David Ferrie was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on 28th March, 1918. a Roman Catholic, Ferrie attended St. Mary's Seminary, where he studied for the priesthood. Later he spent several years at the St. Charles Seminary in Carthagena, Ohio. He suffered from alopecia praecox, which left him with no body hair.
In 1944 Ferrie left the priesthood and after obtaining a pilot's license he began teaching aeronautics at Cleveland's Benedictine High School. Later he moved to New Orleans where he worked as a pilot for Eastern Air Lines until losing his job in Augst, 1961. He also worked as a pilot instructor for the Civil Air Patrol in Louisiana where he met Lee Harvey Oswald.
Ferrie had right-wing political views and was a strong opponent of Fidel Castro and his government in Cuba. In the early 1960s he was an associate of Guy Bannister and Carlos Bringuier. According to Judyth Baker Ferrie worked with Dr. Alton Ochsner and Dr. Mary Sherman in a CIA secret project to kill Castro. This involved creating the means to insure Castro developed cancer. In 1963 Ferrie and Guy Bannister began working for the lawyer G. Wray Gill and his client, Carlos Marcello. This involved attempts to block Marcello's deportation to Guatemala.
On the afternoon of 22nd November, 1963, Guy Bannister and Jack Martin went drinking together. On their return to Banister's office the two men got involved in a dispute about a missing file. Banister became so angry that he he drew his Magnum revolver and hit Martin with it several times. Martin was so badly injured that he had to be detained in the local Charily Hospital.
Over the next few days Martin told friends that Ferrie and Guy Bannister had been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. According to Martin, Ferrie was the getaway man whose job it was to fly the assassin out of Texas. He also claimed that Ferrie knew Lee Harvey Oswald from their days in the New Orleans Civil Air Patrol and had given him lessons on how to use a rifle with a telescopic sight.
Anthony Summers has pointed out: "David Ferrie, aide in Carlos Marcello's apparatus, and anti-Castro activist, attracted brief official attention less than forty-eight hours after the assassination. Just hours before Ruby killed Oswald, and while Ferrie was still away on his peculiar marathon around Texas, a disaffected member of Banister's staff called New Orleans authorities to say he suspected Ferrie of involvement in the President's murder. This was Jack Martin, a Banister investigator, and he voiced suspicion that Ferrie had been in contact with Oswald. Within hours of the assassination, Martin had been involved in a dispute with Banister - a confrontation that may have occurred when Banister caught Martin trying to examine confidential files. For whatever reason, Banister injured Martin by hitting him on the head with a revolver butt. It was the day after this, following a visit to the hospital, that Martin raised the alarm over Ferrie. A hue and cry began, but Ferrie - as we have seen - was away in Texas. His associates, questioned in his absence, proved uninformative. One did, however, relate a strange incident."
On 25th November, Jack Martin was contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He told them that he thought Ferrie had hypnotized Oswald into assassinating Kennedy. The FBI considered Martin's evidence unreliable and decided not to investigate Banister and Ferrie. This information eventually reached Jim Garrison, the district attorney of New Orleans. He interviewed Martin about these accusations. Martin claimed that during the summer of 1963 Ferrie and Guy Bannister were involved in something very sinister with a group of Cuban exiles.
In 1965 Garrison was told by Hale Bloggs, a Congressman from Louisiana and a former member of the Warren Commission, that he had serious doubts that Oswald was a lone-gunman. This encouraged Garrison to read the Warren Report and books on the assassination by Mark Lane, Edward Jay Epstein and Harold Weisberg.
In November 1966 Garrison told a journalist, David Chandler, that he had important information on the case. Chandler told Richard Billings and in January 1967, the Life Magazine reporter arranged a meeting with Garrison. Billings told Garrison that the top management at Life had concluded that Kennedy's assassination had been a conspiracy and that "his investigation was moving in the right direction". Billings suggested that he worked closely with Garrison. According to Garrison "The magazine would be able to provide me with technical assistance, and we could develop a mutual exchange of information".
Jim Garrison also recruited Bernardo de Torres, who had good connections with anti-Castro figures. William Turner, the author of Rearview Mirror: Looking Back at the FBI, the CIA and Other Tails (2001) has argued: "A veteran of the Bay of Pigs, De Torres showed up on Garrison's doorstep early in the probe, saying he was a private detective from Miami who wanted to help, and dropping the name of Miami DA Richard Gerstein, a friend of Garrison's, as an opener. In retrospect, Garrison remembered that every lead De Torres developed ended up in a box canyon." One of the jobs Garrison gave him was to find Eladio del Valle.
