Bonnie and Clyde

Summary

Bonnie and Clyde, born Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, were a couple of American criminals, active in the south central United States during the early thirties who, along with other members of the Barrow Gang, committed several robberies and murders. Considered “public enemies” in those years, today they are famous for being dangerous bank robbers, even if they preferred to hit small stores and gas pumps. The two were killed by police in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. Their story was told by director Arthur Penn in the 1967 film Gangster Story and by numerous books and various pieces of music.

Since the thirties, the representation that newspapers gave of the two, in particular of Bonnie, differed from reality. Certainly, during the period in which the two were companions, Bonnie took part in a hundred of criminal acts, however she was not as the magazines and newspapers of the time portrayed her, that is a murderess smoking cigars and with a machine gun always in her hand, so much so that one of the members of their gang, W. D. Jones, later testified that he had never seen Bonnie shoot a police officer. The myth of the cigar was born from a photograph of Bonnie in a playful attitude found in an abandoned hideout, later released to the newspapers and published nationwide; biographers in fact report that Bonnie smoked cigarettes and not cigars.

Bonnie Parker

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker (Rowena, October 1, 1910 – Bienville Parish, May 23, 1934) was the second of three children, whose father, Charles Robert, died when she was four years old. Following her husband”s death, her mother, Emma Krause, returned to live with her children in a suburb west of Dallas, where she worked as a seamstress. At the age of fifteen she met Roy Thornton; the two left school and married on September 25, 1926, when Bonnie was not even sixteen years old. Their marriage was marked by Roy”s frequent absences from home and trouble with the law and did not last long. From January 1929 on, the two never saw each other again; however, they never divorced, in fact, on the day of his death, Bonnie was still wearing her wedding ring.

After the “end” of the marriage, Bonnie lived with her mother and worked as a seamstress. One of her regular customers was Ted Hinton, who at the time worked at the post office, and who in 1932 began working for the Dallas Sheriff”s Department and two years later took part in the ambush that led to the death of Bonnie and Clyde. In her diary, Bonnie noted in early 1929, before she met Clyde, that she felt lonely and impatient with her life in Dallas.

Clyde Barrow

Clyde Chestnut Barrow – Bienville Parish, May 23, 1934) was the fifth of eight children of a farming couple, Henry Basil Barrow and Cumie Talitha Walker. The family migrated to Dallas in the early 1920s as part of a wave of resettlement from farms to the city”s industrial area, where they continued to live in extreme poverty.

Clyde”s first arrest occurred in late 1926, after he fled from police who were questioning him about a rented car he had not returned. His second arrest, with his brother Buck, was for stealing turkeys. Although he was working honestly between 1927 and 1929, he robbed stores and stole cars during that time. After several arrests in 1928 and 1929, he was sent in April 1930 to the Eastham Unit prison and work camp. While incarcerated, Clyde smashed with a lead pipe the skull of a man who had repeatedly sexually assaulted him. This was Clyde”s first murder, but one for which another inmate, already sentenced to life in prison, took the blame. Clyde convinced an inmate to chop off two of his toes with a hatchet so he could avoid hard labor in the fields; he limped for the rest of his life. Without knowing it, just six days later, Clyde”s mother managed to get him released.

Shortly after meeting Bonnie, in January 1930, Clyde was arrested again and sent to the Eastham Unit from which he escaped using a weapon that Bonnie herself gave him. Released for the umpteenth time on February 2, 1932, Clyde comes out of prison now become a hard criminal. His sister Marie will later say that something must have happened in prison because when he came out, Clyde was no longer the person she knew; a change also confirmed by a fellow inmate Ralph Fults.

In his criminal career following his release from prison, Clyde chose simple targets, such as small stores and gas stations, far outnumbering the dozen or so bank robberies attributed to him and the Barrow Gang. According to author John Neal Phillips, Clyde”s life purpose was not fame or money but revenge on the Texas prison system for the abuse he suffered while in prison.

