Disinterment of notorious gangster Dillinger’s grave gets green light

by Agence France-Presse

Is it in fact the notorious American gangster John Dillinger who lies buried in an Indiana cemetery? Family members want to know, and the authorities have agreed to allow his exhumation.

Dillinger and his heavily armed “Terror Gang” robbed at least a dozen banks — killing 10 men, including a police officer, in the process — during the 1930s. He escaped from jail three times, stole submachine guns from police armories, and fashioned a well-earned reputation as “Public Enemy Number One.”

Described by the FBI as a “notorious and vicious thief,” Dillinger regularly made Page One of American newspapers, fanning fears and seizing the public imagination in the midst of the Great Depression.

His bloody career ended in 1934, when Dillinger was killed in a shootout with federal agents as he left a Chicago movie theater where he and two female friends had seen the Clark Gable movie “Manhattan Melodrama,” police said.

And it was Dillinger, the FBI said, who was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in his native Indianapolis, Indiana.

But some Dillinger relatives are not so sure.

In a sworn declaration accompanying an exhumation request, Carol Thompson, Dillinger’s niece, said she had new information suggesting that the man in the grave is not the infamous bank robber.

She said records of his eye color, scar shape, teeth condition and fingerprints did not match up.

“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,” she said in the affidavit.

“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.”

The FBI dismissed this possibility. The agency’s Chicago office tweeted that “a wealth of information supports Dillinger’s demise.” The notion that it was a Dillinger Doppelganger who died instead, the FBI said, was a “conspiracy theory.”

But the Indiana Health Department on Thursday gave its consent to the disinterment of the body in the Indianapolis grave, tentatively setting a date of December 31.

The cemetery has opposed the exhumation, however, and the matter may end up in court.

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