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Serial Killer ‘Texas Jim’ Baker, Part Two

Home | Feature Stories | Serial Killer ‘Texas Jim’ Baker, Part Two

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Click Here to Read Part OneOr Click Here to Read All in One with Bibliography

The Investigation

After Baker left, the two men loosened their ropes and discovered Gaw’s body while searching for a telephone to call police. Detectives and lab supervisors were able to piece together that Gaw’s killer must be a former employee because he knew where to find the cash box and where the poison was secured. For some reason, the killer did not take Gaw’s money, nor did he remove the valuable platinum bars the lab stored which were worth thousands of dollars. They were also able to quickly deduce that Gaw was killed with poison, which was odd since Mayhew and McCauley said the killer had a gun. Detectives wondered why did he use poison instead of a gun.

After the two drivers described the man that robbed him, lab supervisors were able to narrow that down to three men, one of whom was Jim Baker. An employee photograph of Baker was used to make a positive identification with the truck drivers.

When police searched Jim Baker’s room that morning, they were horrified to learn what kind of man they were dealing with.

“Convinced by their discoveries in Baker’s room that they are dealing with a psychopathic case—the police began the nationwide distribution of circulars containing Baker’s photograph and description, as well as a warning that he is a dangerous man known to be armed with a dirk and a pistol,” the New York Times reported the day after the murder. Like most newspapers during for that era, the Times maintained a certain decorum for their readers. Some of the more delicate topics of humanity were off-limits, and if they couldn’t be avoided, they used code-words the general public understood. What the Times didn’t tell their readers was that in addition to being a psychopath, Jim Baker was a sexual sadist. A 1937 detective magazine had no such problems reporting on what police found in his apartment.

“Vials of deadly acids stood in rows on a shelf. A large bottle, falsely labeled, contained cyanide of potassium. There were ingredients for manufacturing prussic acid, one of the most virulent of poisons. Several notebooks in Baker’s handwriting gave details about the effects of various toxins. Other jottings dealt with abnormal sex psychology, the emphasis being on sadism and flagellation rather than on homosexuality. Indeed, the youth’s passion for women manifestly was second only to interest in poisons. Prints of nude girls lined the walls, and a sketch book was filled with obscene drawings by himself. He had hoarded scores of letters from women, with many lascivious passages being underlined in red.”

Police claimed they discovered enough potassium cyanide in his room to kill 100,000 people. It was a discovery that seemed to negate Baker’s claim that he had to return to the laboratory to steal more poison—unless he was planning mass murder on a level that would have been history making. It was just the kind of thing a narcissistic psychopath seeking infamy might plan.

Read more »

Mug Shot Monday! HCD Video

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! HCD Video

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Music:  “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” – Blind Willie Johnson, 1897-1945.

I thought this recording, which was done around 1927, would go great with 10 vintage mug shots of prisoners from McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary taken between 1899 to 1911. I put this together over the weekend. The lyrics are posted below.

 

Nobody’s fault but mine,
Nobody’s fault but mine
If I don’t read it my soul be lost

I have a bible in my home,
I have a bible in my home
If I don’t read it my soul be lost

Mmm, father he taught me how to read,
Father he taught me how to read
If I don’t read it my soul be lost, nobody’s fault but mine

Ah, Lord, Lord, nobody’s fault but mine
If I don’t read it my soul be lost

Ah, I have a bible of my own,
I have a bible of my own
If I don’t read it my soul be lost

Oh, mother she taught me how to read,
Mother she taught me how to read
If I don’t read it my soul be lost, nobody’s fault but mine

Ah, Lord, Lord, nobody’s fault but mine
If I don’t read it my soul be lost

And sister she taught me how to read,
Sister she taught me how to read
If I don’t read it my soul be lost, nobody’s fault but mine

Ah, mmm, Lord, Lord, nobody’s fault but mine
If I don’t read it my soul’d be lost, mmm

Blind Willie Johnson on Wikipedia

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Serial Killer “Texas Jim” Baker, Part One

Home | Feature Stories | Serial Killer “Texas Jim” Baker, Part One

 

This is part one of a two part story that is 9,500 words long. Part two will be posted on Friday, November 14.

