About Jack Mesenbourg

Jack Mesenbourg is a writer, musician, photographer, and artist from Minneapolis. He has spent his years hopping around the country, scribbling notes & scratching pictures in poorly organized journals along the way. Traveling with him have been his passions and distractions such as music, gardening, baseball, cooking and finding good local beer. Hopefully his projects provide you with some insight, provoke some thinking or at least give you a little amusement.

A Burning Cold Morning (Part 85)

The next morning Leo was not feeling much better but had pretty much given up on complaining to the jail personnel.  On the 18th U.S Marshals came to get him and moved him over to their holding cell at the federal building in downtown Minneapolis.  They did think he looked ill enough to call for a doctor though and Leo received some medical attention prior to his preliminary hearing on October 19th.  After that he was transported back to the Hennepin County jail to await his next court appearance.  He did not eat anything on the 20th and by that evening, when he met with his lawyer, his skin was noticeably grey.  The attorney was concerned and offered to arrange for some medical treatment but Leo had other things to discuss.

l humbert hearing
l humbert hearing

“Have you talked to my wife?” he asked in a soft, low voice.

“I tried, I really did.  But she isn’t at the house and it looks like most of the things inside are gone.  I peeked in a few windows when no one answered, ya know?  Looked cleared out and the neighbors said a moving truck was there a few days ago.”

“No notes or nothing?”

“Nothing Leo.  And I tried your sister but, well, quite frankly she doesn’t want anything to do with you.  You sure about not wanting a doctor?  I can get one in here.  You look like hell.”

“Ah, it’s too late,” Leo replied with a feeble wave of his hand, “not much time left I don’t think.  We need to talk about that guy I told you about, that bomb-maker.  You gotta help find him and bring him in. Here’s a few,”

“Listen,” the lawyer interjected, “I know you are fired up about finding this guy.  Right now, let’s just try to get you into a medical ward, ok?  I think we need to focus on your case and getting you better also.”

“It don’t matter about me right now, I gotta make sure someone gets that guy.”

“I’ll be back in touch Leo, right now I have to go see another client,” the lawyer replied and quickly gathered up papers into his briefcase. 

“It ain’t gonna be ok I tell ya,” Leo muttered, “you gotta get this info from me now.”

“I’ll get it next time, ok?”

Then the man was gone and the jail guards took Leo back to his cell where he collapsed into his hard bunk and fell asleep.  He did not line up for the morning roll call on the 21st and a guard found him semi-alert in his bed.  They left him lying there through breakfast and then, when he did not want to get up to go to lunch, forcibly carried him from his cell to the meal line.  Munching his way slowly through a ham sandwich Leo sat alone at the edge of a table.  They also had to carry him back to his cell when meal time was over and the guard who closed his cell door turned back to speak to him.

“You’re making this all harder than it needs to be Humbert,” the guard said, “you ain’t gonna make any friends here if we have to carry you to every damn meal.”

Leo sighed first, then replied, “I’m sick, you know that right.  It’s pretty damn obvious if you look at me.  Maybe one of you should finally get me a doctor.”

“I heard about you complaining about being sick and I’ll agree you look it.  I thought they were getting you one?  That should’a happened already.”

“Well, it didn’t,” Leo answered, “and I doubt it will.  I don’t think anyone here is listening.”

The guard ambled away without a reply to that and Leo drifted off to sleep.  He did get himself up for dinner and although he did not eat much that seemed to make the guards happy.  He made a phone call that evening attempting to reach his lawyer and wrote a short note that was later found in his cell.  The contents of that note have never been revealed although it is thought to have been directed to his attorney.  On the 22nd Leo continued to comply with getting himself up for meals and tried several more times to reach his lawyer.  After the evening meal he played two hands of cribbage in the common area and then went back to his cell.

At 6:52 pm jail guard Henry Willis, who had been working there for nine years, announced that he was going on his break a few minutes early.  Due to another guard having left sick a few hours earlier, and no replacement being available, this left just one guard on-duty at the front desk area of the jail.  That guard, Jerry Timmons, had only been working there for three months, having just come off his probationary period of employment.  

“Yeah sure thing Henry, I’ll keep the place in shape for ya,” he replied to Willis’ announcement.  

Ten minutes later a man entered through the side door, a way that official persons, deputies and medical staff usually used to access the jail.  The man, past middle-age and about six feet tall displaying wisps of  sandy blonde hair under a large brim fedora, walked up to the desk and announced he was a doctor.

“Ah, hello.  I don’t recall seeing any orders up about a medical visit,” Timmons replied.  “You sure you’re in the right place?” 

“I am,” the man replied and then stood silently, green eyes blinking back at the guard.

“Ok, well, I’ll look again.  Who are you here to see?”

“Some sick prisoner obviously, I think they said his name was Homberg.”

Timmons was looking through the daily log book and other papers but thought he recognized the name.  “Humbert?  Leo Humbert?”

“Yeah, sounds right,” the man replied while glancing at his pocket watch.  “How about you let me in to see him before any more of my night gets wasted?”

“I still don’t see it here, you know, the order for a medical on Humbert.  It’s always in here.”

“Ok kid, no offense, but I come here all the time.  I don’t recognize you, so maybe you’re new.  But they sent me to see this guy so let’s just get it over with, ok?  It’s probably damn indigestion anyways.”

Timmons glanced down at the orders book again, up at the doctor, over to the door and then back at the doctor.  The man had a resigned, nonchalant look on his face and did not raise any of the young guards suspicions.  After several more seconds Timmons let him in, forgetting to have the doctor sign the official visitor log. 

“I’ll walk you down doctor, just hang on until my partner gets back, ok?”

“What’s the cell number?  I can just walk down there and ask him a few questions.  Like I said, it’s probably indigestion.”

“Well, yeah, it’s 104.”

The doctor walked off at a brisk pace once Timmons opened the interior cell walkway door for him and was surprisingly back at the same gate about two minutes later, rapping his knuckles again the bars.  Timmons hurried over to let him back through to the secured area.

“That was very fast doctor.  Is he ok?”

“Oh yes, he’s just fine.  Quite a faker.  I’m going to return to my own dinner now if that’s ok with you,” the doctor replied, gesturing toward the secured exit door.

“Of course, yes sir.  Hope you have a good night,” Timmons replied cheerfully and unlocked the door.  

Ten minutes later Henry Willis returned, realized something unusual had taken place in his absence and rushed down to Leo’s cell.  He found him lying on the floor, gasping for breath and with his eyes starting to roll back into his head.  He opened the cell and went in to attempt to help but when he leaned down Leo grabbed his shirt and hissed into his ear.

“Remember that hotel fire, 1940, it was murder, look up the clock-maker. Find him.” 

After that declaration Leo become unresponsive and he died a few hours later at the hospital.  The official cause of death was never released although allusions to it being related to diabetic shock were made in the press and by jail authorities. 

Leo Humbert, a historical curiosity and a bit on an enigma,  was buried on October 26, 1967 at Sunset Memorial Park.   Amanda faded into historical obscurity and Stanley Bittenhopper was never caught or heard from again. 

The End.

For those of you who want to know, this is the article that started this long journey along with a few other documents relating to the story of Leo Humbert’s life. 

l humbert final article
l humbert final article
L Humbert FBI 1
L Humbert FBI 1
L Humbert FBI 2
L Humbert FBI 2
L Humbert fingerprints
L Humbert fingerprints
L Humbert intake 1
L Humbert intake 1
L Humbert intake 2
L Humbert intake 2
L Humbert early record listing
L Humbert early record listing
L Humbert early MBCA
L Humbert early MBCA
L Humbert prison card
L Humbert prison card

A Burning Cold Morning (Part 84)

That conversation was an eye-opener for Amanda of course, even though Leo did not tell her the entire story of his second life or the complete truth about some parts that he did share.  His actual motivation for the disclosure is not known, as he could easily have just stayed silent as he was once again processed through the legal system.  He would have known of course that his arrest was sure to get back to her as she would certainly have been questioned as part of the investigation.  It may also have been that he actually wanted to be the one to tell her instead of her finding out through law enforcement.  It was noted by the officer who was standing nearby that he apologized to his wife twice and even stated that she deserved to have had a better man than him in her life.  

The Daily Journal Fergus Falls MN 26sep1967
The Daily Journal Fergus Falls MN 26sep1967
The Daily Journal Fergus Falls MN 25sep1967
The Daily Journal Fergus Falls MN 25sep1967

At the conclusion of that call Leo was escorted back to his cell and several hours later turned over to the US Marshal service in Denver.   Then, after the completion of all the necessary legal proceedings and paperwork, Leo was taken via train back to Minnesota on October 12, 1967. Arriving on October 14th, he was processed into the Hennepin County jail as prisoner number 12500.  The following day he was interviewed by a detective with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.  After the usual formalities, the conversation turned to the bank robberies.

“You want to tell me anything about that Grey Eagle job that I don’t already know?” The agent, a tall and angular man with bushy brown eyebrows and deeply set blue eyes, peered at Leo over a stack of reports in his hand as he spoke. 

“Probably not.  I can’t believe I got picked up.  I was almost in the clear, damn it!”  Leo’s voice was terse and bitter although he shook his head in resignation after that outburst.  “I’ve been free for a long time, long time.  Damn sad way for it all to end.”

“So, what else have you been up to all of these years Humbert?”

“You know, you just go ahead and look it up.  I’ve been a respectable business man.  You cops can’t just let a man go, can ya?  Always chasing our shadows around, can’t let a man be free to earn a living.”

“None of us have been chasing you around Humbert.  And I seriously doubt that a couple recent bank jobs are the total of your transgressions since you got out of Stillwater,” the agent replied in a condescending tone.  “How many banks has it been?”

“Listen, you can keep all of those damn fantasies to yourself.  I’m stuck here now and I’m sure you all are going to find a way to pin those jobs on me.  But that ain’t what I’m worried about.”  Leo sat back in his chair, sweat beading up on his forehead and a slight tremor running through his body.

“You ok there?” the agent asked, “you look a bit pale.”

It took several moments for Leo to compose himself and when he did reply it was with a shaky voice. “You’ve got a bigger problem I’m telling you, a bigger problem.  There’s a crazy clockmaker out there, running free, and now I’m going to rot in prison instead of being able to find him.  I was on his trail.  I was going to take care of the guy before he killed more people.”  

Leo fell silent after that, his skin turning clammy and eventually he placed his head down on the steel table in the interrogation room.  Despite repeated attempts by the agent to get him to talk again he stayed silent and eventually was walked back to his cell, a guard having to hold him up by one arm.  

Leo remained in that condition all through the 16th of October, unable to get up to eat breakfast that morning.  The agent from the MBCA did return at 11 a.m. that day and tried to resume their conversation.   Leo though just sat sluggishly in the interrogation room chair, unresponsive to questions, even those about the, “crazy and mysterious clockmaker you were going on about yesterday.”  On the morning of the 17th he called out to a guard, stating that he needed to be taken to a doctor.  When the man approached his cell, Leo stated that he was diabetic and having an attack, demanding to be taken to a hospital.  It was fairly obvious that he was in some kind of distress; however, the guard had not been made aware of any potential medical issue with Leo.  He did go and confer with his superiors and about an hour later the jail commander walked down to Leo’s cell. 

“What’s your beef, Humbert?  You think you need a doctor?”

“I already told them, I’m diabetic.  I need a hospital.”  Leo’s voice was faint, his breath labored and heavy. 

“You know, I looked through all of your records that they brought us.  Ain’t nothing in there about you being a diabetic.  Seems to me like there would be, don’t ya think?”

“I never, I, I didn’t mention it most of the time.  But you look, you’ll find it in there.  I’m sure it’s in there somewhere, you just aren’t looking in the right place.  But I really need to go to the hospital.  I’m gonna die.”

“Yeah well, I’ll tell you one thing I do know Humbert.”  The officer rapped on the bars of the cell with his hand.  “You escaped from Stearns County, you and that other fella.  Maybe you’re just looking for a little ride outta here, get away from the jail, and then you take off.  Seems like an easier plan that all that sawing you went through in Stearns.” 

“I’m not running damn you, I’m just sick.”

“Well, I’ll tell ya what Humbert.  I’ll see about getting a doctor in here to take a look at ya.  But you won’t be leavin’ my jail, I’ll guarantee ya of that.”  As he walked away the jail commander chuckled under his breath and promptly forgot about Leo’s request.  

…to be continued

A Burning Cold Morning (Part 83)

1963 Oldsmobile Starfire
1963 Oldsmobile Starfire

He headed toward Denver, although it is unlikely that he planned to stay there for very long.  Perhaps he was planning to ask Tracy to go somewhere with him or maybe he just wanted to see her one more time.  That is one of those facts which will never be known.  One thing we do know is that Leo, who owned two vehicles, actually took the time to steal an Oldsmobile Starfire from an alleyway in Minneapolis before setting out on his journey.  He later on commented that he did it on impulse, feeling as though he might not have much time left as a free man.  He managed to make it to Kearney Nebraska in that vehicle without any trouble and checked in to the Midway Hotel there on September 20, 1967.  After a light dinner Leo returned to his room, setting down his fedora on the sofa just before suffering a severe diabetic incident.  

Midway Hotel Kearney Nebraska
Midway Hotel Kearney Nebraska

It is likely that he would have died right there on the floor of his room at the Midway if not for the lucky intervention of Doctor Timothy Sanibar.  Leo’s attack caused him to collapse onto the floor and in so doing he knocked a lamp off the side table, which crashed to the floor with the bulb shattering upon impact.   Doctor Sanibar was walking past the door of Leo’s room just as this occurred and heard the noise.  After knocking on the door twice and receiving only a faint moan in response, he opened the door to find Leo on the floor and semi-conscious.  Unsure of the exact nature of the condition, the doctor shouted for help, which brought a man from the room across the hall over to assist him.  They carried Leo to the doctor’s car and then whisked him away to the hospital.  

