A Burning Cold Morning (Part 82)

That conversation burned in Leo’s mind for a couple of days as he became more and more determined to take another shot at finding Stanley.  Kittle told him that he knew little more about the man, that they had been matched up on the job completely by coincidence and the Clockmaker had not been very talkative.  Although Atlanta was the last known location, Leo doubted Stanley would have stayed around there for very long after the building almost went down following the explosion.  Thinking about that specific event really managed to get Leo fired up as he still harbored much anger about the Marlborough job and all the resulting loss of life, especially the children.  By May 6th he had made up his mind.  He was going to track Stanley down and finally make him pay for everything that had happened in the past and most especially for the Marlborough.  It was going to take some extra cash to do that though so Leo began to plan out a bank job to fund his revenge mission.

The fact that he ultimately decided to commit this particular crime  in Minnesota may attest a little bit to the tight financial situation into which Leo had found himself.  Considering his history in Minnesota it was not a good idea for him be involved in any crime at all in the state.  Leo knew this and mostly abided by that limitation.  It was enough that some federal agencies had information on him, but also true that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was very familiar with him and likely to consider him as a suspect, especially in a bank robbery.  Leo was, however, already spending too much time away from both of his domestic situations and had limited funds due to the financial strain.  He decided that it was worth the risk to hit a bank in Minnesota, promising himself that it would just be the one time.  He had evolved as a bank robber after all and could manage it, especially if he went outside the limits of the bigger cities.  

Loretto MN in 1960s courtesy MNHS
Loretto MN in 1960s courtesy MNHS

He did not go very far though, as he started to case the State Bank of Loretto, which is located just outside of the Twin Cities area.  It was, and still is, a very small town having only about 350 residents in 1967.  Leo had a bit of a problem remaining inconspicuous in such a small community and actually reverted back to his salesman routine, telling people he met that he worked for King Manufacturing.  He had a whole story about King working with a construction company in St. Paul to locate areas for new development.  Although that seemed to mollify the people he spoke with it also made him memorable to them when they were later questioned by the police.  By May 11th Leo figured he had all the information he needed and the next day, which was a Friday, he enacted his plan.  It was initially successful and he took off in a stolen vehicle with over eight thousand dollars, one of the biggest heists he had ever pulled off.  He made his getaway, stopping briefly at the house in St. Anthony before leaving on the morning of May 13th.  Unfortunately for Leo, the bank teller in Loretto had picked his mug shot out of picture lineup shown to him by the state police.  Several other witnesses corroborated that information and added a few more details.  By the time that Leo left his house that spring morning he was already a suspect, albeit initially an unnamed one.

There is very little information about this initial search for him and it is a hard to explain why Amanda never received a visit from law enforcement as they tried to find her husband.  Leo and his address do appear in some public records of the time, although there are several addresses associated with him and perhaps the police just never got around to chasing down the St. Anthony location.  It is also possible that the MBCA had information on his possible whereabouts in other parts of the country and decided it was more likely he had run off to one of those cities.  For whatever the reason, she was never contacted and Leo remained a fugitive, coming back for only two short days in the four months following the Loretto robbery.  He had a variety of excuses for this which he told to Amanda mostly in letters sent to their home, always accompanied by a packet of cash.  By this point she was growing suspicious of her husband, although those thoughts were limited to his possible involvement with another woman. 

All through the summer of 1967 Leo stayed mobile, traveling around the country on the hunt for Stanley while avoiding police and occasionally stopping in to see Tracy in Denver.  Although there were several occasions when he thought that he was just a day or two behind his former partner he never actually succeeded in tracking him down.  During most of this time Leo had what he calls in a surviving piece of writing, “a burning bank robbery bug, not just for the money but the excitement of it, that flush I feel when I’m in the middle of a job.” He resisted those impulses, mostly due to the heat that he perceived to be on him, although his funds began to run dangerously low in September of that year.  His health had also been declining over the previous two years and, now in his mid-sixtes, he had noticeably aged.  Leo’s jaw remained strong but his hair had receded considerably, his cheeks were pinching in and wrinkles had set in around his eyes.  He regularly wore glasses and walked with a slight limp although his overall bearing remained upright and strong.  

Grey Eagle MN in 1960s courtesy MNHS
Grey Eagle MN in 1960s courtesy MNHS

It may have been his declining health and perhaps a little bit of desperation that caused Leo to decide to rob another bank in small-town Minnesota.  He was after all, familiar with the state and felt comfortable. This time he targeted the State Bank in Grey Eagle and made off with thirty-seven hundred dollars.  He was not immediately identified as the robber; however, two days later the state police named him as a fugitive from justice for the Loretto and Grey Eagle robberies.  The chase was on for real this time and Leo left Minnesota, likely determined to never return.  

…to be continued

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