Prelude to a Hoax

When Roger Touhy learned that the mob had murdered Anton Cermak, he rented aplane and flew to Indianapolis to meet with the leaders of the Teamsters International Council. Roger wanted to plan their next steps in the war against the syndicate. But the meeting didn’t go well. The International was pulling out of the fight. It was, in effect, surrendering to the syndicate. The union’s leadership felt that although Touhy had won battles, without Cermak’s clout behind him he would never win the war.
Without the Teamsters’ financial support, Roger knew that the war was lost. The best thing to do was to hold off the syndicate for as long as he could, make as much money as he could, fold up his opera-tion and leave Chicago forever, perhaps living out his dream to retire to the wilds of Colorado.
He had other reasons to worry, too. United States Postal Inspectors were hot on his trail for the string of mail robberies that he and his gang had pulled off the year before. Although the robberies had gone well, the rumor in the underworld was that Gus Winkler, one of the crooks who helped Touhy cash in the stolen mail loot, was informing on him.
Roger decided to plug the leak on October 9.
‘Smiling” Gus Winkler’s motto was “Take care of Winkler first.” He had spent most of his criminal career doing just that. This was why the Touhys and everyone else connected with the mail robberies wrongly suspected him of being the government’s informant in the mail robberies.
Touhy’s own spies had reported that Winkler was seen in the FBI’s office in the Bankers Building and on the day before they put seventy-two bullets into him he was seen talking with special agent Melvin Purvis on a side street just inside the Loop.
Before Winkler was tied to the case it was wide¬ly assumed that Touhy was at odds with him.
Gus Winkler had started out as a member of Eagan’s Rats and by age twenty was a safe blower by trade. He did time from 1920-1926, sentenced for assault and wounding with a deadly weapon. He left St. Louis, moved to Chicago and struck up a lifelong friendship with Fred “Killer” Burke, which was how he first came to the attention of Chicago detectives in 1929.
In 1932 Winkler turned over bonds from a Lincoln, Nebraska robbery in which he had played a part to the Secret Six, a group of Chicago business executives who had banded together to take action against the Chicago underworld. When the cops started to close in, Winkler cut a deal and informed on the others so long as he could walk, reasoning that he had always made it clear that he would squeal in order to save himself.
Winkler took Newberry’s place in the northside gangs as a chief financial backer and even moved into Newberry’s old apartment at 3300 Lake Shore Drive. In an effort to appear more refined in the later days of his life, he started to wear glasses to cover up his crooked glass eye. He even married a tall, beautiful blonde.
The cops Winkler consorted with were amused by him. It was easy to be amused by Gus Winkler; he was good-natured, smart and a smooth talker. On one of his frequent stops by the detective bureau Winkler told them that he often envisioned his own death by bullets. Most of the cops and criminals in Chicago agreed that Winkler was probably one of the shooters in the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, after which he went into seclusion in Cicero where he was said to be in semi-retirement, plotting crimes.
He was widely considered to be too cowardly to execute the crimes he planned. “No man in Chicago history ever played both ends against the middle so adroitly,” it was said of him. When Newberry was killed he moved into the Northside gang’s leader¬ship and offered shelter and equipment to gangsters on the run.
Winkler was an egomaniac who talked inces-santly. Once during a poker game he bragged to his lawyer, Joe Marovitz and the nightclub star, Joe E. Lewis, ‘You know, I’m the toughest guy in Chicago...maybe the toughest guy in the whole country. ” Without looking up from his cards Marovitz threw a right cross on to Winkler’s chin and knocked him out of his chair.
“Why’d you do that?” Winkler asked.
“To show you that you’re not the toughest guy in this room.”
Winkler and his wife, “Mother” (as he called her) had one of the strangest relationships in gangdom. She reviewed each and every illegal endeavor her husband became involved with, first chastising him about the heavenly and earthly illegalities of his work and then for possible slip ups in the plan ‘Sure, Mother, ” Winkler would say “You’re right, it is an un-Christian act. Now that you’ve got that load off your chest tell us if the plan is alright.”
Gifted with an eagle’s eye for detail, she would review a plan over and over again, looking for poten-tial problems before giving her approval. “She’s the best I’ve ever seen,” Winkler boasted.