Although Leo’s condition was critical when he arrived, the medical staff managed to stabilize him and by mid-day on the 21st he was feeling better.  He did cooperate with the staff and appeared to be taking part in the plan they were working on to properly treat his diabetes.  Internally though, he had a different plan and on the morning of September 23rd Leo snuck out of the hospital and stole a vehicle from the parking lot of a local department store.  

Leo was, of course, not exactly recovered fully from his attack and found himself having some trouble concentrating while he drove.  On at least two occasions he drifted off the road and almost hit trees, swerving back into the traffic lanes and coming close to hitting a few other vehicles.  Those incidents, one near Sterling Colorado and the other outside of Hudson were reported to the local police by several citizens.  Due to the lag time in the reporting though, once a patrol vehicle was dispatched to look into the situations, Leo was much further on down the road.  He drove through Denver and then into the western outskirts where the apartment he had set up for Tracy was located.  Leo was just three blocks away from that address when he saw flashing lights in his view mirrors and then looked down, realizing too late that he was going twenty miles over the speed limit.  Perhaps his caution had left him and he was excited to be so near to the end of this part of his trip.  It is also possible that his medical condition had effected his judgement or that he had lost focus again due to it.  Whatever the reason, the lights were on and he decided to pull over rather than run.

Leo cooperated with the officer who approached his vehicle and attempted to make light of the situation, saying he had to get home because his wife had made dinner and he was running late.  The officer, who played along with the act, was already in possession of some information that made Leo’s arrest almost a certainty.  Unknown to him there was a car theft ring operating in Kearney, one that a long running investigation had finally started to track down.  Those Nebraska thieves were running cars to chop shops in Golden Colorado, which was the municipality in which Loe had just been pulled over.  Due to that on-going investigation and some cooperation between the two police forces, all vehicles reported as stolen in Kearney were also immediately communicated to police in Golden.  Leo’s stolen vehicle had been on the officer’s watch list since he started his shift and he would have been pulling it over even without the speeding offense.  

Leo was in fact arrested and soon after that his outstanding warrants in Minnesota were discovered.  By the evening of September 23rd, as he lay down on a cold steel cot with a very thin jail mattress, he knew that he was facing a significant number of charges.  He thought about many things that night, including all of his past glory, the good times, the women and money, and even spent a little bit of time contemplating his family in Minnesota.  The one thing that he spent the most time on though was Stanley.  Somehow that whole situation bothered him much more than any of his other regrets or remorse.  Leo realized that now, with a long prison term ahead of him and his own health failing, he was not going to be able to deliver the true justice that needed to be brought down upon the Clockmaker.  Stanley had hurt a lot of people, including children, he had betrayed Leo and he was obviously a deranged individual.  It was possible that many more people were going to be hurt, all because Leo had not been able to find Stanley and deliver justice.  That really rankled him and he wondered if there was any way that he could still manage to make that happen.

Leo slept very little that night and refused to eat breakfast the next morning. That day, both tired and resigned to his fate, he listened half-heartedly to the officers and agents who rambled on about all of his outstanding warrants, his crimes, extradition and prison time.  It kind of all seemed like a dream in which he was barely participating, something happening to someone else as he observed it from a remote place.  Leo was not feeling well in general and, although he did not mention it or complain, it is noted on his processing records that, “a medical examination should be done at the earliest possible opportunity.” 

On the morning of the 25th Leo, who up to that point had not bothered to call anyone including a lawyer, asked for the use of a phone.  Once he was sitting in front of it he just stared ahead, eyes squinted up a little bit and a frown on his face.  Then, just as the officer who was observing was about to tell him to make the call or be taken back his cell, Leo lifted the receiver and dialed.  It rang twice before a woman picked up.

“Hello Amanda.  It’s Leo.  There are some things that I have to tell you.” 

…to be continued…

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

A Burning Cold Morning (Part 81)

The time period from his loss of the King Company job and the start of 1966 were filled with longer and longer absences from home, an increase in diabetic symptoms and attacks, more crime and a return to his womanizing ways.  He did maintain his cover while back in St. Anthony with Amanda and Sharon, getting right back into the groove of home life for the limited amount of time he spent with them.  He read his newspapers, went to church, worked at his role as a father and purchased gifts for Amanda.  He did still frequent the Gay 90’s club where he was a popular regular and as one former manager put it, “he loved that place and we loved him.”  When he was not with his family in Minnesota he had his other side on full display as he frequented clubs in many cities, had a large cache of girlfriends and spent his days plotting crimes.  When he did pull off a job, he was increasingly direct and stern when committing those acts, not suffering fools or any attempts by victims to deviate from his instructions.  He did not kill anyone but several people suffered pistol-whipping or gut punches after he judged them to be non-complaint.   

