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New permit approved to exhume Dillinger's body claims evidence gangster isn't buried in grave

Posted at 2:32 PM, Oct 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-04 20:20:54-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A new permit has been approved the state health department to allow the exhumation of John Dillinger's body from his grave.

The new permit was issued to Michael Thompson on October 3 by the Indiana State Department of Health and approves the "reinterment, reentombment and reinurnment" to all be done on the same day, December 31, 2019.

On that permit, Michael claims to be a nephew of John H. Dillinger.

Michael is currently in the midst of a legal battle with Crown Hill Cemetery over the rights to exhume his uncle's body.

Crown Hill Cemetery objected to the proposed exhumation back in August, citing the need to protect the safety, integrity and "peaceful tranquility" of the families they serve.

READ | Efforts to exhume John Dillinger's remains continue | History Channel was behind initial efforts to exhume John Dillinger's body

Who was John H. Dillinger?

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John H. Dillinger was a notorious 1930s gangster who was born on June 22, 1903 in Indianpaolis and grew up in Mooresville.

According to records, Dillinger and his gang allegedly robbed more than 20 Midwestern banks and four police stations in the early 1930s. He is also accused of killing an East Chicago police officer in 1934, the same year he was declared Public Enemy No. 1.

Dillinger spent the last few months of his life on the run before he was reportedly shot to death by FBI agents outside the Biograph Theater on July 22, 1934.

Dillinger's body was buried in the family plot at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis and has been a tourist attraction since that day.

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John Dillinger's grave at Crown Hill Cemetery.

Is John H. Dillinger buried at Crown Hill Cemetery?

The answer to that question depends on who you ask.

The request for exhumation includes an affidavit filed by Carol A. Thompson on May 20, 2019, which lists the reasoning why the exhumation should take place.

Carol's affidavit states that John H. Dillinger was her uncle, and that her grandfather, John W. Dillinger, was the notorious gangster's father.

According to that affidavit, the family has been presented evidence that the person killed on July 22, 1934 may not have been her uncle. The evidence stated in the affidavit includes, "the non-match of his eye color, the ear shape and protrusion from the head, the fingerprints not matching, the existence of a heart condition, and the apparent non-match of the anterior teeth."

"It is my belief and opinion that it is critical to learn whether Dillinger lived beyond his reported date of death of July 22, 1934," Carol's affidavit reads. "If he was not killed on that date, I am interested in discovering what happened to him, where he lived, whether he had children, and whether any such children or grandchildren are living today."

The affidavit continues, "Also it is my belief and opinion that, if the FBI killed the wrong man outside the Biograph Theater, it is also important to identify the man in the grave at Crown Hill Cemetery."

The FBI, on the other hand, claims the man its agents shot and killed in Chicago 85 years ago was, in fact, John Dillinger.

They issued a statement back in August regarding the request exhumation stating that Dillinger was shot as he "reached for the .380 Colt in his trouser pocket. Dillinger, who was wanted for multiple violent crimes, was pronounced dead at the Alexian Brothers Hospital, bringing about an end to the Gangster Era."

The FBI's statement says it is a myth that a "Dillinger stand-in" was killed on July 22, 1934, and ""A wealth of information supports Dillinger's demise."

"Special Agents M. Chaffetz and Earle Richmond, for example, took two sets of fingerprints from the body outside the Biograph Theater, and both were a positive match. Another set taken during the autopsy were also a march," their statement reads.

READ |Arizona & Indiana towns at odds over Dillinger's gun

In a statement provided to RTV6 back in August, Crown Hill management stated that not all of Dillinger's family agrees with the exhumation.

“Crown Hill objects to the exhumation of John Dillinger. We have a duty to the families we serve to ensure the safety and integrity of the Cemetery which is threatened by the proposed exhumation. We also have concerns that the complex and commercial nature of this exhumation could cause disruption to the peaceful tranquility of the Cemetery and those who are visiting to remember their loved ones. Additionally, we received notice that not all of Mr. Dillinger’s next of kin agree with the exhumation. We honor the trust placed in us to protect all individuals in our care, and to protect the interests of those who cannot speak for themselves.”