Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The St. Louis Family

Gang War Rages On

Edward J. "Jellyroll" Hogan, Jr. and his brother James headed the Hogan Gang. "Jellyroll" was one of six sons born to St. Louis Police Officer Edward J. Hogan Sr. "Jellyroll," born in 1886, like Thomas Egan, was involved in the political affairs of the city. He was elected to the legislature in 1916 as a state representative. After surviving the bootleg wars in St. Louis, Hogan continued in politics. In the 1930s, it was disclosed that one of Hogan's legislative clerks on the state payroll was a St. Louis brewery worker who found it "unnecessary" to travel to the capital, Jefferson City, even once during the 1937 legislative session.

In March 1923, the Rats tried to ambush Edward "Jellyroll" Hogan and Humbert Costello as they were driving on Grand Blvd. Two of the shooters, Rat gunmen Elmer Runge and Isadore Londe, were arrested and Hogan was brought to police headquarters to identify them.

"I'll identify them, all right," Hogan snapped at police. "I'll identify them with a shotgun."

Humbert Costello was known as the muscle in the Hogan Gang and was a suspect in several shootings. He was later convicted of a jewelry store robbery and sentenced to 25 years in prison. After 12 years he was able to obtain a pardon with Hogan's help. However, upon release, federal agents were waiting with deportation papers. After a long legal battle, Costello was finally deported in 1937.

Rat Gang members and Hogan hoodlums next staged a wild shootout on Lindell Boulevard. Although no one was injured, the public again was incensed. Commenting on the public's outrage over the violence, Colbeck told reporters, "We are not insensitive to the fact that the public is aroused over what the newspapers have consistently characterized as the violence attending the fights between the Hogan and Egan factions. Our men are not trying to disturb peaceful citizens and it is unfair every time violence occurs in St. Louis to attribute it to myself, my men or the rival gang."

In April 1923, with Philip Brockman, president of the Board of Police Commissioners, and Father Timothy Dempsey acting as mediators, Colbeck and "Jellyroll" Hogan agreed to peace terms. The truce lasted a few months before Rat gunmen opened up on a crowd, trying to kill James Hogan. They missed and two innocent men were killed. One, William McGee, was a state representative. Colbeck, who expressed shock about the shooting when police questioned him, blamed the incident on "boyish high spirits."

"I know three of the boys were full of moonshine and were riding around in a big touring car," Colbeck said. "They might have seen Hogan in the crowd at Jefferson and Cass and maybe took a few shots at him for fun."

By this time, Colbeck had other matters besides the continuing gang war to worry about. On April 2, 1923, Egan's Rats gunmen hijacked $2.4 million in negotiable bonds from a mail truck at Fourth and Locust Streets. The following month they struck again, getting $55,000 in cash from the Staunton, Illinois postmaster. Egan's Rats members had teamed up with members of the Cuckoos to pull off these robberies. However, when police began questioning Rat members, one of them ratted.

With Ray Rennard testifying for the government against his former Rat associates Colbeck, David "Chippy" Robinson, Oliver Dougherty, Louis "Red" Smith, Charles "Red" Lanham, Frank Hackenthal, Gus Dietmeyer, Frank "Cotton" Eppelshelmer, Steve Ryan, and Cuckoo Gang members Roy Tipton, Leo Cronin, and Rudolph "Featheredge" Schmidt all were found guilty and sentenced to terms of 25 years in Leavenworth.

Colbeck was released after 16 years in prison. He tried to get back into the rackets, but his comeback was short lived. On February 17, 1943, Colbeck was returning home at 10:30 p.m. After crossing the McKinley Bridge, a car pulled alongside his at Ninth and Destrehan Streets. A man with a Thompson opened up on Colbeck putting half a dozen slugs into him. At the age of 58, Colbeck's career was over.

After leaving prison in the early 1940s, Louis C. "Red" Smith was convicted of income tax evasion in 1955. He was fined $2,000 and sentenced to a year in jail. Authorities named Smith as having been involved in the Capone syndicate's attempted take over of the race wire service. Although questioned in several murders, Smith was never charged. He died of heart disease in September 1959.

Steve Ryan was released from Leavenworth on January 1, 1941. In 1944, he and David Robinson were arrested after a mysterious shooting that took place at the Club Royal, a gambling casino near Belleville, Illinois. Ryan then filed a petition seeking an injunction to halt alleged police persecution claiming to be arrested on many occasions without cause. The detainments, he claimed, lasted from 20 hours to as long as three days. Later in 1944, Ryan and Robinson were again arrested after the murders of Harley Grizzell and Norman Farr on the city's East Side. Still later, the two were questioned in the murder of a union boss and his driver. On trial in 1946, for extorting $10,000 from a building contractor, a grand jury said there was not enough evidence to indict them. Ryan, one of the last living members of the Egan's Rats, died on May 3, 1965 after a heart attack.

Fred "Killer" Burke

The St. Louis Egan's Rats, for all intents and purposes, ceased to be an organized crime power after the imprisonment of most of its members for the 1923 robberies. Two former Rat members would gain notoriety in later years. In 1929, Fred "Killer" Burke participated in the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre. On December 14, 1929, Burke murdered police officer Charles Shelby after a minor automobile accident. Burke fled leaving his car behind. The ensuing investigation turned up a machine gun that ballistics experts tied to both the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and the murder of Frank Yale in New York City in 1928. Burke was later convicted of the policeman's murder and sentenced to life in prison. He died of a heart attack in July 1940.

Leo Vincent Brothers (POLICE)
Leo Vincent Brothers

The other ex-Rat to gain notoriety was Leo Vincent Brothers who was convicted of the murder of Chicago Tribune reporter Jake Lingle in June 1930. Many believe Brothers was paid to take the fall for the killing. He received the minimum sentence for the murder and served only eight years. He died of natural causes in 1951.

In 1941, Hogan was part of the Democratic effort to prevent St. Louis Republican and Governor-Elect Forrest C. Donnell from taking office by demanding a recount. The effort failed. Hogan remained in Democratic politics for 50 years, serving five terms in the state house and four terms in the state senate. In 1960, Hogan retired after being defeated by Theodore McNeal, the first black man to be elected to the Missouri State Senate. In addition to his political position, Hogan was a business agent for a soft drink bottlers' union. Hogan died at the age of 77 in 1963 after a short illness.

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