Johnnie in Color

"A jail is like a nut with a worm in it, the worm can always get out."

...Johnnie Dillinger 1934

(Photo Colorization and effects by Kimberly Stewart)




Clarence Houston, a Lima County Attorney, said that Indiana authorities had agreed to return the outlaws to Ohio to stand trial where capital punishment would be legal, if murder charges were filed. Indiana wanted Dillinger, and agreed that he should stand trial on charges for the murder of Officer O’Malley. In Indianapolis, Al Feeney, the Indiana State Director of Public Safety, said that he believed Dillinger and his three henchmen, Pierpont, Makley, and Clark could be brought back to face an indictment returned by the Grand Jury in Gary, Indiana. Feeney pointed out that Pierpont, Makley and Clark could be returned to Indiana without extradition proceedings because the outlaws were escaped convicts from the Indiana State Penitentiary at Michigan City. Dillinger could be returned simply to Indiana because he is a parole violator.

There was also an indictment released by the courts on Dillinger that charged him with the murder of Police Detective Patrick O’Malley. Mary Kinder was placed under a one hundred thousand-dollar bail bonds, while Billie Frechette’s bail was set at five hundred dollars. Frechette was even named as one of the material witnesses in the case, but the courts didn’t know that her loyalties would lie with John Dillinger. During arraignment proceedings, Dillinger leaned over and gave Billie a kiss. One reporter witnessed the kiss, and he wrote an article that romanticized Dillinger. Another reporter called him “The Gentleman Bandit.” This did nothing for his defense, but the public loved it. One official who talked with the prisoners while they were locked up in the Tucson Jail was Governor B.B. Moeur of Arizona. Pierpont was in a cheerful mood, and greeted the Governor with a smile and a handshake. While Makley shook hands with the Governor and replied, “I may get out, I’ve gotten out before.” One reporter asked Makley if he was involved in the kidnapping of Ed Brewer, and he replied; “Kidnapping was too low a business for a good gunman.

I would never stoop that low, bank robberies my trade." Matt Leach of the Indiana State Police advised State Officials that extradition papers from his state would be available sometime the following day. The tension grew as law officials battled over Dillinger and the rest of the gang. On January 30, the Dillinger gang continued to make headlines as newspapers around the world printed the latest events of the gang. These headlines stated that Dillinger’s companions had been placed on a train to be transported to Indiana. This was an error, it was true that Dillinger’s companions were placed on a train, but their destination was Ohio, not Indiana. The second biggest headlines were President’s Roosevelt’s birthday. One would think the President of the United States would receive bigger headlines, but Dillinger was becoming a very popular public figure. Tickets went on sale for a dollar per couple to attend the President’s birthday party ball at the Indiana University Union Building, to celebrate Roosevelt’s fifty-second birthday. The occasion was to be celebrated by some five thousand-birthday ballrooms from coast to coast.


Dillinger seemed to be a much bigger story as he left Tucson at 7:55 a.m., and boarded American Airlines. The plane that Dillinger flew in was a Ford Tri Motor 6-At-A, NC 8485, that would land in Chicago Midland Airport(Info, thanks to Sandy Jones). Dillinger’s civil rights had been violated when he was forcefully taken out of his cell, against his will, and loaded on the plane. He kept asking for his lawyer, claiming they couldn’t extradition him without a hearing, because it was illegal. He was right, but regardless of the laws, he was taken back to Indiana. This would be Dillinger’s first airplane flight ever. Sol Davis, a reporter for the Chicago times had bought all the extra seats on the plane, so he could interview Dillinger. Davis talked and snapped several pictures of Dillinger until the outlaw said, “Leave me alone, I want to go to sleep.” The Stewardess, Marge Brennan gave Dillinger a pillow, and a blanket. During the flight, Indiana Prosecutor Robert Estill treated Dillinger very well, and gave even him ten dollars. The plane arrived in El Paso at 2:24 a.m., to change planes.

