Sunday, August 14, 2011

Black Sheep Sunday: Kokomo Woman Was Friend of John Dillinger


By Bob Hullinger

John Dillinger, Indiana's most notorious gunman, reportedly had a Kokomo woman as one of his best friends during the height of his crime spree in the early 1930s.

However, the woman, Mrs. Pearl Elliott, wasn't the only contact Dillinger had with Kokomo.  The Mooresville, Ind., bandit once spent a couple of days here and one of his friends robbed a Kokomo bank.

Dillinger's known visit here was legal - he was seeking parole for one of his friends.  Reports have it that Dillinger was in Kokomo other times too, hiding out.

Mrs. Elliott was said to be involved closely with Dillinger and his gang.  It was reported she was treasurer for the gang and served as arbitrator during arguments which occurred among its members.

The Kokomo woman, listed as a roadhouse proprietress during her stay in Kokomo, had several run-ins with law enforcement officers here.  According to police records, several cases involving violation of public morals were listed against her.

She figured prominently in the 1924 robbery of the South Kokomo Bank and at the time was operating a place of questionable standing at Washington and Madison Streets.

Supposedly she harbored the gangsters who robbed the Kokomo bank, prior to the robbery.  The gangsters, headed by Harry Pierpont, obtained $4,828 in cash, $4,300 in liberty bonds and $2,000 in unnegotiable securities.

Pierpont and his associates were captured later in Detroit and brought her for trial and were convicted.  Pierpont escaped from prison, then "rescued" Dillinger from a Lima, Ohio, jail, after murdering the sheriff.

Kokomo's Chief of Police, Clint Jackson, traveled to Tucson, Ariz., to question Pierpont about activities concerning the Elliott woman, after Pierpont had been recaptured in that city.

The bandit told Jackson that he had stopped at the place on North Washington Street, formerly occupied by the Elliott woman, and had kicked open the door.  He found her gone, but talked briefly with a woman who apparently was keeping the place.

Although Mrs. Elliott was never captured by the police, the Department of Justice sent posters all over the nation, carrying her picture and listing her as wanted in connection with Dillinger and his gang.

After Dillinger was killed by FBI men July 22, 1934, Mrs. Elliott traveled to Mooresville to view the body in open defiance of authorities.

According to one newsman, Mrs. Elliott went to the funeral home in the company of four other women, all associated with the Dillinger gang.

The women drove a smart, maroon-colored coupe within hand-shaking distance of state troopers and detectives, then joined the line of those waiting to see the body.

One reporter for a wire service centered his story around the Kokomo woman.  "Official Indiana State Police circulars asking the apprehension of Pearl Elliott are in a hundred cities," he pointed out, "The woman has long been sought as the advance fixer and brains as well as treasurer of the Dillinger gang.  It is believed that this former proprietress of a fancy Kokomo establishment engaged apartments for the Dillinger-Pierpont bandits before they came in to 'pull their jobs', directed the division of loot, and acted as arbiter in the inter-gang quarrels."

The reporter claimed he approached the Elliott woman and asked, "What brings you here?"  She hesitated, and then answered, "I came for a last look at Johnny.  He never threw me down and I wouldn't do it to him."

Only a few months after Dillinger's death, Mrs. Elliott was reported near death of an incurable disease at her mother's home in Frankfort.

State police, upon learning she was in Frankfort, claimed they no longer wanted her since the death of Dillinger and the capture or death of most of the Dillinger gang.

This undated article was part of the vertical files at the Kokomo-Howard County Library under "Pearl Elliott".  Pearl was the Kokomo madam who helped to aid young Harry PIERPONT and then later, John Dillinger, during the days of the "Terror Gang".  Harry PIERPONT (1902-1934), was my paternal cousin.

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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