John Dillinger

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John Dillinger
John Dillinger mug shot.jpg
John Dillinger signature.svg
BornJohn Herbert Dillinger
(1903-06-22)June 22, 1903
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
DiedJuly 22, 1934(1934-07-22) (aged 31)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Criminal charge
Bank robbery, murder, assault, assault of an officer, grand theft auto
Criminal penalty
Imprisonment from 1924 to 1933
Spouse(s)Beryl Hovius (divorced)
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John Dillinger
John Dillinger mug shot.jpg
John Dillinger signature.svg
BornJohn Herbert Dillinger
(1903-06-22)June 22, 1903
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
DiedJuly 22, 1934(1934-07-22) (aged 31)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Criminal charge
Bank robbery, murder, assault, assault of an officer, grand theft auto
Criminal penalty
Imprisonment from 1924 to 1933
Spouse(s)Beryl Hovius (divorced)

John Herbert Dillinger (June 22, 1903 – July 22, 1934) was an American bank robber in the Depression-era United States. His gang robbed two dozen banks and four police stations. Dillinger escaped from jail twice; he was also charged with, but never convicted of, the murder of an East Chicago, Indiana police officer who shot Dillinger in his bullet-proof vest during a shootout, prompting him to return fire. It was Dillinger's only homicide charge.

In 1933–34, seen in retrospect as the heyday of the Depression-era outlaw, Dillinger was the most notorious of all, standing out even among more violent criminals such as Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde. (Decades later, the first major book about '30s gangsters was titled The Dillinger Days.) Media reports in his time were spiced with exaggerated accounts of Dillinger's bravado and daring and his colorful personality. The government demanded federal action, and J. Edgar Hoover developed a more sophisticated Federal Bureau of Investigation as a weapon against organized crime and used Dillinger and his gang as his campaign platform to launch the FBI.[1]

After evading police in four states for almost a year, Dillinger was wounded and returned to his father's home to recover. He returned to Chicago in July 1934 and met his end at the hands of police and federal agents who were informed of his whereabouts by Ana Cumpănaş (the owner of the brothel where Dillinger sought refuge at the time). On July 22, the police and Division of Investigation[2] closed in on the Biograph Theater. Federal agents, led by Melvin Purvis and Samuel P. Cowley, moved to arrest Dillinger as he left the theater. He pulled a weapon and attempted to flee but was shot three times (four, according to some historians) and killed.

Early life[edit]

Family and background[edit]

John Herbert Dillinger was born on June 22, 1903, in the Oak Hill section of Indianapolis, Indiana,[3] the younger of two children born to John Wilson Dillinger (July 2, 1864 – November 3, 1943) and Mary Ellen "Mollie" Lancaster (1860–1907).[4]:10 According to some biographers, his grandfather, Matthias Dillinger immigrated to the United States in 1851 from Metz, in the region of Alsace-Lorraine, then under French sovereignty.[5] Matthias Dillinger was born in German-Prussian Gisingen, near Dillingen, Saarland. Dillinger's parents had married on August 23, 1887. Dillinger's father was a grocer by trade and, reportedly, a harsh man.[4]:9 In an interview with reporters, Dillinger said that he was firm in his discipline and believed in the adage "spare the rod and spoil the child".[4]:12

Dillinger's older sister, Audrey, was born March 6, 1889. Their mother died in 1907 just before his fourth birthday.[4][6] Audrey married Emmett "Fred" Hancock that year and they had seven children together. She cared for her brother John for several years until their father remarried in 1912 to Elizabeth "Lizzie" Fields (1878–1933). They had three children, Hubert, born c. 1913, Doris M. (December 12, 1917 – March 14, 2001) and Frances Dillinger (born c. 1922).[6]

Reportedly, Dillinger initially disliked his stepmother, but he eventually came to love her.[7]

Formative years and marriage[edit]

As a teenager, Dillinger was frequently in trouble with the law for fighting and petty theft; he was also noted for his "bewildering personality" and bullying of smaller children.[4]:14 He quit school to work in an Indianapolis machine shop. Although he worked hard at his job, he would stay out all night at parties. His father feared that the city was corrupting his son, prompting him to move the family to Mooresville, Indiana, in about 1920.[4]:15 Dillinger's wild and rebellious behavior was resilient despite his new rural life. He was arrested in 1922 for auto theft, and his relationship with his father deteriorated.[4]:16–17 His troubles led him to enlist in the United States Navy where he was a Fireman 3rd Class assigned aboard the battleship USS Utah,[8] but he deserted a few months later when his ship was docked in Boston. He was eventually dishonorably discharged.[4]:18–20 Dillinger then returned to Mooresville where he met Beryl Ethel Hovious.[9] The two were married on April 12, 1924. He attempted to settle down, but he had difficulty holding a job and preserving his marriage.[4]:20 The marriage ended in divorce on June 20, 1929.[6][10]

Dillinger was unable to find a job and began planning a robbery with his friend Ed Singleton.[4]:22 The two robbed a local grocery store, stealing $50.[4]:26 Leaving the scene they were spotted by a minister who recognized the men and reported them to the police. The two men were arrested the next day. Singleton pleaded not guilty, but after Dillinger's father (the local Mooresville Church deacon) discussed the matter with Morgan County prosecutor Omar O'Harrow, his father convinced Dillinger to confess to the crime and plead guilty without retaining a defense attorney.[4]:24 Dillinger was convicted of assault and battery with intent to rob, and conspiracy to commit a felony. He expected a lenient probation sentence as a result of his father's discussion with prosecutor O'Harrow, but instead was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison for his crimes.[6] His father told reporters he regretted his advice and was appalled by the sentence. He pleaded with the judge to shorten the sentence but with no success.[4]:25 En route to Mooresville to testify against Singleton, Dillinger briefly escaped his captors but was apprehended within a few minutes.[4]:27