Next they flew to Dallas, Texas where Dillinger enjoyed some breakfast, before leaving Dallas at 9:15 a.m. Other stops included Arkansas, Memphis, St. Louis, and then on to East Chicago. During the flight, Dillinger was in the custody of four Indiana officers, who threatened him repeatedly with death. He was warned him if he tried anything, he’d be the first to get it. He was escorted from East Chicago airport on a thirty-mile trip to Crown Point jail by a parade consisting of thirteen cars filled with law officials. Dillinger arrived in Crown Point, Indiana on shortly before 8 p.m. on January 30. Dillinger's welcoming committee at Crown Point consisted of 150 Chicago Police Officers, Indiana Police Officers, and National guardsmen heavily armed with sub-machineguns and riot guns. It was an elaborate display of both police and civilians, as crowds of about four to five hundred people gathered to get a glimpse of the outlaw.


Captain John Stege and East Chicago Officers were involved in the parade to deliver Dillinger to the Lake County Crown Point jail. The Officers were served dinner and treated to a barrel of beer in the jail dining room, where they enjoyed that Hoosier hospitality. Upon his arrival at Crown Point, Dillinger was treated like a movie star, and he looked the part with his appealing, magnetic personality.

He acted like a famous well-known actor who just arrived in town to play the leading role on the big screen. Dillinger had indeed become a celebrity and a household name. He was restless after his flight from Tucson to Indiana. This hadn’t been a pleasant trip for Dillinger. Sol Davis, the Chicago reporter, recalled that Dillinger had been handcuffed to a seat aboard American airlines. Dillinger remarked, "I don't jump out of these things." Davis also said that one of the officer’s constantly harassed Dillinger, daring him to make a break for it, so they could shoot him down. Dillinger was too clever to make a break for it with heavily armed guards all around him. These officers didn't realize that Dillinger was planning on making a break for freedom, but only when the time was right. In East Chicago, Dillinger was hurled out of the airplane through a large crowd of people, and into a nearby automobile. He was then driven to Crown Point, only to see more crowds of people waiting at the jailhouse. Dillinger was taken into the office of Sheriff Lillian Holley, who was placed in charge of Dillinger. The press had gathered in hopes of speaking to the outlaw.

The Prosecuting Attorney and the Press thought they were having a field day with Dillinger, but it was Dillinger who was having the field day, as he boasted, "You got me, now try to keep me." Dillinger turned his charm on and talked freely to the reporters, who seemed to enjoy his company. Reed Thompson, another reporter yelled out to the prosecuting attorney, "Bob, put your arm around him." The prosecutor didn't hear the remark, but Dillinger did, and leaned his right arm on Robert Estill's left shoulder. The famous picture that made nationwide headlines was taken with a flash from Reed Thompson’s camera. Many believed Dillinger’s career was over, but he was a character of unpredictability. He would later escape the so-called escape-proof jail with a gun made only of wood. Dillinger would help to liquidate many political careers during his many exploits; it was a legacy that would become his trademark. He was an expert at making fools out of his pursuers, but his specialty was making Government agents look amazingly stupid and inexperienced. After his incredible escape from Crown Point, the picture of Dillinger and Estill together would haunt the Prosecutor. The picture appeared repeatedly in newspapers with one headline stating, "Dillinger and Lake County Pals."

While Prosecutor Estill's career would be permanently decayed, and his future looked dim. The picture set off an explosive outburst of criticism towards Estill, and Government officials grew resentful of his trust. Here was a Prosecutor who was hoping to send John Dillinger to the electric chair to give his own career a boost, and perhaps for Governor, yet he has the audacity to pose in a photograph with his arm around the outlaw. The photograph appeared to be close friends gathering in a family-like environment. When asked what he thought about the prosecutor? Dillinger replied, “I like Estill.” The outlaw also complimented Sheriff Lillian Holley by saying, “She seems to be a fine lady.” Dillinger knew the pictures taken at the jailhouse would probably be front-page news in the morning paper. When Dillinger and Estill posed with arms around each other, it looked as though they were best buddies. During the pose, Dillinger had clinched his hand in the shape of a gun with his index finger pointing down and his thumb pointing outward.


The family-like picture that destroyed Prosecutor Robert Estill's political career. Note: it appears as though Lillian Holley and Estill are romantically involved as seen here arm and arm.

