Sunday, October 02, 2011

Black Sheep Sunday: Third Bandit Is Caught In The Trap

Source: Marion Leader-Tribune, Marion, Indiana, December 31, 1924, page 1.


Third Bandit Is Caught In The Trap


Two Bandits Plead Guilty, Get Long Prison Terms, And Third Arrested Yesterday


Thread by thread the web which has hidden the Bandits is being unwound, and "Red" Smith is the third member of the trio to be caught in the trap, with outlook that before the old year has checked out for all time others may be caught, and the end come for one of the most vicious criminal conspiracies in the state, with two women as a part of the plot.


The arrest of Marion, alias "Red" Smith, third of the gang of six bandits who robbed the Upland State bank of $2,500, and the sentencing of James Robbins and William Behrens, two other bandits, under arrest for from ten to twenty years in the state reformatory, for auto banditry, on their please of guilty and the statement that at least two women are members of the gang were the outstanding features yesterday in the work of Sheriff Bert Renbarger and officials in surrounding counties to round up the band, and expose one of the boldest and most high handed conspiracies to rob in the entire history of the state.


The third man to be arrested, who admitted to taking part in the robbing of the Upland bank on December 23, was Marion Smith, alias "Red" Smith, 22, who was arrested at Indianapolis yesterday, upon his return from Springfield, Ill., which he gave as his home, by an operative from the Webster Detective Agency of Indianapolis.  He was brought to the Grant county jail about 7:30 last night.


Two Men Arraigned.


Robbins and Behrens were arraigned in circuit court shortly after 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon, when they entered pleas of guilty to charges of automobile banditry.  After being questioned by Judge J. Frank Charles and Prosecuting Attorney Jay Keever, each defendant was given a sentence of from ten to twenty years in the Indiana state reformatory.  Sheriff Bert Renbarger said last night that he would try and have Smith, the third bandit arraigned in court late today if possible.


Efforts toward rounding up the three other members of the gang are being made in a number of counties.  It was stated last night that one or two women are believed to be implicated in the bank robberies.


Planned "Sure Go."


From what information which could be obtained from the three men under arrest, the men had planned to get together again one day this week and return to Noblesville, where they were to again attempt to rob the bank at that place and it was their intention to make the job a sure go this time, they said.


Smith had just returned to Indianapolis from Springfield yesterday morning and knew nothing of the arrest of Behrens and Robbins.  As he was entering a rooming house at Indianapolis he was placed under arrest by A.M. Larsh, an operative from the Webster agency.


Smith was carrying two suit cases.  He was brought to the Grant county jail last night.


Before coming to Marion he was searched at Indianapolis, where $137.25 was found on his person.  He was again searched in jail here last night and $109 was found hidden in the back of his coat.


Seventy-five cents in change was found in his pockets and when he asked to have the money returned to him, suspicion was aroused that he had more money hidden about his clothes and every bit of clothing which had on and was in the suit cases was searched, which resulted in the finding of the $109 hidden in his coat.  He admitted to having taken a part in the Upland robbery, but denied having anything to do with the South Marion or Noblesville cases.


New Bills Found.


Much of the money found on Smith was new bills issued by the First National bank of this city.


Smith has also served time in the state reformatory on a charge of vehicle taking, being sent up from Paoli, Ind.


Behrens and Robbins were brought into court at 5:15 yesterday afternoon.  The indictment charging them with automobile banditry, which was read to them by County Clerk Sam Connelly, was sworn out by Deputy Sheriff Woody Smith and charged the defendant that on December 23 they unlawfully and feloniously aided each other in stealing and taking away in person the chattels and personal property of the Upland State bank in the form of United States money, the sum of $2,000, and then making their escape in an automobile.


Worked on a Farm.


Judge Charles then asked them what plea they desired to make and both replied "guilty."


Robbins was placed on the stand and questioned.  He said that he was 22 years of age and that his business was that of a farmer, and that he had spent about four years on his father's farm which was located on a rural route out of Crawfordsville.  He admitted to being in trouble before, stating that in 1921 he was sentenced to the state reformatory on a charge of grand larceny and that he was also arrested in 1920 on a charge of grand larceny and before that had been arrested for speeding.  He told Judge Charles that he had not taken any part in any bank robbery except that at Upland and the attempt at Noblesville was his first experience in banditry at the latter place.  He also said that he had taken part in the robbing of the Lebanon hardware store.


