Silas Jayne

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Silas Carter Jayne (July 3, 1907 – July 13, 1987) was a Chicago-based stable owner, horse trainer, and horse trader who was heavily involved in criminal activity, including fraud, intimidation, arson, and murder. He covered up the infamous Peterson-Schuessler murders and hired the murder of his stepbrother.

Life history and background[edit]

Silas Jayne was born on July 3, 1907, in Cuba Township, in Lake County, Illinois. He was one of four boys and eight girls born to Arthur and Katherine Jayne. Silas had a half brother, George William Jayne, born in 1923 to his mother and her employer, married attorney George William Spunner.[1]: p6 

When Silas was tried for rape at age 17, his step father acting as his attorney wrote the judge that Silas was a wild young man who wouldn't be hurt by a year in jail. Silas was convicted and served one year at Pontiac Correctional Center.[1]: p13 

Silas Jayne and his younger brothers DeForest and Frank and half brother George were skilled horse trainers and riders, who owned and operated a number of stables in the Chicago area during the 1930s. In 1932 Silas opened the Idle Hour stable at Lincoln and Peterson avenues on Chicago's northwest side.[2]: p324  About the same time Silas and his brothers began operating the Elston Riding Academy at 5663 Elston Avenue in Chicago. The academy hosted the Elston Saddle Club which held an annual horse show and rodeo featuring the Jayne brothers and their students.[3]: Part 3 p3  In 1933 Frank Jayne began operating a livestock hauling and trading business in Woodstock, Illinois.[4]: p4  The Jayne brothers shipped feral horses from the Western United States by railroad to Woodstock, where they were herded through the streets to Frank's corral south of the city. The best horses were trained and the rest were shipped to Rockford, Illinois to be slaughtered for dog food[1]: p6 [5]: p5  In 1936 George Jayne began holding annual horse shows at his Sportsman's Riding Stables in Morton Grove, Illinois[6]: part3 p5  The following year the Elston Saddle Club held a show in Woodstock[7]: p33  and Frank Jayne purchased a farm west of Elgin, Illinois, which he called Our Day Farm.[8]: sec1 p6 

DeForest Jayne earned many trophies for his horsemanship and was the instructor at the Elston Riding Academy. On October 15, 1938, DeForest's fiancee, Mae Sweeny, committed suicide by swallowing arsenic. Five days later DeForest, dressed in his best Western attire, killed himself with a 12-gauge shotgun on Sweeny's grave.[2]: pp36-37  By the time of his death DeForest had acquired twenty acres and a stable, that he bequeathed to his half brother George.[2]: p134  After DeForest's death Silas established Green Tree Stable at 4701 Cumberland Avenue in the Chicago suburb of Norridge.[1]: p7  On June 3, 1940, a fire killed ten horses at the Green Tree Stable. This was the first of several suspicious fires linked to Silas. Silas and his employees were able to free 35 other horses from the burning building.[9]: p8 

Jayne had acquired a reputation for bullying behavior.[2] In order to intimidate rivals he would falsely claim that he had served time for murder. In one case when he was losing in a horse show competition, Silas and his brothers beat the rider who was winning until he could no longer compete. Because of Jayne's reputation for violence, he was able to demand a 10% stake of the profits in horse shows held near Chicago.[10] Jayne 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. Parents allowed their daughters to spend extended periods of time at Jayne's 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.[2]: p40 

It was suspected that allegations against Jayne were not investigated because he had friendly relations with police officers. He was not a made man of the Chicago Outfit, but his Idle Hour Stables 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.[11]

