John Dillinger

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

John Herbert Dillinger (/dɪlɪnər/; June 22, 1903 in Indianapolis, Indiana – July 22, 1934 in Chicago, Illinois) was a famous American gangster in the Depression-era United States, who operated with a group of men known by some as the Dillinger Gang or Terror Gang that were, among other activities, accused of robbing 24 banks and four police stations. Dillinger escaped from jail twice. He was also charged with, but never convicted of, the murder of an East Chicago, Indiana police officer who shot Dillinger in his bullet-proof vest during a shootout, prompting him to return fire. It was Dillinger's only homicide charge.

In the heyday of the Depression-era outlaw (1933–1934) Dillinger was the most notorious of all, standing out even among more violent criminals such as Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde, as evidenced by the fact that decades later, the first major book about 1930s gangsters was titled The Dillinger Days. He courted publicity, styling himself as a Robin Hood figure, and the media of his time ran exaggerated accounts of his bravado and colorful personality, causing the government to demand federal action, and J. Edgar Hoover developed a more sophisticated Federal Bureau of Investigation as a weapon against organized crime, using Dillinger and his gang as his campaign platform.[1]

After evading police in four states for almost a year, Dillinger was wounded and returned to his father's home to recover. He returned to Chicago in July 1934 and met his end at the hands of police and federal agents who were informed of his whereabouts by Ana Cumpănaş (the owner of the brothel where Dillinger sought refuge at the time). On July 22, 1934 the police and Division of Investigation[2] closed in on the Biograph Theater. Federal agents, led by Melvin Purvis and Samuel P. Cowley, moved to arrest Dillinger as he exited the theater. He pulled a weapon and attempted to flee but was shot four times and killed.[3]

Early life[edit]

Family and background[edit]

John Herbert Dillinger was born on June 22, 1903, in the Oak Hill section of Indianapolis, Indiana,[4] the younger of two children born to John Wilson Dillinger (July 2, 1864 – November 3, 1943) and Mary Ellen "Mollie" Lancaster (1860–1907).[5]:10 According to some biographers, his grandfather, Matthias Dillinger emigrated to the United States in 1851 from Metz, in the region of Lorraine, then under French sovereignty.[6] Matthias Dillinger was born in Gisingen, near Dillingen, Saarland. Dillinger's parents had married on August 23, 1887. Dillinger's father was a grocer by trade and, reportedly, a harsh man.[5]:9 In an interview with reporters, Dillinger said that he was firm in his discipline and believed in the adage "spare the rod and spoil the child".[5]:12

Dillinger's older sister, Audrey, was born March 6, 1889. Their mother died in 1907 just before his fourth birthday.[5][7] Audrey married Emmett "Fred" Hancock that year and they had seven children together. She cared for her brother John for several years until their father remarried in 1912 to Elizabeth "Lizzie" Patel (1878–1933). They had three children, Hubert, born 1912, Doris M. (December 12, 1918 – March 14, 2001) and Frances Dillinger (May 11, 1922 – January 13, 2015).[7][8]

Reportedly, Dillinger initially disliked his stepmother, but he eventually came to fall in love with her. The two eventually began a relationship that lasted 3 years.[9]

Formative years and marriage[edit]

Utah after her modernization

As a teenager, Dillinger was frequently in trouble with the law for fighting and petty theft; he was also noted for his "bewildering personality" and bullying of smaller children.[5]:14 He quit school to work in an Indianapolis machine shop. Although he worked hard at his job, he would stay out all night at parties. His father feared that the city was corrupting his son, prompting him to move the family to Mooresville, Indiana, in 1921.[5]:15 Dillinger's wild and rebellious behavior was resilient despite his new rural life. In 1922 he was arrested for auto theft, and his relationship with his father deteriorated.[5]:16–17 His troubles led him to enlist in the United States Navy where he was a Fireman 3rd Class assigned aboard the battleship USS Utah,[10] but he deserted a few months later when his ship was docked in Boston. He was eventually dishonorably discharged.[5]:18–20 Dillinger then returned to Mooresville where he met Beryl Ethel Hovious.[11] The two were married on April 12, 1924. He attempted to settle down, but he had difficulty holding a job and preserving his marriage.

Dillinger was unable to find a job and began planning a robbery with his friend Ed Singleton.[5]:22 The two robbed a local grocery store, stealing $50.[5]:26 Leaving the scene they were spotted by a minister who recognized the men and reported them to the police. The two men were arrested the next day. Singleton pleaded not guilty, but after Dillinger's father (the local Mooresville Church deacon) discussed the matter with Morgan County prosecutor Omar O'Harrow, his father convinced Dillinger to confess to the crime and plead guilty without retaining a defense attorney.[5]:24 Dillinger was convicted of assault and battery with intent to rob, and conspiracy to commit a felony. He expected a lenient probation sentence as a result of his father's discussion with O'Harrow, but instead was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison for his crimes.[7] His father told reporters he regretted his advice and was appalled by the sentence. He pleaded with the judge to shorten the sentence but with no success.[5]:25 (During the robbery Dillinger had struck a victim on the head with a machine bolt wrapped in a cloth and had also carried a gun which, although it discharged, hit no one). En route to Mooresville to testify against Singleton, Dillinger briefly escaped his captors but was apprehended within a few minutes.[5]:27 Singleton was killed on August 31, 1937 by a train when he passed out, drunk, on a railroad track.

Prison time[edit]

Within Indiana Reformatory and Indiana State Prison, from 1924 to 1930, Dillinger began to become embroiled in a criminal lifestyle. Upon being admitted to the prison he is quoted as saying, "I will be the meanest bastard you ever saw when I get out of here."[5]:26 His physical examination upon being admitted to the prison showed that he had gonorrhea. The treatment for his condition was extremely painful.[5]:22 He became embittered against society because of his long prison sentence and befriended other criminals, such as seasoned bank robbers like Harry "Pete" Pierpont, Charles Makley, Russell Clark, and Homer Van Meter, who taught Dillinger how to be a successful criminal. The men planned heists that they would commit soon after they were released.[5]:32 Dillinger studied Herman Lamm's meticulous bank-robbing system and used it extensively throughout his criminal career.

His father launched a campaign to have him released and was able to get 188 signatures on a petition. Dillinger was paroled on May 10, 1933, after serving nine and a half years. Dillinger's stepmother became sick just before he was released from the prison, and she died before he arrived at her home.[5]:37 Released at the height of the Great Depression, Dillinger had little prospect of finding employment.[5]:35 He immediately returned to crime[5]:39 and on June 21, 1933, he robbed his first bank, taking $10,000 from the New Carlisle National Bank, which occupied the building at the southeast corner of Main Street and Jefferson (State Routes 235 and 571) in New Carlisle, Ohio.[12] On August 14, Dillinger robbed a bank in Bluffton, Ohio. Tracked by police from Dayton, Ohio, he was captured and later transferred to the Allen County jail in Lima to be indicted in connection to the Bluffton robbery. After searching him before letting him into the prison, the police discovered a document which appeared to be a prison escape plan. They demanded Dillinger tell them what the document meant, but he refused.[7]

Dillinger had helped conceive a plan for the escape of Pierpont, Clark and six others he had met while previously in prison, most of whom worked in the prison laundry. Dillinger had friends smuggle guns into their prison cells, with which they escaped, four days after Dillinger's capture. The group, known as "the First Dillinger Gang," comprised Pete Pierpont, Russell Clark, Charles Makley, Ed Shouse, Harry Copeland, and John "Red" Hamilton, a member of the Herman Lamm Gang. Pierpont, Clark, and Makley arrived in Lima on October 12, where they impersonated Indiana State Police officers, claiming they had come to extradite Dillinger to Indiana. When the sheriff, Jess Sarber, asked for their credentials, Pierpont shot Sarber dead, then released Dillinger from his cell. The four men escaped back into Indiana where they joined the rest of the gang.[7]

Bank robberies[edit]

Dillinger is known to have participated with The Dillinger Gang in twelve separate bank robberies, between the dates June 21, 1933 and June 30, 1934.

Relationship with Evelyn Frechette[edit]

Evelyn "Billie" Frechette, met John Dillinger in October 1933 and they began a relationship on November 20. On December the 19th, 1933 they rented a two story house located at 901 South Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, Florida.

