Who Did Eddie In?
It was a couple of days after the New Year of 1921, when Patrolman Mullen responded to a call at the Lincoln Gardens, one of the largest dance halls on Chicago's South Side. His first mistake was showing up alone.
Mullen was a block away when the call came in. Siding with precaution he entered by a side door. A large crystal ball hung over the floor, light winking from the small pieces of glass on it. Suddenly a shot rang out.
Doctors tried to save Mullen, giving him transfusions fed by the blood of his fellow officers, but he died on the operating table. He was 27 years old, and a veteran from what was then known as The Great War.
By the time fellow officers showed up the shooter had fled. But they soon knew who they were looking for.
Miss Johnson, a witness said to Lieut. Shoemaker from the Chicago Police Department, "We drank ginger ale highballs at the gardens. McBride and Crosby became quarrelsome. They threatened the proprietor. He called the policeman."
Within a day the hunt was on and there was a price on the head of Mullen's killer. And what the police wanted was the name of who pulled the trigger.
Patrolman John O'Donnell visited John Hanley at 2256 N Clark St., investigating the crime where Hanley threatened him with a rifle. For his troubles, Hanley got shot in the foot.
The next name that came up was Eddie Morris, alias Foster who was accused by his pal, James Crosby who'd been picked up as the shooter.
Two rifle squads were scouring the city, and everyone on the force had a photo of Morris. As a sweetener there was a $250 reward for the capture of Eddie McBride who was implicated as the driver of the car in which the killer escaped.
McBride was also said to have driven the car that escaped after a "running battle with a police rifle squad on the south side" the day before.
There was also an attempt to connect Morris with a robbery at the Roling Jewelry Store on Milwaukee Avenue where $18,000 in merchandise was stolen.
Genevieve Johnson, 15, confessed she was a member of the party at the Lincoln Gardens when Mullen's murder took place. Her version of events was corroborated by Clara Heggins, 16, and Victoria Sypior, 16, all companions of Morris at the Gardens and who witnessed the event up close. Two other girls , Mae Roder, and Margaret Burns were also being held as witnesses.
Crosby besides giving up Morris and McBride's names, told police they intended to rob the café.
Police were also looking for the wife of Eddie Morris, even though she was not present at Lincoln Gardens on the night in question, but "she was said to have directed many holdups pulled by the two men being sought."
Morris had been wanted since 1919, in connection with a "confidence game".
He was pursued from Chicago to Bloomington. There were rumors that Mullen was responsible for other murders, and that he and McBride were showing up at well-known South Side cabarets, Jeffery Tavern and Beverly Gardens, as late as Tuesday night.
The plot thickens or so they say, and police claimed that Morris was the criminal who killed Joseph Schweitzer a chauffeur, in a daylight raid on a "booze laden truck" at Erie and Halsted Streets on December 31, 1920.
Ed Reiden who was riding on the truck with Schweitzer, and who was wounded identified Morris' car as the one used by the whisky robbers.
It turned out the license tag on the auto Morris and McBride escaped was issued to Arthur Ahern, manager of the Jeffery Tavern.
Police were leaving no stone unturned and three young women known as companions of Morris, McBride and other members of the gang were taken into custody. Marie Robbins and sisters, Emma and Clara Haupt were held as witnesses. They had hurriedly left Chicago on Monday after the Mullen's murder.
In the meantime, James Crosby was singing like a canary, naming other members of the gang.
One of the witnesses at Mullen's inquest was Violet Johnson, who was engaged to the murdered patrolman.
A month later Eddie McBride was captured when detectives armed with shotguns and rifles hunted him down in a rooming house at 1242 West Adams St.
He refused to identify himself, and said he was Edward J. McCauley, a machinist who'd just come in from Philadelphia a few days before.
Police brought in the girls accompanying the men as well as employees, at Lincoln Gardens, who all confirmed he was McBride.
After seven people ID'd him and he was "grilled" for 12 hours he made a complete confession, which of course named Morris as the slayer.
He shouted at Detective Hughes, "Yes, I'm the guy, I'm the guy, all right. Shut up a while and I'll tell you all I know about it."
His confession took up 10 typed pages, but then he refused to sign it.
He said, "I was with Morris on the night of the killing, and was driving the car. I was a pal of Morris. They knew me as Eddie McBride on the South Side, but my real name is McClane. I know Jim Crosby, too. I was with them when Mullen was killed, but I didn't want to squeal on pals."
Then he went on to say he knew Morris, and said, "Sure I got under cover. I lived with a gang of I.W.W.s who were friendly to me, and I pulled a few little jobs to keep me in cash. No, I didn't do the shooting, but I don't want to hang a pal. I was in front of the Lincoln Gardens when the shooting happened. I was sitting in the car with my girl when Eddie came rushing out, and told me to drive like hell. 'I just killed a copper!' he yelled at me, and I gave it the gas."
However authorities were not ready to believe he was as innocent as he claimed. They believed he was implicated in the shooting of Sgt. Edward Grim when detectives tried to arrest a band of automobile thieves at 126 Hudson Ave. the year before.
They also believed he was one of th bandits who robbed Richard Farrell a messenger of the West Town State Bank and took a bag containing $2,300.
