"NEVER TRUST A WOMAN OR AN AUTOMATIC WEAPON"
"IT WAS ALL A GAME TO DILLINGER, IT WAS THE FBI AGAINST DILLINGER, AND DILLINGER WAS WINNING." A retired FBI Agent
He said as Dillinger watched him walking east on Second Street, as he drove the Ford slowly with a girl by his side. In the Chevrolet, there was a man accompanied by two women. It is highly possible that Dillinger was in Bloomington, after the murders of O’Brien and Mulvihill were blamed on him. He was hot in Chicago and he may have wanted to get out of town for awhile. Whether this was Dillinger or not, they completely vanished by the time police arrived. On May 27, Dillinger and Van Meter moved in with James Probasco at 2509 Crawford Avenue on Chicago’s North side. Louis Piquett, Arthur O’Leary, and Dr. Wilhein Loeser soon contacted Dillinger at the Probasco house regarding plastic surgery. During this visit a price was discussed and agreed upon. Dillinger would pay $5000 for the surgery, $3000 in advance and the remainder was to be paid afterwards. Dillinger wanted to get started right away and the surgery was set for the following evening. May 28, Dr. Loeser, his assistant Harold Cassidy, and O'Leary arrived at Probasco's house to perform the surgery. Dillinger wanted a complete make over on his face. Harold Cassidy applied ether to a towel to be used for an anesthesia. He placed the towel over Dillinger’s face and the outlaw began choking and turned blue. He had swallowed his tongue and stopped breathing. Dr. Loeser immediately grabbed the forceps and pulled Dillinger’s tongue forward. Dillinger began breathing and seemed to be all right, so Dr. Loeser decided to proceed with the surgery. He had a scar over his lip and a mole between his eyes removed. His cheeks were lifted, the dimple on his chin filled, and his nose was somewhat straightened. After two days of healing, Dillinger then had his fingerprints removed. On May 31, Dillinger's bandages were removed and he was happy with the results, and thought he looked like an entirely different person. Along with the surgery, Dillinger received a new birth certificate and fake identification cards. Van Meter was so impressed with the Dillinger's results that one-week later he would have the same surgery performed. Sometime early in June, Dillinger went out to try out his new face, which did change his appearance somewhat, but left scars on his face. He met a woman named Polly Hamilton at the "Barrel of Fun Club," in Chicago. He walked up to her table and said, ”Where have you been all my life?” Dillinger introduced himself as James Lawrence, and said he worked for the Chicago Board and Trade. Polly Hamilton would later introduce Dillinger to a friend named Anna Sage, soon to be known to the world as the lady in red. Dillinger had previously met Anna Sage during visits to her house of prostitution businesses in East Chicago and Gary, Indiana.
The Brothel had been raided three times and Anna Sage was now facing the threat of deportation back to her native country of Romania. On the first two raids Anna received help from her crooked cop and former lover, Sergeant Martin Zarkovich. After the third raid, there was nothing further Zarkovich could do for her; besides, his superiors were breathing down his neck for his association with a known prostitute. When Dillinger began dating Polly Hamilton, he had no idea that he was flirting with danger, and his death awaited in the forecast. On June 7, Dillinger and Van Meter were relaxing at Probasco's house when they first heard the reports of Tommy Carroll’s death on the radio. This was shocking news, and they knew their time would be coming too, if they didn’t escape the country soon. The outlaws listened to the details of how Waterloo Detectives discovered an automatic rifle in Carroll’s Hudson Sedan, parked in an alley. On this same day, Art McGinnis contacted police and said Dillinger and Van Meter were trying to kill him in Indianapolis, but he escaped by ducking into a crowd of people. McGinnis was an informant who had tipped off the police on several occasions of the whereabouts of Dillinger and Van Meter. After one of McGinnis’ tips, Police had set a trap for the outlaws but they failed to show. A few weeks later on or around June 21, Van Meter moved out of Probasco's house and kidnapped his girlfriend Marie Comforti, while she is under heavy watch by federal agents. He told her to get packed; and the two successfully escaped. They traveled to the home of William and Ella Finerty in Calumet City, Illinois where they rent rooms under assumed names. Dillinger continued dating Polly Hamilton, and had become good friends with Anna Sage and her son, Steve. On June 22, Dillinger celebrated his 31st birthday with Polly Hamilton at the French Casino nightclub in Chicago. The FBI also announced they also had a birthday present for John Dillinger. He would be the first man ever to be named Public Enemy Number One on the FBI’s most wanted list. This did not discourage Dillinger from going out in public. The very next night Dillinger went back to the French Casino Club to celebrate Polly Hamilton's birthday. On June 26, Dillinger, Polly Hamilton, Van Meter and Marie Comforti attended a baseball game at Wrigley's field to watch the Cubs and Dodgers game. Dillinger and Van Meter noticed one man suspiciously staring at them during the game. Van Meter decided it was time to leave, but Dillinger stayed for the remainder of the game. The Cubs won the game with the score five to two.
On June 27, Harry Copeland was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for his part in the Greencastle bank robbery on October 23, 1933. On the same, day Pat Reilly was arrested in St. Paul, and was later sentenced to serve two consecutive terms of 14 months and 21 months. On June 30, Dillinger would supposedly be involved in the bloodiest robbery of his career. Some doubts have been raised as to Dillinger involvement in the South Bend robbery, but evidence supports his involvement. If Dillinger were actually involved in the robbery, this would also be his last robbery. There were reports claiming that Dillinger said that he, Van Meter, and Nelson were involved in the robbery, but witnesses and FBI reports state that five or six men had participated in the robbery. John Hamilton was positively identified as one of the robbers, but he died on April 27, and could not have possibly been involved. We will use Hamilton's name, as a false pretense in the robbery because this is how the story was reported, but remember the actual robber involved remains unknown. The robbery went down on June 30, as two cars arrived at the Merchants National Bank in South Bend, Indiana. One of the vehicles, a Hudson Sedan double-parked near the corner close to the bank and three men exited the car. Nearby, the second car pulled to a stop and two more men got out. As the first three men entered the bank, the other two men approached the bank entrance and stopped outside to stand guard. One of the men carried a rifle and the other man a machinegun hidden carelessly hidden under his long overcoat. The time was 11:40 a.m., when one of the bandits pulled out a machinegun concealed beneath his coat and yelled, "This is a Stickup!" Everyone was ordered to line up against the wall. Some of the people moved too slowly, and the man later identified as Pretty Boy Floyd fired several shots into the ceiling (Although there are strong doubts that Floyd was actually involved). John Paul Chase, Nelson’s partner; may have been one of the robbers. The other two outlaws in the bank were positively identified as John Dillinger and John Hamilton. They were busy emptying the cash draws, supposedly, while Pretty Boy Floyd kept an eye on things. Outside a crowd had gathered after hearing the shots fired by Floyd. People were everywhere, wondering what was going on? These curious people were looking out of windows of nearby buildings, while others were watching from behind cars. The two men outside had their hands full trying to keep crowds back. These two men would later be positively identified as Homer Van Meter and Baby Face Nelson.
For the record, there is no solid evidence that John Dillinger was involved in this robbery, or the fact that Floyd may have worked with Dillinger, but this is how the story went. Inside the bank, Dillinger, Floyd and Hamilton were about ready to depart. They quickly surveyed the situation outside; grabbed hostages as shields and headed for the door. Nelson fired his machinegun into the air as a warning for crowds to disperse. Policeman Howard Wagner was busy directing traffic when he heard shots fired. He ran towards the bank and spotted Baby Face Nelson firing his machinegun. As Hamilton and Dillinger came out of the bank, Kenneth Beers with his wife and child had just stopped at a signal light by the bank, and his car suddenly stalled. Officer Wagner ducked behind the stalled car and began firing at Van Meter, endangering the occupants in the car. Van Meter didn't want to hit the driver or his family, so he fired short bursts near the rear of the car to prevent the officer from taking a good aim. Wagner's shots began coming closer and closer to the outlaw. This stand off went on for a few minutes; Van Meter soon became frustrated with the situation. Suddenly the car started, and drove off leaving the officer completely in the open. Van Meter let him have it and mortally wounded the officer. The bullet tore through Wagner’s the right breast and he collapsed on the ground. He died a short time later in the hospital. A Businessman named Harry Berg armed with a gun fired at Nelson and then ducked into a nearby store. Nelson turned quickly and fired at Berg, sending bullets crashing through the store window. One bullet hit Berg in the leg, which shifted and lodged into his abdomen, supporting the fraudulent magic bullet theory. Just as Nelson began wondering what was going to happen next, a teenager named Joseph Pawlowski ran up and courageously jumped on his back. The puzzled outlaw swung around wildly, and threw the teenager into a plate glass window. Nelson then turned and shot at him. The teenager wasn't hit, but the window glass crashed down and severely cut his hand. The robbery had only taken about five minutes, but when the bandits tried to exit the bank all hell broke lose. Several police officers had arrived at the scene as the whizzing sound of bullets uttered loudly through the streets. Patrolman Sylvester Zell and his partner continued pouring steady streams of lead at the robbers. Dillinger came out of the bank holding Delos Coen as a shield and proceeded to the car. Hamilton and Floyd grabbed Perry Stahley and Bruce Bouchard as shields. One officer fired at Dillinger and hit Delos Coen in the left leg. Another police bullet hit Coen in the side. Perry Stahley was also wounded in the hip by police bullets.
The third hostage was more fortunate, police bullets tore through his pants leg, but he was not hit. The outlaws decided it was time to get out of this town, and ran for the car. Detective Edward McCormick of the South Bend Police Department and Detective Harry Hendersen appeared on the scene to joined the fight. McCormick fired two blasts from his shotgun at the driver of the Hudson and believed he hit one of the men. The blast left sixteen holes in the side of the car. One of the bullets meant for the robbers; hit Samual Toth a motorist, in the eye. Another police bullet hit Jacob Soloman in the leg. Henderson fired several shots from his pistol through the back windshield of the Hudson. Nelson was in the driver’s seat when one of the slugs went right through his hat, barely missing his head. If anyone taller had been behind the wheel they would have surely been killed. As Van Meter was about to enter the car, he was shot point blank in the head by a nearby storeowner. As Van Meter fell, Dillinger grabbed him by his coat and pulled him into the car. The .22 caliber bullet entered Van Meter’s forehead at the hairline and exited about six inches back at the top of his scalp. As the Hudson Sedan sped south out of town, several bullets followed. South Bend had paid dearly during the battle, with one officer dead and six citizens wounded. Van Meter killed one officer; Nelson wounded two citizens and the police wounded four other citizens. The grand total of the robbery amounted to $29,890. An hour after the robbery, a wheel and a car jack were found on a gravel road in the direction that the outlaws had fled. The Hudson was discovered three miles north of Goodland, Indiana around 3:30 p.m. Witnesses reported seeing five men climb into a small coupe with a rumble seat. One of the men (Van Meter) had to be carried. The abandoned Hudson was dusted for fingerprints and photographed. Bloodstains and small bone fragments were found on the seats. After the robbery, Dillinger and Van Meter headed back to Probasco's house where Harold Cassidy was summoned to clean and dress Van Meter's wound for a fee of $500 dollars. Although the wound wasn’t serious, Cassidy informed Van Meter that the wound should be kept clean and fresh bandages applied to prevent infection. As Van Meter wounds were healing the outlaws began planning a big train robbery, which ironically was set for the end of July. This job would finance a permanent escape to South America. They had an inside connection and learned all the details of the trains routes and times. On July 4, Dillinger and Van Meter permanently departed from Probasco’s house and the two separated, but remained in touched. This was around the time when Anna Sage rented Dillinger a room in her apartment, which would later prove to be a fatal decision.
Anna Sage’s apartment was located at 2420 North Halsted Street. Van Meter returned to the residence of his girlfriend Marie Comforti. Immediately after Dillinger moved in Sage’s apartment, she began meeting with Martin Zarkovich of the to discuss plans of betraying the nations number one criminal. Polly Hamilton knew nothing of these plans of betrayal, but would become the bait to lure Dillinger into a trap. Zarkovich had convinced Anna Sage that Dillinger was the answer to their prayers. He told the FBI could help her to fight deportation hearings, and there was also a considerably large reward on his head. Anna trusted Zarkovich; the two had been lovers, and he had helped her when she was arrested for operating a house of prostitution. Immigration authorities demanded that Anna Sage be deported back to Romania, her place of birth. Some officials in high places, who were some of Anna’s clients in her house of prostitution, also wanted her to permanently disappear. Anna Sage became desperate; Zarkovich convinced her that Dillinger’s demise could be the solution to her problems. Zarkovich realized that Dillinger was the key to his future. While Dillinger and Polly were having the time of their lives, Anna Sage continued discussing plans with Zarkovich to deceive the outlaw. Anna began to spending more time with Dillinger and Polly, attending movies and going to nightclubs. Dillinger had no idea that he was about to be sold out by a trusted friend. During this time, Dillinger and Van Meter would meet at secret locations to discuss the details of the proposed train robbery.
