Saturday, December 30, 2006


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Busy Bee

2 days y from Christmas and I have a list of stuff to do. I've already been to the grocery to get the ingredients for Peach Pie. I've decided that I must have at least 2 desserts at Christmas dinner. The store was quiet since it was so early. More people than usual, but not a mad house.

I have laundry, sauces, table setting, and vacuuming on my list. At least the house is reasonable orderly. This festivity can be done. Just got a great book to add to my list of others in the mail Pubic Enemies America's Criminal Past by William Helmer with Rick Mattix. I got the book because the authors have a much more complete encyclopedia of criminals coming out but unfortunately it's been delayed for 6 months now so I will make do with this. I've come to the conclusion that there is much more to writing a book than slapping together some facts. There must be...otherwise the books that I wait for would not take so long.

I am doomed. I just can't bear to look at that junk again. Executive Retirement Arrangements--Bah Humbug! Oh well, maybe God has something better planned for me. But I will take the test who knows maybe this will be a miracle again. There is just so much boring stuff. I guess I wasn't meant for top management? I feel that if I don't pass this test then I will be stuck where I am at. Is that good? Who knows. We have a new player with the New Year. Maybe the chemistry will improve and it can be a winning situation?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Good Mail

Yeah! I got Walter Detrich's prison file from the Indiana Archives. Detrich is best known as one of the men who escaped from the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City in September 1933. It was a huge escape in itself and became more newsworthy as escapees Harry Pierpont, Charles Makley, Russell Clark, and Edward Shouse freed J. Dillinger from the Lima, OH jail.

I'm looking forward to writing about Detrich because he was a good yegg. Very professional. Supposedly, while in the pen with Pierpont et al, he taught the gang the Lamm bank robbery process. Which must have been really helpful, because the "Terror Gang" as Dillinger's group was known after the escape did much better than could have been anticipated by their individual records. Really, one of my posts is going to have to be funniest stories from Dillinger Gang members heists.

You know cleaned up I think Detrich probably was quite the ladies man. Supposedly, he was connected enough in Michigan City to have trysts with his mistress while incarcerated. At least he didn't have to settle for boys like J. Dillinger! I love getting stuff like this. I wish I was as interested in the FASB 35 and IPG contracts. The Exam is in 2 WEEKS. Doomed am I.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

NOT Vivian

FBI Woes

Violet is insisting on sleeping where I normally do my studying so in deference to the boss I thought I'd just post my latest "crisis".

I've been trying to get the
FBI information on Vivian Chase. Well even though she is a well known dead hood (at least to those of us who study dead hoods), the FBI would not consider my request unless I provided her death certificate. So I got a copy of her 1935 death certificate and sent it to them. Well, the FBI does not like this death certificate, because the coroner listed her approximate age as opposed to listing date of birth. How inconsiderate of him (it was always a him back then). Well you know in those days everyone figured if you were alive once and lying on a slab then obviously you were born and exact dates weren't all that necessary.

So, OK, do I give up on the G-men? Well, the head of the records dept. sent me a rather lengthy FOIA law that I can look up to see if I can find some common sense approach when the death certificate is 70 years old. I also have to ask my self what do I hope to find; those old files more than likely won't give me any added insight into her life. Let's face it they are mostly surveillance history and Vivian did an astounding disappearing act. They would have had to have found her to watch her. After the Luer kidnapping she didn't surface again until they found her corpse. Maybe I will just ask for the Luer kidnapping files.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Choosing Crime

I read Confessions of a Jack Roller by Clifford R. Shaw; it's a sociological case study showing the life history of a juvenile offender written in the early 1930's. For me one of the most startling aspects of the book (OK the only startling aspect) was the part where there describing his childhood. His mother died when he was young. He didn't get along with his stepmother (old tale right?) so the six year old kid takes to staying out on the streets sometimes for days on end. Remember the child is SIX. Policemen finds him and takes him home. Kid stays for less than a night (evidently enough time to get a beating) and takes to the streets again. Over and over it happens. What's startling for someone reading this in 2006 is that never is there a concern by officials that something could be wrong with the child's home life. He's branded incorrigible. A six year old who would rather live in the street and eat out of the trash than go home and no one thinks to put him foster care!

For those who don't know a "jack roller" is a term for rolling drunks and homosexuals of their money. It's a particular form of petty larceny (not high on the criminal hierarchy). I started thinking about some of our more famous yeggs from the 1930's. Those whose home life we know something about. Take John H. Dillinger, Alvin Karpis, and Baby Face Nelson. Well all of these thieves came from decent homes. Hardworking parents. Fairly comfortable surroundings. Dillinger's home appears to have been slightly more affluent; both Karpis and Nelson came from rough neighborhoods in Chicago.

