Category Archives: Crime and vice

Jake Wexler murder, 1935

Jake Wexler was a jeweler in downtown Springfield for 15 years. But when he was gunned down gangland-style in 1935, newspaper stories revealed he had a sideline: slot machines. And, unwisely, he apparently refused to sell his devices and get … Continue reading

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Three killed in saloon shootout, 1905

A drunken shootout in a Springfield saloon in 1905 left three men dead and two brothers charged with murder. The cause was a previous fistfight, followed by a series of telephoned challenges, newspaper articles reported. Those killed were all from … Continue reading

Posted in Communications, Crime and vice, Hotels & taverns, Journalism, Law enforcement | 3 Comments

Theater bombings, 1931-32

Unhappy theater workers were the immediate suspects in 1931, when bombs – both explosives and stink bombs – went off in three local cinemas. A few months later, another bomb wrecked the home of a theater manager. Members of Springfield … Continue reading

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Cornfield shootout, 1914

The robbery of a general store near Chatham on Christmas Eve 1914 climaxed in a cornfield shootout that killed one of the bandits and wounded two of his pursuers. Newspaper accounts of the incident read like a movie script, complete … Continue reading

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Child charged with ‘depraved’ crime (1894)

When two itinerant horse traders were charged in 1894 with “a nameless crime” – apparently sodomy and child sexual abuse – their presumed victim, a seven-year-old boy, went to jail as well. “The details of the story are too indecent … Continue reading

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Abortion murder trials, 1894

Was a Springfield doctor guilty of killing two women via botched abortions in 1893? Juries said no, but newspaper editorial writers disagreed. And despite the acquittals of Dr. John H. Lawrence, the boyfriend of one of the women was convicted … Continue reading

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Killing of police detective, 1938

A work disappointment sent James Young into an emotional crisis on Jan. 11, 1938, culminating in the deaths of both Young and Springfield Police Detective Patrick Gilmore. Florence Young told officers later the incident began that morning, when her husband … Continue reading

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Murder-extortion gang, 1932

A wild shootout in Christian County in 1932 ended the bloody history of a Springfield-based murder and extortion gang. Authorities claimed their followup investigation solved a half-dozen area slayings. But Springfield’s chief of detectives struggled to explain why police hadn’t … Continue reading

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Springfield’s statewide stickup gang, 1938

Authorities squelched a statewide crime wave with the arrests of a Springfield-based stickup gang in March 1938. Sangamon County assistant state’s attorney John Curren called the group, which he credited with 150 or more robberies, “the best organized gang of … Continue reading

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Body in the barrel mystery, 1930

Springfield police thought they’d wrapped up their case when junk dealer Harry Ross confessed to murdering his partner and trying to burn the man’s body. But a judge said detectives went too far when they interrogated Ross for six days … Continue reading

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