By Rick Hinton
When the construction of 1-70 wiped out John Dillinger’s inner-city boyhood home at 2052 Cooper Ave. it also wiped out any possibility of a future shrine to the Indianapolis-born criminal. When his body was transferred from the McCready Funeral Home in Chicago back to his teenage years’ town of Moorseville, IN, the E.F. Harvey Funeral Home was awaiting his arrival. The rumors had already begun – was it really Dillinger? Relatives – and the History Channel – are looking for answers.
Dillinger’s nephew, Mike Thompson, made the request for exhumation on June 24. Niece Carol Thompson also filed an affidavit. The permit was approved July 3, with the exhumation scheduled for mid-September. Forensic testing was to determine a “positive identification.” The proceedings were to be filmed and photographed, and the body re-interred the same day.
Thompson claims he was presented with evidence that the man shot and killed may not have been his uncle John. Presented with evidence? By whom … the History Channel? There’s nothing new here; these stories have been around for years. “It’s my belief and opinion that it is critical to learn whether he lived beyond his reported date of death of July 22, 1934,” he said. However, not all relatives agree.
Nephew Jeff Scalf lives in the Dillinger home in Moorseville. He believes that it is indeed Dillinger residing in Crown Hill Cemetery. He has denied requests in the past to exhume the body. He sees no benefit and finds the whole affair “disrespectful and shameful.” “Unless somebody was successful in robbing the grave, that’s John!” he claimed. For these cousins, I expect no Thanksgiving meals together anytime soon or a Christmas card exchange.
All along there have been rumblings that the exhumation might not occur in or around Sept. 16. That has currently become a fact. Crown Hill is now speaking, stating:
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.
Mike and Carol Thompson have filed a lawsuit asking a court for the exhumation to proceed, feeling the cemetery changed its mind after the permit was approved. The exhumation, however, is not affiliated with a criminal investigation, so I imagine Crown Hill can take whatever stand it wants. Maybe they took a good hard listen to Jeff Scalf? Maybe they don’t want the media circus? And of the History Channel? How long before they lose interest and move on?
“If he was not killed on that date, I am interested in discovering what happened to him,” Mike Thompson defended. “Where he lived, whether he had children and whether any such children or grandchildren are living today.”
Lawsuits can take some time to resolve. We’ll see how it all plays out.