Post-escape from Crown Point[edit]

Dillinger was imprisoned within Crown Point jail sometime after committing a robbery at a bank located within East Chicago on January 15th. The police boasted to area newspapers that the Crown Point jail was escape-proof and posted extra guards to make sure. What happened on the day of Dillinger's escape on March 3 is still open to debate. Deputy Ernest Blunk claimed that Dillinger had escaped using a real pistol, but FBI files make clear that Dillinger carved a fake pistol from a potato. Sam Cahoon, a trustee that Dillinger first took hostage in the jail, believed that Dillinger had carved the gun with a razor and some shelving in his cell. However, according to an unpublished interview with Dillinger's attorney, Louis Piquett and his investigator, Art O'Leary, it was later revealed that O'Leary claimed to have sneaked the gun in himself.[13]

The death of Youngblood[edit]

On March 16, Youngblood was shot dead by three police officers in Port Huron, Michigan. Deputy Sheriff Charles Cavanaugh was fatally wounded in the battle and died a few hours later. Before he died, Youngblood had told the officers that Dillinger was in the neighborhood of Port Huron and immediately officers began a search for the escaped man, but no trace of him was found. It is said[by whom?] that later Youngblood retracted the story and said he did not know where Dillinger was at that time as he had parted with him soon after their escape from the Crown Point jail.[14]

Dillinger was indicted by a local grand jury, and the BOI organized a nationwide manhunt for him.[15] After escaping from Crown Point, Dillinger reunited with his girlfriend, Evelyn Frechette just hours after his escape at her half-sister Patsy's Chicago apartment, where she was also staying (3512 North Halsted). According to Billie's trial testimony, Dillinger stayed with her there for "almost two weeks," but the two actually had traveled to the Twin Cities and moved into the Santa Monica Apartments, Unit 106, 3252 South Girard Avenue, Minneapolis, on March 4 (moving out Monday, March 19)[16][17] and met up with Hamilton (who had been recovering for the past month from his gunshot wounds in the East Chicago robbery), and mustered a new gang, and the two joined Baby Face Nelson's gang, composed of Homer Van Meter, Tommy Carroll and Eddie Green.

Three days after Dillinger's escape from Crown Point, the Second Dillinger Gang robbed a bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Lincoln Court shootout[edit]

Dillinger and Billie eventually moved into apartment 303 of the Lincoln Court Apartments, 93-95 South Lexington Avenue (now Lexington Parkway South) in St. Paul on Tuesday, March 20, using the alias name "Mr. & Mrs. Carl T. Hellman". The three-story apartment complex (still in operation), built in 1921,[18] had 32 apartments, 10 units on each floor, and two basement units.[19][20]

Daisy Coffey, the landlord/owner, would testify at Frechette's trial that she spent most evenings during the Hellmans' stay furnishing apartment 310, which just happened to be perfectly situated for her to observe what was happening in apartment 303 directly across the courtyard. She was curious enough to take a peek the first night the new tenants moved in, March 20, when the lights were on "and the people were moving about." The shades were usually drawn, but she did catch glimpses. She said she saw "Mrs. Hellman," Billie, washing and wiping dishes at various times. On March 26 Coffey was standing just outside of apartment 304, across the hall from 303, when Mrs. Hellman came up the rear stairs carrying groceries, accompanied by a man. The question of what the man looked like was never asked in court. On the morning of the escape, Coffey stated she saw two women leave the building shortly after 10 a.m., one with red hair (Opal Long), and the other -- "I don't know about the color. It looked to have been almost every color" (Pat Cherrington).[21]

Eventually, on March 30, Coffey went to the FBI's St. Paul field office to file a report, including information about the couple's new Hudson sedan parked in the garage behind the apartments. The building was placed under surveillance by two agents, Rufus Coulter and Rusty Nalls, that night, but they failed to observe anything unusual, mainly due to drawn blinds.[22]

The next morning at approximately 10:15, Nalls circled around the block looking for the Hudson, but observed nothing. He parked on Lincoln (the north side of the apartments), and about two minutes later he saw two women - Pat Cherrington and Opal Long - walking down Lexington, in front of the apartments, and turn onto Lincoln. At the same time, John Hamilton showed up in a Ford sedan bearing 1934 Minnesota license B-419975 (Hamilton), picked up the two women and drove away. Following this, for a better view of the front of the apartment building, Nalls moved his car and parked on the west side of Lexington, at the northwest corner of Lexington and Lincoln, and remained in his car while watching Coulter and St. Paul Police detective Henry Cummings, pull up about the same time to the front of the complex, park, and enter the building.[23] Ten minutes later, by Nalls's estimate, Van Meter, driving a green Ford coupe, showed up and parked on the north side of the apartment building.[24]

Meanwhile, Coulter and Cummings were at apartment 303, knocking on the door. Frechette answered, opening the door two to three inches. She said she wasn't dressed and to come back. Coulter told her they would wait. After waiting two to three minutes, Coulter went to the basement apartment of the caretakers, Louis and Margaret Meidlinger, and asked to use the phone to call the bureau. He quickly returned to Cummings, and the two of them proceeded to pace up and down the hall outside of Dillinger's hiding place while waiting for Frechette to open the door. Van Meter then appeared in the hall and asked Coulter if his name was Johnson. Coulter said it was not, and as Van Meter passed on to the landing of the third floor, Coulter asked him for a name. Van Meter replied, "I am a soap salesman." Asked where his samples were, Van Meter said they were in his car. Coulter asked if he had any credentials. Van Meter said "no," and continued to walk down the stairs. Coulter waited 10 to 20 seconds and then followed Van Meter downstairs. As he got to the lobby of the ground floor, Van Meter ambushed him and opened fire on Coulter.[25] Coulter hastily escaped outside, being chased by Van Meter. Eventually, Van Meter stopped and ran back into the front entrance.

Recognizing Van Meter, Nalls pointed out the Ford to Coulter and told him to disable it. Coulter shot out the rear left tire. While Coulter stayed with Van Meter's Ford, Nalls went to the corner drugstore and first called the local police, then called the bureau's St. Paul office, but couldn't get through because both lines were busy.[26][27] Van Meter, meanwhile, escaped by hopping on a passing coal truck.[28]

Frechette, in her harboring trial testimony, said that she told Dillinger that the police had showed up after speaking to Cummings. Dillinger immediately began throwing his and Frechette's things into a suitcase. Upon hearing the sound of Van Meter firing at Coulter, Dillinger opened fire through the door with a Thompson submachine gun, sending Cummings scrambling for cover in an offset down the hall. Dillinger then stepped out and fired another burst at Cummings. Cummings managed to shoot back at Dillinger with a revolver, but quickly ran out of ammunition. He then hastily retreated down the stairs to the front entrance. [29] Bullets from Dillinger's gun shot up five doors in the hallway: 303, 304 (across the hall from 303), the service door to 304, and the doors on both ends of the third floor (photographic evidence exists of all but the door to 304 and 304's service door). Once Cummings retreated, Dillinger and Frechette hurried down the stairs, Dillinger holding his Thompson and Frechette holding their heavy case.

As Dillinger and Frechette reached the back door, Dillinger handed her the keys to the car, parked in a garage a few doors down the alley. A twenty-year-old college student, George Schroth, watched the escape from one of the four windows facing west on the second floor of his house located right next door. Schroth testified at Frechette's trial that Dillinger took his time walking up the alley, carefully looking for potential assailants.[30] In the exchange of gunfire with Cummings, Dillinger was hit in the left calf by one of Cummings' five shots.

When Frechette finally made it to the garage, she started the Hudson and backed it out, facing east. By that time Dillinger had arrived and told her to go the opposite direction. She did so, and when the car was backed out and in the correct position (west), Dillinger got in the back seat and began directing her where to go.[31]

The temperature that morning in St. Paul was 30 degrees, but it was much colder, 18 degrees, at six a.m.[32] The Hudson had a six-volt system, giving it a very low cranking power, and the car almost certainly had no heater or defroster. The cold tires were extremely hard to maneuver, and recent snowfall made the skinny tires tricky to drive on without chains.

Meanwhile, Nalls had returned from the corner drugstore and relieved Coulter, who then met up with Cummings at the front entrance, and together they went back up to 303. Nalls had stayed with Van Meter's car. The position of Van Meter's car put it exactly in line with the rear alley of the apartment building, giving a perfect view of the rear door, the door Dillinger and Frechette exited, not to mention Van Meter. This fact was never brought up at any time during Frechette's trial and, more importantly, neither Nalls nor Coulter were questioned about it.

After the shootout[edit]

Dillinger and Frechette drove to the apartment of Eddie Green at 3300 South Fremont. Green called his associate Dr. Clayton E. May at his office in Minneapolis, 712 Masonic Temple (still extant), and summoned him to Green's Fremont address on the pretense of treating a patient injured in a still explosion. With Green, his wife Beth, and Frechette following in Green's car, Dr. May drove Dillinger to 1835 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, to the ground floor three-bedroom apartment of a woman named Augusta Salt, who had been providing nursing services and a bed for May's illicit patients for several years, patients he couldn't risk seeing at his regular office.

Dr. May first examined Dillinger by taking scissors and cutting the trouser leg and the leg of the underwear up to the place where he found the wound. As he testified later, he treated the wound with antiseptics.