 

Author’s Note: “Texas Jim” Baker was a serial killer who used poison and pistols to murder nine men around the world between 1924 and 1929. After he was captured in February, 1930, for the murder of a chemical laboratory employee, Baker bragged about these murders “with lip-smacking gusto” during several confessions to investigators and newspaper reporters. He thrived on the attention he received and often embellished his life story and the murders by describing them with overtly gruesome details meant to shock his listeners into thinking he was a special kind of monster. By doing so, Baker also hoped to increase his celebrity criminal status and gain more attention for himself. Several months after he was sentenced for one of his murders, International Features Syndicate paid him to write his autobiography. The story they published was filled with lies, half-truths, self-pity and Baker’s trademark overstated joy he felt while poisoning his victims. Through my research of New York newspapers, and five true crime magazine articles published after his trial, I believe I have separated fact from fiction as well as anyone could. Below, Baker’s “autobiography” is followed by facts gleaned from the investigation and his incarceration as reported by New York newspapers.

Wednesday, February 19, 1930

The Detroit detectives scrutinized the young man in front of them and didn’t know whether to believe him or not. If the story he told them was true, then twenty-four-year-old[1] James Baker was one of the worst mass murderers[2] they’d ever seen. He seemed arrogant, almost as if he was bragging about his confession to poisoning eight men around the world. They were used to liars in their line of work, but if “Texas Jim” Baker was a liar, he was one of the biggest. However, the liars they knew avoided specifics. They lacked details. All the made-up stories prisoners told were meant to get them out of trouble, not sent to the electric chair.

The confession Baker told them was rich in detail.

His claim to killing seven other men was news to them but they were sure they had the right man for the 1928 poison slaying of Henry Gaw, an employee at the Guggenheim Metallurgical Research Laboratory in New York City on the morning of December 28. His photograph, description, and tattoos on his right forearm matched the James Baker that New York City police were hunting the last fourteen months. However, since Texas Jim hadn’t killed anyone in Michigan that they knew about, this homicidal maniac was New York’s problem, not theirs. And as soon as he could be extradited, they would have to deal with him.

 Cropped-Jim-Baker-on-Train

Texas Jim Baker, 1930

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Mug Shot Monday! Opium Smuggler Wesley Sischo, 1918 and 1935

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! Opium Smuggler Wesley Sischo, 1918 and 1935

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Wesley-L-Sischo

 

Wesley Leroy Sischo was a former maritime customs agent who decided it was more profitable to work on the other side of the law. During World War I, he began working with a Seattle Chinese gang to smuggle opium into Washington State.

As the captain of a small coastal vessel, it was his job to sail out and pick up floating packages of opium that were dropped a few miles offshore by ships arriving from Asia. He would then bring the drugs the rest of the way to shore and load them into trucks.

In early 1918, he was caught trying to smuggle opium into Port Townsend, Washington. Instead of charging him with narcotics smuggling, the federal prosecutor in his case charged him with failure to declare on his customs claims document that he had opium on board. Sicho was convicted and sentenced to two years in federal prison.

However, and this is where the story gets interesting, Sischo appealed his conviction with the legal argument that he was not required to declare the opium since it was an illegal substance. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and overturned his conviction.

Outraged, the federal prosecutor took the case to the United States Supreme Court which reversed the lower court ruling by 1923. Sischo managed to stay out of prison another two years but eventually began serving out his sentence at McNeil Island prison in 1925 and was released in 1926 or 1927. If he had done his time when originally sentenced, with good behavior he would have been released in 1919.

But that wasn’t the last time the federal court system would deal with Wesley Leroy Sischo. When he got out of prison he returned to his old ways. Here’s where the story gets interesting again.

A Port of Seattle customs agent by the name of Melvin Hanks went undercover as a “corrupt agent” working for a Chinese gang led by a man named Chin Wah. Chin Wah was buying opium in Hong Kong for $2 a tin, and selling it on the West Coast for $100 a tin. That same tin when smuggled to Chicago was worth $150 a tin.

