Thursday, January 10, 2013


1/6/1934 - The group of criminals known as "The College Kidnappers" because their leader, Theodore "Handsome Jack" Klutas, attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign briefly in his youth, is put down by police officers working for Captain Dan Gilbert of the State's Attorney's office.


Born into a respectable family in 1900, Klutas creates a band of cutthroats that make most of their coin by kidnapping wealthy mobsters, gamblers, and bootleggers, members of society able to pay huge ransoms, but not inclined to ask for help from local authorities (Klutas also robs banks, has murdered two police officers, and is one of the first criminals that tries to alter his appearance and fingerprints through plastic surgery).  For the members of his gang, Edward Doll, Russell Hughes, Frank Souder, Gale Swoley, Ernest Rossi, Eddie Wagner, Earl McMahon, Julius Jones, and Walter Dietrich it is a lucrative occupation that nets the men over $500,000 in ransom fees.  It also eventually gains the group the ire of a very dangerous man ... Mr. Al Capone.


Not amused by having members of his organization kidnapped, Capone gunmen capture Julius Jones and give him a message from their boss for Klutas ... cease and desist or be killed.  Klutas does not take the bad news well, and in a classic case of wanting to shoot the messenger, decides Jones is weak for being caught and orders the execution of his own man.  Setting up a trap, the Klutas mob steals Jones' car, then the next day, masquerading as members of the police department, call their target with information where the vehicle can be located.  Wary, Jones notices Klutas gunmen stationed around the car and flees the scene before being fired on ... and makes the decision that will take the College Kidnappers down; caught between Capone's blood thirsty men and the killers in the employ of Klutas, he will betray his former partners for protection from the authorities.

Armed with the details Jones provides on the location of several hideouts, two squads of police led by Lt. Frank Johnson launch an afternoon raid on a brick bungalow at 619 South 24th Avenue in the community of Bellwood, Illinois, directly across the street from the home of the town's police chief ... in the bathroom they arrest a man in the process of shaving and in the bedroom they place into custody a man in the middle of dressing.  Neither crook is Klutas, but the man with his face covered in shaving cream is a major catch himself, former Baron Lamm bank robber and recent escapee from the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City (using guns provided by former convict John Dillinger) where he was serving a life sentence, Walter Dietrich (the other is Earl McMahon, wanted in a $50,000 jewel robbery).


Then in hiding, the police wait to see if Klutas will show at the site. Four hours later a car pulls up at the curb in front of the building and Klutas gets out.  Ringing the bell of the front door expecting one of his men to answer, the outlaw instead finds Sergeant Joe Healy waiting on the other side holding a machine gun.  "Hands up!  Police Officers!"  Showing none of the intelligence that got him into the University of Illinois, Klutas instead decides to play quick draw and reaches under his overcoat for his pistol ... a move that results in the faster Healy pouring a burst of .45 slugs into the chest of the desperado.  Knocked backwards, Klutas falls off the porch of the bungalow and a bleeding mess, collapses on the sidewalk, dead at the young age of 34, ending the criminal activities of the College Kidnappers.

                                                    News of the killing

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