May said that Dillinger also requested serum from him. Salt testified that Dillinger was moved to a different bedroom the next day, Sunday, at about three p.m. at his request for a larger bed. Dillinger received a visit on Monday, April 2 from Eddie Green, just hours before Green would be mortally wounded by the FBI in St. Paul. She recalled Green saying to Dillinger,

Green : "This is better. Do you want to stay here?"
Dillinger : "No, I would rather be moving."
Green : "Have you got plenty of jack?"
Dillinger : "Yes,"

and then they both smiled.[33] Dillinger's convalescence at Dr. May's lasted five days, until Wednesday, April 4, a week before Eddie Green died from wounds received on April 3. Dr. May was promised $500 for his services, but he received nothing.[34][35]

Return to Mooresville[edit]

After leaving Minneapolis, Dillinger and Frechette traveled to Mooresville to visit Dillinger's father. Dillinger later obtained his Hudson and concealed it in the barn. The two spent the balance of the night at the house. Friday, April 6 was spent at the farm in an effort to contact family members, particularly Hubert. Once Hubert was reached, Dillinger and Hubert painted the wheels of the Hudson and also painted over the stripe on the vehicle, the same Hudson Deluxe sedan Dillinger had purchased in St. Paul, and for which was issued Minnesota license plates B-420930 (which were later recovered at Little Bohemia). While in Mooresville the car had Tennessee tags. On April 6, Hubert and Dillinger left Mooresville at about eight p.m. and proceeded to Leipsic, Ohio (approx. 210 miles from Mooresville), where they called on Joseph and Lena Pierpont, Harry's parents. The Pierponts weren't home and the two left Leipsic around midnight and headed back to Mooresville.[36]

According to a F.B.I. internal communication made on April 8th, (ref. doc#2) Dillinger was present in a vehicle subsequently wrecked near to Noblesville, Indiana, April 7 at approximately 3:30 a.m.[37] Dillinger and his half-brother Hubert had rammed a car into another driven by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Manning of Peru, Indiana, after Hubert had fallen asleep behind the wheel. They crashed through a farm fence and traveled about 200 feet into the woods. The Mannings told police that one man started walking in the direction of Indianapolis while the other "went through a wooded section along the road." Dillinger also grabbed the Thompson from the car and removed the license plates. Both the outlaw and his brother safely made it back to the Mooresville farm. Swarms of police showed up at the accident scene within a couple of hours, including Matt Leach, who was quoted as saying how lucky Dillinger was, as not a single tree had been hit by the car during its ride through the woods. Found in the car were maps, a machine gun clip, a length of rope, and a bullwhip. According to Hubert, his brother planned to pay a visit with the bullwhip to his former one-armed "shyster" lawyer at Crown Point, Joseph Ryan, who had run off with his retainer after being replaced by Louis Piquett. From a report in the Dillinger File: "In connection with the Hudson Deluxe Sedan, 4-7-34, on Highway 31, north of Noblesville, Ind., after it had been wrecked by John Dillinger and Hubert Dillinger at this point, it is indicated that the sheriff (Frank Hattery) is now offering the car for sale and the returns from same will be turned in to the state after any liens against it have been satisfied. An examination of the car by Agent Bears at Noblesville disclosed that it had been painted over, i.e., the cream-colored stripes were painted black and the shield on the front of the radiator had been painted black."[36]

Also on Saturday morning, April 7, at about 10:30, while Hubert and Dillinger were making their way back to the farm from Noblesville, or were possibly back home in bed after their misadventure, Billie, Hubert and Hubert's wife contacted Albin Dorsey, salesman at the Frank Hatfield Motor Company, Indianapolis, and arranged for the purchase of a black four-door Ford V8, registering it in the name of Mrs. Fred Penfield (Billie Frechette) at Fred Hancock, (Dillinger's nephew's) address. Also issued at this time was license No. 83689 (later found at Little Bohemia). At 2:30 p.m., Billie and Hubert went to pick up the V8, then returned to Mooresville.

On Sunday, April 8, the Dillingers enjoyed a family picnic while the FBI had the farm under surveillance nearby.[36] At some point during the afternoon, someone (probably Emmett, Audrey's husband, or Hubert) drove Audrey into Mooresville, where she bought adhesive tape and Mecurochrome to redress Dillinger's bullet wound.[38]

Later in the afternoon, Audrey Hancock observed, apparently, the automobile of Agents J.L. Geraghty and T.J. Donegan, who were cruising in the vicinity, and also possibly the automobiles of sightseers, and believing that they were officers watching them, and also being disturbed by a National Guard plane that was in practice over the home, they arranged to leave. Plans were made for everyone to meet at the home of Macy Davis in Mars Hill, about 14 miles away. Hubert and Fred, in Hubert's car, proceeded to Mooresville, to the garage of Jess Richardson (who was married to the sister of Dillinger's stepmother) to obtain the new Ford V8, where it was being temporarily stored, and brought the car to the Dillinger farm. During this time Hubert and Fred believed they were being followed by Donegan and Geraghty. In an effort to draw the agents away from the vicinity, Hubert and Norman proceeded to Mooresville in Hubert's car. The agents, when observing this car, noticed that Norman covered his face with his hands and slipped down into the vehicle as if he were avoiding identification. The second car was that of Emmett and Audrey. The third car to leave was the new Ford V8 sedan. Frechette was driving, with Mary in the front seat with her and Alberta in the back. Dillinger was on the floor of the V8, together with his machine gun. Dillinger was observed, but not identified, by Donegan and Geraghty to change from the rear seat to the driver's seat on Route 267, about a quarter mile beyond the entrance to the Dillinger farm. The last car to leave was Fred and his wife (name unspecified). Dillinger, Billie, Mary and Alberta drove to the home of Macy Davis in Mars Hills, as did Emmett and Audrey. Emmett dropped his wife off, then drove to his sister's, Lida Fisher, at 1342 Blaine Avenue, Indianapolis, to bring her to Davis' in order that she could also see Dillinger.

As directed by Dillinger, Hubert drove to Mary Kinder's house at 516 North Luett Street in Indianapolis and arranged for Mary and Mr. and Mrs. Pierpont, who had come in from Leipsic, to meet Dillinger at the Davis home. The Pierponts followed Hubert and Kinder back to Mars Hill, the Pierponts driving their Auburn sedan, license No. 175665. Mrs. Macy Davis later told agents that Mary Hancock introduced John to everyone as, "This is Uncle John, the ex-con." After some conversation in the Davis home, Dillinger, Mr. and Mrs. Pierpont, and Mary Hancock rode around in the Pierponts' Auburn, with Dillinger and the Pierponts principally discussing the possibility of getting money for the appeal for Harry in Ohio, followed by Norman and Billie in the Ford V8. When the group got back to Macy Davis' home, Mary Kinder and the Pierponts returned to Mary's residence in Indianapolis, and Norman, driving the V8, proceeded with Dillinger and Billie to Chicago, where they separated from Norman, who then later returned to Indianapolis.[36]

Among the scores of people who were willing to testify about the goings-on the last few days at the Dillinger farm, Mars Hills, Indianapolis, and Noblesville, including Mr. and Mrs. Macy Davis and Mrs. Lida Fisher, Emmett's sister, was Paul Samuels, a draftsman from Indianapolis whose yellow Ford coupe was observed by Agents Geraghty and Donegan in front of the Dillinger farm. He explained to agents that he was out driving in the vicinity of Mooresville on April 8 and had stopped in to talk to "old man Dillinger" about how much he was being allowed for the damage done to his orchard caused by the improvements being made on Route 267. He said it was not official business. He told agents that about the time the gathering of people at the farm was getting ready to leave, he walked up to the yard and talked to the old man about the new road, and that while various members of the family were pointed out to him and discussed in conversation, nothing was said as to John himself being at home, nor did he see him at the time the cars departed. "Samuels stated that he did not observe any indications of John's presence at the farm on that day. Samuels stated that he did not at any time observe a new Ford (black) V8 Sedan, and he is quite certain that if it was around the farmyard he would have noticed it. All the cars he observed were old ones, and to the best of his recollection, he can only recall having seen three -- Hubert's Chevrolet coupe, Emmett's Oldsmobile, and Fred Hancock's Whippet. Samuels is very much worried over the possibility of Mr. Al Feeney, Director of Public Safety, hearing of the incident, and he is quite certain that he will lose his job with the state if the fact of his visit to the Dillinger farm on April 8 becomes known, insofar as he has never mentioned it to anybody except for a few close friends."

Fred Hancock on the exchange between Samuels and the senior Dillinger:[39]

"When the road commissioner came up to talk with Grandpa, I saw John standing in the kitchen, and he was holding the machine gun in his hands, he having hold of the front grip as if ready to shoot. This was the first time I saw the machine gun, as John was lying on the davenport with a blanket over him, with the gun. The gun had a big round thing on it, and from pictures I had seen, I believed it to be a machine gun. John did not know who this fellow was that was talking to Grandpa."