According to Joe E. Lewis, Winkler had one eye shot out during a mail robbery and was convinced that the Touhys were out to kill him because he had “not apportioned the loot equitably. ” The day before he was killed, Winkler went to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota with his lawyer, Joe Marovitz and Joe E. Lewis, to let the doctors have a look at Lewis’ recent¬ly slashed throat. When they returned to Chicago Winkler refused to leave his lawyer’s side. “I can’t go back to my hotel and I’m afraid to register at a new one. Got any idea where I can go?” he asked Lewis, who gave him the extra key to his suite at the Seneca Hotel.
The next day he was gunned down. Winkler’s killer had waited an hour and a half for him outside the beer plant owned by Cook County Commissioner Charles Weber at 1414 Roscoe Street. As Winkler strolled toward Weber’s office the killers leaped out of a green truck and fired low; in all seventy-two pel-lets and bullets went into him in a matter of sec-onds. He was literally riddled with pellets from his neck to his ankles with most of them going into his back, yet not one bullet hit his head or face. “Turn me over, I can’t breathe,” he gasped.
He asked for a priest before he died and doctors found a half dozen religious relics pinned to his underwear. He was a big donor to Father Coughlin who sent him the medals. Winkler died begging for God’s mercy on his soul, saying the Lord’s Prayer to Father James Fitzgerald.
When told that Winkler was dead, a postal inspector threw up his arms and said “Well, this balls up an already balled up case.”
The Touhys were suspected of ordering the killing. Hood-for-hire Dominic Marzano was held for questioning and Matt Kolb’s old boss, Martin Guifolye, who was now mostly a gambler, was also being sought for questioning. Guifolye called the police and said he was available for questioning at any time. The cops also hauled in Babe Baron, an “understudy” of Jacob Arvey who was a close friend of interna-tional con man John Factor. Baron, a future kingpin for the mob in Las Vegas, was known to have killed Jimmy Walsh in front of Henrici’s Restaurant on December 3, 1929. When cops picked him up for questioning in Winkler’s death Baron was carrying a pistol in his coat pocket. He was released after sev-eral hours. Baron would go on to run one of the city’s more successful car dealerships in the 1950s, due in part to a lucrative contract he had to repair city police cars.
Another suspect was Joe Bergi, Winkler’s part¬ner in a garage where he fitted cars with bullet¬proof siding and windows, police lights and sirens that cop cars used in 1933. Baron later took over all the garage businesses.
In September of that year, Bergi was arrested for harboring “Machine Gun” Kelly. Winkler was sus-pected of having told the police that Bergi was hid¬ing Kelly and provided information about Kelly’s role in the Urshel kidnapping case.
As Winkler was a snitch, there were too many suspects for his murder. To this day the crime remains unsolved.
Even with Winkler dead, postal inspectors were able to use the information he provided and move in on the mail robbers. A secret indictment was filed naming Roger Touhy, Gus Schafer and others in his gang as the persons behind the robberies.
Secret or not, Roger got word of the pending indictment. On his lawyer’s advice, he decided it was best to leave town until they could work out a way to avoid indictment, either in the courtroom or through bribes.
On July 17, 1933, Roger and four of his men left for a brief working vacation to the north woods of Wisconsin to Rohrbacher’s Resort in the lake region. Although avoiding a subpoena was the primary pur-pose of the trip, the other purpose was to find George Maitland. Maitland was the sole witness in the killing of a syndicate enforcer named John Renelli, whom the Touhys had gunned down several months before. Roger’s informants had discovered that Maitland was hiding out in the Lake region, at Renelli’s brother’s place, The Chicago Tavern. However, when Maitland discovered that Touhy was in the area he quickly fled back to the relative safe¬ty of Chicago.
Traveling with Touhy, probably in the capacity of a bodyguard, was thirty-six year old Gustave Schactel, aka Gus Schafer. Jim Ryan, Touhy’s top enforcer, had hired Schafer as a guard for his beer collectors in May of 1933 and before long Schafer was planning additional mail robberies for the gang. Schafer’s brother, Joseph Schactel, was a Catholic priest and a Ph.D. candidate at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. For years, Gus had managed to keep his criminal life away from his brother.
