The FBI is investigating a "stolen" handwritten condolence note by Jacqueline Kennedy to Ethel Kennedy that was penned shortly after Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 assassination, the Dallas Morning News reported.
The newspaper reported that investigators and Kennedy family members suspect the note was taken from Robert and Ethel Kennedy's McLean, Va., home.
The note, which has changed hands several times and has sold for as much as $25,000, opens with "My Ethel."
"You must be so tired," Jackie Kennedy wrote. "I stayed up till 6:30 last night just thinking and praying for you."
Robert Kennedy was shot and killed in Los Angeles during his presidential campaign. The undated note appears to have been written after his June 8, 1968, funeral.
The two-page note made its way in 2006 to Heritage Auction Galleries, a Dallas auction house, where it was consigned by a Massachusetts attorney. One of Robert Kennedy's sons told the FBI that his family had never given nor sold the note.
"It's a personal possession of my mother and obviously extremely personal," Max Kennedy, a lawyer and author who lives in Los Angeles, said Friday. "I think most people would be heartsick if it happened to them."
FBI spokesman Mark White says the note is considered "a stolen good" and part of a criminal investigation. Agents used a search warrant to seize it Aug. 27 from the auction house, which says it has been working with the Kennedy family to facilitate the letter's return.
Steve Ivy, CEO of Heritage Auction Galleries, told The Associated Press on Sunday that Max Kennedy contacted the auction house when Heritage publicized the letter's existence for an auction not long after it was consigned there in July 2006.
Ivy said the FBI contacted Heritage after that, and that his auction house has cooperated with authorities.
He said Heritage was bound by a contract with the attorney who consigned the note.
"We speculate it took the FBI three years to turn it over (because) they had an investigation they had to conduct," said Ivy.
"We're delighted that the FBI finally is in the process of returning it to the Kennedy family where it belongs," said James Halperin, co-chairman of Heritage, told the AP. "We were just waiting for them to show up."
FBI agent John Skillestad's "probable cause" affidavit details the path the letter may have taken from Virginia to Dallas. The Morning News reported that Russell Thomas Nuckols, a plumber who once worked at the Kennedy home, died Jan. 10, 1999. Nuckols' son, Thomas, found the letter in his father's papers, according to the Skillestad affidavit.
The son contacted the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston about the letter, but apparently got little interest. Attempts Sunday by the AP to reach Thomas Nuckols were not immediately successful.
According to the affidavit, the son did not contact the Kennedy family. Nuckols sold the letter to John Reznikoff, a Westport, Conn., dealer of Kennedy memorabilia. Reznikoff bought it from Nuckols for $6,000.
Reznikoff said Nuckols told him that Ethel Kennedy boxed up some belongings one day and told his father that he could haul them away.
However, the affidavit said Thomas Nuckols was "dumbfounded" upon the letter's discovery and "did not know how it came into his father's possession."
Eventually the letter made its way to the Dallas auction house. Richard P. Goodkin, a Framingham, Mass. attorney, had bought the letter, valued at between $25,000 and $30,000, from a Massachusetts businessman.
Ivy, the Heritage Auction CEO, told the AP that Goodkin was informed that the document was in question before the FBI seized the note Aug. 27. He could not say whether Heritage had contacted Goodkin after that.
However, Goodkin told the Morning News that no one had told him the FBI had seized the letter.
"If I had thought it was stolen property," he said, "the last thing I would have done is consign it to one of the busiest galleries in the nation."