A few of Emmett Hancock's observations:[40]

"I next saw John after church and Sunday school... we stayed until toward evening. I recall my girls were somewhat aroused by the automobiles which were passing the house and an airplane which was flying overhead. I do not remember just what was said as to John leaving. I saw the machine gun he had; at least I believed it was a machine gun from the description, it having a large drum on it, and this was lying on the bed in the front room. I recall the incident where the man drove up into the driveway and turned around and backed out, and John picked up the machine gun and went into the kitchen. John did not say anything except he had a hole through his leg, and I suppose he had gotten this in St. Paul. He stated that this woman was his wife. I did not know any of the arrangements as to how they were to leave. The new car was pulled up around to the side of the house, and I was making my own preparations as to leaving. My two girls and Billie and John went in this new car; however, I did not actually see John in the car, but I was most sure he was in the car. There was no understanding as to Alberta and Mary protecting John in driving out. I realized the danger for the girls and advised my wife that I did not like it a bit, that I would rather they went home with us. The understanding was that they were to catch up to us in their car, and I, together with my wife, drove to the home of Macy Davis, leaving John, Billie, Alberta and Mary at this place, and if I recall, also my wife, and I drove over to get my sister in order that she might see John."

Another witness was Walter Smitherman, who resided on the adjoining farm to that of Dillinger's father. He said that around nine a.m. on April 8 he was in his farmyard standing with M.L. Hobson of Mooresville. He noticed four or five people in the Dillinger farmyard, one of whom strongly resembled John. He had seen Dillinger on several occasions before and had talked with him twice while he was on parole. However, he doubted that this was John, knowing he was wanted at this time. Later in the afternoon, about four p.m., he saw the same party who he thought was Dillinger; that he had light red hair and limped slightly when he walked; that the red hair confused him as to his identification. From the file regarding Smitherman's friend, M.L. Hobson: "Hobson could not positively identify Dillinger, as he only saw the man walk from the house to the 'back house,' (outhouse). What made him think it was Dillinger was because he recognized the droop of the shoulders that was characteristic of Dillinger."[36]

The following is a memo contained in a 14-page report in the FBI Dillinger file concerning several of the principals involved in the events of early April:


HUBERT DILLINGER: Hubert has been the member of the family most frequently contacted by John Dillinger in his travels through Indianapolis during the time Dillinger was a fugitive. Hubert is 20 years of age and married. He is employed with Fred Hancock at a filling station at 3301 East New York Street, Indianapolis, and in surveillance of his activities, it is noted that he associates with various girls of loose character, neglecting his wife to do so. He is now driving a Chevrolet coupe, seized from John Dillinger September 26, 1933, and carries a .38 automatic. He has been very active in his efforts to detect whether any agents have been covering the filling station or the home of his father in Mooresville.

FRED HANCOCK: This party also works at the same filling station. He is married, associates with various girls of loose character, neglecting his wife to do so. On July 23, 1934, in a telephone conversation with a girlfriend of Hubert's, in answer to the girl's wish that the double crosser who turned John in would get his, Fred said, "Don't worry. They will." This party also carries a .38 automatic. Conversation as reported by informant A.C. McGinnis indicates that both were desirous of helping Dillinger if they could, which is also indicated in conversations with other friends.

JOHN W. DILLNGER: This party has indicated to newspaper men that he believes Government agents were covering his place and has been alert to detect our cover of his home. On July 20, 1934, at 6:45 p.m. he came out of his house with his shotgun and searched the entire orchard to the north side of his house. Hubert has also been active at the home of his father in an effort to detect whether the agents were covering the place or going upon their property.

NORMAN HANCOCK: Norman has indicated what is believed to be a sincere effort to cooperate with us; same however, being for the purpose of saving his mother, Audrey, from possible prosecution or danger should Dillinger appear at their home.

AUDREY HANCOCK: This woman has indicated in an interview a pleasing, agreeable attitude. This woman reared John for a considerable period subsequent to the death of his mother when John was about two and a half years of age. Since the death of Dillinger, she has been very hostile and accused agents who called at her house of having murdered John like a dog.

J.G. PIERPONT and LENA PIERPONT: These people have been in frequent touch with Hubert Dillinger and John W. Dillinger, and indicated in an article in a newspaper a hostility to the officers who they believed were following them. The family is of a very low social status, having concealed Harry Pierpont, who was living with Mary Kinder, at their home after his escape September 26, 1933 from the Michigan City State Penitentiary. They also concealed other members of the gang at this time up until the murder of Sheriff Jesse Sarber, Lima, Ohio, then living at Leipsic, Ohio. They also aided them after the murder while they were hiding at Hamilton, Ohio.

MARY KINDER: This woman is a low type character. She lived with Pierpont at Leipsic, Ohio, before the murder at Lima, Ohio. She lived with Pierpont at Hamilton, Ohio, after the murder; also in Florida, also at Tucson, Arizona, where Dillinger, Pierpont and others were apprehended in January 1934. Since the confinement of Pierpont on the murder charge, and while supposedly maintaining a loyal attitude towards Pierpont, she has been living a considerable portion of the time with one Carl Walz in Indianapolis.

JESS RICHARDSON: This party is a very tough individual of decided socialistic leanings and freely expresses himself in his opposition to society as now constituted."

The following afternoon, Monday, April 9, Dillinger had an appointment at a tavern at 416 North State Street. Sensing trouble, Frechette went in first. She was promptly arrested by agents, but refused to reveal Dillinger's whereabouts. Dillinger was waiting in his car outside the tavern and then drove off unnoticed.[41] The two would never see each other again. Dillinger reportedly became despondent after Billie was arrested. The other gang members tried to talk to him out of rescuing her, but Van Meter knew where they could find bulletproof vests. That Friday morning, late at night, Dillinger and Van Meter took Warsaw, Indiana police officer Judd Pittenger hostage. They marched him at gunpoint to the police station, where they stole several more guns and bulletproof vests. After separating, Dillinger picked up Hamilton, who was recovering from the Mason City robbery. The two then traveled to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where they visited Hamilton's sister Anna Steve.

Final months[edit]

By July 1934, Dillinger had dropped completely out of sight, and the federal agents had no solid leads to follow. He had, in fact, drifted into Chicago and went under the alias of Jimmy Lawrence, a petty criminal from Wisconsin who bore a close resemblance to Dillinger's real self. Taking up a job as a clerk, Dillinger found that, in a large metropolis like Chicago, he was able to lead an anonymous existence for a while. What Dillinger did not realize was that the center of the federal agents' dragnet happened to be in Chicago. When the authorities found Dillinger's blood spattered getaway car on a Chicago side street, they were positive that he was in the city.[7]

Cubs games[edit]

Dillinger had always been a fan of the Chicago Cubs, and instead of lying low like many criminals on the run, he continued to attend Cubs games at Wrigley Field during the months of June and July 1934.[42] He's known to have been at Wrigley on Friday, June 8, only to watch his beloved Cubs lose to Cincy 4-3. Also in attendance at the game were Dillinger's lawyer, Louis Piquett, and Captain John Stege of the Dillinger Squad.[36][43]

Plastic surgery at Probasco's house of horrors[edit]

According to Art O'Leary, as early as March 1934, Dillinger had expressed an interest in plastic surgery and had asked O'Leary to check with Piquett on such matters. At the end of April, Piquett paid a visit to his old friend, Dr. Wilhelm Loeser. Loeser stated he earned an M.D. degree from Northwestern Medical School in 1905. He stated he was a registered pharmacist in both Oklahoma and Illinois,[note 1] as well as licensed to practice medicine in Illinois. He practiced in Chicago for 27 years before being convicted under the Harrison Narcotic Act in 1931. He was sentenced to three years at Leavenworth, but was paroled early on December 7, 1932 with Piquett's help. He immediately violated his parole a by going to Mexico during Christmas, staying there for 10 months. He said the time was spent studying the effects of marijuana and mescaline. He later testified that while in Mexico he performed facial surgery on himself and obliterated the fingerprint impressions on the tips of his fingers by the application of a caustic soda preparation. He said he also obtained a divorce from his wife in Mexico in 1933 and married Anna Patzke upon his return to the States, a woman he had been living with for 15 years prior to Mexico. Due to his parole violation, he went by the name of Ralph Robeind.[44][45]

A couple of days after the initial meeting between Piquett and Loeser, Piquett introduced the doctor to O'Leary. Piquett said Dillinger would have to pay $5,000 for the procedure: $4,400 would be split between Piquett, Loeser and O'Leary, and $600 to Dr. Harold Cassidy, who would administer the anaesthetic. The procedure would take place at the home of Piquett's longtime friend, 67-year-old James Probasco, at the end of May. Probasco occupied the first level of the two-story house, with one Henry Schoknecht, a guard at the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium, about four miles north of the house, occupying the second. Probasco would charge Dillinger $35 per day for rent. At some point in May Loeser sent Frank Daley, his "collector," to buy some surgical instruments. Loeser: "I think I gave Daley about twenty dollars to pay for the surgical instruments. I wrote out a list for him. Two hemostats, one or two hypodermic syringes, pair of scissors, gauze, ether, ether mask, some needles, catgut sutures, horsehair sutures. I believe that is all. I did not tell him to buy any acids or chemicals. I gave Daley several places for him to go. He bought them on Milwaukee Avenue. The name is Diadul."[46] O'Leary: "On the night of May 27, I saw Dillinger at Probasco's house. Mr. Piquett was with me. We met there by appointment, which I made. Dillinger called my residence and asked me to get in touch with Mr. Piquett and have Mr. Piquett meet him promptly at 10:00 that night. We drove over to Probasco's house in Mr. Piquett's automobile. Dillinger was in front of Probasco's residence when we arrived. Dillinger was introduced to Probasco. After we got in the house, Mr. Piquett and Dillinger discussed the appeal of the Evelyn Frechette case. Dillinger asked how long he had known Dr. Loeser. He paid Mr. Piquett $3,000, saying that the balance would be paid after the operation. Probasco was in the house, but he was not back in the kitchen at that time. There was a lady who came out of the bedroom off the kitchen, and Dillinger was very much surprised to see her there, inasmuch as we had told him that Probasco was a bachelor and lived alone. Probasco explained that she was his housekeeper, had been with him for a year, and that she was trustworthy; however, if Dillinger objected to her being there, he would have her stay elsewhere. Dillinger asked if she was a good cook, and Probasco said she was, and they decided to keep her there. Her name was Peggy Doyle. He wanted to know who Dr. Cassidy was, and Mr. Piquett and myself assured him that we had both known Dr. Cassidy for a number of years. He seemed satisfied. We were there that night about an hour or an hour and a half."[47]

Henry Schoknecht, the man living on the second floor above Probasco, told Agent Winstead on July 27 that he had met Peggy (Margaret) Doyle about a year earlier at his place of employment, the sanitarium; that he became quite well acquainted with her and that on several occasions would bring her to his second floor flat at 2509 North Crawford, where she would spend several hours with him, and where he admitted having "immoral relations with her." He said that around Christmas 1933 he introduced her to Probasco. He stated that shortly after this meeting Probasco admitted his fondness and affection for Miss Doyle, and soon thereafter Doyle began calling on Probasco; that within a month to six weeks Miss Doyle began calling on Probasco at least three to four times a week, and would sometimes spend the night. According to Cassidy, Peggy Doyle was "a rather large woman." [48][49]

On Monday, May 28, Loeser was picked up at his home at 7:30 p.m. by O'Leary and Cassidy. The three of them then drove to Probasco's. Dillinger chose to have a general anaesthetic Loeser: "I asked him what work he wanted done. He wanted two warts (moles) removed on the right lower forehead between the eyes and one at the left angle, outer angle of the left eye; wanted a depression of the nose filled in; a scar; a large one to the left of the median line of the upper lip excised, wanted his dimples removed and wanted the angle of the mouth drawn up. He didn't say anything about the fingers that day to me."[50]

Cassidy administered an overdose of ether to Dillinger causing Dillinger to swallow his tongue. He began to turn blue and stopped breathing. Loeser pulled Dillinger's tongue out of his mouth with a pair of forceps, and at the same time forcing both elbows into his ribs. Dillinger gasped and breathing returned. The procedure resumed with only a local anaesthetic. Loeser removed several moles on Dillinger's forehead, made an incision in his nose and an incision in his chin and tied back both cheeks. Loeser met with Piquett again on Saturday, June 2, with Piquett saying that more work was needed on Dillinger and that Van Meter now wanted the same work done to him. Also, both now wanted work done on their fingertips. The price for the fingerprint procedure would be $500 per hand, or $100 a finger. Loeser used a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acid - commonly known as aqua regia.[51]

Loeser met O'Leary the following night at Clark and Wright at 8:30, and they once again drove to Probasco's. Present this evening were Dillinger, Van Meter, Probasco, Piquett, Cassidy, and Peggy Doyle. Loeser: "After all the money was passed, I first of all asked Van Meter what work he wanted done. He explained to me that there was a scar on the left of the median line running about two inches into the hair which was very large and prominent. He wanted that removed and changed in position and shape. If it could be totally removed, he wanted it removed. He wanted the hooker, the result of a broken nose, reduced in size. His lower lip, which was a characteristic negro lip, he wanted thinned. He wanted the large tattoo mark on his right forearm taken off. The tattoo was an anchor with the words, 'Good Hope,' I should judge about four inches long. He wanted all the fingers treated on both hands. While all this was going on, as I recall, Cassidy was in the kitchen boiling the instruments." Loeser continues: "I carried the acids and chemicals mostly in my vest pocket and the instruments in my coat pocket, wrapped in a towel. I had two hemostats, one or two hypos, a pair of scissors, and one knife in my coat pocket. I did not have a bone chisel with me. The scissors were used, as well as the knife, whenever any cutting of their facial tissue was needed. I used scissors for incisions to cut off the nevus on Dillinger. I used scissors to cut out an impression, to improve the lower lip on Van Meter, and finishing touches were done with scissors." Loeser testified that he was at work for only about 30 minutes before O'Leary and Piquett had left.

For his work on Van Meter, Loeser testified: "On Mr. Van Meter, starting above -- there was a large scar to the left of the median line extending about two inches into the hair. I excised that scar, virtually eliminating it, changing it in contour and size, virtually unobservable after completion of the work. Next, Mr. Van Meter had a hooker on his nose from a broken nose. I took that hooker away. Then he had a large pedicle at the end of the nose. I took that pedicle away. Then he had a lip which resembled very much a negro lip. I took and sliced a wedge-formed piece of that away. All the while when I was working up there, I was also working on the hands, because the hands were a very slow progress of work. The process I use on the fingertips has no name in any book. It is an acid. Some use acid, but there are also instruments used, not only chemicals. Chemicals as well as instruments. Cassidy and I worked on Dillinger and Van Meter simultaneously on June 3. While the work was being done, Dillinger and Van Meter changed off. The work that could be done while the patient was sitting up, that patient was in the sitting-room. The work that had to be done while the man was lying down, that patient was on the couch in the bedroom. They were changed back and forth according to the work to be done. The hands were sterilized, made aseptic with antiseptics, thoroughly washed with soap and water and used sterile gauze afterwards to keep them clean. Next, cutting instrument, knife was used to expose the lower other words, take off the epidermis and expose the derma, then alternately the acid and the alkaloid was applied as was necessary to produce the desired results."[52]

Minor work was done two nights later, Tuesday, June 5. Loeser made some small corrections first on Van Meter, then Dillinger. Loeser on a visitor that arrived: " A man came in before I left, who I found out later was Baby Face Nelson. He came in with a drum of machine gun bullets under his arm, threw them on the bed or the couch in the bedroom, and started to talk to Van Meter. The two then motioned for Dillinger to come over and the three went back into the kitchen. That was while Piquett was there. I was not there more than a half an hour that night." Loeser on a few occasions testified that he believed Van Meter was a morphine user. He said Van Meter was always seen with two things: his automatic and his little box of morphine tablets. Piquett testified that the next time he saw Dillinger was at a Cubs game a few days later (June 8), and that Dillinger said he had left Probasco's the day before. However, Peggy Doyle later told agents: "Dillinger and Van Meter resided at Probasco's home until the last week of June 1934; that on some occasions they would be away for a day or two, sometimes leaving separately, and on other occasions together; that at this time Van Meter usually parked his car in the rear of Probasco's residence outside the back fence; that she gathered that Dillinger was keeping company with a young woman who lived on the north side of Chicago, inasmuch as he would state upon leaving Probasco's home that he was going in the direction of Diversey Boulevard; that Van Meter apparently was not acquainted with Dillinger's friend, and she heard him warning Dillinger to be careful about striking up acquaintances with girls he knew nothing about; that Dillinger and Van Meter usually kept a machine gun in an open case under the piano in the parlor; that they also kept a shotgun under the parlor table."[53]

O'Leary stated that between June 20 and June 25 he again went to the Probasco home, and that while in the house on this occasion he determined that Loeser had also performed more facial and fingertip work on Van Meter. He said that at this time Dillinger made a comment regarding his dissatisfaction with the facial work that Loeser had performed on him. O'Leary said that on another occasion he was waiting in the front room with Probasco, waiting for Dillinger to return from one of his walks: "that Probasco told him, 'the son of a bitch has gone out for one of his walks'; that he did not know when he would return; that Probasco raved about the craziness of Dillinger, stating that he was always going for walks and was likely to cause the authorities to locate the place where he was staying; that Probasco stated frankly on this occasion that he was afraid to have the man around."

