Sunday, May 22, 2011

Black Sheep Sunday: Identify Three Men As Kokomo Bank Bandits

Kokomo Daily Tribune, Kokomo, Indiana, April 3, 1925, p. 1


All Bonds Amounting To $6,200 Are Recovered From Men Under Arrest

Two of Suspects Expected to Arrive Here in Custody Tonight - Third Held at Detroit in Connection with Murder Case - Local Police, Pinkerton Operative and Ft. Wayne Police Captain Credited with Running Gang to Cover.

Officers Thompson and Rosenbrock of the Kokomo police department are expected to arrive in the city sometime before midnight tonight with two of the  most important prisoners the local bastille has had since the memorable days of John Pullen, Howard county's most notorious desperado.

The two prisoners are Harry Pierpont, 22, alias Frank Mason, and Thaddeus Skeer, 24 years old.

They are charged with being participants in the robbery of the South Kokomo bank on Friday, March 27.  They were arrested at Detroit Thursday on information given through the local police department and an operative of the Pinkerton Detective agency, who in turn got busy after receiving a red hot tip from the Ft. Wayne police department.  It is likely however that the arrests would have been effected within a short time if the tip had not been given.

A third man arrested at Detroit in connection with the robbery is James Roscoe Hayes, alias "Whitey," one member of the bandit gang who is more or less well known in this city.  Hayes was a singer with a company of dance musicians and vocalists, known as Sullivan's entertainers, who appeared for a time at a local theater several months ago.  Hayes was with the company at that time.

Hayes will not be brought back to Kokomo, at this time, as the Detroit authorities notified the Kokomo police that they meant to detain Hayes in the Michigan city where he is wanted as a material witness in a murder case there.

Pierpont, Skeer and Hayes were all positively identified this morning by A.E. Gorton, cashier of the South Kokomo bank; "Chic" Nelson, golf professional at the Country Club, and Vernon Shaw.

Nelson witnessed the bank robbery from the window of the drug store across the street, at the time recognizing in one of the men a person whom he had seen frequently in Kokomo.

Shaw was the man who entered the bank while the robbery was in progress and was struck by one of the bandits, who took from him $18 in money.

The member of the bandit gang identified by Nelson was Hayes, the singer.

Hayes is said to have served time in Leavenworth prison as a deserter from the army.

It was on the clue furnished by Nelson's recognition of Hayes that led Kokomo police to attempt to track him, finally locating him at a Detroit address which was under surveillance.

A ramification enters the local robbery at this point because of a similar robbery that was staged at Marion, Ind. last fall.  Since then, Grant county authorities have been searching for a man believed to be Pierpont, and for this reason the pursuit of the perpetrators of the Kokomo holdup was joined by the sheriff of Grant county and much information regarding the supposed bandits was gained through an interchange of data.

Then still another ramification opened up with the robbery of the bank at Laketon, a village in Wabash county, last Saturday, the day following the holdup here.  On the presumption that both crimes were committed by the same gang, the authorities of Wabash county also joined in the pursuit.

When it comes to tracing bank robbers, all trains run together.  Police officers, in a general way, are on the lookout for bank bandits pretty much all the time, if not for crimes committed in their own cities at least for bank robberies in neighboring cities, and when a bank bandit is caught and identified, at once he links up through various ramifications to the robberies elsewhere.  Usually there are one or more women involved and often it is through the women that the bold bandits come to grief.

The quartet who so successfully staged the holdup of the South Kokomo Bank last Friday have been admired for the masterly manner in which they staged the crime.  As a matter of fact their motions both prior to and since the robbery, as unearthed by the Kokomo police, reveal that they are, in the vernacular of the day, "dutch."  Any four men who are desperate enough and who are criminally bent could have staged the same sort of holdup and got away with it as successfully at any bank in Kokomo.

And it was a woman who led to the undoing of the three men now under arrest, two of whom are being brought to Kokomo.  Her set was unconscious on her part, but effective just the same.

Catching bank bandits is largely a matter of knowing who they are and, if possible, ascertaining who and where their "sweeties" hang out.

