Monday, July 20, 2015

John Dillinger was Killed (July 22, 1934)

This week (July 20-26) in crime history – Serial killer Alton Coleman and Debra Brown were captured in Illinois (July 20, 1984); James Holmes killed 12 and wounded 70 other at a Colorado movie theater (July 20, 2012); The Scopes Monkey Trial ends with a conviction (July 21, 1925); Terrorists attempted to bomb the London Transit system (July 21, 2005); The Preparedness Day Bombing (July 22, 1916); Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested (July 22, 1991); John Dillinger was killed (July 22, 1934); Notorious California bandit Black Bart robbed a Wells Fargo Stagecoach (July 23, 1878); Serial killer Della Sorenson killed her first victim (July 23, 1918); Writer O. Henry was released from prison (July 24, 1901); California outlaw Joaquin Murrieta was killed (July 25, 1853); Serial killer Ed Gein died (July 26, 1984)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -

On July 22, 1934, John Dillinger, America’s “Public Enemy No. 1″ was shot and killed by FBI agents outside of the Biograph Theater in Chicago. In a fiery bank-robbing career that lasted just over a year, Dillinger and his associates robbed nearly a dozen banks, broke out of jail, and killed seven police officers and three federal agents.

John Dillinger was born in 1903 in Indianapolis, Indiana. A juvenile delinquent, he was arrested in 1924 after a botched mugging. He pleaded guilty, hoping for clemency, but was sentenced to 10 to 20 years at Pendleton Reformatory. While in prison, he made several failed escapes and was adopted by a group of professional bank robbers led by Harry Pierpont, who taught him the ways of their trade. When his friends were transferred to Indiana’s tough Michigan City Prison, he requested to be transferred there as well.

In May 1933, Dillinger was paroled, and he met up with accomplices of Pierpont. Dillinger’s plan was to raise enough funds to finance a prison break by Pierpont and the others, who then would take him on as a member of their elite robbery gang. In four months, Dillinger and his gang robbed four Indiana and Ohio banks, two grocery stores, and a drug store for a total of more than $40,000. He gained notoriety as a sharply dressed and athletic gunman who at one bank leapt over the high teller railing into the vault.

With the help of two of Pierpont’s women friends, Dillinger set up the jailbreak. Guns were bought and arranged to be smuggled into Michigan City Prison. Prison workers were bribed, and a safe house was set up. On September 22, however, just days before the jailbreak was scheduled to occur, Dillinger was arrested in Dayton, Ohio. Four days later, Pierpont and nine others broke out of Michigan City. On October 12 Pierpont came to Ohio to free Dillinger in the process the Lima sheriff was killed. On October 30, the gang robbed a police arsenal, acquiring weapons, ammunition, and bulletproof vests.

The Pierpont/Dillinger gang robbed banks in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Chicago for more than $130,000, a great fortune in the Depression era, and eluded the police in several close encounters. In January 1934, the gang headed to Tucson, Arizona, to lay low. By this time, four police officers had been killed and two wounded, and the Chicago police had established an elite squad to track down the fugitives. They were recognized in Tucson and on January 25 captured without bloodshed.

Dillinger was extradited to Indiana, arraigned for his January 15 murder of Indiana police officer William Patrick O’Malley, and held at Crown Point prison. On March 3, while still awaiting trial, he executed his most celebrated escape. That morning, he brandished a gun and methodically began locking up the prison officials. The legend is that the weapon was a wooden gun carved by Dillinger and blackened with shoe polish, but it may also have been a real gun smuggled into the prison by an associate. Whatever the case, Dillinger raided the prison arsenal, where he found two sub-machine guns, and then enlisted the aid of another prisoner, an African American man named Herbert Youngblood. Dillinger and Youngblood then made their way to the prison garage, where they stole a sheriff’s car and calmly drove away.

Parting ways with Youngblood, Dillinger traveled to Chicago and formed a new gang featuring “Baby Face” Nelson, a psychopathic killer who used to work for Al Capone. The new Dillinger gang robbed banks in South Dakota and Iowa and wounded two more police officers. The Federal Bureau of Investigation joined the manhunt for Dillinger after he escaped from Crown Point, and on March 31 two FBI agents closed in on him at an apartment in St. Paul, Minnesota. Dillinger and an accomplice shot their way out.

In April, the Dillinger gang went to hide out at a resort in Wisconsin, but the FBI was tipped off. On April 22, the FBI stormed the resort. In a disastrous operation, three civilians were mistakenly shot by the FBI, one of whom died; Baby Face Nelson killed one agent, shot another, and critically wounded a police officer; the entire Dillinger gang escaped.

With two other gang members, Dillinger traveled to Chicago, surviving a shoot-out with Minnesota police along the way. In Chicago, he lived in a safe house and got a facelift to conceal his identity. At some point, he also used acid to burn off his fingerprints. On June 30, he participated in his last robbery, in South Bend, Indiana in which one officer was killed, four civilians shot, and one gang member shot.

In July, Anna Sage, a Romanian-born brothel madam in Chicago and friend of Dillinger’s, agreed to cooperate with the FBI in exchange for leniency in an upcoming deportation hearing. She also hoped to cash in on the $10,000 bounty that had been put on his head. On July 22, Sage and Dillinger went to see the gangster movie Manhattan Melodrama at the Biograph Theater. Twenty FBI agents and police officers staked out the theater and waited for him to emerge with Sage, who would be wearing an orange dress (not red as has been erroneously reported) to identify herself.