Criminal career[edit]

Prison time[edit]

Dillinger had embraced the criminal lifestyle behind bars in the Indiana Reformatory (1924-1930) in Pendleton, Indiana and Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Upon being admitted to the prison he is quoted as saying, "I will be the meanest bastard you ever saw when I get out of here."[4]:26 His physical examination upon being admitted to the prison showed that he had gonorrhea. The treatment for his condition was extremely painful.[4]:22 He became embittered against society because of his long prison sentence and befriended other criminals, such as seasoned bank robbers like Harry "Pete" Pierpont, Charles Makley, Russell Clark, and Homer Van Meter, who taught Dillinger how to be a successful criminal. The men planned heists that they would commit soon after they were released.[4]:32 Dillinger studied Herman Lamm's meticulous bank-robbing system and used it extensively throughout his criminal career.

His father launched a campaign to have him released and was able to get 188 signatures on a petition. Dillinger was paroled on May 10, 1933, after serving nine and a half years. Dillinger's stepmother became sick just before he was released from prison, and she died before he arrived at her home.[4]:37 Released at the height of the Great Depression, Dillinger had little prospect of finding employment.[4]:35 He immediately returned to crime[4]:39 and on June 21, 1933, he robbed his first bank, taking $10,000 from the New Carlisle National Bank, which occupied the building at the southeast corner of Main Street and Jefferson (State Routes 235 and 571) in New Carlisle, Ohio.[11] On August 14, Dillinger robbed a bank in Bluffton, Ohio. Tracked by police from Dayton, Ohio, he was captured and later transferred to the Allen County jail in Lima to be indicted in connection to the Bluffton robbery. After searching him before letting him into the prison, the police discovered a document which appeared to be a prison escape plan. They demanded Dillinger tell them what the document meant, but he refused.[6]

Dillinger had helped conceive a plan for the escape of Pierpont, Clark and six others he had met while previously in prison, most of whom worked in the prison laundry. Dillinger had friends smuggle guns into their prison cells, with which they escaped, four days after Dillinger's capture. The group, known as "the First Dillinger Gang," comprised Pete Pierpont, Russell Clark, Charles Makley, Ed Shouse, Harry Copeland, and John "Red" Hamilton, a member of the Herman Lamm Gang. Pierpont, Clark, and Makley arrived in Lima on October 12, where they impersonated Indiana State Police officers, claiming they had come to extradite Dillinger to Indiana. When the sheriff, Jess Sarber, asked for their credentials, Pierpont fatally shot him, then released Dillinger from his cell. The four men escaped back into Indiana where they joined the rest of the gang.[6] Sheriff Sarber was the gang's first police killing, of an estimated 13.[12]

Bank robberies[edit]

The Bureau of Investigation was a precursor of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.[2] The Bureau of Investigation was renamed the "Division" in 1933 until in the 1935 Department of Justice budget appropriation, Congress officially recognized the Division as the "Federal Bureau of Investigation". The name became effective on March 22, 1935, when the President signed the appropriation bill. The newly designated FBI was brought into the investigation to help identify the criminals, although the men had not violated any federal law. Bank robbery was not yet a federal crime, so police officers were powerless to pursue robbers across state lines.[13] It was one of the first cases in which the FBI intervened in matters outside its jurisdiction. Using their superior fingerprint matching technology, they successfully identified all of the suspects and issued national bulletins offering rewards for their capture.[6]

Banks confirmed to have been robbed by Dillinger were:

To obtain more supplies, the gang attacked the state police arsenals in Auburn and Peru, stealing machine guns, rifles, revolvers, ammunition and bulletproof vests.[6] On October 23, 1933, the gang robbed the Central National Bank & Trust Company in Greencastle, Indiana. They then headed to Chicago to hide out. On December 14, 1933, CPD Detective William Shanley was killed.[14] The police had been put on high alert and suspected the Dillinger gang of involvement in the robbery of the Unity Trust And Savings Bank of $8,700 the day before. Shanley was following up on a tip that one of the gang's cars was being serviced at a local garage. John "Red" Hamilton showed up at the garage that afternoon. When Shanley approached him, Hamilton pulled a pistol and shot him twice, killing Shanley, then escaped. Shanley's murder led to the Chicago Police Department's establishment of a forty man "Dillinger Squad".

The gang then spent several weeks in Daytona Beach, Florida during the holidays. While Makley, Clark, and Pierpont extended their vacation by driving west to Tucson, Arizona, Dillinger and Hamilton left Florida on January 14, driving through the night to get to Chicago the next day. That same afternoon, they robbed the First National Bank in East Chicago. East Chicago marked the first time serious violence occurred at a Dillinger robbery, a trend that would continue through South Bend, the last job. Killed by Dillinger was East Chicago patrolman William Patrick O'Malley, the outlaw's first and only murder victim. At approximately 2:50 p.m., 10 minutes before closing time, Dillinger and Hamilton, and an unidentified driver, pulled up in front of the bank on Chicago Avenue on the wrong side of the street, facing east in the westbound lane, double parked, and exited the vehicle, leaving the driver to wait in the idling car. Hamilton waited in the bank's vestibule, while Dillinger entered the main room of the bank. Once inside, Dillinger leisurely opened up a leather case containing a Thompson, pulled it out, and yelled to the 20 to 30 people in the bank, "This is a stickup. Put up your hands and get back against the wall." The bank's vice president, Walter Spencer, while hiding, kicked a button which touched off the burglar alarm. Dillinger then went to the door of the vestibule and told Hamilton to come in. Hamilton produced a small leather bag and began scooping up the cash cage by cage. Dillinger told him, "Take your time. We're in no hurry."

Meanwhile, the first police contingent arrived on the scene after receiving the alarm at police headquarters. Four officers arrived: Patrick O'Malley, Hobart Wilgus, Pete Whalen, and Julius Schrenko. After a quick look through the windows of the bank, the officers could see a holdup was in progress and that one of the men was carrying a sub-machine gun. Shrenko ran to a nearby drugstore and called for more backup. While Schrenko was calling headquarters, Wilgus entered the bank by himself, but was soon covered by Dillinger. The outlaw "relieved" him of his pistol, emptied the cartridges, then tossed it back to the officer. Referring to his Thompson, Dillinger told Wilgus, "You oughtn't be afraid of this thing. I ain't even sure it'll shoot." Turning his attention to Hamilton, Dillinger said, "Don't let those coppers outside worry you. Take your time and be sure to get all the dough. We'll take care of them birds on the outside when we get there." Dillinger then discovered the hiding VP, Spencer, and ordered him up against the wall with everyone else. Schrenko's call for backup emptied the station of all but its phone operator. Four more officers arrived: Captains Tim O'Neil and Ed Knight, and Officers Nick Ranich and Lloyd Mulvihill (murdered by Van Meter four months later). These four officers joined the other three in positions on either side of the Chicago Avenue entrance to the bank. Apparently, not one of them noticed the bandit car double parked on the wrong side of the street right outside the bank door, with its driver sitting unconcerned in the seat with the motor running.

Dillinger then ordered Spencer and Wilgus to lead the way out of the bank, acting as shields. The four walked down the sidewalk toward the car. O'Malley, standing about 20 feet from the front door, saw an opening and fired four times at Dillinger, the bullets bouncing off the outlaw's bullet-proof vest. Dillinger pushed Spencer away with the barrel of this Thompson and yelled, "Get over. I'll get that son of a bitch."[15] O'Malley fell, with eight holes in a line across his chest. As Hamilton made his way into the street, he was observed to take a round in his right hand. He dropped his pistol in the gutter. The bloody pistol was soon recovered by the police. Hamilton had emptied the entire clip before dropping it. Dillinger kept firing until he climbed into the rear seat of the car. Two game wardens who had driven up to the scene emptied their guns into the car as it started to pull away. The car actually started to pull away before Hamilton had closed the left rear door, and the door was partly torn off as it caught on the rear of another vehicle. The same Ohio plates used at the Greencastle heist were used on the East Chicago getaway car. Police believed the car "may have been a Plymouth," but was actually a 1934 Ford Tudor Sedan. The abandoned car was found the following day at Byron Street and California Avenue, Chicago. [16]

Every single officer, as well as numerous witnesses inside the bank, identified Dillinger as being one of the robbers -- and the shooter. Prints were taken of the piece Hamilton left behind, which ID'd him. [17] Dillinger was officially charged with Officer O'Malley's murder, although the identity of the actual killer is debatable, and it is still questioned by some whether Dillinger participated in the robbery at all.[18]:154

As police began closing in again, the men left Chicago to hide out first in Florida; later at the Gardner Hotel in El Paso, Texas, where a highly visible police presence dissuaded Dillinger from trying to cross the border at the Santa Fe Bridge in downtown El Paso to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico; and finally in Tucson, Arizona.[6]

On the run[edit]

John Dillinger's Wanted Poster

On January 21, 1934, a fire broke out at the Hotel Congress in Tucson where members of the Dillinger gang were staying. Forced to leave their luggage behind, they were rescued through a window and down a fire truck ladder. Charles Makley and Russell Clark tipped a couple of firemen $12 to climb back up and retrieve the luggage, affording the firefighters a good look at several members of Dillinger's gang. One of them, William Benedict, later recognized Makley, Pierpont, and Ed Shouse while thumbing through a copy of True Detective and informed the police, who tracked Makley's luggage to a second hideout. Makley was the first to be arrested. Clark was the next one to be arrested at the hideout. To arrest Pierpont, the police staged a routine traffic stop and lured him to the police station, where they took him by surprise and arrested him. Dillinger was the last one to be arrested.[19] They found them in possession of over $25,000 in cash and several automatic weapons. Tucson celebrates the historic arrest with an annual "Dillinger Days" festival, the highlight of which is a reenactment.[20]

The men were extradited to the Midwest after a debate between prosecutors as to where the gang would be prosecuted first. The governor compromised, and ordered that Dillinger would be extradited to the Lake County Jail in Crown Point for Officer O'Malley's murder in the East Chicago bank robbery, while Pierpont, Makley and Clark were sent to Ohio to stand trial for Sheriff Sarber's murder. Shouse's testimony at the March 1934 trials of Pierpont, Makley and Clark led to all three of the men being convicted. Pierpont and Makley received the death penalty, while Clark received a life sentence. Makley would be shot dead by guards while attempting to escape. Pierpont, wounded during the same attempt, would recover from his wounds in time for his trip to the electric chair. Clark would ultimately be released in 1968, dying of cancer a few months later.[citation needed]

The police boasted to area newspapers that the Crown Point jail was escape-proof and posted extra guards to make sure. What happened on the day of Dillinger's escape[when?] is still up to some debate. Deputy Ernest Blunk claimed that Dillinger had escaped using a real pistol, but FBI files make clear that Dillinger carved a fake pistol from a piece of wood. How he acquired such a thing is still the subject of controversy. Sam Cahoon, the janitor that Dillinger first took hostage in the jail, believed that Dillinger had carved the gun with a razor and some shelving in his cell. However, according to an unpublished interview with Dillinger's attorney, Louis Piquett and his investigator, Art O'Leary, it was later revealed that O'Leary claimed to have sneaked the gun in himself. As there has been very little evidence to corroborate any one story, it seems that the truth may never fully be revealed.[original research?] What is known is that Dillinger's wooden pistol was modeled after a Colt .38. He tricked a guard into opening his cell, took seventeen men[21] hostage, used Deputy Blunk to lure the guards back to the cell block one at a time, locked them in his cell, and fled with another inmate, Herbert Youngblood. Before leaving, Dillinger ran the wooden pistol along the bars of the cell in which the people were held and laughed that he had broken their escape-proof jail with nothing but a wooden gun.