In the early 1950's Silas wanted his half-brother George to purchase his Green Tree Stable, but George, whose Sportsman's Riding Stables was prospering, refused. Shortly thereafter, while George and his family were wintering in Florida, his house, located at the Sportsman's Riding Stables, burned down. The cause of the fire was never determined, but George suspected that Silas was responsible.[10][1]: p7  A month after the fire George sold Sportsman's Riding Stables,[12] and after that he bought Green Tree Stable from Silas, renaming it Happy Days Stables. In 1954 Silas moved his Idle Hour Stable to a larger facility at 8600 West Higgins Road in Park Ridge, Illinois, not far from George's Happy Days Stables.[2]: pp326-327  Ethan Hansen and his sons Curtis and Kenneth operated a stable not far from Silas' relocated Idle Hour Stable. Curtis was an enforcer for the Chicago Outfit tied to Sam DeStefano and Frank Schweihs. The Hansen stable went out of business after several accidents resulted in the deaths of two young stable hands, after which Curtis Hansen maintained a close relationship with Silas Jayne and Kenneth Hansen was hired to work at the Idle Hour Stable.[2]: pp185-186, 327 

Peterson–Schuessler murders[edit]

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.

The boys had traveled from Jefferson Park to downtown Chicago to see Walt Disney Productions' The African Lion at the Loop Theater, 165 North State Street,[13] on the afternoon of October 16.

Nearly forty years later, ATF agents investigating the February 17, 1977 disappearance of candy heiress Helen Brach were told by informants that Silas Jayne's former employee, Kenneth Hansen, had boasted of committing the murders at the Idle Hour Stable. Hansen had threatened others that they would "end up like the Peterson boy." A second informant, Red Wemette, 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 model that had been owned by both Hansen and Jayne in 1955.[14][15] The barn in which the murders allegedly occurred burned down on May 15, 1956, in a suspected arson.[2]

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.[2][16][17][18]

Attacks on George Jayne[edit]

In October 1959 George Jayne moved his stable business from the Happy Days Stables to the 95-acre Tri Color Farm near his home in Inverness, Illinois.[19]: part 2 p6  Silas' competition with George, both in business and at horse shows, became intense and led to a prolonged effort to kill George. Cheryl Rude was a professional rider who went to work for George after she was fired by Silas. At the Oak Brook Hounds Horse Show in 1961 Rude won a jumping class over protests from Silas, and George's daughter beat Silas' best horse to take the top prize, after which Silas stood in the middle of the horse ring and shouted at George "I'll never talk to you again, you bastard." This was the beginning of campaign of harassment against George. In 1962 shots were fired at George's office and the office was burglarized. At various times George's tires were punctured, lug nuts on his truck tires were loosened, sugar was poured into his gas tank, cars attempted to run him off the road at night, two of his horses were poisoned, and dynamite was left by his back door, but the fuse fizzled out. In March of 1963 while working late at his Tri Color Stables' office, George, perhaps sensing danger, departed in a borrowed car leaving the lights on and his own car at the office. That night 28 bullets were fired into the office. In 1965 Eddie Moran confessed that he and another man were paid $300 to kill George, and it was they who had fired the shots into George's office in 1963. In May of 1963 when George's horse beat Silas' at the Lake Forest Horse Show, Silas threatened George, "I'll kill you, you son of a bitch." After this on five or more occasions Silas made threats to kill George.[10][2]: pp78-79 [1]: pp8, 10 

Murder of Cheryl Rude[edit]