Before leaving Tucson the soft-spoken Harry Pierpont told the officers who captured the gang, "I'll remember you, you, and you, and I'll be back to settle the score." Once aboard the train, a senator approached Matt Leach, introduced himself and displayed a gold-plated forty-five pistol that he carried in a suitcase. Matt Leach was so impressed; he asked the senator if he would like to meet the outlaws. Moments later, while the senator was sitting by Makley, and Pierpont, Leach over heard Pierpont telling the senator, "You say you paid a grand for that gat (gun) in your suitcase? I'll give you two." The senator was then quietly led away from the outlaws by Leach. Pierpont, Makley and Clark would remain in Michigan City until later transfer to Lima, Ohio to stand trial for the murder of Sheriff Sarber.  This looked like the end of the Dillinger gang. Back at Crown Point, prosecutor Estill was telling the press that he didn't need Dillinger's confession to send him to the chair, because he had twenty-two witnesses that identified Dillinger as the killer of Policeman Patrick O'Malley. Even though John Hamilton was originally identified as the killer of O'Malley, the blame was pinned on Dillinger. John Dillinger claimed he had nothing to do with the East Chicago robbery, or the murder of O'Malley. He stated that he was in Florida at the time, and he could prove it. When asked about John Hamilton, he said he heard from the boys that "Poor Red,” was fatally wounded in East Chicago, and died from stomach wounds. He added that Hamilton's body was dumped in the river. Dillinger's alibi was clear; he claimed that before Hamilton's death, he had sent Dillinger some money to give to his family.  This money turned out to be money from the East Chicago robbery, and was found in Dillinger’s possession. Hamilton had indeed participated in the East Chicago robbery, and he was severely wounded in the stomach, but he was still very much alive. Dillinger was simply trying to cool the heat, and take some of the existing pressures off Hamilton. While Harry Pierpont was in route to Michigan City, he had also stated that John Hamilton was dead. This was a tale that was well rehearsed by the outlaws before capture, by maintaining the same story; this made it more believable. Back at Crown Point, the Jailhouse was heavily guarded, and well prepared against any rescue attempt to free Dillinger. Dillinger had admitted engineering the Michigan City breakout, he responded by saying, “Why not? I wanted to help them out. I stick by my friends, and they stick by me." When asked how long it took to rob a bank, he stated, "About a minute forty seconds flat." Guards were kept on their toes at Crown Point, stopping any suspicious looking characters. Dillinger had been locked in solitary confinement on the second floor in the new section of the jail; close the rear of the building. On February 6, hundreds people were searched, as they packed into the courtroom to see Dillinger's arraignment proceedings. Judge William J. Murray set a hearing date for February 9. Crowds returned on three days later to hear arguments of the attorney's; and the trial was set for March 12. Prosecutor Estill wanted to move Dillinger to Michigan City prison until his trial date, but Judge Murray advised Sheriff Lillian Holley not to sign transfer papers, and block the decision of removing Dillinger. The Judge told Holley that releasing the prisoner to Michigan City was making a statement that Crown Point jail was lacking the strength to hold such an outlaw. Holley agreed, and refused to sign the document. She told officials that nothing short of an army could break Dillinger out of her jail. Within weeks, everything seemed to settle down, and there were fewer guards present. Dillinger was the perfect model prisoner, very pleasant, and was fed regular jail food with no complaints or problems of any kind. Dillinger told Crown Point reporters, “A jail is like a nutshell with a worm in it, and the worm will always get out.” This was another one of Dillinger's clues that he was planning an escape. In a letter Dillinger wrote to his sister, he apologized he didn't get to take them to the World’s Fair. He went on to say; maybe you can go this summer. I believe what Dillinger really meant was he planned on being free by summer. Dillinger soon learned that some of Crown Point officials and possibly a judge could be bought for a price. He persuaded his lawyer to try and get him a gun. Dillinger sat back in his cell reviewing his situation and wondered what the outcome will be. It wasn't hard to figure out. If convicted of murder, the penalty would be an automatic death sentence, and Dillinger knew he'd never get life because he was a political prisoner. There was only one way to escape the chair, and it wasn't in open court. Dillinger’s lawyer bribed fingerprint expert Ernest Blunk to smuggle in a gun.  