"He must have done something. They don't kill you for nothing." - Chicago Gangster Ted Newberry. Rubbed out January 7, 1933

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Crazy Larry

July 8, 1936 saw the bloody demise of Depression Era desperado Lawrence DeVol. A member of the Barker-Karpis gang, DeVol was known as an especially trigger happy psycho who had killed a number of police officers.

DeVol became an associate of Karpis when they both escaped from Kansas State Reformatory in 1929. In 1933 DeVol was arrested after participating in a bank robbery that resulted in the death of three people. DeVol pleaded guilty and was sent away to a prison for the criminally insane. In June of 1936 he lead an escape of fifteen inmates. By early July he and another escapee, Donald Reeder, had robbed a few banks in Kansas and were laying low in Enid, Oklahoma planning future robberies. 

On July 8, DeVol and Reeder stopped into a beer parlor with a couple of dates. The proprietor didn't like the looks of them and thought they might be there to rob him. (Later he would state that a few weeks prior he heard DeVol's description given over the radio on the show Gang Busters and recognized him) Either way, the saloonkeeper called the cops. 

Two police men, officers Cal Palmer and Ralph Knarr, entered and approached DeVol's table and asked him to leave with them. "Let me finish my beer and I'll go with you." DeVol responded. As he drained his stein with one hand, DeVol drew a gun from his pocket with the other and opened fire on the cops, Palmer died immediately and Knarr was seriously wounded. 

DeVol and his companions fled from the place. Other police in the vicinity started to chase the desperado who jumped onto the running board of a car in an attempt to escape but the car came to a halt. Officers opened fire on the gunman who returned the fire as he tried to getaway on foot. After a few rounds the lawmen's bullets found their mark and DeVol dropped to the street dead.

Lawrence DeVol

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Kennedy Shot!


July 7, 1933 saw the demise of Toledo bootlegger and nightclub entrepreneur Jack Kennedy.  Though only in his early twenties, Kennedy was said to be fearless; so when a gang of Detroit gangsters headed by Thomas "Yonnie" Licavoli came to town in an attempt to monopolize Toledo's underworld; Kennedy refused to kneel.

The first attempt came on December 1, 1932 when Kennedy and his girlfriend, Louise Bell, were riding in Jack's coupe in downtown Toledo. When they stopped for a light, an auto, with Michigan plates, containing four men, armed with possibly two machineguns, pulled up alongside them and opened fire. Kennedy got through unscathed but his girlfriend was struck in the head by a bullet and later died at the hospital. According to witnesses, after the shooting, the gunmen headed towards Detroit.

The following summer the boys from Detroit finished the job when they traced Kennedy to his home in the shore community of Point Place just outside of Toledo. (since annexed by the city). Kennedy and his new girlfriend, Audrey Ralls, left his cottage and walked to the store for some groceries. Upon their return, the realized the milk they had purchased was sour, so headed back to the store. While strolling back home, a man grabbed Ralls from behind and pushed her out of the way while another man fired at least six bullets into Kennedy, killing him.

Witnesses were able to identify the killers and armed with this, as well as evidence from a few other gangland murders, cases were made against Licavoli and his gang and all were sentenced to life in prison.

Jack Kennedy

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

By Person Or Persons Unknown

James "Red" McGee was a former Chicago cop (he quit the force in 1927) who made a failed attempt to become an alderman. The summer of '32 found him as proprietor of the Del Rio Cafe; a speakeasy he purchased a month previous, just across the Chicago line in Evergreen Park. 

On the evening of July 6, 1932 McGee stood at his bar with an associate named Bernie Larkin. Larkin was known as a former member of Ralph Sheldon's gang. He also had a brother named Thomas "the Goat" Larkin, a one time member of Spike O'Donnell's mob. 

As McGee and Larkin stood together, two men entered the establishment. One carrying a shotgun the other a handgun. "Hello Red," one of the men said. As McGee turned to see who called him, the gunmen opened fire. McGee and Larkin dropped to the floor dead. 

According to McGee's wife Margaret, who worked as a cashier at another roadhouse, Red knew he was on the spot but she didn't why. She mentioned that earlier she told Red that she would pick him up around 1 o'clock that evening and drive him home. "No Peggy, you'd better not. I'm hot."

A subsequent search of the premises showed that, in addition to owning the Del Rio, McGee had also been financial secretary for the defunct Cemetery Workers Union.  Police chalked the murder up to McGee failing to buy beer from the right vendor. The investigation was closed the following day with the verdict of murder by person or persons unknown.

James "Red" McGee
Bernie Larkin

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Lefty Leaves the Underworld

Frank "Lefty" Koncil was a top man in the Saltis-McErlane gang, one of the premier gangs of Chicago's Southside. In the fall of 1926 Koncil and Saltis were put on the trial for the murder rival gangster John "Mitters" Foley, an associate of Saltis and McErlane's chief rival Ralph Sheldon. Frank McErlane was also dealing with a murder trial at the time. In early November both Saltis and Koncil were acquitted but the trials of the three executives took a toll on business. With their legal troubles behind them, the gangsters began to make up for lost time.

"We're down. We're broke," Koncil told detectives in early March of 1927, "But we won't stay that way. We're going to get back what we used to have. We won't be pushed around any more. And if anybody gets in the way, we'll take care of him."

