Monday, November 27, 2006


Maybe I am a little crazy to be obsessed with early crimes! That is the conclusion I come to after being away from work for a week. I did the Thanksgiving Dinner thing and during the work that was involved I think that time was the only time I wasn't thinking about old dead criminals!

Man, talk about a nut! Oh well, we all need a hobby. I also believe it's in my nature to be obsessive about topics. So I won't sweat it. I will sweat an hour a day studying Trust Fund arrangements and such. Ain't I the lucky one!!

I got the Barker-Karpis Cd's from the FBI. It's so funny because before they sent them out the records assistant called to let me know there had been a mistake. The letter the FBI sent me to let me know that I could get the Barker-Karpis gang information for $30 bucks was a mistake. $30 would get me the individual files on the Barkers and Alvin Karpis not the files on the gang. Those files take up over 20 Cd's and cost in excess of $400. Needless to say I will not be getting those. You can see all of those files on the FBI FOIA website . The Karpis file is really Hoover congratulatory file. Loads of letters and newspaper clippings congratulating Hoover for Barker's capture.

I think I have enough to write a couple of paragraphs on Vivian Chase. We'll see...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Thanksgiving Vacation

I am way too swamped. Shopping, cleaning, & cooking, and the ever present half hearted attempt at studying. Let's factor in work in a crazy local government Pension office and what do you have? Someone who will be thankful for the new year! My treat for this holiday will be taking a class at the Library of Congress on how to do research there. I am so looking forward to the newspaper collection. The librarians are so helpful too, they act like my stupid questions are not a waste of their over educated time. So while I am thinking of Vivian, Pete, and other yeggs I will have to wait on the writing.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Mean Men

I just got this in the mail! The author Robert Winter kindly sent me a copy and some materials on Vivian Chase. I can not wait to read everything I am making headway, maybe just enough to write a short bio that contains more than she was born on and was found dead on such and such a date.
I have the marriage certificate, but not the application. I did find her family in the 1910 census by that time they were in Greene County Missouri. Still can't locate them in the 1900 Nebraska census. All of the children in this family were born in Nebraska, the last Vivian in 1905; therefore, I should be able to find them in Nebraska in 1900. Cross your fingers. I can think of several reasons why they wouldn't be there. Most glaring is that census takers were not always conscientious. We'll see.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Blah Blah Blah

I have got the Blahs! I am sitting here and not studying on a Saturday. Nothing was sinking in. I'm doing my laundry and trying to prepare for my small dinner party tomorrow. It's going to be a simple menu: "oven" grilled chicken, spinach with bacon & mushrooms, seasoned rice with chocolate cake for dessert. I just have to make sure everything is nice and that my ironing and such are done so I can have an easy week and start to get set for Thanksgiving.

The picture above is of Crown Point, Indiana around 1911. You can tell it's early by the absence of cars. Everyone is aware of Dillinger's escape with the wooden gun from the Crown Point jail. Some people insist that one of the Trustees smuggled a real gun into him, but the FBI files have affidavits from other prisoners that Dillinger and his accomplice in the escape Herbert Youngblood that refutes that. Evidently, the two whittled the gun from a wooden piece of a wash table that was in the communal washroom. The rest as they say is history, but what what fails to be mentioned is that these high profile escapes by Dillinger and others have a responsibility for the controls and such that we have in our modern correctional institutions.

It's interesting how changes come about. Think about it typically we have to learn the hard way before we correct mistakes. I am having a bear of a time trying to find Vivian Chase's family prior to the 1920 census. If she was born in Nebraska then I thought it would make since to look for her family in Nebraska during the 1900 census but so far no luck. It doesn't help that Davis is such a common name. Oh well, Nebraska didn't start having actual birth certificates until well after Vivian's birth. Hmmm....what's interesting is that if this family is hers then she is a puzzle. While the family wasn't rich they owned there own home in 1920. I can trace the parents to the same house in the 1930 census and they list that they have $3500 worth of income for the year that's around $42,000 in today's currency.

Her sister Hazel, I found in boarding house and she worked as a registered nurse. What's interesting about all of this is that in 1935 when Vivian was shot to death no one claimed her body. There was sufficient coverage in the newspapers to doubt that her family did not know of her death. So if these are the people she was related to by blood, they wanted nothing to do with her by the time of her death and allowed her to be buried in a potters grave.

Friday, November 10, 2006


YES!! Ellen Poulsen, who wrote a great book Don't Call Us Molls, put me in touch with Robert Winter, who wrote a book on the Barker Gang Mean Men, Mr. Winter kindly telephoned me after I wrote him introducing myself and requesting information on Vivian Chase. Her maiden name is Davis; she was actually born in Nebraska not Missouri! Her full given name Vivian Grace Chase. He was able to tell me some of her criminal history and where she got married. He's a wonderful source. He's also doing research on the Michigan City Prison break of 1933; so I agreed to send him a copy of some of my stuff. He doesn't have a computer though so hard copy only. Both Ellen and Bob are very kind to share information with me.

After speaking with Bob, I was able to research the 1920 census. Bob had told me the family was in Springfield, MO by this time. Lo and behold easy as pie there she was. So now I have maybe 3 sentences of information about her! Hopefully, when I start getting into the old newspapers I'll be able to find more information about her Liberty jail break and the bank job she was on. Bob gave me a whole list of gangs she ran around with. We'll see.

Now, if I could just get that Karpis data from the FBI....