His Father Dead.


Behrens, when questioned, stated that he resided with his mother at Monticello, his father being dead.  He said that he had been employed in a textile mill until recently.  He said that when he was a small boy he had been given a suspended sentence on a charge of petit larceny and that in May, 1921, he had been given a sentence of from two to fourteen years at the reformatory on a charge of attempted burglary, he having served the minimum term.  He told Judge Charles that he was not addicted to the use of liquor and that he had not been drinking on the day the Upland bank was robbed.


He admitted that he had taken part in the Lebanon hardware store robbery and that he was in the gang which attempted to hold up and rob the Noblesville bank, but said that he did not carry firearms on that day and denied having any part in the robbing of the South Marion bank on November 27.  He said that the Upland and Noblesville banks were the only ones he had taken part in.


Judge Charles then passed sentence on them and when the sentence was pronounced, neither man gave any evidence of having been affected by the heavy sentence.


It was stated from the jail last night that Behrens had remarked that he might as well be in prison as any place else, while Robbins seems to be effected.  According to the jail officials, Robbins is engaged to be married to the girl who appeared at the jail Monday afternoon to visit him.


More Booty Found.


Sheriff Renbarger received word yesterday from the sheriff of White county at Monticello, that an electric drill, which was stolen from the Lebanon store, and about $125 had been found in a suit case in the room occupied by Behrens at that place.


Robbins talked more freely of his trips with the bandits yesterday and said that he had become acquainted with all of the bandits while at the state reformatory and that for some time after his parole he met two of the members who had been in prison and they told him that it would be an easy thing to rob banks, as they had robbed the South Marion bank a short time before and had gotten away with it, the officers having no clue to work on.  He said that he had no work and that the stigma of having been in prison weighed upon him and that he finally was persuaded to join the bandits, which he did, taking part in the robbing of the Lebanon store on the night of December 22.


Go Through Upland.


"After resting a few hours after the Lebanon robbery we drove toward Upland, went through the town slowly and on to Marion, arriving about noon," Robbins said.


"After driving around town for a short while, we parked our car on the east side of the public square and went into the Club cafe to eat dinner.  After dinner we again got in the car, without walking about town, and drove about again, stopping at a filling station in North Marion, where we talked with Deputy Sheriffs John Schell and Woody Smith.


"We did not know they were deputy sheriffs, but thought they were state highway officers who were looking for the Moon car stolen from Indianapolis, in which we were riding.


When they started following us in their car, we switched around and went west on Highland avenue, coming into town on the Wabash pike.


"The other members of the gang wanted to show me the South Marion State bank which they had previously robbed, and we drove up there, stopping for a minute, while they described the robbery to Behrens and me, Behrens not having been with them either on that raid.


Robbins said that they drove through Upland and south of town and drove back at once, when they stopped at the Upland bank, when two of the men remained in the car and the four others went inside and robbed the bank.  After leaving Upland they started back to Lebanon, but the Moon car became mired in the mud, which they were forced to leave, proceeding the rest of the way in a car which they hired from a garage.


Guilty as the Rest.


Robbins said that he had been persuaded to join the men and that he was as guilty as the rest and that he is willing to take his punishment.


Although he said he was not with the gang that robbed the South Marion bank, Robbins told of the robbery.  He said that a Nash car was used, in which were two women, one being the wife of the leader, and that after robbing the Marion bank drove directly to Indianapolis where they transferred the stolen money, about $4,000, to a Dodge car.


That Grant county has "an excellent system" of roads was given by Robbins as the reason for pulling off the two bank robberies in Grant county.


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This article is another in a series of follow-up stories to the robbery of the Upland State bank by a group of robbers, led by my paternal cousin, Harry PIERPONT (1902-1934).  Harry later became famous as a member of the "Terror Gang" with John Dillinger.  These earlier bank robberies terrorized Indiana during 1924-1925.




Black Sheep Sunday – create a post with the main focus being an ancestor with a “shaded past.” Bring out your ne’er-do-wells, your cads, your black widows, your horse thieves and tell their stories. And don’t forget to check out the International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists (IBSSG). This is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.
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