And what a criminal life it was. Schafer was arrested in San Francisco on December 15, 1913 for burglary, and was sentenced to five years’ probation. He was arrested again that same year and sent to prison for attempted larceny and released in 1916. He was arrested again on March 9, 1922, in Oakland for highway robbery and sent to Stillwater Prison in Minnesota on June 16, 1922. After his release he was arrested again on March 16, 1931, in Los Angeles on suspicion of robbery, grand theft auto and was sent to prison in Pontiac, Michigan.
Schafer did more time in the Stillwater, Minnesota prison for a jewelry store robbery. After that, Schafer had been working in San Francisco on gambling boats as “atmosphere” as he put it, from March of 1931 until March 1932 when he and his wife packed their Chevy and relocated to Chicago.
The marriage had problems since its inception in Oakland, California in 1920. When Gus went to prison in Minnesota his wife filed for divorce, but when he was released she dropped the proceedings. Schafer said he went to Chicago to make money on the World’s Fair liquor business and felt that “if I didn’t make some money my marriage would be on the rocks.”
They settled in Oak Park and then Des Plains where they were put up by a German family who had known Schafer’s parents in Europe. The family gave them a small apartment. Then in May of 1933 he was brought into the Touhy organization as a hired gun. Roger and Tommy Touhy liked Schafer’s style. When they learned that he had been the prison movie projectionist they promoted him to a minor official status in Tommy Maloy’s movie pro-jectionists’ union so he could explain his income.
The red-headed Schafer was a serious man by nature, seldom smiling. As Touhy said “a big guffaw or belly laugh for him was a slight twitch at the cor-ners of the lips.” But Schafer did have a dry, hang-man’s wit that Tommy and Roger enjoyed.
After Schafer moved to Illinois he brought in Patrick McDonald, a San Francisco gambler whom he had done time with. The two of them, with Touhy’s permission, opened a handbook in the Montrose Apartments in Chicago.
The second bodyguard traveling with them was Willie Sharkey, a career criminal and enforcer who had known the Touhys from their days in the Valley. Sharky worked directly for “Chicken” McFadden. Nearly fifty-nine years old, Sharkey was short and pot-bellied like Roger, standing in at only five-feet, four-inches; he sported a four-inch horizontal scar on his left cheek and a two-inch scar on the corner of his right eyelid. Balding, he wore glasses and had a tattoo of a girl’s head on his right elbow which winked when he moved his arm in a certain way.
The Touhys liked Sharkey’s easygoing manner and good nature when he was sober, but otherwise they considered him dangerous, slightly insane and not very bright.
“Willie had two talents,” Touhy said, “getting into jail and buying clothes that didn’t fit him. He drank too much and he wasn’t too smart, but he had a good heart and I liked him.”
Sharkey’s third talent was murder. At the time of the trip into the northwoods, Sharkey was wanted for questioning in Chicago in relation to at least five gangland slayings. In 1929 Willie and his brother John Sharkey, who played a role in several of the
Touhys’ mail robberies, had opened a saloon just inside the Chicago line with an unknown partner. In 1931, the Capones kicked in the front door to the saloon and gunned down Sharkey’s partner. “And since that time,” John Sharkey told FBI agent Melvin Purvis, “I moved out of Chicago because of my relationship to my brother, and persons in the syndicate might endeavor to cause me trouble, such as killing me.”
Willie Sharkey was a shy man who never mar-ried. However, he was proud of his brother and his family and supplemented their income with his own. Willie lived with them in Park Ridge for a while, giving his brother a Lincoln and a Ford.
The fourth person on the trip was Edward Thomas Chicken McFadden, a labor racketeer from the old days. McFadden worked as a food and poul¬try inspector for the Hoover administration during the first World War. For seventeen years he had been employed as a poultry inspector and contract loader on Water Street in Chicago.
According to Willie Sharkey, McFadden was a friend and business associate of Big Tim Lynch before Lynch was killed. In fact, the 1930 Lincoln Sedan that McFadden drove and registered in his own name was actually owned by Lynch. They were both members of the same union, the Chauffeurs and Teamsters Union of Maywood, Illinois. Sharkey said McFadden stayed on in the union as the busi-ness manager but was forced to withdraw in the last part of 1931 after the syndicate made several attempts to kill him.
In his labor organizing days, McFadden was called “Father Tom” since he was prone to try and reason with his quarry in soft, soothing tones before resorting to violence with them.