Before he went “corrupt,” Hanks was costing the Chinese gang a lot of money when he initiated new protocols that made it more difficult to smuggle opium into Seattle. Agent Hanks disrupted this practice by having Coast Guard vessels meet ships arriving from Asia offshore and escort them into port. This made it more difficult for them to drop their opium loads in the ocean for pick-up by the coastal vessels.

Tired of losing money, Chin Wah made several bribe offers to Melvin Hanks for a cut of the profits if he could get keep the Coast Guard vessels away from his ships that were transporting opium. Finally, Hanks agreed and became a double agent. To show his loyalty, Hanks was even initiated into the gang by swearing a blood oath to be loyal to Chin Wah.

For the first several shipments that made it ashore, Hanks “earned” pay offs ranging from $1,800 to $2,000 with the promise of $6,000 in the future. Until then, his main task was to arrange with the Coast Guard for their ships to hang back. However, in order to learn who was bringing in the opium to shore, Hanks needed to work his way up in the gang. Rumors circulated that a mysterious man named “Sea Ghost” was the gang’s top smuggler.

To find out more, Hanks accused Chin Wah of holding out on him. Chin Wah responded by calling together a clandestine meeting with the agenda of arranging higher payoffs for their man in the inside. As a result of that meeting, Hanks was able to learn the names of more gang members and associates. He also traveled to St. Louis, Detroit, and Chicago where he personally delivered opium to local Chinese gang leaders.

His trip to the Midwest was very profitable and Chin Wah held a large banquet in Hanks honor. At that banquet, the double agent got to meet the “Sea Ghost.” It was Wesley Sischo.

A short time later, Hanks and his team of customs agent sprang their trap during a large delivery that took place on the Seattle docks. Thirteen people from Seattle to Detroit were arrested, including Chin Wah and Wesley Sischo.

Chin Wah was later sentenced to eleven years in prison and fined $15,000. Sischo was sentenced to six years in prison and fined $10,000. He was paroled after serving nearly four years.

Thirty-eight years later, Melvin Hanks’ memoir was published and is available on Amazon. NARC: The Adventures of Federal Agent.

 

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Vuco Perovich, Convicted 1905, Pardoned 1927

Home | Prison | Vuco Perovich, Convicted 1905, Pardoned 1927

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 I just stumbled across the incredible story of Vuco Perovich, below, who was sentenced to death in 1905 for a murder he didn’t commit. He was later given a presidential pardon in 1927. The story of what happened to him between those years can be read by following the link below.

He was a very interesting man who has a very interesting story.

http://www.pardonpower.com/2011/11/perovich-case-gentlemen-prefer-death.html

Vuco-Perovich

 

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Dying for Survival, 1841

Home | Short Feature Story | Dying for Survival, 1841

 

This story was the inspiration for several movies, and there is a book about this tragedy called The Wreck of the William Brown. There are links to further reading at the end of the story.

Originally Published: “The Celebrated Trial in Boston of Sailor Holmes Who Threw Fourteen Passengers Overboard From an Overcrowded Life Boat,” by Thomas Samuel Duke, Celebrated Criminal Cases of America, The James H. Barry Company, 1910.

 

On March 13, 1841, the American ship William Brown left Liverpool for Philadelphia. In addition to a large cargo, the vessel carried sixty-five passengers and a crew of seventeen men.

At 10 p. m. on Monday, April 19, when two hundred and fifty miles from Cape Race, Newfoundland, the vessel struck an iceberg and began to fill so rapidly that it was evident she would soon go down.

The “long boat” and “jolly boat” were then cleared away and lowered. The captain, second mate, seven of the crew and one passenger entered the jolly boat, and the first mate, thirty-two passengers and the remainder of the crew entered the long boat.

Thirty-one passengers were left on the ship, and they all begged the captain and mate to take them into the lifeboats, but the first mate replied: “Poor souls, you’re only going down a short time before we do.”

One hour later the ship went to the bottom and the thirty-one passengers perished.

The two lifeboats remained together during the night, but at daybreak the captain decided to take his boat in another direction, but before leaving the long boat he instructed all on board to obey the first mate’s orders.

The first mate then informed the captain that his boat was leaking badly, and that it would soon be necessary to cast lots to determine who should be thrown overboard.