ANNA SAGE - THE LADY IN RED
Some wonder if John Dillinger was actually killed by the FBI on July 22, 1934
Meanwhile, J. Edgar Hoover had sent Special Agent Cowley to Chicago to take charge of the Dillinger hunt and keep Purvis out of the spotlight. Through Zarkovich, Anna Sage agreed to meet with Melvin Purvis and a plan was put into action. It was agreed that if Anna would put Dillinger on the spot, she would receive help with her deportation proceedings, and the reward money. Anna told Purvis that Dillinger and Polly had plans to go to the movies on July 22, and she was invited. It was agreed that this would be the day of the trap. Anna would call Purvis with the details of the event. On the date planned, Anna called Purvis at 5:30 p.m., and said Dillinger wasn’t sure if he wanted go to the Marlboro Theater or the Biograph. Special Agent in Charge Samuel Cowley had to split the agents up and send half the men to each theater. Cowley took charge of agents at the Marlboro, and Purvis at the Biograph. Around 7:30 p.m., Anna called again, and nervously whispered the Biograph into the telephone receiver. Purvis immediately contacted Cowley and told him of the new events. Cowley decided to maintain his position at the Marlboro, just in case Dillinger had a change out mind at the last minute.
This way all bases were covered and Dillinger would be trapped. Hoover was notified and kept updated as the Dillinger saga unfolded, but the Director was concerned about Purvis receiving the credit. If anyone was to receive credit for Dillinger’s downfall, Hoover wanted to be the man. In his eyes, he would be the man of the hour and the hero of the FBI. But Hoover was just the man who sat behind the desk and gave the orders. In fact, the only time Hoover even held a gun would be to pose for films or photographs. In later years, Hoover would become obsessed with destroying Melvin Purvis, his reputation and future careers. Hoover completely removed Purvis’ name from documents of the FBI’s biggest events. Like a spoiled child, Hoover was very revengeful against anyone stealing his publicity. He wanted the public to love him, would go after anyone who he thought was invading his road to stardom. He later tried to ruin the careers of anyone involved in the Dillinger case. One of which, was Robert Estill; prosecutor of Crown Point, involved in John Dillinger’s trial. Another one of Hoover’s victims would be Matt Leach, Captain of the Indiana State Police, who also made several headlines while on the trail of John Dillinger. Back at Anna’s apartment, the future lady in red was getting dressed, while Dillinger and Polly was relaxing in the apartment.
Purvis had instructed Anna to wear an orange dress so agents could identify her, which earned her the title, The lady in red, because the lighting at the Biograph made her dress appear red. At the Biograph, agents assembled and waited patiently, for Purvis to give the orders of assigned positions and responsibilities. Purvis appeared to be very nervous and would later admit that he was scared to death of John Dillinger. He had outsmarted so many lawmen that crossed his path, and escaped several traps. Purvis had a world of pressure on his shoulders, and the responsibility of giving the signal to agents to move in and take Dillinger. He knew he had to get Dillinger without allowing the outlaw to disgrace the FBI again. Purvis was well aware of Dillinger’s reputation, his ability to make fools out of his persuaders, and his unpredictability to change his plans at a moment’s notice. He was also aware of the possibility that Dillinger might resist arrest and may have to be killed. He was hoping that Dillinger would surrender, but knew this was a long shot. If caught, Dillinger would surely face the electric chair. The FBI would later claim they wanted Dillinger taken alive, but Hoover’s right hand man Sam Cowley and the East Chicago Police Department were there to make sure Dillinger didn’t live. Dillinger’s appointment with death was on the agenda, and preparations had been made. Lets look at the details of how the events unfolded.
JOHN DILLINGER - (D.O.A.) DEAD ON ARRIVAL
DILLINGER'S APPOINTMENT WITH ASSASSINS
The date was Sunday, July 22, 1934; Federal Agents waited outside the Biograph Theater for John Dillinger to arrive after receiving the reliable tip from Anna Sage. The temperature had been a smothering 109 degrees earlier in the day, setting an all time record high in Chicago. This intense heatwave had killed 272 people the previous day. The Biograph Theater was cooled by refrigeration and many people would go to movies to escape the heat. The movie of the decade was playing, MANHATTAN MELODRAMA starring Clark Gable. The movie was based on a gangster’s life and his inevitable end of dying in the electric chair. The movie was very similar to Dillinger’s life, except for the fact that he would be killed without a trial. Samual Cowley and Martin Zarkovich clearly prearranged Dillinger’s assassination. This would be the last movie Dillinger would ever see.
Melvin Purvis gave these final instructions to the agents at the Biograph Theater. The instructions were as follows: “Gentlemen, You all know the character of John Dillinger. If he appears at either of the picture shows and we locate him and he affects his escape it will be a disgrace to our Bureau.
It may be that Dillinger will be at the picture show with his women companions without arms, yet he may appear there armed and with other members of his gang. There of course will be an undetermined element of danger in endeavoring to apprehend Dillinger. It is the desire that he be taken alive, if possible, and without injury to any Agent of the Bureau; yet gentlemen, this is the opportunity that we have all been awaiting and he must be taken. Do not unnecessarily endanger your own lives and if Dillinger offers any resistance each man will be for himself and it will be up to each of you to do whatever you think necessary to protect yourselves in taking Dillinger.” After Purvis gave specific instructions to the Agents someone asked, "What types of guns shall we take?” Purvis replied, “Your pistols only."
I don’t believe Purvis actually wanted to kill Dillinger, only arrest him. Agents began taking their positions to set an escape proof trap. Twenty-two Federal Agents, including four Officers of the East Chicago Indiana Police Department would be in on the kill. This time the FBI had one important factor on their side, the element of surprise. Melvin Purvis was extremely nervous and he had good reason to be because this wasn't any ordinary outlaw, this was John Dillinger. After observing the Biograph theater until 8:38 p.m., Agent Purvis noted Mrs. Anna Sage, John Dillinger, and Polly Hamilton (Dillinger's last girlfriend) approaching, with several other patrons of the theater. As Dillinger entered the booth to purchase his tickets, a phone call was made to Samuel Cowley, and he was informed that public enemy number one had just arrived at the Biograph. Cowley rushed to the Biograph and instructed his agents to proceed to their positions for the purpose of covering all exits. Agents had been previously instructed as to the positions to be maintained. The theater was covered and agents were told to maintain their positions in the most inconspicuous manner possible, under the circumstances. As Dillinger was seated inside enjoying the movie, Purvis went into the theater to try to spot the outlaw, but could not see him in the darkness. Dillinger was sitting towards the front rows between his two lady companions. He sat and watched the movie of the decade about a gangster who was about to pay the ultimate price for his life of crime. The condemned gangster's life was about to end in the electric chair. Dillinger must have thought of how similar his life was to the picture on the big screen, and how his life could possibly end the same way. We can only wonder what was going through his head during these last moments of his life. He probably thought he would go out shooting, because he couldn’t ever surrender, with the likely possibility of dying in the chair.
After the movie ended, the real true to life gangster story was about to unfold. Positions were maintained by agents until about 10:40 p.m., at which time John Dillinger and his lady companions came walking out of the theater, arm in arm, with Polly Hamilton on his left and Anna Sage on his right. They turned left and proceeded on foot in a southeasterly direction. Dillinger appeared to be unaware of the trap. Agent Purvis was to signal agents when he spotted Dillinger by lighting a cigar, which would tell agents to close in and take Dillinger. As Dillinger came into view, Purvis tried to give the prearranged signal, but his hands were shaking so much he struggled to light the cigar. Regardless of Melvin Purvis’ nervousness, agent’s realized the signal and began to close in. As Dillinger walked his last thirty steps, the net began to tighten around him; he had with only twenty seconds left to live. He walked past the Goetz Country Club Tavern; then turned his head, and looked directly at a “Nervous Purvis,” without suspicion. Dillinger probably wondered for a moment, why the man looked so jumpy? He may have even suspected Purvis was a G-man, and just played it cool as he passed by. Agent's H.E.Hollis, Charles Winstead, R.D.Brown, and Purvis began to close in behind John Dillinger. The agents were all stationed on the southeast side of the Biograph. East Chicago Officers Sopsic and Stretch, who had assumed positions in a northwesterly direction of the theater, didn’t see the signal. Sergeant Zarkovich, had been stationed at a point diagonally across the street from the Biograph, he immediately ran across the street to notify Officers Sopsic and Stretch. Dillinger and his companions proceeded deeper into the trap as they walked pass the Country Club, and were now in front of the National Food Company, near the alley. As the trio walked arm in arm, Anna suddenly let go of Dillinger’s arm and dropped behind. This caused Polly Hamilton to look back and check on Anna, as she did so, she saw several men approaching with guns. She elbowed Dillinger in the ribs as a warning, and whispered in his ear, “Those men have guns.” Dillinger looked over his right shoulder, and realized it was a trap. He broke into a run, assuming a dodging semi-crouching position, shifting his body zigzagging like a football player running for a touchdown. This was actually a clever move on Dillinger’s part, and may have prevented his death under different circumstances, but this time there was no way out. As he ran past the National Tea and Food Company towards the alley, agents were right on him. The FBI claimed Dillinger reach for a .380 caliber Colt Automatic Pistol from his right trouser pocket as Agent’s H.E.Hollis and C.O.hurt fired two shots at the fleeing outlaw simultaneously. Both agents missed, but succeeded in hitting two innocent bystanders.
One bullet hit Miss Theresa Paulus in the hip, while another bullet hit Mrs. Etta Natalsky in the left leg. Agent Charles Winstead also fired two shots, hitting Dillinger in the back just as he was attempting to swing around a pole into the alley. Dillinger took a few more quick steps, and fell face first at the foot of the brick paved alley. As he lay there wounded, he managed to get up on his hands and knees; but Agent Winstead fired a final shot into the back of his neck, point blank, execution style. The fatal bullet entered the back of Dillinger's neck, and emerged just below the right eye. Agent's claimed the fatal bullet was fired while Dillinger was running, but witness claims, and strong evidence supports the fact that Dillinger was already down when the fatal shot was fired. The FBI claimed that Dillinger's semi-crouching position was the reason the fatal bullet entered at the point of his neck exited from just under the right eye. I’m not buying it! In order to achieve the angle the fatal bullet, Dillinger would have had to already been on the ground when the final shot was fired. Agent Winstead was using snub-nose .38 specials, and fired at such close range that Dillinger had powder burns on the back of his neck. The fatal shots, fired by Agent Winstead were not necessary because Dillinger was already seriously wounded and on the ground. Other reports state that the FBI shot through crowds of men, women and children to get Dillinger. The Bureau knew there would be crowds at the theater and innocent people may be injured or killed, but Hoover figured the risks were worth the prize. The truth is that this was a death trap cut and dry, and the FBI had no intentions of bringing Dillinger in alive. Dillinger had made fools out of the law officials on numerous occasions and had disgraced the Bureau to the bone. The FBI merely had a score to settle and a reputation to build, and Dillinger's death was the key to their success. The FBI was still a very unpopular organization, but Dillinger’s death would reshape the Bureau’s imagine. Around ten minutes after Dillinger was shot, he was laid out in the back of a police wagon taken to Alexian Brothers Hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival. Attending physicians refused to admit the outlaw because he was already deceased. Four agents lay Dillinger’s body on the grass in front of the hospital until the Deputy Coroner arrived, and made arrangements to move his body to the Cook County Morgue at 2121 W. Harrison Street. After an examination of the body, it was noted that Dillinger bore two flesh wounds in the chest; one of these bullets had entered just below his heart.
The third and fatal wound was caused by a bullet entering the rear of his skull, and emerging from the lower portion of the right eye, just above the cheekbone. Mrs. Etta Natelsky told reporters from her hospital bed that she was walking with her husband Jake near the Biograph when the shooting occurred. She remembered seeing a large crowd of men added, “After that, things happened so fast I couldn’t be sure just what was what. I heard the sharp sound of exploding pistol shots. A man rushed past me and crumpled in the alley, then I felt a stinging on my left leg, I had been shot.” Several statements made by agents on the scene seem to differ from eyewitness reports, indicating many discrepancies by the FBI. Agent Melvin Purvis told reporters that he gave a warning when he yelled out, “Stick ‘em up, Johnnie,” later it changed to “Hello John.” But witnesses claimed there was no warning of any kind. There were 26 men involved in the killing of Dillinger, and several statements made after the fact. As we look at these statements, we get a better idea of what actually happened. Special Agent Welles was positioned on the sidewalk by the alley just a few feet from where Dillinger fell. His statement went like this, “It might be well to note that from the time Special Agent in Charge Melvin Purvis gave the signal, and agents saw the person whom they were to apprehend as Dillinger. There was no question in anybody’s mind that this was not actually John Dillinger, even though his features had been changed somewhat.” In official FBI reports it sounds like some agents had doubts that this man was actually John Dillinger, but maybe someone else in his place. Special Agent Gillesfie stated that approximately two or three minutes after Dillinger fell, he observed the outlaw taking what appeared to be his last gasp for air. He observed the body of the man laying face down with his feet on the sidewalk at a point where an alley crossed the sidewalk. The body lay in this position for approximately ten minutes, and then was put in the back of a police patrol wagon. There was also memorandum prepared for Director J.Edgar Hoover relating to the shooting of John Dillinger, agent's were not mentioned by name, just letters.
The statement read:
“Special Agent G, under the date of July 23,1934, submitted a statement from which the following pertinent statements. As Dillinger past in front of Special Agent in charge Melvin Purvis, he lit his cigar as a signal that John Dillinger was approaching. Dillinger looked towards Agent Purvis, but did not appear at this time to be suspicious. As he passed Agent C, it appeared as though the shorter of the two women who were accompanying him pulled on his shirt or gave him some signal and he looked quickly around at Agent C.
By this time he was approximately twenty-five feet from the alley entrance. He appeared to realize that he was trapped, there was a very tense look on his face and then he crouched, and pulled his gun. At this point Agent D took a step towards him, and Dillinger appeared to be ready to spring into the alley. Agents F, and D had their guns ready, but Dillinger had only taken about two steps in a crouching position towards the alley, when Agent C, fired one of the shots that took Dillinger down.” It is interesting to read the different views of agents involved in the historical event. Special Agent G.C.Woltz was stationed to the alleyway, and the left side exits of the Biograph Theater. He stated, “At about 10:50 p.m., I heard either two or three shots fired. I saw the body of John Dillinger lying at the corner just in the alleyway. He was still kicking and moving some. He was bleeding from wounds in the lower part of his back, also from his stomach, the back of his neck and in either his eye or forehead. He was wearing a white shirt, gray trousers, white shoes and a straw hat. There was a pair of glasses lying beside him. I then helped lead Dillinger's body onto the stretcher and placed him in the ambulance.” Immediately after the shooting, Anna Sage, Dillinger’s trusted landlady and betrayer, had rushed back to her hotel room. She wanted to get rid of any evidence, which could possibly link her to Dillinger. She went to his closet and removed a machinegun, bulletproof vest, and ammo. It is strongly believed that Anna Sage told her son, Steve Chilak, to take the items and dump them in Lake Michigan. Less than forty-eight hours later, three swimmers found the items and turned them over to police. Another official document indicated that immediately after the shooting occurred, a Chicago police officer had begun systematically searching the body of Dillinger. As he was doing so, Agent Winstead requested the officer look for a gun. Winstead told the officer, “I saw him reach for one.” After searching Dillinger, the officer replied, “He has no gun.” This officer swore that he was the first man to search the body after Dillinger was shot; yet no gun was found. Purvis had claimed he already removed the weapon. While the FBI were struggling to get their stories straight, there was also friction developing between reporters fighting to get the best story. One reporter even removed the toe tag from Dillinger’s foot after he photographed the outlaw to assure he got the only shot. When Melvin Purvis stated he had already removed the gun from Dillinger, was he protecting the Bureau? This question has been asked countless times over the years. Many people wonder if Dillinger actually had a weapon, or was a gun planted at the scene to protect the FBI?
After countless days of reviewing all the detailed statements made by agents at the death scene, I noted that not even one of them mention seeing Purvis remove a gun. Even Winstead, the man who pulled fired the fatal shot, didn’t see Purvis remove the weapon. Dillinger was usually armed when he went out; in fact, he rarely went anywhere without a gun. But on this night he felt confident with a new face and a new identification to leave his weapon behind. It was also the hottest night in Chicago’s history, and Dillinger dressed casually. The Bureau already had a bad record of shooting unarmed men, and innocent people. These incidents had set off a shock wave of criticism and the public had demanded the resignation of J.Edgar Hoover and Melvin Purvis on more than one occasion. The FBI could not afford any more mistakes, which explains why the Bureau would plant a gun on Dillinger, if he happened to be unarmed, and that’s exactly what they did.
Hoover wasn’t about to be blamed for the killing of another unarmed man, so a gun would be planted, if necessary. In the first reports, Anna Sage claimed that Dillinger had no gun on him, but later after talking with the FBI, she would change her story. Did the FBI coach Anna Sage in her second statement? Most likely, because Hoover wanted these reports forged to his satisfaction. There could be no mistakes. Anna Sage later said Dillinger had carried a gun in front of his trousers; tucked in his pants under his shirt. The FBI claimed Dillinger tried to pull a gun from his right front trouser pocket, and he couldn’t get it out, because the hammer got caught inside the pocket liner. Melvin Purvis claimed he personally removed the gun from Dillinger’s hand, which turned out to be hammerless. The evidence presented by the FBI shows several discrepancies, and is inconsistent to the facts on that fatal night. Purvis was an honest man, but under Hoover’s command, his loyalties would lead to lies. He later left the Bureau because he had learned first- hand how deceiving Hoover could be. Dillinger felt secure enough with his new disguise, birth certificate, and a new identity to leave his weapon home. After Dillinger’s plastic surgery, he felt that he looked completely different. The surgeon actually did a great face-lift considering the practice was still fairly new in the thirties. The mole between his eyes and the scar on his were lip removed, and the dimple on his chin had been filled in. He later plucked eyebrows thin, his mustache was well groomed with a Clark Gable look, and he was wearing prescription glasses. The one thing Dillinger didn’t count on was betrayal from a trusted friend. Special Agent Cowley made a report on items found on Dillinger listed as number 0558384. In his report, he indicated that three keys were found on Dillinger’s body. Oddly enough in a later FBI report only two keys are listed, which means one of the keys had disappeared. Also when Cowley question informant Anna Sage, she claimed that Dillinger had over $3000 on him, even through official reports state that only $7.80 was found on him. Anna claimed that she personally watched Dillinger count up 65 twenty dollars bills, one hundred ten-dollar bills, and two hundred five-dollar bills, which was a grand total of $3,300 dollars. She stated that he counted the money just before they left to the movies. Agent Cowley stated in his report that Dillinger had no coat on and this amount of money would have caused his pockets to budge a great deal. He then concluded that the statements were untrue. Glenn Stretch had even made a public statement that he watched Martin Zarkovich removed a money belt from Dillinger.
Why would the FBI write off these statements without checking it out further? Anna Sage had been honest when she said she would deliver Dillinger. Why would she lie about the money? Perhaps this could explain what happened to the missing third key, and the reason the FBI seemed unconcerned about the money. Could the FBI have taken the money? It appears that there were bigger crooks than Dillinger around, and most of them wore badges. I don’t believe Anna Sage would have taken the money, because if she had, she wouldn’t have mentioned it to Cowley. All fingers point at Martin Zarkovich, who I believe, took the money. Another logical explanation is perhaps that Cowley and Zarkovich were both involved and split the money. One thing is for certain; everyone wanted to keep the missing money quiet. Another rumor was that the money was secretly divided between the victim’s families. Whatever the truth may be, I don’t think Anna Sage would have lied about such a large sum of money. Since Cowley made the report and noted three keys in his report, I would have to say he had to be involved or had some knowledge of who was involved. Also a pocketknife noted in FBI reports had disappeared. It appeared as though the FBI was taking souvenirs. When questioned by Cowley, Anna Sage and Polly Hamilton had denied knowing Dillinger’s current residence. This is because Sage didn’t want Cowley to know that Dillinger was living in her apartment. Cowley bought it hook, line, and sinker. In his report he concluded that he believed their statements were true because they had no reason to withhold information implicating any other gang members. If Dillinger counted the money in Anna Sage’s apartment, and the trio left from that location to the movies than the money had to be at the residence, unless Zarkovich had indeed removed the money. Dillinger may have even hid the money before they left. There were plenty of holes in Anna Sage’s story too, and I can’t understand why the FBI couldn’t see it, unless they just didn’t want too. At the time of Dillinger’s death the FBI reported him as wearing the following clothes:
Personal items listed as found on the body were the following:
- 1 Gold Ring with Ruby Set, Containing the inscription: “WITH ALL MY LOVE, POLLY”
- 1 Yellow Gold 17-Jewel Hamilton Watch, and in the watch case a picture of Polly Hamilton.
- 2 Keys, One of which to a door (changed from 3 keys in prior reports)
- 1 Automatic Pistol, .380 caliber
- 1 Extra clip of .380 caliber
- 1 White Handkerchief with brown border.
Other items, which were not mentioned in this report, are the following: Dillinger’s Straw hat that he was wearing, one pair of prescription glasses, a leather billfold, a La Carona cigar and $7.80 found in his pockets. So what happened to the missing key, the pocketknife, and the $3,300 in cash? We will probably never really know for sure, but I’m sure the FBI and Martin Zarkovich, the crooked cop of the East Chicago Indiana Police Department had some idea. According to FBI reports on October 11, 1934 Anna Sage received $5000 dollars for information leading to the apprehension of John Dillinger. Since the FBI had taken credit for the killing of Dillinger, Zarkovich, and Tim O’Neill were denied any rewards because they had failed to cooperate with the Indiana State police on Dillinger’s whereabouts, which was an Indiana matter. Zarkovich and O’Neill fought back claiming that it was Captain Tim O’Neill, who fired the fatal shots that killed Dillinger. By 1936, Zarkovich and O’Neill would both receive $2,500 dollars each for their parts in locating Dillinger.
Thousands of people had lined up, pushed, and shoved each other to get a glimpse of most celebrated outlaw of the times. College students began making death masks out of plaster. In fact, they made so many death masks that Dillinger’s skin began to peel away. Law enforcement officers posed for pictures with Dillinger, like hunters showing off the big catch of the day, the grand prize, or trophy. Dillinger was a huge catch for the FBI, Anna Sage, Martin Zarkovich, and Tim O’Neill. Not to mention the missing $3,300 dollars in cash. Someone indeed hit the jackpot and the FBI simply turned their heads, and looked the other way. Agent Cowley closed the book on the missing money as quick as he heard about it. Anna Sage told the FBI that she didn’t believe Dillinger ever killed anyone, because he was too much of a gentleman, very kind and polite. Sage and Dillinger had become very close friends, but her greed for the reward and to avoid deportation at all costs was greater than their friendship.
What kind of person was Anna Sage? She was a Madam who ran a house of prostitution. She sold out her best friend’s lover killed in change for a reward and broken promises from the FBI. She never even received a written guarantee that the FBI would help her. After the fatal shooting of John Dillinger, begun the real battle between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the East Chicago Indiana Police Department. It seemed both the FBI and East Chicago Police wanted the credit for the killing of Dillinger. It began when with memorandum arranged by J.Edgar Hoover that appeared in a Chicago Newspaper. The article was a blow to the East Chicago Indiana Police Department. Headlines read:
“THOUGH DILLINGER IS DEAD, THEIR FACES ARE RED.”
The article stated that Dillinger had paid a visit to the East Chicago Police Department building at 1121 South State Street four times while living in Chicago. He had gone to the building with Polly Hamilton who was seeking a job as a waitress. Dillinger had taken Polly to the Health Department for a health examination, which was required in those days if you were working around the preparation of food. The Health Department was located directly inside the Police Department. On four occasions Dillinger went with Polly to this Health Department. On each visit, Dillinger would sit patiently in the Police Headquarters only a few feet away from officers, reading a newspaper while waiting for Polly. These examinations would usually take about an hour depending on how busy they were at the time. Could you image the most wanted man in America “Public Enemy Number One” sitting only a few feet away from Police right in front of their very noses. Unarmed, I might add, just like he was at the Biograph the night he was killed. I could imagine Dillinger sitting in the Chicago Police Department possibly once as a joke, but four times? The article went on to say this is why Dillinger felt so safe in Chicago. In any case this article didn’t look good for the East Chicago Indiana Police Department who were supposedly hot on his trail. It seems that Hoover and the East Chicago Police Department didn’t trust each other too much, and were not on good terms. Matt Leach of the Indiana State Police would have the same trouble with Hoover. But the story with the East Chicago Indiana Police Department gets much worse. It seems the FBI had done some investigating on Sergeant Martin Zarkovich, who claimed he barely knew Anna Sage, the lady in red.197. The FBI learned that on July 30, 1934, the Chicago Tribute had published a photograph of Anna Sage sitting on the steps with Zarkovich and the two appeared quite close. The FBI also learned that snapshots of the two together were found in Anna Sage’s apartment following her hasty departure after the killing of Dillinger. In one of the photographs was a picture of Anna Sage’s son, Steve, which appeared to be taken years earlier. In the same Chicago newspaper the FBI had stated that Zarkovich and Anna Sage had known each other for fourteen years. The article went on to say that Zarkovich and Anna Sage was on very intimate terms. The FBI continued by stating that Anna Sage does not admit living with Zarkovich, but this is probably the case. When questioned, Zarkovich stated to Melvin Purvis that he had nothing to do with Anna Sage in recent years. It is clear that the FBI was trying to bury Zarkovich’s reputation.
Perhaps Zarkovich just didn’t want anyone to know about his past personal relationship with Anna Sage. After all, it didn’t look good for a Sergeant of the Police Department to be involved with a woman who ran a house of prostitution. Zarkovich had also introduced Anna Sage to the FBI to make a deal and possibly save her from deportation. Zarkovich seemed to be spending a lot of his own personal time trying to help Sage. What was Zarkovich getting out of this? Was it just a part of the reward money for Dillinger, or was there more to it? Actually there was much more to it, and this is why Zarkovich lied to the FBI when he told them he barely knew her. Actually his involvement with Anna Sage would later become the main reason why his wife divorced him. On Zarkovich’s official divorce degree, it even mentions his relationship with Anna Sage as grounds for divorce. Zarkovich’s professional and personal life was under fire so he decided to wave the white flag and cut a deal. The Bureau would not give the public the “Final chapter” of Zarkovich’s love affair with Anna sage in exchange for the much needed credit of Dillinger’s death. The FBI needed this credit to clear the Bureau’s deteriorating reputation and gain the much-needed respect. But the fact remained that the FBI would not have got Dillinger on July 22, 1934 if it hadn’t been for Zarkovich’s contact with Anna Sage. Sage had made a very valuable deal with the FBI. She agreed to risk her life, and put Dillinger on the spot in exchange for the Justice Department’s cooperation and help with her Deportation Proceedings. The FBI agreed to do whatever they could to help her if she would help them in return. Sage not only put Dillinger on the spot, but hand delivered him to the location of his prearranged execution.
Purvis was very grateful for Anna Sage’s help, and felt the FBI should keep their promise for her part in trapping Dillinger. He tried to help her, but his hands were tied on the matter. Purvis later pleaded with Hoover in a memo to help Sage, but the Director had no intentions of helping her. The fact is that after Hoover got Dillinger, and he wanted nothing more to do with Anna Sage. He was more interested in Zarkovich and his secretive past. Before the Zarkovich saga concluded, Glenn Stretch of the East Chicago Police struck back and delivered a final blow at the FBI on October 1, 1935. The article supposedly revealed the truth to the actual killing of John Dillinger, which appeared in the New York Evening Journal. Headlines read:
“WOMAN PUT FINGER ON GANGSTER, BETRAYER IS REFUSED U.S. ASSISTANCE IN DEPORTATION.”