Agents arrested Loeser at 1127 South Harvey, Oak Park, IL, on Tuesday, July 24. He was taken into custody barechested, wearing only pants and slippers. Agents had arrived at the house at 10:30 a.m., and after repeated knocks and no answer, the side door was kicked in and the house was entered. The first floor and basement were searched. Three agents were halfway up the stairs on their way to the second level when a man's voice called out, "Who's there?" Loeser was immediately taken to the Chicago Division Office by Agents Charles Winstead and John Welles, then later placed in B-4, Cell 23 at the Cook County Jail. Agents Winstead and Peterson examined a pocketbook found on Loeser. On a piece of paper inside, written in pencil, the following was written: "Don't wash hands. Don't try to clean them in any way. After bath be careful not to fall down in tub. Cannot use hands. Don't use hands at all for one week." Agents thoroughly search the house. In the basement was found a minitature laboratory. In the study upstairs, a large collection of medical books was found, most of which concentrating on cancer and skin diseases. Also in this room were a sun ray machine and an X-ray machine. Loeser later testified that he had met Piquett on two or three occasions after June 5 to collect money that was still owed to him. He testified that Piquett had told him the following during their last meeting, on June 15: "The Government people have been following me and I expect trouble from the work and association we've had with Dillinger and Van Meter. If there is any trouble, I want you to get out of town. If you are apprehended, I want you to maintain that you are Ralph Robeind. If you have to divulge your identity, then you are to shift my blame on Arthur O'Leary, and you state you received the $7,000 from me. I will claim the $3,000 as my attorney's fees. That will leave me in the clear. If you don't do that, you will soon be killed."[54] O'Leary returned from a family fishing trip on July 24, the day of Loeser's arrest, and had read in the newspapers that the Department of Justice was looking for two doctors and another man in connection with some plastic work that was done on Dillinger. O'Leary left Chicago immediately but returned two weeks later, learned that Loeser and others had been arrested, phoned Piquett, who assured him everything was all right, then left again. He returned from St. Louis on August 25 and was promptly taken into custody.[55]

On Friday, July 27, Jimmy Probasco jumped or "accidentally" fell to his death from the 19th floor of the Bankers' Building in Chicago while in custody.

On Thursday, August 23, Homer Van Meter was shot and killed in a dead-end alley in St. Paul by Tom Brown, former St. Paul Chief of Police, and then-current chief Frank Cullen from multiple sawed-off shotgun blasts. Brown: " I kept pumping my shotgun at him as fast as I could and I realized later that Cullen alongside of me was doing the same. He was already dead when we came to him. The shotgun slugs hit him in the chest, face and head. His fingers on both hands were shot off." Morgue photos of Van Meter tell a different story about all of his fingers. Furthermore, Rufus Coulter, who Van Meter exchanged gunfire with at Lincoln Court back in March, took Van Meter's fingerprints on this day at the St. Paul Morgue, or at least the fingers he had left.[56][57]

Affairs leading to the death of Dillinger[edit]

The informant known as Anna Sage[edit]

Division of Investigations chief J. Edgar Hoover created a special task force headquartered in Chicago to locate Dillinger. On July 21, a madam from a brothel in Gary, Indiana, Ana Cumpănaş, also known as Anna Sage, contacted the police. She was a Romanian immigrant threatened with deportation for "low moral character"[58] and offered the federal agency information on Dillinger in exchange for their help in preventing her deportation. The agency agreed to her terms, but she was later deported. Cumpănaş told them that Dillinger was spending his time with another prostitute, Polly Hamilton, and that she and the couple would be going to see a movie together on the following day. She agreed to wear an orange dress,[59] so that police could easily identify her. She was unsure which of two theaters they would be attending but told the agency their names: the Biograph and the Marbro.[7]

On December 15, 1932, pardons were issued by Governor Harry G. Leslie of the State of Indiana for the offenses of which Anna Sage was convicted on 11-24-31 and 4-16-31.[60]

Sage told agents that on Tuesday, July 17, "Dillinger had said he was going away for three or four days, and left that day, returning Friday morning, July 20; that after his return she learned from him and Polly that Dillinger and Van Meter had gone to Stevens Point, Ohio (sic); that when they were in Ohio they put Ohio license plates on their car; that while in Stevens Point they parked the car and were standing on the street corner, intending to visit a vaudeville show, but while they were on the street corner they noticed a large man come across the street toward them and walked between them, as they were standing a little distance apart; that they noticed this man go across the street a piece and take a paper out of his pocket and look at it, and they supposed it was a circular with their photographs on same. So they got in their car and returned to Chicago; that Dillinger stated had this man put his hand into his pocket while coming toward them, they intended on killing him. "Mrs. Sage stated that a couple of days before Dillinger went to Stevens Point on July 17, she told Polly that she knew Martin Zarkovich, her friend of East Chicago, Indiana, would get his vacation on July 15, and he would come to see her during his vacation. She did not want Dillinger to know or see Martin or Martin to see Dillinger at the house. She said Polly told her to tell Martin anything so he would not know that Dillinger was there. Mrs. Sage stated Dillinger left Chicago on July 17 and stated he would be away three or four days, and while he was away Martin Zarkovich called her on the telephone on Wednesday, July 18, and came to her home on Thursday, July 19. She stated that during Martin's visit on July 19 and during their casual conversation, she told Martin that she considered him her best friend and wanted his advice on a matter and asked his promise that he would not get her into any trouble; that he promised and asked her what it was about. She stated it was about Dillinger. She stated Martin then said, 'I hope you're not mixed up with that fellow.' She stated she then told Martin about Dillinger coming to visit Polly at her home for the past month or so; that Dillinger was then out of the city, but if he would call her Saturday by telephone she would let him know if Dillinger had returned, or if Polly had heard from him and where he was located. Mrs. Sage stated that Dillinger returned to Chicago Friday morning, and all day Friday Polly and Dillinger stayed at her house and did not go out anywhere, but played cards all day; that Saturday, July 21, Dillinger, Polly, Mrs. Sage's son (Steve Chiolak), and two girlfriends went to the beach at 5800 block North, and as soon as they left the house she got in touch with Martin and told him she knew plenty and arranged to meet him on Fullerton Parkway, where she later met Martin and Mr. Purvis, to whom she was then introduced. She told them she did not want them to come to her home to take Dillinger; that he was going to the Marbro Theater Sunday night or afternoon, and could arrange to take him there; that on Sunday afternoon, July 22, Polly took a nap, and while she was sleeping Dillinger asked her if she wanted to go to the show with them, he and Polly.

"She asked him what show was he going to see, and he said he would 'like to see the theater around the corner,' meaning the Biograph Theater. She stated she was unable to leave the house to inform Mr. Purvis or Martin about Dillinger's plans to attend the Biograph, but as they were going to have fried chicken for the evening meal, she told Polly she had nothing in which to fry the chicken, and was going to the store to get some butter; that while at the store she called Mr. Purvis and informed him of Dillinger's plans to attend the Biograph that evening, at the same time obtaining the butter. She then returned to the house so Polly would not be suspicious that she went out to call anyone."

Sage stated that after she, Dillinger and Polly had dinner, and before they left to attend the Biograph, "Dillinger counted out his money on his bed, and made note of the amounts of different denominations of bills he had. She said he separated fives, tens and twenties; that he had $1,000 in five-dollar bills, which he put a rubber band around and placed in his left-hand trouser pocket, and had about the same amount in ten-dollar bills, which he also fastened with a rubber band and placed in his left hip pocket. He had 65 twenty-dollar bills, which he placed in a leather billfold and placed in his right hip trouser pocket. She stated the billfold was "a very nice one, being hand-tooled." She stated that Dillinger always put some small bills in his right-hand trouser pocket, so he would not have to wait for change of a large bill when he purchased theatre tickets; that he also kept his gun in his right-hand trouser pocket."[61]

Preparation for the Apprehension of Dillinger[edit]

A team of federal agents and officers taken from police forces from outside of Chicago was formed, along with a very small number of Chicago police officers. Among them was Sergeant Martin Zarkovich, the officer to whom Sage had acted as an informant. At the time federal officials felt that the Chicago police had been compromised and therefore could not be trusted, Hoover and Purvis also wanted a Federal coup for their own reasons.[59] Not wanting to take the risk of another embarrassing escape of Dillinger, the police were split into two teams. On Sunday, July 22, one team was sent to the Marbro Theater on the city's west side, while another team surrounded the Biograph Theater at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue on the north side.[7]

Events at the Biograph Theater[edit]

FBI photograph of the Biograph Theater taken July 28, 1934, six days after the shooting, the only night "Murder in Trinidad" played.[62]
A Dillinger death mask made from an original mold, and eyebrow hair, on display at the Crime Museum in Washington, D.C. Note the bullet exit mark below the right eye.
Grave at Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana, at least the fourth marker to be replaced since 1934, due to souvenir seekers chipping away at them.

