IN SEARCH OF BONNIE AND CLYDE
III: Further on up the road
EDITOR'S NOTE: This
is the third part of The Landmarks Bonnie and
Clyde series. To read the first two parts of the story
which outline the background of Bonnie and Clyde, Platte
County Sheriff Holt Coffey and the epic gunfight the
two parties had outside of Platte City, please visit
our website at www.plattecountylandmark.com or visit
our office at 252 Main Street, Platte City.
Part III: The end of
Bonnie and Clyde had thought they had done it again,
narrowly escaping the law in yet another town. And they
almost did too, until Platte County Deputy Tom Hulett
managed to squeeze off a well aimed shotgun blast at
the fleeing bandits car, shattering the cars
rear window and knocking out their back tires.
A frantic Clyde Barrow turned over his
shoulder and surveyed the damage, his sister-in-law
Blanche Barrows screams piercing throughout the
night. Her husband was nearly dead, babbling incoherently
as she cradled his head in her lap. His skull was nearly
blown off after he was shot in the head by one of Platte
County's lawmen. Blanche couldnt see, glass from
the window had lodged in her eye, rendering her blind
in one eye.
Clyde figured that the lawmen would give
chase or at least attempt to blockade nearby roads,
but he had a plan. He always made a point of driving
through the towns extensively, plotting getaway routes,
in every town he visited and Platte City was no exception.
Foot to the floor, Clyde coaxed his shot
up Ford V-8 sedan to speeds in excess of 70 miles-per-hour,
heading north on what was then Hwy. 71 toward Platte
City. He turned on Hwy. 92 and drove north on Bethel
Road to County Road HH. As his tires began to peel away
from the wheels and Blanche began to beg him to stop,
he pulled over at the corner of Farmers Lane and Winan
He ordered W.D. Jones, the fifth member
of the gang, out of the car to steal a car jack from
the house on the corner (owned by Cleve Burrell) so
they could change tires. He then attended to Bucks
head wound and Bonnies leg wound, a deep gash
that she received in a previous car crash in Oklahoma
that was reopened as they fled the Red Crown Tavern.
The old tire, which would be found two days later by
authorities, was discarded with a pile of bloody rags
a few feet inside the roadside crop line.
He then went east on 92 until he reached
the Smithville intersection of Hwy. 169, where he reversed
direction and headed south, stopping within the shadow
of Kansas City for gas. After fueling, he headed north
for Iowa, driving on through the night, finally camping
out in a nature preserve in Dexfield, Iowa, desperate
The bandits would receive no quarter in
Iowa, however. A hunter had spotted the bloodied group
in a grove and promptly notified authorities. Again,
a posse was formed and again the gang would have to
shoot it out for their lives.
Virtually surrounded, the gang spotted movements in
the brush and they managed to get to a car, where they
unsuccessfully attempted to break through the firing
lines of what appeared to be dozens of deputies with
squirrel rifles. Faced with a hail of gunfire, Clyde
lost control of the car and crashed into a tree.
Jones felt a bullet graze his head and
he turned and ran, deciding then and there he didnt
fancy being an outlaw anymore. He would run as far as
a Houston, Texas cotton field (a few bus trips later)
where he was arrested by authorities, who later turned
him over to Dallas Deputy Sheriff Ted Hinton
a man who shared a history with the killers and would
figure in their ultimate demise.
Bonnie and Clyde slipped into the surrounding
farmland, hiding in barns and eating fruit they found
in orchards, eventually stealing a car and heading back
Blanche and Buck werent as lucky.
Half of his head missing, a hysterical Blanche crying
for the lawmen to stop shooting him, Buck was apprehended
and taken to a nearby hospital where he died within
Blanche was sent back to Platte City,
a passenger in Tom Huletts and Sheriff Coffeys
car. Turned over to County Prosecutor Dave Clevenger,
she was quickly charged with assault with intent to
kill, and held on a $15,000 bond.
Echoes of the battle
After Delbert Crabtree, a Red Crown Tavern attendant,
managed to disconnect the blaring horn from the ripped
up armored truck Sheriff Coffeys posse had hoped
to pin in Bonnie and Clyde with, the lawmen quickly
surveyed the damage from the nights gunfight.