Writers who tell the Dillinger story, must have a very hard time reconciling his childhood. On the one hand you have family members who describe the young Johnny D. as a normal high spirited boy, who enjoyed hunting and the tales of Jesse James. Then you have a litany of petty offenses: such as stealing coal, getting other children drunk (which led to some shady business with a few farm girls), destruction of property. All for laughs. It seems clear to me from an early age John Dillinger enjoyed being bad. I don't think anyone was that surprised when he mugged that grocer with Ed Singleton! Surprised at the harshness of his sentence yes, but not surprised that he'd finally landed in jail.

I am trying to decide which delinquent was worse: Alvin Karpis or Lester Gillis (Baby Face Nelson). It's a hard choice. Both just didn't seem to enjoy the normal activities associated with childhood playing games. Each seemed to enjoy activities with a more unlawful bent. Gillis was a member of a kiddie gang that enjoyed stealing and such. Karpis enjoyed riding the rails and stealing. Each had picked up these habits before their tenth birthday. Both went to reformatories and came out unreformed. Confessions of a Jack Roller is great in it's description of the various types of juvenile corrections facilities. I think that's important because it does show that as much as these individuals chose a life of crime their stays in reformatories aided that choice.

The sexually predatory nature of these institutions is public knowledge (and was back in the day); but what is so surprising to me again is the fact that very young children were thrown into these institutions. If you place a child in a world where might prevails and that child is on the low end of the food chain I don't think you can expect the child to choose to reform. The child has to live on it's instincts and do what's necessary to survive. I'm not just talking sexually, but morally. Lying, cheating, stealing (really just different forms of deception) become the things that are necessary for survival. The task is to become an expert at these arts. For extreme cases of this take a look at Carl Panzram . I honestly believe that Clyde Barrow is another one.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Vivian Chase Bio

This is a picture (mug shot) of Vivian Chase taken in 1926; supposedly, she was much prettier. The circumstances of her arrest (she'd been drinking and participated in brawl) may have something to do with her looking so mean!!

When she was sixteen years old she left her home in Dade County, Missouri.  She married George Chase on April 1, 1921. The circumstances of her marriage are unknown; however, George Chase by this time was considerably older (30) and had begun to make a name for himself as a thief. {unfortunately there is no documentation about her home life. Nothing to determine if she ran away with George to escape a bad home or whether she was already on her own at the time. During the 20's it wouldn't have been unusual for a 16 y.o. girl to leave home to start working. But we just don't know}
Vivian Chase first gained notice as George’s wife. On December 23, 1923, George Chase was arrested for an altercation during which he was shot by Ella Keller. Ms. Keller stated that George and his companions attacked her because she had reported them to the police and that she had to shoot George in self-defense. After arresting George, the police went to his home where they found Vivian wearing six diamond rings. Since she could not explain possessing the rings, Vivian was arrested for “suspicion”. She was released after three days.
Vivian does not surface again for three years and when she does she is in the company of Charlie Mayes, also known as Pighead Hardman. {I can't find a definitive reference for George's death. He is believed to have been killed in a bank robbery soon after the Dec 1923 escapade) On February 15, 1926, Vivian, Mayes, Lee Flournoy and Flournoy’s wife were arrested after a free for all fight in a rooming house in Wichita, KS. During the arrest Vivian refused to talk. The investigation led investigators to her brother in law Charles Chase and allegations of involvement with the Joe Bratton liquor gang. { Charles' wife Grace was also arrested it is telling that Vivian maintained contact with them. She also used Grace's name from time to time as an alias.} On June 9, 1926, following a “drunken party and joy ride”, Flournoy and Mayes were fatally shot in a Picher, OK gun battle. Vivian Chase was with them. {this is the second man with whom Vivian has been involved who is shot down during a crime. It's interesting to note that we don't know if Vivian participated in Mayes' and Flournoy's crimes or whether she was just the girlfriend. }
The three of them had been under surveillance by Ottawa County Oklahoma officers for several days because the deputy sheriff informed the Sheriff of Montgomery County, KS that he had found the people who robbed the Cherryvale Bank on May 29, 1926. Vivian was placed in jail where she refused to talk to reporters.She was released on June 13, 1926, after insufficient evidence was found to charge her with a crime.
Once again the record goes silent on Vivian Chase. {It's unknown what she was doing with herself after Picher, OK. The money from the robbery was never recovered; but no one has ever said that she had it. She was known to live in style though. R.D. Morgan says that she worked at prostitution during this time in a well known road house; but she was never charged with the crime. Besides if she was comfortable making a living selling herself why steal?}
She resurfaces in June 1932. She is arrested with Jackie Forman and Enos Weeks for the robbery of the First National Bank in North Kansas City on April 9, 1932. She is held on $50,000 bond. It was a small robbery; no more than $1,500 was taken. Vivian was held at the Clay County Jail in Liberty, MO. She escaped after four months by sawing through the bars of her cell and lowering herself down with a rope made of bed sheets.{Conditions in County Jails were particulary grim during this period. It's surprising that she had sufficient bedding, but it would have been easier to bribe the guards to get more as was the custom (see Crucibles of Crime)}
After her escape from the Liberty County Jail, Vivian fled to St. Louis, MO. She became involved with Walter (Irish) O’Malley. On July 10, 1933, Vivian participated in the Kidnapping of banker August Luer. Vivian, O’Malley, Percy ‘Dice Box’ Fitzgerald drove to Mr. Luer’s home in Alton, IL. Vivian accompanied by O’Malley rang the doorbell and requested to use the phone. When she was let in and shown the phone’s location she cut the line. O’Malley wrestled August Luer to the floor and gagged his mouth. Mr. Luer was taken to a farm where he was hidden in a damp underground cellar while his captives tried to ransom him. Mr. Luer was not a well man and fearing that he would die before they were able to receive any ransom his kidnappers released him after 123 hours. Both Vivian and O’Malley fled from Illinois back to Missouri after the bungled kidnapping. O’Malley managed to elude capture for two years until he was apprehended in Kansas City on May 23, 1935. Vivian eluded capture.
In the early fall of 1935, Kansas City experienced a series of drug store robberies. The robbers were described as a man and a woman. The woman was further described as approximately 5 ft. 6 in. tall, slender, with hennaed hair. When victims were shown a photograph they identified Vivian as one of the robbers. On November 3, 1935, Vivian’s body was found in a parked car at St. Lukes Hospital in Kansas City, MO. She had been shot in the neck with the bullet exiting through her chest.
Newspapers speculated that she had been double crossed by an accomplice and was shot before she could him. She had a .22 caliber pistol on her with .45 caliber bullets in her handbag. She was shot with a .45 caliber gun. When she was found the coroner estimated that she had only been dead 2 hours or less leading to speculation that her killer drove her to the hospital while she was still alive expecting her to be found before her death.
She seemed destined for burial in a potter’s field. The owner of the funeral home she had been removed to received an anonymous call asking about the cost of providing her with a funeral. The next morning the funeral home received an envelope of money for the costs; also received were a blue dress and undergarments (her own) for Vivian to be buried in. Nine mourners outside of reporters and law officers attended her funeral. No one signed the guest book.
  • 1910 USA Census Missouri State Greene County
  • Marriage License Jackson County MO at Kansas City, MO
  • Kansas City Times December 26, 1923
  • Wichita Beacon February 16, 1926
  • Wichita Eagle February 17, 1926
  • Miami News Record June 10, 1926
  • Miami News Record June 13, 1926
  • Kansas City Times June 8, 1932
  • Startling Detective Magazine June 1936
  • R. D. Morgan: “Irish O’Malley & the Ozark Mountain Boys” (unpublished)
  • Kansas City Journal-Post November 4, 1935
  • Kansas City Times November 9, 1935