Blunk refused to get smuggle in a real gun because of Dillinger’s reputation, but agreed on a fake gun, and knew where one could be found for a price. Dillinger agreed and a plan was set into action. The break was set for March 2, but Dillinger didn't receive the gun until the following day. The morning started out very quiet and peaceful with light rain falling upon ground with traces of melting snow. Dillinger and fourteen other prisoners were placed in the exercise bullpen. Sam Cahoon broke Crown Point rules by entering the exercise area when prisoners were present. He was bringing in soap and other supplies for Saturday night baths. At 9:15 a.m., Dillinger struck what appeared to be an automatic pistol in Cahoon's side and ordered him into the cell, stating, "Get in quick or I'll kill you." Then he captured and forced two jail porters into the cell. Dillinger looked down the corridor and saw Ernest Blunk, the fingerprint expert. He commanded Cahoon to call Blunk from the foot of the stairs.  Blunk responded, and was easily captured. Cahoon was then locked in the cell with his fellow companions, and Blunk because the bait to lure in other guards. One by one Crown Point officials were bluffed into captivity, driven by fear of being shot or perhaps killed. Next to fall into the trap was Warden Baker; he joined the rest of the party in a cell. With five of Crown Point officials behind bars, Dillinger asked inmates, Herbert Youngblood and Harry Jelinek if they wanted to come along. Jelinek declined, but Youngblood with a death sentence hanging over his head agreed to go with the outlaw. As Dillinger, Youngblood, and Blunk walked cautiously along the corridor and down the stairs, they spotted Kenneth Houk, Matt Brown, and Marshall Keith Leg.  Dillinger and Youngblood quickly seized the men. Keith Leg hesitated, and began reaching for a nearby black jack. Dillinger warned him by stating, “I don't want to kill you but one way or another, and I’m getting out of here.” Believing that Dillinger meant business, Keith Leg reluctantly surrendered, bringing the total captured up to eight. Dillinger was still armed with only his wooden gun but his luck was still holding. Next the outlaws captured Warden Hiles, a national guardsman and disarmed him, of his .45 automatic pistols. Dillinger had succeeded in capturing nine men with a piece of wood, before getting hold of a real gun. Next he found two machineguns in the Warden’s office, and at this point he knew that nothing was going to stop him now. Dillinger was clever, he locked every door he passed through to prevent any sudden unexpected guests, who may want to interrupt his plans. Blunk led the outlaws through the kitchen, where Dillinger found a raincoat and a hat and put them on.  The trio walked through the yard, heading down to the garage in the basement, on the way; they passed through the laundry room, which was located just beneath the new section of the jail at the rear of the jailhouse. Next to the laundry room, Dillinger ran into Mary Linton, and two more jail employees. They were ordered into the laundry room where they were locked up for safekeeping. The outlaws tried to start two cars, but the keys were missing. At this moment a woman named Mrs. Baker walked into the garage, and was seized by Dillinger. She too was locked in the laundry room. Dillinger left Youngblood in charge; while he walked all the way back through the jail and up the stairs, locking each door as he passed through them. He returned to the cells where he locked up guards, and demanded the keys to the cars. The guards all claimed that they didn't have the keys. Dillinger then demanded money from the guards, and was able to come up with fifteen dollars.  Then Dillinger showed the guards the wooden gun that he used as a ploy to outwit them. Soon Dillinger returned to the garage, again carefully locking all the doors behind him as he moved closer to freedom. Crown Point Crowds