Farrell partially identified him as the bandit who put a revolver in his face, while another grabbed the bag from his hand.
After a little more police persuasion, he admitted to saying he had threatened to throw one of the three girls into the river if she told police about the shooting. She had been in the car with him when Morris ran out after shooting Mullen.
A few days later Eddie Morris was captured in a stack of cornstalks a mile west of Beverly Gardens.
Soon after Edward Lieberman, 26, a companion of Morris and McBride was taken into custody. He was wanted for burglary and robbery, and suspected of being connected with a gang of automobile whisky bandits who killed Joseph Schweitzer.
The law advanced at a fast pace in those days, and by the end of March, 1921, the trial for the murder of Officer Mullen had come to the courts. Eddie Morris along with Eddie McBride and John McEvilly were charged with the crime.
Morris took the stand on his own behalf, and said he was so drunk while at the gardens he didn't know if he fired his revolver or not.
An attorney for the state asked him, "Did you have any liquor?" He answered, "Yes, I was out on a rum deal with a policeman and a man named "Bull" Taylor. They gave me four pints."
He answered the question, but also implicated the police in illegal activity. Most of his responses involved that he didn't remember because he was too drunk.
Dr. Elizabeth Wells a psychologist from the juvenile court testified that Victoria Sypio, the 16-year-old factory girl who was a state witness, was only 10 and a half years old mentally.
The state was asking for the hangman's noose for the men. Apparently the police were called on that fateful night, when the checkroom girls ran to John Balash the manager saying, "A mans' trying to stick up the place."
On March 28, 1921, Morris was found guilty of the murder of John Mullen, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment to be served at Joliet Prison. McEvilly and McBride were found not guilty.
However McBride's freedom was short-lived. In May, he was arrested at the request of California authorities. They identified him as Clarence Kelly who escaped from prison a year ago after being convicted of holding up a man in San Francisco. They wanted him back at San Quentin to serve out seven years of a ten year term.
Eddie boasted after the arrest, "If they get me back there it means seven years of solitary confinement. That would mean the box for me. I'd be dead in less than five years. Not for me."
His guards were warned to keep a "wary eye" on him, however he managed to free himself some way from leg irons and shackles he'd been wearing since he left Chicago. McBride leaped from the train as it slowed down in the suburbs of Los Angeles.
The authorities could not find him.
The search for Eddie McBride faded from the headlines. However the Mullen family found themselves once more facing a sad situation.
It was September, 1922, 20 months after their son John was killed, when 15-year-old Edward Mullen joined up with four other men out in Mt. Vernon. They stole an auto belonging to Clyde Hunter of Herrin. They drove to Bonnie where it broke down. Harry Bumpus' garage was the perfect place to find a replacement, and they stole another car. As soon as the men drove away, Bumpus called the police who caught up with the thieves outside of town on a country road.
Deputy Sheriff Orval T. Wallace tried to arrest them on a charge of stealing an auto. Someone in the crowd shot at Wallace twice and a gun battle broke out. Wallace returned fire killing Ed Mullen who was hit in the side and chest. Claude Jacobs, one of the gang members was arrested, and the rest fled into the countryside. Bloodhounds were brought to hunt them down.
In less than two years, the Mullen family had lost two sons.
A few months later, on a stormy night on February 13, 1923, Robert Johnson a farmer traveling on a sleet-covered road west of Geneva came across what was left of a man.
The body was nude and covered by snow. The hands were missing and the body, especially the face, was terribly mutilated since it was burned.
The body was held at Skoglund Undertakers for a month, until it was was determined that the "mystery man" was Eddie McBride, described as a "Chicago gunman, escaped convict and bootlegger." Lieutenant W.L. Stapleton of the Maxwell Street Station identified him.
When asked for his theory of the murder, Stapleton said, "There could easily be construed as a motive for the killing of Eddie. It was McBride who became a police informant two years ago and enabled us to capture Eddie Morris for the murder of Patrolman Mullen. Morris went to the penitentiary for life and his pals swore to get even with McBride for squealing. He may also be the victim of a bootlegger's war. We learned that McBride was back in Chicago about two months ago, engaged in bootlegging."
He continued, "Any of Edward Morris' friends might have killed him in revenge for his information against Morris, and of course, McBride who was a police character, could easily have been identified through fingerprints or from facial appearance. Therefore the killers destroyed the hands and the features."
So who killed Eddie McBride? Was it bootleggers in revenge for his betrayal of Morris, or even the police who wanted justice for the murder of a fellow officer? Or perhaps it was the hand of Edward Mullen Sr., who was the President of the Lumber and Shaving Teamsters' Union, who wanted to make sure the killer of his son was punished, and didn't trust the justice system to mete it out. He followed his sons to the grave in 1926, at the age of 53.
What if the man found in his snowy grave wasn't Eddie McBride at all? The remains were identified on the strength of Lieutenant Stapleton's word only. There were others who said the body didn't fit with the description of McBride.
The mystery remains as to who did away with McBride, and if it was even McBride to begin with. Perhaps Eddie in a rare moment of wisdom, moved on to greener and safer pastures.
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Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer