do with it throughout all those years, until they found out the thing got sold," Lensing told the Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/GRMQdF). "So now, after 25-30 years . they all come out of the woodwork."

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Online:

Historic Auto Attractions: www.historicautoattractions.com