Blunk told Dillinger that there was a public garage just north of the courthouse, two buildings down from the jail.



After Dillinger disabled two cars in the garage by ripping out the wiring. Dillinger, Youngblood and Blunk headed for the Main Street Garage. The trio walked behind the Criminal Courthouse building and into the garage. Edwin Saager, a mechanic was busy working on a car when Dillinger came in, and didn't even notice his presence. Leaning on the car talking to Saager was Robert Volk.
 He didn't notice anything out of the ordinary either. Dillinger walked up with a machinegun in his hands and asked Saager, "Which is the fastest car?” Saager thought Dillinger was a deputy, so he pointed to Sheriff Holley’s black V-8. Dillinger then requested that Saager join the party, but he declined because he was to busy. Dillinger pointed his machinegun, and forced Saager into the back seat with Youngblood. Dillinger and Blunk climbed into the front. Blunk was ordered to drive. As the car pulled out of the garage onto Main Street, Blunk claimed he tried to sideswipe another car to attract attention, and then he ran a red signal light. Dillinger warned Blunk that if he tried this again he'd be shot. He advised Blunk to drive the speed limit. He said; "Thirty miles an hour is enough, there's no hurry!"  As they passed by the First National and Commercial bank, Dillinger made a remark that he was tempted to rob the bank, but he'd better wait. Blunk noticed how cool and calm Dillinger remained during the entire trip. He told Blunk he wished he could have said goodbye to Sheriff Lillian Holley before he left. Dillinger had Blunk turn at every corner and stick to gravel roads. Blunk remembered that they only passed through one town during the drive, and that was the town of St. John, which was on route 41. As they approached the town, Dillinger told Blunk to stop the car; he jumped out and broke the police spotlight off the side of the vehicle, because every cop in the country would be looking for the car. Dillinger asked Blunk and Saager if they wanted to go to Ohio to break Harry Pierpont and Charlie Makley out of jail? Neither Saager nor Blunk answered. A few miles East of Peotone, Illinois at a place called Lillian Corners the car accidentally slid into a ditch. Dillinger asked Saager if the car had any chains? Saager replied, “Yes,” and was told him to put them on. Dillinger stood watch with his machinegun. It took a half-hour to install the rear chains. Dillinger released Saager and Blunk in a remote area without telephones. He gave them four dollars for carfare, and apologized that he couldn’t give them more, but it was all he could spare. He told them that he would send them something at Christmas. Saager and Blunk later picked up by some farmers passing by.  The farmers followed the tire chain tracks for a while until the chain markings disappeared. When the two returned to Crown Point, reporters quickly surrounded them for a story. Blunk stated as Dillinger dashed for freedom, he was singing, <sic> "Get along little dogie.” <End Sic> Crown Point officials were busy trying to clean up the mess that Dillinger left behind. Everyone at Crown Point was blaming each other for the break. Dillinger had locked up the whole jailhouse before he departed, taking the master set of keys with him. The keys turned out to be the only master set to the jail. Officials had to break their own men out of the jail with wielding torches. Sheriff Lillian Holley was sitting on the steps crying, and nobody was guarding prisoners. The press took a picture of Holley on the stairs and printed the photograph with headlines, which stated, "Sheriff Lillian Holley, the woman he left behind.”  Holley was so mad that she publicly stated if she could see Dillinger; she'd kill him herself. Dillinger had succeeded in locking up ten guards and a few trustees and took the only master set of keys to the jail with him. 


To add to Sheriff Holley’s embarrassment, Dillinger stole her own personal police car for his escape. Holley was under direct fire from the press and public officials. They assassinated her character as a “Women Sheriff,” and violated her integrity for trying to do a man’s job. Dillinger’s humiliating humor had showed no boundaries for Lillian Holley and Lake County Crown Point, which now was seen as the biggest joke of the nation. Crown Point was criticized and condemned for losing Dillinger; the press was having a field day.

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Newspapers were selling faster than Hot-cakes fresh off the grill.” After the Toy-gun episode at Crown Point, Ernest Blunk was placed on suspension and charged with a felony for aiding Dillinger in his escape. Blunk was later exonerated due to lack of evidence. However, there has been much controversy on Blunk’s involvement in the wooden gun break.


                                                      A couple of weeks after Dillinger bluffed his way out of the escape proof jail; Blunk took a mysterious trip. Upon his return, he told reporters that he went to Indianapolis where he was questioned by Deputy Attorney General Edward Barce, and three State investigators, but State, County and City officials insisted they were unaware of his presence in the State Capital. Many sources believe Blunk met with a Dillinger associate and made arrangements to collect money for his part in the escape. At Blunk’s trial, Judge William Murray disqualified himself from proceedings because Blunk was a County employee and Murray had sponsored Blunk in his current job position. Judge Maurice Crites of East Chicago resided in his place. During the trial, Deputy Sheriff Lewis Baker testified that he had heard Blunk calling him from the corridor of the cellblock. He spotted Blunk standing alone and asked him, “What’s the matter?” Blunk didn’t answer; he just walked further down the corridor and Baker followed. Suddenly, Baker felt a muzzle of a gun in his side, and a hand searching his pockets. Baker turned his head to see Dillinger. Then Baker was placed in a cell with seven trustees and two guards. Baker added that there is a lever at the end of the corridor that locks the cell doors, and Dillinger couldn’t have operated the lever because he was in front of the cell. Baker thought Blunk had operated the lever because he was now nowhere in sight, but it Herbert Youngblood that was helping Dillinger with this task. Dillinger had immobilized the entire security of Crown Point with a piece of wood and his wits. Crown Point made another mistake by broadcasting the incorrect license plate number of Sheriff Holley's car with orders, Shoot to kill. The failure to produce the correct license number was an important factor in Dillinger's escape. This license number belonged to A.C. Mayes of Crown Point. This was a serious error of judgment; Crown Point had placed A.C. Mayes, and any passengers who might be riding in his car in grave danger. News also came out that Sam Cahoon, the turnkey who let Dillinger out, had served two sentences in Crown Point for intoxication, and wasn't even a guard. It all seemed like a bad dream that left Sheriff Holley furious. John Baron, President of Lake County Commissioner called a special meeting with the Board to demand Sheriff Holley's resignation. Governor Paul V. McNutt was hot under the collar when he called the break inexcusable and ordering a full-scale state investigation. McNutt stated that he was waiting on a full report on the escape before making any decisions on the issue of removing Sheriff Holley. Robert Estill stated that after the completion of the investigation, the results of the inquiry would be turned over to the Grand Jury. When Holley was asked to step down, she refused to resign until her term was up. It was the County Commission who appointed Lillian Holley as Sheriff, but now many of the members had mixed feelings about a woman to doing a man's job. Holley was designated Sheriff after her husband, Roy F.Holley was shot to death while attempting to arrest a mad killer named Mike Lantare. Captain Matt Leach blamed Robert Estill for Dillinger’s escape from Crown Point. Leach stated that Estill's friendly pose with the outlaw, led guards into believing that Dillinger wasn't such a bad fellow. Meanwhile, Captain John Stege was busy gathering a special army of men equipped with sub-machineguns and bulletproof vests to hunt down the slippery bandit. Some two hundred fifty assignments were arranged in a series of raids on homes in Chicago. These were homes of former convicts, and Police believed Dillinger could be hiding in Chicago.  The news of Dillinger's escape excited J.Edgar Hoover, because the outlaw had committed a federal offense by crossing State lines in a stolen car. Holley’s car was found in North Chicago on March 7, 1934, inside the car officers found the Sheriff’s revolver. Legend has it that Dillinger actually abandoned the vehicle in Indiana, just blocks from the Chicago State line with a full tank of gas. Suggesting, the FBI may have moved the car to Chicago, which became a federal offense. Dillinger was too clever to have made such a mistake, so the FBI may have made the mistake for him.  It’s just a theory, but may have been a logical move for Hoover, who would have done anything to get Dillinger. On March 7, the Bureau would officially join the race to catch the outlaw.  There were lots of people who claimed they had seen the slippery outlaw all over Indiana, Chicago, Iowa, Minneapolis, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Port Huron, Michigan, St. Paul, and Minnesota. Dillinger could not have been in all these locations at the same time, but these reports had to be checked out. Dillinger and Youngblood headed for headed for Chicago to meet his sweetheart, Billie Frechette. Billie had been at Louis Piquett's office waiting on a phone call the moment she heard the news of Dillinger’s departure from jail. During Dillinger's journey into Chicago, a Detective spotted him and gave chase. Dillinger slammed on his brakes, and prepared for battle, but the Detective just drove right past without incident.  Dillinger decided not to wait around; he knew the Detective would go after reinforcements. When Dillinger arrived at Piquett's office, Billie ran out and hopped into the front seat of the car. Youngblood was lying behind the back seat armed with a machinegun. Piquett agreed to meet Dillinger later that day at Patsy Frechette's (Billie's sister) apartment on north Halsted Street. After dropping Youngblood off with bus fare, Dillinger and Frechette drove to her apartment at 901 Addison Street. This is the same residence, where Frechette had lived when she first met Dillinger in November of 1933. Dillinger knew he couldn't stay at the Addison apartment for long, because Police would eventually show up. Next they drove to Billie’s sister’s house. An excited Patsy Frechette wasn't expecting the most talked about criminal in the country to show up at her door.