On Nov. 22, 1963, Dallas police Detective Paul Bentley hit Lee Harvey Oswald in the face while arresting him in Texas Theatre in Dallas, barely more than an hour after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Pictures of Oswald after his arrest show a cut over his eye caused by a Masonic ring Bentley was wearing that day.
That ring is now at the center of a dispute over its rightful owner—a fight that spans two states and has embroiled Bentley’s relatives along with a collector who bought the ring last year.
The argument over the ring just came to light in a civil suit filed on behalf of the ring’s current owner, a Minnesota collector named John Krueger, 68, who buys and sells historical items through his website, Military Warehouse. Krueger is suing the city of Cambridge, Minn. to ensure that the ring, and two Smith & Wesson police service revolvers that Detective Bentley was carrying the day he helped arrest Oswald, remain in Minnesota while Texas authorities in Kaufman County investigate where the items rightfully belong.
Krueger himself has not been charged with any crime, and said he has a notarized statement that the items were gifts and that there was “no question of title,” he told TIME. According to Krueger’s affidavit, it all began when he and his wife were on vacation in Texas in February 2014. While in Dallas, Krueger got a call from a woman who had seen an advertisement he’d posted on the Internet expressing interest in buying war relics. She told him her friend Jerry Holder had something he might be interested in: The masonic ring that had belonged to his brother-in-law, Detective Paul Bentley, who died in 2008.
“This intrigued me because I was in high school when Kennedy was assassinated. We all remember that moment much like today’s generation remembers 9/11,” Krueger said. “When I had an opportunity to help preserve some of the history of that time, I jumped at the chance to do that.”
As Krueger tells it in the affidavit, Detective Bentley’s widow, Mozelle Bentley, had given the guns and the ring to Holder, who was her sister’s husband.
After receiving a notarized letter of authenticity, and a picture of Mozelle Bentley signing the letter, Krueger bought the three items and other Oswald-related artifacts for $10,000 in the fall of 2014.
Then, a few months later, in April of 2015, Krueger got a call from Detective Bentley’s grandson, David Ottinger, insisting that the items he’d bought were “fakes.”After Krueger explained that he had proof of their authenticity, Ottinger admitted they were real, but insisted that the notarized letter of authenticity, and the picture of it signed by his grandmother, had been forged. Ottinger then made a vague threat that he had “‘family friends’ who were in law enforcement in Texas” who could help him get the items back, according to the affidavit.
In May, two Cambridge, Minn. police officers, armed with a search warrant, requested that Krueger hand over the items, which he did. Krueger was not charged with stealing the items, but one of the Cambridge detectives told him that the case might appear before a “property judge” in Kaufman County, Texas, and that the officer handling the case intended to “drive to Minnesota to pick up the items.”
The combination of Ottinger’s vague threat, and the odd insistence by the Texas officer that he drive to Minnesota to get the items, made Krueger worry that the items would end up in Texas and never be seen again, even if he could prove he was the rightful owner, according to his attorney, James Magnuson. After surrendering the items to the city of Cambridge, Krueger filed suit to ensure that the city would hold onto them until the investigation in Texas is resolved. “We didn’t request the items be returned to my client. We requested that they be held pending the investigation down in Texas,” Magnuson told TIME. Kruger hopes he’ll eventually be able to keep the items. “I have 10,000 invested, plus a lot of time,” he said.
A message was left at the listed number for Bentley’s widow, Mozelle Bentley. Working numbers could not be found for Ottinger and Holder. The Kaufman County police department could not immediately be reached. Jay Squires, the attorney for the city of Cambridge, did not return a call seeking comment.