He was convicted of rape as a teenager for which he served a year in reformatory, and convicted in 1973 for conspiracy to murder George Jayne, his maternal half-brother. He served seven years imprisonment. After his death, Silas Jayne was linked to one of the most notorious crimes in the city's history, the 1955 Peterson-Schuessler murder of three young boys. Jayne is also suspected of having been involved in the 1956 murder of the two Grimes sisters, and in the 1977 disappearance of heiress Helen Brach.
Life history and background
Jayne was the eldest of three brothers in a family of eleven children born to Arthur and Katherine Jayne. His half-brother, George Jayne, was fathered by George William Spunner in 1923.
In the 1950s, Jayne and two of his brothers worked at the Green Tree Stables in the village of Norridge, and at the Elston Riding Academy in Chicago. They had found success in horse trading and, by the 1930s, they had secured ownership of a ranch near Woodstock, Illinois. They transported feral horses from the Western United States to the rail yards at Woodstock.
Jayne, who was ineligible for the military draft due to his rape conviction, traded in horse meat during World War II. He used his profits to enter the horse show business, and his stable was patronized by the Chicago elite. He sold virtually worthless horses to prosperous men with daughters in their early teenage years, claiming that the horses were of the top quality needed if the daughters were to become champion riders.
Jayne was a heavy drinker with an overbearing and rough-spoken manner. Parents nevertheless allowed their daughters to spend extended periods of time at his stables unchaperoned. Jayne boasted to his associates of having molested many of these underage girls. When fathers complained about the poor quality of horses they had bought from him, he would tell them that their daughters had become notorious among his employees for their promiscuity. Though the accusation may have been groundless, scandal-wary fathers rarely pressed the point.
It was suspected that allegations against Jayne were not investigated because he had friendly relations with police officers. He was not part of the Chicago Outfit, but his Idle Hour Stables (8600 West Higgins Road, Park Ridge, Illinois) were patronized by "Mad Sam" DeStefano and other prominent gangsters. It was said that the gangsters "played cowboy" there, riding around on horses and firing guns into the air.
On October 18, 1955, the naked bodies of three young boys, John Schuessler, aged 13, his brother Anton Jr., aged 11, and their friend Robert Peterson, aged 14, were found in a ditch in the Robinson Woods Forest Preserve on the northwest side of Chicago. When found, they had been missing for two days.
Nearly forty years later, ATF agents investigating the February 17, 1977, disappearance of Brach's candy heiress Helen Brach were told by informants that Kenneth Hansen (one of Jayne's employees) had boasted of committing the murders and had threatened others that they would "end up like the Peterson boy." A second informant had told the FBI of Hansen's boasts in the 1970s, but apparently no action was taken.
It emerged that Hansen, who was 22 years old at the time, had met Peterson and the Schuesslers while they were hitchhiking after having last been seen by a classmate at the Monte Cristo Bowling Alley on 3326 West Montrose, about eight miles from the Loop theater. Hansen lured them into the Idle Hour stables under the pretext of showing them horses. When Peterson discovered Hansen sexually abusing the Schuessler brothers, Hansen had attacked all three and killed them. Jayne had been enraged at Hansen when he discovered what he had done. However, realizing the murders on his property had the potential to ruin him, Jayne concealed the crime. The bodies were put in a station wagon, and disposed of. The original forensic investigators in the case believed that marks on the bodies had been caused by the floor mats of a Packard station wagon that had been owned by both Hanson and Jayne in 1955. The barn in which the murders allegedly occurred burned down on May 15, 1956, in a suspected arson.
Neighbors had reported to the police that they had heard screams from the stables on the day the boys disappeared, but the leads were not followed up, despite the stable's proximity to the site where the bodies were found. According to a detective who worked on the case, Kenneth Hansen had preyed on hundreds of boys before his 1995 arrest and conviction for the murders. Hansen's conviction was overturned five years later on the grounds that the jury should not have heard prejudicial testimony regarding his frequent cruising the streets in search of boys to prey upon, whom he termed "chicken". Found guilty at a 2002 retrial with a subsequent affirmation of the verdict in a 2004 appeal, Hansen was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died at Pontiac Correctional Center on September 12, 2007.
Disappearance of Ann Miller, Patricia Blough, and Renee Bruhl
Jayne is suspected to have been behind the disappearance of Ann Miller, 21, Patricia Blough, 19, and Renee Bruhl, 20, who were last seen July 2, 1966 in Indiana Dunes State Park, after leaving their purses and car keys on the beach and boarding a boat similar to one owned by one of his stable workers. Blough and Miller boarded their horses at Silas Jayne's brother, George Jayne's, Tri-Color Riding Stables on 1200 West Algonquin Road (now a Harper College parking lot in unincorporated Palatine), and may have been witnesses to the planting of the car bomb that killed 22-year-old Cheryl Lynn Rude there on June 14, 1965 as she attempted to move his Cadillac. Following the incident, George rigged a device, consisting of the key attached to a wooden pole, which enabled his turning the ignition of vehicles while standing outside the passenger-side door.
Murder of George Jayne
Silas Jayne contracted multiple hit teams, often simultaneously, in his many attempts to have George murdered. In 1965, men hired by Silas backed out of a murder plot and alerted George, who convinced them to report Silas to the police. A sheriff's detective, posing as a prospective hitman, recorded Silas as he contracted for George's murder. Silas used the code phrase "It's time to buy a horse." He was then arrested for conspiracy to commit murder.
Silas was acquitted at his 1966 trial after the state's main witness claimed sudden amnesia, stating under oath, "I can`t even remember what I had for breakfast this morning, I'm sick."
Following this acquittal, George's office was burglarized. Around this time, Silas allegedly told one of George's employees: "Your boss will be out of business soon because I gave the IRS boys all the dope on him". George was subsequently indicted for income tax fraud.
After numerous failed attempts, George Jayne was murdered on October 28, 1970. He was shot in the heart through his basement window in Inverness, Illinois while playing bridge with family on his son George Jr.'s sixteenth birthday.
Conviction and sentence
Silas Jayne, represented by attorney F. Lee Bailey at his trial, was convicted in 1973 of conspiracy to murder George Jayne. He was sentenced to 6 – 20 years in prison and was released in 1979, having served just under seven years in the Vienna Correctional Center in southern Illinois.
Trial for arson
Silas was tried and acquitted of arson in 1980, after he allegedly had a former cellmate start a fire in a stable where men he had a grudge against kept their horses. Thirty-three horses perished in the fire.
Other crimes and suspicions
- Silas Jayne and Kenneth Hansen are suspects in the December 28, 1956, murder of the Grimes sisters.
- The April 10, 1967, murder of Cook County Sheriff's Officer Ralph Probst, who was shot though his kitchen window, is circumstantially linked to Silas. Probst had investigated the horse racket and told friends that he was working on "something big."
- Silas successfully claimed self-defense in gunning down Frank Michelle Jr. who, on January 19, 1969, at George's behest, was attempting to replace the battery of a malfunctioning tracking device on his car. Michelle was shot nine times, and with three different weapons: an M1 carbine and .22- and .38-caliber pistols. Silas reportedly boasted of crushing the man's testicles, using vise-grip pliers.
- Silas was suspected by some investigators of involvement in the 1977 disappearance of Helen Brach, who may have been planning to alert police of fraud in her purchase of horses.
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- Chicago Tribune: May 22, 1995