Dillinger stole Sheriff Lillian Holley's new Ford V8 Fordor, Motor No. 256447. The jailbreak, along with the theft of the sheriff's car, was the event that made Dillinger a household name, but which embarrassed Holley to no end -- and the town. Dillinger headed straight to Chicago.[22][23] Because he crossed a state line in a stolen car, he violated the federal Motor Vehicle Theft Act. Some Dillinger historians[who?] have remarked that this was simply an excuse for the Bureau to want to get involved in the case after Hoover had calculated the chance of success if they became involved.[original research?] It seems that Dillinger's crimes before this were severe enough to merit federal interaction into the case. The crime was under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Investigation who immediately took over the Dillinger case after the car was found abandoned in Chicago. Dillinger's fellow escapee, Youngblood, went on his way, but was killed in a police shootout two weeks later.[citation needed]

Dillinger was indicted by a local grand jury, and the BOI organized a nationwide manhunt for him.[24] After escaping from Crown Point, Dillinger reunited with his girlfriend, Evelyn "Billie" Frechette, just hours after his escape at her half-sister Patsy's Chicago apartment, where she was also staying (3512 North Halsted). According to Billie's trial testimony, Dillinger stayed with her there for "almost two weeks," but the two actually had traveled to the Twin Cities and moved into the Santa Monica Apartments, Unit 106, 3252 South Girard Avenue, Minneapolis, on March 4 (moving out March 6)[25][26] and met up with Hamilton (who had been recovering for the past month from his gunshot wounds in the East Chicago robbery), and mustered a new gang, and the two joined Baby Face Nelson's gang, composed of Homer Van Meter, Tommy Carroll and Eddie Green. Three days after Dillinger's escape, the six men robbed the Security National Bank and Trust Company in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. During the robbery, a traffic cop, Hale Keith, was severely wounded when Nelson spotted him, jumped onto a teller's desk, and gunned Keith down through a plate glass window.

A week later, on March 14, the new gang robbed the First National Bank in Mason City, Iowa, intending to get $250,000 but only making off with $50,000 due to the bank manager stalling Hamilton. Dillinger and Hamilton were both shot in their right shoulders, but were treated shortly thereafter. A deaf local resident was shot in the leg by Nelson.[citation needed]

Dillinger and Frechette moved into apartment 303 of the Lincoln Court Apartments, 93-95 Lexington Avenue (now Lexington Parkway South) in St. Paul on Tuesday, March 20. The three-story apartment complex (still extant), built in 1921,[27] has 32 apartments, 10 units on each floor, and two basement units.[28] Daisy Coffey, the landlord/owner, became suspicious of the goings-on in the apartment, and on Friday, March 30, 1934, alerted Werner Hanni, Special Agent in charge of the St. Paul office, of the suspicious behavior of her new tenants, including information about the couple's Hudson parked in the garage behind the apartments. The building was placed under surveillance by two agents, Rufus Coulter and Rosser Nalls, but they failed to observe anything unusual, mainly due to drawn blinds.[29] The next morning a few minutes before 10:00, Nalls pulled up to Lincoln Court and remained in his car while watching Coulter and Henry Cummings, a St. Paul PD detective, pull up to the front of the complex, park, and enter the building. After a while, he noticed a man (Van Meter) driving a green Ford coupe crossing the intersection of Lexington and Lincoln and parking the Ford on the north side of the apartment building, on Lincoln.[30] Meanwhile, Coulter and Cummings were at apartment 303, knocking on the door. Frechette answered, opening the door two to three inches. She said she wasn't dressed and to come back. Coulter told her they would wait. After waiting two to three minutes, Coulter went to the basement apartment of the caretakers, Louis and Margaret Meidlinger, and asked to use the phone to call the bureau. He quickly returned to Cummings, and the two of them proceeded to pace up and down the hall outside of Apt. 303 while waiting for Frechette to open the door. Van Meter then appeared in the hall and asked Coulter if his name was Johnson. Coulter said it was not, and as Van Meter passed on to the landing of the third floor, Coulter asked him who he was. Van Meter replied, "I am a soap salesman." Asked where his samples were, Van Meter said they were in his car. Coulter asked if he had any credentials. Van Meter said "no," and continued to walk down the stairs. Coulter waited 10 to 20 seconds and then followed the man. As he got to the lobby of the ground floor, he saw the man standing behind him, against the wall, who began to use profane language and drew an automatic pistol.[31] From outside, Nalls heard shots fired and then saw Coulter run around the corner of the building with a man running after him. Shots were exchanged. Van Meter stopped and ran back into the front entrance.