The first meeting

Several accounts describe the first meeting between Bonnie and Clyde, however, the most credible states that they met on January 26, 1930, at the home of a mutual friend, Clarence Clay, in west Dallas. Bonnie was out of work and was staying with Clarence while he recovered from a broken arm and, at that time, Clyde came by to see Clarence. When they met, they were immediately fascinated by each other; many historians believe that they joined because they fell in love with each other; thus they carried out their crimes, until the violent death that they themselves saw at one point as inevitable.

1932

After Clyde”s release from prison in 1932, he and Ralph Fults, assembled a small group of outlaws, whose members, in rotation, would help them with the robberies. The two then began a series of small heists, mostly stores and gas stations; their goal was to put together enough money and firearms to execute a raid and free Eastham inmates. On April 19, 1932, Bonnie and Fults were arrested in a failed robbery of a hardware store in Kaufman. Bonnie was released after a few months when the grand jury decided not to indict her, while Fults was tried and imprisoned, never rejoining the gang again.

On April 30, Clyde led a robbery in Hillsboro, during which the store”s owner, J. N. Bucher, was shot and killed. When police showed the victim”s wife identification photos, she recognized Clyde as one of the criminals, even though he had actually been standing outside the store in his car. This was the first murder charge against Clyde.

While in jail, where she would remain until June 17, Bonnie wrote poetry to pass the time. When the Kaufman County grand jury decided not to indict her, she was released and after a few weeks she was back together with Clyde. On August 5, while Bonnie was visiting her mother, Clyde, Raymond Hamilton and Ross Dyer went to have a good time, drinking, at a popular party in Stringtown; when Sheriff C. G. Maxwell and his deputy, Eugene C. Moore, approached them in a parking lot, Clyde and Hamilton opened fire, killing Moore and seriously wounding the sheriff. This was the first of nine murders of lawmen at the hands of the gang. On October 11, 1932, they allegedly killed Howard Hall, a store owner, during a robbery in Sherman, although historians since 1997 have considered it unlikely that Barrow Gang members were the culprits.

W. D. Jones had been a family friend of the Barrows since childhood. As soon as he was 16 on Christmas Eve 1932, he convinced Clyde to let him go out with them that night. The next day, Jones underwent an initiation at Temple: he and Clyde killed Doyle Johnson, a young family man, to steal his car. Less than two weeks later, on January 6, 1933, in Tarrant County, Clyde killed Deputy Sheriff Malcolm Davis when he, Bonnie, and Jones walked into a trap the police had set for another criminal. The total number of murders committed by the gang since April 1932 had risen to five.

First half of 1933

On March 22, 1933, Buck Barrow, Clyde”s brother, was granted amnesty and released from prison. A few days later, he moved with his wife Blanche to Bonnie and Clyde”s temporary hideout they shared with Jones in Joplin, Missouri, and according to Blanche”s version, she and Buck were only there to convince Clyde to turn himself in to law enforcement.

The next confrontation between Bonnie and Clyde and the law occurred more because of mutual suspicion than clear identification. One night, the group got drunk and caused several disturbances in the neighborhood; Blanche later recalled that the men came and went at all hours and that Clyde had unloaded a BAR automatic weapon in the apartment after cleaning it. No neighbors complained directly to them, but someone reported the problem to the police. Five officers showed up at the apartment on April 13 and a shooting immediately began. Although taken by surprise, the group showed coolness: Clyde, Buck and Jones killed Detective McGinnis and Officer Harryman. In the ensuing escape, Bonnie covered the group with the BAR, whose bullets hit a tree trunk whose splinters wounded the face of Sergeant G.B. Kahler, and then got into the car with the others and fled. The officers reported that they fired only fourteen times; one of the shots hit Jones in the hip, another hit Clyde but was deflected by a coat button and yet another grazed Buck.

