Dillinger was transported back and fourth to court during Singleton's trial. On one occasion, on the return trip back to Pendleton, Dillinger made another attempt to escape. Deputy Sheriff Russell Peterson was transporting Dillinger, and decided to treat him to a soda. As the two sat down in a restaurant, Dillinger suddenly tipped the table over on the deputy, and fled out the door. The deputy ran after him, pulled his gun and fired a shot with his .25 caliber automatic pistol. Dillinger ran down a dead-end alley, with nowhere to run he reluctantly gave up.
Records at Pendleton indicated that Dillinger's behavior was not improving. He was constantly in trouble for gambling; fighting, and was involved in several escape attempts. He was repeatedly placed in solitary confinement for disobeying prison rules. He began to make friends with other inmates, one of which was Harry Pierpont, a bank robber who became a big influence on Dillinger, with his impressing nerve and leadership qualities. He was doing time several bank robberies and an attempted car thief and attempted murder after he shot the owner four times. The man survived and Pierpont was sent to Prison. He was later released, but continued his bank-robbing career until he was captured in Detroit, Michigan and sentenced to the Indiana Reformatory on May 6, 1925. The two became good friends, but before long Pierpont was transferred to Michigan City Penitentiary.
Another friend, was Homer Van Meter, he was serving time for a train robbery. Van Meter had an anchor tattoo on his inner forearm, with a banner containing the word “Hope.” Pierpont couldn't stand Van Meter, but Dillinger liked them both. A few weeks later Van Meter would also be transferred to Michigan City.
In one of John Dillinger’s letters to Beryl written on August 18, 1928, he wrote:
<sic>“My dearest wife:Received your sweet letter Tuesday eve, the only one this week and I’m still waiting for that interview. Gee honey I would like to see you. Hubert wrote last week I would sure like to see him if he wants to come see me let me know and I will send him the carfare. In another letter he wrote: Dearest we will be so happy when I come home to you and chase your sorrows away…. and it won’t take any kids to keep me home with you always for sweetheart I love you so all I want to do is just be with you and make you happy. I wonder if I will get an interview Monday. I sure hope so for I am drying to see you, darling have some pictures taken every time I see you, you look dearer and sweeter to me so I want late pictures now say rassberries, but honey it’s the truth…. You can imagine what disappointment it was to me when you didn’t come on your birthday. I’ve been crossed as bear ever since…. Lots of love and kisses to the sweetest little wife in the world.” <end sic>
Dillinger’s wife Beryl would frequently visit him, but her visits began to slow down and eventually stopped. Her letters indicated that things were not going well between the couple. To make matters worse, Audrey; John’s older sister began attacking Beryl for her lack of visits to John. Beryl tried to explain that she was having a hard time acquiring money for car fair, but Audrey refused to listen. The attacks continued until Beryl decided to file for a divorce. The divorce was granted by Judge Chester Vernon on the grounds that Dillinger incarcerated in the State prison, and unable to provide. Soon afterwards, Dillinger went before the parole board, and was denied his plea for freedom. During this hearing, Dillinger surprised the board by asking for a transfer to Michigan City Penitentiary. He told the board that Michigan City had a real baseball team, and he wanted to play ball. The odd request was granted, and Dillinger was transferred October 29, 1929, the very same day that the stock market crashed. Dillinger's reasoning for the transfer to Michigan City was to get back with his old friends Pierpont, Charley Makley, and Van Meter. Michigan City was about a hundred miles further than Pendleton was; this meant fewer visits from family and friends. Michigan City became a school for criminals looking for a career in crime, and John Dillinger became a good student.