The captain replied: “Let that be the last resort.”

During Tuesday [April 20, 1841] the rain came down in torrents. The long boat was in constant danger of being struck by floating ice. The sea grew heavier and the passengers, many of whom were attired in their nightclothes, suffered intensely from the cold weather.

The men took turns at rowing and baling out the boat, while the terror-stricken women huddled together in an effort to keep warm.

At 10 o’clock Tuesday night the men were completely exhausted from exposure, exertion and lack of nourishment. Finally the mate, who observed that the boat was slowly filling with water, cried out in despair: “This work won’t do. Help me, God! Men, go to work, the boat is sinking.”

The women passengers became hysterical and many were down on their knees offering up prayers.

The first mate then said: “Men, you must go to work or we shall all perish.”

They “went to work” and threw fourteen passengers overboard, but the crew was not molested.

The first four men to be thrown overboard were named Riley, Duffy, Charles Conlin and Frank Askin. The latter’s two sisters were in the boat, and they pleaded for their brother’s life, but all in vain.

The next two to go overboard were Askin’s sisters, but the evidence is conflicting as to whether they were thrown overboard or whether their sacrifice was an act of self-devotion to their brother. It was admitted that when Sailor Holmes seized their brother, the sisters expressed a wish to follow him.

Askin struggled violently, and the fact that the boat was not upset in the struggle was used against Holmes afterward to prove the improbability of its capsizing.

The “work” continued until fourteen men were forced into a watery grave. Many asked for and were granted time to offer up a prayer before being cast into the sea.

On Wednesday morning the weather cleared up and the ship Crescent was sighted by the occupants of the long boat. The shipwrecked people were rescued and brought to Philadelphia.

After six days of indescribable suffering, the captain and his party were picked up by a French fishing boat.

When some of the passengers finally reached their destination of Philadelphia, they filed a complaint with the District Attorney. Sailor Alexander Holmes was the only crewman to be found in the city, so he was the only one charged. He was accused of murdering Frank Askin. A grand jury refused to indict him on that charge, so it was reduced to manslaughter. Holmes was prosecuted under an act of April 30, 1790, which provided:

“Any seaman who shall commit manslaughter upon the high seas, on conviction shall be imprisoned not exceeding three years and a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars.” Holmes was charged with the unlawful, but not malicious, killing of Askin.

During the trial, it was proven that he was the last man to leave the wrecked ship, and, when he entered the long boat, he found a widowed mother crying for her sick daughter, Isabelle, who had been inadvertently left on the doomed ship. Holmes immediately climbed up the ship’s side and, at great peril to his life, ran astern, located the sick girl, and placing her over his shoulder climbed down the ship’s side and restored her to her mother.

With the exception of a shirt and trousers, he gave all of his clothing to the women in the boat and uttered words of encouragement to the remainder of the passengers and crew.

It was proven that the first mate lost courage and turned the command of the boat over to Holmes, who immediately changed the course, thus enabling him to sight the ship Crescent.

Holmes’ defense was that the homicide was necessary for self-protection and for the protection of the lives that were spared.

The prosecution claimed that the circumstances did not justify the action taken; that many of the persons thrown overboard struggled violently and, as the boat did not capsize then, there was little chance of it occurring under any of the other conditions then existing.

The court ruled that: “Extreme peril is not enough to justify a sacrifice such as this was, nor would even the certainty of death be enough, if death were yet prospective. It must be instant.

“The sailor is bound to undergo whatever hazard is necessary to preserve the boat and passengers, even to the extent of sacrificing his life.

“While it is admitted that sailor and sailor may lawfully struggle with each other for the plank which can save but one, we think that, if the passenger is on the plank, even ‘the law of necessity’ justifies not the sailor who takes it from him.”

The jury deliberated sixteen hours and then returned a verdict of guilty with a recommendation for mercy.

The defendant was sentenced to six months in the Eastern Pennsylvania Penitentiary and a fine of $20, but the penalty was subsequently remitted.

Further Reading:

http://williambrownshipwreck.blogspot.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Brown_%28ship%29

 

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Mug Shot Monday! John Elgin Johnson, 1953

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! John Elgin Johnson, 1953

 

John Elgin Johnson, 1919-1953.