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Verne Miller

I gave myself a treat this Saturday and read Brad Smith's Lawman to Outlaw: Verne Miller and the Kansas City Massacre. I enjoyed the book because Mr. Smith provides a comprehensive look at a complex individual. Individuals who have never heard of Verne Miller should know that he was on the A list of criminals in the Mid-West crime wave during the prohibition era.

The book details Miller's lawman period and shows him to be a dedicated professional; however, the book does not shed any light on why Miller embezzled funds from Beadle County, South Dakota. It is interesting to note that Verne Miller never provided a reason to anyone for this character lapse; he plead guilty at his trial and never spoke of it again.

Although he provides no fresh insight about Miller's initial crime, Smith does provide a concise analysis of Miller's character. Smith states that Miller is a "natural soldier" a man who is excited by his mission who will kill if the mission calls for it. Natural Soldiers also place a high premium on male bonding. It's telling that killings attributed to Miller outside of a job were done to avenge a friend. Smith shows how Miller's loyalty to good friend Frank "Jelly" Nash precipitated both men's deaths. Smith also points the finger at Lepke Buchalter (another person Miller considered a friend) as the person responsible for ordering Miller's death. The attempted rescue of Nash (Kansas City Massacre) was a pivotal point in crime history because it marks the turning point for public opinion against criminals and it provides Herbert Hoover with the basis for turning the Bureau of Investigation into an armed national police force. After the massacre Hoover made sure that all criminals received so much heat that it was impossible for them to function. Buchalter ,who controlled an enforcement group commonly known as Murder, Inc., had Harry "Pittsburgh Phil" Strauss kill Miller.

Smith also relates the story of Vivian Mathis, Verne Miller's consort through his criminal period. Most interesting is the treatment she received from the Bureau of Investigation. She was kidnapped and tortured until she signed an "official" statement about the Kansas City Massacre. Hoover's G-men don't come out well in Brad Smith's book he gives proof that it was Nash's escort that killed him, not Verne Miller.

All in all a good read. For pictures on Verne Miller take a look at the Verne Miller Photo Gallery.