<Sic>For the first time an officer who was in on the killing of John Dillinger tells the whole story of how the notorious public enemy number one was put on the spot by Anna Sage, “The Woman in red,” and how Dillinger was shot down as he drew his gun when he tried to shoot his way out of the trap in front of the Biograph in Chicago.
The officer was Glenn Stretch of the East Chicago Police Force and this is his statement.
East Chicago, Indiana October 1, 1935
<Sic>”For the first time I feel justified in telling how John Dillinger was trapped and killed. Also the part that East Chicago Police Department had in the job. I was there the night it happened and saw it all. Now that Anna Sage has given out her statement there is no reason for keeping silent any longer. In the first place I want to say that Dillinger would never had been killed if it hasn’t been the East Chicago Police. We were on his trail right behind him for three months before the shooting. We were put on his track by a (unknown) man, who worked with the Dillinger gang. He told Captain Tim O’Neill, who has since left the force and Sergeant Zarkovich, but we were always a step behind. In the middle of July of 1934, Anna Sage who lived in East Chicago contacted Zarkovich and told him that she knew where Dillinger was. Zarkovich advised Anna Sage that she should speak to Melvin Purvis, the Chicago Chief of the Department of Justice.
A day later, Samuel Cowley Special Agent who was on assignment from Washington to “Get Dillinger,” and who held rank over Purvis, came to Chicago to talk with Zarkovich and Captain O’Neill. Our men took Anna Sage to Chicago to talk to Purvis. The Government would have never got in touch with her if it hadn’t been for us. She agreed to put Dillinger on the spot providing her Deportation case would be dropped.
July 22, the day of the trap, we planned to grab Dillinger not to kill him. Three of us East Chicago Detectives went to Chicago with Zarkovich and O’Neill. We met Purvis at his office in the bankers building and were waiting there when Anna Sage called and said she was going with Polly Hamilton and Dillinger that night to the Biograph Theater around the corner. Purvis rounded up all federal agents and we surrounded the theater. Purvis sat in his car in front of the theater aiming a view of the lobby.
He was to light a cigar just as he saw Dillinger. Suddenly Dillinger appeared in the lobby; Purvis went inside and we waited for five minutes. Then we saw Purvis light up and the next moment we were face to face with Dillinger. He walked out of the theater with Anna Sage and the Hamilton girl. Polly Hamilton noticed something was wrong and whispered in Dillinger’s ear. Everyone thought he didn’t have a gun. He did, it was a big and mean one. Dillinger reached into his pocket and pulled it out as Polly whispered. It was a .380 automatic pistol. He looked over his shoulder and started running, the gun in his hand. O’Neill saw him before he had got fifteen steps; O’Neill shot him. The two federal agents with us shot at the same time and both of them hit Dillinger. One of those bullets killed him, we’ll never know just who killed him.”On July 29,1935, a little over a year after the shooting took place, Melvin Purvis wrote J.Edgar Hoover a letter attempting to help Anna Sage with her deportation from the States to Romania. Sage was ordered to leave August of 1935. The letter was Address: Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, The Department of Justice, It read:
<Sic>I beg to respectfully submit for your attention to the following. On Saturday evening, July 27,1935, Mrs. Anna Sage, who you will remember furnished information which led to the apprehension of John Dillinger on July 22,1934, called me, and stated that she desired to talk with me about her deportation. It appears that she is to be deported from the United States to Romania sometime during the middle of August 1935.
She desires that any action possible be taken in her behalf in order to prevent her deportation. I informed her that I did not know what could be done about the matter, and she requested that I write you about it. While the service performed by Mrs. Sage to the Federal Bureau of Investigation was one of immense value in many ways, I fully appreciate the fact that this might not be such an act as to have any bearing upon any action which might be taken by the Bureau in Washington in order to prevent her deportation. I likewise am not entirely aware of the action, which the Bureau has previously taken in this matter in Washington. I remember our several discussions about the matter, but whether any actual step was taken, I do not know. If the Bureau can do anything, I will appreciate it if you will advise me in this regard. Signed: Sincerely Yours, Melvin Purvis.
The Director responded on August 6,1935, with this brief letter to Purvis.
I have received your letter of July 29,1935, advising of the inquiry made of you by Anna Sage on July 27,1935, concerning what if any action this Bureau would take for the purpose of preventing her deportation to Romania. Since deportation matters are solely within the jurisdiction of the Immigration, and Naturalization Service, there is no action, which can be taken in this matter by the Bureau. Signed: Very Truly Yours, John Edgar Hoover. It seemed that Hoover never had any intentions of helping Anna Sage, but would do anything to get Dillinger. Perhaps because Dillinger had made the FBI look like immature boy scouts during his brief career, outsmarting them at every turn. When John Dillinger was killed at the Biograph Theater, or more like executed, the only federal crime the FBI had on Dillinger was stealing a car and driving it across state lines, which violated the Dyer Act, and put the FBI on his trail. So in other words, he was the Bureau’s public enemy number one car thief, which carried a maximum charge of five years and a fine. For this federal crime, he was assassination. Sure Dillinger had robbed banks, escaped from jails and raided police departments, but these crimes were not federal offenses, and the FBI killed him. I don’t believe Melvin Purvis had anything to do with Dillinger’s final conclusion of death, except to set up the trap to capture him. Purvis actually wanted to take Dillinger alive. Hoover and Cowley had other plans for the outlaw, who disgraced the Bureau. The facts indicate that Hoover, Cowley, and Winstead were all involved in a plot to end Dillinger’s life.
In official accounts of Dillinger's death, authorities denied any Shoot To Kill orders. Instead they stated the outlaw ignored the warning, "We've got you surrounded," and went for his weapon, even though witnesses to the shooting said, there wasn't any warning. Also the “Warning” statement seems to keep changing in FBI reports. The facts are clear and simple that Dillinger was executed. Several People wanted Dillinger dead and were not shy letting the public know this. In Attorney General Joseph Keenan's comment on March 3,1934. The same day that Dillinger corrected Crown Point's jailhouse motto, "Escape proof" describing the jail he escaped from with the woodengun smuggled into his cell. Mr. Keenan said, “I hope to get him, under such circumstances that the Government won't have to stand the expense of a trial." Keenan should have simply said, “Were going to kill him!” Millions of words have been written about John Dillinger and members of his gang. Back in the nineteen thirties John Dillinger was a household name. Anyone, who didn’t know the name John Dillinger during the thirties, either didn’t listen to the radio or read daily newspapers. The several hunts for Dillinger were the biggest our nation had ever seen in nineteen thirty-four. Yet for a long time Dillinger was clever enough to defy the law. In admiring words of the underworld, they were noted as saying, “He was a good man,” which, possibly meant that he was very alert and too clever to be captured. In a dispatch from Washington, J. Edgar Hoover stated that although the desperado died with only $7.80 in his pockets he was by no means financially embarrassed. He added that Dillinger had his weaknesses, women for one thing and a flair for he spectacular. He cited the fact that Dillinger had his face lifted, eyebrows plucked and a mole removed as evidence of his cunning. When asked about the details of the shooting, Hoover replied, "He deserved to be killed." He went on to say that Dillinger was coatless and carried a revolver in his trouser pockets when killed. This, Hoover said, varied the Dillinger routine of carrying a weapon under his belt. Speaking further of the badman, Hoover said, “He was a man of the worst imaginable type. He was audacious, but his courage was of the type, which requires a brace of guns to keep it up. We don’t see any brilliance in these fellows.” Dillinger’s ingenuity seemed to be receiving recognition even from Hoover as he talked with admiration about the outlaw. Hoover continued by saying, “When in various twists of the bandits career, Dillinger had posed as a writer in crime magazine and thereby gained access to a Mid West Police Station and obtained information that formed a basis for a Dillinger raid a few days later.
On one occasion, Dillinger posed as a salesman of air conditioning equipment and was able to obtain knowledge of the layout of another Midwest bank. A third anecdote on the Government file is that Dillinger passed himself off as a banker, seeking co-operation from other bankers on crime prevention. The pose was so successful that the gangster was a guest at a banker’s banquet.” Hoover refused to reveal the details of these events, but seemed to admire Dillinger’s exploits in some odd way. He did mention that there were over 500 tips on Dillinger’s whereabouts after his escape from the Lake County Crown Point jail. Each tip had to be investigated by the FBI at an incredible expense. Virtually every office in the Bureau at one time or another handled some phase of the Dillinger hunt. Several Dillinger squads were set up in Indiana, Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, and Cincinnati. These forces had to run down every clue, no matter how small to track down Dillinger. It’s clear to say that John Dillinger stole the show, when it came to outlaws of the nineteen thirties. He was clever, heroic, unpredictable, and even humorous. Television shows today would have a heyday with outlaws like John Dillinger, just as radios and newspapers did back in the thirties. John Dillinger was not a vicious killer as many have claimed, but actually just the opposite. He was a man who tried to avoid killing at all costs. Even if it came down to life or death, to Dillinger it was still a debatable factor.
The FBI tried to make Dillinger look vicious and murderous so they would be heroes for killing him. Actually the real Dillinger was described by many as a polite gentleman who was kind to women and children, and would hurt a soul. Years after Dillinger’s death, Jay Robert Nash author of the book, Dillinger, Dead or Alive, revealed some fascinating facts regarding the outlaw’s death. These facts indicated that John Dillinger was not killed on July 23,1934, but lived on for many years after the fact. In this book, Nash sets out to prove the FBI indeed killed the wrong man. Perhaps this would explain why Audrey began taking yearly vacations alone to California, after her brother’s death. When a close friend of Audrey’s was asked why she takes these trips every year? The friend replied, “We don’t believe it was John that was killed.” Nash’s book is very convincing, revealing some extraordinary and fascinating evidence. Autopsy records of the man killed indicated that the deceased had a different blood type. He had brown eyes, and Dillinger’s were blue gray eyes. The man was shorter and had more teeth than Dillinger; even his hair was a different thickness, and showed signs a pre-existing heart condition.
According to military and prison records Dillinger had no heart condition noted. There were several inconsistencies to the physical features of Dillinger and the man killed. To add to this mystery, a man had sent letters in 1963, claiming to be Dillinger. The letter displayed a likeness to Dillinger’s handwriting, with a picture resembling the outlaw at an older age. The sender even added a fingerprint, which supposedly matched Dillinger’s prints. The FBI denied these documents, dismissing them as frauds. Historians have been debating Nash’s theory for years. Regardless of what historians may or may not believe, one fact remains; the man at the Biograph was executed without a trial. This reminded me of a television news report in the nineteen eighties, when an old man shot it out with police and was killed. Ironically, the man repeatedly yelled, “I’m John Dillinger,” while firing his weapon out a second story window until police killed him. It really makes me wonder, could it be possible that John Dillinger actually survived? For years I thought it was very possible, but after serious research I now believe Dillinger was killed in 1934 in Chicago. Due to the inaccuracies in FBI files, which could have easily been the cause of many errors in death records. Also the autopsy reports weren’t very accurate in those days with the help of Hoover. However, I will never entirely excuse the possibility that Dillinger may have survived and lived out his life. Besides, it is a sad fact that many innocent men and women were killed on both sides of the law in those days. Secretly, I would hope Dillinger did survive the assassination style murder on the hot Chicago night in July of 1934. After careful examination on the location of agents at the fatal moment, we do know that the man who fired the fatal shots that evening was most likely Charles Winstead. The East Chicago Indiana Police officers could not have possibly fired the fatal shots that hit Dillinger from behind, which ricocheted hitting two innocent victims, and personally, I wouldn’t want the credit. Tim O’Neill was stationed across the street and ran towards the front of Dillinger as he reached the alley. If O’Neill had fired from this angle, he would have found himself in a dangerous crossfire with the agents behind Dillinger. Zarkovich had run across the Street towards the Biograph to notify officer Stretch who didn’t see the signal. By this time, FBI agents were directly behind Dillinger. Years later, on February 25, 1998, Zarkovich’s .38 caliber revolver was auctioned in San Francisco for $25,875, presented as the gun that killed Dillinger. Although the gun is apart of history, it was not the gun that killed Dillinger.
John Dillinger's hard working father had never committed a crime in his life. He always felt sorry for his son because he knew John wasn't treated fairly from the beginning. Back on March 16,1934, twelve days after his son's spectacular escape from Crown Point jail, Dillinger Sr. spoke out. He said, “The raw deal he had got from the law made my son a criminal. Yes, John was born here, his mother died when John was three years and eight months old; he was a good-hearted boy. He was kind to his younger stepsisters and he came to love his stepmother like she was his real mother.” He spoke of his son, with compassion and sadness as a father who had lost a loved one. Dillinger’s father was strict while raising young John, but many knew him as a kind gentle soul who always believed in the laws of the land and his faith in God. John Dillinger Sr. went on to say that his son never told him that he'd rather be shot down rather than go back to jail, but the law had laid so many things on him that the old man believed that his son would rather die than be arrested.These were the events and words of John Dillinger Sr. as related to the Indianapolis News on July 23,1934, just after the gunman's death.