Realizing it was the same man who had parked the Ford coupe on the side of the building near his own car, Nalls pointed out the Ford to Coulter and told him to disable it. Coulter fired one shot to the rear left tire. While Coulter stayed with Van Meter's Ford, Nalls went to the corner drugstore to call both the bureau and also the local police department for backup.[32] Van Meter made good his escape by going out the back door and hopping on a coal truck that was passing by on a nearby street.[33] When Cummings heard the shooting out front, he just happened to be pacing past Apt. 303. The door opened a short distance and Cummings said, "Throw them up." Cummings: "She slammed the door and almost immediately bullets commenced coming through the door, so I stepped down the hallway a little ways. And there is an offset there...I had time to step in there. And I just got in there when bullets starting going by me. I started shooting back at him, and he had a machine gun...and when I shot five shots, I was out. So I made a duck down the stairway, and when I got downstairs I reloaded and came back." [34] By the time Cummings made it back upstairs, Billie was backing the car out of the garage in the alley, and she and Dillinger were off to Eddie Green's in Minneapolis. In Billie's words from her harboring trial testimony: "So I went back to get dressed, and Mr. Dillinger said, 'Who are they?' and I said, 'A couple of policemen,' and he said, 'Well, don't let them in.' He said, 'Come in and get dressed.' So I started getting dressed, and I kept asking him, 'What are we going to do?' He said, 'Never mind.' So he was getting dressed, and so was I. He got a grip (suitcase) out and started packing, and told me to throw a few of my things in it, so I did. And just about that time I think there were shots outside, and I went over to the window and I didn't see anything. So Mr. Dillinger was getting his coat on and things at the time...I was still getting the grip all ready. I was in the back bedroom getting this grip ready, and he started shooting out through the front door of the apartment. I went running out there, and I said, 'My God, don't shoot.' I said, 'Try and get out of here, but don't shoot. You can leave me here.' He said, 'No, you are coming with me,' and opened the door and said, 'Come on and bring that grip.'"

During the exchange of fire with Cummings, Dillinger was hit in the left calf by one of Cummings' five shots. With Dillinger now wounded, they went down the back stairs, and when they got to the back door, Dillinger told Billie to run to the garage to get the car. She ran to the garage, started the black Hudson four-door (with cream wheels and a yellow stripe around the cowling[35]), and backed it out, facing east. Dillinger said, "No, not that way. Back it out the other way." She did so, and when the car was backed out and in the correct position (west), Dillinger got in the back seat and began directing her where to go.[36] They drove to Eddie Green's apartment at 3300 South Fremont. Billie parked the car out front and went inside to tell Green, "Johnnie wants you down in the car, Eddie. He is hurt." Green went down and had a conversation with Dillinger for approximately five minutes, then came back up and told Frechette to stay with Dillinger and drive him around for awhile, and to come back in 30 minutes. Green then called Dr. Clayton E. May at his office in Minneapolis, 712 Masonic Temple (still extant), and asked if the doctor was going to be in. May replied in the affirmative. Green showed up minutes later. His wife, Beth, stayed in the car. May testified at his harboring trial that Green asked him to come to his apartment on Fremont to see a friend of his who was injured in a still explosion. After some time, May agreed to go with Green. They returned to Green's Fremont address, stopping first to drop Green's wife off, then proceeded to drive across the alley and stopping between Fremont and Girard, where Green then told May to get out of the car. They both exited the vehicle. Green walked across the street to the black Hudson, with Dillinger in the back seat. They exchanged words for a moment, then Green motioned for May to come over. Green opened the front driver's door and told May to get in, that he would be driving. May was asked on direct examination to describe the man (Dillinger) he saw in the back seat: "He was seated in the back seat, on the right side. He was not sitting up straight. He was sitting at an angle. He had one foot up like this, and the left foot down. His right foot was up on something. I couldn't see what it was. He was slumped down in the car, in the corner like that, way down like that. He had on a top coat and he had something underneath it like a sweater, that was pulled high over the back of his head. He appeared very bulky in the upper part of his body. And he was very pale." May said he could also see the barrel of Dillinger's machine gun and part of the drum.

Dr. May drove Dillinger over to his Park Avenue clinic, with Eddie, Beth and Billie following in Green's car. Once they arrived at the doctor's clinic, May said he told Dillinger to lie on the bed. "He laid down, and he pulled out an automatic, out of the left side of his belt, and when he laid down he put it under the left side of his body, under the quilts." May was asked to describe the wound, which he said was "in the upper third of the lower left leg." May: "It was an in and out wound, about four inches apart. It did not bleed an awful lot, although it trickled down his leg, but the blood was dry. I treated it, antiseptically, by inserting a probe in and out, with two different antiseptics." May said that Dillinger also requested that the doctor "bring back some serum" later that evening "so I will not get lock-jaw." Dillinger's convalescence at Dr. May's lasted five days, until Wednesday, April 4, a week before Eddie Green died from his wounds received on April 3. Dr. May was promised $500 for his services, but he received nothing. [37][38]

After leaving Minneapolis, Dillinger and Frechette traveled to Mooresville to visit Dillinger's father, arriving on April 5, where they remained until approximately four p.m. on Sunday, April 8, shortly after having a family picnic, including a photo session, all the while the FBI had the farm under surveillance nearby. Dillinger's favorites were served: fried chicken and "everything that goes with it," along with coconut cream pie. Audrey Hancock, Dillinger's sister: "I cooked dinner down there. My half-brother (Hubert) come and told us somebody at Pop's wanted to see us. I knew pretty well who it was and went right away. All the family was there. There must have been a dozen of us." Before they left, someone (probably Emmet, Audrey's husband, or Hubert) drove Audrey into Mooresville, where she bought adhesive tape and Mecurochrome to redress Dillinger's bullet wound. [39] Dillinger and Billie were back in Chicago by the next day, April 9. That afternoon Dillinger had an appointment at a tavern located at 416 North State Street. Sensing trouble, Frechette went in first. She was promptly arrested by agents, but refused to reveal Dillinger's whereabouts. Unbeknownst to the agents, Dillinger was waiting in his car outside the tavern and then drove off unnoticed.[40] Dillinger reportedly became despondent after Billie was arrested. The other gang members tried to talk to him out of rescuing her, but Van Meter knew where they could find bulletproof vests. That Friday morning, late at night, Dillinger and Van Meter took Warsaw, Indiana police officer Judd Pittenger hostage. They marched him at gunpoint to the police station, where they stole several more guns and bulletproof vests. After separating, Dillinger picked up Hamilton, who was recovering from the Mason City robbery. The two then traveled to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where they visited Hamilton's sister Anna Steve. Upon his return to Chicago, Dillinger again ran into the police in Port Huron, Michigan following a tip that he was checking in on one of his bootlegging operations. Dillinger received a bullet to the left shoulder while avoiding capture. Dillinger received a tip that federal agents were headed there and left just days before they arrived.[6]

