this day in crime history: april 13, 1934

johndillinger

On this day in 1934, outlaws John Dillinger and Homer Van Meter went shopping for guns in Warsaw, Indiana. Their shopping expedition began in the early morning hours of April 13th, when they assaulted Warsaw Police Officer Judd Pittenger while he walked his nightly beat. The two outlaws forced Pittenger to accompany them to the police station, where they stole two pistols and some bullet-proof vests. No background check was performed when the two bank robbers acquired their guns. This was due to the fact that in 1934, there was no law requiring criminals to pass a background check before stealing guns. To this day, no such law exists.

Further reading:

FBI – John Dillinger

Dillinger – Robbed Warsaw Police Station

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this day in crime history: april 9, 1934

On this date in 1934, John Dillinger’s girlfriend, Evelyn “Billie” Frechette, was arrested by G-men in Chicago and charged with harboring a fugitive. An angry Dillinger vowed to break her out of jail, but a girlfriend of one of his gang members talked him out of it. He did pay for her legal defense, but she wound up being convicted anyway. Billie Frechette spent two years in federal prison. When she was released in 1936, she toured the country in a theatrical show called Crime Doesn’t Pay. Several members of Dillinger’s family were also featured in the show. I guess sometimes crime does pay after all.

Further reading:

Biography – Billie Frechette

Don’t Call Us Molls – Evelyn “Billie” Frechette

this day in crime history: march 16, 1934


On this date in 1934, Herbert Youngblood, an accused murderer who escaped from the Lake County Jail in Crown Point, IN with John Dillinger, was killed in a shootout with police in Port Huron, MI. Undersheriff Charles Cavanaugh was also killed in the shootout, which left two lawmen and a civilian injured.

Further reading:

Time“Bad Man at Large”

Dillinger: The Untold Story, by G. Russell Girardin, William J. Helmer, and Rick Mattix

YOUNGBLOOD IS SLAIN IN BATTLE

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

this day in crime history: november 27, 1934

On this date in 1934, Lester Gillis, better known as George “Baby Face” Nelson (and don’t even think about calling him “Baby Face” to his baby face) died after being shot by FBI agents near Barrington, IL. Nelson was shot multiple times in a gun battle that also resulted in the deaths of FBI Inspector Samuel Cowley and Special Agent Herman Hollis. Nelson’s body was later found in a ditch, wrapped in a blanket.

Further reading:

FBI History – “Baby Face” Nelson

Crime Museum – Baby Face Nelson

Wikipedia – Baby Face Nelson

FBI Hall of Honor – Samuel P. Cowley

FBI Hall of Honor – Herman E. Hollis

this day in crime history: october 22, 1934

On this date in 1934, notorious outlaw Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd was shot and killed in eastern Ohio.  According to the FBI version of the incident, Floyd was shot by agents as he jumped from a car and drew a .45 pistol.  Another version has it that he was shot and wounded by East Liverpool, OH police sharpshooter Chester Smith, and that FBI agents executed Floyd after briefly questioning him.  At the risk of appearing to be a victim of J. Edgar Hoover’s propaganda machine, I’m inclined to believe the FBI’s account.  But I guess we’ll never know for sure.

Further reading:

FBI Famous Cases: Kansas City Massacre – Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd

Wikipedia – Pretty Boy Floyd

this day in crime history: july 22, 1934

On this day in 1934, John Dillinger was shot and killed by lawmen as he left the Biograph Theater in Chicago, IL. FBI agents under Special Agent in Charge Melvin Purvis, along with officers from the East Chicago, IN Police Department set up a stakeout outside the theater, which was showing the film Manhattan Melodrama.

After the movie, Dillinger walked out with his girlfriend Polly Hamilton and Anna Sage, the infamous “Woman in Red” (she was really wearing orange, but “The Woman in Orange” doesn’t have quite the ring to it). Agent Purvis ID’d Dillinger, and the agents closed in. The outlaw ran toward an alley and tried to draw a pistol from his pocket. The agents opened fire, and Dillinger was hit four times. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“It’s like the coroner said, ‘Crime don’t pay!’ does it?”

Further reading:

Crime Museum – John Dillinger

FBI Famous Cases – John Dillinger 

Biograph Theater