Vincent Carbeau, “Armed Robbery”, 13 April 1940

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Vincent Carbeau would have been a well known figure around New Castle, but his photograph won’t appear in the Small Town Noir book (please click that link and pledge to buy a copy, or there won’t be any such book!), simply because he had the misfortune to be booked in another town: Mansfield, Ohio. His mug shot, therefore, bears the stamp of another police department and I’m too much of a purist to allow it to sit with the rest.

Sorry, Vincent.

Mansfield is a small industrial town about 140 miles west of New Castle. Its history is similar to New Castle’s—it was founded around the same time, grew rich through the same mix of industries and, just like New Castle, lost its wealth with the collapse of manufacturing in the north-eastern states in the latter part of the 20th century.

In April, 1940, though, it was prosperous enough. Philip Schmutzler owned a busy little café on North Park street. He and his father had run it for thirty-four years. For most of that time, he’d walked unguarded to and from the bank with thousands of dollars in cash in his pockets. One Friday morning, Schmutzler was coming back from the bank with $1,140 in a black leather pouch and more money in his coat when he was stopped by two men. He’d served them in the café earlier—as he’d left to go to the bank, he’d thumped one of them on the shoulder and said, “Some summer day, isn’t it?”

One of the men was holding a .32 revolver. He shielded it from people on the street by holding the flap of his coat over it with his other hand. The other man pushed Schmutzler against a lamp post and said, “Give us your money.”

Schmutzler assumed they were joking. He elbowed the man and said, “What do you mean?”

The man repeated, “Give us your money.” Schmutzler smiled and elbowed him in the ribs again. The other man hit him on the head with a blackjack and Schmutzler fell into the arms of a woman who happened to be passing. He yelled for the police. The men grabbed the pouch with the money in it and ran down an alley. People nearby chased them and saw them drive off in a maroon sedan that had been waiting on Walnut street.

The car had Pennsylvania plates with the number D3X409. Shortly afterwards, the police traced its owner: Vincent Carbeau, of Ellwood City, a few miles south of New Castle.

At the age of 28, Vincent was an executive of his family firm, the Ellwood Company, which manufactured bathtubs and toilets and was the second largest employer in town. He was a graduate of Carnegie Tech. He was a Kiwanis organiser. He was considered “one of the nicest and most promising young men in the city.”

He was also Philip Schmutzler’s nephew, by marriage.

He admitted he had driven the getaway car, and he gave up the names of the other two men: William Justine and Rocco Cusato. All three were arrested and taken to Ohio.

Justine__Carbeau__Cusato

Left to right: Justine, Carbeau, Cusato.

The Mansfield News-Journal published an interview with him a few days after his arrest.

DECLARES ‘EASY MONEY’ LURE LED HIM TO JAIL

The lure of ‘easy money’ led Vincent A Carbeau … to the dismal cell block in Richmond county jail, where he awaits grand jury hearing on a charge of armed robbery.

Carbeau stood at the iron bars of the bull pen in county jail this morning, dressed in the blue overalls and striped shirt which all prisoners wear. Yesterday, when he appeared in municipal court for arraignment, he wore a well-tailored blue suit.

There is neither rhyme nor reason for Carbeau’s act. Nor can he explain it to himself. And he is bitterly resentful of the implication that he took his trouble with a flip or cocky attitude.

“Does that make sense?” he demanded this morning. “Believe me, I am anything but cocky about this. It seems to me I have made the worst blunder that any human being could make. I have thrown away a promising future, a comfortable home; I have deeply injured the people I love best in the world.

“I know better than anyone else what I’ve done,” he continued. “I not only committed a serious crime, but I did a despicable thing in betraying a man who was kind and generous. I have spent many happy days at Phil Schmutzler’s summer home on the lake. I know the penalty, too, and I’m human enough to hope that I and the other two boys will be treated with some leniency, even though we deserve and will undoubtedly get prison sentences.”

Carbeau bit his lip to hide his emotion. He was asked why, and how, he had become a hold-up man. He flinched at the appellation.

“That’s a tough word, isn’t it? I can’t believe that I come in that classification. I don’t know myself how it happened. Justine is a nice sort of chap—and I’ve only known him intimately for about six weeks. He’s never been in any kind of trouble either.

“We just got to talking the other night about ‘easy money’ and—“ Carbeau looked away and finished his explanation with, “I’m so ashamed I don’t want to talk about it. Believe me when I say that the minute it was over and we were headed out of this city back to Ellwood, I would have given my right arm if I could have undone it and could have returned the money. But the other boys were involved and it was too late.”

He denied that he had any gambling debts to pay, saying that he didn’t gamble, “except on a very small scale,” and that his entire indebtedness wasn’t more than $100. In his possession when he was arrested was a check from his company for $300. He said that he never had lived beyond his salary and didn’t need the money.

The article included the information that, “since his arrest in Ellwood City, prominent citizens of his home town have telegraphed a desire to help Carbeau in any manner possible.”

The three men were sent to the Mansfield reformatory with sentences of 10 to 25 years. They were paroled after less than two years.

Vincent kept a low profile after his release. In 1947, he and his wife left town and moved to Boston. With his brother, he started a small business making wooden kitchen cabinets. He died five years later, at the age of forty. The announcement of his death was made by Edward Schmutzler—his wife’s father and, perhaps more importantly, Philip Schmutzler’s brother. His Ellwood City family let the event pass without comment in the local press, which suggests that I’m not the only person to have wished to exclude Vincent from the public record.

§§§

Once again, please go to Unbound to support the publication of the Small Town Noir book. I can’t do it without you!

1 Comment

  1. Hi Diarmid
    Your newest post “I’ve never senn a photo of my dad that young” appears on the home page but I cannot get into it to read the full article. I have tried numerous possible avenues to get there but the “oops” message comes up each time. Hope it is easily fixable, as I’d like to read it !

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