The group of three were observed entering the Biograph at approximately 20:30 hours (ref. F.B.I. comm. Cowley - August 1, 1934),[37][63] which was showing a Clark Gable gangster picture Manhattan Melodrama. The Marbro at the time was showing the film Little Miss Marker. When Dillinger was in the theater, Samuel P. Cowley, the lead agent, contacted J. Edgar Hoover for instructions, he recommended they wait outside rather than risk a gun battle within the theater. He told the agents not to put themselves in harm's way, and, any man could open fire on Dillinger at the first sign of resistance.

During the stakeout, the Biograph's manager thought the agents were criminals setting up a robbery. He called the Chicago police who dutifully responded and had to be waved off by the federal agents, who told them that they were on a stakeout for an important target.[7]

When the film let out, Purvis[64] stood by the front door and signaled Dillinger's exit by lighting a cigar. Both he and the other agents reported that Dillinger turned his head and looked directly at the agent as he walked by, glanced across the street, then moved ahead of his female companions, reached into his pocket but failed to extract his gun,[5]:353 and ran into a nearby alley.[59] Other accounts state Dillinger ignored a command to surrender, whipped out his gun, then headed for the alley. Agents already had the alley closed off, but Dillinger was determined to shoot it out.[65]

Fatal shooting[edit]

Dillinger was shot and killed by Special Agents on July the 22nd 1934,[37][37][66] at approximately 22:40 hours, according to a New York Times report of the same day.[63]

Three men fired: Clarence Hurt fired twice, Charles Winstead fired three times, and Herman Hollis fired once. Dillinger was hit from behind and he fell face first to the ground.[67] Dillinger was struck four times altogether, with two bullets grazing him and one causing a superficial wound to the right side of his body. The bullet causing his death entered through the back of his neck, severed the spinal cord, passing into his brain and exited his body by passing through the front of his head just under the right eye, severing also two sets of veins and arteries.[3] An ambulance was summoned, though it was soon apparent Dillinger had died from the gunshot wounds, he was officially pronounced dead at Alexian Brothers Hospital.[7][67] According to the investigators, Dillinger died without saying a word.[68]

Two female bystanders, Theresa Paulas and Etta Natalsky were wounded at the time. Dillinger bumped into Natalsky just as the shooting started.[36][59] Etta Natalsky received a gunshot wound and was subsequently removed to Columbus Hospital.[69]

There were reports of people dipping their handkerchiefs and skirts into the blood pool that had formed as Dillinger lay in the alley to have keepsakes of the entire affair.[70]

Winstead was later thought to have fired the fatal shot, and as a consequence received a personal letter of commendation from the then director of the F.B.I. J. Edgar Hoover.[59]

Details after Dillinger's death[edit]

On examination of the corpse and associated items, it was found that Dillinger was in possession of a number of objects. They were as follows: a gold and ruby ring inscribed with the words, With all my love Polly," a gold Hamilton watch, in the rear of the case of which was a photograph of Polly Hamilton, two keys, a .380 calibre pistol, a magazine containing Remington U.M.C. cartridges and a handkerchief.[37]

The amount of money Dillinger carried was not recorded when an inventory was made[71] but by the time the body reached the morgue there was only $7.70 in Dillinger's pockets,[72] Dillinger rarely traveled anywhere without several thousand dollars in his pockets or a money belt and Anna Sage said that Dillinger had left that evening with more than $3,000 on his person. Initially, not a single agent claimed to have seen anyone reach into the outlaw's pockets; everyone also insisted that the body was watched by at least one agent at all times. Agent Daniel Sullivan recalled that, with Purvis watching, he examined the body at the scene and "felt what appeared to be a roll of either money or paper in the right hand pants pocket." Eventually East Chicago detective Glenn Stretch claimed he saw a fellow officer take the money from Dillinger's pockets, though no charges were ever filed. The officer Stretch implicated was Martin Zarkovich.[73]

Dillinger's body was displayed to the public at the Cook County morgue after his death.[74] An estimated 15,000 people viewed the corpse in the day-and-half circus. As many as four death masks were also made.[75] On July 24, Dillinger's body returned to Mooresville. Agents Johnson and Wood were stationed outside the undertakers and mingled with the crowd there. The body was put on exhibition at intervals during the evening to satisfy the curiosity of the crowd. The home of Audrey Hancock in Maywood was guarded through the night by Indianapolis city police, since the next day, July 25, at two p.m. funeral services were held at the home. Mary Kinder was observed by agents to be seated inside the house beside the body. Indianapolis city police were stationed at intervals of approximately every 300 feet on both Highway 67 and Old Highway 67, which passed in front of the Hancock residence. State police were cruising in automobiles and motorcycles in the vincinty. At the main entrance to Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis were five uniformed police, five police cars, and five motorcycle police. All other entrances were guarded by uniformed police and squad cars. Dillinger was buried in Section: 44, Lot: 94.[76] His gravestone has needed to be replaced several times because of vandalism by people chipping off pieces as souvenirs.[77] Hilton Crouch (1903-1976), an associate of Dillinger's on some early heists, is buried only a few yards to the west.[78]

On Tuesday, July 24, Jack Smith, manager of the Chicago Gun Club in Lincoln Park, Chicago, noticed three boys nearby playing with a submachine gun. Smith took the gun away from the boys and took it to the police. The boys had been swimming and diving near the Diversey Street bridge on Lake Michigan and found the Thompson along with a Colt .38 Super automatic (with its identifying numbers removed), a blue bulletproof vest, and canvas bag containing 75 .45 rounds.[36] Anna Sage, the day before, had dumped the small Dillinger arsenal in the lake to rid the incriminating evidence from her apartment.

Late in the afternoon of Thursday, July 26, police found on top of the Dillinger headstone, weighted down with a rock, a piece of torn notebook paper with the message: "I will get her, John. Leaving tonite. So Long. J.H." The grave had been guarded at all times since the funeral the day before to prevent vandalism. The two officers that were on duty at the grave site, Walker and Haugh, thought it to be a joke and gave it to the newspapers, it appearing in the Indianapolis News. Walker and Haugh remembered a mysterious black vehicle with Ohio plates parking nearby and two women dressed in black getting out, with the driver remaining in the car. The women walked over to the grave and stood for a few moments, but the officers didn't see them leave anything. The note was found a short time later. The note was interpreted by many to be a threat from John Hamilton (who'd been dead for three months).[79][80]

From the Indianapolis News, Friday, July 27:

"Dillinger's father had just observed his 70th birthday on his farm near Mooresville. The days preceding it had taken a heavy toll on his strength and fortitude. A surprise birthday party which had been planned for him by his family was called off when word of the Chicago shooting was received. The elder Dillinger sat on the front porch of his modest home and watched automobiles drive slowly by. Occupants would point, slow down momentarily, then speed away, their curiousity partly satisfied.John Dillinger Sr:[80]

"There isn't much we can do on the farm now but mow weeds ... I've decided to take it easy for a while."

after the brakes of another car squeal in front:

"I suppose they want to see where John lived ... I'll be happy when this dies down and we can live a simple life again."

Film depictions[edit]

  • 1935: The MGM crime film Public Hero No. 1 incorporates fictionalized details from Dillinger's narrative, including a gun battle at a Wisconsin roadhouse and the killing of the fugitive gangster (Joseph Calleia) as he leaves a theater.[81]
  • 1941: Humphrey Bogart, who bore some physical resemblance to Dillinger, played a Dillinger-like role in a film based loosely on research into Dillinger's life by WR Burnett High Sierra.
  • 1945: Lawrence Tierney played the title role in the first film dramatization of Dillinger's career; Dillinger.
  • 1957: Director Don Siegel's film Baby Face Nelson, starred Mickey Rooney as Nelson and Leo Gordon as Dillinger.
  • 1959: The FBI Story starring James Stewart, Jean Willes plays Anna Sage and Scott Peters plays Dillinger. Peters, a small-time actor, went uncredited in this role.
  • 1969: Director Marco Ferreri's film Dillinger Is Dead includes documentary footage of real John Dillinger as well as newspaper clips.
  • 1971: "Appointment with Destiny; The Last Days of John Dillinger," narrated by Rod Serling, 52 minutes. Shot in newsreel style, very accurate for its time. The late Joseph Pinkston served as technical advisor. Pinkston himself makes an uncredited cameo in the Biograph sequence, playing an agent.
  • 1973: Dillinger, directed and written by John Milius with Warren Oates in the title role, presents the gang in a much more sympathetic light, in keeping with the anti-hero theme popular in films after Bonnie and Clyde (1967).
  • 1979: Lewis Teague directed the film The Lady in Red, starring Pamela Sue Martin as the eponymous lady in the red dress. However, in this film, it is Dillinger's girlfriend Polly in red, not the Romanian informant Anna Sage (Louise Fletcher). Sage tricks Polly into wearing red so that FBI agents can identify Dillinger (Robert Conrad) as he emerges from the cinema.
  • 1991: A TV film Dillinger, starring Mark Harmon
  • 1995: Roger Corman produced the film Dillinger and Capone, featuring Martin Sheen as Dillinger and F. Murray Abraham as Al Capone. Dillinger survives the theater stakeout when the FBI mistakenly guns down his brother and is then blackmailed by Capone into retrieving $15 million from his secret vault.
  • 2004: "Teargas and Tommyguns; Dillinger Robs the First National Bank," DVD, Mason City Public Library, 38 minutes. Documentary regarding the bank robbery, including contemporary interviews with still-living witnesses; also contains the H.C. Kunkleman film in its entirety.
  • 2009: Director Michael Mann's film Public Enemies is an adaptation of Bryan Burrough's book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34.[82] The film features Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Christian Bale as FBI agent Melvin Purvis. Although the film has accurate portrayals of several key moments in Dillinger's life - such as his death and dialogue at his arraignment hearing - it is inaccurate in some major historical details, such as the timeline (and location) of deaths of key criminal figures including Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, and Homer Van Meter.[83]
  • 2012: British actor Alexander Ellis portrays Dillinger in the first Dollar Baby screen adaptation of Stephen King's short story, "The Death of Jack Hamilton".[84]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ at some point he operated a drugstore at 1102 Leland Avenue, Chicago


