Sunday, September 25, 2011

Black Sheep Sunday: Bank Bandits Confess to Sheriff

Source: Marion Leader-Tribune, Marion, Indiana, December 30, 1924, page 1.


Daring Thefts Here Have Been Cleared

Written Confession Is Secured from James Robbins and After William Behrens Is Identified by Upland Bank Cashier He Changes His Denial and Admits He Help Put Over the Job There -- Local Sheriff Works Hard On Case -- Roll of Bills Led to Arrest of the Men

One of the gang flashed a roll of bills, and this caused suspicion, and led to his undoing, and two of the six bandits who held up the officers of the Upland state bank and took $2,500 on the afternoon of December 24, are now in the Grant county jail with confessions in the hands of Sheriff Bert Renbarger from both men that they not only took part in this robbery, but from one of the two that they robbed a hardware store at Lebanon, attempted to robe the bank at Noblesville, but were frightened when the bank president pushed his foot and sounded the burglar alarm, that five members of the gang, on claiming innocence, had robbed the South Marion State Bank of approximately $4,000 on the afternoon of November 27.

The arrests, beginning at Lebanon early Sunday morning, are considered among the most important ever made in the state, for it is believed they will put an end to a reign of banditry which has run wild in the state for some months.

The arrest of two of this band, with other arrests expected, and the arrest of the band at Peoria, Ill., said to have robbed the Converse bank, clears up the three bank robberies in this particular section of the state.

Sheriff Works Hard.

Sheriff Bert Renbarger and his deputies have been working hard on the case, and are being widely commended for their success.

The men under arrest are William Behrens, 20 years old, of Monticello, Ind., who was arrested yesterday by Sheriff Bert Renbarger, Deputy Sheriff Woody Smith and the chief of police of Monticello, and James Robbins, 22, of Lebanon, who was arrested late Saturday night by the police at Lebanon.

Robbins has confessed also to taking part in the attempted holdup of the Noblesville bank on December 17, and said that the other five members of his gang had robbed the South Marion State bank of approximately $4,000 on the afternoon of November 27, but said that he was not in this robbery.  Behrens, when brought to Marion yesterday afternoon at first stoutly denied knowing anything about the Upland, Marion or Noblesville affairs, but when Earl Bragg, cashier of the Upland State Bank, and S.G. Stump of Upland, who was pulled inside of the bank by one of the bandits, came to the jail last night and identified both men as being among the five bandits, Behrens then changed his story and admitted to having taken part in the Upland job, but maintained that he was not with the bandits when the South Marion bank was robbed.

Identification Sure.

Both Bragg and Stump were positive in their identifications.  Stump was the man who stepped into the bank when the robbery was taking place, and started to go out when one of the bandits grabbed him and pulled him back into the bank and demanded that he hold up his hands.

The news of Robbins' arrested was given out at Indianapolis yesterday morning.

A confession was secured from Robbins by Sheriff Renbarger, who has spent the last two days at Lebanon and Monticello in an effort to round up the entire gang.

The confession of Robbins, in part is as follows:

"On the night of December 22, 1924, we drove to Lebanon at about two o'clock in the morning and we broke into the hardware store of John B. Shelby and stole three shot guns, five rifles, 25 to 30 boxes of shells, electric drills, two radio sets and some other goods.

"Then we planned to go to Upland and rob the Upland State bank.  We had a Moon sedan, which was stolen in Indianapolis the day before.  At Upland, one remained outside of the bank in the car, while the rest went into the bank and held up the employees with revolvers and stole whatever money could be found.  I received between $300 and $400 as my share.  We, except myself, took part in and robbed the South Marion State bank on November 27 and also in the attempted robbery of the bank at Noblesville on December 17.

"After the Upland robbery the gang separated.  The reason for the robbery of the bank at Noblesville not being successful was because the burglar alarm went off.  The airplanes flying overhead at the time had nothing to do with us at the time of the attempted robbery" (Signed) James Robbins.

Have Served Time.

