Lost Dillinger autopsy report surfaces

CHICAGO -- A missing autopsy report on John Dillinger found 50 years after the FBI gunned him down could settle the dispute on whether the right man was shot.

The yellowed but intact report on the death of Dillinger, public enemy No. 1 at the time of his death, was found in a brown paper bag at the Cook County Medical Examiner's office, the Chicago Tribune reported.


Dillinger, the gangster who vaulted bank counters and cleaned out cash drawers with stopwatch timing, was shot July 22, 1934, as he left a Chicago theater on the arm of the legendary 'Lady in Red.'

An autopsy was performed the next day by Dr. Jerry Kearns, but the report had long been missing.

Administrative assistant Christopher Morris accidentally discovered the report, then known as a coroner's protocol, recently in a brown paper shopping bag in a room adjoining the office of Dr. Robert Stein, the Cook County Medical Examiner.

Stein told the Tribune the report is genuine.

'No doubt about it. The Dillinger protocol is genuine. I have read it and it is fascinating,' he said.

Immediately after Dillinger was killed, rumors circulated the FBI had shot the wrong man.


The autopsy report says Dillinger's eyes were brown. Author Jay Robert Nash, who has written two books on the gangster, said a 1923 Navy phyical exam described Dillinger's eyes as blue and the wanted poster issued by J. Edgar Hoover in March 1934 said his eyes were gray.

Stein said the discrepancy is insignificant.

'After death, there can be some clouding of the cornea, and you (could) have difficulty telling the color of the iris,' he said.

Dillinger, only 31 and blamed for 13 killings, was shot by waiting FBI agents as he left the Biograph Theater with Anna Sage. The former Indiana brothel keeper tipped the FBI that Dillinger was taking her to see 'Manhattan Melodrama' and said she would be wearing a red dress so the couple would be easy to spot.

Ms. Sage wanted the reward money and hoped the government would drop proceedings to deport her to her native Romania. She got $5,000, but was deported.

'We have been looking for that protocol for many, many years,' Morris said. 'The document had aged, of course. The three pages had a faded yellowish-brown color, but it was perfectly legible.'

The shopping bag was apparently part of a shipment of old records trucked over to the medical examiner's office last spring.


A county employee said the report probably was taken from its file and put somewhere handy -- such as an in-out basket on someone's desk - then misplaced, possibly by a janitor.

'It is the old story of what can happen when you clean out the attic or move from one place to another,' Stein said. 'You go into a dimly lit corner or open an old box and suddenly there is history right before your eyes.'

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