  1. ^ Elliott J. Gorn, Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year That Made America's Public Enemy Number One (2009).
  2. ^ "A Byte Out of History - How The FBI Got Its Name". Federal Bureau of Investigation. March 24, 2006. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  3. ^ a b J.J. Kearns' autopsy report
  4. ^ "Famous Cases & Criminals - John Dillinger". Retrieved 2012-05-01. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Matera, Dary (2005). John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America's First Celebrity Criminal. Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 0-7867-1558-8. 
  6. ^ Was John Dillinger German?, citing The Untold Story by G. Russell Giradin and William J. Helmer; and Dary Matera’s John Dillinger.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Famous Cases: John Dillinger". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 2009-06-26. 
  8. ^ "Depression-era gangster John Dillinger's sister dies in Mooresville at 92., January 15, 2015.
  9. ^ G. Russell Girardin, William J. Helmer, Rick Mattix, Dillinger: The Untold Story, pp. 11, 21.
  10. ^ "The Scoop Deck – Fireman 3rd Class John Dillinger". 2009-07-06. Retrieved 2012-05-01. 
  11. ^ "Certificate of Birth: Beryl Hovious." Morgan County Health Department, Martinsville, Indiana. Filed 9-1923.
  12. ^ "Bandits Bind Cashier, Clerk and Assistant." Dayton Daily News, June 21, 1933, pages 1 & 5.
  13. ^ Girardin/Helmer, Dillinger: The Untold Story
  14. ^ Lowell Tribune, 22 March 1934
  15. ^ "FBI History - Famous Cases, John Dillinger". FBI. Retrieved 2011-09-08. 
  16. ^ U.S. District Court, District of MN, USA vs. Evelyn Frechette, et al., p. 590-592
  17. ^ Girardin/Helmer, "Dillinger: The Untold Story," p. 274
  18. ^ Millett, Larry, AIA Guide to St. Paul's Summit Avenue & Hill District (2009), p. 68
  19. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, et al., p.35
  20. ^ USA vs May/Frechette, Cutting's testimony, p. 75-80
  21. ^ USA vs May/Frechette, Coffey's testimony
  22. ^ USA vs May, Frechette, et al., testimony from Coffey and Nalls
  23. ^ Dillinger File 62-29777, Nalls report
  24. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, et al. Nalls' testimony, p. 90
  25. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, Coulter's testimony, p. 178-179
  26. ^ Dillinger File, 62-29777, Nalls report
  27. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, Nalls' testimony, p.90
  28. ^ Girardin/Helmer, p. 134
  29. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, et al., Cummings' testimony, p. 97-98
  30. ^ USA vs May/Frechette, Schroth's testimony
  31. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, Frechette's testimony, p.593-595
  32. ^ St. Paul Pioneer Press, 3-31-34 edition
  33. ^ USA vs May/Green, Salt's testimony, p. 549
  34. ^ Cromie and Pinkston, "Dillinger: A Short and Violent Life, p. 189
  35. ^ USA vs. May/Frechette, Clayton May's testimony, p. 473-487, 501
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h FBI Dillinger File 62-29777
  37. ^ a b c d e agents' communiqués of a set prior classified documents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America. John Dillinger: The FBI Files. Filiquarian Publishing, LLC., 2007, 160 pages, ISBN 1599862468. Retrieved 2015-06-27. (ed. doc. refers to the document number)
  38. ^ Cromie and Pinkston, p. 192, 193
  39. ^ FBI Dillinger File 62-29777, Fred Hancock statement
  40. ^ FBI Dillinger File 62-29777, Emmett Hancock statement
  41. ^ Cromie and Pinkston, p. 196
  42. ^ "Chicago Cubs History and News - Welcome to Just One Bad Century". 1934-07-22. Retrieved 2012-05-01. 
  43. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune, June 9, 1934, edition, box score
  44. ^ United States Circuit Court of Appeals, Louis Piquett vs The United States of America, Loeser's testimony, p. 140-141
  45. ^ FBI Dillinger File 62-29777, Loeser statement
  46. ^ Piquett vs USA, Loeser's testimony, p. 156-157
  47. ^ Piquett vs USA, O'Leary's testimony, p. 191-194
  48. ^ FBI Dillinger File, 62-29777, R.D. Brown report
  49. ^ FBI Dillinger File 62-29777, Peterson report
  50. ^ Piquett vs USA, Loeser's testimony, p. 154-155
  51. ^ Piquett vs USA, Loeser's testimony, p.
  52. ^ Piquett vs USA, Loeser's testimony, p. 152-162
  53. ^ FBI Dillinger File 62-29777, Peggy Doyle statement
  54. ^ Piquett vs USA, Loeser's testimony, p. 148
  55. ^ Helmer/Mattix, "The Complete Public Enemy Almanac"
  56. ^ Mahoney, Tim, "Secret Partners; Big Tom Brown and the Barker Gang," p. 155
  57. ^ Piquett vs USA, Coutler's testimony, p.122
  58. ^ Purvis, Alston W.; Alex Tresinowski (2005). The Vendetta. PublicAffairs. pp. 155–156. 
  59. ^ a b c d e Massad Ayoob (July–August 2008), "The death of John Dillinger", American Handgunner 
  60. ^ FBI Dillinger File 62-29777, S.P. Cowley report
  61. ^ FBI Dillinger File 62-29777, Anna Sage's statement
  62. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune, 7-15-34 through 8-1-34 movie section
  63. ^ a b The New York Times. Article dated to July 22. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2015-06-28. 
  64. ^ "FBI History - Famous Cases, John Dillinger". FBI. Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  65. ^ The Story of the FBI, E.P. Dutton and Co., Inc. New York, 1947, p. 195.
  66. ^ doc. F.B.I. comm.July 24, 1934)
  67. ^ a b "Dillinger Slain in Chicago; Shot Dead by Federal Men in Front of Movie Theater.". Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  68. ^ May, Allan, and Marilyn Bardsley. "Biograph Encounter." John Dillinger: Bank Robber or Robin Hood? - Crime Library.
  69. ^ U.S. Government Accountability Office - Document : A-57405, OCTOBER 10, 1934, 14 COMP. GEN. 300 [Retrieved 2015-06-28]
  70. ^ Eposito, Stefano; John Dillinger: "Hero for the angry masses" at the Wayback Machine (archived July 15, 2009), Chicago Sun-Times. June 28, 2009. Retrieved December 26, 2013 (web archive)
  71. ^ FBI Dillinger file 62-29777
  72. ^ Cromie and Pinkston, p. 251
  73. ^ Purvis, Alston, "The Vendetta," p. 173-174
  74. ^ "In Grave Condition - John H. Dillinger" at the Wayback Machine (archived July 19, 2012), Lost Retrieved December 26, 2013 (web archive)
  75. ^ Girardin, Helmer, p. 313
  76. ^ "Notable Persons. Crown Hill Cemetery and Funeral Home" (PDF).<>. Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  77. ^ "Dillinger's grave attracting crowds due to Public Enemies movie.". 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  78. ^ Girardin/Helmer, p. 280
  79. ^ FBI Dillinger File 62-2777, Connelley report
  80. ^ a b Indianapolis News 7-27-34
  81. ^ Sennwald, Andre (June 8, 1935). "Movie Review: Public Hero No. 1". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-122.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  82. ^ Costello, Mark (August 1, 2004). "Public Enemies Review". The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved February 7, 2009. 
  83. ^ Gorn, Elliott. "The Real John Dillinger: Is Public Enemies historically accurate?". Retrieved 2012-05-01. 
  84. ^ "The Death of Jack Hamilton official movie website". Retrieved May 7, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]