The group managed to escape Joplin but left behind many of their possessions, including Buck and Blanche”s marriage certificate, Buck”s diary, several weapons, a poem by Bonnie, and a camera with several undeveloped rolls of film, the photos of which later helped make Bonnie and Clyde famous. For the next three months, the group traveled through Texas and headed north to Minnesota. In May, they unsuccessfully attempted a bank robbery in Lucerne, Indiana, and later succeeded at a bank in Okabena. Previously, they had kidnapped Dillard Darby and Sophia Stone, in Ruston, Louisiana, while stealing Darby”s car. This was one of several kidnappings carried out by the group between 1932 and 1934, against lawmen. The hostages were usually released far from the scene of the kidnapping, sometimes even with money to return home.

Kidnappings were occasional, however. The Barrow Gang did not hesitate to shoot anyone they encountered, whether they were policemen or civilians. Raymond Hamilton, W. D. Jones, Buck Barrow and Henry Methvin, all members of the gang, were guilty of murder. All of their coldness in committing these types of crimes aggravated public perception, leading to their demise.

Despite their fame, the gang was desperate and disgruntled, as described by Blanche Barrow in her testimony written while in prison in the late 1930s. With notoriety, in fact, they had to work harder to avoid detection. Restaurants and motels became less secure and they were forced to live along rivers in isolated areas. The incessant forced proximity between these five people, forced to travel in one car, caused violent quarrels that pushed W. D. Jones to leave the group at the end of April, to return on June 8.

On June 10, while driving with Jones and Bonnie near Wellington, Clyde missed the warning signs at a bridge under construction and they all ended up with the car in a precipice. Whether it was the fuel that ignited, or whether acid from the battery was poured on Bonnie, sources are not certain; however, the girl suffered third degree burns to her right leg, so severe that the muscle shrank permanently.

Towards the end of her life, Bonnie began to walk with difficulty, so much so that she would hop on her good leg or have to be carried by Clyde”s weight. After being helped by a local farming family and kidnapping two law enforcement officers, the three of them reunited with Buck and Blanche. They then hid out in Fort Smith, Arkansas, taking care of Bonnie”s injuries. During that time, Buck and Jones robbed a store and killed Marshal Henry D. Humphrey, in Alma. Wanted again, they had to flee despite Bonnie”s serious condition.

Second half of 1933

In July 1933, the gang arrived at the Red Crown Tavern south of Platte City, now on the edge of Kansas City. The inn owned a building across the street with two rooms connected by a garage that the gang rented in full. The tavern was popular with law enforcement officers on patrol on the Missouri Turnpike, and the gang seemed to go to great lengths to attract attention. Blanche Barrow registered three people but owner Neal Houser saw five people get out of the car and that the driver was acting suspiciously. Blanche paid cash and did the same when she paid for dinner for five people. The money came from the three gas stations robbed that same day in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The next day, Houser noticed that his guests had covered their windows with newsprint, and Blanche again paid cash for five breakfasts. Blanche”s clothes, wearing jockey pants, also attracted attention. At the time, they were not women”s clothes and witnesses remembered that detail well, even after forty years. At this point, Houser decided to talk about the group to police captain William Baxter, a regular customer of the inn.

That same day, Clyde and Jones headed into town to purchase food, bandages and medicine to treat Bonnie”s leg. The storekeeper contacted Sheriff Holt Coffey, who put the guest rooms under surveillance, after being warned by Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas police to keep an eye out for any strangers asking for those medicines. The sheriff then contacted Captain Baxter, who in turn called in reinforcements from Kansas City and who even brought in an armored car. At 11:00 p.m., Sheriff Coffey led a group of officers armed with Thompson submachine guns toward the guest rooms of the inn. In the ensuing firefight, the Thompsons proved ineffective against the BAR that Clyde had stolen on July 7 from the National Guard armory in Enid. The Barrows, firing, cleared the way for their escape; one of their bullets short-circuited the armored car”s horn – an ordinary car reinforced with metal panels – which began to sound. The policemen took this as a cease-fire signal and stopped firing and pursuing the group, which then managed to escape by car. Despite the successful escape, Buck Barrow was hit by a bullet in the head that caused a grisly hole in his forehead; Blanche, on the other hand, was almost blinded by shards of glass in both eyes.

