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September 15, 1907|
Neopit (Menominee Indian Reservation), Wisconsin, US
January 13, 1969 (aged 61)|
Shawano, Wisconsin, US
|Criminal charge||Harboring a criminal|
(1925–1933; his incarceration)
Mary Evelyn "Billie" Frechette (September 15, 1907 – January 13, 1969) was an American Menominee singer, waitress, convict, and lecturer known for her personal relationship with the bank robber John Dillinger in the early 1930s.
Frechette is known to have been involved with Dillinger for about six months, until her arrest and imprisonment in 1934. She finished two years in prison in 1936, then toured the United States with Dillinger's family for five years with their "Crime Did Not Pay" show. She married and returned to the Menominee Indian Reservation, where she was born, for a quieter life in her later decades.
Mary Evelyn ("Billie") Frechette was born in Neopit, Wisconsin, on the Menominee Indian Reservation. She described the background of her mother (née Mary Labell) as "half French and half Indian", and that of her father as simply French.
Billie Frechette's father died when she was eight years old. She attended a mission school on the reservation, and then was sent to a government boarding school for Indians in South Dakota. After time there, she moved to her aunt's to become a nurse. At the age of 18, she moved to Chicago to be closer to her sister.
Marriage and family
Evelyn Frechette and "Walter Sparks" (Welton Walter Spark) were married on August 2, 1932 in Chicago. Spark was sentenced, with two others, on July 20, 1932, to a 15-year term at Leavenworth for three counts of robbery of postal substations in drug stores. Walter Spark and his co-defendant, Arthur Cherrington, both married the same day, Cherrington to Patricia Young. Their marriage ceremonies were conducted at the Cook County Jail by Chaplain E. N. Ware. Spark and Cherrington entered Leavenworth on August 13, 1932.
Involvement with John Dillinger
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Frechette met John Dillinger at a cabaret in October 1933. They began a relationship soon after that. Frechette was quoted saying "John was good to me. He looked after me and bought me all kinds of jewelry and cars and pets, and we went places and saw things, and he gave me everything a girl wants. He treated me like a lady". Frechette assumed more marital roles with Dillinger than an accomplice. She once drove a getaway car after Dillinger was shot by the police. She was arrested on April 9, 1934 for allowing him to hide in her St. Paul, Minnesota, apartment. Dillinger and a companion watched the arrest from a block away. Dillinger wanted to attack the lawmen and rescue her, but accepted the argument that he would die in the attempt.
Afterwards, she toured with Dillinger's family for five years in a show called Crime Didn't Pay.
Frechette traveled with the Dillinger family after her release and his death. The traveling show was "Crime Did Not Pay" Frechette returned to the Menominee Reservation, where she had two subsequent marriages. She died of cancer on January 13, 1969, at age 61 in Shawano, Wisconsin. She is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery next to her third husband, Arthur Tic.
- In the 1973 film Dillinger, Frechette was played by Michelle Phillips, the actress and singer with The Mamas & the Papas.
- In the 1991 film Dillinger, Frechette was played by actress Sherilyn Fenn.
- In the 2009 film Public Enemies, Frechette was played by actress Marion Cotillard.
- "Primary Sources: 'What I Knew About John Dillinger' – By His Sweetheart", Public Enemy #1, American Experience (represented by them as transcriptions of two installments in a series of articles by her, The Chicago Herald and Examiner, August 1934.
- "American Experience | Public Enemy #1 | Primary Sources". Pbs.org. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
- "American Experience | Public Enemy #1 | People & Events". Pbs.org. Retrieved January 15, 2017.