Gerald Chapman

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This article is about the criminal. For the theatre director, see Gerald Chapman (director).
Gerald Chapman
Born George Chartres
August, 1887
Brooklyn, New York
Died April 6, 1926
(aged 38)
Wethersfield, Connecticut
Other names G. Vincent Colwell, C. W. Eldridge, George Clark, George Chartres, Maxwell Winters
Criminal penalty
Death
Criminal status
Executed by hanging
Conviction(s) First-degree murder (April 4, 1925)

Gerald Chapman (August, 1887 – April 6, 1926), called the "Count of Gramercy Park", and "The Gentleman Bandit" was an American criminal who co-led an early Prohibition-era gang with George "Dutch" Anderson from 1919 until the mid-1920s. Chapman was the first criminal to be dubbed "Public Enemy Number One" by the press.[1]

Criminal career[edit]

Gerald Chapman was born George Chartres in August 1887 to parents of Irish heritage.[2] Arrested for the first time in 1902 at age fourteen, Chapman was incarcerated for the majority of his early adult life.[3] After being convicted on a bank robbery charge and transferred from Sing Sing, he first became acquainted with Anderson while imprisoned in Auburn State Prison in 1908.[4] Following both men's paroles in 1919, they began bootlegging operations in Toledo, Miami and New York City over the next two years.

In late 1921, along with former Auburn inmate Charles Loeber, Chapman and Anderson began committing armed robberies. On October 24,[5] the three men forced a U.S. Mail truck to stop at gunpoint on Leonard Street, successfully taking $2.4 million in cash, bonds and jewelry. Eluding capture for more than eight months, the three were eventually arrested by United States Postal Inspectors William Doran, Jim Doyle and William Cochraine on July 3, 1922, after Chapman attempted to sell Argentine gold notes (stolen during the Leonard Street mail robbery) to an undercover Postal Inspector posing as a stock broker. [6] Chapman and Anderson were both sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment and ordered to serve their time at the Atlanta Federal Prison. Chapman escaped from prison on March 27, 1923,[7] and Anderson escaped on December 30, 1923. They reunited, and were suspected by authorities to have committed several hold-ups.

Capture[edit]

On October 12, 1924, while on a crime spree in Connecticut, Chapman murdered police officer James Skelly of the New Britain Police Department.[8] He was then recaptured on January 18, 1925, in Muncie, Indiana, based on authorities being tipped off by informant Ben Hance. During his apprehension, Chapman fired at a police officer but missed. President Calvin Coolidge was convinced to reduce the robbery sentence of Chapman in federal prison to time served,[9] and Chapman was then handed over to the Connecticut authorities.

Both Hance and his wife were shot to death when their car was forced off a road outside Muncie on August 11, 1925.[10] Authorities suspected their deaths (attributed to Anderson and an accomplice) may have been in revenge for betraying Chapman to the police. On October 31, 1925, "Dutch" Anderson and Police Officer Charles Hammond confronted each other in a narrow alley in Muskegon, Michigan. In the ensuing gunfight both men were killed.[1]

Trial and execution[edit]

During the six-day murder trial in Hartford, Connecticut, crowds gathered due to his status as one of the "top 10" criminals in America. The jury deliberated for 11 hours, after which Chapman was found guilty and eventually sentenced to hang. He proclaimed his innocence to the end, asking in his final appeal for "justice, not mercy".[11] Chapman was executed by the upright jerker on April 6, 1926.[12][13]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b ("The First 'Public Enemy Number One'")
  2. ^ (Downey 2008, p. 17)
  3. ^ (Jeffers 1993, p. 24)
  4. ^ (Jeffers 1993, p. 18)
  5. ^ (New York Times 25 October 1921)
  6. ^ {harv|Jeffers|1993|p=77,84,
  7. ^ (Jeffers 1993, p. 110)
  8. ^ (Jeffers 1993, pp. 154–157)
  9. ^ (Jeffers 1993, p. 233)
  10. ^ (Jeffers 1993, pp. 221–223)
  11. ^ (New York Times 6 April 1926)
  12. ^ (Jeffers 1993, p. 242)
  13. ^ ("Executions in Connecticut Since 1894")

References[edit]