Final months[edit]

Little Bohemia Lodge[edit]

In April, the Dillinger gang settled at a lodge hideout called Little Bohemia Lodge, owned by Emil Wanatka, in the northern Wisconsin town of Manitowish Waters. The gang assured the owners that they would give no trouble, but they monitored the owners whenever they left or spoke on the phone. Emil's wife Nan and her brother managed to evade Baby Face Nelson, who was tailing them, and mailed a letter of warning to a U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago, which later contacted the Division of Investigation. Days later, a score of federal agents led by Hugh Clegg and Melvin Purvis approached the lodge in the early morning hours. Two barking watchdogs announced their arrival, but the gang was so used to Nan Wanatka's dogs that they did not bother to inspect the disturbance. It was only after the federal agents mistakenly shot a local resident and two innocent Civilian Conservation Corps workers as they were about to drive away in a car that the Dillinger gang was alerted to the presence of the BOI.[41] Gunfire between the groups lasted only momentarily, but the whole gang managed to escape in various ways despite the agents' efforts to surround and storm the lodge. Agent W. Carter Baum was shot dead by Nelson during the gun battle.[6][42]

The next day, Dillinger, Van Meter and Hamilton were confronted by authorities in Hastings, Minnesota, in a rolling gunfight. Hamilton was mortally wounded in the encounter. He was taken by Dillinger and Van Meter to see Joseph Moran, though Moran refused to treat Hamilton. He died in Aurora, Illinois, three days after the shooting in Hastings. Dillinger, Van Meter, Arthur Barker, and Volney Davis, a member of the Barker-Karpis gang, buried him. Dillinger and Van Meter then met up with Carroll.[citation needed]

On May 3, one week after Hamilton's death, Dillinger, Van Meter, and Tommy Carroll robbed the First National Bank of Fostoria, Ohio. In the robbery, Fostoria police chief Frank Culp was wounded when Van Meter shot him in the chest with a Thompson. Dillinger and Van Meter spent most of May living out of a red panel truck with a mattress in the back. On May 24, it is alleged that Van Meter killed two East Chicago police detectives who had tried to pull them over. On June 7, Tommy Carroll was shot and killed by police in Waterloo, Iowa. Dillinger and Van Meter reunited with Nelson a week later and went into hiding.[citation needed]

On June 30, Dillinger, Van Meter, Nelson, and an unidentified "fat man" robbed the Merchants National Bank in South Bend, Indiana. The identity of the "fat man" has never been confirmed, it is widely suspect that he was one of Nelson's associates, or, as suggested by Fatso Negri to the BOI, Pretty Boy Floyd. During the robbery, a police officer named Howard Wagner was killed when Van Meter shot him in the chest as he responded to the sound of a burst of submachine gunfire coming from inside the bank. Van Meter was shot in the head during the resulting shootout, and was seriously wounded.[citation needed]

By July 1934, Dillinger had dropped completely out of sight, and the federal agents had no solid leads to follow. He had, in fact, drifted into Chicago and went under the alias of Jimmy Lawrence, a petty criminal from Wisconsin who bore a close resemblance to Dillinger's real self. Taking up a job as a clerk, Dillinger found that, in a large metropolis like Chicago, he was able to lead an anonymous existence for a while. What Dillinger did not realize was that the center of the federal agents' dragnet happened to be in Chicago. When the authorities found Dillinger's blood spattered getaway car on a Chicago side street, they were positive that he was in the city.[6]

Cubs games[edit]

Dillinger had always been a fan of the Chicago Cubs, and instead of lying low like many criminals on the run, he continued to attend Cubs games at Wrigley Field during the months of June and July 1934.[43] Dillinger is known to have been at Wrigley on Friday, June 8, only to watch his beloved Cubs lose to Cincy 4-3. Also in attendance at the game were Dillinger's lawyer, Louis Piquett, and Captain John Stege of the Dillinger Squad. There were eight future Hall of Famers at the park this day. Dillinger saw seven of them play. [44][45]

He had better luck at the next known game he attended, Tuesday, June 26, when his Cubs beat Brooklyn 5-2. Future Hall of Famer Kiki Cuyler homered for Chicago. Leading the Dodgers this day was rookie manager Casey Stengel. [46]

Woman in red[edit]

Division of Investigations chief J. Edgar Hoover created a special task force headquartered in Chicago to locate Dillinger. On July 21, a madam from a brothel in Gary, Indiana, Ana Cumpănaş, also known as Anna Sage, contacted the police. She was a Romanian immigrant threatened with deportation for "low moral character"[47] and offered the federal agency information on Dillinger in exchange for their help in preventing her deportation. The agency agreed to her terms, but she was later deported. Cumpănaş told them that Dillinger was spending his time with another prostitute, Polly Hamilton, and that she and the couple would be going to see a movie together on the following day. She agreed to wear an orange dress, which is believed to have appeared red in the artificial lights of the theater,[48] so that police could easily identify her. She was unsure which of two theaters they would be attending but told the agency their names: the Biograph and the Marbro.[6]

