Wednesday, February 13, 2013


2/13/1927 - On the run after his January escape from the jailhouse of Okmulgee, Oklahoma, where he was awaiting trial for armed robbery and murder, badman Wilbur Underhill decides an easy target for some travel money would be raiding a movie theater of it's night's receipts ... he is tragically wrong in that determination.


At the Mystic Theater in the Oklahoma mining town of Picher, Underhill arrives moments after its owner, J. D. Wineland, has gone upstairs and deposited $800 in his office strongbox.  Pulling a pistol, the outlaw demands cashier E. E. Burkholder turn over the cash she has.  The frightened woman complies, but the desperado's take is only five dollars in change.  Watching unobserved from his office over the movie hall's foyer, Wineland contemplates pulling his pistol from his desk and shooting the bandit, but decides a few measly dollars are not worth the sacrifice of human life ... Underhill however is not operating with the same type conscience.

                                                       Picher, Oklahoma

As Underhill rushes away from the theater with his loot, Wineland calls Constable George Fuller and gives him details about the robbery.  Searching town for the culprit, at around 9:30 in the evening Fuller, accompanied by a twenty-one-year-old miner sworn in as a deputy named Earl Robert O'Neal, spots an individual matching the description of the robber at the counter of Owl Drug Store, only a block away from the theater.  Approaching the man as he exits the pharmacy with a milkshake in one hand and a detective magazine in the other, Fuller orders the suspect to put his hands in the air, turn around, and place them against the front window of the drug store.  With Underhill seeming to be in the process of complying, Fuller tosses his bracelets to O'Neal and tells the deputy to put the outlaw in cuffs.  Stepping forward to do as he is told, O'Neal also puts himself between the constable's gun and Underhill, a serious error in judgment.  The shielded split second is all the time the rattlesnake bandit needs to strike.  Pivoting, in one motion Underhill smashes his elbow into O'Neal's face, draws a pistol from his belt, and begins firing.  Hit several times, O'Neal will be rushed by an ambulance to the nearby American Hospital, but dies on the operating table from the massive internal bleeding caused by the damage he has taken to his abdomen.

As O'Neal goes down, Underhill breaks away and runs into a parking lot where he uses the cars there as cover ... and cover is needed because Fuller, and just arrived on the scene Night Policeman George Norton, fire over a dozen shots at the fleeing killer, a barrage that shatters the plate glass window of a furniture store and blows a large hole in the front door of a second hand shop, but fails to hit Underhill with a single round.  Vanishing into the night, Underhill makes good his escape from the town despite the efforts of local authorities and roughly a hundred irate miners to catch the killer ... a sad set of circumstances that will allow the outlaw to continue his murderous ways for another seven years.

            All-True Crime #26 - Comic Book Cover   
                                      Underhill Comic

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