On June 14, 1965 George Jayne asked his 22-year-old employee, Cheryl Rude, to move his Cadillac. When she turned the ignition key, a bomb composed of three sticks of dynamite exploded killing her. George believed that he was the intended target of the bomb, and that Silas was responsible for planting it. Sheriff's investigators agreed with this assessment.[1]: p8  On July 14 Chicago police found bomb making equipment in the home of Haladane Cleminson, who told them that James Blottiaux had asked him how to wire a car bomb. Bomb making equipment was also found in Blottiaux's home, and handwriting experts tied him to a receipt for explosives. Blottiaux, who was a handyman at Silas Jayne's Idle Hour Stable, told investigators he had heard Jayne offer Eddie Moran $10,000 to bomb George Jayne's car. A white Buick had been seen at George's Tri Color Stable shortly before the bombing. Knowing that Blattiaux did repair work at his friend Thomas Hanna's used car dealership, authorities questioned Hanna who said he didn't have a white Buick on his lot. In 1967 the evidence implicating Blottiaux in the Rude murder, including the receipt signed by Bottiaux, was destroyed by the Chicago Police.[2]: pp336, 338  Thereafter the case went cold for nearly thirty years. Then when authorities requestioned Hanna, he told them that Blottiaux had borrowed a 1960 white Buick LeSabre from his lot on the day of the murder. When Blottiaux returned the car, he was visibly upset and kept repeating. "I killed the wrong person." When Hanna asked what he was talking about, Blottiaux vomited. Blottiaux confessed the murder to Hanna, who sold the Buick LeSabre as soon as he could. On December 16, 1997 Battiaux was charged with Cheryl Rude's murder. At his trial in July 1999, Haldane Cleminson testified under immunity that he had helped Blottiaux make the car bomb, and Hanna and his wife testified that Blottiaux had confessed the murder to them. Silas Jayne, who was deceased by the time of the trial, paid Blottiaux $10,000 for the murder. Blottiaux was found guilty and on September 10, 1999, sentenced to 200-300 years.[20]: sec 2 p1 [21]: sec 2 p5 [2]: pp351, 352  After his conviction Blottiaux admitted his guilt. He confessed that he saw Rude get into the car, but did nothing to warn her. Blottiaux was denied parole on September 24, 2020.[22]

Conspiracy to murder George Jayne[edit]

A few days after the murder of Cheryl Rude, Silas Jayne offered Stephen Grod and Edward Moran $15,000 to kill George Jayne. In an effort to double-cross Silas, Grod and Moran contacted George and proposed that he hide out until after they collect their fee from Silas. George called the Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff's Police, who had Grod set up a meeting with Silas. A sheriff's detective, posing as a third hitman, accompanied Grod to the meeting where Silas gave Grod $1000 as a down payment. There was now sufficient evidence to charge Silas Jayne with conspiracy to commit murder.[1]: p10  Grod was the chief witness against Jayne when the case came to trial in March 1966. As Grod was walking into the courthouse, Silas Jayne's brother Frank handed him an article about a key witness in a criminal case being murdered. When called to testify Grod had a sudden case of amnesia, stating under oath, "I can`t even remember what I had for breakfast this morning. I'm sick." As a result the case against Jayne was dropped and Grod was fined $1000 and jailed for thirty days.[2]: pp80-81 

In November of 1965 Silas Jayne sold the Idle Hour Stables and moved to Our Day Farm.[23]: C-16 

After the conspiracy charges against Silas Jayne were dropped, George Jayne's office was burglarized. Silas told one of George's employees "I gave the IRS all the dope on him [George]. We got enough out of his office to put him in jail for good." George was subsequently indicted for income tax fraud. A jury found him not guilty on November 2, 1966.[1]: p10 

In 1967 Silas and George Jayne's six sisters called a family meeting to resolve their differences. According to George's wife, speaking through her attorney, George agreed at that meeting not to show horses in the hunter and jumper classes. She didn't say what, if anything, Silas agreed to. Silas said that the meeting ended with the brothers being friends.[24]: p10 

Killing of Frank Michelle Jr.[edit]

Fearing more attacks, George Jayne hired Frank Michelle Sr, a former chief of police of Inverness, to provide security for his home and business. He hired Michelle's son, Frank Michelle Jr., to surreptitiously place on Silas Jayne's car a transmitter which would alert George whenever the car came within five miles. The transmitter was periodically monitored and when it stopped transmitting after twelve days, Frank Michelle Jr. was dispatched to change the battery. On January 19, 1969, Michelle's wife dropped him off near Silas Jayne's home at Our Day Farm. Michelle would not have found the car with the transmitter, because Jayne had traded it in for another car. According to Jayne, his door bell rang and when he asked who was there, he was shot at through the door. He returned fire and saw Michelle, who he didn't recognize, crawl away leaving a bloody trail on the lawn. Jayne grabbed additional guns and followed Michelle shooting him to death. Michelle was shot nine times with three different weapons: an M1 carbine and .22- and .38-caliber pistols. The shooting was ruled to be self defense and no charges were brought against Jayne. Jayne boasted of crushing Michelle's testicles using vise-grip pliers. When investigators tried to verify this claim, they discovered that the coroner's report and medical records had gone missing.[2]: pp84-86 

Murder of George Jayne[edit]

On October 28, 1970, George Jayne was fatally shot in the heart through a basement window in his Inverness home while playing cards with family on his son, George Jr.'s, sixteenth birthday.