Through Harry Pierpont, Dillinger would meet professional bank robbers such as John Hamilton, Russell Clark, and Charles Makley. These men would all become future members of the Dillinger gang. John Hamilton had been involved in several banks in Michigan and Indiana. Hamilton had successfully robbed the Kent State Savings Bank of Grand Rapids, Michigan bank of $22,500 on January 3,1927. A former policeman of Fordson, Michigan, named Raymond Lawrence had also participated in the robbery. Lawrence and Hamilton’s luck finally ran out when they attempted to rob a South Bend State bank in Indiana on March 15. After casing the bank for several days the two made their move. They waited for the janitor Clifton Barton to open the bank doors at 6 a.m.; they forced their way in and bound him. Then they waited for bank employees to arrive. At 7:30 a.m., Kenneth Shirk, the bookkeeper arrived, and told the bandit’s that the vault couldn’t be opened until 8 a.m. Hamilton and Lawrence both decided the wait would be worth it.
As more employees arrived, Hamilton ordered assistant cashier G.M. Broadhurst to let them in. As he did, Broadhurst ran out the door and across the street, where he sounded off an alarm to the Police. The outlaws had $125,000 dollars in their grasp, but fearing capture they decided to flee after the alarm went off. They jumped into a Chevrolet coupe, (stolen prior to the robbery) and drove a short distance where they changed cars. As planned, they jumped into Lawrence’s Nash sedan, and drove to an apartment belonging to William Hamilton, John Hamilton’s brother. To cover their tracks, the two decided to change the license plates on the car. A neighbor watched them changing the plates; he became suspicious, and contacted the police. The Police arrested the two without a conflict. When questioned, Hamilton denied any involvement with the robbery. Hamilton finally confessed, after overwhelming evidence from Lawrence’s signed confession, damaging statements made by Mrs. Lawrence, and Hamilton’s wife, and several eyewitnesses from the bank positively identified them as the robbers. Hamilton reluctantly signed a full confession.
After the confessions were signed, both women were released. The very next day Hamilton and Lawrence were sentenced to twenty-five years in prison, the maximum sentence. The policemen who captured the outlaws received one hundred dollars reward, which they donated to the police pension fund. Hamilton went to prison, leaving behind his wife and two small children. Charles Makley had been involved in several bank robberies in Ohio, including the Bank of Linn Glove on March 24, 1927, where two armed bandits made off with two thousand in cash. The bandit’s were apprehended two days later in South Bend, Indiana. They were arrested after they tried to sell a loaded revolver to a restaurant owner, who contacted the authorities. Police realized the two men fit the descriptions of the Linn Grover robbers, and the cashier of the bank soon identified them.
On June 23, 1928, Makley was sentenced to a 10 to 21-year prison term in the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City. Makley’s sister-in-law, Edith Makley, was arrested for her involvement because she had driven the outlaw to the bank. She was released without any charges filed after Makley stated that she had nothing to do with the robbery. Russell Clark was serving time for several robberies, including the robbery of the Huntertown State Bank on December 8, 1927. Clark and an accomplice named Charles Hovious walked into the bank, and asked the cashier, Horace Tucker to change a five-dollar bill. Clark pulled out a .38 caliber double action revolver and told Tucker to “Stick’em up.” They quickly grabbed $1,312 in cash, and headed out the door. As the bandit’s fled, Tucker grabbed a gun out of a desk drawer and opened fire. A brief gun battle erupted until the outlaws jumped into a nearby car and drove off. As a posse quickly caught up to them, the robbers abandoned their car and fled on foot through the woods. Officers searched the woods for hours before locating Hovious and arrested him without resistance. Clark lasted throughout the night, but was eventually found hiding in a barn where he surrendered. The two bandits were given two consecutive sentences of 15 and 20 years. Hovious was sent to Indiana Reformatory, and Clark was sent to the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City. Dillinger and his new friends began hanging out together trading criminal stories, and exploring the possibilities of future bank robberies.