Both Robbins and Behrens have served time in prison.  Behrens was sent up some time ago from Monticello on a charge of burglary and was later paroled, after serving about twenty-six months.  Robbins has also served time in the state reformatory on a charge of grand larceny, having been sentenced from Lebanon.  It is said that the other members of the gang have also served prison sentences.

Both men were interview at the county jail last night by a Leader-Tribune reporter.

Behrens had a number of watches on his person, and last night he said he had bought them, and had not robbed any store.

Behrens Was Seen.

Behrens was identified by Deputy Sheriff John Schell as one of the men who was in the Moon car when it stopped at a filling station on North Washington street and Highland avenue two hours before the Upland bank robbery.  Behrens told Schell that his face "looked familiar," but could not tell just where he saw him.

Robbins admitted last night that he took part in the Upland bank robbery, and was also with the band at Noblesville, but denied being with the crowd when the South Marion bank was robbed.  He said that all of the other members of the gang robbed this bank except himself.

Robbins' mother, father and sweetheart arrived in the city yesterday to visit him, but the parents did not go to the jail.  Last night Robbins was told that his mother was very ill at Lebanon.  HIS SWEETHEART APPEARED TO FIND OUT IF HE HAD GOT HER WRIST WATCH WHICH SHE SAID HE HAD PROMISED TO GET FOR HER.

Behrens, after he confessed to Sheriff Renbarger, in the presence of Cashier Bragg and Mr. Stump of Upland, also told the sheriff where he had hidden a part of the money which was stolen from the Upland bank, and the sheriff at Monticello was notified.

Flashes Big Roll.

The flashing of a roll of money led to the arrest of Robbins at Lebanon.  Robbins, who has been in trouble before, was seen to show a roll of money of considerable size, and he was arrested as a suspect late Saturday night.  When searched the police found $263.90 on his person.  Robbins told them that he had spent $60.35 out of the money for clothing.  When Robbins was arrested Sheriff Renbarger was notified, and early Sunday morning Renbarger and Deputy Sheriff Schell drove to Lebanon, where information was secured concerning Behrens, after Robbins had told the officers of the movements of the gang.  With the prospects for arresting all members of the gang, it was agreed that nothing should be given out by any officer in any county until all of the bandits had been arrested and placed in jail.

Go to Monticello.

Yesterday morning Sheriff Renbarger and Deputy Woody Smith drove to Monticello, where Behrens was arrested.  When searched he had a number of Ingersoll watches in his possession, which the officers said were being given away by him.  He was brought back to Marion and lodge in jail late yesterday afternoon.

Every effort will be made by the authorities of several counties to round up and arrest the four remaining members of the gang.

The robbery of the South Marion bank took place about fifteen minutes before closing time on the afternoon of November 27.  Five of the bandits entered the bank and commanded the two bank officials and two customers to hold up their hands.  They then attempted to lock the bank officials in the vault, but failed to succeed.  The bandits took all of the money in sight on the counter, and secured more from the vault, and ran out and disappeared in what was described as being a Nash car, leaving in a southerly direction.

Machine Was Stolen.

The same gang, apparently, stole the Moon sedan from George W. Killinger, 1922 North Pennsylvania street, Indianapolis, in front of his residence on Monday night, December 23, drove to Lebanon, where the hardware store was robbed, and then came to Marion, arriving here shortly before the noon hour.  In their confessions they did not mention being around the city for some time and of getting a supply of gasoline at a filling station in North Marion.

When the Moon car was going north on Washington street, it was seen by Deputy Sheriffs Schell and Smith, as well as by Detectives Humble and Andrews of the police department.  Believing the Moon car to be a car they had been looking for, which was thought to contain liquor, the deputy sheriffs followed the car to the filling station.  Schell held a short conversation with one of the men, not either of the two under arrest.  The men asked the direction to reach State Road No. 35, stating they wished to go to Hartford City.  About an hour and a half later, news of the Upland bank robbery was received.

This article is a follow-up to the robbery of the Upland State bank by a group of robbers led by my paternal cousin, Harry PIERPONT (1902-1934).  Harry later came to fame as a member of the "Terror Gang" with John Dillinger.  These stories about his early career as a bank robber in Indiana have proven most interesting.  

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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