Historic Indianapolis Crimes: Murder and Mystery in the Circle City

Historic Indianapolis Crimes: Murder and Mystery in the Circle City

by Fred D. Cavinder


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Hear tales from the Circle City's murderous underbelly, from poor Silvia Likens, who was tortured for months by her foster mother and eventually discovered dead, to Carrie Selvage, whose skeleton was found in an attic twenty years after she disappeared from a hospital bed in 1900. Discover how housekeepers found Dorothy Poore stuffed in a dresser drawer on a July day in 1954 and the curious story of Marjorie Jackson, her body was discovered clothed in pajama bottoms and a flannel robe on her kitchen floor, and police found $5 million hidden around her house in garbage cans, drawers, closets, toolboxes and a vacuum cleaner bag. Join local historian Fred Cavinder as he recounts the gruesome tales of Indiana's capital city, from mystery to murder.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781596299894
Publisher: History Press, The
Publication date: 07/28/2010
Series: Murder and Mayhem Series
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 1,214,932
Product dimensions: 6.58(w) x 8.96(h) x 0.32(d)

About the Author

Fred D. Cavinder has written seven books on Indiana topics since 1985. He is retired after thirty-seven years as a reporter, editor and feature writer for the Indianapolis Star newspaper, including sixteen years as editor of the paper's Sunday magazine supplement. A 1953 graduate of Indiana University, he has since that time written and taken photographs for numerous regional, state and international publications.

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Part I


Making Dillinger Look Like a Piker

Dr. Emmett Rose was out on a call the afternoon of April 27, 1936, when a man approached his wife in their Indianapolis home-office near Garfield Park.

Mrs. Rose was suspicious. The caller said that a friend had been shot because he had been running around with another man's wife. Not so unusual in itself. But the wounded man was being helped by his three companions from a car with Illinois license plates. "I thought it strange someone should bring a wounded man all the way from Illinois for my husband to treat," she said later. When assured that the doctor would not return for some time, the men drove away.

When he returned and heard what had happened, the doctor told his wife to call the police. The police told her that if the men returned she should call again.

Later that day, Mrs. Rose peeked into her husband's office and saw him talking to the man who had been there earlier. The expression on Dr. Rose's face served as a warning to her, and she retreated out the back door of the house at 2153 Barth Avenue. Although the men in the parked car saw her speed to a nearby drugstore, they took no action. "I don't know why they didn't shoot me, but they didn't," she said. At the drugstore, she asked the clerk to call police.

The men Mrs. Rose was dealing with, although she didn't know it, were the Brady gang, which had been formulated the year before in an Indianapolis garage. Al Brady, born in Goodland, Indiana, was neglected, orphaned at sixteen and imprisoned for burglary. In prison, he determined to become a better criminal. He hooked up with James Dalhover, a fellow inmate from Cincinnati, who had a record for making illegal liquor, stealing cars and committing assaults. In October 1935, they were joined by Clarence Lee Shaffer Jr. of Indianapolis, who by age twelve had been arrested for stealing cars and stripping them. Shaffer induced Rhuel Charles Giesking, also of Indianapolis, to later join the gang.

In January, the initial trio met in a garage on Park Avenue in Indianapolis, where they mounted a machine gun on a steel tripod. "Dillinger never had anything like this," Brady is believed to have said. They set out on their crime spree, holding up jewelry stores and big food markets on Saturday nights.

At a jewelry store in Lima, Ohio, three went inside and left Dalhover on alert in the car. When he saw policeman Jess Ford park a patrol car nearby and climb out of it, Dalhover jumped out, gun in hand, and confronted Ford. But Ford's partner saw the confrontation from a restaurant window while he was dining. This policeman, E.O. Swaney, ran out shooting. In the ensuing battle, both policemen were wounded by machine gun fire, and Giesking was winged by a bullet that passed through one leg and lodged in the other. The gang escaped.

Giesking was the wounded man Dr. Rose was being asked to treat. By that time, the slug had been in Giesking's leg for a month.

