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The Last Days Of Pretty Boy

Charles Arthur Floyd

      He was known to so as, "The Sagebrush Robin Hood" and to others as the "Phantom Terror." But he was most commonly called Charles Arthur Floyd, "Pretty Boy", Public Enemy Number one.

      Floyd's criminal career started in the 1920's as a bootlegger and graduated to bank robberies, and murder, taking a part in one the bloodiest day in criminal history, The Kansas City Union Station Massacre of 1933. By 1934 he was the most wanted man in America till he was shot down near Clarkson, Ohio, on October 22, 1934. This is the story of the last of Pretty Boy Floyd.

      Early, Saturday, October 20, 1934, a Ford Sedan carrying Charles Floyd, Adam Richetti and Beulah and Rose Baired, sped along down Route 7, along the Wellsville-East Liverpool Road in southeastern Ohio. They were just shy of the Wellsville city limits, when the fog and the rain-slicked road, caused Floyd to lose control of his automobile, and skid into a telephone pole. No one was injured but the Ford was damaged.

      Floyd, not wanting to risk detection, sent Beulah and Rose into Wellsville to a mechanic. Before the women drove off, the men grabbed firearms and blankets and walked into a nearby hollow next to the road to await their return. They climbed a hillside covered with scrub brush, and set up near some large rocks. Joseph Fryman, who lived in one of the small houses on top of the hill, was first to spot the two men. At first he thought the men were tramps, but later became very wary of them. Fryman went to one of his neighbors, Lon Israel, who immediately became suspicious.

      Israel phoned Wellsville Chief of Police, John H. Fultz and he promised that he would be out to investigate. To be on the safe side, Fultz took along Homer Potts and William Erwin, some local men he deputized as special patrolmen. All three were in plains-clothes, but for unknown reasons Fultz was the only one to carry a weapon.

Adam Richetti

      Arriving on top of the hill, Fultz and his men made their way toward the rocks where the strangers were located. Floyd was on the outlook and walked to Police Chief Fultz, stuck a gun in his ribs, and told him to go on down the hill. When they reached the are where Richetti was setting on some blankets, Fultz pulled his .32 revolver and started shooting. A surprise to Floyd who never checked the officer for weapons.

      Floyd jumped to the blanket, grabbed a Thompson submachine gun and let loose a spray of bullets. He turned and ran up the hill. The gun jammed and was tossed aside. Richetti grabbed his gun which misfired. He sprang to his feet and raced to a nearby house where he was later captured by Fultz.

      Floyd kept running until he reached the house of Theodore Peterson and his widowed mother. They had just sat down to have breakfast with a friend, George McMullin. Floyd knocked on the door and told then that his car had broken down and needed to get to Youngstown, Ohio. McMullin agreed to take him, and they hopped into his 1923 Model T Ford. Once on the road, Floyd pulled out his 45 automatics, and said that he didn't want to harm him, but he had to get away. McMullin was ordered to stay on the back roads to Youngstown and not to stop for anything. They hadn't gone far when the Ford ran out of gas.

      Floyd, along with McMullin, walked to a brick bungalow belonging to a James Baum. Here he took his second hostage, loaded up a Nash, with Baum under the wheel, and raced up Route 45 onto Route 30 in a northwesterly direction towards the village of Lisbon. By this time Police Chief Fultz had contacted law enforcement officers throughout state the telling them to be on alert for an armed man believing to be Charles Arthur Floyd.

      When Baum's automobile reached the outskirts of Lisbon, officers there had moved a boxcar across the highway. Floyd spotted the roadblock and ordered Baum to turn off the main highway onto a side road. Deputy Sheriff George E. Hayes and Lisbon police officer George Patterson, seeing the car turning down a side road, jumped into their vehicles and followed. Floyd, spotted the other cars gaining on them, ordered Baum to pull over to the side and let them pass.

      When Baum maneuvered to the side and stopped the officers also pulled over. Seeing this Floyd opened fire and a gun battle took place. When the smoke cleared, Charles Floyd was gone. Armed with his pair of 45's, he had jumped from the car, rolled under a fence and had vanished in a thick forest. Not a trace of Pretty Boy was uncovered in the dense woods. By Sunday morning, October 21st, only few rumors surfaced but none panned out.

Melvin Purvis

      When the FBI learned that Adam Richetti had been positively identified, they knew Floyd had to be close by. Late Sunday evening, Melvin Purvis, the top G-Man for J. Edgar Hoover, flew into a small airstrip near Westville. A dozen hand-picked federal agents from Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh bureaus arrived on the scene to assist.

      Late Sunday, Purvis ordered approximately two hundred searchers to be called in from the rugged countryside where Floyd had last been seen. He feared the posse men would fire upon their own men in the darkness or expose themselves to Floyd. He ordered the manhunt to resume after sunrise.

      Monday October 22, dawned with no fresh news about Floyd. He had not been spotted since Saturday afternoon when he fled into the wooded timber. Floyd was tired, dirty and hungry, spending two days and nights roaming the backwoods, living off the land.

      By noon, Floyd approached the farmhouse of Robert Robinson. The farmer's daughter, Mabel Wilson, allowed him to wash his face while she made him a sandwich. Before he left she offered him some ginger cookies and apples, which he gladly accepted. Thanking her, Floyd vanished into the timber again.

      He had not gone long when Constable Clyde Birch came to the farm and was told about the visit. From the description, Birch knew it was Pretty Boy. He drove to a telephone and relayed the information to the East Liverpool Police Department.

