Betty Joan Knight, “Drunk & DC”, 27 April 1959

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Betty Joan Edwards married Charles P Knight in July 1951, when she was seventeen years old. She wore a gown of slipper satin with a fitted bodice and a short net yoke trimmed with seed pearls, a fingertip veil of lace and a rhinestone tiara. At her wrist was a corsage of red roses.

Eight years later, exactly a week before her divorce came through (she was divorcing Charles on the grounds of cruel and barbarous treatment and indignities), she had her mug shot taken after she and a man called Albert Bonnetti, along with another couple, were arrested for pouring four quarts of oil over the floor of the Spur Distributing Co filling station on East Washington street while in a state of intoxication at a quarter past three in the morning. Everyone involved in the incident was fined $5 and costs. Betty didn’t bother to turn up at the courthouse to pay; she made the police come to her.

In the summer of 1961, a woman named Ingrid Zurasky decided she was sick of her husband, Frank. The year before, he had been fired from his job in the New Castle Packing Co for union-organising activities. Ingrid had stood by him then, even going so far as to picket the company owner’s house on Winter avenue, holding a sign denouncing unfair labour practices. Frank had been unable to find work since, and he and some acquaintances had decided to become safe crackers. They hit motor showrooms, markets, convenience stores and farm equipment suppliers in New Castle and the surrounding towns, making off with as much as $2,000 in cash in one night.

But that wasn’t why Ingrid Zurasky was sick of Frank. What maddened her was that the gang had started to take women along on the jobs, and that Frank was spending more time than he ought to with one of them in particular—the recently divorced Betty Joan Knight.

At the beginning of July—after the gang’s thirty-third robbery, which took the total sum of stolen cash to $15,000 and further embarrassed the seemingly impotent detective bureau—Ingrid called the police, said that her husband was the ringleader of the safe crackers, and told them where they could find him.

Frank was picked up that afternoon and questioned until late in the evening, by which time he had given up the names of his partners. The police collected Betty from her home just before midnight and Thomas Williams and Alvin Fennell turned themselves in around four o’clock in the morning, after receiving assurances from a detective over the telephone that they would not be subjected to beatings in the cells, which they understood to be the police department’s usual practice. A fourth man, William Kloss, was already in the county jail, following a sexual assault conviction the month before.

All five pled guilty to burglary and conspiracy. The men received jail terms of two to six years but Betty, who had been present at only two of the jobs, was released on one year’s probation, and seems never to have troubled the police again.

Sources: New Castle News (8 Aug 1951 “Edwards-Knight Nuptials Revealed”; 5 May 1959 “Court News”; 28 April 1959 “6 Fined On Charges of Drunk, Disorderly”; 29 April 1959 “Warrant Issued”; 2 July 1960 “NLRB Investigates Charges Brought Against Packing Co”; 3 Aug 1961 “Police Crack Burglaries, Safe Jobs Here”; 4 Aug 1961 “Plea Entered To Long List Of Burglaries”; 11 Sep 1961 “Five Plead On Burglaries”; 25 Oct 1961 “Four Sentenced 2-6 Years In Penitentiary”)

2 Comments

  1. Linda says

    Am wondering if this might be the young Frank and Ingrid whose name ended in “sky” and who rented briefly my grandmother’s upstairs apartment on Bellvue Avenue (Croton) in the mid or late 1950’s. Ingrid was a German refugee. They were a good looking and fun couple with lots of spark between them. As a teenager I quietly observed that they could not take their hands off each other. Our American Fourth of July was difficult for Ingrid who had enduring the bombing in Germany. The sounds of fireworks and firecrackers drove her to my Grandma’s basement.

    • Could be, I suppose. I’ll do a little research to see if I can come up with a confirmation…

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