The negative was almost ruined by light flooding into the camera because the body wasn’t shut properly, and Earl was seated too close to the lens, which meant that his head entirely obscured the board with his booking number on it. (No one noticed that until after the print had been developed, when they wrote the number on the photograph in blue ink.)
Whoever took this picture wasn’t used to taking mug shots – an inexperienced operator, unfamiliar with the layout of the room and the workings of the equipment, left alone to process a prisoner of little importance who had been charged with larceny, which is to say, shoplifting or stealing a bicycle or picking someone’s pocket.
The photograph was taken on 21 April, 1948, and none of the experienced officers would have wanted to waste time booking Earl. That day, every policeman in the city was out looking for the men who had broken into the Best Foods warehouse on Long Avenue around one o’clock that morning, removed the two hundred and twenty-five pound safe and transported it to a lonely road near Cascade park, where they forced it open and stole the $720 that it contained. The busted shell was found later by two small boys passing by on their way to school.
The thieves were never caught. The Best Foods company closed down years ago. The money is long since spent. The only remaining evidence of the robbery is this botched mug shot of Earl Bryan, who had nothing whatsoever to do with it.Sources: New Castle News, 21 April 1948, “Safe Is Stolen; Yeggs Get $720″.
Every Friday, the Harvard sandwich bar in Cleveland cashed thousands of dollars-worth of payroll checks for workers from the Fisher Body plant. The only security was provided by an auxiliary policeman who had been hired to watch over the money.
On the sixteenth of April, 1937, Anthony DeCaprio drove Joseph Taylor and Theodore Slapik to the sandwich bar and sat outside with the engine running while they went in. Minutes later, he heard shots—the sound of what witnesses would later describe as a gun battle between the stick-up men and the auxiliary policeman, Lawrence Krull. Taylor and Slapik came out, carrying bags stuffed with cash. They got away with $1,700—a steelworker’s yearly wage—leaving Krull lying on the floor of the sandwich bar with three bullets in him. When they checked the papers the next day, they would have seen that Krull was in a critical condition in hospital. On Sunday, they would have read that he had died.
They agreed to split up and leave Ohio. Joseph Taylor went west to Illinois, where he got a job as a layout man with the Ringling Brothers circus, Theodore Slapik went north to Michigan and Anthony went east to New Castle, where he had family, and rented a room on South Walnut street.
Four months later, in August, Taylor was arrested in Chicago and Slapik was picked up in Detroit. In October, the New Castle police were informed that Anthony DeCaprio had been seen frequenting a dance hall on Neshannock avenue. Two detectives from Cleveland travelled to New Castle and identified Anthony as he danced with a girl. They arrested him at gunpoint as he left the dance floor. That night, he admitted driving the car in the robbery. He was taken back to Ohio the next morning.
All three of the robbers were found guilty of murder and received life sentences in the Ohio penitentiary. Anthony was nineteen years old.
Theodore Slapik was released in 1955, when the governor of Ohio decided he was eligible for parole (he had been working as the governor’s driver for some years) and, in 1957, Joseph Taylor escaped from his job in the prison’s sewage disposal plant but was caught two hours later. Anthony DeCaprio served fifteen years of his sentence. After his release, in 1953, he became a truck driver, got married and had five children. He died in July, 2000, at the age of eighty-two.Sources: Lima News (17 April 1937, “Officer Shot In Gun Battle”, 2 August, 1937, “Man Seized In Ohio Killing”, 14 Oct 1937, “Held In Slaying”, 30 Nov 1937, “Former Lima Man On Murder Count”, April 12 1938, “Seven Sentenced”); Piqua Daily Call, 19 April, 1937, “Weekend Traffic Toll Over State”; Circleville Herald, 2 August 1937, “Circus Man, 28, Named Slayer Of Detective”; Lima News, 23 Sept 1937, “Three Desperadoes Hunted After Fleeing Jail”; New Castle News, 13 Oct 1937, “Suspect In Cleveland. 0., Crime Taken”; Piqua Daily Call, 29 Oct 1937, “Life Sentence for Man Hangs Over Him Today”; Zanesville Signal, 1 Nov 1937, “Slapik Pleads Guilty To Murdering Of Officer”; Coshocton Tribune, 3 Nov 1937, “Killer Starts Term”; Times Recorder (Zanesville), 6 Jan 1938, “Trial Of Alleged Slayers”; Coshocton Tribune, 7 Feb 1938, “Three Face Life Term in Ohio Pen”; Times Recorder (Zanesville), 12 April 1938, “Life Sentence For Slayer”; Sunday Times Signal, 10 April 1955, “8 Ohio Slayers Get Easter Commutations From Lausche”; Coshocton Tribune, 20 March 1957, “Convict Nabbed Soon After Making Escape”.
