John Dillinger relatives doubt body in grave is the gangster

Two relatives of notorious 1930s gangster John Dillinger who plan to have his remains exhumed say they have "evidence" the body buried in an Indianapolis cemetery beneath a gravestone bearing his name may not be him.

Posted: Aug 1, 2019 11:50 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two relatives of notorious 1930s gangster John Dillinger who plan to have his remains exhumed say they have "evidence" the body buried in an Indianapolis cemetery beneath a gravestone bearing his name may not be him and that FBI agents possibly killed someone else in 1934.

The FBI immediately disputed that idea, calling it a "myth" that its agents didn't fatally shoot Dillinger outside a Chicago theater more than 85 years ago. The agency said in a statement that "a wealth of information supports Dillinger's demise" including fingerprint matches.

RELATED: Looking back at John Dillinger's Mason City bank robbery.

But in affidavits released by the Indiana State Department of Health, two relatives of the famed criminal say they're seeking to have "a body purported to be John H. Dillinger" exhumed from Crown Hill Cemetery for a forensic analysis and possible DNA testing.

The planned exhumation will be part of a documentary on Dillinger for The History Channel, a spokesman for A&E Networks, Dan Silberman, confirmed earlier this week.

Dillinger is well known in north Iowa for robbing First National Bank in Mason City. A reenactment of the crime, known as Dillinger Days, occurred for years in downtown Mason City. He also had a bar in Mason City named after him.

Mike Thompson and Carol Thompson Griffith, who say Dillinger was their uncle, say in affidavits supporting an exhumation and reburial permit the state agency approved in July that they have received "evidence that demonstrates that the individual who was shot and killed at the Biograph Theater in Chicago on July 22, 1934 may not in fact have been my uncle, John H. Dillinger."

In their affidavits, both say that "evidence" includes that the eye color of the man killed outside that theater didn't match Dillinger's eye color, his ears were shaped differently, the fingerprints weren't a match and that he had a heart condition. The document doesn't elaborate on why the heart condition supports their theory that the man wasn't Dillinger.

But both say they want the body exhumed and subjected to a forensic analysis and possibly DNA testing "in order to make a positive identification."

"It is my belief and opinion that it is critical to learn whether Dillinger lived beyond his reported date of death of July 22, 1934. If he was not killed on that date, I am interested in discovering what happened to him, where he lived, whether he had children, and whether any such children or grandchildren are living today," both say in the documents.

The Chicago Sun-Times and WLS-TV in Chicago first reported on the affidavits supporting the exhumation permit.

The FBI took the unusual step of issuing a statement late Wednesday insisting that its agents had in fact shot and killed Dillinger "as he reached for a pistol from his trouser pocket" outside the theater.

The FBI said Dillinger was pronounced dead at a Chicago hospital. The agency also said that it's a "common myth" that "a stand-in" and not Dillinger was the man killed, saying that such claims "have been advanced with only circumstantial evidence."

Another Dillinger relative said, however, that he considers the planned exhumation to be disrespectful. Great-nephew Jeff Scalf tells WTHR-TV that he's certain the late gangster is buried in the concrete-encased grave that's marked with his name at the cemetery.

"I don't believe in desecrating the dead. I think it's been 85 years. It doesn't matter," Scalf told the Indianapolis station.

"Unless somebody was successful in robbing the grave, that's John. I know that that's John," added Scalf, who's a cousin of Mike Thompson, one of the relatives who sought the state permit.

The Indianapolis-born Dillinger, who was portrayed by Johnny Depp in the 2009 movie "Public Enemies," was one of America's most notorious criminals. The FBI says Dillinger's gang killed 10 people as they pulled off a bloody string of bank robberies across the Midwest in the 1930s. Dillinger was never convicted of murder.

Dillinger was awaiting trial in the slaying of an East Chicago police officer when he escaped from jail in Crown Point, Indiana, in March 1934 with a gun carved out of wood. While on the run, he underwent plastic surgery to alter his face and was said to have tried to remove his fingerprints with acid.

Days after his 1934 funeral, Dillinger's father had his son's casket reburied under a protective cap of concrete and scrap iron topped by four reinforced-concrete slabs amid concerns that vandals might try to dig it up, said Susan Sutton, a historian with the Indiana Historical Society.

She said Tuesday that a 2013 book the historical society published about the Indianapolis cemetery's history, "Crown Hill: History, Spirit, and Sanctuary," documents the Dillinger family's concern that his grave might be robbed.

"The main fear was that someone would come in and dig up the grave and either desecrate the corpse or steal it," Sutton said. "The Dillingers had actually been offered money to 'lend out' his body for exhibits, so they were concerned."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 61839

Reported Deaths: 1707
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin19569839
Ramsey7717268
Dakota4507106
Anoka3752115
Stearns290920
Washington216345
Nobles17686
Olmsted176723
Scott159020
Mower11052
Rice10388
Blue Earth9325
Wright8975
Carver8783
Clay78840
Sherburne7328
Kandiyohi7021
St. Louis57319
Todd4292
Lyon4253
Freeborn3601
Steele3512
Nicollet34713
Watonwan3230
Benton3203
Winona26416
Beltrami2440
Crow Wing23814
Le Sueur2261
Martin2095
Chisago2041
McLeod2020
Goodhue1999
Otter Tail1983
Cottonwood1780
Becker1611
Pipestone1589
Polk1554
Waseca1490
Itasca14612
Douglas1441
Carlton1420
Unassigned13141
Dodge1290
Isanti1290
Pine1290
Murray1241
Chippewa1071
Morrison931
Wabasha930
Brown892
Faribault890
Meeker872
Rock850
Sibley842
Koochiching793
Jackson790
Pennington751
Cass742
Mille Lacs723
Fillmore670
Renville665
Lincoln580
Grant563
Swift551
Yellow Medicine520
Roseau520
Pope480
Houston420
Aitkin411
Norman400
Kanabec371
Redwood360
Hubbard350
Wilkin343
Marshall290
Wadena270
Mahnomen271
Red Lake240
Big Stone220
Lake210
Stevens180
Clearwater140
Traverse110
Lac qui Parle80
Cook50
Lake of the Woods40
Kittson30

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 49380

Reported Deaths: 942
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk10444208
Woodbury373452
Black Hawk315766
Linn242888
Johnson211819
Dallas189835
Buena Vista179412
Scott174314
Dubuque169831
Marshall145026
Pottawattamie133228
Story117315
Wapello90533
Muscatine85148
Webster8268
Crawford7313
Sioux6433
Cerro Gordo63417
Warren5721
Tama55429
Jasper48127
Wright4751
Plymouth47011
Clinton4164
Dickinson3844
Louisa37814
Washington30510
Boone2623
Hamilton2511
Franklin24512
Bremer2307
Clarke2043
Clay2011
Carroll1942
Emmet1934
Des Moines1872
Shelby1861
Hardin1840
Marion1750
Poweshiek1608
Benton1601
Floyd1582
Allamakee1564
Jackson1561
Mahaska14217
Guthrie1355
Cedar1341
Jones1332
Buchanan1291
Henry1274
Madison1252
Butler1252
Hancock1212
Lee1183
Humboldt1181
Pocahontas1172
Delaware1171
Lyon1152
Harrison1101
Cherokee1101
Clayton1063
Taylor1000
Winneshiek971
Iowa971
Page950
Monona910
Kossuth900
Mills890
Palo Alto880
Jefferson870
Calhoun862
Winnebago860
Sac860
Fayette850
Osceola840
Grundy801
Mitchell790
Cass791
Union781
Monroe748
Lucas734
Worth670
Davis612
Montgomery604
Chickasaw550
Appanoose513
Howard500
Fremont430
Greene430
Keokuk371
Van Buren361
Ida310
Adair300
Audubon291
Decatur250
Ringgold231
Wayne201
Adams160
Unassigned10
Rochester
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 62°
Mason City
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 64°
Albert Lea
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 66°
Austin
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 64°
Charles City
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 64°
Sunny start to Wednesday before more rain chances arrive
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

More students enrolling Pine Island

Image

Rochester's Ronald McDonald House adapting to new normal

Image

Shots fired at Rochester apartment complex

Image

Big Rochester Races on MN Primary Ballot

Image

Jump Bikes in Rochester

Image

Coaches react to Big Ten cancellation

Image

Wind Farm Project Update

Image

Biden chooses a running mate

Image

The impact of a pandemic on a primary

Image

Leaders from both parties are keeping a close eye as ballots are tallied

Community Events