In late December of 1965 Leo was hospitalized in Montana after a severe diabetic incident and did not get released until ten days later.  When he was finally out he walked away from the hospital feeling uncertain of his future.  Beneath his tough demeanor even Leo knew that this last incident was a dire sign and that he may not have much longer to live.  Although he never had followed medical advice very well he had thought he was getting along well enough with his combination of partial compliance with doctor’s instructions, home-made remedies and general tough-guy refusal to be sick.  He was not so sure anymore about his immortality and quickly spun into a depression.  Eventually he made his way back to St. Anthony and although he never told Amanda the details of his hospital stay, she could tell that he had been sick and was not doing very well.  It was in January of 1966, while home with his family, that Leo met Tracy King one night at the Gay 90’s.  He was still feeling low and a bit depressed and they quickly started dating.  

The relationship accelerated quickly, much past the point Leo usually stoped at with his girlfriends and in May of 1966 he agreed to take her with him on his next trip.  He had already staked out a possible bank robbery in New Mexico which is where they headed.  The job was successful and that night Leo, flush with cash and with crime fueling his good spirits, got caught up in the mood and agreed to marry Tracy.  He thought better of that by the next morning and realized he was in a bit of a situation. He had to admit to himself that he did have deeper feelings for her than was usual and also that he enjoyed her company quite a bit.  She was young and full of energy, thought him to be quite the dashing gentleman and fit in well when they went out to clubs and dinner.  Deciding that he wanted to make her happy, Leo paid a man in Albuquerque to pretend he was a minister, after which he took Tracy to a park where that man performed the ceremony. 

Immediately after that they traveled to Denver, Colorado as Tracy stated she wanted to move there because she had family in the nearby area.  Leo set her up in an apartment and gave her some additional money for living expenses.  Telling her that he would be on the road quite often but would ensure that she was well-taken care of, he then departed and was back in St. Anthony by early June.  As he whiled away some time in his domestic role Leo came to realize that he had complicated his life quite a bit and that his expenses were going to go up considerably.  Having to maintain two residences, juggle his relationships and make time for everyone, along with plotting and committing enough crime to pay for it all, was going to be a challenge.  Leo felt certain that he was going to be able to make it work.  He did well for almost a year and although he was not getting rich from crime he did manage to make enough to keep both his Minnesota and Colorado lives rolling along smoothly.  

1967 Buick Skylark

1967 Buick Skylark

On May 1, 1967 Leo was in Carson City, Nevada and involved in a car theft scheme that he had set up.  In an unusual move for him there were some other players involved in this caper, mostly because it had expanded rapidly and Leo needed experienced car thieves to keep up with the demands of the chop shop he was working with at the time.  One of these men, Charlie Kittle, who had just joined up with the car-theft crew had also known Leo in the 1920’s back in Bakersfield.  A comment by Charlie one cold afternoon stunned Leo and brought some old feelings and memories back up to the surface.  The two of them were hanging out at the chop shop after Charlie had turned over a Buick Skylark he had taken from a grocery store parking lot.  

“What brought ya out here to Carson City anyway?” Leo asked.

“Hell, I was running from a botched job in Atlanta.  Big mess really, on a safe cracking gig.  Damn explosives malfunctioned and almost took the building down.  Two guys killed right there.  I ran for it but the noise had drawn a crowd out in the street.  Musta’ been twenty folks that saw me clear as day.  This is about a far away as I could get.”

“Sounds like one hell of a mess indeed,” Leo replied as he lit a cigarette.

“No kidding.  Your old buddy was to blame for it, too.”

“Huh?”

“Yeah, you know, that wacko clock-maker you hung out with in Bakersfield back in the day.  It was his job. He’s the one that lit up that building.”

…to be continued

Local Bands – Twin Cities

Featured

Hello – I am doing some research and planning into a forum to highlight local bands in the greater Twin Cities area. This may be developed in connection with an Internet radio station. Please contact me at jackmesenbourg@icloud.com if you are interesting in contributing streaming music, sitting down for an interview or otherwise being involved.