On the night of March 11, Less than a week after making those statements at the detective bureau, Koncil was in Saltis's sedan along with gang member Charles "Big Hayes" Hrubrek. It is believed that they had just exited a saloon where they were informing the proprietor that they were back in business. At about 11:45 pm, witnesses saw the Saltis car come flying around a corner followed by another sedan. The second car pulled up alongside the first and the shotguns went off. 

Koncil stopped the car and both he and Hrubrek hit the pavement. Another volley was fired and the latter, mortally wounded, fell face first to the ground. Koncil too collapsed. More shots were fired at him. After a few moments he got up and staggered a few few feet before dropping dead.

Frank "Lefty" Koncil      Charles Hrubek      

Sunday, March 7, 2021

The Bad Pope

Erneste Mazzoni better known as, "West Side" Frankie Pope was a Chicago hoodlum who was sent to Leavenworth prison in mid 1931 for violation of the Prohibition Act. Released in November of 1933 Pope, who added the West Side to his name to distinguish himself from the more infamous North Side Frankie Pope, had a small racket going where he would take money from family members of Leavenworth prisoners to help get them paroled. Only problem was, he didn't do anything for them after taking the money.

This was the reason anyway that police gave after two men entered his hotel room on the morning of March 7, 1934 and blasted him into eternity. According to witnesses, Pope returned to his room that morning and a short time later to men entered the hotel. They called up to his room and after a brief discussion went up.

Once they were in his room for a few minutes, a cleaning woman heard lady scream, "My God! Don't do that!" This was followed by about ten shots. All of which hit Pope. Hearing the shooting, the desk clerk called the cops but the gunmen and the woman were gone before they arrived.

It was while searching Pope's room that detectives came across the list of prisoners and their families. On the list were two notorious bank robbers and killers; Thomas Holden and Francis Keating. Perhaps Pope double crossed them in some fashion and they had him knocked off.

Six hours later another West Side hoodlum, Daniel Losce sat in his car smoking a cigarette when another car pulled up and let loose a barrage of gunfire. Losce slumped over dead. The dead man had a record dating back to 1922 including an arrest for murder. Back at his house, police found a small arsenal. Interestingly, he was a suspect in the 1928 Evergreen Park mail robbery which resulted in the theft of $133,000. This job was pulled by a gang headed by Thomas Holden and Francis Keating. This link had police wondering, was Losce working with Pope? Or was it simply a coincidence that they both were bumped off on the same day?

                                           West Side Frankie Pope        Daniel Losce                           

Saturday, March 6, 2021

The Fat Lady Sings for the Fat Man


Thomas "Fatty" Walsh was a New York gangster who was in the upper echelon of drug czar and criminal king pin Arnold Rothstein. As such, he was a close associate of fellow Big Apple gangsters Jack "Legs" Diamond and Charles "Lucky" Luciano. 

Walsh was one of those who visited Rothstein in the hospital after the latter was shot. He was picked up and questioned after Rothstein died but was not considered a suspect. Afterwards, Walsh moved to Miami, Florida where he was part owner of a casino ran out of the Miami-Biltmore hotel. On the evening of March 6, 1929, while he was watching the evening's play, one of his partners, Eddie Wilson, approached him and shot him twice in the stomach then turned the gun on another partner, "Chick" Clark and managed to wound him. Walsh stood up and pitched forward dead. The reason for the shooting was that Walsh and Clark were trying to squeeze Wilson out of some his share. It didn't help that Walsh also made of Wilson's speech impediment earlier that evening.

Thomas Fatty Walsh

Friday, March 5, 2021

Dingbat Goes for a Ride

John "Dingbat" Oberta was a hoodlum who rose through ranks on Chicago's Southside. Along with crazy man Frank McErlane, he was part of gang leader Joe Saltis's executive board. In addition to bootlegging, Oberta dabbled in local politics as well. 

By 1930 Saltis was in exile in Wisconsin and it appears that his two cohorts, Oberta and McErlane couldn't get along. In February of that year, McErlane showed up at the hospital with a bullet wound to the leg. Most likely fired by his wife during a fight. On the evening of February 24, McErlane lay in bed recuperating; his leg up in traction. At about 9 p.m. two men entered his room and opened fire on him. 

McErlane prepared for just such an emergency. Pulling out a .45 from under his pillow, the gunman returned fire. Though hit three times, McErlane managed to scare of his would be killers. When questioned by the police as to who the invaders were McErlane is reported to have said:

"Look for them in a ditch. That's where you will find them...McErlane takes care of McErlane"

The next day, McErlane was released and taken to his parents house to recover from his wounds.

About a week later, on the evening of March 5, Dingbat Oberta called his wife at about 7 p.m. from their florist shop and told her of his evening's plans. Two and a half hours later, a cop found Oberta's Lincoln off the road in a ditch. Inside on the passenger side was Dingbat with what appeared to be a shotgun wound to the back of his head. Outside submerged in the icy water of the gully was Oberta's bodyguard and chauffer, Sammy Malaga. He had been shot a number of times before being tossed in.  

It appears that McErlane took care of things.

John Dingbat Oberta     Sammy Malaga