Friday, December 14, 2007

Charlie Mays

Chas. Mays circa 1919 when admitted into Kansas State Penitentiary for robbery.

You know my first reaction was that he looked a little like Charlie Birger, but no my senses are a little off these days so I'll reserve that comparison for another day.

Charlie doesn't really seem to have been a very nice guy but he appears to have known how to play the system. His original sentence was for 10 to 21 years. He got that commuted to 1 to 5 by having one of the men he robbed Arthur Henderson write a letter saying that he was never certain of the robber’s identity. In fact once Henderson got a good look at Mays close up (you see Henderson through dumb luck of his own happened to get incarcerated also) he could tell that Mays just wasn't the guy! Henderson writes that he was pressured to identify Mays by the court. Since the robbery occurred in a box car it's hard to believe that he didn't get that close but hey I wasn't there. Well things just fell into place after that. After serving a year and eight months he received parole on 6/12/1921. The Kansas parole board was very understanding: even though Mays did not report to his parole officer during 1922 and had been arrested for vagrancy repeatedly in Joplin, MO he received a full commutation in early 1923. Which I'm sure he appreciated (it's so stressful having to keep up with these small details when your casing banks).

I do wonder if this is the right Charlie Mays though; I mean supposedly he murdered a man in that box car when he was robbing them. His papers don't mention the murder although there is a statement that one of his victims can't be found.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Earl McDowell

Finally got to LOC newspaper reading room again. Found articles on Earl McDowell in the Chicago Tribune when he murdered a young woman who had the bad fortune to be in the bullets way. One night, McDowell went to a "beer flat" in Chicago, IL with some friends. While there, he took an intense dislike to the radio station being played. In order to register his displeasure he shot the radio. Unfortunately, the bullets found Dorothy Evelyn Renshaw, a 23 year old mother from Sioux City, IA, killing her. McDowell fled to Kansas City, MO after this incident.

It's his Kansas City exploits that concern me and proved to be the death of him. Once there he began living with Vivian Chase who began using his name. It's evident McDowell was a handsome man, but evidently he had a nasty temper. He once shot at his wife but missed her. It's always been said that Luther Jordan , another of Vivian's paramours, was intensely jealous of McDowell, but Jordan always denied any relationship with Vivian or jealousy resulting from her affections for McDowell. It makes since that Jordan would deny his involvement with her. McDowell was found dead in a ditch outside of Kansas City shortly after his arrival.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Crash Out!

The time frame for this book is just on the cusp of period I usually read. The story begins in 1939 with the Shopping Bag Gang from Hell's Kitchen, their exploits and capture for robbery, and the gang leaders' attempt to escape from Sing Sing.

It's a great read. Goewey has provided meticulous details for every facet of the book. He really shines describing the break out and the gang's capture. The 3rd degree given to the captured suspects is described in graphic detail. He also manages to be fair in his assessments of all the characters involved- police, criminals, guards, family members. The details in the book make it easy for the reader to have sympathy for Whitey Riordan (executed for the murder of a guard and a policeman during the robbery but not the actual killer); but, Goewey doesn't just gloss over the escape attempts victims and it's a rotten deal that they were killed in what was supposed to be a clean break.

Monday, December 03, 2007


I'm mad at everyone. No getting around it; today is one of those days that I'm sure I exist because people need to say the word NO.

The FBI can't find the record for the Cherryvale Bank Robbery investigation. Although the file is referenced in the Luer documents, it appears that it no longer exists. I was looking forward to reading that file on my next day off. But it's not to be. I'll make another request using the names of the other principals in the case, Charlie Mayes, Lee Flournoy, Lyman Ford, & Clarence Howard. I thought that since the agent referenced a file called George C. Robertson, Montgomery National Bank....that one must surely exist. Silly me.

It's a shame that so many records from the past were destroyed or are put someplace where no one can find them. I've been trying to find out if any original materials still exist for Vivian's arrest following the Picher, OK shootout. No such luck. If they do exist there isn't anyone in OK who knows where they are. But at least everyone I talked to was polite when they said no to me.

I'll look at it in the positive think of how much copying fees I'm saving by not having access to that file!