When the drugstore clerk alerted by Mrs. Rose called police, Sergeant Richard Rivers, patrolling near the Barth Avenue address, got the run. He parked in the alley behind Dr. Rose's house. When he reached the front porch and started to enter, he was cut down by a blaze of machine gun bullets from the car. Sergeant Rivers died almost instantly. Al Brady, the man who had been talking to Dr. Rose, fled the house, revolver in hand, and jumped in the car, which sped away. Police agencies all over the Midwest were alerted. The gang headed for Chicago.

In the Lima shootout, Brady had dropped the card of a fence they used in Chicago, and that gave away the gang. When cornered in Chicago, Brady withheld gunfire, possibly because of a blonde who was with him. Captured, he was returned to Indianapolis. The fence also helped to identify Dalhover's girlfriend. Police seized him. A tipster led police to Shaffer, found reading a magazine in his Indianapolis home.

When Brad, Dalhover and Shaffer were indicted, their attorney obtained a change of venue to Hancock County, and the three were transferred to the Greenfield jail. The trio loosened rivets in a yard- long steel bar in their cell, and when Hancock County sheriff Clarence Watson came in with their meal on October 11, they clubbed him and escaped in a commandeered Chevy. They began a series of bank robberies in four midwestern states, killing at least three citizens.

On May 27, 1937, the gangsters hit the bank in Goodland, Brady's hometown, for $4,000 and fled in a maroon sedan. With main roads blocked, Indiana state trooper Paul Minneman and Deputy Sheriff Elmer Craig began searching. They spotted the maroon sedan parked behind a church in northeast White County.

When Minneman stepped from the car, he was mowed down as part of gunfire and died sixty-four hours later. The deputy sheriff was wounded but survived. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) joined in searching for the gang; they were on the Ten Most Wanted list.

On October 12, 1937, a year and a day after the three gangsters had escaped jail in Greenfield, FBI agents cornered them in Bangor, Maine. They were traced there through an order for a gun they had placed with a sports store. But when the gangsters arrived at the store, an FBI agent was posing as a clerk. He crushed Dalhover's skull with a gun butt. Shaffer and Brady, outside in the car, started blazing with guns.

Brady fired four times with Minneman's revolver before being fatally wounded. Shaffer was killed while trying to escape. Dalhover surrendered. He was returned to Indianapolis, tried for the murder of Sergeant Rivers and executed under a federal warrant on December 13, 1938. Giesking, who eventually had to go to a hospital, was also captured. The disposition of his case seems to be unknown.

Some in Indiana were disturbed that Brady was buried in a pauper's grave in Maine. Most of the gang's robberies had been in Indiana, and Hoosier lawmen felt cheated that the gang had been brought to justice in New England.

The "Madman" Murderer

It was a savage slaying by any measure. Seven slugs from a .45- caliber army automatic penetrated the victim's heart, spleen, liver, right lung, left wrist, waist and chest. When the dead man turned out to be a Marion County deputy sheriff, the city of Indianapolis was galvanized and one thousand lawmen hunted the killer.

On that April 16, 1961 morning, Indianapolis did not yet encompass all of Marion County, and city police and sheriff's deputies had not merged. So twenty-three-year-old Deputy Edward G. Byrne was on duty on the far east side of the county when he was shot down.

Not long after his body was found, police knew who they sought — two partners of the murderer had given him up, admitting only to burglary. "He's a madman," one of them said of the shooter. "I'm a burglar. I don't go for that gun junk."

The "madman" was Michael Thomas Callahan, and the manhunt was on. Callahan had told associates that he would "go south" if he ever got hot. Soon, tips to police put him about thirty miles south of Indianapolis. There, despite some concerns that he would kill himself to avoid capture, he was seized two and a half days later without incident, lowered head-first through an attic hole.

It took four later trials to finally convict the thirty-six-year-old Callahan, already a veteran of years behind bars. Then the death sentence was changed to life in prison. Because of quirks in the law at that time, Callahan was almost eligible for parole by the time the life sentence was imposed.

Byrne, a member of the force less than a year and only fifteen days into patrol duty, was two hours into his Sunday morning shift. A call to the sheriff's office reported the burglar alarm going off at the Hilltop Tavern in far east Marion County. The owner of a nearby hardware store said that he had heard the alarm and saw men coming out of the tavern. Byrne talked to the hardware owner Raymond Grimes and then headed toward the tavern on Tenth Street.

