Blakey was criticized by Fonzi as overly deferential to the CIA, and he now concedes that Fonzi was probably right on that score. Blakey said he was shocked in 2003 when declassified CIA documents revealed the full identity of the retired agent who had acted as the committee’s liaison to the CIA. The agency never told Blakey that the agent, George Joannides, had overseen a group of anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Dallas in the months before the assassination, when Oswald had two well-publicized clashes with them.
At the time of the revelation, the CIA said Joannides had withheld nothing relevant from the committee. Joannides died in 1990.
“Mr. Joannides obstructed our investigation,” Blakey said. Asked how that had affected the committee’s work, he added: “We’ll never know. But I can say that for a guy like Gaeton, a guy who really wanted to know what happened to Kennedy, it kind of tortured him.”
Gaetano Fonzi was born in Philadelphia on Oct. 10, 1935, to Leonora and Gaetano Fonzi, a barber. (He later shortened his first name.) After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he was a reporter and editor at Philadelphia Magazine. In one article, he and a co-author revealed that a former star reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Harry J. Karafin, had extorted money from local businessmen with threats of unflattering coverage.
Fonzi is survived by his wife, four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“He thought the murder of President Kennedy was a turning point in history,” his wife said. “He said it was the point when the American people stopped trusting their government.”