      When Purvis heard the news, he chose three of his best agents, W.E. "Bud" Hopton, Sam McKee, and Dave Hall, to accompany him to the area. East Liverpool Chief Hugh J. McDermott was asked to provide assistance. He selected three officers to go along, Herman Roth, Glenn Montgomery and Chester Smith. The four officers led the way in McDermott's 1934 Chevy, followed by four G-men, who piled into Hopton's 1933 government issued Chevrolet.

      About three o'clock, Floyd appeared at Ellen Conkle's farm near the town of Clarkson. Mrs., Conkle was cleaning out a smokehouse when she heard someone knocking on the back door of the house. She would always remember the events of the next hour.

      "Lady, I'm lost and I want something to eat," Floyd told her. "Can you help me out with some food? I'll pay you." Like most folks, she had always been taught to be kind to strangers, so she gracefully agreed.

      "I look like a wild man, don't I?" Floyd laughed, "But I've been drinking. I was hunting squirrels with my brother last night, and I got lost. The more directions I got, the more confused I became. I don't know where I am." Mrs. Conkle politely showed Floyd to the kitchen where he could wash up as she prepared his meal. When she asked him what he wanted, Floyd replied, "Meat, all I had to eat has been some apples and some ginger cookies. I'm hungry for meat."

      She fixed him a meal of spareribs, potatoes and rice pudding. Floyd sat in a rocker on the back porch reading the local newspaper, while eating everything on his plate, except for the pudding, He finished his meal with coffee and a slice of pumpkin pie, and declared the meal was, "fit for a king." He pulled out a roll of money to pay but Mrs. Conkle refused. He insisted that she take at least a dollar which she accepted.

      Floyd then asked the woman if she could assist him in getting to a bus station. She could not, but suggested that her brother, Stewart Dyke, and his wife , Florence, who were in the field husking corn could help him. Floyd climbed into Dyke's Model A Ford out back and waited.

      It was about four o'clock when the Dykes walked up to the Conkle house. They spied Floyd sitting in their car and when they approached, he asked whether, for a fee, they would drive him to Youngstown. Dykes refused, but agreed to take him as far as Clarkson.

The field of Floyd's Death

      Floyd jumped into the back seat as Florence Dyke and her husband were up front. The Model A had hardly moved when two Chevrolet cars appeared on the road, which contained Melvin Purvis and his men. When Floyd saw them, he ordered Dyke to drive to the back of the corncrib, where he pulled out his guns and darted across a pasture.

      In the meantime, the eight armed agents and policemen scrambled from their cars. They had seen the Ford, and the man leap out. There was little doubt in their minds who he was. As the law officer spread out behind the farmhouse, Purvis ordered Floyd to halt, but he just kept on running. An Order to, "Fire" followed and a blaze of gunfire commenced, which dropped him in his tracks.

      When the officers reached Floyd, he was disarmed and laid against a tree. Purvis questioned Floyd about the Kansas City Massacre with Floyd saying that he wouldn't tell him anything. Purvis then asked, "You're Pretty Boy?" Floyd replied, "I'm Charles Arthur Floyd." "You're Floyd aren't you?" Purvis asked. "I'm Floyd" he replied and was the last he had to say before he passed away at 4:25 p.m.

Sturgis Funeral Home

      Floyd was dead, but the lawmen handcuffed him anyway. They bound his legs with rope, and toted his body through the field to police chief McDermott's Chevrolet. He was propped up in the back seat between two officers and taken to Sturgis Funeral Home in East Liverpool, Ohio.

      On October 23, Floyd's body was shipped back to Oklahoma by rail, and arrived in Sallisaw shortly after 200 a.m. on October 26th. A grave site was waiting him in the Atkins Cemetery, where he would be buried beside his father.

      Charles Arthur Floyd's funeral was the largest in Oklahoma History, taking place on October 28th. A five mile long caravan of automobiles, trucks and buggies followed the hearse down the country road leading to Atkins, Two dozen special guards waited at the cemetery, for the sole purpose of holding back the crowd. It was estimated that there were approximately twenty thousand people that showed up to pay their last respect to Pretty Boy.

      After the service was over, a swarm of people remained in the cemetery. They were looking for some kind of remembrance. They stripped leaves and bark off trees. Others grabbed handfuls of dirt from the mound of earth over Floyd's grave. By nightfall, all the flowers had been taken to be pressed in family bibles.

      Adam Richetti, Floyd's partner in crime, was brought back to Kansas City and tried on a first-degree murder charge, brought against him fro the Kansas City Massacre. On June 17, 1935, a jury returned a verdict of guilty, and he was sentenced to be hanged.

      He appealed his conviction, but it was affirmed by the Missouri Supreme Court on May 3, 1938. Several months later he was again sentenced to death, this time in the gas chamber at the Missouri State Penitentiary at Jefferson City. He was executed on October 7, 1938 denying to the end, that he and Floyd had anything to with the murders. Adam Richetti was twenty-eight years old at the time of his execution.

"Pretty Boy" Floyd Death Photo
Three men that brought Floyd down
Left to right: Herman Roth, Chester C. Smith, Chief Hugh J. McDermott

      Shortly after Floyd's burial, J. Edgar Hoover revealed for the first time that on four separate occasions, Floyd had offered to turn himself in to authorities if the government promised not to seek the death penalty against him. Hoover also stated that Floyd's last plea for immunity from a death sentence came two weeks before he was killed, where no promises were made, and that Floyd had to face the consequences for what he had done.

Charles Arthur Floyd faced that consequence in a lonely pasture on the Conkle farm, near Clarkson, Ohio. He was thirty years old, and left a grieving mother, wife and son.

Charles Arthur Floyd's Death Mask