Category Archives: Crime and vice

The Lemon Jelly Cake (Madeline Babcock Smith)

Madeline Babcock Smith earned her spot in the literary limelight. But she never got to enjoy it. Smith’s first novel, The Lemon Jelly Cake, published Aug. 4, 1952, “enjoyed an immediate and astounding success,” Dan Guillory wrote in his introduction … Continue reading

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Police officer killings, 1885

When Leonard Gardnier left his Springfield apartment the evening of Aug. 23, 1885, he told his wife to “dress up real nice, because he wanted her to make as pretty a corpse as possible.” An hour or so later, Gardnier, … Continue reading

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Gov. Len Small arrested, 1921

The Aug. 9, 1921, arrest of Gov. Len Small for alleged corruption created a daylong drama in Springfield. It was performed on three stages: the Capitol, the governor’s mansion and the Sangamon County Courthouse. Stars included Small, county Sheriff Henry … Continue reading

Posted in Crime and vice, Illinois capital, Law enforcement, Local government, Politics, Prominent figures, Spectacles, State government, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pawnee posse captures burglars, 1899

A posse of Pawnee citizens corralled two burglars in a remote crossroads schoolhouse on Dec. 9, 1899. The two surrendered after a tense standoff. But their criminal careers would include one last episode in Springfield. The men, identified as Frank … Continue reading

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Sangamon County Detention Home, 1916

The Sangamon County Detention Home was created with two goals: to be both an alternative to jail for the county’s youngest delinquents and a refuge for neglected or abandoned children. It wasn’t a perfect solution to either problem, but it … Continue reading

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Rooftop gunman, 1951

Updated with information on the Horn Hotel — ed. A man fired shots at random from the roof of a Springfield hotel for more than an hour the evening of July 1, 1951. Somehow, no one was injured except the … Continue reading

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Benjamin Miller, homesick murderer

Benjamin Miller was homesick. So Miller walked into the sheriff’s office in Jena, Louisiana, in November 1915 to confess that he had shot and killed James Kirlin in Riverton 36 years earlier. “I am tired of dodging from one place … Continue reading

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Reed ‘Kid’ Waddell, international con man

Springfield’s Reed Waddell often gets credit for inventing the gold brick swindle. He probably was innocent, for once, of originating that particular swindle. But by the time he was shot to death – by a crony in Paris, France – … Continue reading

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Wife poisonings, 1941

When authorities suspected Carl Zubr had poisoned his second wife, they started to wonder about the death of his first wife too. The bodies of both women, it turned out, were laced with strychnine. Zubr (1902-67) was a mule driver … Continue reading

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Mumblety-peg slaying, 1889

Theophilus “Moonlight” Waldron was a 15-year-old orphan, living on the streets and by his wits, when he stabbed to death a man over a game of mumblety-peg. Waldron (1874-?) was sentenced to life in prison for murder, a judgement many … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Crime and vice, Journalism, Law enforcement, Media | 1 Comment