Robbery and murder at Sylvania Golf Club

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On September 12, 1933, Andrew Dangler had just hit his tee shot from the 15th hole at the Sylvania Golf Club (which evolved into the current Sylvania Country Club) when a masked man emerged from the woods around the tee and told the group of six men that they were being held up.

Dangler and the other five golfers – Dr. Thomas Heatley, George Lahey, William Cavanaugh, Byron Picton and John L. Parker – raised their hands, lined up and had their pockets rifled by the bandit, whom the News-Bee called “scrupulously polite.” The News-Bee explained what happened next:

While the bandit’s back was turned momentarily, Dr. Heatley conceived the idea of running into the woods to see whether he could get the license number of the bandit’s car which he had glimpsed parked among the trees.

He broke for the woods. Mr. Dangler followed him.

Suddenly the bandit turned. He began to fire. Dr. Heatley dropped on the far side of the fence surronding the course. Mr. Dangler ran furiously thru the trees.

“Oh, the hell with them!” the bandit ejaculated when he saw his shots had not taken effect.

Then Mr. Parker went into action. He leaped at the bandit. They grappled a moment, the bandit’s gun locked in one of Mr. Parker’s. They fell to the ground. The gun was knocked out of the bandit’s hand by the impact of the fall.

He recovered it immediately and scrambled to his feet. Before the horrified glances of Mr. Parker’s companions the bandit shot Mr. Parker thru the right eye. The bullet emerged thru the top of Mr. Parker’s head.

He lived only a half an hour after being rushed to Mercy Hospital.

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The front-page News-Bee story from September 13, 1933.

Parker, a Aetna Life Insurance Co. agent and veteran of the world war, left a nine month old son. He was a widower, his wife having died the previous year.

Suspects were immediately sought, captured, and just as quickly ruled out. Witnesses gave detailed accounts of the robbery, and emphasis was put on finding the car, a Hupmobile, which fled down a dirt road towards Holland-Sylvania Road and past a witness at a gas station.

The car was found the next day, and by the weekend, two men, Floyd “Sailor” Baldwin (a local boxer) and Harry Patterson had warrants out for their arrest. Patterson agreed to surrender for leniency, since he said he was the driver and didn’t participate in the actual shooting.

It took another month to apprehend Baldwin, and the story took a strange twist as police pursued Baldwin prior to his capture. Acting on a tip, Lucas County Sheriff Dave Krieger and deputies went to 100 Wamba Drive, near the intersection of Hill and Westwood avenues, on October 10, 1933 but got involved in a shootout with Baldwin. One of the deputies, Leo Flanagan, was shot and killed, and police pursued Baldwin on the belief he had killed Flanagan. Baldwin was captured in woods along Chicago Pike, west of Toledo, later that day after a massive manhunt. The News-Bee, at right, stated flat out that Baldwin had killed the deputy.

The next day, however, a conscientious investigation by coroner Frank Kreft determined that Flanagan had instead been accidentally shot by a fellow deputy, Ernest Cooley. Flanagan is only one of four Lucas County Sheriff’s Department officers to die in the line of duty and is memorialized on their website here.

Baldwin, meanwhile, went on to basically confess to the golf course murder.

With his guilt not really in doubt, it was up to his attorney, Paul Ragan, to save him from the electric chair. “Until the time of this unfortunate shooting,” said Ragan at the trial, “when Sailor Baldwin was a maniac from drinking homebrew and bad hooch, the defendant never had harmed a hair of anyone’s head. He was a crazy man at the golf course.

“We know that the defendant will have to pay some penalty for his act,” Ragan told the jurors, “but when you have heard his own story of his life of mistortune we feel that he will be granted mercy.”

On November 28th, only ten weeks after the robbery, Baldwin, 25, was sentenced to life imprisonment after a week-long trial that featured a visit to the scene of the crime. Baldwin’s wife and four-year-old son were at the trial.

In June 1934, driver Harry Patterson was acquitted of second-degree murder charges, a verdict that came as no surprise to watchers of the case since during the trial, Baldwin exonerated Patterson.

Patterson got a lecture on the evils of alcohol from the Common Pleas Judge James S. Martin, since in retracing the events prior to the robbery, it was known that Patterson left his job to go with Baldwin to a bootlegger’s place for a drink. “The only trouble you have had in your life was caused by drink. You won’t regret it if you refuse to take a drink. Nine out of ten persons you refuse will wish they could do the same thing.”

One Comment

  1. Ranma

    This harkens back to the day when robbers were called bandits!!! It’s also surprising that the driver was let off the hook as an accessory to murder. That was a good era to do a little mischief.

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