The Pointe

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#tbt Local History Blog - Clyde Barrow’s Crime Spree Through Middletown

In today’s ThrowbackThursday blog, we recall the 85thanniversary of the death of a man whose crime spree terrorized the nation – and Middletown, Ohio. 

The notorious Clyde Barrow, along with his gun moll Bonnie Parker, were shot and killed by lawmen in Louisiana on May 23, 1934. An ominous mix of romance and crime, their relationship and bullet-riddled demise have become the stuff of legend. 

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Just four years earlier – in March 1930 – Barrow, minus Bonnie, and two other men were captured by local police after “a wild chase through the streets...,” according to the Wednesday, March 19, 1930, edition of the Middletown News-Signal.

Its front-page headlines announced :

DESPERADOES WILL BE RETURNED – THREE CAUGHT HERE CONFESS TO ROBBERIES – TEXAS OFFICIALS WILL ARRIVE TOMORROW NIGHT TO TAKE BACK FUGITIVES FROM WACO PRISON; FACE LONG TERMS

ONE IS CONVICTED OF THEFT, MURDER

LONG LIST OF CRIMES ARE ADMITTED AFTER SEVERAL HOURS OF GRILLING BY CHIEF OF POLICE KOLODZIK 

According to the article, a “trio of Texas desperadoes” with criminal backgrounds admitted their previous crimes to Middletown Police Chief Otto Kolodzik. 

They included William Turner, age 21, (“convicted of first-degree murder and numerous other crimes”), Emory Abernathy, 24, (“convicted of stealing $60,000 from three banks and a $22,000 jewelry robbery besides a number of other thefts”) and “the third member of the gang and the youngest, Clyde Barrow, 17 years old, [who] faces 14 years on burglary charges.”

The men had broken out of a Waco prison where they were being held on “bench warrants for a number of crimes,” the paper reported. 

“A squad of officers” from Texas was scheduled to arrive in Middletown to collect the fugitives and return them to the Lone Star State. “The confessed criminals have waived extradition,” the article continued.

 The News-Signal provided a detailed account of the trio’s nefarious activity within the city:

 "They arrived in Middletown on Monday morning. In the afternoon they attended a movie house. Monday night, the [sic] confessed robbing the Gough-Lamb company on Charles Street and then the Baltimore and Ohio depot at West Middletown. They do not admit three filling station burglaries committed the same night.”

The high drama in the city began after the B & O robbery, the article reported. Officers, including Harry Richardson, sighted a car already suspected as carrying the robbers. They gave chase until the bandits jumped from their car at Auburn Avenue and Henry Street and fled in different directions. 

Officer Richardson eventually captured Turner “in an alley near Auburn Street and Crescent Boulevard after firing several shots,” the article continued. 

“Abernathy was captured an hour later by Tom Carmody and Constable Lummie Bailey in the east end near theBig Four railroad crossing where he was trying to ‘bum’ a ride out of town.”

Clyde Barrow remained on the loose.  But his freedom wouldn’t last.

“A general search of the town was made for the third member and several hours later Carmody saw Barrow from the canal bank near Catalpa DriveHe gave chase, calling to Officer Charles Porter, W. J. Sortman and J.A. Wheeler, B. and O. detectives, to cut back to Poasttown road where Barrow headed...”

The paper reported that “Barrow ran to Erie Avenue,where he stole the automobile of Orville Baird, 2103 Erie Avenue. Carmody fired at the car and then followed it on foot...”

 “Barrow went across to Poasttown road and then up Wilbraham Road which is a ‘blind’ street...Seeing he was hemmed in, the bandit ran the car over the lawn between two houses where he jumped out and ran to the canal, throwing his gun away. The officers caught up with him as he ran down the canal and he surrendered.”

In published reports following the capture, Chief Kolodzik praised the officers involved in the capture and thanked citizens who provided police with valuable tips on the whereabouts of the escapees.

Four years later the end came for Barrow and Bonnie Parker, the woman who became his most famous accomplice.  The couple was ambushed by law enforcement officers on a rural road in Louisiana and died at the scene. 

Since then their doomed relationship has been a popular subject in American crime history and the entertainment industry. Perhaps the best-known retelling is the 1967 movie that bears their first names. Actors Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway star in the title roles. * 

This blog is based on information from the front page  of the March 19, 1930, Middletown News-Signal headlined “DESPERADOES WILL BE RETURNED.” The newspaper is available for viewing on microfilm at MidPointe’s Middletown location, 125 South Broad Street.

At MidPointe Library you’ll also find a highly detailed account of the travels and crimes of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker in the book, “On The Trail of Bonnie & Clyde Then And Now.” 

Edited by Winston G. Ramsey, the book devotes several pages to Barrow’s Middletown crime spree. It includes a map that retraces Barrow’s “tyre [sic] tracks around the city” as well as many local photos and mug shots of Barrow. It can be checked out with a free MidPointe Library card.

More information about Clyde Barrow can be found in the “Vertical File” in the Ohio Room at MidPointe Library Middletown. It is filed under his name.

*The notorious Bonnie and Clyde are the subjects of many other MidPointe Library materials. Go to www.midpointelibrary.org> Catalog Search > Bonnie and Clyde

A photo of Clyde Barrow can also be viewed on MidPointe Library’s Digital Archives :www.midpointelibrary> eLibrary > Digital Archives > Clyde Barrow

No library card? No problem! Sign up for your free card at any MidPointe location: Middletown, West Chester, Trenton, Monroe, Liberty Township (2ndfloor, Liberty Center) and onboard the Library On Wheels Bookmobile.