this day in crime history: january 16, 1935

On this date in 1935, Kate “Ma” Barker, matriarch of the infamous family of criminals, died along with her son Fred in a hail of gunfire near Ocala, FL. Far from the Tommy-gun toting outlaw she’s been portrayed as in popular culture, Ma Barker’s role in the Barker-Karpis gang was probably limited to providing logistical and moral (or is it immoral?) support.

On January 8, 1935, her son Arthur “Doc” Barker was arrested in Chicago. When he was searched, he was found to have a map of the area where his brother Fred Barker was hiding out with Ma. On the 16th, federal agents surrounded the house and ordered the Barkers to surrender. A gunfight followed. Both Ma and Fred were killed in the battle. When they entered the house, agents found a Tommy gun still in Ma’s hands. Or so they claimed.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Ma Barker

Crime Library – Alvin Karpis: Pursuit of the Last Public Enemy

Find a Grave – “Ma” Barker

FBI – Barker-Karpis Gang

Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, January 17, 1935 – “Fred Barker and Mother Slain in Florida Hideout”

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11 thoughts on “this day in crime history: january 16, 1935

  1. The story of the Barker gang is told in the book Public Enemies, by Bryan Burrough. The book describes the outlawry of John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, the Barkers, Machine Gun Kelly, and the Barrow gang during 1933 and 1934. (1934 was a bad year for all of them.) The Dillinger portion of the book was made into the movie Public Enemies, which is the most historically accurate (or least inaccurate) of all the Dillinger movies.
    Good book and a good movie.
    As you can tell, I greatly enjoy your website. Thank you for your work in putting it out.

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    • I read that one, good book. The movie was okay, but it would have better served the story had it been made into a series on HBO or something. I think 3 seasons would have been enough to do justice to all the stories.

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      • Agreed. I never thought of it that way. Although the recent Bonnie and Clyde miniseries was a good comedy.
        Public Enemies was the only Dillinger movie I know of that mentioned Marty Zarkovich, and he was key to Anna Sage’s snitchery.
        Every Dillinger flick ever made has Nelson and Floyd getting killed first, even though Dillinger was the first one to go. That’s why we shouldn’t learn our history from Hollywood.

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  2. Like Bonnie Parker, Ma found out that if you hang around criminals, you have a chance of catching a bullet (or many bullets) meant for them.

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  3. John D.:
    I don’t want to “romanticize” these criminals, but I always find ANY story about them fascinating.
    History has done it”s share of making them “icons” after a fashion.

    I just think they were all BALLSEY as all get out.
    (including the women)
    😉

    Stay safe.

    Like

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