MOORESVILLE – A living relative of Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger is seeking to bring a museum of artifacts related to the infamous criminal to the town of Mooresville.
Jeff Scalf, who is Dillinger’s great-nephew, pitched the idea to Mooresville City Council at its Tuesday meeting.
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The John Dillinger Museum at Crown Point abruptly closed in August 2017 after being open for just two years. The museum contained a number of artifacts, including the wicker coffin used to carry Dillinger’s remains and the fake wooden gun he used to successfully escape from Lake County Jail at Crown Point in 1934.
Scalf said he has an offer to purchase the museum and its artifacts from the South Shore Convention and Visitors Association, which retains ownership of the objects.
All he needs, he said, is a place to house the exhibit, as well as a $2,000 monthly fee from Mooresville taxpayers.
Any proceeds from the sale of tickets and merchandise would go back to the city, he told the council.
“I really believe that’s what will drive traffic to downtown merchants,” Scalf said.
Dillinger was born and spent most of his childhood in Indianapolis before his family moved to Mooresville in 1921. He later joined the United States Navy but deserted after a few months and returned to Morgan County.
It was in Mooresville that the infamous bank robber attempted to settle down and start a family, only to find that the quiet country life was not for him.
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After he was caught robbing a local grocery store, he was charged and sentenced to 10 to 20 years in Indiana State Prison, where he befriended bank robbers who learned the skills he would use to commit 12 separate bank robberies in less than two years.
Dillinger will return to Mooresville one last time, in 1934, while on the run from the FBI. The agency finally caught up with him after receiving a tip that the mobster would be attending a film screening at the Biograph Theater in Chicago.
He was shot outside the theater and later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Council Chairman Tom Warthen expressed support for Scalf’s idea, but not at the city’s expense.
“This is an exceptional project for investors,” he said. “But not sure if this is the best project for taxpayers’ money…Obviously it would be an opportunity for possible revenue, but we have to operate on things that are safe for taxpayers.”
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Councilman Shane Williams liked the concept, but noted that he grew up in the old Dillinger house and still owns part of the property that used to be the Dillinger farm.
He was concerned that voting on the issue would create the appearance of a conflict of interest.
“I always thought the city missed the mark on John Dillinger – many cities and communities do things around their most famous people, and he was part of the story – but I don’t know if I could. vote. “
Council members voted 4-0 to table the matter until its June 21 meeting, with Williams abstaining from voting.