John Elgin Johnson, 1919-1953.

John Elgin Johnson, 1919 to 1953, was a career criminal who ended up in the federal prison system for robbing banks. After a failed escape attempt from Fort Leavenworth that left one guard severely injured, Johnson was sent to Alcatraz in 1944. He served nine years there and was released in 1953. During his time in Alcatraz, he underwent a religious conversion that, although sincere, did not stick.

After he was released, he was suspected of murdering a new friend he had made after he had gotten out. The FBI began hunting him and caught up with him while he was in a telephone booth inside a movie theater in Baltimore, Maryland.

According to an interesting story written by the FBI, here is what happened next.

“Inside the booth, Johnson, his criminal cunning ever alert, sensed his impending apprehension. Two shots rang out from the booth. One bullet crashed into the abdomen of agent J. Brady Murphy. Another tore into the hip of Murphy’s fellow agent. All four agents opened fire on the phone booth; and, though mortally wounded, Agent Murphy emptied his revolver at the figure of the desperate man behind the glass and wood partition. Fifteen times the agents fired, and 15 deadly slugs ripped into the booth. Johnson toppled toward the floor, but his head, crashing through the broken glass of the door, held him partly erect. Before he stopped moving forever he tried vainly once or twice to lift his head.”

When the shootout occurred, Johnson was on the phone with Los Angeles Mirror reporter, Sidney Hughes.

The entire story of John Elgin Johnson’s life can be found, here, on the FBI’s website.

 

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The Cupcake Killer, 1942

Home | Short Feature Story | The Cupcake Killer, 1942

 

This story was written by NYPD detective Captain Henry Flattery, Retired, for Front Page Detective magazine, November, 1955. It was part of a collection of stories called, “Dumbells I have Known.” which poked fun at some stupid criminals. He was with the NYPD for thirty years and worked on many important cases from that time including the still famous Ruth Snyder – Judd Grey case. – At the bottom is a link to another nice feature story about the case.

 

Sometimes a man who murders in haste is smart enough to realize that all the signs are going to point to him, so he tries to cover up by planting misleading evidence or incriminating someone else. But time is always working against him and he invariably bungles the job. At best, he gains only a few extra hours of freedom. Here is a good example of that:

During World War II, there was a man we called the “Cupcake Killer.” He got an unexpected break when his victim inadvertently threw suspicion on another man. In spite of that, and in spite of the Cupcake Killer’s clever ruse to throw us off, he was arrested within 24 hours. He had killed in an angry frenzy and left a calling card.

On a cold winter night in 1942, Patrolman Joseph Doyle was walking past the Dutch Reformed Church in Queens when he saw a light flicker in the dark churchyard. For a moment he stared into the blackness, wondering if he could have been mistaken. Then the light flared again. Doyle jumped the fence. Instantly the light died and there was the sound of running footsteps up the gravel drive. Doyle searched the area with his flashlight but could find no one.

He went back to where he had first seen the beam of light. No windows were broken in the church. There was no indication that anyone had tried to break in. Then Doyle saw the woman. She was lying just off the path. A green scarf was tightly knotted around her throat, which had been viciously slashed. She was young and had been pretty once. Now she wasn’t.

Ten minutes later, the churchyard was filled with policemen. Searchlights were set up and the medical examiner began inspecting the body.

As I listened to Officer Doyle’s story, it struck me that the killer must have lit some matches after the woman was dead: he wouldn’t require any light to strangle her or cut her throat, and even if he did she’d be unlikely to hold still while he used his hands to light a match. That being the case, the killer must have been looking for something, her purse if he was a mugger, something that belonged to him if he wasn’t.

“Cover every inch of the yard,” I instructed my men. “I’m looking for a calling card.”

But, except for a bakery carton of cupcakes, nothing was turned up. There were no signs of a struggle.

The medical examiner made his report: “She probably died a few minutes before Doyle spotted her. Strangled with the scarf. Those cuts are funny. Not one big one but a whole series of little ones, as if the killer had used a small knife. And not a very sharp one at that. No matter. The scarf’s what killed her.”