Driving home on Taylor Street after spending Saturday night in a bar, Lamarr Warter lost control of his car, crashed through a cement-block wall and collided with a fruit tree in Mike Russo’s front yard. Lamarr survived, but the fruit tree did not.
It was the second road accident on Taylor street that day. Shortly before six that evening, a car driven by a young man called Joseph McKee hit a nine-year-old boy called Matthew Circelli. The child was thrown ten feet down the road, fracturing his skull and breaking a leg. By the time Lamarr crashed into the Russo’s yard later that night, the boy’s skull had been operated on by surgeons in New Castle hospital and he was lying in a coma. He never woke up. Two days after the accident, he became the thirteenth person in Lawrence County that year to die after being hit by a car, and the third in New Castle.
Joseph McKee wasn’t charged in connection with Matthew Circelli’s death, as there was nothing he could have done to avoid the boy, who ran out into the street right in front of his car. Lamarr Warter had his licence suspended for a year, as Mike Russo’s fruit tree was entirely blameless.
Seven months later, Lamarr was arrested for driving under suspension and was given ten days in the county jail.Sources: New Castle News (“Arrest Motorist On Three Counts” 21 Jul 1958; “Struck By Car, Injured Boy Still Critical” 21 Jul 1958; “Youth’s Death 13th In County” 23 Jul 1958; “Hearing Slated” 17 Feb 1959; “12 Sentenced In County Court” 26 Feb 1959)
In April, 1934, ten years before this mug shot of Robert Watkins was taken, the New Castle News ran a story with the headline, “He Wields Poker; She Uses Knife – This Is Why Daniel Laws And Daisy Watkins Have Wounds Today”.
Daisy Watkins was a young teenage girl who lived with her family on Preston Avenue. Daniel Laws, who lived a few doors away, entered her home and beat her with an iron poker because she refused to have sex with him. She was so scared that she grabbed a knife and stabbed him. Both were so badly wounded that they ended up in hospital. There is little in the story to explain the light comic tone of the headline, apart from the word “colored” in the first line and the fact that it was 1934.
Robert Watkins was six years old at the time, and Daisy was his sister. He may have watched her being beaten or seen her stabbing Laws. He would certainly have seen the blood stains in the kitchen. If he saw the story in the paper, he may have wondered why it had been treated like a joke.
Robert was the youngest of seven children, many of whom were in trouble with the law throughout their lives. Daisy went on to run a moonshine joint in her house in the fifties; Charles and Richard were arrested for stealing coal throughout the thirties; Richard got a kick out of pulling false fire alarms; Charles robbed a cafe in 1939; Richard beat Jessie Ashe to death in 1951 in an argument over $2; and Maria, the oldest sister, shot Eloise McClinton dead in a drunken scuffle in 1970.
Robert’s crime was committed right in the middle of all of that, when he was sixteen. One August night in 1944, at about 2.30 in the morning, Robert and three other boys followed a Polish immigrant tin mill worker called Joe Kolakowski onto the Mahoning avenue viaduct—two lanes of traffic above a broad tract of railway lines, with a narrow footway on one side—where they beat him up and robbed him of $18. When the description of the group was broadcast later that night, a young patrolman called James Brown—“also colored”, noted the paper—remembered seeing “a suspicious quartet” in Moravia street just after the incident, and he and another officer picked them up within the hour. All four pled guilty the next day.
That was the start and end of Robert’s criminal career. Years later, when New Castle’s economy began its long, terminal dive after the Korean war, when the factories shut down and jobs got scarce, Robert headed to Sacramento, California, leaving his family behind him. He never went home again.Sources: New Castle News (3 May 1934 “He Wields Poker; She Uses Knife”; 3 July 1936 “Coal Thefts Lead To 30-Day Jail Trip’; 1 July 1937 “One In Hospital; One In City Jail; Following Quarrel”; 9 Dec 1938 “Nab Trio Today For Stealing PRR Coal”; 23 May 1939 “Two Arrested In Long Ave Café In Early Morn”; 19 Feb 1940 “Marriage License Applications”; 15 Feb 1943 “Plan Prosecution For False Alarm”; 16 Aug 1944 “Quiz Robbery Suspects Here”; 17 Aug 1944 “Four Plead Guilty To Viaduct Robbery”; 8 March 1950 “Deaths of the Day”; 15 May 1951 “Murder Charge Will Be Placed”; 22 December 1970 “Marie Hill innocent”; 12 Jul 1975 Deaths Of The Day)