Sunday, April 29, 2012

Black Sheep Sunday: Is Hayes Innocent of Connection With Bank Holdup?

Source: Kokomo Daily Tribune, Kokomo, Indiana, Saturday, April 4, 1925, p. 1.


Belief Expressed That Suspected Man Had No Hand In Robbery

Now Said That Only Four Men Staged South Kokomo Holdup - Two Suspects Are Still Being Earnestly Sought By Police - Story Comes To Light Telling in Detail Just How the Crime Was Committed - Claim Evidence Connects Quartet With Three Other Recent Bank Robberies

That not more than four men participated in the robbery of the South Kokomo Bank the afternoon of March 27 seems to have been established by the Kokomo police.

This has been the theory upon which Captain Omer L. Main of the Kokomo police department has worked from the first.  Captain Main, though, says that all along he admitted the possibility of a fifth bandit being mixed up in the matter somewhere along the line.  That this has been proved not to be so is one of the newest developments in the case.  

Just how the police have obtained their information that pieces together all the circumstances leading up to the sensational robbery they will not divulge.

Whether either or both of the two men under arrest and held here at the county jail has confessed or admitted any participation in the crime, local police headquarters will neither affirm nor deny.  Captain Main said that there had been too much talk and newspaper speculation about the case already and that there was nothing new to give out.

It was admitted, however, that both of the prisoners are "hardboiled" and the impression was imparted that they showed no signs of weakening in making a denial of their connection with the robbery.

Whether Miss Louise Brunner is in any way connected with latest developments also could not be directly ascertained, but the fact that she is not in the county jail and no one seems to know her whereabouts is taken as significant as to the importance with which her relation to the robbery is regarded in police circles.

However through different sources that may be taken as authentic, it may be accepted that the Kokomo police department no longer believes that John Roscoe Hayes, known here as "Whitey", and erstwhile singer with the Sullivan entertainers, participated in the robbery, and this in spite of the fact that he is said to have been identified by "Chick" Nelson and by A.E. Gorton also perhaps.

Furthermore it has been developed that the strongest kind of evidence has been accumulated that connect Harry Pierpont, one of the men held here, and Everett Bridgewater, directly with at least three other bank robberies or attempted bank robberies of recent months.

These are the ones at Noblesville that was frustrated, the robbery of the State Bank of Upland, and the robbery of the bank at Marion, Ind.

Bridgewater is one of the men charged with the Kokomo robbery for whom the policy are searching.

No linking of the fourth man's identity, or even whether the police know who he is, has been given out.

According to the story of the robbery here, said to be established as fact, Pierpont, Skeer, Bridgewater and a fourth man, drove into Kokomo about 12:30 p.m. the day the robbery was committed in three automobiles.  One was the stolen "blue Moon" car that figured so conspicuously in the case, and the other two were, respectively, a Ford coupe and a Ford sedan.  This procession drove straight down Washington street, past police headquarters and to the entrance of the city park.

Here, at a point where the driveways diverge, the Ford coupe was parked, headed east, its occupant climbing into the Moon car.

This machine and the Ford sedan then proceeded west to a point about two miles south of Melfalfa park - where the Moon car was found abandoned - where the Ford sedan was parked and its occupant also climbed into the Moon car.

The party now circled back to the city and arrived at a point about a block west of the South Kokomo bank at approximately 1:30 o'clock on the afternoon of March 27.  The Moon car, driven by Skeer, continued east in Markland avenue and halted just clear of the alley east of the Hotel Markland, which was about 100 feet east of the bank.  Skeer then went back and joined his confederates and the robbery was perpetrated as already described.

That there was no other car in the neighborhood connected in any way with the robbery seems also to have been established.  

In making their getaway the bandits drove south in Union street dividing the loot as they went.  Division had been effected by the time they arrived at the park.  Here two men left the Moon car with their share of the booty and reentered the Ford coupe in which they made for the Range Line road by the most direct route, the other two in the larger automobile returning to the spot where the Ford sedan had been left.  The Moon car was abandoned here, having served its purpose, and the two remaining bandits drove away in the Ford sedan.


