this day in crime history: march 3, 1934

On this date in 1934, notorious bank robber John Dillinger escaped from the Lake County jail in Crown Point, IN. Dillinger, who had been arrested in Tucson, AZ in January, was awaiting trial for the murder of a police officer. On the morning of March 3rd, Dillinger pulled what was later reported to be a fake gun on jail guards and convinced them to open his cell. He and another inmate locked up the guards, grabbed some machine guns, and fled the jail with a deputy as a hostage. They made their way to a nearby garage, where they stole Sheriff Lillian Holly’s (front row, far left in the above photo) brand new Ford V-8. Dillinger and company fled across the state line into Illinois. This turned out to be John Dillinger’s fatal mistake. He had taken a stolen car across state lines, which is a federal crime. He would soon have the full attention of the FBI – the kind of attention he could live without.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – John Dillinger

FBI Files – Famous Cases: John Dillinger

Time Magazine – Whittler’s Holiday

Wikipedia – John Dillinger

9 thoughts on “this day in crime history: march 3, 1934

      • John, I couldn’t agree more. When I read about some law that is stir in the books, I ask myself, “what was the reason for creating law in the first place?” It’s interesting at the very least! 🙂


  1. John D.:
    Good thing he didn’t try and escape on a day (here) like THIS…sleet and freezing rain.

    Even that Ford wouldn’t make out that well.
    (Only in Indiana, right?)

    On the UP side to all this, Dillinger was said to have sent a letter to the Ford motor Company PRAISING the virtues of the V-8 under the hood of sheriff Holly’s “liberated” vehicle..
    Very good post.
    Stay safe & warm out there.


  2. The guy whose shoulder Dillinger has his arm on (and who has his arm around Dillinger) is the County Prosecuting Attorney who was prosecuting Dillinger for the murder. He was responding to a request from one of the photographers. That picture destroyed his political career. (Never trust a reporter.)
    I read somewhere that the sheriff’s car was usually parked on the other side of the jail, where it would have been inaccessible to Dillinger, and that this particular day was the only time in history that the car was parked where it was. Think someone made some money? In a sheriff’s department in the middle of the Depression?


    • That’s true. His name was Robert Estill. Had Dillinger not escaped, he probably would have gotten a conviction, which would have led to a stellar career.

      A good book on the subject is Dillinger: The Untold Story, By G Russell Girardin, William Helmer, and Rick Mattix. Girardin interviewed Dillinger’s lawyer and the lawyer’s investigator back in the 30s. Lots of good inside info there.


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