Having suspected Hayes and Pierpont as members of the gang, identifying the others was largely a matter of using information already known to deduce the likely identities of other members of the gang.  With this in hand, it was probable that Skeer would show up in Ft. Wayne because he had a girl there.

And so it happened.  Skeer did have a girl in Ft. Wayne, one Louise Brunner, and when he arranged for her to meet him in Detroit Thursday Captain Pappert of the Ft. Wayne police department got wind of the circumstances and the rest was merely a matter of trailing the girl to the "hangout" in the Michigan City.

Here credit must be given, too, to F.C. Huntington, Pinkerton operative, for prompt action in the matter.  Huntington has been in KokomoOmer L. Main and other officers of the Kokomo police department.

In short, the trails of all officers working on the case pointed so positively in the same direction that they were never in doubt as to the identities of the gang.

That at least three and possibly four or more members of the gang were in this city during a period of four and possibly five weeks preceding the robbery of the South Kokomo bank, was positively determined by the police today.

The three under arrest have been identified here as three men who had rooms with Mrs. Pearl Mulendore, [sic] 718 North Main street.  In this connection, Mrs. Mullendore is said to have visited C.T. Brown, justice of the peace and attorney at law, in behalf of Harry Pierpont the night of March 22, when he and Everett Bridgewater of Sellersburg, Ind., were arrested here on suspicion in connection with a missing car.  The men's possession of a Ford roadster in which they were apprehended was discovered to be legitimate and they were released.  The services of an attorney were not needed, but Attorney Brown's contact with Pierpont, one of the men arrested at Detroit, is told in detail further along in this account.

It was not until 3 or 3:30 o'clock Thursday afternoon that the Kokomo police had knowledge of the arrests at Detroit, and then through the sheriff of Wabash county who got his information, apparently, from a news dispatch going over the wires in his city.  Inquiries followed, however, and the facts were quickly ascertained.

This forenoon Charles Jinkerson, president of the South Kokomo bank, received the following telegram from A.E. Gorton, sent from Detroit:
"Hot dog! Bonds all recovered.  Tall guy man who hit Shaw, and maybe backroom man here.  Do not send my car to Peru.  Will come with officers.  Telephone mother news.  Sure feel good over outcome. - Gorton."
That Bridgewater was not captured with the other three men seems to be certain today.  That his apprehension is believed to be only a matter of short time was expressed confidently by the police and C.F. Huntington, Pinkerton operative connected with the Indianapolis branch of that agency.

Miss Brunner is not being held as an accomplice in the robbery here but as a material witness.

Just how much of the booty besides the bonds has been recovered seems uncertain today.  Gorton's telegram is authority for the statement that all the negotiable papers were recovered.  As for the amount of cash the three men had in their possession nothing definite is known.

However, the police learned today that the three carried large "rolls" while here and that they spent money lavishly on at least two different occasions.

They learned of a wild party at a restaurant in Vaile avenue, near the Plate Glass, where women were being entertained by three or four men believed to be members of the gang and three of whom are the ones under arrest.  This was prior to the robbery here.

At this party the proprietor of this restaurant expressed doubt over whether he would be repaid for his liberal entertainment, whereupon one of the men laid a handful of gold coins on the counter and told him to "take his money out of that" and return the change after the party broke up.  This party lasted until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning.

On another party at Anderson prior to the robbery here the three men being brought back from Detroit showed the women in their company that they were well supplied with money, which they were spending "like a drunken sailor."

That the three prisoners at Detroit waived extradition was a gratification to the police here, though the latter were prepared for this emergency.

A warrant was issued by Judge Joe Cripe of the city court which contained an interesting feature.  One of the charges against the three alleged bandits is petit larceny.  This is explained by the fact that Judge Marshall could not be located when the officers were in a hurry to obtain warrants, and Judge Cripe was resorted to.  His court has no jurisdiction over the larger crime of which the men are accused, but has jurisdiction over petit larceny cases, which are felonies and also extradition.  To meet the emergency and to arm the police who went to Detroit with warrants that would be valid to secure possession of the prisoners, the charge of petit larceny was made, based on the fact that the men who robbed the bank took eighteen dollars from Vernon Shaw.

That C.T. Brown, attorney and justice of the peace has room to congratulate himself would appear from facts elicited by police investigation.  Attorney Brown was visited at his office Sunday night, March 22 by Harry Pierpont, alias Frank Mason, one of the men in custody at Detroit, and who is accused of being one of the bandits robbing the South Kokomo bank March 27.  Attorney Brown has since identified Pierpont by a prison photograph of the man, shown him for that purpose.  It was a side view which convinced Attorney Brown that the man had been to his office on the date in question.

Attorney Brown was awakened shortly past midnight by a rap on the rear door of his office where he has a bed room, and asking who was there listened to a woman's voice who said that she had come to employ him in behalf of two men who had been arrested in front of her residence door.  Attorney Brown said that he would dress and open the door at once which he did.  Thereupon Mrs. Mulendore [sic] entered the office.  She and the attorney were acquainted as he had some months ago performed the marriage ceremony making her Mrs. Mulendore. [sic]  She explained that two men friends of a roomer at her home had been taken into police custody and they desired his services in a legal capacity.  Attorney Brown told the woman to bring them up.  Instead of the men apprehended appearing, the man now known as Harry Pierpont alias Frank Mason put in an appearance along with Dewey Elliott, a local man who was acting the part of a good Samaritan in assisting Mrs. Mulendore [sic] and her roomer Pierpont.

Pierpont took the lead in the conversation and explained that two of his friends were detained at police station and he wished to know if they needed bond and to ascertain the amount required and it would be forthcoming.  Attorney Brown inquired names but was told that these were immaterial as the person talking, afterwards learned to be Pierpont, had no charges against him and the name was of no consequence.  What names the apprehended men had given Pierpont said he did not know but that the police blotter could explain that point to the attorney.  The mystery of the matter impressed Attorney Brown that it was probably a violation of the liquor law.  He then made no special effort to inquire into names and real facts.  When he visited headquarters he was told that the suspects had been released.  He did not even know upon what charge the men had been held, and returned to his office to find Pierpont.  That man was gone.

Pierpont had given Attorney Brown a gold certificate for $100 and the attorney observed that he had a fat roll of bills in his bill fold but of course of what denomination he did not know.  Dewey Elliott alone remained.  Attorney Brown's phone rang and a voice asked what disposition had been made of the cases against the suspects and the attorney was told to deduct his bill for his services from the certificate and return the balance to Mr. Elliott.

Attorney Brown informed Mr. Elliott that he would rather return the certificate to the man who handed it to him as he could not give the change required, $90 in money.  Attorney Brown having fixed his fee at $10.

Elliott volunteered that he would pay the attorney fee and get it off of Pierpont as soon as he went back to the house.  Elliott thereupon paid Attorney Brown his fee, giving him two five dollar bills and left the office.

Attorney Brown thought nothing more of the incident until he heard of the bank robbery when his mind ran back to the mysterious visit.

He learned that the suspects had been picked up by the police for auto theft but as the facts did not justify detention they were released.  Attorney Brown then related the details of the mysterious conduct in his office.

He also drew a breath of relief.  He had in his safe which was unlocked $75 which had been deposited that evening for bond after banking hours.  He did not make a practice of keeping money on hands but happened to have this amount that particular evening.  It was within easy reach of the suspected bank bandit.

Cousin Harry PIERPONT (1902-1934) was captured in Detroit and brought back to Kokomo to stand trial for the robbery of the South Kokomo bank, starting a chain of events which I hope to further chronicle.  Pearl Elliott, nee Mullendore, operated a house of prostitution in Kokomo.  Dewey Elliott was her husband.

Black Sheep Sunday – create a post with the main focus being an ancestor with a “shaded past.” Bring out your ne’er-do-wells, your cads, your black widows, your horse thieves and tell their stories. And don’t forget to check out the International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists (IBSSG). This is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.

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