In 1921, John Dillinger moved from Indianapolis to Mooresville, Indiana. His father said the city was corrupting his son, who while a hard worker, stayed out and partied all night. A year later his wild demeanor conflicted with his newfound rural life and he stole a car. His father, attempting to right his son, urged him to enlist in the Navy. He deserted a few months later and was dishonorably discharged.
Returning to Indiana, Dillinger married in 1924 and tried to hold a job, but it wasn’t his lifestyle. He divorced five years later in 1929.
With the economy slowing in the buildup to the Great Depression, Dillinger was short on cash and unable to hold a job. He and a friend decided to rob a local grocery store of $50. It was their first robbery, one that his father, a local church deacon, attempted to negotiation his sentence down with the Morgan County prosecutor. To no avail, he was sentenced to 15 years.
Dillinger’s criminal history would grow into one this country still talks about today. After his release from prison, Dillinger would go on to live his promise of becoming “the meanest bastard you’ve ever seen when I get out of here.” He was pissed at society and his father, always supportive of his son (even gathering signatures for a petition to release him), never stopped believing in his him.
Dillinger would go on to rob at least 13 banks, though he’s suspected in more. His gang, whom he met in prison, would rob six banks in Indiana alone across the state. He became wanted in the shooting of an East Chicago police officer. They robbed police stations in Auburn and Peru, Indiana for weapons and ammunition. They became so brazen, Dillinger’s gang became the reason J. Edgar Hoover established the modern day FBI.
Dillinger was wanted in states across the Midwest and by the US Government. His crimes were stopped when he was shot and killed by officers in Chicago during a raid.
Among his crimes in Indiana, they included assault, bank robberies, armed robberies, assaulting officers, killing an officer, and escaping from the “escape proof” Crown Point prison in Lake County.
His crimes are the stuff of legend. So much so that legends live on. It’s rumored his penis is in the Smithsonian. And the paperwork for his arrests and warrants and other evidence sits in a surprising place.
In Indianapolis at the Indiana State Archives sits records from across the state. In the already secure and fire-protected facility sits a vault. In that vault are more precious and important papers and work. And in that vault sits a safe. In that safe are three things: aerial photos of the state, the Indiana Constitution, and the Dillinger files.
So the next time you wonder where the vaulted Constitution sits, or how such a document can be the guiding principle for our laws, and how our state can enshrine marriage laws to men and women, remember: that document is of the same value and prestige that it has to be stored alongside files and papers from a murderer, robber, and escaped convict so infamous and heinous it overshadows the likes of Bonnie and Clyde.