“I didn’t even get a lawyer for my boy. It was his first offense and we thought they would go light with him. When asked, “How old are you Mr. Dillinger? He replied, “I'll be seventy on my next birthday.” When the reporter responded, you don't look it. He replied, “I guess I'm too busy on the farm to get old.” Then he was asked, How old is your son? He replied, “Well, let me see he's thirty-one now.” Dillinger's father said many times that he couldn't believe a judge would deceive anyone like he did in that trial. He said, he didn't think he should talk back to the judge or even asked him a question. He knew that his son didn’t comment half the crimes blamed on him. Dillinger Sr. was strong for a man well past middle age, but the worries he had suffered over the years, showed in the lines on his face. I think the elder Dillinger blamed himself somewhat because he convinced his son to tell the truth. After the Prosecutor of the Circuit Court in Morgan County assured the elder Dillinger that if John pleaded guilty the Courts would be lenient, the judge though the book at him. The Prosecutor mentioned that since this was John’s first offense he would get a suspended sentence and would be put on probation. John Dillinger once said his long prison sentence, in view of all the circumstances, was a “Bum rap.” He contended that nine years behind bars turned him against society.
The elder Dillinger recalled a letter his boy had written to him from the Lima Ohio, jail in October of 1933. "Dad" he wrote, “If I hadn't got such a raw deal, I wouldn't be here now". Dillinger's father went on to say "Maybe, just maybe, if John had been on probation and had good advice he wouldn't have turned out like he did. John Dillinger's father couldn't understand how twenty-two Federal Agents and four East Chicago Officers with the element of surprise, couldn't have brought his son (Just one man) in alive.
He mentioned that agents could have easily walked up to John and asked, Do you have the time, sir? And as John looked to check his pocket watch, agents could have grabbed both of his hands so he couldn't go for a gun while other agents arrested him. This was actually a good idea, except for the fact that agents were afraid of Dillinger. There were a number of ways the FBI could have brought Dillinger in alive, but the FBI never intended on bringing him in alive. John Dillinger's family said John would have wanted to go out this way instead of facing the electric chair. John Dillinger didn’t want to die, but his end seemed inevitable because he didn’t have many choices, unless he escaped the country. The article below describes the events and words of John Dillinger Sr. as told to the Indianapolis News on July 23,1934, just after the gunman’s death. These were sad moments as the aging father as John Dillinger Sr. learned the details of the shooting of his son at his home in Mooresville. As he sat out on the porch of his modest farm with his two young daughters, he talked about his son to reporters. “The last time I saw Johnnie was on April 8, and I haven't heard from him in weeks. But I have been worrying about him a good deal lately. I thought this had to come and I have been expecting it anytime. You know, I can't think John was bad all the way through. There were lots of things they said he did that I can't think he could have done. John was here and I talked to him two days after that East Chicago robbery. He came up here in the night and we talked for about twenty minutes or a half-hour. John said he had just got back from Florida then and I believed him. It's strange, isn't it? But I just can't believe that he was in on that robbery and you know the killing of that policeman was the only charge of murder that anyone ever made against John. I guess I got arrangements made to bury him. They tell me we can't have his body until they hold an inquest in Chicago, but I guess that won't take long and when they release the body I've made arrangements to have it brought back. I always thought I wanted John brought back here to my home, but were not very well fixed here and his sisters got a better place in Maywood, so we'll take John's body there when they'll let us. We'll bury him in Crown Hill Cemetery along side his mother. I've got a lot there and I want them to be together.” John’s father had won the respect and sympathy of all those who knew him for his kindness and lack of bitterness in his times of troubles. He was a good man who believed in honesty and trust. He was just trying to make a living in the hard life of farming. This was a life that his son John Dillinger would never be interested in.
The elder Dillinger was silent momentarily, until his one of his little girls asked, “Daddy, did he shoot anyone first? No I guess not, child,” replied the father. “Maybe they were afraid to try to arrest him,” she responded. John Dillinger Sr. always hoped and prayed that some miracle would save his son's life, but deep in his heart knew that one day his son would be killed. The elder Dillinger was just another caring father, who had spent many sleepless nights worrying about the safety of his son like any parent would. As the night wore on newspapermen left the elder Dillinger alone with his grief, while he dozed off occasionally in the cooling morning air. He listened to the peaceful sounds of the night and as he rested at the modest little farm. He would awake briefly to the sound of a passing car or thoughts of his son. John Dillinger Sr. was saddened as he learned the news of his son's death. He had been contemplating the inevitable end of his son for over a year and was not surprised when a messenger from Mooresville awakened him to tell him of the news. Shortly thereafter, he was joined at his home by John’s sister Audrey, and her daughter Mary. They have received the news at their home in Maywood and hurried to be with the father. A little later, John’s half-brother Hubert Dillinger, arrived. Mrs. Hancock (Audrey) remained at the farm while John Dillinger Sr. went into Mooresville to make arrangements for the claiming of his son's body. Audrey was soon surrounded by newspapermen for statements, she told them, “John wasn't a bad boy, I reared him and I know. They got him, that's what they wanted to do and there just isn't anymore to say about it.” Between her cries, Audrey pleaded with reporters and photographers not to take pictures of the family and then left for her home. When Dillinger’s father returned he was greeted by a series of flashes from the assembled cameramen. John Dillinger Sr. declined to pose for pictures, but offered no objection when a cameraman took a picture of him as he entered his living room. He said, “We've had enough pictures spread over the country,” then downheartedly added, “I guess the boys with the cameras have to make their living too. I've tried to be courteous to everybody and maybe I've been too good to them.” Contrary to reports, which have been wide spread, John Dillinger Sr. has never profited from any of the robberies that his son had committed. No provisions to his future have been made with money earned from any crimes. He was and has always been an honest hard working father. The modest Mooresville home and the land that surround it were his only belongings. He told reporters, “I hope that John had enough money on him to pay his funeral expenses, and that it can be used for that purpose.
If he didn't, it will be an awful burden, but I'll do the best I can for him. I'll go to Chicago after his body when the coroner will release it, and we'll try to bury him quietly. What ever he did he was my son, you know.” John Dillinger’s stormy lifestyle was over; the thunder of guns exploding was now quiet, and the whirling winds of fate had ceased. John Dillinger Sr. would not have to worry anymore during the late hours of the night. It was now time for the family to grieve the loss of a loved one, who the FBI saw as a common outlaw, and many envisioned as a hero of the Great Depression. In another statement to the press Dillinger’s father said, “You'd be surprised to know how kindly people have been to us in this trouble. A whole lot of people have come here to shake hands with me, and express the sympathy. My neighbors and most everyone have been mighty good to me. I don't know much about how things are done away from here and I've been real sick recently, but I'm pretty strong yet and I guess I can do what I have to do.” An unknown reporter wrote, “Without a trace of bitterness about him, John Dillinger Sr. relaxed in utter exhaustion as the quiet of the summer night settled over the hillside where stands his little home. Motherless children, who were too young to know the import of it all, slept by his side and only stars stood sentry over the three. Sick at heart and in body, but moved by a father's loyalty to his flesh and blood, John Dillinger Sr. went from Mooresville to Chicago today to claim the body of his slain son. Accompanied by Hubert Dillinger, Everett Moore, and E.F.Harvey, the elderly father left in an ambulance for Chicago after a few hours sleep in the early cool morning. He expected to return at once with the body of John Dillinger, who was shot by Federal Agents Sunday evening. He was expected back by midnight. John Dillinger Sr. face showed plainly the relief from the desperate strain of uncertainty, under which he was labored for months before the news of his son’s death. He was much refreshed and insisted on making the trip to Chicago regardless of the warning of his physician that he might collapse at any time. All day Sunday he was ill and suffered in the intense heat.” This report described Dillinger’s father as the strong willed man, who would do all he could for his son, even though he was very ill and should have been resting in bed. There were still lots of arrangements that to be made, including the long trip to Chicago. The next day John Dillinger Sr. began the 225-mile trip to Chicago in a gray hearse along with John’s brother Hubert, local undertaker Elmer F. Harvey (Known as Friday Harvey by friends), and E.L.Moore, editor of the Mooresville Weekly Times.
The elder Dillinger had no idea of the carnival of events that would follow his son’s death. In Chicago, at the Cook County Morgue, close to fifteen thousand people had gathered to get a last look at the famous outlaw. It was a circus of star-struck fanatics, desperate newspapermen, and common folks. The Elder Dillinger had planned on bringing his boy home right away for burial, but his body wasn’t released until the following day. John Sr. would later chose Rev. Charles M. Fillmore, a retired Minister of the Disciples of Christ to perform the funeral services. Several people complained about John Dillinger’s body being buried at Crown Hill Cemetery. The management made the following statement, “No objections will be offered by the management of Crown Hill Cemetery to the burial of John Dillinger in the family plot.” One official of the Cemetery said they had received several calls protesting the burial of the man who came to be known as public enemy number one. There was a legal opinion obtained from the Attorneys for the Cemetery Corporation that the Cemetery has no legal right to object to the burial of John Dillinger in the family plot. Even in death, some were still trying to give John Dillinger a raw deal. The family was attacked by people who didn't even know John personally, but only by his reputation. John Dillinger Sr. had owned the lot for several years and his wife was buried there. Hugh Landon, President of the Cemetery announced, “Here's a man who bought property from us, who as the owner of that property has a legal right to bury the body of his son there.”John Dillinger would be buried in an inexpensive wooden casket, while police tried to control the crowds of some twenty thousand waiting for a chance to see the body of the famous outlaw. People came from everywhere, traveling hundreds of miles to Mooresville. John Dillinger Sr. announced that his son would be buried the following day on July 26, at 10 a.m., but the real time would be a day earlier on the 25th, around noon. The elder Dillinger was hoping to bury his son as soon as possible to avoid crowds of the curious and spectators. He was buried during flashes of lightning and explosions of thunder that resembled the gunfire that John Dillinger lived by. A mound of freshly turned earth, covered with flowers, would mark the final resting-place of Dillinger. After John's death souvenir hunters scrambled for mementos of the dead man, one man told police Lieutenant Stephen Barry, “I'll give a thousand dollars for the shirt he was wearing when he was killed, if the heirs will sell it.” Another man offered the City one hundred dollars for four blood strained bricks from the alley where John Dillinger died. These collectors hoped to exhibit these items at Fairs and Carnivals.
One man yelled out enthusiastically, It would be a gold mine! At the spot where Dillinger died, people dipped handkerchiefs and other items in the outlaw’s blood. It seems that John Dillinger had become even more famous in death, than he was in life. Even after he was buried, souvenir hunters chipped away at his tombstone. It had to be replaced three times, and twice it had been stolen. Dillinger's grave is said to be one the most popular tombstone in Crown Hill Cemetery, even more popular than a President buried there. On June 29, three weeks before he was gunned down, John Dillinger Sr. received a letter from John letting his dad know that he was alive and well. The elder Dillinger said that he was offered money for letters from his son. “We got together some old letters because we needed the money,” he explained. He stated my old mare went lame and I needed another horse on the farm. I'm sure John Dillinger would have sent his father money, but he would have never accepted stolen money. Lots of people, who knew John Dillinger, claimed it wasn't John in the casket. One of these people was John's barber, who had cut his hair many times. He was sure the dead man was not John Dillinger, while others claimed the man was too big to be John. Although there were lots of disbeliever’s because the man didn’t look like John, Dillinger's family felt differently. John had carried two distinguished scars on his body since childhood that made the identification certain. When John first moved to Mooresville, he often went swimming in an old swimming hole near the old settler's picnic grounds. Once he jumped out of a maple tree and hit some jagged roots in the swimming hole. He tore his right knee, but in those days you didn't have stitches to close the wound. The family simply put some salve on the injury and wrapped a rag around it. This scar was on the dead man's body. Also in another incident when John was young, he was with some other boys in a watermelon patch, when the farmer spotted them. John ran and tried to jump over a barbed wire fence, his leg got caught leaving a nasty scar. This scar was also on the body of the dead man. After viewing these scars, the family was positive that the man shot at the Biograph was indeed John, although his features did look different due to plastic surgery. Even John Dillinger Sr. thought the man didn’t look like his son when he went to Chicago to recover the body. But later he believed that the dead man and John were one in the same. According to Bob Harvey, John Dillinger's Sister Audrey identified John and told E.F. Harvey, “I have no doubt in my mind, bury him.” This statement could have opened the door for a permanent escape for John Dillinger; if they outlaw was still alive.
The FBI didn’t positively identify the dead man as John Dillinger, but they were sure they killed a man resembling the outlaw and that was good enough. It would have been a normal reaction for the family to protect their own fresh and blood. Audrey would have provided a permanent getaway for Dillinger and the FBI were convinced that they finally got their man. We'll never know for sure, but I do feel that the correct man was killed, that man being John Dillinger. His father, John Dillinger Sr. died nine years later on November 3, 1943 in Mooresville. He had always believed that his son got a raw deal. Society had locked a man up for nine years for charges of Assault and Battery with Intent to rob. He had always expressed his son’s death as an awful shock that he had been afraid of this for a long time. Afterwards the father had to deal with the long drawn process of claiming his son’s body and the curious crowds in the thousands. During a interview with Bob Harvey (Son of E.F. Harvey) He recalled; seeing the elder Dillinger with John’s sister Audrey, his brother Hubert, his two younger sisters Doris and Francis, and Mary Kinder by his side. He remembered the long trip John Sr. took to Chicago in the gray hearse, which included Hubert Dillinger, and Bob Harvey’s father, Elmer F. Harvey (Known as Friday Harvey by friends), who was the local undertaker. E.L.Moore of a Mooresville newspaper also went along. Harvey said the Cook County Morgue in Chicago was a riot, with thousands people trying to see John Dillinger’s body, before he was moved to the McCready Funeral home located at 4506 Sheridan Road. Many reports claim that undertakers Ray G. McCready and E.F.Harvey embalmed Dillinger in Chicago. Bob Harvey said the embalming of Dillinger’s body took place at the E.F.Harvey Funeral Home. Harvey said his father embalmed Dillinger with the assistance of his brother, Aldrich Harvey. Bob Harvey dressed Dillinger and prepared him for services after he was embalmed. Harvey recalled that when Dillinger’s body arrived at the funeral home; he helped carry the casket, and they had to clear a path through a crowd of ten thousand people.
He remembers the elder Dillinger was offered $10,000, to borrow the corpse for a weekend. The gentleman wanted to put the outlaw’s body on display in Chicago and charge a dollar a person to view the body. Dillinger’s father respectfully refused the offer. Another man called from Alabama and asked if the funeral home could delay the burial until he had a chance to see the body. Harvey said people were just acting crazy. One woman came to the funeral home and asked Bob Harvey’s mother, Grace, if she could have a souvenir from the room where Dillinger’s body was housed? Grace replied, “I don’t know?” She ended up giving her a light bulb, which the woman placed in a shoebox.
Several Mooresville citizens on a bus spotted the woman later that day on her way to Indianapolis, she was gripping the shoebox tightly in her arms like she was holding a baby. When I asked Harvey why he thought Dillinger was killed? He replied, “He made the police and the FBI look bad and had to be eliminated.” He added, “Everyone associated John Dillinger would be dead or in jail as soon as the FBI caught up to them.” The Harvey family had known the Dillinger family for years. Bob Harvey also remembered B.F Morgan; his family had purchased all their groceries from Morgan’s West End Grocery Store. This was the very same Morgan that Dillinger attempted to rob in 1924. Harvey had attended school with Hubert Dillinger, who he described as a quiet man who kept to himself. If the teacher asked Hubert a question, he would answer, but would never hold up his and or volunteer information. Harvey recalled that Hubert had a job working at a filling station and was always harassed by police during their search for John Dillinger. After John Dillinger’s death, the foreman of the filling station fired Hubert because of the adverse publicity. Hubert was so upset that he marched down to police headquarters and said, “Look, you guys cost me my job and caused me to get fired! How bout giving me a job?” The police actually hired him, giving him a job maintaining the police cars, where he worked for years. After Bob Harvey graduated from college he became a teacher, and later taught Dillinger’s younger Sister Francis in Mooresville. Harvey died on October 1, 1999. John Dillinger's name had been known to the world within months, after his release from prison on May 22, 1933. His notoriety grew out of his desperate deeds, and character for doing the unexpected; this was supported by his clever personality. No other criminal in American history captured the imagination of the public like John Dillinger did. He was a legend, called a super criminal for his uncanny ability to shoot his way out traps with unfaltering courage in battle. But Dillinger preferred using his brains rather than his gun. It was once said that Dillinger had the fastest mind and the slowest gun in the Mid-West. The statement was made because Dillinger supposedly couldn't pull his gun out quick enough when he was killed in Chicago. It wouldn't have did him any good anyway against twenty-six armed men completely surrounded. Dillinger’s father was offered a job with a carnival after in son’s death where he talked during about his son a Crime doesn’t pay, program. When crowds asked why he joined the program? He honestly replied that he needed the money. The Crime doesn’t pay tour opened up at the Lyric Theater in Indianapolis and made stops at the Chicago Fair, the Texas Centennial Celebration, a San Diego Festival and the Great Lakes Exposition in Cleveland.
- 1 Pair-White Buckskin Nunnbush Shoes, size 9,
- 1 Pair-Black Socks
- 1 Pair-Red Paris Garters
- 1 Pair-Shorts (Hanes) White and Blue Stripes, size 34
- 1 Pair-Gray Pants
- 1 Black belt with Silver Buckle
- 1 White Broadcloth Shirt, Kenilworth Brand
- 1 Red Printed Necktie, of Paul Boldt & Sons
There were mixed feelings regarding Dillinger’s death. Robert Estill, Prosecutor at Crown Point stated, “I’m glad it happened, but I wish it had only been sooner.” In the death house at Columbus, Ohio prison, Harry Pierpont expressed doubt that Dillinger had been killed at the Biograph. He stated; “I might be willing to trade places with him. That may be so and it might not, I heard Johnnie was killed several weeks ago. If it’s true, I’m sorry. John was a friend of mine, he didn’t owe me anything, though for I wasn’t in Lima and I didn’t spring him.” Mary Kinder responded to the news by saying; “You can’t expect a girl to be prepared to say much when you have told her one of her best friends has just been killed. There never was a finer fellow.” In Washington, Hoover stated, “He had his weaknesses, women for one thing and a flare for the spectacular. Dillinger had his face lifted, eye brows plucked and a mole removed as evidences of his cunning. He deserved to be killed. Coatless, Dillinger carried his revolver that night in his trousers pocket. This varied the Dillinger routine of carrying a weapon under his belt. He was a man of the worst imaginable type.
He was audacious, but his courage was of the type, which required a brace of guns to keep it up. We don't see in brilliance in these fellows. Dillinger had posed as a writer in a crime magazine and thereby gained access to a Middle West police station and obtained information that formed the basis for a Dillinger raid a few days later. On one occasion, Dillinger posed as a salesman of air conditioning equipment and was able to obtain knowledge of the layout of another mid-west bank. A third anecdote on the Government file is that Dillinger passed himself off as a banker, seeking co-operation from other bankers on crime prevention. The pose was so successful that the gangster was a guest at a banker's banquet.” Hoover’s reports and descriptions of Dillinger’s involvement were a ploy to make the director look sensational. This stratagem was a scheme designed to polish the Bureau’s tarnished image. Hoover used reverse psychology by displaying Dillinger’s intelligence and cleverness, to boast the FBI’s brilliance. In other words, Dillinger was extremely smart, but the Bureau was smarter for destroying the legendary criminal, but it was the lady in red who hand-delivered Dillinger into the death trap, not the Bureau. Hoover and the FBI didn’t outsmart Dillinger; it was his trust and confidence of a friend that did him in.
. One by one every member of the Dillinger gang were being eliminated to the point of extinction. Harry Pierpont and Charley Makley were sitting on death row awaiting execution in Columbus, Ohio. Russell Clark escaped the death penalty, but was sentenced to life. Eddie Green, Tommy Carroll, John Hamilton, and Dillinger were all resting peacefully six feet below the ground from the bullets that stole their lives. Newspapers announced that Pretty Boy Floyd was now Public Enemy Number One on the FBI’s most wanted list. Even though Floyd was now the most sought out criminal in the nation, the FBI continued their search for the remaining members of the Dillinger gang. The Bureau was busy gathering every possible clue to the whereabouts of John Hamilton (who was deceased), Homer Van Meter, and Baby Face Nelson. But where was Nelson? Besides deep in Hoover’s nightmares, he had joined forces with his old partner John Paul Chase, and was in route to Chicago after a recent trip to the West Coast. Van Meter was hiding out with his girlfriend Marie Comforti. The FBI had strong suspicions that Van Meter was somewhere hiding in Chicago. They were right, but the minute Van Meter learned of Dillinger’s death he decided to flee the Windy City of Chicago. He was red-hot, and had to travel by night, but managed to make it safely to St. Paul. On July 25, two days after Dillinger’s death, the FBI arrested James Probasco and took him to the Bureau’s Chicago headquarters on the nineteenth floor of the Bankers building. The following morning, Sam Cowley sent a memo to Hoover stating; “So far Probasco hasn’t admitted to anything. They are working on him quite vigorously, but we don’t want him to die up there.” Just hours later Probasco either fell or was thrown out the window of the federal building to his death. The death was listed as suicide, but it is odd that Cowley would make these remarks just before Probasco’s death. Van Meter succeeded in avoiding police until August 23. This was exactly one month and one day, after federal agents fatally shot Dillinger. Van Meter, like Dillinger was killed at the drop of a hat, when an anonymous tip was laid on lap of St. Paul Police. The FBI would lose their chance at getting Van Meter.
The mysterious tipster gave a detailed location and time where Van Meter would surface. Chief Frank Cullen and three other St. Paul officer’s watched from a window of a building located just a three-block distance from the State Capital. Around 6 p.m., Van Meter appeared on the scene, and began looking around as if he were expecting a friend to show. Cullen gave his men the order to move in and proceed with caution. They approached the sleepy blue-eyed outlaw armed with rifles and machineguns. The four officers stepped onto the sidewalk, while Cullen armed with a shotgun yelled the order “Halt.” Van Meter’s immediate reaction was to go for his gun, which he did with amazing speed. As he suddenly jumped sideways, he pulled an automatic pistol and fired off two quick shots. As the bullets blazed from his gun he broke into a dash for a nearby alley in a desperate attempt for freedom. Van Meter was a dead shot before he reached the foot of the alley. He could have easily hit some of the engaging officers, but instead he used a scare tactic that he learned from Dillinger. Dillinger, who didn’t believe in killing, would throw lead near advancing officers and watch them scatter. He believed that if you shoot a man or wound him, he most likely to respond with gunfire. However, if you fired shots close to the pursuers, they will most likely duck for cover. At the exact moment the St.Paul lawmen were about to fire their weapons at Van Meter, a women simultaneously had walked directly into the path of danger. However, one of the officers did fire a shot nearly hitting the woman, which left her terrified. Van Meter was just about to reach the foot of the alley before the woman was out of danger and officers could get a clear shot. At this point the four guns trained on Van Meter’s back, opened fire and lead began tearing into his body. Bullets kept hitting Van Meter’s body knocking him down until the outlaw stopped moving. Officer Cullen, who directed the ambush, most likely delivered the final shot with a shotgun blast to the face and chest to finish the deed. While Van Meter’s white Stetson hat lay close by in the dirt officers searched him and found $925.00 dollars and an extra clip of bullets in his pockets. At the brief moment when Van Meter first saw the officers approaching, he must have realized that he’d been set up just like his pal John Dillinger. He also realized his pistol was no match against the heavily armed lawmen. The main thought going through his mind was to escape as he made a break for the alley. The Physician on duty dug 26 bullets, shotgun pellets and machinegun slugs out of his back, chest and face. There was a hole so big between his bottom lip and his chin, which could have only been made by a shotgun blast. The Physician also dug a .38 slug from Van Meter’s shoulder from a previous wound. It appeared that he had been carrying this slug for sometime. His chestnut colored hair had been died jet black and a tattoo on his arm, which once displayed the word “Hope,” had been obliterated. The fact is that Homer Van Meter’s hope had run out long ago. There were signs that plastic surgery had been performed on his face to alter his appearance to no avail. Homer Van Meter’s days were over and he was now lying in the county morgue. Van Meter’s inevitable fate, for which he was destined, ended during the final discharge of his life. He had paid his debt to society in full. The outlaw’s body was covered with a blanket as crowds of the curious began to gather. Relatives would later have a private autopsy performed and came to the profound conclusion that officers had used Homer Van Meter for target practice. Newspapers stated that his girlfriend Marie Comforti tipped off police after she learned that Van Meter had been involved with another woman and was cheating on her. It was true that an anonymous tip set up Van Meter, but not by his girlfriend Marie. The mysterious nightclub owner who had been holding thousands of dollars for the outlaw for safekeeping had most likely set him up. This is the main reason Van Meter came to St. Paul to collect his money from what he thought was a trusted friend. Back in April when the Dillinger gang was hiding out at the Little Bohemia Lodge, Pat Reilly had been sent to pick up the money from the very same nightclub owner, but was unable to locate him. Although later, Reilly was able to collect a small portion of the money. This man sold out Van Meter and kept the money, which was estimated to be anywhere from three to ten thousand dollars. There was another story that Baby Face Nelson ratted out Van Meter because he wanted the outlaw dead. This is highly unlikely, besides this wasn’t Nelson’s style. If Nelson had a score to settle with anyone, he would handle it himself as he always did in the past. Nelson wasn’t afraid of Van Meter or anyone else for that matter. Van Meter was clearly set up by his close friend and associate, who had successfully gained a profit from the outlaw’s death. Van Meter was only 28 years old when he paid the ultimate price for his high-risk profession as a bank robber. After an examination was performed on Van Meter’s body, a train transported him to his hometown in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Harry Van Meter, the outlaw’s older brother, announced the funeral service and the burial would remain strictly private. Chief of police Joseph P. Bran promised the family the aid of uniformed and plain-clothes officers as protection from curious mobs. 223. There were also ridiculous rumors that Lester Gillis and the deceased John Hamilton may try to attend services. Van Meter’s sister, Mrs. Helen Ober and several other relatives were in route to Fort Wayne after hearing the news of Van Meter’s death. At the advise of his attorney, Harry Van Meter applied for letters of administration with Allen Superior Courts in an attempt to obtain money found on his brother to cover funeral expenses. It was also learned in addition to the $923.00 found on the outlaw; he had over $400.00 in an account at the Citizens Trust Company. After police learned that Harry had in his procession a car, given to him by Homer Van Meter, they immediately seized the automobile from his garage. Harry claimed the car was given to him for money that his brother Homer had borrowed from him. Harry reacted to the incident by obtaining a Court Order forcing police to return the car. Police had no choice after learning that the car had a clear title and registration. Residents who had known Homer Van Meter described him as handsome, smooth talking, very polite, and truly a gentleman. The gang had always called Van Meter, the “Advance Man,” because he was always sent first to check out the jobs. He was buried on August 28, 1934, at the Lindenwood Cemetery. Services were held at 11:00 in the morning, attended by only immediate family and close friends. The minister spoke words of consolation as relatives surrounded the casket under a sunny sky combined with sudden bursts of thunder and chilling rain. Four colorful floral pieces were placed on the top of the casket as it was lowered into the ground. Van Meter was buried on the Northeast corner of the cemetery, which overlooked the railroad tracks where he used to play as a child. At the time of his death his total assets came to $1,394.00, minus the thousands of dollars, or blood money lost to his so-called trusted friend. In other reports, newspapers claimed that a reliable source announced that Van Meter, Nelson, and ten other gang members had planned to rob two banks simultaneously and then flee to the Canada. The article went on to say that Van Meter had been looking over banks in Northern Minnesota. The banks were located 40 to 50 miles apart, and were to be hit at the same time to finance a permanent escape out of the country. After the robberies, the men planned to meet at a hideout located near the Canadian border. These stories were not true, after the falling-out between Nelson and Van Meter so they parted, and went their separate ways. It was reported that Nelson later decided to call the police and put Van Meter on the spot. If this were the case Nelson would have tried to kill Van Meter during the time of the heated argument, not later.
Nelson’s temper was a like a lit fuse of a bomb, which was ready to blow into a violent rage at moment’s notice, if things weren’t going his way. Nelson wasn’t even in St. Paul; he was maintaining a low profile and hiding out in an abandoned cabin in Barrington, Illinois. He only went out at night when it was absolutely necessary to get food and other necessities. Nelson had already killed three men, and wounded several others during recent robberies and escapes. He wasn’t Public Enemy Number One yet, but the FBI and police around the country considered him extremely dangerous. The next in line to fall in the Dillinger death line was Charley Makley and Harry Pierpont; both condemned to dying in the chair.
The two outlaws had been fighting for their lives for months and were sentenced to die July 13, but had received a stay of execution pending an appeal. Makley remained quiet during most of his trial, where the soft-spoken Pierpont responded with a certain criminal style of authority. He refused to just sit still and let Prosecutor Ernest Botkin drill into him without voicing his own opinion. Pierpont considered the Prosecutor’s remarks towards him an integrity violation, which attacked his honesty and self-respect. Pierpont had been in courtrooms before, and knew the game well. He knew that the prosecutor’s main objective was to secure a guilty verdict. He was also aware that newspapers around the country already condemned him for Jesse Sarber’s murder. Pierpont and Makley both knew there was no chance in hell they would receive a jail sentence. They already showed to the world, they were dangerous and could break out of the most secure prisons as they proved with the escape from the Michigan City Penitentiary. The courts couldn’t afford to give them another opportunity to escape. Death in the chair would be the only remedy to cure Pierpont and Makley’s brilliant criminal careers. Pierpont was a man with nerves of steel, and a leader, but he wouldn’t hesitate to go for his gun for a quick solution to solve a conflict. One of these quick solutions was the incident when Sheriff Jesse Sarber attempted to stop Pierpont, by reaching for a gun. Sarber didn’t know who he was dealing with, and would still be alive if he didn’t attempt to stop Pierpont. Makley could be equally dangerous, but it was Pierpont who pulled the trigger. During the trial the prosecutor continued to attack Pierpont’s character, and the smooth outlaw reacted with anger throwing everything he had at his aggressor. It was evident that Pierpont would never receive a fair trial in Lima, Ohio. Lima wanted blood for the revenge of Sheriff Jesse Sarber’s death.
During the course of Pierpont’s trial, Sheriff Don Sarber (Son of Jesse Sarber) stood guard right behind Pierpont armed with a machinegun in the courtroom. As Don Sarber stared down at Pierpont, there was a fierce look of anger penetrating from his eyes. One could only wonder his thoughts as he looked down at the killer of his father. Although sympathetic to the loss of a father, I feel it was inappropriate for the judge to allow the son of the victim to be armed with a machinegun in the courtroom. The courts are suppose to provide the accused criminal with a fair trial, but this was clearly a case of “Guilty until proven innocent.” The prosecutor knew the use of Pierpont’s past criminal records would prove to be detrimental to his case. The outlaw’s attorney, Mrs. Jesse Levy called his mother Lena Pierpont to the stand. Mrs. Pierpont testified that her son was in Lima, Ohio on October 12, but had arrived at the Pierpont farm shortly before 6 p.m. Mrs. Pierpont stated that her son couldn’t have possibly killed Sheriff Jesse Sarber, because he was at home. She added that Harry and his wife (Mary Kinder) had went to bed in the attic. At the time, Mrs. Pierpont had been worried because her son was dropped off by his friends, and had no means of escape. Later on that night, she saw headlights outside, and yelled to her son that the police were here. He told her to “Hold her nerve.” She explained that she went outside to greet Deputy Sheriff Falkey and his men.Falkey asked Mrs. Pierpont where her son was, and asked if they could search the premises? She agreed, but told them they’ll have to be quiet because her husband was ill in bed. She said they searched the entire house, but failed to check the attic. However, Sheriff Falkey would testify that he did search the attic and Harry Pierpont was not there. Mrs. Pierpont and her husband had driven to Crown Point on March 3, with their attorney to get an appointment with Dillinger to find out who the real killer was that deliberated him from jail. Upon arrival, they sat in the car while their attorney went to the courthouse to arrange the appointment. They heard the screams of several sirens as police cars raced around in every direction. They wondered what was going on when their attorney returned a minute later with news that Dillinger had just escaped. Pierpont’s parents had been under extreme pressure since the trial first began. They had sold everything they owned to move closer to the court and had been under a 24-hour surveillance by the FBI in hopes that Dillinger would try to contact them. Agents were watching their every move, following them constantly.
The couple announced to newspaper reporters that they might take legal action to force the discontinuance of the shadowing. Neighbors and reporters watched as Mrs. Pierpont returned home one day closely followed by another car. The car pulled off the road and parked about a quarter of a mile from their home. Russell Clark was sentenced to life in prison after his attorney convinced Judge R.E. Everett that he didn’t believe in Capital Punishment. The Prosecutor was appalled, but Clark’s attorney argued that it was his constitutional right in which defendants are entitled certain assurances to protect their beliefs. During the trial at Lima, Mrs. Sarber, (widow of Sheriff Jesse Sarber), Deputy Sheriff Wilbur Sharp, and informer Art Miller identified Harry Pierpont as the killer. However, there were some discrepancies because these witnesses had previously identified another criminal as the man who shot Sarber. Everything seemed to be going well until Edward Shouse, a surprise witness and ex-member of the Dillinger gang was called to the stand. He gave detailed accounts of how Pierpont planned to break Dillinger out of the Lima jail after the break from Michigan City State Prison. Shouse was a very credible witness for the Prosecution because he was said to have participated in the liberation of Dillinger from the Lima jail, and could put Pierpont at the scene. In Shouse’s testimony, he made revengeful remarks against Pierpont, because he was forced to leave the gang after making a pass at Dillinger’s girl. He told the court that he felt threatened, and believed his life was in danger, especially in the presence of Harry Pierpont. Shouse stated that he was stationed outside during the Lima break. Although he testified that Pierpont was the killer he couldn’t actually identify Pierpont as the triggerman. After seeing Pierpont face to face, in courtroom, Shouse refused to testify at Makley’s trial. Sparks flew when Pierpont took the stand and the Prosecutor put the pressure on him. Pierpont had stayed calm during most the trial, but could take no more of the Prosecutor’s insults. The Prosecutor tore into Pierpont accusing him of stealing over three hundred thousand dollars from banks. Pierpont smiled, and said, “I wish I had.” Then he added, “Well at least if I did, I’m not like some bank robbers. I didn’t get myself elected President of the bank first.” The Prosecutor went on to say, That’s the kind of man you are, isn’t it? Pierpont responded by saying, “Yes, I’m not the kind of man you are, robbing widows and orphans. You’d probably be like me if you had the nerve.” During the Prosecutor’s closing statements, he also blamed Pierpont’s parents for his outlaw career.
Mrs. Pierpont suddenly jumped up and yelled out, “I’m glad you’re not the Judge.” Harry Pierpont’s comments, although clever and amusing, were not helping his case. The court didn’t approve of his outbursts and lack of respect, but the prosecutor did. He wanted to show the jury, Pierpont’s lack of concern at the charges presented against him. During the end of July, Charlie Makley received a visitor from an old childhood friend named Jim Tully. He was from Makley’s hometown in St. Mary’s, Ohio. Makley was pleased to his own friend and they spoke freely of their childhood experiences. Makley talked about his life in prison and his bank-robbing career. When Tully asked him if John Dillinger was a good fellow? Makley replied, “None better, he’d had gone through hell and high water for a friend. A fellow dies every hour in this damned place. A quick bullet to end it all, that would help. We haven’t got a chance, the damned newspapers and the damned courts have seen to that. A snowball in hell will get hot before we get a break.” Makley had grown tired of the enduring long hours of suffering and the mental agony. There was nothing left to do or think about except the painful wait for death to arrive. As Makley talked, Tully glanced over towards Pierpont’s cell to see the worn out face of a beaten outlaw. Pierpont stood up and looked around without saying a word. He stood there for a few moments with his hands resting on the bars. Quiet and motionless he impatiently walked back to his bunk and sat down with his elbows on his knees and his face buried in his hands.There was nothing left for him to do but wait for the final march to the electric chair. He had requested his attorney to obtain a marriage license so he could marry his sweetheart Mary Kinder. Three ministers were contacted, but all refused to perform the services for a man who would never see the sunrise again. Tully described Pierpont as a man deep in thought, like a figure of stone. Makley told Tully that he might get a new trial. His appeal was based on the fact that he was shackled in the courtroom with machineguns aimed at his back. He added that these things are against the laws, and that any shyster lawyer will tell you that. Makley went on to say that if he didn’t get a new trial, he could only die once. Makley would soon get his death wish. On September 22, Pierpont and Makley were back in the headlines, giving the public more daring stories to read about, as they attempted to escape death row armed with soap guns. Pierpont was once again displaying his gallantry and smarts in another desperate escape for freedom. Although heavily guarded and under constant watch, Pierpont and Makley had managed to create two very realistic looking toy soap guns. The guns were cleverly designed using raw materials such as cakes of soap; card board, fountain pens, pieces of jigsaw puzzles, tin foil, wire, thread from their blankets and shoe polish to blacken these created works of art. This would be the first escape attempt ever from Columbus, Ohio’s death row. The risks were high and the odds of escaping were not good, but they figured they had nothing left to lose. Pierpont’s ingenious plan was the combination of Dillinger’s fake gun idea, and the Michigan City break, which included several men to assure a successful break, using power in numbers. If Pierpont could pull this one off; it probably would not have knocked Pretty Boy Floyd out of the FBI’s public enemy number one spot, but would have surely delayed Baby Face Nelson’s chances. The escape attempt began during the mid-morning, while O.L. Slagle was serving prisoners meals. Slagle unlocked Pierpont’s cell door to deliver the tray of food, but the outlaw said he was sick and needed some salts. As Slagle set the tray down Pierpont slugged him and pulled out the fake gun demanding the keys. Slagle refused, Pierpont hit him again and grabbed the keys from his hand. When the commotion began, Makley pulled out his soap gun, and held other guards at bay while Pierpont unlocked several cells, releasing other prisoners. Pierpont was desperate and knew this plan had to work, but the end result would prove disastrous. If Pierpont and Makley succeeded in this escape, their lives would have been a running hell. They would have been hotter than ever and wouldn’t have a moment’s peace. The only way they could permanently escape would have been depart the country, and go into deep seclusion, but sooner or later the law would catch up to them and blood would be spilled. Whether they succeeded in escaping or not, death would be waiting in the shadows. They were playing a losing game, but the only alternative was death in the chair. Makley appeared as though, he just wanted to die, and get it over with, but Pierpont was raring to go on another run in the fast life. Pierpont continued unlocking cells and letting prisoners out. Some of the prisoners preferred to stay behind, while others were more willing to join the escape party.
Ten prisoners joined the elaborate escape for freedom including Russell Clark, with Pierpont leading the way. The escape party managed to successfully make their way through several doors until they hit a roadblock. There was a big heavy iron door, which was locked, and none of the keys would open it. In a desperate attempt, the prisoners then smashed a heavy table into the iron door. Guard J.P. Jones heard the commotion and sounded the alarm. Eight heavily armed guards immediately rushed to the scene, while the local police were also alerted. Pierpont and Makley grabbed guard P.W. Pfarr as a shield while the rest of the prisoners quickly returned to their cells. As the armed guards arrived Pfarr jerked from Pierpont’s grip and threw himself against a wall. The guards opened fire; bullets hit Makley in the head and shoulders, while Pierpont was hit in the spine, it was over. Guard Harold Whetstone was injured from a ricocheted bullet that nicked his head. Makley died soon afterwards from his wounds suffered from the event. Pierpont was taken to the prison hospital. The prison doctor said Pierpont had little chance of recovery, and if he survived, he would be paralyzed for the remainder of his life. During the daring escape attempt, police cars with sirens screaming, raced to the prison, several blocks around the prison were blocked off and access was denied.
On September 26, the Ohio State Supreme Court over ruled Pierpont’s appeal and announced that he must die in the chair on October 17, for the murder of the Sheriff. The announcement came just four days after the failed escape attempt. The decision to over rule Pierpont’s stay of execution was considered, but the attempted escape was the final act that sealed his doom. On October 17, 1934, Harry Pierpont was half carried (Due to recent wounds) to the electric chair, and entered the execution chamber at 12:07 a.m. He was strapped to the chair, and the electrodes were adjusted around his legs and arms. The more lights that lit up, meant the more voltage and amps the prisoner was being hit with. Next to the chair was a wooden cabinet, which contained the death switch and a pleasant display of assorted lights to add color to the event. The more lights that lit up, meant the more voltage and amps the prisoner was being hit with.
