John Dillinger relatives doubt body in grave is the gangster

FBI says agents got the right man
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Posted at 11:22 AM, Aug 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-01 13:22:19-04

INDIANAPOLIS—The FBI says the man its agents shot and killed in Chicago 85 years ago was, in fact, John Dillinger.

The FBI issued a statement Thursday in response to the planned exhumation of Dillinger's remains from the gangster's Crown Hill Cemetery burial site in Indianapolis.

Additional information as to why descendants of Dillinger want this remains dug up are contained in affidavits released by the Indiana State Department of Health, the state agency that approves exhumations.

The affidavits are from Mike Thompson and Carol Thompson Griffith, Morgan County residents who say Dillinger was their uncle. Dillinger was born in Indianapolis and later lived in Morgan County.

In the documents, the relatives say they're seeking to have "a body purported to be John H. Dillinger" exhumed from Crown Hill Cemetery for a forensic analysis and possible DNA testing.

John Dillinger's grave at Crown Hill Cemetery.

Both say in the affidavits supporting an exhumation and reburial permit the state agency approved in July that they have received "evidence that demonstrates that the individual who was shot and killed at the Biograph Theater in Chicago on July 22, 1934 may not in fact have been my uncle, John H. Dillinger."

In their affidavits, both say that "evidence" includes that the eye color of the man killed outside that theater didn't match Dillinger's eye color, that his ears were shaped differently, that the fingerprints weren't a match and that he had a heart condition. They say they want the body exhumed and subjected to a forensic analysis and possibly DNA testing "in order to make a positive identification."

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"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. 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," both say in the documents.

But the FBI, in its statement, says its agents shot and killed Dillinger outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago 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 says it is a myth that a Dillinger stand-in was actually killed on July 22, 1934. "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," according to the FBI.

The History Channel, which is producing a Dillinger documentary, says it has been working with the relatives to make the exhumation happen. It is scheduled for September.

Dan Silberman of A&E Networks said Tuesday that the planned exhumation will be covered as part of a documentary on Dillinger for The History Channel.

Dillinger was one of America's most notorious criminals. The FBI says Dillinger's gang killed 10 people as they pulled off a bloody string of bank robberies across the Midwest in the 1930s. Dillinger was never convicted of murder.

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