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Dead End

Well, fortunately it was fairly uneventful today. I did get Vivian Chase's death certificate in the mail. Unfortunately, there isn't any information other than she died. Good news only cost me a $5 from Missouri State. Here it is in all it's enigmatic glory:Ah me, ah my...will I ever find more information about Vivian Chase? I only found one entry for a Vivian Chase in the National Archives online data search. The woman had the right name and possibly the right age, but she was in Arizona and a Native American. Now, it's not unusual for those in Missouri to have an Indian connection; but, I have nothing that links those characteristics to the Vivian Chase I am looking for. I found an article about a Vivian Chase who was arrested for bank robbery in TX, but again. How do I know it's the same person. She used a number of aliases. The woman in TX was visiting her sister (in jail) when arrested, but with out Vivian's maiden name I can't research records to find out if she had other family. Man..if I only knew what county in MO she was born in I could find her!

Well, on a brighter note I should have better luck with Walter Dietrich. He's easy to find and that's his real name. Yeah!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Monday Night Bad Info?

Good News: I got information for a new contact who may be able to shed light on Vivian Chase

Bad News: I misplaced the source for the Vivian Chase Edna Murray connection? Perhaps I am losing it and making up stuff?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday Morning Blues

This picture is Indiana State Prison at Michigan City circa 1910. Almost looks like you are going to some place nice! The modern entrance does not look like this it is much uglier.

I posted this picture because I have some new research about the 1933 prison break that I am deciphering through and I can't wait to write about it. Some insights some questions loads of fun if you are a yegg head!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Charley Makley Bio

I decided to work on this before I started studying. Get the juices flowing I guess!

Charles Makley was born on November 24, 1888, in St. Mary's Ohio to Edward Makley and Martha Sunderland Makley. He had two Brothers: George and Fred and two sisters: Florence and Mildred. Charles was the oldest. Little is known about his early life. His father worked as a stone cutter and in the 1910 Ohio census a 20 year old Charles is listed as working in his father’s profession. His parents had divorced by this time. On his intake papers to the Indiana State prison at Michigan City, Charles lists his occupation as salesman. He also lists his wife as Edith Slife Makley, a woman who had previously been married to his brother Fred.

Criminal Career
Evidently, Makley began his criminal career late in life. According to his criminal record in his file at Ohio State Penitentiary, Charles first arrest occurred on November 21, 1921 when he was 33 years old. He was arrested for receiving stolen property in Chicago, Illinois. He was found not guilty. Makley had various arrests from 1922 through 1924 in Missouri. On July 30, 1924 he was arrested using the alias of Charles McGray for bank robbery. He was sentenced to a 15 year term. On October 15, 1924 he was admitted to the Missouri State Penitentiary at Jefferson City. On June 6, 1925, Makley’s sentence was reversed and remanded by the Missouri Superior Court. In 1926 Charles was wanted by the Sheriff, Jefferson County Missouri for robbing the Citizens Bank of Festus, MO of $18,000 (over $200,000 in 2006 dollars). The Law caught up to Makley again on June 2, 1928 when he was arrested for a bank robbery in Hammond, Indiana. Sentenced to a term of 10 to 20 years, Charles entered the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City on June 25, 1928.

Michigan City
At the time of Charles Makley’s incarceration, the Michigan City Prison was on the silent system. Prisoners remained silent during work hours and in the dining hall. Charles was a member of Harry Pierpont’s prison clique, which included John Dillinger. His inside record, while not perfect, has only minor infractions: possessing contraband cigarette papers, having an electric stove, and wearing first grade uniform to a ball game. On September 26, 1933, Charles Makley was among the ten men who escaped from Michigan City through the main gate of the prison.

Terror Gang
Immediately after leaving Michigan City’s main gang the ten escapees split into two groups. Makley remained with the group headed by Harry Pierpont. They went to the home of Mary Kinder, Pierpont’s girl, to get to a safe house and change out of their prison togs. It was a this time that the gang learned that John Dillinger had been arrested for bank robbery and was being detained at the Allen County jail in Lima, Ohio. Determined to liberate Dillinger, gang members went to the jail. Pierpont, Makley, and Russell Clark entered the jail, while Ed Shouse remained outside as a lookout. According to the Bureau of Justice (FBI), on October 12, 1933 the three men went into the jail and stated that they were from the Indian State Prison and had come to take John Dillinger. The Sheriff Jess Sarber asked to see their credentials; Pierpont pulled out a gun and said “this is our authority”. The Sheriff made a move for his weapon; Pierpont shot Sarber in the abdomen. Two of the men then beat the Sheriff senseless. The report states that it is the beating that resulted in death. The Sheriff’s wife would later testify that she witnessed Makley beating Sarber. Dillinger liberated, the gang proceeded to on a crime spree that included bank robbery and robbing small town police arsenals.

In January, 1934, the gang decided to take a vacation in Tucson, Arizona. Firemen responding to a fire at the Congress Hotel, where the gang stayed, recognized gang members after reading a magazine article. One by one the Tucson police rounded up the gang members. Makley was apprehended at the Crabtree Electric Company while looking at a radio. Pierpont, Makley, and Clark were sent back to Michigan City prison and later extradited to Lima, Ohio to stand trial for the Sarber killing. All three were found guilty; Pierpont and Makley received the death penalty while Clark received a life sentence.

On March 27, 1934, Clark, Makley, and Pierpont, entered the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus. While waiting for their turn for the electric chair, Pierpont and Makley fashioned revolvers out of soapstone. On September 22, 1934, Pierpont and Makley used their homemade guns to attempt to escape from the death house. They were unsuccessful. Makley suffered gunshot wounds to his thorax and abdomen. His death certificate states that internal hemorrhaging from these wounds caused his death. He is buried in the Sugar Ridge Cemetery in Leipsic, Ohio.