Pierpont’s parents along with Mary Kinder waited in a nearby room to claim the body. Pierpont’s face was swallow; his eyes filled with tears from the agony of his recent wounds. Pierpont had been very emotional during his final days and was seen crying on several occasions. The pain of his wounds most likely caused most of these tears. When asked if he had any last words he replied, “Today, I am the only man alive who knows the who’s and how’s and as my end comes very shortly I’ll take this little story with me on the last walk.” After he made the brief statement, the death mask was affixed and a guard gave the signal. The switch was thrown and a light glowed red behind the chair as twenty-two hundred volts tore through his body. Pierpont's body stiffened and jerked for two endless minutes, until Doctor Dan Bowers said, “It is death.” The time was 12:15 a.m.; just eight minutes after Pierpont had entered the death chamber. His attorney Mrs. Jesse Levy had lost her appeal, and Harry Pierpont had lost his life. Pierpont’s body was taken back to Indiana where a small group of friends and relatives gathered to pay their last respects. Harry Pierpont was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Indianapolis. On October 22, only five days after the execution Pierpont, the FBI caught up with Pretty Boy Floyd and killed him on a farm in Ohio. After Floyd was out of the way federal agents set their sites on Baby Face Nelson, promoting him as the next Public Enemy Number One. By the end of November, FBI bullets would also catch up to Nelson, but the cost would be deadly. He would die on the outskirts of Barrington, Illinois in a wild gunfight, which left two agents dead. The Barrington shoot-out has been extremely dramatized over the years; painting a colorful picture and discarding eyewitness accounts with little regard for factuality. During the month of July, Nelson had been spotted several times in St. Paul, Chicago, California, and Wisconsin. The FBI learned he had rented a cottage near Lake Geneva. Agents had taken residence nearby and they were watching the cottage for several days in hopes that Nelson would show. During the stakeout, one agent drove to a nearby cafe to pick up some coffee and food, taking the agents only car. Suddenly, Nelson cautiously drove up and stopped to see FBI agents standing near the cottage. The agents watch as Nelson quickly drove off and disappeared. With no transportation agents were helpless to pursue the outlaw, and their weapons in the house. J.Edgar Hoover was not happy with the incident. Nelson had escaped the unprepared trap, leaving agents in turmoil. Nelson had to keep moving because he was too hot to stay in one place for any given length of time. He needed a hideout until things cooled down, but things would never cool down completely. Concerned with his wife Helen’s safety he decided to head back towards Chicago.
He told Helen to rent an apartment on Mayfield Street and he would send John Paul Chase with a message where to contact him as soon as things were safe. Nelson remembered an abandoned cabin in a secluded area of Barrington, Illinois. He decided this would be a perfect hideout, where he could rest and figure out his next move. Nelson rarely left the cabin except in the evenings to obtain food and other necessities. He was a cautious character and would keep his guard up during these late night journeys. He had to be on alert with imminent death waiting just around the corner. Chase would visit Nelson from time to time and bring him the latest news. On one visit, Chase told Nelson that he learned of a train that carried large payrolls to different locations. Chase said he knew other willing associates who could be trusted. These associates even had a layout of the train and its scheduled stops. He asked Nelson if he would be interested in the job? Nelson told Chase he would think it over and get back to him in a few days. Nelson figured the robbery might be the answer to finance a permanent escape out of the country. Chase returned a few days later and Nelson told him to set it up. Nelson also decided to send Helen to Canada and he would join her later, after the robbery. He instructed Chase to contact Helen, and he would pick both of them up around noon at the Niles Center, which was not far from Barrington. Chase managed to secretly enter Helen’s apartment from a back entrance and delivered Nelson’s message. Helen was well aware that she was being watched and constantly followed by agents. She left her apartment before noon and hopped on a trolley. As Helen stepped off the trolley she suddenly ducked into a large crowd of people. Nelson succeeded in picking them up both up in Niles and drove away unnoticed. After a short distance, Nelson pulled over and told Chase to drive. The trio headed towards Barrington, unaware that Agents Thomas M. McDade and Agent William C. Ryan had located his hideout. The agents were joined Agent Samuel Cowley and H.E. Hollis. Agents figured Nelson may be nearby and decided to search the highways around the area. McDade and Ryan began searching the northbound highways, while Hollis and Cowley searched the south. The agents agreed that if they didn’t locate the outlaw soon, they would continue their surveillance on the cabin. During the drive, Nelson was sitting passenger and Helen sat in the back seat. During the drive, Nelson told Helen the plans. They would drive to Milwaukee, cross the lake into Michigan, and then head for Canada. Helen would then travel to Montreal, Canada and place several ads in the newspaper with the message “W to G,” meaning “Wawzynak to Gillis” their real names.
The message would also indicate a time and place to meet. After the train robbery, Nelson would join her and they would take a boat far away. Nelson had put a lot of thought into what seemed to be a clever foolproof plan, but he didn’t realize he was driving straight towards agents McDade and Ryan. Moments later, the agents appeared in view and drove right past Nelson’s V-8. The agents gave the trio a long stare, conveying a look of both uncertainty and concern. The agents were unsure of the occupants, but the V-8 fit the description of the Nelson’s car. Nelson didn’t approve of the wide-eyed gaze, and watched out the rear window as agents made a quick U-turn. The agents identified the license number of the vehicle and felt sure it was Nelson. They notified Hollis and Cowley on the car radio and revealed the news. Cowley told the agents that they were on their way and would call headquarters to notify Melvin Purvis to dispatch more agents to proceed immediately to Barrington. McDade had grabbed a .357 handgun and fired at Nelson’s car trying to hit their tires. Nelson told Helen to get down and he fired back with a machinegun. He told Chase to step on it and they sped up to around 70 miles an hour, leaving the agent’s far behind. Chase veered around a blind curb so fast he almost lost control of the car. While momentarily out of the agent’s sights, Nelson spotted a dirt wood trail road just up ahead and told Chase, “Quick turn left here!” Moments later, McDade and Ryan appeared and surveyed the road ahead and Nelson was nowhere in sight, he had completely disappeared. Agent’s Hollis and Cowley soon arrived at the scene. After a brief discussion, the agents decided to split up. McDade and Ryan would search a road just up ahead to the right, while Hollis and Cowley searched the dirt wood trail to the left. Nelson, who figured they bumped into the agents just by chance, continued down the dirt road a few miles until they reached a paved road. They continued on their journey to the Barrington hideout. Suddenly Hollis and Cowley appeared behind Nelson and began firing a machinegun out the window. At this point, Nelson’s temper had reached the boiling point and returned fire at the pursuing agents. Guns blazed from both cars as they approached the outskirts of Barrington, a small community of a few small businesses such as two gas stations, a restaurant, and an auto service garage. The running gun battle raged on, as bullets punctured the fuel system of Nelson’s car.Some account states that the bullets hit the gas tank, while others report the fuel line, or pump was hit. Whatever the case, the fact is Nelson’s V-8 was losing fuel very rapidly. Soon the engine sputtered to a stop and the car began coasting along. The agents quickly advanced their vehicle until they were nearly side-by-side, with sounds of lead barking from both cars.Chase made a sharp right turn and stopped. The outlaws quickly jumped from the car, Nelson yelled to Helen, “Duck!” and she ran into some nearby high grass for cover. At the same moment Chase had turned, the agents hit the brakes and slid pass the outlaw’s to a sketching stop. A fierce battle was about to erupt and the outcome would be devastating. Agents knew Nelson was dangerous, but had no idea how venomous his bite could be. Both outlaws took cover behind the V-8 at a distance of about 20 feet away from agents Cowley and Hollis. Chase ducked behind the rear of the car, while Nelson stood by the front hood. Chase was armed with an automatic rifle and Nelson stood ready with a machinegun. As the agents Hollis and Cowley jumped from their vehicle Nelson opened fire. Hollis responded with a shotgun, Cowley with a machinegun. Both agents were using their car as a shield. Accounts of the next moments seem to vary from different accounts too what actually happened. I tend to rely more on eyewitness accounts to verify the facts. As the sound of gunfire played a sequence of battle tunes, it appeared to be a standoff. Mrs. Frances Kramer, owner of one of the gas stations was standing in the open when the shooting began. She watched in horror as her son Harold pushed her to the ground out of harms way. Robert Malone, another business owner was standing outside talking to William Gallagher, a State Highway Patrolman. Gallagher ran into a nearby building and grabbed a rifle but held his fire because he didn’t realize what was going on. Bullets were flying everywhere as a few crashed through the windows of one of the gas stations.While Nelson stood in front of the car firing he became frustrated. As lead continued to fly, Nelson’s temper flared up to a dangerous rage. He became frustrated with the situation, and realized the agents he had previously battled would probably be joining the battle soon. He knew they had to escape before reinforcements arrived. The battle had to end and it had to be now. Without a second thought, he appeared in the road uncovered and unprotected. As his machinegun blazed from his side, he cursed at the agents. Chase stopped firing momentarily; completely stunned by Nelson’s sudden one-man assault.
Agents were throwing plenty of lead at Nelson who seemed to be unaffected from the bullets tearing into his body. Nelson kept approaching, firing at agents simultaneously with the precision of an executioner. Hollis ran for cover behind a telephone pole but Nelson cut him down. Two bullets hit him in the chest and head. He fell and slumped against the telephone pole with blood gushing from his wounds. Cowley jumped into a ditch and discarded the machinegun, which was out of bullets. He pulled his handgun and fired at the unmerciful outlaw, hitting him several times. Nelson, who seemed unfazed, fired back sending two bullets into Cowley’s abdomen, fatally wounding him. The battle was over. Cowley died the following day from the wounds suffered during the battle. Nelson climbed into the agent’s car and the others soon joined the wounded outlaw. Helen noticed he was bleeding from his side as Nelson said; “I’ve been hit!” Seventeen bullets had hit Nelson; he was bleeding tremendously from a wound on his left side. Patrolman Gallagher, who had been observing the battle, was now crawling towards the wounded agents on his stomach. He noticed that agent Hollis was wearing a colorful hat of some type, but would soon learn he was looking at blood and brain contents. The agent had half of his head blown off. He knew there was nothing further he could do for the man. As he crawled towards the other agent, he heard voices and clinging sounds of guns being loaded in the other car. As the officer checked agent Cowley, he noticed the agent was bleeding, but was still alive. He asked Cowley his identity and the agent replied; he was chasing Baby Face Nelson and the outlaw shot him. Gallagher thought to himself, “Baby Face Nelson?” He realized there wasn’t much he could do to stop the outlaws, armed only with a .22 rifle. He also realized that he had to do something. Suddenly the outlaws began to drive away and Gallagher jumped up and fired two shots at the fleeing vehicle. After driving only a short distance the car stopped, and the officer observed someone get out of the vehicle and change places with the driver. It was Chase, Nelson was bleeding so badly that he couldn’t drive so Chase moved him aside and took over. Chase asked Helen where should they go and she thought of a church near Niles. Chase followed Helen’s directions and they soon arrived at the location. Nelson was losing a lot of blood; he was weak, and was now slumping forward. Helen and Chase had to half carry Nelson to the front door of the church. Helen banged on the doors, until Catholic Priest Father Phillip W. Coughlan answered. The Priest was shocked at the sight of Nelson drenched in blood, but let them inside with question.
Nelson was laid out on a bed, his eyes were open and he was semi-conscience. The Priest suggested a doctor and Nelson spoke out, “No doctors.” Father Coughlan began praying over the dying man, until Nelson tried to get up. Helen motioned to Chase who was outside nervously smoking a cigarette. She asked him to help her carry Nelson out of the church. Against the Fathers advise, the two carried Nelson back to the car and drove to another residence somewhere in Niles, where Nelson died a few hours later. Helen tied a rag around Nelson’s side in an effort to try and stop the bleeding, but this effort was hopeless. She did everything she could for her dying husband, but regardless of her efforts he died around 7:30 p.m. Helen, Chase, and a third person, (probably Jimmy Murray, an underworld friend) took Nelson’s body to the nearby St. Paul’s cemetery. Helen stripped Nelson naked to avoid immediate identification. She wrapped her husband in a blanket and placed him just outside the cemetery on the grass. Helen would later say the reason she wrapped her husband in a blanket was because Lester never liked being cold. Baby Face Nelson was officially the last member associated directly with the Dillinger gang.Helen Nelson called a funeral home the next day, and asked them to take of her husband. The Funeral home called the Police and after a search of the area, Nelson’s body was found. He taken to the Cook county Morgue, where he was placed on the very same slab John Dillinger lay on just four months earlier. The FBI was furious with Helen Nelson; they knew that she had been present when Nelson killed federal agents. Newspapers shouted the Headlines, “Kill the widow of Baby Face Nelson.”Helen next appeared at her brother in-laws home, Robert Fitzsimmon’s and made arrangements with the FBI to surrender two days later. The surrender was arranged on November 29, at a public location in Chicago, where there would lots of witnesses. Helen knew the FBI would not hesitate to kill her, if they got the chance. She was sentenced to one year and one day at the woman’s Federal Reformatory in Milan, Michigan. She would sever her time and later released on December 13, 1935. She returned to Chicago where she died in 1987. Many believe she made a deal with the FBI and used information to the whereabouts of John Hamilton as a calling card for an early release. She may have told federal agents the location of Hamilton, but did not receive an early release. She was sentenced to one year and one day, and served out her time.