Thursday, June 5, 2014


6/5/1949 - Proving that he never should have been paroled out of Leavenworth Penitentiary, former bank robber Thomas James Holden adds murder to his already full criminal resume ... and for his victims, he chooses members of his own family.


A wanted felon since the late 1920s for a series of Midwest robberies committed with his partner-in-crime, Francis Keating (their 1926 hijacking of a U.S. Mail truck at Evergreen Park, Illinois, nets the bandits $135,000 ... and 25-year sentences when the duo are finally caught), after escaping prison using a trusty pass forged by George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Holden works with a who's-who of public enemies that includes Kelly, Frank "Jelly" Nash (the robber that gunmen are trying to free when they perpetrate the infamous Kansas City Massacre in 1933), Harvey Bailey (mastermind of robberies that net him over $1,000,000 in cash and securities), Verne Miller (a former soldier and sheriff who switches careers, becoming a thief and a murderer by 1930), Fred and Doc Barker (two of Ma's four muderous sons), Alvin Karpis (the brains behind the most successful bandit gang of the 1930s), and Lawrence DeVol (a killer of at least 11 people during the 22-years of his bloody career).
                                    Alvin Karpis.jpg

Caught in 1932 by Federal officers while playing golf in Kansas City, Missouri, at the Old Mission Golf Course, Holden is returned to Leavenworth to finish out his sentence ... but is foolishly let out due to a rheumatic heart condition and "for good behavior" in 1947.  Returning to his home town of Chicago to be close to his wife Lillian and his two sons, with no job (no one will hire him ... not exactly a surprise given his history), Holden spends most of his time sampling the fare of the neighborhood taverns and leading a somewhat quiet life for roughly 18 months.  Then, violently, he reverts to form.

       Thomas James Holden Arrest Papers
                                             FBI Documents On Holden

After a full day of carousing about the local bars, Holden continues getting blasted at home ... which his wife is not happy about at all.  More booze, loud screaming, fisticuffs, and Lillian involving her two brothers in her argument with her 'deadbeat" husband eventually results in a 3:15 in the morning call to the police ... who arrive at the fourth floor West Side apartment where Holden is living and discover the three corpses of Lillian and her brothers, shot by the irate robber with a .38 pistol (found on a dresser with four spent rounds and two waiting for the next argument).  On the lam again, Holden becomes the first criminal to be placed atop the FBI's newly created, Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List, and rightly so, is described by a spokesman for the law agency as, "... a menace to every man, woman, and child in America."

                                   Under Arrest

His freedom is short-lived though!  After The Oregonian runs an article about the FBI's list and its ten miscreants on June 20, 1951, a tip is received that Holden is living in Beaverton, Oregon, working as a plaster for the Cascade Concrete Products company while using the alias of John McCullough.  It is good information and Holden is arrested three days later while working in an unoccupied home just outside of town.  Surprised and weaponless (except for an assortment of spatulas and a tub of plaster), he is returned to Illinois where he is soon easily convicted of the three murders by a Chicago jury and sentenced to life in prison ... a life behind bars that lasts only until 1953, when his faulty ticker vapor locks and he finally ceases to be a menace to the public.

                       Headline from The Sunday Oregonian, June 24, 1951
                                               The Headline Story

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