He spotted a 1958 Oldsmobile pulling away from the tavern and pulled it over. Three men got out of the car. One of them seemed to try to obscure the Oldsmobile's license plate, while the other two stood beside the patrol car. When Byrne asked the man to move away from the plate, he instead walked to the window of the patrol car and, as Byrne picked up his radio mike, said, "Forget it. You're dead."

Ironically, Indianapolis city patrolman John R. Kennedy heard the fatal shots from the driveway of his house about two hundred yards from the altercation. When he saw the men trying to move their car, he thought the deputy was helping them and dismissed the sounds as car backfires. When he checked a few minutes later, the Oldsmobile was gone and Byrne was dead. Other arriving police officers found the murder weapon in the mud at the scene.

Sergeant Thomas Klein, one of many lawmen combing the city, saw a man known to be a burglar parked outside an Indianapolis apartment near downtown; a companion ran into the apartments. Klein picked up James William Walker Jr., and he soon implicated Ralph Eugene DuBois; they told how Callahan had shot down Byrne like a dog. DuBois termed Callahan "a madman."

Investigation revealed that Callahan had a prison record, arrests on other charges for which he was out on bond, was probably armed with a sawed-off shotgun and a revolver and, despite being considered somewhat mild mannered, was capable of anything. He was five feet, ten and a half inches tall, 220 pounds, wearing a crew cut and had a fat face that had earned him the nickname "Hoghead"; he also used barbiturates. His forty-year-old wife Dorothy said that she feared he might kill himself to avoid having to return to prison. Callahan had a dry cleaning business in Indianapolis and was a talented tailor, an outgrowth of working in the tailor shop at the Indiana Reformatory at Pendleton. He had spent two sentences at the reformatory, one stemming from a 1948 arrest for service station burglaries.

City police and deputies combed Marion County, three to a patrol car. Callahan was considered too dangerous to be approached by only two. As Deputy Byrne was being laid to rest at an east-side cemetery about 3:00 p.m. on April 18, tips placed Callahan in a house near the town of Bargersville. He reportedly had been seen being driven in that direction by a friend. A posse — some lawmen left the Byrne services to take part — assembled and began a military-like operation, starting with an encompassing circle of more than twenty lawmen nearly one mile wide. A helicopter hovered. Converging on the one-story house, lawmen found it seemingly empty, but one — State Police sergeant Jay H. Romack — saw a scratch on a heater under a sixteen-inch hole leading into the attic. In the attic, he encountered Callahan. With the warning "I'll blow your head off," Romack seized Callahan, handcuffed him and dropped him head-first down to other waiting police.

When Callahan was returned to Indianapolis and confronted with Walker and DuBois, he denied knowing anything about the killing, saying that he wasn't even there and claiming that his accusers were high on drugs. But the continual insistence of his partners in crime led to indictments on all three, as well as other fallout.

For one thing, DuBois said that he had witnessed Callahan shoot two other men in the commission of robberies; one had been shot with the same .45 that killed Byrne, DuBois said. He and his wife, Jean, had worked at Callahan's dry cleaning shop, which was believed to have been a front for the burglary operation in which Callahan was involved. DuBois also said that he had been involved in the burglary of four hundred houses and two hundred stores, most of them with Callahan. The duo had been seized in one tavern robbery, but the case had not yet been adjudicated. Callahan also had been under three charges, but his bond had been reduced for some unknown reason. A retainer that would have moved him to federal jurisdiction on charges of robbery and auto banditry seemingly had not reached local authorities, so Callahan was released from jail the day before Byrne lost his life.

Police had also seized Arthur E. Ingram. He was the owner of the house in which Callahan had holed up. Ingram was later released because police said that they had insufficient evidence to prosecute him for aiding a criminal.

Callahan, through various appeals, had three trials before the death penalty option was taken off the table. He was held in the Indiana Reformatory at Pendleton until 1976. He had been taken there for safekeeping, lest he and Walker and DuBois stir too much unrest if all were in the Marion County Jail.

Callahan's life sentence was imposed on January 6, 1976, by Judge David T. Woods after conviction in Brown Circuit Court, where the case had been taken upon a change of venue. Callahan's case had been overturned by a federal court in 1962, and two subsequent trials had resulted in a hung jury and a mistrial.

