clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

John Dillinger’s family files new application to exhume his remains

This is the family’s second attempt to exhume Dillinger’s body. 

John Dillinger’s gravestone at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.
The grave marker of John Dillinger at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.
File photo

INDIANAPOLIS – The family of John Dillinger has submitted a new application to exhume the remains of the notorious 1930s bank robber.

The family first applied to exhume Dillinger’s remains in July as part of a planned History Channel documentary. However, the deadline to exhume and return the remains was Sept. 16, and the exhumation did not occur. The History Channel also said it is no longer involved in the project.

The Indiana State Department of Health said it received the latest application Tuesday, and has not yet approved it.

By exhuming his body, the outlaw’s family apparently seeks to answer a question long debated by historians and enthusiasts: Is it actually Dillinger who is buried in that plot? Some have theorized that it is not Dillinger who was killed outside the Biograph Theatre in Chicago in 1934, but rather a double.

Biographer Bill Helmer said theories that the vault at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis contains a Dillinger doppelganger are “total nonsense.” In a rare statement Aug. 1, the FBI said its agents did indeed kill Dillinger in 1934.

Born in Indianapolis on June 22, 1903, John Herbert Dillinger Jr. went from small-time crook to America’s most wanted after a string of bank robberies, including one that left a police officer dead. On July 22, 1934, 15 FBI agents and members of the East Chicago Police Department killed Dillinger as he left the Biograph Theatre.

Crown Hill Cemetery said in August that it objects to the exhumation, saying it has a duty to protect the integrity of the cemetery.

Dillinger’s nephew, Michael C. Thompson, filed a civil lawsuit against the cemetery Aug. 14, which seeks a court order to gain access to the grave. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 1, according to online court records.

Contributing: Holly Hays of The Indianapolis Star