Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Greenlease Kidnapping

The Ransom Mystery

After the execution a grand jury indicted Officer Dolan and Lt. Shoulders for perjury concerning the missing ransom money. Dolan was tried in March 1954, convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. Shoulders was sentenced to three years after a trial a month later.

Joe Costello escaped indictment in the case. He invoked the Fifth Amendment against self-implication each time he was questioned about the missing money. Cabdriver Johnny Hager cooperated in the investigation and was not charged. He returned the remainder of the $2,500 that Hall had given him.

Nor was his personal prostitute, Sandy ODay, charged. (She never made it to St. Joe. She got as far as Kansas City, then got waylaid in a hotel bacchanal. Police found her in bed with another woman.)

The recovered half of the ransom was returned to Robert Greenlease. But the missing cash was a black mark on the St. Louis Police Department and a thorn in the side of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover for some years.

J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover

The FBI tried assiduously to track the missing bills all 16,971 of them by distributing copies of the serial numbers to banks across the land. Hoover ordered an agent assigned full-time to Greenlease ransom money duty. The agent, Howard Kennedy, spent 15 years on the assignment.

But only 115 of the bills turned up. Thousands more no doubt made it into circulation but went undetected.

For years, the FBI badgered Elmer Dolan to come clean, dangling the possibility of a presidential pardon. He repeatedly declined until 1962, when both Lou Shoulders and Joe Costello died.

Dolan said he was ready to talk. He was flown to Washington that September, and Agent Phillip King took a six-page statement from Dolan that confirmed suspicions and added a few details.

The cop said Lt. Shoulders passed the money-laden luggage to Costello outside the hotel before they took Carl Hall in for booking. Costello took the money home. Shoulders and Dolan went back to Costellos place after booking Hall. Costello had removed half the money from the luggage. Dolan said Shoulders offered him $50,000.

Dolan said he told Shoulders, I dont want anything to do with that crap.

Shoulders replied, You really dont have anything to say about it.

Dolan said he lied to protect Shoulders and Costello because he feared for his life. While he said he didnt take the cash offered him, he did accept $1,500 in hush money from Costello after he was released from prison. It was Christmastime, Dolan said, and he had a wife and six kids.

At J. Edgar Hoovers urging, President Lyndon Johnson pardoned Elmer Dolan in 1965.

The FBI believes Costello laundered the money through St. Louis mob boss John Vitale, who had connections with the Chicago mob.

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