INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
The body of notorious 1930s gangster John Dillinger is expected to be
exhumed in September at an Indianapolis cemetery but it could be a tough job
because his grave is encased in concrete.
Digging up the
remains more than 85 years after Dillinger was killed by FBI agents also
could resolve conspiracy theories that the man some considered a hero during
the Great Depression isn’t buried in his marked grave, said Susan Sutton, a
historian with the Indiana Historical Society. Among the tales is that
Dillinger’s family tricked the FBI into shooting the wrong man.
The Indiana State
Department of Health approved a permit July 3 sought by Dillinger’s nephew,
Michael C. Thompson, to have the body exhumed from Crown Hill Cemetery and
The permit doesn’t
give a reason for the request, and Thompson couldn’t immediately be reached
department spokeswoman Jeni O’Malley said that based on the permit, the
agency expects Dillinger’s body will be exhumed and reinterred on Sept. 16 -
the date listed on the document.
But digging up
Dillinger’s grave might prove a difficult task because days after his son’s
funeral, Dillinger’s father had the casket reburied under a protective cap
of concrete and scrap iron topped by four reinforced-concrete slabs, Sutton
“I think they’re
going to have a hard time getting through that,” Sutton said.
The reason for the
concrete-encased grave was to thwart would-be vandals, she said, citing
“Crown Hill: History, Spirit, and Sanctuary,” a 2013 book the historical
society published about the cemetery’s history.
“The main fear was
that someone would come in and dig up the grave and either desecrate the
corpse or steal it,” Sutton said. “The Dillingers had actually been offered
money to ‘lend out’ his body for exhibits, so they were concerned.”
Indianapolis-born Dillinger was one of America’s most notorious criminals.
The FBI says Dillinger’s gang killed 10 people as they pulled off a bloody
string of bank robberies across the Midwest in the 1930s.
Dillinger was never
convicted of murder and he was lauded by some for robbing banks during the
Great Depression as many Americans lost their homes and farms to
foreclosure, Sutton said.
“So somebody who
had, as maybe people would say now - ‘Stuck it to the banker’ - would easily
become a folk hero,” she said. “He was also known by some people to be very
polite even while he was stealing. It’s an odd combination.”
awaiting trial in the slaying of an East Chicago police officer when he
escaped from jail in Crown Point, Indiana, in March 1934 with a gun carved
out of wood. While on the run, he underwent plastic surgery to alter his
face and was said to have tried to remove his fingerprints with acid.
Dillinger, who was
portrayed by Johnny Depp in the 2009 movie “Public Enemies,” was fatally
shot in July 1934 by FBI agents outside the Biograph theater in Chicago
after he was betrayed by a woman who became known in the papers as the “Lady
Crown Hill Cemetery
spokeswoman Crystal King said the cemetery has no information about the
plans to exhume Dillinger, whose tomb is an attraction at the hilltop
graveyard on Indianapolis’ near north side.
comment were also left Tuesday for Jeffery Scalf, whose grandmother was
Dillinger’s half-sister, and for Savanah Light, the funeral director whose
name is listed on the permit.