Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dolly Mapp

The Kid Gets Bombed

Don King
Don King
A couple of bent-nose emissaries of the underworld left a message on Don (The Kid) Kings front porch in Cleveland while the Ohio city slept on May 20, 1957.

The message was a bomb, and it exploded at 3 a.m., bouncing King and his girlfriend out of bed.

Sirens screamed to Kings house, at 3713 E. 151st St. The occupants were riled but not hurt.

The Cleveland vice squad was not entirely surprised to learn that Kid King was the target of an attack.

King was a clearinghouse operator, in the dialect of the day. In other words, he ran a numbers game, better known as a lottery now that the old racket has been cloaked in government legitimacy.

King collected cash from numbers runners who took wagers in the neighborhoods, and he paid the occasional winner. On the side, he dabbled in bookmaking and loan-sharking, the cousins of the numbers racket.

The cops knew him well. He had resided in the city lockup for a time in 1954 after he was arrested for shooting a man to death. (The killing was deemed justifiable and King was released.)

Vice cops figured the bombing investigation was destined for the file cabinet overstuffed with permanently unsolved crimes involving the rogues of the Cleveland rackets.

People in that line of work dont talk to cops, as a rule.

But King made history, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer put it.

He talked: Shondor Birns did this.

Alex (Shondor) Birns, a Jewish immigrant from Hungary, was another familiar mug around Cleveland police headquarters, where he was No. 1 on the police roster of racketeers, as one crime scribe put it.

Birns had been sent up the river in 1954 for income tax evasion. By the time he got out of the joint 27 months later, Kid King and four other upstarts had honed in on the numbers turf. Birns sent goons around in October 1956 to suggest that each of the five should pay $200 a week to the boss, if they knew what was good for them.

Initially, all five agreed to pay.

But in December, a resentful Kid King reduced his weekly Birns payoff to $100, and in February, King stopped paying altogether, thumbing his nose at the tough Hungarian.

Shondor Birns sent the bomb as a reminder to King that he was in arrears.

King responded by naming Birns, his deputies, and his musclemen, some of whom came from Clevelands thriving crop of prizefighters.

The names that cropped up included that of Virgil Ogletree. Cops asked around and learned that he often spent time at a home at 14705 Milverton St., in the Shaker Heights section.

Dolly Mapp's home in Shaker Heights, Ohio
Dolly Mapp's home in Shaker Heights, Ohio

The homeowner there was named Dollree Mapp, better known as Dolly. Sgt. Carl Delau and two patrolmen from the vice squad were assigned to pay her a visit to jostle Ogletree.

Through this circuitous routea rackets debt, a bombing, a fink and a name--three cops showed up at Dolly Mapps door just after the lunch hour on May 23, 1957, three days after Kid King was bounced out of bed.

It was a knock on the door that would go down in American criminal justice history.

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