Investigation[edit]

A neighbor boy identified the get away car as red and white with a license plate beginning 936. Melvin Adams, a 37-year-old dishwasher from Posen, Illinois, became a suspect when he was spotted driving a red-and-white Ford with a license number beginning 936. When questioned Adams was found to be carrying $10,000 in cash. Seventeen of the bills in Adams possession were found to have Silas Jayne's fingerprints.

In order to keep Jayne from fleeing while the investigation continued, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided Jayne's home at Our Day Farm confiscating 18 weapons. Jayne was charged with illegal possession of firearms by a felon, the rape he was convicted of at age 17 being a felony. When arraigned, Jayne was required to surrender his passport.

In May 1971 George Jayne's widow, Marion, accompanied by Illinois State Police investigator David Hamm, offered $25,000 in cash to Melvin Adams as a reward for information. Adams told them that Julius Barnes was the shooter. He also told where the murder weapon was hidden and where Barnes could be found. Rather than take the $25,000 reward, Adams accepted an offer of immunity from prosecution. Barnes' fingerprints were on the murder weapon and he also decided to cooperate with authorities. Adams and Barnes said that Edwin Nefeld, the chief of detectives at the Markham, Illinois police department, had been hired by Silas Jayne to assassinate George. Nefeld subcontracted the murder to Adams, and Adams in turn subcontracted Barnes. Silas Jayne's handyman, Joseph LaPlaca, was also involved in the plot. Silas Jayne initially wanted Adams to kidnap George so that he could murder him himself, but Adams argued that assassination would be less risky. After the murder Jayne paid $30,000 to Adams, who passed $12,500 to Barnes. On May 22, 1971, Jayne, LaPlaca, Barnes, and Nefeld were indicted for the murder of George Jayne. In a plea deal Nefeld pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and testified against the other defendants in exchange for the dropping of murder charges. He was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison.[1]: pp10, 12 

Conviction and sentence[edit]

Silas Jayne, Joseph LaPlaca, and Julius Barnes went on trial for murder on April 4, 1973. Jayne was represented by famed attorney F. Lee Bailey. Barnes retracted his confession and Jayne denied everything. The jurors were permitted to find the defendants guilty of the lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder. Barnes, the shooter, was found guilty of murder, and Jayne and LaPlaca were found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. Barnes was sentenced to 25-35 years in prison, and Jayne and LaPlaca each received a sentence of 6-20 years, the maximum under Illinois law for conspiracy to murder.[1]: p13 

After his conviction, Marion Jayne sued Silas Jayne for $7 million in damages for her husband's death. In 1973 she was awarded $1 million. In 1980 Silas offered Marion $250,000 to settle the matter, but she refused.[1]: p13 

Silas Jayne was imprisoned at the Vienna Correctional Center in southern Illinois. Jayne's cellmate said that Jayne was allowed to keep his horses at the prison's stable and to ride unescorted into a nearby town to buy whiskey. Also Jayne's brother Frank regularly transported prostitutes from Chicago to the prison to have sex with Jayne. On May 23, 1979, Jayne was paroled after having served six years.[2]: pp348-349 

Trial for arson[edit]

Silas was tried and acquitted of arson in 1980, after he allegedly had a former cellmate start a fire in a stable where men against whom he had a grudge kept their horses. Thirty-three horses perished in the fire.