A Burning Cold Morning (Part 80)

As that year moved into spring Leo felt that he definitely needed to get some additional money stashed away to ensure that he could properly provide for his growing family.  This marked a period of time in which very slowly but steadily his time and attention were more focused on the planning and commission of crimes.  Although he still stuck mostly with bank robberies there were some occasions when he returned to stealing cars or grifting.  He ran a few fake jewelry schemes in Nevada and New Mexico, including one in which he narrowly escaped capture in Reno.  He had been running that operation under an alias of course but the close call did scare him enough that he mostly stuck with banks and cars after he managed his getaway from the police.  Leo, when home, played the part of father in a forced but kind way, trying to interact with Sharon especially when she was playing outside in the yard or at the park.  That seemed to be much more comfortable for him than other parental tasks such as teaching life skills, reading stories or enforcing discipline.  He and Amanda continued with a strained, lukewarm relationship and Leo spent most of his free time pouring over out-of-town newspapers.  He often would leaf through eight or more of these every day, seemingly skimming the pages in a manner that made no sense to his wife.  She questioned him about it a couple of times but his non-responsive answers made it clear he was not interested in discussing it with her.  As it seemed harmless enough she just figured he was restless to be back on the road or was looking for information to help him with sales opportunities while he traveled.  

As the end of 1962 approached, Leo’s performance for King Manufacturing had hit a low point.  Internal documents reveal that the executives in the company had been aware of the decline going back to at least 1957.  It seems as though they had held several meetings to discuss Leo’s roles with the company and the possibility of firing him had come up first in 1959.  That time he was saved mostly by his prior reputation, although he was confronted with the issue and made aware for the first time about the company’s concerns.  He turned things around starting after that meeting and lasting through the fall of 1960 when things began again to decline.  There were some highs and lows in his performance after that, seemingly always just enough to head off another confrontation.  However, by November of 1962 the company general manager had seen enough and called Leo back to Flint for a meeting.  He arrived over an hour late blaming an issue with his vehicle.  As always, Leo was sharply dressed and still exuded confidence and charisma. 

His issues were of course caused by the criminal activities which were taking up more and more of his time.  Bank robbery had become an extremely risky thing to do as law enforcement tactics had evolved as had bank technology and security.  Leo found himself having to do more extensive planning and surveillance than ever before to ensure success, all of which took him away from his real job of selling for King Company.   The general manager started the meeting with an abrupt statement.

“Right now Leo, you are basically here to convince me not to fire you.”

Leo blinked back in reply, took a deep breath and replied, “You know, after all this time, that’s a bit of an unfair way to jump on me.”

“Yes, well that may seem so, but the issues with your productivity really have to be faced by you and quite frankly, by us.  You have been with us a long time, eighteen years in fact, and there were some great times in there.  Your record as a sales manager back then and for many years, really top-notch stuff Leo.  That’s not now though, and your previous success has well, basically it is why you still have a job right now.  But you’ve burned up all of that goodwill and consideration.  These last years have been several variations of poor or awful and we need to move on.  Look at this report on your productivity.”  He slid a few sheets of paper across the large wooden desk toward Leo. “Your run is done, maybe you can find another start at something else, get your fire going again like back in the day with us.”

The GM steepled his fingers together as he finished speaking, peering at Leo over the top of his reading glasses.  Leo looked down at the top page of the reports, saying nothing and not picking them up.  Several tense seconds clicked by on the wall clock behind the desk, the GM continuing to stare at him.  Finally, Leo looked up and delivered a very impassioned response, citing a long litany of good deeds done for the company mixed in among details about the increasingly difficult sales scene in the United States.  He went on for over ten minutes and finally the GM gave in and stated, “exactly one more chance Humbert, just this last one.  Go out and save your career and you better start at it right now.”

Nothing came of that chance as Leo was much too involved in casing a bank in Billings, Montana to spend much time selling. On March 3, 1963 the GM called him at his hotel and stated he needed to see Leo again back in Flint.  When Leo told him that he was working a “hot sale” and could not return immediately, the GM replied that Leo needed to be sitting in his office on March 6th or he would be terminated.  That day passed without Leo showing up and so ended his career at King Manufacturing. 

He did not inform his family about losing that job and continued to act as if he was still a traveling sales manager.  It was now necessary for all of his income to be made from crime as he had no intention of trying to arrange another legitimate career.  This actually made him happier as he had grown increasingly frustrated with the normal business and work world.  The seven year period where he had been devolving slowly back into his old lifestyle had made him realize that it was the only situation with which he was actually content.  It was high stress, dangerous and exciting, all things which he felt suited him perfectly.  

…to be continued

A Burning Cold Morning (Part 79)

He spent the next three months mostly on the road, returning occasionally to both Amanda in St. Anthony and also his room at the Durant where he maintained an address to look good for the company.  However, by the time that November of 1944 rolled around, Leo had realized that King Company hardly cared where he lived as long as he continued his high level of success and was present at the mandated quarterly meetings.  Realizing that the hotel room was just costing him money and that Amanda was getting increasingly upset about the amount of time he was away, Leo abandoned the room at the Durant and was thus able to spend a little more more time in St. Anthony.  

The next ten years passed quickly and were largely uneventful.  In fact, although he did pull off a very occasional bank robbery to reset his financial situation, for the most part Leo just worked hard and stayed successful.  He actually turned out to be a rather remarkable salesman who established close relationships with a large range of customers, including municipalities and construction firms.  This resulted in large profits for King Manufacturing and kept Leo in a position of prestige.   Along the way on his travels he did cross paths with some former cronies and was invited to join up on several capers, all of which he turned down.  If Leo was going to do any crime at all, he was going to do it by himself.  

There were a few other items of interest in Leo’s activities between 1945 and 1955.  One was that he gave almost eight thousand dollars to victims of the Marlborough Fire, usually by leaving small packages of cash wrapped in brown paper inside of a mail box.  Much of this money he directed at children who had been injured but it is believed that he managed to give some money to every victim that he was able to locate.  He also took at least two more trips to try to find Stanley, all of which proved fruitless and he was unable to find even the smallest indication that his old partner was still alive.  He became increasingly convinced that the Clockmaker was dead, especially as he heard many stories about how Stanley really liked to wait around and watch his bombs explode.  Perhaps he had perished in one of those explosions.  Leo also kept up some very infrequent contact with Olivia, although he never put a return address on his envelopes and as far as is known, she was not aware he was living in Minnesota.  He also engaged in a new hobby when he had free time, which was researching biological and other kinds of chemical warfare.  There is not much information on what drove him to this although some speculation is that he was telling King Company executives that he had been involved with it in the military.  Perhaps he decided that he needed to be more educated about the topic so he could effectively sell that kind of false story.   Finally, Leo was keeping up his tours of the strip clubs, not just in Minneapolis but everywhere that he went, although the Gay 90’s remained his favorite place.  In all of those clubs he was known for being generous to the women who worked there, buying them gifts and drinks while dating them as frequently as he could arrange.  He told many stories about his past to these women, sometimes about his true and exaggerated criminal activities and other times he stuck with his carefully crafted fake life story.  

By the time that 1955 had started Leo was deep into his split lifestyle and starting to think again about the allure of the criminal world he had enjoyed so much before his long prison terms.  He and Amanda had a strained but warm relationship as Leo always showered her with attention and gifts during the short periods of time he was home each month.  It was during one of these times, toward the end of February, that Amanda met him at the door as he was returning from walking down to the newsstand.  When he looked up at her and their eyes met he realized that she was smiling more brightly than she had in quite some time.  It was an odd enough event that is stopped him right in his tracks, fedora halfway removed from his head and the stack of newspapers still tucked under this arm.  

“What? What is it?”

“Oh, Leo, I hope you, well, it’s great news.  I just hope you are as happy as me.”

“Well, what is it?”

“I’m pregnant,” she replied and then burst into tears although the smile remained on her face.

Leo did not immediately go to her side as he felt like he had just walked into a solid brick wall.  This was not something that they had wanted to happen although they had spoken about it several times over their decade of marriage.  As far as Leo knew, they had been in agreement about it.  He was not suited for the role of father, of that he was certain, and besides he was almost never at home.  Now though, he was going to have to step up and be one, a fact he realized and accepted in the space of just a few short moments.  Then he stepped over to Amanda, pulled down the hand she now had covering her face, and told her how very excited he was to hear the news.  

Things changed after that, as they do for new parents, although not all of the changes would be considered typical.  Leo still traveled of course although now he was much more punctual about getting back to St. Anthony, foregoing all of his stops at strip clubs and to visit girlfriends.  He had internally re-dedicated himself to his family and Amanda was much happier.  He also became very worried about the money, wanting to make sure that he was able to provide the best for the new child and also his wife, expenses that were not going to all be covered by his King Company salary and commissions.  He planned, although did not commit, several bank robberies and was much more aware of possible opportunities to make money, all ideas which he carefully filed away as he fought to contain his impulses. 

On November 19, 1955 the daughter of Leo and Amanda, who they named named Sharon,  was born and they both were proud parents, a fact which is obvious from the letters they wrote.  Leo even penned an unusually long one to Olivia detailing his daughters, “perfect little blue eyes and long eyelashes.”  As the year came to a close the Humbert’s seemed to be a happy, successful and growing family, Amanda a new and excited mother, Leo a reformed and eager father, and all of them together and living well on 39th Avenue. 

Inside Title Page Who's Who

Inside Title Page Who’s Who

 

Leo's Entry in 1960

Leo’s Entry in 1960

The beginning of the next year would see the trend continue, with Leo making his first appearance in the “World Who’s Who in Commerce and Industry,” a listing that would continue for many years, at least up until 1966.  That entry, which was submitted by his bosses at King Company, contained many of the false facts that Leo had created for his sanitized life story.  It even included the detail that he had been in the Army from the 1920’s up through the early 40’s, conveniently covering his years of criminal activity and imprisonment.  Listings in other years had incorrect addresses, a variety of invented roles including a mention that he was a traveling lecturer and researcher in chemical warfare while still also being employed by King Manufacturing.  It should also be noted that some of these later editions of the publication actually list his wife as deceased, a fact that Amanda was not aware of although the reason for it may be obvious from some of Leo’s later escapades.   And yes, although Leo was a rededicated family man in early 1956, that was not going to last.  

…to be continued

A Burning Cold Morning (Part 78)

They were taking it slowly but as the summer progressed she became more and more convinced that Leo was the man she was going to marry.  This despite the fact that there were a few odd things about him.  He was, of course, gone often and sometimes for extended periods of time and although he always had a briefcase Amanda had never seen what was actually inside of it.  He would reply with, “trade secrets,” and “nothing you need to worry yourself about, dear,” whenever she asked him about it.  When he was home he would spend hours pouring over out-of-town newspapers and also took to spending Saturday nights out of the house, claiming to be meeting up with his company’s executives.  He never offered to take her along or introduce her to anyone that he worked with or to clients to whom he sold whatever it was that he sold.  The time they did spend together though was tender and romantic and Leo would buy her expensive gifts and take her out to eat at fancy restaurants.   He also told her that he stayed at the Radisson downtown, a very upscale place to live, although he had only taken her there on two occasions. 

Hotel Radisson courtesy lakesnwoods.com

Hotel Radisson courtesy lakesnwoods.com

Gay 90's Night Club

Gay 90’s Night Club

Naturally Leo was in fact up to his old tricks, just doing so much more carefully than he had in the past.  By the end of June of 1944 he had pulled off an additional two bank robberies, one in Wisconsin and another right on the border of South Dakota.  These had netted him a handsome profit and allowed him to continue his charade with Amanda along with courting a few other woman on the side.  His Saturday “executive meetings” were in fact nights that he spent at the Gay 90’s night club on Hennepin Avenue, watching the strip shows and buying drinks for a variety of women.   He also had another plan in motion, one which involved a trip to Flint, Michigan in early July of that year.  

When Leo arrived Flint was well into its tenure as Vehicle City, USA.  It was bustling with a population that was approaching two hundred thousand and offered all of the kinds of vice to which Leo was attracted.  He was, however, not there for that kind of distraction.  Away from the scrutiny of the parole department in Minnesota, he had decided that this particular risk was worth it.  He had come to find a job as he knew that his current story was wearing thin with Amanda and he did not want to lose her.  She represented his opportunity to “get respectable” with societal expectations and being married would also look good to his parole officer.  Such a job would also allow for him to approach that PO and get permission to leave the state, or at least that was what Leo hoped to accomplish.  Then he would be free from any worry if he was pulled over for some reason while traveling.  It was all going to fit together nicely into his plan.  Unable to completely avoid a little elegance, he took a room at the popular Durant Hotel, figuring that no one would know him so far from Minneapolis.  

Durant Hotel Flint Michigan

Durant Hotel Flint Michigan

He then set to work on finding a job, one that fit his preference for extensive travel and limited supervision.  He found such an opportunity with King Manufacturing, a company that sold septic tanks and related equipment.  They were looking for a salesman to cover twelve states and although Leo had no verifiable selling experience he convinced them to give him the job, mentioning his civil engineering degree more than once.  He spent a few days training at the Flint location, learning about the products from a portly, bald-headed man named Larry, and then hit the road with a promise to send in his receipts and be back for the quarterly meeting in September.  

Back in Minneapolis by early August, Leo did in fact receive official authorization to travel outside of the state for work relating to his employment.  The record reflects that the parole officer confirmed his employment with King Company; however, as it is a fact that they knew nothing of his criminal record it would appear that Leo ran some kind of scam on them involving a false phone number and a friend who impersonated a company executive.  The details of that, and how he explained the fact he had obtained an out-of-state job without leaving the state, are lost to history. 

The day when this approval came through marked a turning point in Leo’s life.  It was not, as you could perhaps hope, a turning point away from crime but rather one in which he realized that he could pull off his big scheme.  He had managed to secure a good job, the ability to travel and case out places to rob, a healthy bundle of ready cash and a girlfriend who thought he was someone important.  If he was careful, Leo was convinced that he would be able to live below the radar of the police, continue to fund his life through crime, and enjoy the good life.  With that in mind, he asked Amanda to marry him on August 7th and they were hurriedly married on the 29th of that same month.  A week later they purchased a house just outside of St.Paul in St. Anthony at 3100 39th Ave NE.  Life was going well for Leo.  

3100 39th Ave NE

3100 39th Ave NE

…to be continued