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The Colorful Career of Dayton Slim

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on April 30, 1933
The Colorful Career of Dayton Slim
by Howard Burba

            For all their boasted bravery under fire, the modern gangster has a lot to learn from his predecessors, and one has only to turn the pages of criminal history back a brief 30 years to find that out.
            “When “Dayton Slim” came to the close of his colorful career, and the electric chair cut short a life of crime that carried cold-blooded murder as its climax, there passed a type of gang-leader whose ability to “take it on the chin” is seldom matched in this day and age. The machine gun was unknown to gangsters in “Dayton Slim’s” day; neither did they have the benefit of high-powered, armored automobiles in, which to shield themselves as they shot it out with the police. There was no saffron-hued stripe down the back of your gangster of 30 years ago. Now, and then the police department of some city or another has an opportunity to prove it almost daily, the average gangster has a streak of yellow a foot wide running through his system.
            Just how Charles Stimmel came to be tied in with the old Cook gang, later known as the Rose Shafor gang, probably will never be known. For several years previous to 1900 the police of Dayton and Springfield had experienced considerable trouble through the depredations of the Cook boys, and the associates whom they had organized’ into a “gang.” Larceny was the commonest charge registered against the outfit, though occasionally the bluecoats of the two cities found it necessary to lodge an assault and battery complaint against one of them. That was only when an intended victim failed to realize that he was up against a type of gangster who believed in meeting resistance with a full measure of the same thing.
            At any rate, it was while engrossed with the activities of the Cooks that Charles Stimmel first claimed the attention of the police. As time wore on they learned to recognize him as a leading member of the “Cook gang,” and they also learned that he was an admirer of pretty little Rose Cook, sister of the young man with whom Stimmel was associated in lawlessness. It was necessary to keep a close tab on members of the gang, and in this way Dayton police records show that only a year or so had elapsed (following the marriage of Rose Cook to a man named Shafor until she had deserted her husband for Stimmel. From Dayton Stimmel and Rose Shafor removed to Springfield.
            That the new abode was not taken up with a view to reformation became apparent very shortly after their arrival in Springfield. Officer Sherman Gregory, while patrolling a beat in the vicinity of the old Clark co. fairgrounds, surprised Stimmel and a couple of companions in the act of stealing a wagon-load of copper wire from a traction company. The trio immediately started shooting it out with the policeman, but the latter stood his ground, returned the fire, and emerged unscathed, although the lawbreakers escaped. In the office he recognized one of the number as “Dayton Slim” William Cook and Lee Frank, of the Cook gang, were arrested as the other two members of the trio, but escaped conviction.
            It was following this escapade, according to police history, that Stimmel planned the holdup which proved his downfall, developed into a cold-blooded murder that shocked the middle west, and sent him to the electric chair.
            Joseph Shide, for whose murder Stimmel was electrocuted, was a native of Middletown. About 5:30 on the evening of Nov. 22, 1902, and preparatory to locking up the Allen & Emmger feed store for the night, Shide paused in the rear of the place to talk to William Fishbach, another employe. The latter told him that Harry Brush, still another employe, would be in with a load of wheat in a few minutes, and that they would then lock op. At the same time Fishbach noticed that the lights in the office had been extinguished. Unable to understand this, Shide turned toward the office in company with Fishbach. Brush appeared on the scene about this time and went into the office with them.
            The latter volunteered to go in first and see if everything was right in the room. Turning on the lights he failed to discover anyone, but as Shide and Fishbach entered they saw two men peering in at one of the windows. Both faces were partially covered with masks. Shide and Fishbach hurried out of the room while Brush locked the door from the inside. As they encountered the two strangers it was to find revolvers leveled at them, one of the bandits holding a gun in each hand. The two men were ordered back into the office. Realizing his companions might be shot unless he unlocked the door, Brush did so.