By this time, a crowd had gathered outside the churchyard although it was almost 2 a.m. Hoping to get a lead on the dead woman’s identity, I asked them to file by and have a look at her. They did, but it brought no results.

Back at headquarters, I went through a pile of Missing Persons reports. There was nothing matching a description of our murder victim. It seemed to me that if the woman had been carrying a box of cupcakes, she might have a family. But if she had a family, why hadn’t they reported her missing?

Other things weren’t adding up, either. The case didn’t follow the pattern of the usual muggings. Muggers didn’t use scarves, they used their forearms. And they certainly didn’t hack away at their victims’ throats with a dull knife. They weren’t interested in killing, only in stealing. They’d kill if they had to, but they wouldn’t stop to cut someone’s throat after they’d gotten what they wanted by strangling.

No, it looked like our killer had planned on murdering the girl, then tried to cover up by making it look like a mugging. If that was so, whatever the killer was looking for in the darkness must have belonged to him—and must be important to us.

Now a clearer, more logical picture began shaping up. The girl had entered the churchyard with the killer. She knew him.

At 4:30 that morning, a patrolman found the victim’s purse five blocks from the churchyard. It matched her outfit and contained identification papers and a commutation ticket to Freeport, Long Island. We phoned Nassau County police, outlined the crime and asked for a check on a Carol Dugan of Freeport.

Meanwhile, another discovery had been made. In the churchyard, detectives had uncovered the calling card I was hoping for; a small, bone-handled knife. It still had blood on it.

Carol-Duggan-Tuttle

Victim Carol Duggan Tuttle

By morning, we had the report on the victim. Her name was Carol Dugan Tuttle. She worked in a large chain store not far from the church. Her husband was on his way to police headquarters.

Now things began to move quickly. Tuttle, obviously shaken by his wife’s death, answered all our questions forthrightly.

Why hadn’t he notified the police when his wife didn’t get home by, say, midnight?

“She stayed out late pretty often. I thought she’d missed the last train. I had to put the kids to bed. Then I went to bed myself.”

Did he know of anyone who might want to kill her?

“Yes. That is, someone tried to kill her a couple of weeks ago. She came home about six in the morning, all beat up and cut. She said a sailor named Wright, John or Joe Wright, who used to work in her place had done it. She promised me she wouldn’t fool around anymore.”

At a tavern near the churchyard, one of several we had been checking, we began unfolding the mystery of Carol’s last hours. She had been there the evening before, drinking with a man the bartender knew only as ‘Jim.’ The bartender remembered the box of cupcakes.

“Was Jim a sailor?”

“No, a civilian.”

A check of the store where Carol had worked turned up a youngster who knew Jim well: “He’s James Mallon. Used to work here. He and Carol were sweet on each other.”

“Do you know a John or Joe Wright?”

“No.”

By now, I was convinced that the killer had tried to throw us a curve ball by making the murder look like a mugging. The question that remained, therefore, was which of Carol Tuttle’s after-hours friends, Mallon or Wright, was our man. We tried Mallon first.

A tall, rawboned young man, he was shocked when we told him Carol was dead.

“But I was with her last night,” Mallon exclaimed.

“Yes, we know. Let’s hear about it.”

“Well, we went to this tavern where we always used to meet. We had a few drinks and talked. About midnight or a little after, we left. Carol went to the railroad station and I came home.”

“You didn’t walk through the churchyard with her?”

“No.”

“Do you know a sailor named Wright?”

“No.”

“What about Carol’s husband? Know him?”

Now Mallon looked even more shocked: “What do you mean, Carol’s husband? She’s not married. She was going to marry me.”

We took Mallon to headquarters, then began checking Carol’s friends in Freeport. We hit pay dirt with the first one, a girlfriend, who remembered the time Carol had been beaten.

“She came to my house before she went home that night,” the girl explained. “She said she was afraid to let her husband see her like that. I persuaded her it was best to face the music so she went home.”

“Did she tell you who did it?”

“She didn’t have to. I know this Jim Mallon she goes with. He has a terrible temper.”

“What about the sailor, Wright?”

The woman shook her head. “I don’t know of any sailor.”