McFadden had been a friend of Roger’s father back when he walked a beat in the Lawndale dis¬trict. His record dated back to 1901 when he was locked up for intent to rob. Other arrests included police impersonation and labor slugging. In 1931, McFadden was sixty-seven years of age and in ill health. His hearing was gone and he had just recently been released from the Cook County Hospital for a gall bladder problem. Still, McFadden had deep contacts in the labor union field and was the person most responsible for bringing the Teamster unions over to Touhy’s side in 1931.
The fifth and sixth persons on the trip were more than probably August J. LaMarr (also known as Jimmy Lamar) and Leroy Marshalk, one of Roger Touhy’s best gunmen.
The group took Touhy’s car—the same car used by his hoods when they broke up The Dells casino. Touhy had purchased the car on July 13, 1931 at Marquett Motors at 44 North Larmie Avenue with an initial deposit of $695 and returned later in the day with $2,400 and paid the car off. It was wrong¬ly reported, by Melvin Purvis of the FBI, that the car had a special gas tank to make a ten hour trip. It didn’t. But it did have an iron, almost bullet proof sheet that covered its engine block.
Rohrbacher later identified all the Touhys as having stayed at his place in a rented cottage although he was adamant that there were five per-sons in the party and not four. They had registered under the names of F. McFarland, Chicago; J. Clark, Chicago; Sam Jones, Chicago; E. Davis, Chicago; and Roger as Robert Morgan, Chicago. Robert Morgan was Touhy’s father-in-law. Before settling on Rohrbacher’s, the group went to the Bayview Cottages, stood on the edge of the lake and then drove away, telling the owner, A1 Shape, that they would be back the next day.
They stayed at Rohrbachers Resort for five days and ate all their meals there. According to Rohrbacher, Touhy, sometimes joined by McFadden, did most of the fishing and all of the others told him that it was their first time at the resort area. He said that Sharkey and Schafer were gone in the car most of the day and although they drank enormous amounts of beer “they were agreeable to all other guests at all times” and that they sent back the Milwaukee brand beer he sent up, taking only Hamm’s beer telling him that it was the only kind they ever drank.
Walter Kerslake, the Hamm Beer representative for the area, reported selling “many, many cases of beer”to a group of men at Rohrbacher’s after George Rohrbacher told him “they were the Touhy gang and had plenty of money and paid for things as they got them.”
Rohrbacher remembered Touhy catching a sev- enteen-pound muskellunge one morning but he gave the fish to another guest, a Doctor Reese of Chicago. An Indian guide named Frank St. Germaine later told the FBI that Touhy went out in the boat fishing alone except on one occasion when he was joined by Schafer. St. Germaine repeated the story frequently that Touhy shot a muskellunge four times before bringing it into the boat and one night at dusk Touhy threw six bottles of beer in the water and fired six shots directly into the necks of all six bot¬tles. Many years later another guide in the region named Jim Ford, said that he had taken Touhy out fishing once and watched as Touhy took a Tommy gun with him to the lake and fired it into the water.
“Tuohy stood up in the boat one day when they were out fishing and unloaded his Tommy gun on the waters. That old machine gun blasted away. It was good for a laugh. And if I remember, he did get a fish or two.”
Fishermen carried pistols to shoot the twenty- five pound muskie because once they were pulled into the boat, they tended to flip around and with their huge, sharp teeth it was better to just shoot them. It was legal to carry a pistol when fishing in those days. However, pistols were outlawed after one too many drunken fishermen shot holes in the bottom of boats or themselves.
On Sunday Touhy, McFadden, Schafer and Sharkey walked into Harry’s Place, a saloon run by Harry Bowman and asked for directions to the Minocqua Heights Golf and Country Club.
That testimony was tainted because Bowman had known Eddie McFadden years before. They were also identified by the bartender, Joe Streich. However, the more reliable summer police chief of Minocqua, Jay Jossart, recalled seeing them in the area, as did Deputy Sheriff Titus of Midlake who spotted McFadden at the Chicago Tavern which was owned by Tony Renelli on the southwest side of Lake Delavan. The Touhys had shot and killed Renelli’s brother at The Dells two month before.
