Yes, indeed, Mugshot March is back! Here to kick it off for us are Harry and Arthur Defenbaugh, of Peoria, Illinois.

The brothers had been in and out of trouble. Burglary was their specialty. After serving some time, they were paroled in 1922, and finally seemed to be settling down. Arthur, age 23, and Harry, age 27, had taken up carpentry work. Harry also got married to a woman named Ruth. But appearances can be deceiving; the brothers had also joined a small gang that was committing a series of burglaries in Benton County, Missouri.

On September 21, 1924, the brothers were back at it in Warsaw, Missouri. They and three other gang members successfully robbed the Missouri Pacific station, before moving on to Luttman Hardware. But things went awry.

The papers were unimpressed with the Defenbaughs’ hijinx

 

While the gang was in the store, Sheriff Garrett Groomer entered and called out to the men, stating his intention to arrest them. That seems like a very dangerous approach, and it didn’t work out so well for the sheriff. Some gang members responded to the sheriff’s orders by opening fire on him — who specifically fired was in dispute. It didn’t matter to Sheriff Groomer, who had been killed.

The gang managed to flee the scene but they were apprehended on September 23. The police were startled by their clothing: the men were dressed like characters in an old western! The press was allowed in to photograph the gang in their costumes, and the picture was subsequently run on the front page of the paper.

The brothers are in the front row, on the left and in the middle.

 

As the local paper explained:

“When the five youths were picked up here, four wore green or white sombrero hats with wide brims, colored flannel shirts, and snake belts to which they had strapped their revolvers. They said they had made a trip to Colorado, and had brought the cowboy outfits in order to startle their friends when they returned to Peoria.”

While awaiting trial, the Defenbaughs managed to briefly escape from jail, which did not endear them to authorities.

The brothers were tried and convicted of Sheriff Groomer’s murder together, and received life sentences. Their mugshots were taken the same day and show how closely they resembled one another. Even their inmate numbers are sequential: Harry was 27462 and Arthur was 27463.

The Brothers Defenbaugh

 

The Defenbaugh brothers were extraordinarily close. They were not twins but they may as well have been conjoined because it seems to have been impossible for one to do something without the other. They committed crimes together, went on the run together, broke out of jail together, and finally served hard time together. They were in for a long stay at the Missouri State Penitentiary. They were paroled together by Governor Donnell on April 2, 1942. They left prison after serving seventeen and a half years for Groomer’s murder.

In a heroic little side note, after her husband’s murder, Mrs. Groomer took on the duties of sheriff. Their oldest son, Alvin, was deputized. You have to admire that kind of spirit and courage!

Harry Thaw’s murder of Stanford White is so well known, I rarely see anything I’m not already familiar with related to that famous 1906 shooting at Madison Square Gardens.

So I was surprised when I came across Harry Thaw’s mugshot the other day. I’d never seen it. Around the turn of the century, male and female criminals were often photographed with and without their hats on.

Thaw’s mugshot published in the New York Tribune

 

Once I knew it existed, I went looking for a better quality copy. I didn’t find one, but I did learn that Thaw later wrote a bizarre book called The Traitor about his life that was published in 1926.

Harry K. Thaw’s strange book

 

It included a collage of pictures titled “Evelyn’s Moods”:

From oddbooks.co.uk

 

Finally, I came across a picture of Harry and Evelyn, long after their marriage ended, looking rather picturesque.

Harry and Evelyn, probably late 1930s or early 1940s, from LA Times 

 

Just a short post for today, but there’s lots of Evelyn Nesbit related posts on Old Spirituals, if you’re interested!

Evelyn Nesbit: A Star is Born

Evelyn Nesbit: The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing

Stanford White, Old Sins, and Madison Square Garden

Evelyn Nesbit’s Broken Wings

Charles Dana Gibson and his Gibson Girls

This is a bit outside our normal timeframe, but I hope you like this little story.

In April 1937, Mr. and Mrs. Stewart William Blodgett, were still new to Oakland, California. The couple had moved to California from Saint Paul, Minnesota, with their 5 year old son, William Grinnell Blodgett II. One day, the boy was at a local park with two neighbor children, when he was kidnapped.

Leroy Gardener, 5, and Joan Gardener, 8, told police that a smiling, hatless young man of about 23 had approached them in the park early in the afternoon. He wore a gray suit and white shoes, and he suggested a race to the corner store for candy, the children said. During the race, the children became separated. Leroy said he saw William and the young man get into a brown roadster with a light tan top, Captain James Ritchie, sheriff’s investigator, reported.

It was not until an hour later when the boy’s father went to the park in search of his son that anyone knew about the kidnapping.  Mr. Blodgett appeared to be perplexed by the whole situation. He didn’t know anyone who would want to kidnap his son, and he wasn’t in financial circumstances to pay a large ransom.

Five hours later, just before dark, William walked into a gas station about 5 miles away from home.  An explanatory note pinned to his clothing read:

“I was going to hold this boy for ransom, but I decided to go straight. Please get him to his parents in Berkeley. I am in great need, but would rather starve than make his parents suffer. If they want to contact me, let them address me as Chuck in Wednesday’s Oakland Tribune.”

William Grinnell Blodgett

 

A grave, quiet child, William, was reportedly unimpressed by his adventure.

When his anxious mother asked how he was, he replied, “I’m hungry.”

His mother produced a piece of pie. A news photographer asked the boy to pick up the pie for a “picnic picture.”

“No,” said the child, “I don’t pick up my pie. I’d like a spoon, please.” After finishing his pie, William went to bed.

I’m a little torn about this behavior from William. On the one hand, it’s pretty funny he put the news photographer in his place. On the other hand, this child is so imperturbable, it’s unsettling. What 5-year-old gets kidnapped, dropped off at a strange gas station, and returns home to face a bevy of police and reporters, but has nothing to say, beyond a polite request for a spoon?

I’m guessing “Chuck” the kidnapper was never found. I looked at the Oakland Tribune for the following day, and there was one obscure reference that might be connected.

The newspapers didn’t relay anything William told them about the encounter, and I couldn’t find any follow up to this story. I’ve learned not to say, “That’s the last we’ll ever hear of this story!” because that makes it almost inevitable it will resurface later, but the important thing is, everything turned out well for William.

All’s well that ends well