Feds get Dillinger, fingered by girl in red outside movie house

CHICAGO, July 23, 1934 (UP) - John Dillinger died under a volley of bullets fired by federal agents because a mysterious girl in red pointed the "finger of death" at him.

The girl, it was learned today, then accompanied Dillinger to a cheap movie theater, sat beside him as they saw a gangster melodrama and knew that he probably would fall victim to federal guns as they strolled from the lobby after the show.


The girl who "sold" the nation's most murderous outlaw to the authorities - she was lured into the betrayal by a $15,000 reward - was reported to be under heavy guard in a Chicago hotel this afternoon.

Federal Department of Justice agents whose guns wrote a finis to Dillinger's reign of terror last night feared that some survivor of his gang might make a bold effort to take her life.

An East Chicago, Ind., police officer whose comrade was shot to death by Dillinger in a bank raid several months ago persuaded her to lead the outlaw to his execution - in a welter of blood in a dark alley.

At the inquest today, Melvin H. Purvis, the government's chief man-hunter in the Chicago area, said he had received a tipoff that Dillinger and a girl would be at the theater, a neighborhood movie house on the near north side.


But never, he said, would he reveal the identity of his informant.

From other sources, however, it was learned that the East Chicago policeman, Martin Zarkovich, met the girl through a man whose acquaintance he made in a saloon several weeks ago.

Dillinger's father, John Sr., arrived today on a hearse in which he will take back the outlaw's body to Moorseville, Ind., home of the Dillingers.

Meanwhile, authorities turned to hunt for his last Chicago hideout.

They felt sure he had been living on the near north side in the neighborhood of the Biograph Theater from which he emerged to find a waiting death much like that depicted by the gangland melodrama he had just witnessed.

Their only clues to the place were a pair of keys tied together with a soiled string.

"Dillinger wouldn't be taken alive," Mr. Purvis, hero of the whole Midwest today, declared.

"He reached for his gun there in the alley. I had no option. 'Come on fellows,' I said, and we started shooting."

"It was women who led him to his grave," said the federal detective.

Reports had differed on whether Dillinger took one or two girls to the movies. Employes of the Biograph, who remembered previous visits by Dillinger, said the girl they noticed last night was a new one to them. She was pretty, it was said. But Mr. Purvis refused to say whether one or more women was in custody. One federal agent told the coroner's jury today that "to protect our source" he could not comment on whether two women had accompanied Dillinger to the show.


As it became known that Mr. Purvis had begun a brisk new manhunt for Dillinger's gang lieutenants, the part played by the East Chicago police loomed larger. Mr. Purvis wants Homer Van Meter, Dillinger's chief "torpedo"; George (Baby Face) Nelson, John Hamilton and the others who took part with the Moorseville, Ind., desperado in jail breaks, hold-ups, etc.

It became apparent that the Indiana suburban police had furnished much of the help to Mr. Purvis. Their presence at the taking of Dillinger otherwise would be unaccountable. Whether they dug up the woman who "put the finger on" Dillinger or not, was not determined this afternoon.

The law closed its books on Dillinger today. In the murky, chill morgue basement where his body lies, a coroner's jury, examining one witness perfunctorily, rendered a verdict. It read:--

"Justifiable homicide by officers of the Federal Government."

The coroner's jury was told that in addition to the three bullet wounds which brought about his death there were three scars of other battles.

One was in the calf of the left leg, another in his thigh and the third in the neck.

They probably were received in one of the outlaw's many clashes with the law - perhaps at the Little Bohemia Lodge in upper Wisconsin, at East Chicago, Ind., when he killed a policeman or in his escape from a federal trap at St. Paul on March 31.


Upstairs in the old hospital building, a curious throng sought permission to view the body and thus establish to their own complete satisfaction that the gawky, ill-natured farm boy, who had kept thousands of Midwest farmers and their wives shivering at nights, actually was dead. In far London the sensational shooting of Dillinger crowded other news off the front page as the English read that the American Republic's most destructive slayer had been laid by the heels.

The scene in the morgue and at the Federal Building, where Mr. Purvis began a search for Dillinger's reputed $300,000 cache, bore little resemblance to the strange neighborhood happening of last night. Mr. Purvis, disclosing that Dillinger's pockets had only $7.81 in currency and a pair of ordinary appearing door keys, said he anticipated no trouble in finding any considerable store of money that his quarry had been able to secrete.

The keys, he conceded, might help.

"The location of the doors that these keys fit may not be as difficult as it seems," said Mr. Purvis "We have new informants who are able to cover his trail backward and we may find most anything."

Chicago and the Midlands hung on the graphic story of his final settlement with an exasperated and often flouted law.


