Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Chicago area bootlegger Roger Touhy escapes from prison - 1942

On October 9, 1942, notorious Chicago area bootlegger Roger "The Terrible" Touhy escapes from Statesville Prison by climbing the guard's tower. Touhy, who had been framed for kidnapping by his bootlegging rivals, was serving a 99-year sentence for a crime he did not commit. The son of a police officer, Touhy had served in the Navy during World War I and later set up a trucking business in the Chicago suburbs. When business slowed during Prohibition, Touhy realized he could earn a better living through bootlegging. Along with his partner, Matt Kolb, Touhy began brewing his own beer and shipping it to speakeasies all over the state. His beer was widely considered the finest available at the time. When mob boss Al Capone heard about Touhy's operation, he wanted to get in on the action, but since Capone was not really familiar with the environment outside of the city, Touhy had an advantage. After a meeting with Touhy, Capone's henchmen reported back that he wasn’t someone to mess with. Undeterred, Capone had Matt Kolb kidnapped and then forced Touhy to pay $50,000 in ransom for his release. When Kolb was murdered in 1931, the feud escalated. Capone was instrumental in orchestrating the fake kidnapping plot of Jake Factor, which was pinned on Touhy. He was convicted of the crime and sent to prison. Shortly after his escape in 1942, Touhy was returned to prison but his conviction was eventually overturned upon appeal in 1959. Three weeks after his release from prison, Touhy was gunned down at his sister’s home. Before he died, he was reported to have said, "I've been expecting it. The bastards never forget." No arrests were made in Touhy’s murder.
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

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