The Police Battle for Dillinger and the Gang
Fights were going for the reward money. Fireman Benedict got a telegram from True Detective Magazine promising $100- if reports of his ID on Clark and Makley were correct. The Sheriff’s Office ignored him about the police reward, claiming that two travelling salesmen had the tip leading to the arrests. Ohio offered to let Indiana take Dillinger, if it could have the other three men for Sarber’s murder, and Indiana accepted that offer. Wisconsin also got in on the battle for jurisdiction. They said that they could try, sentence, and lock up a prisoner all in the same day, and they had no corruption or escapes in their system.
By January 27, 1934, Matt Leach and the Wisconsin authorities were on the way to Tucson to bring the prisoners back. The Lake County Prosecutor and Attorney General were also responding from Indiana, whether Leach liked that or not.
The Lead Players
Arizona wanted the reward money before allowing extradition. One of the local candidates for the money said to give them to the state that would pay the most for them. Sgts. Eyman and Sherman even came to visit at the jail. Pierpont told them that they were smart, and was grateful that Eyman didn’t shoot him. Dillinger said that they were lucky, as they didn’t try to get them both at the same time.
By Sunday, the next day, the battle for extradition kicked into high gear. The Prosecutor from Indiana, Robert Estill, wanted Dillinger in the electric chair for the murder of the East Chicago police officer. He was on an early air mail plane with Leach. He was soft spoken, but about as deadly as one could get in the courtroom. He had already torn Public Utilities to shreds, costing a billion dollars in rate reductions.
There Were Self-Motivated Interests
Estill was looking to become Governor for what his intentions were for Dillinger. McNutt, the then current Governor, was already being discussed for the Presidency, and he supported Estill. A Dillinger conviction would advance both their political careers.
Estill brought Hobart Wilgus, who saw Dillinger shoot down Officer Pat O’Malley, a solid clincher.
Leach and his group arrived later that morning from Indianapolis. He was so eager to see the gang, he didn’t even bother to wash up after his two day train trip. Pursuer was just as obsessed with his quarry, as one could tell by Dillinger’s calls to Leach. When he got to the jail, he put a hand through the bars, and Dillinger reluctantly shook it.
Does Wisconsin Have a Sweet Deal?
Pierpont brought back the day of his mother’s arrest and threatened to kill Leach, shaking the bars in his cell. Leach quietly left, and Sheriff John Belton quieted Pierpont. Leach told a reporter that he really loved his mother, and commended the local police for the capture.
That afternoon, Dillinger didn’t want to talk to reporters, except Tubby Toms of the Indianapolis News. He gave the newsman a rabbit’s foot, for being considerate with his family. He said that his luck was running out.
Wisconsin’s representatives were there later, headed by DA John Brown, who began a conference with van Buskirk, the gangs’ attorney. They said that there was no death penalty in Wisconsin, and that was an advantage. The gang refused to accept, until they were assured that Mary Kinder wouldn’t be involved. The DA knew that since they stuck fast in Lima, things wouldn’t change a bit in Tucson. Was he ever right. Now, the only question was whether or not Arizona would accept that. Dillinger told reporters that he’d boost the Wisconsin reward to top whatever Indiana and Ohio were offering.
Estill and Arizona Have Their Own Rules
When Estill heard that, he wanted all four of them to go to Indiana immediately. He feared that if they didn’t act fast, they’d end up in Wisconsin. It was up to the Governor to sign extradition paperwork for Dillinger, since the other three escaped from the Indiana State Prison. Dillinger would have to remain in Indiana and be tried for the O’Malley killing, while the other three would be transferred to Lima, as previously agreed.
The Arizona Governor, B.B. Moeur, agreed, but Estill still had his fears. He knew that van Buskirk was going for a writ of habeas corpus, which meant that everyone would appear before a local judge to see if they had been lawfully arrested. This could give Wisconsin the time element that it needed to win.
Estill suggested that the gang be flown out before van Buskirk could obtain the writ. Houston said they couldn’t sneak more than one out of there, so he’d hire a local pilot to fly Dillinger and Estill out the next afternoon. Leach could bring the others by train.
"No, I Won't Go, and You Can't Make Me!"
Sheriff Belton suddenly declared an open house at the Pima County Jail, so the crowds hanging around the building could see Dillinger and the gang. 415 people saw the gangsters in just a few hours. The next morning, the first of 1,100 people were observing the prisoners. Estill and Houston were tidying up details on Dillinger’s relocation at 4 p.m.