That is a part of the story that remains to be told.  When police are scouring the countryside for an automobile as conspicuous as was the big blue Moon, it is easy for a Ford or even two Fords, to slip past unnoticed.

Other details, however, tend to show that Skeer and the unidentified fourth member of the band were unfamiliar with Kokomo, but that Bridgewater and Pierpont had the lay of the land all mapped.  It was these latter two, it is believed, who engineered the affair and that in doing so spent considerable time in Kokomo prior to the holdup.

In this connection, a brand new Nash coach found by the police in Patterson park two or three weeks ago has been traced to the bandits.  It originally carried a dealer's license and at the time it was stolen at Terre Haute had been driven only 400 miles.  When found here the speedometer showed a mileage of 3,300 miles.

Also an Oakland car belonging to Ot Pearcy and stolen from the alley back of the salesroom on the west side of the courthouse square about three weeks ago is said to have been used by the bandits at least on one trip into Kentucky where it was believed a quantity of liquor was procured.  The car was found abandoned at Indianapolis.

That Hayes will be brought back to Kokomo as soon as the Detroit authorities are through with him, seems certain.  But whether he will be held for trial charged with participation in the robbery appears doubtful.  Why such positive conviction prevails that he was not one of the bandits has not been revealed, but Capt. Main expresses confidence that he was innocent of any connection with the Kokomo bank robbery.

In this connection, it is said that the nearest Pierpont came to making any sort of admission was when Hayes' connection with the robbery was mentioned.

"He doesn't know anything about this case," Pierpont is reported to have said.

Police say this is the only comment Pierpont has made touching the robbery.

Skeer is said to have expressed surprise that Hayes was placed under arrest and to have declared positively that he never heard of Hayes and never saw him prior to the arrest in Detroit.

The re-entry into Kokomo of two men suspected of being members of the bandit gang that held up and robbed the South Kokomo bank a week ago Friday was more imposing than their swift departure after the robbery.

Heavily manacled and handcuffed to two Kokomo policemen and escorted by an armed guard of eleven men in three automobiles, the party arrived from Detroit about a half-hour after midnight this morning.

The suspects, who have been positively identified as members of the robber gang are Thaddeus Skeer, 23 years old, and Harry Pierpont, 24, both of whom are charged with the robbery of the Kokomo bank on March 27 and who are also suspected of numerous other robberies of a similar type.

With the party was Miss Louise Brunner of Ft. Wayne, 21 years old, sweetheart of Skeers, whose journey to Detroit Wednesday from Ft. Wayne, was the direct means of leading the police to the rendezvous where Skeer, Pierpont and Roscoe C. Hayes, known here as "Whitey," were captured.

Hayes was identified as a member of the bandit quartet engaged in the holdup in South Kokomo, but is said to have been held by the Detroit police as a material witness in a murder case there.

Officers Archie Thompson and Rosenbrock were the two members of the Kokomo police department who were detailed to go to Detroit and fetch the prisoners to Kokomo after recovery of bonds constituting part of the loot of the South Kokomo bank robbery had been recovered.

A.E. Gorton, cashier of the bank, "Chick" Nelson, golf professional at the Kokomo Country club, and Vernon Shaw, a victim of the bandits, accompanied the two officers to Detroit and lent cumulative strength to previous suspicion by positively identifying the trio as three of the men engaged in the robbery in this city.

Furthermore, the case against the prisoners is said to have been still further strengthened by a subsequent search of their rooms, as a result of which Liberty bonds amounting to $900, identified as part of the booty of the Marion  bank robbery some months ago, are reported to have been found.

Every precaution was taken to safeguard the prisoners, and not to take any chances that confederates might attempt to rescue them, the guard was strengthened when the party arrived at Peru on the homeward trip, which was made by a secret, circuitous route from Detroit.

This article is a follow up to the robbery of the South Kokomo bank by my black sheep cousin, Harry PIERPONT (1902-1934).  Fortunately, old copies of Kokomo newspapers are online through the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library.

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