Other crimes and suspicions[edit]

  • On July 2, 1966, a little more than a year after the murder of Cheryl Rude, Ann Miller, age 21, Patricia Blaugh, age 19, and Renee Bruhl, age 19, disappeared from Indiana Dunes State Park never to be seen again. They were last seen getting into a blue and white speedboat. They were all avid horsewomen who frequented George Jayne's Tri Color Stable. It is suspected that they were killed because they had information about the Cheryl Rude murder. Silas Jayne had an employee who owned a blue and white speedboat that he often took to the Indiana dunes. When investigators asked about the boat they were told that it had been destroyed by fire.[1]: p14 
  • In 1967 deputy Cook County Sheriff's Office Deputy Ralph Probst died after being shot through the kitchen window of his Hometown, Illinois residence. The murder weapon was a forty-one caliber magnum revolver. Probst had been investigating horse rackets and had told colleagues that he was pursuing "something big".[25][26]

Death and legacy[edit]

Jayne died of leukemia in 1987 at the age of 80.[27]

The Our Day Farm near Elgin is still operated by the Jayne family. Silas Jayne's great-nephew Charlie Jayne was the first alternate for the U.S. show jumping team at the 2012 Summer Olympics.[8]: sec1 p6 

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Baumann, Edward; O'Brien, John (3 Jan 1988). "Vengeance & Violence". Chicago Tribune Magazine.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o O'Shea, Gene (2005). Unbridled Rage: A True Story of Organized Crime, Corruption, and Murder in Chicago. Berkley Books. ISBN 9780425205266.
  3. ^ "Elston Saddle Club will give ride exhibition". The Chicago Tribune. 1 Oct 1944.
  4. ^ "Hauling". The Daily Sentinel (Woodstock, IL). 4 Dec 1933.
  5. ^ "Strayed". The Daily Sentinel (Woodstock, IL). 24 Dec 1936.
  6. ^ "Ride her, boy! Morton Grove rodeo on today". The Chicago Tribune. October 14, 1945.
  7. ^ "picture caption". The Chicago Tribune. 27 June 1937.
  8. ^ a b Thayer, Kate (July 27, 2012). "Ancestors' infamy no hurdle". The Chicago Tribune.
  9. ^ "10 horses parish as fire sweeps riding stables". The Chicago Tribune. June 3, 1940.
  10. ^ a b c Boyle, Robert H. (June 4, 1973). "End of a bloody bad show". Sports Illustrated.
  11. ^ To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia, Rick Porrello - 2001
  12. ^ "Disclaimer of debts". The Chicago Tribune. Feb 28, 1952.
  13. ^ "The Loop Theater". Cinema Tresures. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  14. ^ Three Boys Missing: The Tragedy That Exposed the Pedophilia Underworld by James A. Jack, 2006
  15. ^ Shattered sense of innocence: the 1955 murders of three Chicago Children, Richard Lindberg, Gloria Jean Sykes, 2006,
  16. ^ Hansen's Trial For '55 Peterson-schuessler Murder Nears A Close, September 13, 1995|ChicagoTribune
  17. ^ Chicago Tribune, Feds' informant kept stable of secrets June 27, 2007
  18. ^ Death Closes the Case of Boys’ Murders ASSOCIATED PRESS, Published: September 16, 2007
  19. ^ "Items from Inverness". The Daily Herald (Chicago, Illinois). November 19, 1959.
  20. ^ Hill, James (July 14, 1999). "Witness says Jayne employee confessed". The Chicago Tribune.
  21. ^ "Testimony accuses car bomb trial witness". The Chicago Tribune. July 15, 1999.
  22. ^ Illinois Prison Review Board, En Banc Minutes, September 24, 2020
  23. ^ "Complete dispersal sale". The Daily Herald (Chicago, IL). November 4, 1965.
  24. ^ O'Brien, John (November 18, 1970). "Demands lie test for Silas Jayne". The Chicago Tribune.
  25. ^ Gibson, Ray. "STILL A MYSTERY, 20 YEARS LATER". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  26. ^ "Ralph Probst > Cook County Sheriffs". Cook County Sheriffs. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  27. ^ Chicago Tribune July 14, 1987

Cited works and further reading[edit]