Bullet holes were everywhere the
windows, doors, gouged deep into the brick facade of
the Red Crown Tavern. Mirrors inside the cabins were
shattered, bedding torn, furniture busted.
Inside the garage, Coffey found a veritable
stockpile of weapons, nearly all of them were hot to
the touch. It was quickly ascertained that the gang
was using Browning Automatic Rifles (BAR), many of them
were modified by the gang to become even more deadly.
The gang had taken to sawing off most of the barrel,
cutting off most of the stock, leaving just a pistol
grip to hold onto. Some of the weapons had three 20-round
magazines welded together, a feat of engineering that
allowed the bandits to fire off 60 shots in mere seconds.
It was a miracle that the posse had survived.
Over the next few weeks, thousands of
tourists streamed into the Red Crown, picking over what
should have been a carefully preserved crime scene,
a trend that wouldnt stop until the Tavern was
eventually torn down in 1967.
Blanche was sentenced to 10-years in prison on Sept.
4, 1933, after entering a guilty plea designed to save
her money and the ordeal of a trial. Even though she
was witnessed holding the BAR, Coffey later told family
members that he doubted she could have handled the weapon.
Still, there was more than enough reason to find her
guilty of the charges.
Blanche had always maintained that she was an unwilling
participant in the gangs spree.
I loved him (Buck) so much, I went
along, she would later say. I never had
done anything wrong but go along with him, but I got
Coffey was certainly glad to be rid of
the bandit who was being held in the tiny jail cell
on Platte City square. Bonnie and Clyde had a reputation
for busting their friends out of jail, and the sooner
Coffey could escort her to the penitentiary, the better.
In the meantime, armed sentries stood guard on the courthouse
square, on the lookout for Bonnie and Clydes anticipated
(and feared) return.
Interestingly enough, when it came time
to transport Blanche to Jefferson City, Coffey chose
his recently recovered son Clarence to join him. Clarence
had suffered gunshot wounds to his arm, cheek and forehead
during the gun battle and spent a few touch and go nights
at Bethany hospital, suffering through bouts of deliriousness.
Happy to have cheated death the first time, the Coffeys
more than likely looked at the transport of Blanche
as a nice way to end this chapter of their life.
They crashed their car on the ride home.
Again, they survived, but Clarence had to return to
the hospital, re-injuring his head wound and suffering
from a slight infection.
On November 21, after a long interview
and confession obtained from W.D. Jones, Dallas Deputy
Sheriff Ted Hinton acted on a hunch that Bonnie and
Clyde would attend Clydes mothers birthday
celebration. After a brief stakeout, he followed the
family to a picnic ground where he managed to shoot
both Bonnie and Clyde in the knees before they escaped
Hot on the trail, Hinton teamed with a
notoriously successful Texas bounty hunter named Frank
Hamer after Bonnie and Clyde stage a prison raid on
Eastham Prison Farm, the same farm where Clyde was beaten
and raped years earlier as a prisoner. An officer is
killed, and Clydes gang increases in number by
On May 22, Hinton and Hamer received the
tip they needed: Bonnie and Clyde would be driving a
tan Ford V-8 towards Gibsland, Louisiana on Sailes Road.
The two men formed a posse of six and lay in wait on
both sides of the avenue, using an abandoned truck they
hoped Clyde would mistake for a friend's as bait.
Bonnie and Clyde slowed down next to the
truck at 9:15 a.m. and began to scan the truck and side
of the road for its owner. Having learned their lesson
from Holt Coffey, Hamer and Hinton ordered their posse
to fire on the spot without fair warning.
It had only been four years earlier that
Hinton, then a young officer, had secretly pined for
Bonnie Parker as she waited tables in a Dallas truck
stop. Now he fired off round after round as her screams
penetrated his psyche just like his bullets ripped through
her car. As Clyde slumped over, clearly dead, and the
firing subsided, Hinton rushed to the car, climbing
over the hood to reach the passenger side door. Opening
the door, Hinton sees Bonnie during the last moments
of her life.
I see her falling out of the opened
door, Hinton would later write, ...a beautiful
and petite young girl...and I smell a light perfume
against the burned-cordite smell of gunpowder.
Bonnie and Clyde are dead at the ages
of 23 and 25.
Next week: Platte County and the ghosts of Bonnie and