Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Alvin Karpis: Pursuit of the Last Public Enemy

The Kidnapping Trade

The two kidnappings for ransom the Barker-Karpis group committed were suggested to them by the middlemen the gang worked with in St.Paul, Jack Peifer and Harry Sawyer. Both kidnappings occurred only six months apart. William Hamm (of Hamms Beer) was snatched in June 1933, and Edward Bremer, a banker, in January 1934. Hamms ransom was $100,000 and Bremers $200,000. Colossal money in the 1930s.

However, after the Bremer kidnapping, Hoover later stated, Things began to get complicated for the gang at this point. For several reasons:

It may have been the worst social climate in which to kidnap people. The kidnapping death of Charles Lindberghs son in 1932 was still in the news. Aviator Lindbergh was a national hero for his solo plane flight across the Atlantic.

There was also another kidnapping - of Charles Urschel - committed by different outlaws, including George (Machine Gun) Kelly.

Re-enactment of a kidnapping (AP)
Re-enactment of a kidnapping (AP)

The father of the gangs second kidnap victim was Edward Bremer Sr., and he was a friend and political donor to President Franklin Roosevelt, who mentioned the kidnapping in one of his radio fireside chats. It seems unbelievable that the gang knew beforehand about Bremer Seniors ties to President Roosevelt, and then still proceeded with the kidnapping. Yet, Karpis wrote that he discussed this with Fred Barker who responded, Why are we wasting our time talking about heatweve had nothing but heat since 1931.

 

 

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