            Once inside the office one of the men, the larger and taller of the two demanded that Shide unlock the safe. He stated that he did not know where the key was, whereupon the man who gave the command fired. The bullet struck Shide in the leg, and it was as he bent over to grasp the injured member that a second shot was fired. This one entered his heart, and death was instantaneous.
            Brush, during the excitement, had escaped through the front door to sound the alarm. Fishbach, fearing he would meet the same fate, kept his hands in the air. Being commanded to produce the safe keys, he located them. The robbers tried to open the safe, but were unsuccessful. Fearing the alarm sounded by Brush might result in their capture, the larger of the pair thrust the keys into his pocket and together they hastily left the place.
            On the outside they encountered Brush and Frank McClain, an employe of the Home Telephone Co., who had secured his revolver and offered to return to the feed store with him. Again the bandits brought their guns to a commanding position and shouted to Brush and McClain to run if they valued their lives. This they proceeded to do, glancing back only to see that the holdup men had disappeared into the darkness. Then they returned to the office, there to find Shide dead. His body was lying in a pool of blood near the desk at which he had worked for the past six years.
            Police hurried to the scene, and surrounded the feed store until the bloodhounds owned by Elmer McGuire, C. H. & D. detective, could be secured. The dogs taking up a trail, headed south to Wyoming st., and then east to the road that led to Boer’s roadhouse. They entered the place and jumped on a man who was standing with his back to the door while a girl was adjusting his tie. It was clearly evident that the dogs had not struck the right trail, but the stranger was taken to the station house just the same.
            Mary Maloney, a little May st. girl, was carrying her father’s supper to him at Lowe Bros. paint factory, and passed the feed store on Wayne av. Just south of Third st. as two men, both talking excitedly, came from the shadows alongside the building. She noticed their strange actions, and recalled later that they proceeded toward Madison st., and that they had walked but a short distance in that direction until they were joined by a third man. It was on little Mary’s statement, and descriptions, that the police began to connect Stimmel and members of the old Cook gang with the crime. On the following Tuesday morning this reward offer was dispatched to very police department in the country:
            Dept. of Police
                        Dayton, Ohio,
                        Nov. 24, 1902.
            $500 REWARD
            For information leading to the arrest and conviction of the man who shot and killed Joseph W. Shide in this city, about 5:30 p. m., Nov. 22, 1902. The following is a description of the suspects:
            No. 1 – Charles Stimmel, alias “Dayton Slim,” Alias Van Horn, 5 ft. 11 inches, weight 145 pounds, aged 24, smooth face, dark suit, soft hat, crooked fingers on both hands, sign and house painter by occupation; may have a woman with him about 5 feet, 8 inches, dark hair, good looker, about 25 years old, medium build, name Rose Shafor, alias Cook.
            No. 2 – Name unknown; 5 feet, 9 inches; dark suit, soft hat, smooth face.
            No. 3 – Five feet, 9 inches, smooth face ,dark coat and vest, light pants, dark cap.
            These men will associate with low characters, and lewd women, also thieves. If arrested, search for gun and office keys. Wire all information to
            JOHN C. WHITAKER,
            Chief of Police.
            “Charles Stimmel, the man for whom the police are looking at the present time,” said a daily paper the day following the publication of the above reward, “has not been seen at his home on Joe st. since the murder was committed. This in itself is not particularly damaging, but the police think that he must surely have heard of the murder and of the fact that he is suspected which, if untrue, ought to result in his coming to police headquarters and giving himself up and asking for a complete investigation. This would have been the proper course to have pursed, had Stimmel learned of the fact that he is suspected. If he is innocent the police hope to see him give himself up.”