Five days later, on July 24, the group set up camp at Dexfield Park, an abandoned amusement park near Dexter. Although Buck was semi-conscious at times, and even talking and eating, his severe injury and blood loss were so severe that Clyde and Jones dug a grave for their comrade. When local residents noticed the bloody bandages, they reported it to the police, who identified that group of people as the Barrow Gang. A few officers and about a hundred bystanders surrounded the group and yet another gunfight began. Clyde, Bonnie and Jones managed to escape on foot, Buck was shot in the back and was captured along with his wife. The man died five days later, in the hospital in Perry, due to the head wound and the onset of pneumonia after an operation.

Over the next six weeks, the three fugitives headed west, away from their usual area of operation, toward Colorado, northern Minnesota, and southeastern Mississippi, keeping a low profile and carrying out only small subsistence robberies. They reinvigorated their arsenal when Clyde and Jones robbed an armory in Plattville on August 20, taking away three BARs, several pistols and ammunition. In early September, they took a huge risk by returning to Dallas to see their respective families after four months. Instead, Jones continued on to Houston where his mother had gone to live. Since then, Jones never saw Bonnie and Clyde again; he was arrested on November 16 and taken to Dallas. In the meantime, Clyde committed petty robberies while Bonnie was cared for by their families. On November 22, 1933, Bonnie and Clyde narrowly escaped arrest as they attempted to meet with their respective families near Sowers. Sheriff Smoot Schimd and his deputies, Bob Alcorn and Ted Hinton, were waiting near the meeting place. As they approached, Clyde discovered them and instead of stopping near his family”s car, he continued on, at which point the sheriff and his men came out into the open and opened fire with machine guns and a BAR. A bullet from the BAR went through the car, hitting both Bonnie and Clyde in the legs, before they managed to escape.

On November 28, a Dallas grand jury deliberated for an arrest warrant to be issued for Bonnie and Clyde for the January 1933 murder of Tarrant County Sheriff”s Deputy Malcolm Davis; it was Bonnie”s first arrest warrant for murder.

1934 and the reaction of the authorities

On January 16, 1934, Clyde planned to break out Raymond Hamilton, Henry Methvin, and several other Eastham Unit inmates. The successful escape was bad publicity for Texas; historian Phillips felt that by doing so, Clyde achieved the purpose of his existence, which was to take revenge on the Texas Department of Corrections (today”s Department of Justice). During the escape, fugitive Joe Palmer shot Officer Major Joe Crowson. The attack drew the attention of not only all Texas law enforcement but also the government and both significantly increased the effort to capture Bonnie and Clyde. The Texas Department of Corrections contacted former Texas Ranger Captain Frank Hamer and convinced him to hunt down what was left of the Barrow Gang. Although retired, Hamer still had a Ranger”s license that had not yet expired. Hamer accepted the assignment and officially became a highway patrol officer assigned to the prison system as a special investigator, specifically tasked with stopping Bonnie, Clyde and their gang. Beginning on February 10, 1934, Hamer steadily became the shadow of Bonnie and Clyde, along with three of his brothers, all Rangers.

On April 1, 1934, Easter Sunday, Clyde and Henry Methvin killed two young officers on patrol, H. D. Murphy and Edward Bryant Wheeler, near Grapevine (now Southlake), Texas. A witness stated that it was Bonnie and Clyde who fired the fatal shots and this fact was widely reported before being disavowed. Methvin later admitted that he shot the first officer, after thinking Clyde wanted them dead; Clyde then shot the other policeman. It is believed that Bonnie was asleep in the back seat when Methvin began shooting and therefore would not have taken part in the events.

In the spring of 1934, the Grapevine murders were recounted in exaggerated detail, influencing public perception; all Dallas newspapers carried the story of the witness, a farmer, who claimed to have seen Bonnie laughing at how Officer Murphy”s head “had bounced like a rubber ball” on the ground when he shot him. The articles also reported that the police had found a piece of cigar “with small teeth marks,” probably Bonnie”s. The farmer”s story was soon discredited, however the massive negative publicity, particularly against Bonnie, increased public will for the Barrow Gang to be finally broken up. Highway Patrol Chief L. G. Phares immediately offered a $1,000 reward for the bodies of Bonnie and Clyde. Texas Governor Miriam Ferguson added another five hundred dollars each.

Public hostility grew in the days that followed, when Clyde and Methvin killed 60-year-old policeman William Campbell near Commerce. They then kidnapped Commerce Police Chief Percy Boyd, taking him with them to Kansas, where they freed him by giving him a clean shirt and a few dollars and with a request from Bonnie to tell the world that she did not smoke cigars. Boyd identified Bonnie and Clyde but while he was a prisoner he could not identify who the other man with them, Methvin, was. Historian Knight wrote, “for the first time Bonnie was seen as a murderer, who actually pulled the trigger – just as Clyde did. Any hope of clemency had just been lost.”

Death

Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed during which they were killed on Wednesday, May 23, 1934, on a country road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. The couple was traveling in an automobile along the road when they were shot dead by a posse comitatus of four Texas police officers, Frank Hamer, B. M. Gault, Bob Alcorn and Ted Hinton, and two from Louisiana, Henderson Jordan and Prentiss Morel Oakley. The group was led by Hamer, who had been following the gang since February 1934, and had studied the gang”s movements and discovered that they moved in circles along the border of five Midwestern states, taking advantage of jurisdiction laws that prevented agents from following criminals into other states. Clyde was well versed in this, but Hamer was able to track their movements and predict where they would be; in fact, the gang”s itinerary involved visiting families in turn; at that moment it was Methvin”s turn, whose family lived in Louisiana.

On May 21, 1934, the four Texas agents were in Shreveport, where they discovered that Bonnie and Clyde were going to Bienville Parish that same evening. Clyde had determined that Methvin”s parents” house was to be the meeting place in case the group split up, which happened to be in Shreveport. The four Texans, along with two Louisiana state troopers, set up an ambush along Louisiana State Highway 154, south of Gibsland. Hinton recounted that the group had been in position since 9 p.m. on the 21st and that they waited at the location throughout May 22. Other witnesses stated, however, that the officers positioned themselves on the evening of the 22nd.

At approximately 9:15 a.m. on May 23, the officers were about to give up and leave when they heard Clyde”s Model B Ford approaching at high speed. The official report states that Clyde stopped to talk to Methvin”s father, who had been placed in the middle of the road with his truck, to distract the criminals and get them to stop. Once the car was close enough, the officers opened fire, killing the two by firing a total of 130 bullets. Oakley probably fired a shot before the order was given. Clyde died instantly from the first shot, which hit him in the head; Hinton later said he heard Bonnie scream when she realized her partner had been hit, just before the other officers opened fire. The weapons were completely emptied into the vehicle to such an extent that any of the many wounds sustained by both Bonnie and Clyde would have been fatal.

Ted Hinton and Bob Alcorn stated:

Some researchers believe that Bonnie and Clyde were each struck more than fifty times; others calculated about twenty-five wounds per corpse, or about fifty in all. Officially, Bienville Parish Coroner Dr. J. L. Wade listed seventeen entry wounds on Clyde”s body and twenty-six on Bonnie”s, including several blows to the head for both and one that broke Clyde”s spine. Because of all of these injuries, the funeral home had difficulty preparing the bodies for funeral services.