Garrison became suspicious of his motives and on 7th January, 1967, he ordered his staff "under no circumstances" to offer any information to De Torres. Four days later he wrote at the top of one of De Torres' memos: "His reliability is not established." Garrison was right to be suspicious as he later discovered he was working for the CIA. According to Gaeton Fonzi, De Torres's CIA handler was Paul Bethel. Another researcher, Larry Hancock, has argued that "It certainly appears that De Torres’ role in the Garrison investigation is suspicious, and it supports Otero’s remarks to HSCA investigators that De Torres had ‘penetrated’ Garrison’s investigation. It also shows that De Torres had an agenda of his own in addition to getting intelligence about Garrison’s investigation and investigators. That agenda involved once again shifting attention to Fidel Castro and a Cuban hit team rather than the activities of the Cuban exiles."
Jim Garrison eventually became convinced that a group of right-wing activists, including Ferrie, Guy Banister, Carlos Bringuier, Eladio del Valle and Clay Shaw were involved in a conspiracy with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to kill John F. Kennedy. Garrison claimed this was in retaliation for his attempts to obtain a peace settlement in both Cuba and Vietnam.
On 17th February, 1967, The New Orleans States-Item reported that Garrison was investigating the assassination of Kennedy. It also said that one of the suspects was David Ferrie. Five days later Ferrie's body was found in his New Orleans apartment. Although two suicide notes were found, the coroner did not immediately classify the death as a suicide, noting there were indications Ferrie may have suffered a brain hemorrhage.
Garrison immediately announced that Ferrie had been a part of the Kennedy conspiracy. "The apparent suicide of David Ferrie ends the life of a man who in my judgment was one of history's most important individuals. Evidence developed by our office had long since confirmed that he was involved in events culminating in the assassination of President Kennedy... We have not mentioned his name publicly up to this point. The unique nature of this case now leaves me no other course of action." Garrison added that he was making preparations to arrest Ferrie when they heard of his death. "Apparently, we waited too long."
Another suspect, Eladio del Valle, was found dead in a Miami parking lot twelve hours after Ferrie's was discovered in his room. Police reported that de Valle had been tortured, shot in the heart at point-blank range, and his skull split open with an axe. His murder has never been solved. Diego Gonzales Tendera, a close friend, later claimed de Valle was murdered because of his involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A senior member of the Cuban Secret Service, Fabian Escalante, agreed: "In 1962 Eladio Del Valle tried to infiltrate Cuba with a commando group of 22 men but their boat had an English key - a little island. In the middle of 1962. Of course, we knew this. I tell you about this, because one of our agents who was one of the people helping to bring this group to Cuba, was a man of very little education. They talked English on many occasions on this little island with Eladio Del Valle told this person, on many occasions, that Kennedy must be killed to solve the Cuban problem. After that we had another piece of information on Eladio Del Valle. This was offered to us by Tony Cuesta. He told us that Eladio Del Valle was one of the people involved in the assassination plot against Kennedy."
Some researchers, including Jim Garrison, believe Ferrie was murdered. However, Gus Russo disagrees: "David Ferrie has long been portrayed on paper and in film as an American grotesque: a raving hater of President Kennedy, who threatened to kill the President. He was said to be angry at JFK for failing to help the Cuban exiles restore liberty to their land. It seems certain he made a celebrated statement after the Bay of Pigs fiasco on which much of the portrait has been based. That incident occurred in July 1961, when Ferrie was addressing the New Orleans chapter of the Order of World Wars. Ferrie became so critical of Kennedy's handling of the Bay of Pigs invasion that he was asked to discontinue his remarks. But that was almost certainly taken out of context and misinterpreted."
In 2007 Edward Haslam published Dr. Mary's Monkey. Haslam argues that Alton Ochsner organized "one of the 159 covert research centers which the CIA had admitted to setting up." Haslam believes that Ochsner recruited Mary Sherman to run the research operation The basic project was set up March 23, 1962, using conventional facilities, which then expanded out of the loop for its final phases. Haslam believes that Sherman was involved in carrying out secret research into developing a vaccine to prevent an epidemic of soft-tissue cancers caused by polio vaccine contaminated with SV-40. This work included using a linear particle accelerator located in the Infectious Disease Laboratory at the Public Health Service Hospital in New Orleans. According to Haslam there was a second-lab working on this project. This was being run by David Ferrie on Louisiana Avenue Parkway. Dr. Sherman was murdered on 21st July, 1964.