A team of federal agents and officers from police forces outside Chicago was formed, along with a very few Chicago police officers. Among them was Sergeant Martin Zarkovich, to whom Sage had informed on Dillinger. Federal officials felt that the Chicago police had been compromised and could not be trusted, and Hoover and Purvis also wanted a Federal coup for their own reasons.[48] Not chancing another embarrassing escape, the police were split into two teams. On July 22, one team was sent to the Marbro Theater on the city's west side, while another team surrounded the Biograph Theater at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue on the north side. During the stakeout, the Biograph's manager thought the agents were criminals setting up a robbery. He called the Chicago police who dutifully responded and had to be waved off by the federal agents, who told them that they were on a stakeout for an important target.[6]

Biograph Theater and death[edit]

FBI photograph of the Biograph Theater taken July 28, 1934, six days after the shooting, the only night "Murder in Trinidad" played. [49]
John Dillingers's original death mask and hair on display at the Crime Museum in Washington, DC. Note the bullet exit mark below the right eye.
Grave in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Dillinger attended the film Manhattan Melodrama[50] at the Biograph Theater, in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Dillinger was with Polly Hamilton and Ana Cumpănaş. Once they determined that Dillinger was in the theater, the lead agent, Samuel P. Cowley, contacted J. Edgar Hoover for instructions, who recommended that they wait outside rather than risk a gun battle in a crowded theater. He also told the agents not to put themselves in harm's way and that any man could open fire on Dillinger at the first sign of resistance. When the film let out, Purvis[51] stood by the front door and signaled Dillinger's exit by lighting a cigar. Both he and the other agents reported that Dillinger turned his head and looked directly at the agent as he walked by, glanced across the street, then moved ahead of his female companions, reached into his pocket but failed to extract his gun,[4]:353 and ran into a nearby alley.[48] Other accounts state Dillinger ignored a command to surrender, whipped out his gun, then headed for the alley. Agents already had the alley closed off, but Dillinger was determined to shoot it out.[52]

Three men fired the fatal shots: Clarence Hurt fired twice, Charles Winstead fired three times, and Herman Hollis fired once. Dillinger was hit from behind and he fell face first to the ground.[53] Two female bystanders, Theresa Paulas and Etta Natalsky, took slight flesh wounds in the legs and buttocks from flying bullet and brick fragments. Dillinger bumped into Natalsky just as the shooting commenced.[54][48] Dillinger was struck three (or four, according to some historians) times, with two bullets entering the chest; one of them nicked his heart, and the fatal shot - which entered Dillinger through the back of his neck, severed his spinal cord and tore through his brain before exiting out the front of his head just under his right eye. Although three agents shot Dillinger, Winstead was believed to have fired the fatal shot, and he received a personal letter of commendation from Director Hoover.[48] An ambulance was summoned, though it was clear Dillinger had quickly died from his gunshot wounds. At 10:50 p.m. on July 22, 1934, Dillinger was pronounced dead at Alexian Brothers Hospital.[6][53] According to the investigators, Dillinger died without saying a word.[55] There were also reports of people dipping their handkerchiefs and skirts into the blood pool that had formed as Dillinger lay in the alley in order to secure keepsakes of the entire affair.[56] Dillinger's body was displayed to the public at the Cook County morgue after his death.[57]

Dillinger was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery (Section: 44, Lot: 94) in Indianapolis.[58] His gravestone has had to be replaced several times because of vandalism by people chipping off pieces as souvenirs.[59] Hilton Crouch (1903-1976), an associate of Dillinger's on some early bank heists, is buried only a few yards west of Dillinger at Crown Hill.[60]

Nash theory of Dillinger's escape[edit]

In The Dillinger Dossier, author Jay Robert Nash maintains that Dillinger escaped death at the Biograph Theater simply by not being there. In his stead was a "Jimmy Lawrence", a local Chicago petty criminal whose appearance was similar to Dillinger's. Nash uses evidence to show that Chicago Police officer Martin Zarkovich was instrumental in this plot. Nash theorizes that the plot unraveled when the body was found to have fingerprints that didn't match Dillinger's (the fingerprint card was missing from the Cook County Morgue for over three decades), it was too tall, the eye color was wrong, and it possessed a rheumatic heart. The F.B.I., a relatively new agency whose agents were only recently permitted to carry guns or make arrests, would have fallen under heavy scrutiny, this being the third innocent man killed in pursuit of Dillinger, and would have gone to great lengths to ensure a cover up.

In shooting the Dillinger stand-in, F.B.I. agents were stationed on the roof of the theater and fired downward, causing the open cuts on the face which were described through the media as "scars resulting from inept plastic surgery". The first words from Dillinger's father upon identifying the body were, "that's not my boy." The body was buried under five feet of concrete and steel, making exhumation less likely. Nash produced fingerprints and photos of Dillinger as he would appear in 1960 that were allegedly sent to Melvin Purvis just prior to his 1960 alleged suicide (more probably an accident). Nash alleged Dillinger was living and working in California as a machinist, under what would have been an early form of the witness protection program.[61]