The Sunday night crowd was pouring out of the little Biograph, a small, 15-cent movie house similar in every respect to hundreds in every city in the land, as Dillinger walked into the federal steel trap.

Purvis waited in a car at the curb. His men idled, in the lobby, along the curb-and up a dark alley opening at the side of the theater. Dillinger walked out in the crowd, self-confident, careless. He looked every inch the small householder of the neighborhood-with gold-rimmed glasses, a nondescript dark mustache, white linen trousers. He had grown the mustache, tinted his sandy hair black, adopted the glasses. Moreover, the most-sought-for killer in recent years had taken a further step toward hiding his identity.

His snub nose had been straightened; scars on his cheeks healed and covered by plastic surgery.

The Indiana hoodlum, whose malevolent audacity recalled for an older generation the deeds of Western outlaws of the Nineteenth Century-the James boys, the Youngers, the Daltons-took great pains with his disguise.

He had abraded the whorls on his fingers with sandpaper or an acid in an attempt to prevent identification. But that safeguard failed, as did the glasses, the face-lifting and the mustache. In Washington, J. Edgar Hoover, chief of the Department of Justice operatives, announced that Dillinger's finger prints still were sufficiently clear.


But as the government became aware of his attempts to change appearance a threat loomed to persons who aided him.

The government, intending to make association with its public enemies too hot for comfort, intends running down the surgeon who altered Dillinger's face, as well as any others -- nurses, etc., who had any hand in the job. Already a Minneapolis physician is behind bars for treating the outlaw's gun wounds while he hid out months ago.

Mr. Purvis had been tipped at 5 p.m. yesterday by telephone that Dillinger would go to the Biograph after supper.

At 7:30, Mr. Purvis slowed his motor car to a stop just short of the brilliantly-lighted lobby. Men in dark clothes, remarkable on this leisurely night for an air of intentness, appeared from other cars and trolleys. They took posts, striving to appear inconspicuous, but failing in the end. The manager of the Biograph, noting the unusual number of purposeful looking idlers, telephoned his neighboring police station. He feared a box office hold-up.

For three hours and ten minutes Mr. Purvis patiently kept his death watch - his eyes fixed on the lobby.

As the time approached 10:40 the vigilance of the federal agents redoubled. Purvis knew when the feature - a lurid film visualization of the career of a New York bad man - would end. The end came. In the fashion familiar to movie-goers the world over the crowd began to arise and depart. The men and women, who had been witnessing the make-believe deeds of a fictional mobster wholly unaware that the most notorious of his kind sat amongst them, flowed slowly out of the theatre doors.


They formed groups in the lobby, forming and reforming. The warm air outside struck them unpleasantly with reminders of sticky bedrooms and Monday's tasks.

Mr. Purvis scanned the groups. His men gathered more closely around. He saw a sober-appearing man emerge - an undistinguished man with glasses and a mustache. He had read ever description ever put out, studied the appearance and characteristics of the man he sought with great thoroughness.

He was certain that Dillinger walked and breathed before him. By signal he indicated the man. The line tightened. Dillinger strode out of the crowd of obscure movie-goers into the street. He turned toward an alley. By a circumstance not yet fully revealed, he headed into the alley.

That was his undoing.

Two men stepped alongside him. He halted in his tracks, the apprehensive sixth sense of a hunted man flagging him down.

"Put 'em up, John," said one of the men, softly. "Take it easy," said the other.

But John, quick to shoot his way out of previous traps, made a move. The move was interpreted as toward a gun. So Mr. Purvis, who stood at the head of the alley not many feet away, dropped his cigar. That was the signal. Two reports rang out. Dillinger slumped. The bullets had drilled his heart neatly. As he fell a third bullet struck him in the back of the head, emerging over his left eye in a small round black hole.


Two women bystanders, Mrs. Etta Natalsky and Miss Theresa Paulus, were wounded in the barrage of bullets, but expected to recover.

The sound of the shots awoke a realization on the street that something extraordinary was afoot. A couple of Chicago police who had been summoned by the jumpy theater manager rushed to the scene. They were accosted by Mr. Purvis, who explained the situation. One turned in a call for reserves as the other joined the federal agents and East Chicago officers in forming a cordon around the body.

An ambulance appeared as if by magic. It had been waiting in a side street. Dillinger, unconscious, was lifted within and the driver set out for a swift run to the Alexian Brothers Hospital. On the way Dillinger breathed his last.

In the hospital receiving ward an intern felt the pulse of what had so recently been the most infamous bad man in America.

"He's through," he said.

The body was replaced in the ambulance and the driver, full of the importance of his errand, drove headlong across Chicago to the morgue.

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