            As later developments showed, Stimmel and Rose had boarded an interurban car in Springfield in the afternoon, and upon reaching Dayton had gone to the home of a friend, one Jim Watkins. A little later Stimmel left the Watkins home with the announcement that he would soon be back. That was in the late afternoon of Nov. 22, 1902.  Now let us hear, from a newspaper man who covered the story following the murder, something about the events that followed the departure of Stimmel from the Watkins home. He wrote:
            “When Stimmel left the Watkins home, presumably to rob the feed store, Rose remained and assisted in preparing the evening meal. It was while she was at supper with the Watkins family that a report reached them from neighbors to the effect that a murder had been committed at the feed store. A short time after a low whistle was heard outside the house and Rose, greatly excited, donned her hat and coat and hurried out, presumably to join Stimmel. A few minutes later they were joined by Bennie Stevens, as associate of Stimmel’s, and the three walked out to Third and Findlay sts, where they entered a saloon. They proceeded to consume a large quantity of beer, remaining in the place for sometime.
            “Stimmel and Rose left Stevens at the saloon and went out to catch an interurban car for Springfield. It happened that a deputy sheriff and constable from Springfield were on the same car they boarded. They were in possession of a fairly good description of the murderer of Shide, and proceeded to search the car. They came upon Stimmel, but he was to all appearances dead drunk, so their suspicions were not aroused.
            “Stimmel and Rose Shafor rode on into Springfield, alighted at Race st., and went direct to the house on the West Side where they have been living for sometime as Mr. and Mrs. Charles Lewis. Suspicion was immediately directed toward Stimmel, and when officers reached Springfield from Dayton in search of him it was found that he had fled. Rose was left at the house, disclaiming all knowledge of her partner’s whereabouts.”
            It developed that Stimmel had only remained in Springfield over night, the night of the murder. Early Sunday morning he packed a few belongings and with parting instructions to Rose, disappeared. From Springfield he went to the home of his father at Byhalia, in Union co. The father was living on a farm there and his son remained with him for several days.
            One day, shortly after Stimmel’s disappearance – I am writing this now as I wrote it 30 years ago – a couple of suave young men presented themselves at a residence on the same block, and directly opposite the house occupied by Rose Shafor in Springfield. They represented themselves as traveling picture enlargers. Under that guise they rented a room from which they could command a clear view of Rose’s apartment. The “picture enlargers’ were in reality the late Homer Hendrickson and Charles Reeder, star detectives of the Dayton police department.
            Constant vigil was kept, and every time Rose left the house one of the “picture men” found it necessary to sally forth with his portfolio of “samples.” It was on one of these excursions to the center of Springfield that Hendrickson saw Rose mail a letter at the postoffice. Scarcely had she left the place until it was learned that she had deposited a letter addressed to “Charles Lewis” at New Orleans. It looked like an early ending of the search. But your gangster of yesteryear used his head equally as well as the deep-dyed plotter of crime-club fame who now entertains you nightly over your radio.
            A message to New Orleans set sleuths of that city to watching the general delivery windows. In a few days their vigilance was rewarded when a man stepped to the window and asked if there was any mail for “Charles Lewis.” He was handed the one that Rose had posted in Springfield. Seizing the stranger, the police started to headquarters with him, only to learn after his story had been heard and checked that he had consented to ask for the mail at the request of a “tall stranger” who had remained seated in a rig outside the postoffice. Of course the “strange man” was Stimmel, and, of course, had had lost no time in departing from the scene when he saw the officers leading the New Orleans man from the postoffice. “Dayton Slim” was full of those kind of stunts.
            It was not long after that until Rose also, disappeared from the Springfield residence and while she was traced to Denver, sight of her was lost there. But the police kept weaving their web; they never relaxed their vigilance. A year passed. Then one day Stimmel’s mother sent an express package addressed to “Charles Covelly” at Denver. It was the long awaited tip, and with the address in hand, Denver police proceeded to pounce upon the man who signed for the package. That man proved to be Stimmel. He and Rose had been living in a remote part of Denver under the name of “Mr. and Mrs. Charles Covelly.” Rose, however, was not apprehended at the time.
            Detective “Bud” Neldergall and Frank McBride of the Dayton department made a hurried trip to Denver, and recognized “Dayton Slim” the moment they glimpsed him through the bars. He professed not to know them but they lost no time in returning him to Dayton. Summoning the best of legal talent to his aid, he began his fight for life, and seldom in the history of this section of the state has a more hard-fought murder trial been waged. The result, however, was a victory for the state. “Dayton Slim” was sentenced to the electric chair.
            There were many stirring scenes in connection with the indictment of Stimmel. Rose Shafor, having been located in the interim, was summoned before the grand jury and refused to talk. She became known as “The Woman of Silence.” It was claimed at the time that attorney John Egan, who had set himself to the task of liberating Stimmel, had instructed Rose not to talk when she appeared before the grand jury. For this Egan was placed in contempt of court. When Stimmel was indicted later the court, instead of appointing Egan as his attorney, as Stimmel desired, appoint J. Walter Hallanan and Judge Elihu Thompson.
            Egan, not daunted by that action, appeared in the defense of Stimmel as independent counsel and practically conducted the whole case. He had criminal law at his finger’s tips, and made a magnificent defense. It was on Christmas eve that Stimmel was found guilty and a motion for a new trial overruled. The matter was carried to the circuit court for a stay of execution, and the court’s delay caused Egan to seek a reprieve from the governor, the original date of execution having been set for April 19. The governor granted the reprieve, fixing the new date for May 19. The circuit court then reaffirmed the verdict of the lower court and refused the request for a new trial. To get the case before the supreme court Egan asked for and secured another reprieve. The case was not heard promptly, so the third reprieve was granted. On refusal of the high court to order a reversal of the original decision the date for the execution was set for July 17. Egan was quick to discover that this fell on Sunday, so he insisted upon still another, and a fourth reprieve. This Gov. Herrick was forced to grant, though in fixing a new date he extended Stimmel’s stay on earth, but four days.
            The electrocution of Stimmel came on the night of July 21, 1904 and in the long history of executions in Ohio there has never been one more dramatic. He faced his fate calmly; he never ceased his denunciation of those who had brought about his conviction. In the language of the underworld of then and now, “He died game.”  Even as the straps were being adjusted about his legs and wrists as he reclined in the electric chair, he continued his denunciation.
            “Don’t put that thing over my eyes yet, he said to Warden Hershey, “I’ve got something to say.”
            The Warden, standing with watch in hand, and far more nervous than the condemned man, nodded agreement to the demand. Thereupon, Stimmel shocked the little audience of attorneys, officials and newspaper men when he said without the slightest appearance of nervousness:
            “May the curse of a dying man be on Judge Kumler, on Prosecuter Martin, and on his assistant, Charles Qumler, for sending me here. I have never killed anyone. Now go on with your dirty work.”
            He made no confession. With his death there was closed the mouth that could have caused the arrest of his accomplice at the feed store. Two persons figured in that crime. Who the second one was has forever remained a secret. For months the police worked on the theory that Rose Shafor, dressed in man’s clothing, was Stimmel’s companion at the feed store in Dayton on that tragic night. But Rose Shafor persistently refused to furnish even the semblance of a clew that would lead toward her conviction as an accessory. Notwithstanding the strong efforts put forth by officers and Stimmel’s friends to persuade him to reveal the name of his accomplice, he refused to speak one word that might tend to implicate anyone. In the language of his own world, “Dayton Slim refused to squeal.” He had died as he had lived, unafraid of the law and unafraid of those whose task it was to enforce it.
            Outside the prison the body was given into the custody of Rose Shafor and within a few hours after the execution she was riding back to Dayton with the corpse of her dead. In the clear light of the early morning the death wagon of Hibler & Rleslinger removed the pine box from the baggage car of a Big Four train and delivered it at the home of a broken-hearted mother on Morton av.
            “Dayton Slim” had come home. Fate had written finis to a colorful career.