Film depictions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Elliott J. Gorn, Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year That Made America's Public Enemy Number One (2009).
  2. ^ a b "A Byte Out of History - How The FBI Got Its Name". Federal Bureau of Investigation. March 24, 2006. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  3. ^ "Famous Cases & Criminals - John Dillinger". Retrieved 2012-05-01. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Matera, Dary (2005). John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America's First Celebrity Criminal. Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 0-7867-1558-8. 
  5. ^ Was John Dillinger German?, citing The Untold Story by G. Russell Giradin and William J. Helmer; and Dary Matera’s John Dillinger.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Famous Cases: John Dillinger". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 2009-06-26. 
  7. ^ G. Russell Girardin, William J. Helmer, Rick Mattix, Dillinger: The Untold Story, pp. 11, 21.
  8. ^ "The Scoop Deck – Fireman 3rd Class John Dillinger". 2009-07-06. Retrieved 2012-05-01. 
  9. ^ "Certificate of Birth: Beryl Hovious." Morgan County Health Department, Martinsville, Indiana. Filed 9-1923.
  10. ^ Stewart, Tony. Dillinger, The Hidden Truth: A Tribute to Gangsters and G-Men of The Great Depression Era. Xlibris Corporation, 2002. ISBN 1-4010-5373-4.
  11. ^ a b "Bandits Bind Cashier, Clerk and Assistant." Dayton Daily News, June 21, 1933, pages 1 & 5.
  12. ^ "ODMP memorial Sherriff J. Sarber". Retrieved 2012-05-01. 
  13. ^ "Even in this high-tech age, old-fashioned bank robberies are still a cause for concern". 
  14. ^ "ODMP memorial Sgt William Shanley". Retrieved 2012-05-01. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ FBI Dillinger File 62-29777
  17. ^ FBI Dillinger File, 62-29777
  18. ^ Nash, Jay Robert (1973). Bloodletters And Bad Men Book 2. Warner Book. ISBN 0-446-30151-5. 
  19. ^ Webb, Janet. "The day Tucson corralled Dillinger" Arizona Highways. January 8, 2006.
  20. ^ Mori, Brian. "Dillinger Days frenzy coming up" Tucson Citizen. January 21, 2009.
  21. ^ "FBI — John Dillinger". Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  22. ^ FBI Dillinger File 62-29777
  23. ^ DeBartolo, Anthony. "Dillinger's Dupes: Town Seeks to Preserve a Jail Yet Escape a Dastardly Deed." Chicago Tribune. November 4, 1988.
  24. ^ "FBI History - Famous Cases, John Dillinger". FBI. Retrieved 2011-09-08. 
  25. ^ U.S. District Court, District of MN, USA vs. Evelyn Frechette, et al., p. 590-592
  26. ^ Girardin/Helmer, "Dillinger: The Untold Story," p. 274
  27. ^ Millett, Larry, AIA Guide to St. Paul's Summit Avenue & Hill District (2009), p. 68
  28. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, et al., p.35
  29. ^ USA vs May, Frechette, et al., testimony from Coffey and Nalls
  30. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, et al. Nalls' testimony, p. 90
  31. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, Coulter's testimony, p. 178-179
  32. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, Nalls' testimony, p.90
  33. ^ Girardin/Helmer, p. 134
  34. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, et al., Cummings' testimony, p. 97-98
  35. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, et al, George Schroth's testimony, p.99
  36. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, Frechette's testimony, p.593-595
  37. ^ Cromie and Pinkston, "Dillinger: A Short and Violent Life, p. 189
  38. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, Clayton May's testimony, p. 473-487, 501
  39. ^ Cromie and Pinkston, p. 192, 193
  40. ^ Cromie and Pinkston, p. 196
  41. ^ Toland, John. The Dillinger Days. Da Capo Press, 1995. ISBN 0-306-80626-6.
  42. ^ "Special Agent W. Carter Baum. Officer Down Memorial Page". Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  43. ^ "Chicago Cubs History and News - Welcome to Just One Bad Century". 1934-07-22. Retrieved 2012-05-01. 
  44. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune, June 9, 1934, edition, box score
  45. ^ FBI Dillinger File 62-29777
  46. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune, June 27, 1934, edition, box score
  47. ^ Purvis, Alston W.; Alex Tresinowski (2005). The Vendetta. PublicAffairs. pp. 155–156. 
  48. ^ a b c d e Massad Ayoob (July–August 2008), "The death of John Dillinger", American Handgunner 
  49. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune, 7-15-34 through 8-1-34 movie section
  50. ^ "FBI Headline Archives, John Dillinger". FBI. Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  51. ^ "FBI History - Famous Cases, John Dillinger". FBI. Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  52. ^ The Story of the FBI, E.P. Dutton and Co., Inc. New York, Copyright 1947, p. 195.
  53. ^ a b "Dillinger Slain in Chicago; Shot Dead by Federal Men in Front of Movie Theater.". Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  54. ^ FBI Dillinger File 62-29777
  55. ^ May, Allan, and Marilyn Bardsley. "Biograph Encounter." John Dillinger: Bank Robber or Robin Hood? - Crime Library.
  56. ^ Eposito, Stefano; John Dillinger: "Hero for the angry masses" at the Wayback Machine (archived July 15, 2009), Chicago Sun-Times. June 28, 2009. Retrieved December 26, 2013 (web archive)
  57. ^ "In Grave Condition - John H. Dillinger" at the Wayback Machine (archived July 19, 2012), Lost Retrieved December 26, 2013 (web archive)
  58. ^ "Notable Persons. Crown Hill Cemetery and Funeral Home".<>. Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  59. ^ "Dillinger's grave attracting crowds due to Public Enemies movie.". 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  60. ^ Girardin/Helmer, p. 280
  61. ^ Jay Robert Nash (1969). The Dillinger Dossier. New York: M Evans and Company. 
  62. ^ Costello, Mark (August 1, 2004). "Public Enemies Review". The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved February 7, 2009. 
  63. ^ Gorn, Elliott. "The Real John Dillinger: Is Public Enemies historically accurate?". Retrieved 2012-05-01. 
  64. ^ "The Death of Jack Hamilton official movie website". Retrieved May 7, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]