After Roger and the others were arrested, Renelli told the FBI “that he had heard rumors that he was to be “bumped off’ by the Touhys and he appeared to be in great fear. He made the remark during the interview that, “You have the big shots” or “you have the main ones” and that “the others are only barrel pushers for the leaders.”
The report went on to say “He also made the remark that the right parties were being held but would not enlarge on the statement and even said that he could not see why Touhy would go into that racket (kidnapping) as he was making good money and also that it was a surprise to him that McFadden would get so involved as he never appeared to be that sort.”
Buck Gordon of Gordon’s Place, a tavern on the southwest side of Lake Delavan said that he knew Sharkey and that Sharkey had been around there as well. It was Gordon who told Tony Renelli that Sharkey had been around looking for him and had asked Gordon where Renelli was located. Gordon had bought his beer from the Touhys for years. An FBI report read, “He was made to admit that he bought beer from this gang for many years and that regularly once a week, a man would come around to collect. He was shown the photographs of these par-ties and picked out the photograph of George Wilke as the party who had collected for this beer. He told the story which is not believed by this agent, that he had bought this beer for years but never knew just who he bought from and never questioned the col-lector or asked for his name. Gordon is known around the region as a braggart.”
O.E. Heissler, the manager of the Minocqua Golf and Country Club identified all four of them as hav-ing played golf there on two separate occasions but couldn’t recall a fifth person, Marshalk, who had been seen with them in most other places around the resort area. After golf, a bathing-suit clad Roger Touhy came into Parker’s resort, about mile and half from Rohrbachers. He had arrived in a boat equipped with a Johnson high-powered motor. Parker tried to strike up a conversation with Touhy and said “I know most of the boats on the lake but I can’t recall that one, who does it belong to?” He said that Touhy looked at him and asked “What’s it to you?” The boat could have belonged to anyone of Touhy’s old friends. The area was saturated with bootleggers and other undesirables including Rudy Kreigel, a little known but successful rum runner and Fred Ullrick who ran Ullrick’s Resort in Webster, Wisconsin. Ullrick’s was a known gangster hideout and suspected by the FBI as being the place where millionaire William Hamm was held during his kidnapping.
Ray Henderson, a bootlegger from Burlington, Wisconsin kept a summer cottage on Lac du Flambeau as did “Bugs” Moran. In fact, Moran’s sis-ter, Cassady, lived in the region full time. Sam “Golf Bag” Hunt and Frank Nitti had a place in the north woods, as did Ralph Capone and most of Chicago’s mayors. John Dillinger was said to have buried $200,000 in Eagle River and after Jimmy Hoffa dis-appeared, rumors abounded that Hoffa was buried near a summer place that he owned with Alan Dorfman.
But most important of all, Terrible Tommy O’Connor was said to live in the region where he had been running Touhy’s bootlegging operation from a small cabin in Elkhorn, Wisconsin since his disappearance twelve years earlier.
With all of the serious muscle that Touhy had gathered for this retreat, it was clear to everyone that something was afoot. After four days in the lake region, the group left for Chicago on July 19, 1933, a Wednesday morning at about 6:30 A.M. They stopped at Harry Newman’s restaurant on Highway 12 near Lake Geneva at 11:00 A.M. and paid their checks separately, each one using clean crisp ten- dollar bills. McFadden purchased the gas with a ten-dollar bill and Touhy wore his alligator slicker that he purchased in Florida in 1931 for “a whole lotta Jack.” They stopped for gas once again at Wagner’s station just outside of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, where a second car that had been following them waved off, turned around and drove back toward the lakes. It is assumed by many that Terrible Tommy was the second driver.
Elkhorn police officer Harry Ward, a slightly built rookie cop who did motorcycle duty near Highway 12—the road Touhy was using on his way back to Chicago—had just finished his shift and was on his way home when the town bell, an alarm sys¬tem used to notify police of an incoming call at the station, pierced the air.
Ward answered the call reluctantly. Driving at a high speed, Touhy had knocked over a telephone pole on private property just inside the Elkhorn town line. The owner wanted the car stopped and restitution made for the cost of repairing the dam-age. The night marshal said, “It’s a big Chrysler sedan on Route 12.”
Ward stopped Touhy, who was driving seventy miles per hour, because he noticed that the car’s left front fender was badly dented. Touhy denied hitting the pole and after a brief, sharp exchange Ward ordered Roger to drive to the police station. It was probably at that point that all of the men in the car slid their guns out of their pockets and into the seat folds. Roy Marshalk, the most wanted of the group, managed to slip out of the car and disappear.
At the police station, Roger was told that the cost of replacing the pole was estimated to be $22. Pay that amount, Roger was told, and he could leave. Roger, who was carrying $2,500 on him, refused to pay, arguing that he had just had placed two phone poles on his property for only $18. An argument broke out that lasted for forty minutes.
Meanwhile, Deputy Ward conducted an illegal search of Touhy’s car. Digging his hands deep under the seat cushions he found six pistols, three of them rigged to fire. That was all Ward needed to hold them. Wisconsin was one of the few states to have a law forbidding citizens to carry machine guns, which, technically, the pistol was.
The town Sheriff called Touhy’s mortal enemy, Tubbo Gilbert, the States Attorney’s Chief Investigator in Cook County. In turn, Gilbert called Melvin Purvis, the FBI’s Special Agent in charge of the Chicago office to tell him that Roger Touhy had been arrested in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Gilbert also said that he felt strongly that Purvis should arrest Touhy for the kidnapping of William Hamm, the St. Paul Brewer who had been snatched off the street several days before.
Purvis agreed, but before leaving for Elkhorn, he held a press conference and declared that “The Touhy gang is being held in Elkhorn by the FBI, where they have positively been identified as being the kidnappers of William A. Hamm.”
Roger Touhy had never heard of William Hamm. Nor did he know that several days before his arrest, Hamm had been kidnapped by Alvin Karpis and the Barker gang as he was walking home from his office in St. Paul. Exactly why Karpis decided to kidnap Hamm will probably never be known. Certainly Hamm’s wealth was one factor, but there were whis-pers in St. Paul that while the respectable Hamm’s prestigious brewery was selling legal near beer out the front doors, Hamm and the local underworld gang, the Keatings mob, were also selling bootleg beer out the back door.
It was rumored that Hamm, in a moment of stu-pid ambition or greed or both, double-crossed the Keatings. The kidnapping and $75,000 ransom it is suspected, was their way of recouping their losses.
Another interesting aspect of the story was that at some point, the Keatings-Hamm operation start-ed to compete with Roger Touhy’s own bootleg oper-ation in the Wisconsin area. Threats were made on both sides and tensions ran high. Also interesting was that Roger knew Alvin Karpis. In fact, Karpis had worked for both A1 Capone and Frank Nitti as a labor goon in 1930 and 1931, terrorizing and per¬haps even killing the same union men that Touhy was being paid to protect. And now Karpis was about to frame Roger Touhy for the Hamm kidnap¬ping. No proof has indicated that the mob ordered Karpis to frame Touhy for the kidnapping, but it seems apparent that they did.
A few days after Hamm was kidnapped his moth-er died, leaving behind an estate valued at $4,411,647. The public was outraged over her death and blamed the shock of her son’s abduction as the cause.
“There was a national hysteria and rightly so against the crime of kidnapping,” Touhy wrote. “Clergymen ranted against it from their pulpits and so did editorial writers in their columns. The noisi¬er politicians in Washington tried to outshout each other in being against the crime that everybody loathed...the FBI set up and trained special crews of experts to fly to any section of the country upon a report of a ransom kidnapping. U.S. Attorney General Homer Cummings appointed a special aide, Joseph B. Keenan, to supervise the prosecution of kidnappers. No effort was being spared, or money either, to put an end to kidnapping. Every police officer and prosecutor in America wanted to solve a kidnapping. Anyone of them who put a kidnapper in the electric chair would be a hero. I, Roger Touhy, and two co-defendants were going to have the murky distinction of being the first men convicted.”
Eventually, Hamm’s ransom was paid and the brewer was released unharmed and Roger Touhy stood accused of the crime.
The day after Roger and the others were arrest-ed, Tubbo Gilbert, Special Agent Melvin Purvis and Chicago Police Chief of Detectives Shoemaker were in Elkhorn to retrieve him. Purvis talked with Touhy first and told him that he was going to be arrested for the kidnapping of William Hamm. “I recalled,” Touhy said, “that I had a solid alibi for June 15.1 told Purvis so....He looked at me with the tight-lipped, gimlet-eyed way that FBI men had—and which detectives on television have plagiarized.”
It made no difference to Purvis. Before noon that day Roger and the others were charged with kid-napping William Hamm and were transported to the FBI’s office in Chicago for further questioning. But, back in Chicago, Purvis was worried. None of the money found on Roger or the others could be traced to the William Hamm ransom. Furthermore Purvis knew through informants that Alvin Karpis was the primary suspect in the kidnapping and that Touhy and the others weren’t regarded as kidnap¬pers by the underworld or the Chicago police, despite their reputation as gangsters.
“I saw Roger for the first time in person,” Purvis wrote, “when he was brought back to Chicago. Handcuffed and under guard, he was delivered to my office. I sat behind my desk and shot questions at him. Touhy wouldn’t talk. I can still see him sit-ting in the leather chair with that mouth full of pro-truding teeth. His curly hair was neatly barbered, his body was lean and hard under his sports suit, his eyes were dreamy and disarming. Touhy would-n’t say a word. When I asked a question he laughed. When I demanded an answer he laughed. Finally I said to him, “Well anyway, what’s your name?” Touhy looked at me and grinned, closed his lips and shook his head. He had gained the impression that we were trying to make him talk so an unseen lis-tener might identify his voice as being that one of the kidnappers.”
That evening Touhy and others were questioned for hours. While Purvis was in charge, beating pris-oners was standard practice for the Chicago office of the FBI. His secretary once wrote, “I sometimes saw the bruised knuckles of the agents who had used more primitive arguments with refractory prisoners.”
One so-called refractory prisoner met his death that way. The day after Purvis’ agents shot John Dillinger to death, a small time bootlegger named James Probasco was brought to the FBI’s 19th floor office in the Bankers Building for questioning. Agents claimed Probasco leaped out of the window for no apparent reason, falling nineteen stories into an alley narrowly missing a passerby. Witnesses later said that the agents held Probasco out the window by his wrists, but lost their grip, causing the outlaw to fall to his death.
In his memos to J. Edgar Hoover in Washington, Purvis said that on this day Touhy was “grilled” by FBI agents from 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Now it was Roger Touhy’s turn. “Weeks of hell followed,” Touhy wrote. They were kept in isolation in tiny darkened cells. He was allowed to sleep in twenty-minute intervals and then awakened and beaten. The entire processes was repeated twenty minutes later. They punched out seven of his teeth, three vertebrae in his upper spine were fractured and he lost twenty-five pounds in four weeks.
Purvis never did secure a confession out of Roger or the others, but he formally charged them with kidnapping William Hamm anyway.
The following day, as if just to show how bad Roger Touhy’s luck could be, President Roosevelt went on national radio and announced the federal government’s war on kidnappers.
“The Hamm trial” Roger wrote “had a sort of ‘let’s pretend we’re all nuts’ tone to it.”
The Department of Justice was so certain of a victory in the case that it asked for the trial to be broadcast live, which would have made it the first ever to go over the airwaves, but the presiding judge declined. However, the government argued success-fully that Roger’s wife shouldn’t be able to testify on his behalf. This was just as well, since the past sev-eral weeks had been so hard on Clara.
Purvis, whom Clara had booted off Touhy’s estate the week before, had arranged it so that she wasn’t allowed into the courtroom until the jury was seated and then she was searched every time she entered the court. When court was over for the day, she retreated to her hotel room, where she clipped newspaper stories about the kidnapping for Roger’s lawyer, William Scott Stewart. Lonely and scared, Clara made the mistake of allowing a female reporter into her hotel room to chat. Grateful for the company, Clara spoke freely about anything and everything, including her views on the federal gov-ernment, the backwoods of Wisconsin, and the jury.
In the next morning’s edition, the reporter dra-matically twisted virtually everything Clara had said, more or less making her out to be a gun moll and co-conspirator in the case. From that moment on Clara never spoke to another reporter for the rest of her life.
But Clara had a few minor victories as well. When she visited her husband in jail during the trial, two FBI agents dutifully wrote down every word the couple uttered to each other, no matter how commonplace.
Roger recalled:
Two FBI men, each with a pencil poised above a pad of paper sat at the ends of the table. I smiled at each of them apologetically and said that I hadn’t seen my wife for a long time and did they mind very much if I held her hand? They nodded agreeably. Clara and I clasped hands and began telegraphing to each other. A short pressure of a finger was a dot and a long pressure a dash. We had practiced it often when talking secretly in front of our sons. Vocally I talked inanely about our neighbors and such, at the same time telegraphing instructions to her. At the end of our conversation, we coded each other the message of “30” and “73” which meant “that’s all” and “Best regards.” The listening FBI men gaped at us. They hadn’t heard enough to merit putting the pencil to paper.
In court, Roger’s lawyer ripped into the govern-ment’s case and within days had torn it apart. Everything that could go wrong for the government did. The prosecution’s primary witness, taxi driver Leo Allison, first positively identified Eddie McFadden as the man who gave him the ransom note and then said it was Roger Touhy. After a drilling by William Scott Stewart, Allison said he couldn’t be sure at all.
Another witness who had sworn he overheard ransom demands being made over a pay phone by Touhy changed his tune. On the stand he said “Roger Touhy bears a close resemblance to the man” he saw and refused to go further. A third witness took the stand and said that he had watched Roger and the others following Hamm in a car as the brew-er walked home. Touhy hired private detectives to check the witness out and within two days they were able to prove that this witness had been at work in a printing plant in Chicago on the day he said he saw Touhy and the others in St. Paul. When questioned about why he lied, the witness said that he had been pressured into it by the FBI.
William Hamm couldn’t, or wouldn’t, identify Touhy and his crew. Instead he appeared extremely evasive on the witness stand. Nor was he any help to the FBI agents who were investigating the case. In fact, right after he was returned by his kidnap¬pers, Hamm flew to New York and stayed there, incommunicado, until the trail began.
Watching their case fall apart, the government started to play hardball. FBI agents went to an Indianapolis hotel where Roger had stayed for one night while Hamm was being abducted. They con-fiscated the hotel’s registration cards and destroyed them.
A key Touhy witness named Edward J. Meany was told by one of Purvis’ men “If you go to St. Paul to testify for Touhy, you’ll be sorry and maybe you won’t come back.”
Vincent Connors testified that he had seen Touhy in a night club in Des Plains on the night Hamm was kidnapped. After he gave his testimony he was arrested by the FBI on the dubious charge of regis¬tering in a hotel under a false name. Apparently Clara had booked Connors’ room under William Scott Stewart’s firm’s name, which was against the state’s moral laws but certainly not a federal offense.
When the trial was over, the United States Deputy Attorney General George F. Sullivan, in his summary of the state’s case, mispronounced names, confused dates and lost his place, and when he accused Touhy’s lawyer, William Scott Stewart of “vituperative sarcasm and abuse heaped upon the prosecution,” Stewart smiled, waved and then took a slight bow.
The jury found them all innocent of kidnapping William Hamm, the first defeat for the government’s war on kidnapping since the passage of the Lindbergh law.
Right after they were declared innocent, Willie Sharkey turned to Roger and said “Well, they went through a lot of goddamn trouble for a $22 phone pole.”Later that night, Sharkey used his own neck¬tie to hang himself in his cell. Sharkey had shown bizarre behavior for weeks. One time he fell asleep during the trial. When he awoke, he stood up and tried to walk out of the courtroom and had to be pulled back and held down by deputies. Another time, he turned to William Scott Stewart and said in a very loud voice, “My hair is full of electricity, I guess that’s a sign,” and then laughed uncontrol-lably for several minutes.
When Touhy was told about Sharkey he said “Willie’s life might not have amounted to much, but he shouldn’t have been driven to ending it.”
As sympathetic as those words were, Sharkey may have feared for his life because during the trial he had talked to the FBI, although no one outside the Bureau is certain of exactly what he told them. Sharkey may have been concerned that FBI agent Purvis1 told Touhy that he was talking to them—a mean but common trick of the agency.
A day after they were found innocent of kidnap-ping William Hamm, the Touhys were indicted by the Cook County States Attorney’s Office for kid-napping international confidence man John Factor.

1.         In 1960, one month after Roger Touhy was murdered, Melvin Purvis, long since retired from the FBI, put a .45 caliber pistol to his head and killed himself.