James-Mallon

James Mallon talking to a NYPD detective. He might be Cosmo Kramer’s father.

We went to work on Mallon but he insisted that he had left Carol shortly after midnight, that he had never known she had a husband and three children by a previous marriage. Then came the big break, a letter we found among Carol’s things. It was from Mallon and it read: “I know you are thinking of the children, but you don’t owe Harry anything.”

It was pretty clear now. Afraid to tell her husband about Mallon, Carol had invented the sailor named Wright—someone Tuttle could never check up on because he didn’t exist. As for Mallon, he was acting the injured innocent because if he could convince us that he didn’t know about Carol’s husband, he would have no motive for killing her. The letter made a liar out of him and a killer, as well. He had beaten Carol up because she wouldn’t leave her husband for him and he had murdered her for the same reason.

We were ready to play our ace. Calling in witness after witness, we showed them the little bone-handled knife we found in the churchyard and asked if they recognized it. Every one of them who knew Mallon identified it as the one he always carried on his key chain. Result: we had placed Mallon in the churchyard in contradiction to his statement; we knew what he was looking for when he lit the matches.

Caught dead to rights, Mallon finally confessed to Carol Tuttle’s murder and was given a 20 years to life sentence. He had gotten every break a killer could ask for: a phony suspect, a misleading motive and a chance to get away unseen. But he had stacked the cards too high against himself. He had killed in haste; he got plenty of opportunity to repent at leisure.

Murder in the Church Yard,” by  Edward Radin, Milwaukee Sentinel, July 10, 1955, pages 31 and 32.

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Small Town, Vigilante Justice in 1907

Home | Rediscovered Crime News | Small Town, Vigilante Justice in 1907

 

While searching my newspaper archive sources for specific stories, or just on fishing expeditions for new ones, I often come across stories about a lynch mob serving up vigilante justice to an unconvicted murderer. In most cases, the lynch mob would storm the jail where the prisoner was held and grab him while others held their guns on the local sheriff and his  deputies, or, like in the case below, they would capture him while he was being transported somewhere else.

Below is just one of the many stories I come across of lynch mob justice. I have placed a map at the bottom of the newspaper article for a reference. Also at the bottom of the story are a few more links to 1907 newspapers with more reports on this specific incident.

Back Story to Lynching:

A farmhand working for the Copple family near Rosalie, Nebraska, got drunk one Saturday night in May of 1907, and just decided to kill his employers, Walter and Eva Copple. After Loris Higgins, using the alias Fred Burke, grabbed a shotgun and went outside, he called for Walter to come out of the house. When he did, he shot the farmer with both barrels. When Eva came running out to help her husband, he fired both barrels at her while the couple’s seven children watched in horror.

Higgins then stole $900 from his employer, sexually assaulted the Copple’s 13 year-old daughter, and threw the bodies of his victims into a hog pen where the pigs disfigured their corpses. He then saddled up a mule and rode off.

Higgins was captured one day later and held in the county jail in Omaha, Nebraska. When he was being transported to Pender, Nebraska, the county seat of Thurston County, where the crime took place, he was accosted by a vigilante mob when his train reached Bancroft, Nebraska, which is 11 miles from Pender.

“Higgins Is Lynched”

- Red Cloud Chief, Red Cloud, Nebraska, Aug. 30, 1907, page 7.

Loris Higgins, alias Fred Burke, who shot and killed Mr. and Mrs. Walter Copple, farmers of Rosalie, Nebraska, [near the Iowa border] May 12, was lynched one mile from the town by a mob of twenty masked men.

Higgins reached Bancroft [seven miles from Rosalie] on the Northwestern train in custody of Sheriff Sid Young of Thurston Country and a deputy, at 8:37 a.m. from Omaha while he had been confined in the Douglas County jail since his arrest soon after the murder. The masked men met the train, brushed the sheriff and his deputy to one side, threw a rope around the murderer’s neck and led him forth. Ho was placed in a wagon and hauled to the Logan Bridge one mile west of town where the lynching was performed.