Police officers inspected the vehicle and discovered an arsenal of stolen weapons, including automatic rifles, shotguns, an assortment of handguns and several hundred rounds of ammunition, along with several fake driver”s licenses from several states. Word about the ambush quickly spread as Hamer, Oakley and Hinton telephoned their bosses to announce the deaths of the wanted men. A crowd soon gathered at the ambush site; Gault and Alcorn, who had remained to guard the bodies, lost control of the situation. A woman cut off Bonnie”s bloody wisps and a piece of her dress, which she later resold as souvenirs. Hinton returned to the scene to find a man intent on cutting off Clyde”s index finger, being shaken by what he saw. The medical examiner recounted what he saw once he arrived at the scene stating:

The coroner asked Hamer for help in controlling that “circus atmosphere” and they were able to get people away from the vehicle.

The Ford, with the bodies still inside, was towed to the morgue in Arcadia, Louisiana, and the corpses were placed in the cold room of a grocery store – at the time it was normal for the morgue to be a cold room of a store – in the back of which a preliminary embalming was carried out. In a few hours, Arcadia went from having two thousand inhabitants to hosting twelve thousand people, with onlookers arriving by train, carriages, gigs and even airplanes. The prices of primary goods rose rapidly and some even became impossible to find.

Clyde”s body was identified by his grief-stricken father Henry. In order to identify both bodies, H. D. Darby and Sophia Stone came from Ruston, Louisiana; the two had been kidnapped by the Barrow Gang in Ruston on April 27, 1933 and released near Waldo, Arkansas. Bonnie had laughed at Darby when he had told her that he was a mortician by profession, and then remarked that perhaps one day he would work on her body. Darby then worked with Arcadia Funeral Home, working on Bonnie and Clyde.

The funeral and burial

Bonnie and Clyde wished to be buried side by side, however her family would not allow it. Mrs. Parker wanted to guarantee the last wishes that her daughter had left to her, that is to be buried at home, however the crowd that surrounded the Parker”s home made this impossible. More than twenty thousand people attended Bonnie Parker”s funeral and her own family had difficulty reaching the burial site, in the McKamy-Campbell Funeral Home, in Dallas. Bonnie”s brother, Hubert Parker, accompanied his sister”s body from Arcadia to Dallas in an ambulance. The funeral was held on Saturday, May 26, 1934, at 2:00 p.m. The son of the reverend who held the funeral, Dr. Allen Campbell, later recalled that flowers came from everywhere, including had cards written by criminals “Pretty Boy” Floyd and John Dillinger. The largest floral tribute was sent by a group of Dallas journalists, as Bonnie and Clyde”s sudden death sold five hundred thousand copies of local newspapers. After being buried at Fishtrap Cemetery, Bonnie was moved in 1945 to the new Crown Hill Cemetery, also in Dallas.

Clyde”s family relied on Sparkman-Holtz-Brand Funeral Home in downtown Dallas. Hundreds of people also gathered outside the Barrow home, hoping to see the body. Clyde”s funeral was private and held at sundown on Friday, May 25, in the funeral home”s chapel. Clyde was buried in Western Heights Cemetery in Dallas, next to his brother Buck. The two brothers share the same granite slab inscribed with their names and four words chosen earlier by Clyde himself, “Gone but not forgotten.”

The bullet-damaged Ford and the shirt Clyde was wearing are on display at a casino in Primm, Nevada. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow”s life insurance policies were paid in full by American National of Galveston insurance company. Since that time, the payment policy was changed to exclude death due to any criminal act committed by the insured.

The death of Bonnie and Clyde marked the end of the “public enemies” era of the 1930s. In the summer of 1934, new national laws made bank robbery and kidnapping “federal crimes”; in addition, increasing coordination among local FBI jurisdictions and new radios in police vehicles made it much more difficult for bandits to thrive. Two months after Bonnie and Clyde”s death, John Dillinger was also killed, in Chicago. Another three months and Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd was killed by the FBI in Ohio and, the following month, Lester “Baby Face Nelson” Gillis was killed in Illinois.

Before the smoke from the gunfire had even cleared, the ambushers began searching Clyde”s car. Hamer made a sizable arsenal of stolen guns and ammunition his own, under the terms of his agreement with the Texas Department of Corrections. In July, Clyde”s mother wrote to Hamer asking him to return the guns to her family, as her son had never been convicted by any court of murder or theft of weapons or other property. There is no record of any response.

Alcorn kept Clyde”s saxophone but a short time later, feeling guilty, returned it to his family. Other personal items were taken away, such as some of Bonnie”s clothes, but when the family asked for them back, they did not get them back and were later sold as souvenirs. According to Clyde”s family, Sheriff Jordan kept a suitcase full of money with which he allegedly bought himself a piece of land and a barn at an auction in Arcadia. Jordan himself attempted to keep Clyde”s car but the owner of the vehicle was able to regain possession of it after legal wrangling and a court order in August 1934.

The six men in the ambush each received one-sixth of the bounty. Dallas Sheriff Schmid had promised Ted Hinton that it would amount to about twenty-six thousand dollars, however most of the state, county, and other organizations that had promised rewards went back on their word and eventually each officer received only two hundred dollars and twenty-three cents.

In February 1935, Dallas and federal authorities conducted an extensive trial after which twenty, including family and friends of Bonnie and Clyde, were arrested and jailed for aiding and abetting. The two mothers served thirty days in jail; the others served a minimum of one hour to a maximum of two years in prison.

Blanche Barrow”s injuries left her permanently blind in her left eye. After the 1933 Dexfield Park shooting, she was taken into custody on charges of “assault with intent to kill.” She was sentenced to ten years in prison but was released in 1939 for good behavior. She then returned to Dallas, leaving behind her life as a criminal and taking care of her invalid father. In 1940 she married Eddie Frasure, worked for a cab company and in a store, ending her parole the following year. She lived peacefully with her husband until his death in 1969. Warren Beatty tried to buy the rights to use her name from her in the 1967 film Gangster Story, and although she agreed with the original script, she objected to the interpretation given to her character by Estelle Parsons. Blanche died of cancer in 1988.

The two criminals freed in the raid on Eastham, Raymond Hamilton and Joe Palmer, were both recaptured and sentenced to death for murder, a sentence carried out in the electric chair in Huntsville, Texas, on May 10, 1935. Clyde”s trusted friend, W. D. Jones, after separating from the group, reached Houston where he found work, but was soon discovered and captured. He was taken back to Dallas where he “confessed” to having been taken prisoner by Bonnie and Clyde. Some of the statements he revealed about the gang”s sex life led to several stories about Clyde”s sexual ambiguity. However, Jones was convicted of Doyle Johnson”s murder and served a light sentence of fifteen years. He struggled for years with substance abuse issues, gave an interview about the events to Playboy magazine around the time of the release of Warren Beatty”s film

Help given to Texas authorities did not help Henry Methvin in Oklahoma, where he was convicted of murdering Officer Campbell in Commerce. He received his parole in 1942 and was killed in a train accident in 1948. He was said to have been behind the wheel drunk, but rumors say his truck was driven onto the tracks by some seeking revenge for his treason. His father, Ivy, was run over and killed in 1946 and there were rumors of that as well.

Bonnie”s husband, Roy Thornton, was sentenced to five years for larceny in March 1933; he was killed by a guard in 1937 during an escape attempt from Eastham Prison.

In the years following the death of Bonnie and Clyde, Prentiss Oakley, the man who shot first, had problems with his actions. He often admitted to his friends that he had opened fire prematurely, and he was the only one of the officers who took part in the ambush to express public repentance. He succeeded Henderson Jordan as sheriff of Bienville Parish in 1940.

Frank Hamer returned to being a security consultant for oil companies; however, according to Guinn, “his reputation somewhat suffered after Gibsland” as many felt he had not wanted to give Bonnie and Clyde the opportunity to surrender. He returned to the headlines again in 1948, when both he and Governor Coke Stevenson unsuccessfully challenged Lyndon Johnson in the Senate election. Hamer died in 1955 after several years of health problems. His ambush partner, Bob Alcorn, died on May 23, 1964, exactly thirty years after Bonnie and Clyde.

After the ambush, several questions arose based on the different accounts: Hamer and Gault were both former Texas Rangers working for the Texas Department of Corrections, Hinton and Alcorn were employees of the Dallas Sheriff”s Office, and Jordan and Oakley were the sheriff and deputy sheriff of Bienville Parish. The three couples were distrustful of each other and the men did not like each other. In fact, they told different versions of the facts and sequence of events. Historian Guinn puts it in these terms:

Because their accounts are so different, and because all of them are long deceased, the exact details of the ambush are unknown and no longer traceable. The questions that remain relate to whether or not the fugitives were warned prior to the shooting, Bonnie”s classification as a “wanted man to be shot on sight,” and Hinton”s accusations in the 1970s.

The question of the “Alt”

Sheriff Schmid had previously warned Clyde Barrow about the ambush in Sowers, Texas, in November 1933. When he called “halt,” the shooting started from the outlaws” car, who made a U-turn and fled. When the two Louisiana troopers raised the question of whether to call a halt, the four Texans “vetoed the idea” that Clyde would always shoot his way out, as he did in Platte City, Dexfield Park and Sowers. It is unlikely that Hamer had planned to give the warning, in any case Oakley stood up and opened fire early and soon after the other officers joined him. Later, Jordan reported that he had given the alt to Clyde, but Alcorn said it was Hamer who intimated it, while Hinton claimed Alcorn did. In another report, they said they both intimated it. These conflicting statements were probably attempts to divert attention from the early action of Oakley, who later admitted that he had fired too soon.

The arrest warrant for Bonnie

Multiple sources say that on five occasions Bonnie may or may not have opened fire during confrontations with law enforcement. Either way, he was still complicit in a hundred, and possibly more, criminal acts during his two-year criminal career, including eight murders, seven kidnappings, half a dozen robberies and carjackings, and other serious acts, at a time when there was capital punishment for “habitual criminals” in Texas.

After the events in Joplin, she became a wanted man, so much so that in April 1933 the Police Department had circulated flyers saying “Wanted for Murder” and with photos of both Bonnie and Clyde. In June, another flyer was circulated in Crawford County, Arkansas, with a $250 bounty for the Barrow brothers, also warning that they were looking for medicine to treat a burn on a woman. The flyer depicted faces and names of Bonnie, Clyde, Buck and Blanche, as well as the then unidentified Jones and appeared after the murder of Marshall Humphrey near Alma on June 23.

By November 1933, Jones was in custody and had provided details of the gang”s activities in the preceding months. On November 28, a grand jury indicted Bonnie, Clyde, and Jones for the January murder of Deputy Sheriff Malcolm Davis. Judge Nolan G. Williams signed arrest warrants for Bonnie and Clyde on murder charges. Bonnie”s cooperation in the raid on the Eastham jail in January 1934 earned her the hostility of a large group of influential Texans and, after being linked to the Grapevine murders, a bounty was placed on her head.

Hinton”s accusations

In 1979, Ted Hinton”s testimony about the ambush was published posthumously. According to his version of the Methvin family”s involvement in the planning and execution of the ambush, their father Ivy was tied to a tree the night before to prevent him from alerting the outlaws. Hinton states that Hamer made a deal with Ivy Methvin: if he kept the fact that he was tied secret, his son would not be tried for the Grapevine murders. Hinton further states that Hamer made everyone swear never to reveal such a secret. Other accounts, however, place Mr. Methvin at the center of the action, not tied to a tree but in the street signaling Clyde to stop. Hinton”s memoirs also suggest that in the famous photo of Bonnie with the cigar, the latter was actually a rose and that the image had been retouched by the staff of the Joplin Globe. Historian Guinn believes that “some people who knew him suspected that he was delirious late in life.”

Over the years, a number of films, television plays and theatrical works have been produced focusing on the events of the criminal duo:

Theater

Sources

  1. Bonnie e Clyde
  2. Bonnie and Clyde
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