Body of 1930s gangster John Dillinger to be exhumed

The Indianapolis-born Dillinger was one of America’s most notorious criminals.

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This file photo shows Indiana Reformatory booking shots of John Dillinger, stored in the state archives, and shows the notorious gangster as a 21-year-old.

AP

INDIANAPOLIS — The body of notorious 1930s gangster John Dillinger is expected to be exhumed from an Indianapolis cemetery in September more than 85 years after he was killed by FBI agents outside a Chicago theater.

The Indiana State Department of Health approved a permit July 3 sought by Dillinger’s nephew, Michael C. Thompson, to have the body exhumed from Crown Hill Cemetery and reinterred there.

The permit doesn’t give a reason for the request, and Thompson couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The Indianapolis-born Dillinger was one of America’s most notorious criminals. He and his gang pulled off a bloody string of bank robberies across the Midwest in the 1930s. The FBI says that Dillinger’s gang killed 10 people, but Dillinger was never convicted of murder.

Dillinger was awaiting trial in the slaying of an East Chicago police officer when he escaped from jail in Crown Point, Indiana, in March 1934 with a gun carved out of wood. While on the run, he underwent plastic surgery to alter his face and was said to have tried to remove his fingerprints with acid.

Dillinger, who was portrayed by Johnny Depp in the 2009 movie “Public Enemies,” was fatally shot in July 1934 by FBI agents outside the Biograph theater in Chicago after he was betrayed by a woman who became known in the papers as the “Lady in Red.”

Indiana health department spokeswoman Jeni O’Malley said that based on the permit, the agency expects Dillinger’s body will be exhumed and reinterred on Sept. 16 — the date listed on the document.

“In terms of the way the permit reads that’s what it signals,” she said Tuesday.

Crown Hill Cemetery spokeswoman Crystal King said the cemetery has no information about the plans to exhume Dillinger, whose grave is an attraction at the hilltop graveyard on Indianapolis’ near north side.

Messages seeking comment were left Tuesday for Jeffery Scalf, whose grandmother was Dillinger’s half-sister, and for Savanah Light, the funeral director whose name is listed on the permit.

John Dillinger’s gravestone at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.

John H. Dillinger’s headstone at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. The cemetery is on its third headstone. Through the years, souvenir seekers have chipped of bits of the stone. Staff at the cemetery say they aren’t certain why people leave coins on the grave.

File photo

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