Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Francis "Two Gun" Crowley

Dragnet!

"Francis Crowley...who glories in the nickname of Two-Gun Frank and is described by the police as the most dangerous criminal at large was hunted through the city last night," began a newspaper article that appeared the next day. All across the city's five boroughs and Nassau County, photographs of Crowley and Duringer were distributed by police. At first Helen Walsh was believed to have been murdered by the two men to get rid of any witnesses to the cop killing. This belief was reinforced the next day when the stolen Ford sedan was found parked on a deserted side street in Queens. Inside the car were nine empty .38-caliber shells. There was fresh blood in the front and back seats and a bullet hole in the windshield. Crowley's fingerprints were lifted from the car's steering wheel. Cops also discovered two bullets embedded in the doorframe.

"There is no doubt that the girl was killed," said Inspector Harold King. "Crowley must have done it to protect himself. She was the one person who could have convicted him of first-degree murder."

Newspaper clipping
Newspaper clipping

A massive search was undertaken for the fugitives. Hundreds of cops searched through the swamps and underbrush of Long Island looking for the body of Helen Walsh. New York City police visited all of Crowley's known hangouts in Queens, Brooklyn and especially the Bronx where he had been arrested several times for car theft. Nassau District Attorney Elvin Edwards issued pubic appeals for help in locating the fugitive. "This brutal murder calls for drastic action," he told the press. "We want every possible aid from the citizens of the county." Privately, cops were warned of Crowley's ruthless reputation and to expect a shootout if he was found.

Meanwhile, New York City crime labs were busy comparing the ballistic evidence in several cases in which it was suspected that Crowley had played a part. Though these forensic investigators lacked the technological advances of today's crime scene examiners, they were no less tenacious. On May 7, Detective Harry Butts of the New York police., made a dramatic announcement. The bullet that killed Virginia Brannen, bullets fired in the dispute at the American Legion months before and bullets recovered from a gun battle in the Bronx were all fired from Crowley's gun. Chief of Detectives John Sullivan said that Crowley "does not use drugs as do so many dangerous killers...he just seems to have the impulse to shoot."

But the police were wrong on at least one point. Helen Walsh had not been killed. She was "Two Gun's" sweetheart and they were on the lam together. After Officer Hirsh was killed, the young couple located "Fat" Duringer and he eagerly joined his partner in crime. The three fugitives fled into Queens where they abandoned the stolen Ford. They tried to look up friends in the Laurelton neighborhood where Crowley had lived for years but found the area crawling with cops. Jumping into a passing cab, Crowley, Fat and Walsh rode to West 90th Street in Manhattan. There, Crowley looked up an old girlfriend, Vera "Billie" Dunn. After introducing his new girlfriend to her, Crowley threw Billie out of her own apartment and moved Duringer and Walsh in.

Billie was furious at this shabby treatment and promptly told a newspaper reporter what had happened. "He came to my apartment yesterday with that stupid dame, Helen Walsh and that fat slob, Duringer!" she said, "Threw me out of my own apartment!"

"I think that's pretty tough," replied the reporter. "By the way, where do you live?"

"303 West 90th Street!" she yelled at the reporter. "Get them the hell out of my place!" But the man didn't hear her. He was already racing over to the apartment for the newspaper story of his career. On the way, he telephoned detectives from the local precinct and within minutes, a dozen cops jumped in their radio cars.

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