An hour before Dillinger’s trip, Attorney General of Indiana, Philip Lutz, Jr., was approached by Star reporter, Fred Finney. Lutz revealed Estill’s plan, and began looking for photographer, J. Robert Burns. Right about then, eighteen Navy bombers went over the courthouse and a guard jokingly said that it was the rest of the gangsters coming.
The local police finally learned of Dillinger’s impending trip to Indiana. They went to Houston at the jail, and said that he should go to Wisconsin, who was offering the biggest reward.
As the agreement was raging, Sheriff Belton was telling Dillinger that he was going back home, and not to an apartment in Indiana. He fought bitterly in his cell, to no avail. He was put into a waiting car, and the crowd at the jail was never the wiser. Every time the car hit a bump, Estill saw that the handcuffs cut Dillinger’s wrists, but he did nothing about it. He only wished that people could see the tough guy now.
The Film Keeps Rolling, Rolling, Rolling
J. Robert Burns was getting shot after shot at the airfield. People that were there for the Navy planes landing, saw a shackled man being led to a Bellanca monoplane, protesting loudly. Finney was getting a play-by-play article for his paper, and Dillinger was trying so hard to gain freedom.
The newsmen were racing back to Tucson with their big scoop. Burns hurried into the engraver’s darkroom, and saw what happens when one is in a hurry: he forgot to pull the protective plate from the film when it was put in the camera. There were no pictures.
Less than an hour later, the plane landed at International Airport, which was just a pasture in Douglas, Arizona. Dillinger went to the local jail where he was stripped. At 10:30 p.m., he was given new clothes and returned to the airport. He was boarded on an American Airways plane with Estill, bound for El Paso, Texas. One of the two passengers that saw Dillinger hurriedly left the plane. During the flight, Dillinger confessed to robbing the Chicago and Greencastle banks, as well as killing O’Malley, but that was self defense, as he intended to stop him.
Meanwhile, Back in Tucson
Meanwhile, back in Tucson, van Buskirk just convinced a judge to sign a writ for habeas corpus for his four clients, unaware that Dillinger was gone. The hearing was set for the next morning. The Tucson Police felt that it was unreasonable that since they were the ones that did all the work, they had no say in the disposition of their criminals. Matt Leach said that he was only giving them $300 instead of the $325 that he brought with him, as Dillinger was being returned to the County, not the State Prison. Chet Sherman, who had posed as the messenger, grabbed Leach by the shoulders and told him that he was a double crosser, just like Pierpont had said.
Before ten the next morning, the remaining three prisoners were taken to Superior Court, which was packed. The judge denied the writ. Opal Long and Billie Frechette were released, but Mary Kinder and the three men were sent back to Indiana’s clutches.
Matt Leach took Pierpont, Makley, Clark, and Mary on a chartered Pullman an hour later. Attorney General Lutz told reporters right at the train station that he suspected collusion between Wisconsin officials and the gangsters. He even sent a telegram to AG Homer Cummings in Washington to investigate this.
The Party Starts in Chicago
At 6:10 the next evening, the American Airways plane carrying Dillinger landed at Chicago’s Municipal Airport. Estill gave Dillinger $10 to have something in his pocket. His fans included the entire Dillinger Squad and 85 other police officers from two states. Dillinger was shoved into the back of Sgt. Frank Reynolds’ car, shackled to two Indiana officers. Reynolds, who Dillinger had threatened so often over the phone, was silent when he was told to just start something.
There were thirteen cars and a dozen motorcycles in this procession heading for Indiana, whose sirens were going almost constantly. People in every community that they passed through lined the streets to watch this parade. Just prior to 8 p.m., they got to Crown Point, the county seat of Lake County.
Dillinger was taken to the Sheriff’s office, which was filled with reporters that all wanted to talk to him. He was a celebrity now, in more ways than one, so he played his part.
Judge William Murray joked about his reception at the airport, which was the judge that would arraign him. A reporter asked if he had really sent the book, “How to Be a Detective,” to Matt Leach, and he said that he had been there when it was sent. Everyone laughed at that.
Pictures were being taken left and right, and G. Reed Thomson told Estill to put his arm around Dillinger. Estill didn’t hear that, but Dillinger did. He rested his elbow on Estill’s shoulder. On Estill’s right was Lillian Holley, the Lake County Sheriff. She was finishing the term that her murdered husband had begun. Naturally this photo went to press, which cost one man the Governorship, and another’s dream to be President, for it sent Indiana’s political scene right down the pipe.