Sometime in the early nineteen thirties Dillinger was introduced to Walter E. Dietrich, a survivor of the Baron Lamm Gang. Pierpont persuaded Dietrich to reveal the secrets techniques of a famous bank robber named Baron Lamm. Lamm was a Prussian Officer in World War I, who was forced to resign after he was caught cheating in a card game. Lamm brilliantly put his military skills to use in the bank robbing business. Carefully planning every move step by step, with military precision and timing. The gang pulled off several remarkable robberies until December 16, 1930, when a posse killed Lamm and most of his gang after robbing the Citizens bank in Clinton, Indiana. Dietrich and James Clark (no relation to Russell Clark) were the only survivors of the massacre. There is little known about Dietrich, but records indicate that his life of crime began in Danville, Illinois when he was 14 years old. He had served time in a Missouri prison for robbery, and used the alias’ Walter Dietz, and Walter Martin. Following the Citizens bank robbery, Dietrich’s trial was held in Paris, Illinois and he was sentenced to life in Michigan City on Jan. 2, 1931. He would be paroled from Michigan City on January 8, 1953.
Pierpont realized that Dillinger would be the first paroled, so he began working on an escape plan. Pierpont told Dillinger to be a model prisoner, which would bring an earlier parole date. Homer Van Meter would actually be the first to be paroled, but because of Pierpont's dislike for the bandit, he would not be included in the plans. After two years of careful planning the escape plan was beginning to take shape. Pierpont’s had plans for the future, which included, as he put it, making a big splash on the outside. This gathering of criminal minds would one day be crowned the Dillinger gang. Details of the escape plans would be discussed in detail over the next couple of years. Dillinger would be given a list of banks to rob once he was on the outside; the money would be used to finance the escape. Pierpont realized that they would only have one chance, and if anything went wrong, it was over. The selected inmates, who would participate in the escape, would be those who agreed to go all the way, no turning back.
Dietrich explained every ingenious detail of Baron Lamm's scientific methods for bank robberies, and Dillinger was schooled on the ins and outs. He began writing home more often and seemed to be in high spirits, but his relatives didn’t realize is the reasoning behind his happiness. Dillinger was about to embark in one of the biggest bank robbery spree's of the nineteen thirties. Prison systems were designed to rehabilitate inmates, but many prisoners would become violent criminals. Dillinger had gone into prison as an amateur criminal and came out a professional bank robber. The courts had stolen nearly ten years of his life and he had become bitter towards society. He would graduate from his bank robbing training on the day he was paroled. In early May of 1933, Dillinger heard through the prison grapevine that two hundred citizens of Mooresville had signed a petition for his release. Even B.F. Morgan, the man Dillinger attempted to rob had signed the petition. The community persuaded Judge William’s to help release John Dillinger.
The Judge agreed and wrote a letter to the Clemency Board stating that Dillinger had learned his lesson and would make an honorable citizen if paroled. The release papers were signed and Dillinger was to be paroled on May 11, 1933. However, his Parole was date was delayed because prison officials took their time processing the paperwork. Officials were in no hurry, besides Dillinger had already served nearly ten years, so they figured what’s another week? A week to a prisoner about to be paroled would feel like another month. On May 20, Warden Walter H. Daly received a telegraph from the elder Dillinger. The telegram asked for John Dillinger’s immediate release, stating that his mother was near death. The Warden responded by informing the elder Dillinger that he could pick up his son, on May 22. John's half brother Hubert was waiting outside prison walls to pick him up. Prison officials gave John a new suit of clothes; he received a five-dollar bill, and a farewell handshake from the Warden.
By the time they reached the modern Mooresville farm, there was a hearse parked in the driveway, and John's stepmother had just past away. The delay of Dillinger's release papers had taken away his final moments with his stepmother. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Fields Dillinger was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. Less than a month after Lizzie's death, John attended church with his dad on father's day. The pastor preached the sermon on the Prodigal son, and the sermon took a toll on John, he cried out loud in the church. If the community had any doubts about John, they were now convinced that he would make a good citizen.
The good citizens of Mooresville didn't realize that John Dillinger had already made a choice about his future, and had already committed two robberies. During this time, he was keeping in touch with his parole officer, but things would soon change. In a report written to John’s parole officer, he stated that he had been attending to church, and going to the movies. In the same statement, he denies attending any meetings, going to dances, picnics, or parties. He also states that he has spent much of his time fishing, and swimming.
CHECK OUT TONY STEWART'S AWARDS PAGE
CONTACT AUTHOR AT EMAIL BELOW: