By Rick Hinton
Allen Settles remembers a family reunion in a park when he was 15. This would’ve been about a year before his cousin Tommy’s death. Present were a few ladies not related to the Settles’ clan. Tom made his entrance, pulling up on a motorcycle. It would seem that when Tom made an entrance anywhere, all attention was drawn to him. He was one of those! “The girls went gaga over Tommy,” Allen remembered. He took the ladies on a ride – one at a time – disappearing for an hour between passengers.
Services for Deputy Sheriff Floyd Thomas Settles were held on Feb. 28, 1972. It was the longest funeral procession in the city of Indianapolis thus far. The circular route, with some 300 police cars and 100 private vehicles, passed through downtown and then headed east to a section in Washington Park Cemetery. A 10-minute silence was observed on police radios. Flags on city and county buildings flew at half-mast. Black flags soon appeared on the antennas of patrol cars. The city stopped for the space of a few hours. Later that evening the second shooter, Billy Ray Adams, gave himself up.
Judge Herman Busse presided over the trial in Allen County, held in Ft. Wayne because Marion County was way too hot for jury selection. He stated that from all of his years on the bench, it was the best prepared trial he’d seen. The evidence was overwhelming: murder in the commission of a bank robbery. Life sentences were pronounced on Sept. 16, 1972. Hello Michigan City Prison! You’d think that would be it, but it wasn’t. There were the parole hearings keeping this tragedy alive. Tom’s sister, Marlene, attended every one of them. She had no intention of seeing either one of them released! That situation, however, changed in the 1990s.
William Adams died of cancer. Prior to his death, he wrote Marlene a letter. It was remorseful and he apologized for what had happened. He hadn’t intended to hurt anyone. He just wanted to get the hell out of the bank! She also received a letter from Billy Ray Adams; one not taken seriously. “He was the mean one,” she declares. Billy Ray was denied parole for the sixth time in January of 2016. Parole hearings are every five years, and for as long as she can, Marlene will attend these hearings, reminding those listening what went down that day as her brother died performing his job. The man Marlene describes as a “creep” (Billy Ray) now resides in an apartment at the Pendelton Reformatory, with far too much freedom, according to Marlene.
Roger Waggoner, Lieutenant for 30 years with the Cumberland Metropolitan Police Department, has witnessed the struggles with crime and lack of positive growth. Tom’s death hit him hard also. He found an avenue to celebrate and honor Deputy Settles’ life every Feb. 24 with a memorial service at the town hall. “We invite all of his family and friends to the ceremony, “ Roger stated. “Many active and inactive officers also attend.” He is also quite tied with Marlene. “I’ve had the honor and privilege to attend the past three parole board hearings and testify on behalf of the Town of Cumberland to keep his murderer in prison.”
Marlene’s son, Larry Giordano, at the tender age of 5, remembers his uncle Tom in uniform. It made an impression. A teacher in Larry’s youth once asked him, “What do you want to do in your life?” He held onto that question throughout his party days in college, one day arriving at a decision. Today he is an evidence technician for IMPD S.E. District. Sometimes life comes full circle.
Marlene hangs onto a memory of her and Tom walking in a cemetery blanketed with snow after her grandfather’s funeral. “We were freezing, but Tom always head a sense of humor about everything!” And Tom told her, “When I die, I’ll make the sun come out just for you!” Two weeks later, he did just that. When she entered Community Hospital that Thursday afternoon, the sky was cloudy and gloomy. When she left, the sun suddenly broke through. Just like Tom promised!