By the time Callahan was given life, DuBois had served thirteen years for his role in the Byrnes case and Walker had died in prison. So the murder of Ed Byrnes had taken almost fifteen years to be resolved.

Murder Aftermaths

The slaying of Indianapolis detective Jack R. Ohrberg in an early morning confrontation while he was trying to serve a warrant resulted in two historical events. One of the men convicted in Ohrberg's killing would become the last put to death in the electric chair in Indiana. The second man convicted in the murder would become the first executed by lethal injection in the state. Both defendants would be part of a firestorm of criticism involving the facts of the case and the death penalty in Indiana.

The scenario began about 5:30 a.m. on December 11, 1980, on the northeast side of Indianapolis. Detectives, led by Ohrberg, had been investigating a cold case, the August 4 slaying of Brink's guard William E. Sieg Jr. at a department store.

Some $50,000 had been taken in the Brink's robbery, and for a time leads had dried up, despite a reward of $100,000. But during lulls in the Indianapolis crime scene, Ohrberg and other homicide detectives had renewed the investigation, and "they received phone calls and people began to talk," Ohrberg's commander said. Suspected were Earl Resnover, twenty-eight; his brother Gregory D. Resnover, twenty-nine; and an associate named Tommie J. Smith, twenty-six, sometimes called Mr. P. or "the Priest." They also were suspects in the February 6 armed robbery of an Indianapolis bank across town.

Ohrberg, who was not wearing a bulletproof vest, approached an Oxford Street address with two other detectives; they had arrest warrants. He knocked on the door and identified the trio as policemen. Getting no response, they asked a neighbor if anyone was at home. The neighbor said that there had been noise in the house.

Ohrberg returned to the porch and banged on the door with his shoulder; it yielded slightly. There was furniture blocking the door. Two or three muzzle flashes occurred inside the house. "I've been hit," Ohrberg called out. "Get help." Then, according to testimony, someone leaned out of the partly opened door and fired several times. Ohrberg was hit again. The five remaining police scattered; an ambulance and backup were summoned.

There were numerous shots fired. At last, Gregory Resnover came out, threw down an AR-15 rifle, an automatic military weapon, and surrendered. Earl Resnover did the same, surrendering another AR- 15 rifle and a pistol. Two women also gave up. They were identified as Teresa L. Nance and Samara Y. Palmer. Inside, police found Tommie Smith wounded and bleeding. Beside him was a third AR- 15, later determined to be the weapon with which Ohrberg was shot. Smith was transported to the hospital, where he eventually recovered.

Several weapons were seized, including handguns, an M-1 rifle that was tossed onto the lawn and a fourth AR-15. Clips for the weapons contained as many as forty rounds of ammunition. A total of two hundred rounds of ammo was found in the house, along with bulletproof vests.


Excerpted from "Historic Indianapolis Crimes"
by .
Copyright © 2010 Fred D. Cavinder.
Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 7

Part I Lethal for the Law

Making Dillinger Look Like a Piker 9

The "Madman" Murderer 14

Murder Aftermaths 18

Part II Vintage Violence

Was It or Wasn't It? 21

Holmes and Homicides 22

Murder for Profit 26

The Sugar Bowl Slaying 29

The Last Hanging 32

Claypool Corpses 34

Room 665 38

Part III Catalogue of Slaughter

Murder for $1.20 41

Murder after Twelve Days 43

A Plethora of Possible Crimes 48

The Most Horrible Crime 50

"I Love You"-Bang, Bang, Bang 56

Murder and Millions 62

Matrimonial Murder 67

Just Like Something in the Movies 69

Death of a Fighter 71

They Didn't Send Flowers 73

Jesus, Take These Children 76

Concrete Evidence 79

The Indianapolis Massacre 80

From the Stage to the Grave 82

Recording of a Murder 85

Part IV By Person or Persons Unknown

Not What the Doctor Ordered 89

The Corpse in the Attic 96

After the Race 98

Cash may Have Been the Object 101

Bathroom Brutality 104

Bloodbath for Three 107

Making a Killing in the Restaurant Business 113

No Bone Unturned 117

The Body of Evidence 122

The Case of the Missing Clerk 123

About the Author 127

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