At 10:40 p.m., Dillinger came out. Sage’s orange dress looked red under the Biographs lights, which would earn her the nickname “the lady in red.” Dillinger was ordered to surrender, but he took off running. He made it as far as an alley at the end of the block before he was gunned down, allegedly because he pulled a gun. Two bystanders were wounded in the gunfire and Dillinger was dead.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.” Because I will be on vacation next week’s installment will be postponed.

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Monday, July 13, 2015

The San Ysidro McDonald's Massacre (July 18, 1984)

This week (July 13-20) in crime history – Ruth Ellis was convicted of murder and would later be the last woman executed in Great Britain (July 13, 1955); Billy the Kid was shot to death (July 14, 1881); Richard Speck murdered eight nurses in Chicago (July 14, 1966); John Walker Lindh, The American Taliban pleaded guilty to weapons charges (July 15, 2002); Designer Gianni Versace was shot to death (July 15, 1997); Army doctor Jeffrey MacDonald murdered his family (July 16, 1979); Casey Anthony was released  from jail (July 17, 2011); James Huberty shoots and kills 21 people at a San Diego area McDonald’s (July 18, 1984); Boxer Mike Tyson raped beauty pageant contestant (July 19, 1991)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -

On July 18, 1984, James Huberty opened fire with automatic weapons in a crowded McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro, California, killing 21 people and wounding 19 others. Minutes earlier, Huberty had left home, telling his wife, “I’m going hunting… hunting for humans.”

Huberty, who had a history of mental problems, lost his job in Ohio the previous year. He brought his family to San Diego and worked as a security guard until he was fired again, a month before the shootings. His wife claimed that Huberty called a mental health clinic to make an appointment for counseling but was never called back. He had an obsession with guns.

Bringing several of these weapons, including a 9mm automatic pistol and semiautomatic rifle, into the McDonald’s two miles from the Mexican border, Huberty demanded that the 45 patrons get on the floor. He then walked around the restaurant, calmly shooting people. He killed 20 in the first ten minutes, including four who tried to escape. There were so many shots fired that the police first assumed that there was more than one gunman inside. Shooting at a fire truck that responded to the scene, Huberty also grazed one firefighter with a bullet.

An hour after the shooting began, an employee managed to escape through the basement and inform the SWAT team that Huberty was alone and without hostages. With this information, sharpshooters were told to “take him out.” A marksman sent a shot through Huberty’s chest and killed him. After making sure that he was dead, police finally entered the restaurant.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Moors Murders Began (July 12, 1963)

This week (July 6-12) in crime history - July 6, 1946 - Former mob boss George “Bugs” Moran was arrested in Kentucky; July 7, 1865 - Mary Surratt and three others were executed for Abraham Lincoln’s assassination; July 8, 1898 - Soapy Smith, notorious conman was murdered; July 8, 1960 - U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers was charged with espionage; July 10, 1925 - The Scopes Monkey Trial began; July 10, 1992 - Joseph Hazelwood’s conviction in the Exxon Valdez oil spill was overturned; July 11, 1804 - Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel; July 11, 2010 - Colton Harris-Moore, The Barefoot bandit was captured in the Bahamas; July 12, 1891 - Wild Bill Hickok had his first gun fight; July 12, 1963 - The Moors Murders began 

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week - 

On July 12, 1963, 16-year-old Pauline Reade was abducted while walking near her home in Gorton, England, by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the so-called “Moors Murderers,” launching a crime spree that would last for over two years. Reade’s body was not discovered until 1987, after Brady confessed to the murder during an interview with reporters while in a mental hospital. The teenager had been sexually assaulted and her throat had been slashed.

Brady and Hindley met in Manchester in 1961. The shy girl quickly became infatuated with Brady, a self-styled Nazi, who had an obsession with sadistic sex. In order to satisfy their sadistic impulses, Brady and Hindley began abducting and killing young men and women. After Pauline Reade, they kidnapped 12-year-old John Kilbride in November and Keith Bennett, also 12, in June the next year. The day after Christmas in 1964, Leslie Ann Downey, a 10-year-old from Manchester, was abducted.

In 1965, the couple murdered a 17-year-old boy with a hatchet in front of Hindley’s brother-in-law, David Smith, perhaps in an attempt to recruit him for future murders. This apparently crossed the line for Smith, who then went to the police.

Inside Brady’s apartment, police found luggage tickets that led them to two suitcases in Manchester Central Station. They contained photos of Leslie Ann Downey being tortured along with audiotapes of her pleading for her life. Other photos depicted Hindley and Brady in a desolate area of England known as Saddleworth Moor where police found the body of John Kilbride.

The Moors Murderers were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1966. For his part, Brady continued to confess to other murders, but police have been unable to confirm the validity of his confessions. Hindley died on November 15, 2002 from a brain aneurysm and Brady remains incarcerated at the Ashworth Psychiatric Hospital in Maghull, England.  

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of six award winning nonfiction books that includes Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1848-1949. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: