Leo’s exit from Louisville ended up being just in time to avoid capture. Once the police realized they had missed catching up to Leo in Minneapolis they had gone back over their notes. Giving more attention to some of the ideas Olivia had given them, they started to call around to the specific cities she had mentioned her brother having lived in at some point. By the afternoon of the sixteenth they had the Louisville police, who had connected the MBCA info with their Robert O’Hara file, out chasing down known associates of Leo’s. That eventually led to a knock on Lucy’s door and her admission that the man they were seeking had been there recently, although she did put up a good verbal battle with the police before admitting to it. She also did not disclose that she had mailed the letter. Initially excited by the near miss, the MBCA quickly realized that they now were going to be involved in a game of trying to trace their fugitive all over the United States. By the evening of the seventeenth no further information had surfaced and it was beginning to be thought that Leo might have slipped away.
Doanldson’s Glass Block restaurant
That thought prevailed for much of the next morning and at lunchtime the small task force that was involved in the case sat down to lunch at the Donaldson’s restaurant. The elegant and airy eatery, located in the department store’s large Glass Block building, was a strange place to hold a law enforcement meeting. The Minneapolis police chief commented on that fact as they all sat down and it was quickly explained by the Stearns County Attorney, James Quigley, that his wife was related to the Donaldson’s and had arranged the luncheon. Also present were Stearns County Sheriff B.E. Schoemer, an unknown FBI agent assigned to assist the investigation and several other officers who had been involved in the search up to that point. The group had just finished their soup and were discussing the lack of new leads when a Minneapolis police officer appeared and walked quickly to the table. After a whispered conversation with the man the MPD chief turned to the group.
“Well gentleman, I think we just got the break we need. Our man has written a letter to the Marlborough requesting his shoes back!”
After a few moments of disbelief at such an odd mistake being made by an experienced criminal, the men all left the restaurant and hastened to the hotel to recover the letter from the manager. Thirty minutes later attorney Quigley and Sheriff Schomer were on their way to Chicago, arriving there by nightfall. Several hours later they had arranged a stakeout with the cooperation of the city police and had the hotel staff informed of what was happening. The two Minnesota men remained on duty the entire night, sitting in an unmarked vehicle provided to them.
1929 Checked taxi cab
There was of course no way of knowing just what Leo meant when he wrote he would be “arriving soon”, or even if the whole thing was some kind of a joke he was playing on the police. It certainly made no sense to anyone in law enforcement that a criminal would be interested in getting back a pair of shoes, especially given the risk it involved. Both men had started to think that was more and more of a possibility as the afternoon dragged on, with each of them swapping out attempts to take a nap in the uncomfortable vehicle seats. At three p.m. Quigley walked over to a nearby diner and purchased a couple of sandwiches. He was on his way back to the vehicle when he saw a Checker taxi cab pull up to the Drake. Keeping his eye on it as he slid back into the stakeout vehicle, he watched the passenger emerge from the cab. The man was the correct height and build but had a fedora pulled low over his face and kept his head down as he strode up to the hotel door. Nudging the sheriff, Quigley pointed the man out and the two of them watched as he disappeared inside the building carrying a small brown valise and a briefcase. At this point the rest of their plan played out well.
Leo would of course have to identify himself as Leo Humford, as that was the name he had used at the Marlborough and which they would have used to forward his forgotten belongings. Once he did that, the Chicago police had arranged for the hotel to direct him to a room down the hall where he was told parcels were kept until picked up. Although he headed that way a little reluctantly, he did walk to the room. After stepping inside he was confronted by a police detective who held him while the hotel staff summoned the two Steans County officials from their vehicle.
After being handed over to Sheriff Schomer Leo was led into a small room near the lobby of the hotel where he was briefly questioned. That interview began with Quigley dramatically producing the brogues and placing them on the table in front of Leo.
“I believe you wanted these back?” he said.
Leo scoffed before replying. “I guess I did, I like nice clothes and shoes. Is that a crime?”
“Hardly, but robbing banks is,” the sheriff replied.
“I didn’t rob no bank,” Leo snapped back.
“You mind if I look through your bag?” the sheriff asked.
“You won’t find nothing in there, at least nothing you’re looking for anyway. It’s just clothes and letters. Oh, and a few pictures that might offend your lawful sensibilities. But go ahead, I don’t give a damn.”
The small bag did in fact include a nice suit and a few personal effects along with a large numbers of letters to and from various women and the risqué pictures Leo had mentioned. As Schomer shuffled through the letters Leo spoke up.
“Whatever happens, don’t let them get out, ok? You might ruin a lot of pretty ladies lives with what’s written in there.” The sheriff raised an eyebrow at that but kept looking through the items.
He did not find much else as, other than the content of the valise, Leo had four hundred dollars, a watch and some newspapers stuffed into his briefcase. When the inspection of his belongings was done the sheriff informed him that he had been identified as the man who robbed the Meier Grove bank and that he would be seeking Leo’s extradition back to Minnesota.
“Ya don’t need to bother with that, I’ll waive it,” Leo replied, “I didn’t do nothing and the sooner we get this over with the better.”
One hour later the two men from Stearns County and their prisoner were on the train back to St. Cloud. As they pulled out of Union Station attorney Quigley had a question for Leo.
“Whatever possessed you to write that letter anyway? I mean, a pair of shoes and some clothes? Surely they cannot be that important and you could easily get others. Why risk being captured over that?”
It was then that Leo realized that Otto had stolen the eight hundred dollars.
Brainerd Daily Dispatch 19 Sept 1929
…to be continued