The rope was tied to the highest beam of the bridge and after the victim made a statement he was thrown by the mob into the air and reached the end of the rope with a terrible sound, snapping his neck and producing instant death. Forty bullets were then shot into his body which was left dangling in the air for the officers to care tor, while the executioners unmasked themselves and scattered in all directions in the timber which skirts the scene of the lynching.

The whole affair was performed with little excitement and was over before most of the people of Bancroft knew it was contemplated.

Sheriff Young, finding himself confronted by a resolute mob of masked men offered no forcible resistance to the taking of the prisoner. The sheriff was visibly affected by the demonstration, far more so than was Higgins. Higgins appeared little concerned, and when the rope which was to send him to his death in a few minutes was slipped over his head, he did not even flush or move, but stepped lightly from the train to the platform, surrounded by the masked crowd. He prayed as he alighted and continued his prayer until the train had gone and he was loaded into a wagon which was standing conveniently by.

Deputy Sheriff Knocked Down.

The sheriff’s deputy pulled his revolver when the mob appeared. The men told him to put up his gun and when he refused they knocked it out of his hand and knocked the deputy down and told him “not to be foolish.”

None of the mob had much to say to the victim and he was not assaulted until the bridge was reached. At the bridge, after the rope was tied and just before he was thrown into the air, he was given permission to make a statement. He availed himself of the opportunity saying he had long ago repented for his terrible deed, that he had made his peace with his God and was now ready to go and face Him, feeling that all would be well hereafter, he said he had tried atone for his wanton murder, but had no excuse to offer as he had no cause for committing it. He reavowed his faith in the religion he had found through the help of the “good women” in Omaha who came to his cell and prayed with him.

Hard to Fix Responsibility

He asked God to bless the little children whom he had left without parents by his deed and then to the I, masked men alum’ him he requested that a note be sent his mother asking her to write to his father at Nanta, Idaho.

The possibility of finding out the names of those who formed the mob is exceedingly remote. No one is standing on street corners condemning them nor professing that he knows a single man who engaged in the affair. So far as Sheriff Young is concerned, he does not appear to know them.

Thurston County authorities declare that they have proof that Higgins mistreated the thirteen year-old daughter.

More Reading:

Murder Near Pender,” Omaha Daily Bee, May 14, 1907, page 1. This story details the crime after it happened, and before the arrest of Higgins, alias Fred Burke.

Burke in Omaha Jail,” Omaha Daily Bee, May 16, 1907, pages 1. This story is about his capture and placement in jail.

Higgins Mother Hears News,” The Norfolk Weekly News-Journal, Aug. 30, 1907, page 8. This story is about the reaction of Higgins’ mother when she heard the news her son had been lynched.

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Mug Shot Monday! George Edward Cole, 1957

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! George Edward Cole, 1957

George-Edward-Cole

George Edward Cole

George Edward Cole shot and killed a San Francisco Police Sergeant during a hold-up of a tavern on Dec. 30, 1956. He was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List on Feb. 25, 1957. He was captured two years later in Des Moines, Iowa after a citizen identified his girlfriend, Yvonne Conley, 45, on a wanted poster. A magazine article later described her as 4′ 11, and dumpy, and declared she was an odd match for Cole who was 14 years younger than she was.

yvonne-conley

My archival sources that I rely on do not have any more information about George Edward Cole after a jury selection for his trial in October, 1959. It just stops after that and I have no clear picture of what happened to him. His name does not appear on a comprehensive list of inmates executed in California before 1967. He also does not appear in the online California Death Records database as George Edward Cole or George E Cole with the correct age. I will have to contact the California State Archives to dig up  more information on what happened to him.

A little more information can be read about him here:

The second photograph, below, was taken nearly a decade after the mug shot featured on his FBI circular.

George-Edward-Cole-2

 

Photo Sources:

AP Wirephoto. [Photograph 2012.201.B0231.0668], Photograph, February 27, 1957; digital image, (http://gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc197502/ : accessed June 24, 2014), Oklahoma Historical Society, The Gateway to Oklahoma History, http://gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

[Photograph 2012.201.B0231.0666], Photograph, July 8, 1959; digital image, (http://gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc220712/ : accessed June 25, 2014), Oklahoma Historical Society, The Gateway to Oklahoma History, http://gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.