Thursday, February 21, 2013


2/17/1932 - Already serving a sentence of one year to life for a series of Chicago crimes, Lester Joseph Gillis, better known to criminal history as Baby Face Nelson, is found guilty in Wheaton, Illinois, of the 1930 robbery of the State Bank of Itasca, a job that netted the bandit and his partners $4,678.00. 

                                                      Lester Gillis

Trial over with another year to life sentence added to the time he is already doing, twenty-three-year-old Nelson will be behind bars at the Illinois state prison at Joliet for many moons unless some drastic change in his fortune takes place ... a drastic change like an escape from custody.


Led to a conference room after judgment has been rendered, the outlaw is allowed to say goodbye to his family before being frisked by two deputies and then turned over to corrections officer R. M. Martin for transportation back to the prison, a journey that will take place with Nelson's right wrist handcuffed to Martin's left.  It is an overcast and snowy day in Illinois.  Hoping for a chance to give additional goodbyes to Nelson, the Gillis Family follows the pair as they drive to the Wheaton train depot.  There, another set of farewells are indeed exchanged, but from several yards away as Martin keeps an eye on his charge until it is time for the train to leave.  The ride is uneventful and upon arrival at the Joliet train station, Martin commissions a taxi driven by Joseph Candic to finish the journey back to the prison, a trip of only a few short minutes.

                                                        Train Station

During the ride, Nelson seems preoccupied with thoughts of how many years he will have to spend behind bars before he gets to experience freedom again, but it is just an act to get Martin to relax his guard.  In sight of the prison. the outlaw suddenly jams a .45 automatic into his guard's ribs.  "Don't give me a reason to shoot you.  Nice and easy now, take off the cuffs."  Sure that Nelson isn't bluffing, Martin does as he is told.  So does Candic when he is told to head the cab towards Chicago and the pistol is moved to his temple.  As a chill dusk descends on the countryside, about four miles southwest of Cicero, Nelson has Candic turn down a side road until the trio reach the Resurrection Cemetery near the town of Summit.  Divesting himself of his traveling companions, the bandit steals a ten dollar bill out of Martin's wallet and then continues on towards the bright lights of Chicago glittering off in the distance.  He will never be under arrest again.


Authorities will never conclusively determine how the desperado acquired his pistol, but later that year while hiding out in Minnesota, Nelson will tell fellow bank robber Alvin Karpis that his freedom has come by way of an "angel" ... an angel in the form of his sister Leona, who has planted the .45 in a rest room on the train.  Or more accurately a devil, because with the freedom Nelson has remaining before his death in November of 1934, in addition to seriously wounding several individuals, he will do away with banker Roy John Frisch so the man can't testify against the killer's organized crime friends in Reno, Nevada, murder a thirty-five-year-old paint salesman named Ted Kidder in front of the man's wife for cutting him off on a Minneapolis road, shoot to death Department of Investigation Agent Carter Baum during the government's bungled Little Bohemia Lodge raid on the Dillinger Gang, and kill two more government agents, Sam Crowley and Herman Hollis, in a gun battle near Barrington, Illinois.  The cause of many tragedies to come in the months ahead, Nelson will die as the nation's Public Enemy #1 as chosen by the Federal Department of Justice ... a designation he richly deserved!


No comments:

Post a Comment