Auto Thief Breaks Jail at Maryville

Crime news from the Skidmore News (Skidmore, Missouri), September 23, 1920, page 1:

Auto Thief Breaks Jail at Maryville.
Swerengen Escapes From County Jail Saturday Night.

When Sheriff Dowden went into the corridor of the county jail at Maryville last Saturday evening to lock the prisoners in their cells, he was attacked by Vern Swerengen and Getchell, two of the inmates. During the fight that followed, Swerengen made his escape, but Getchell was locked up.

Swerengen had been in jail just a week, awaiting trial for the theft of the Manchester and Dodds car and about $500 worth of new tires from the Skidmore Garage on the night of August 31. He has served a term in the penitentiary for a similar offense, having been released last January. It is understood that he once broke jail at Grant City, and another time he is said to have jumped from a car and made his escape as officers were taking him to jail.

The other two prisoners, one of whom was Leonard Henderson, also held for the robbery of the Skidmore Garage, took no part in the affair and did not attempt to escape.

Next week’s issue brought further updates. Here’s the report from the September 30, 1920 edition, also page 1:

Gitchell Gets 7 Years
Sweringen at Large

Gitchell Captured Near Pickering Tuesday Morning — No Trace of Sweringen.

Bruce Gitchell, who was arrested recently charge with the theft of cars belonging to John Cunningham of Conception Junction and N. J. Vickery of Arkoe, escaped from the county jail at Maryville Sunday morning with Irvin Sweringen.

A week ago Saturday night these two attacked Sheriff Dowden, and Sweringen managed to escape. He was captured at the farm of William Jackson near Graham Wednesday night and returned to the jail.

Sunday while Sheriff and Mrs. Dowden were absent from the jail, Sweringen and Gitchell picked the lock of their cell with a piece of steel from an old umbrella which they found in the cell, broke another lock with a piece of iron bar, and made their escape.

As soon as their absence was discovered, a posse was formed and took up the chase. Blood hounds were brought from Beatrice, Neb., and put on the trail that night. The trail was followed to Siam, Ia., where it was lost. Monday evening Gitchell was seen at the stock yards at Pickering, and Sheriff Dowden was notified, but Gitchell was gone before the sheriff arrived. Tuesday morning he was found in a barn near Pickering, and there he was arrested and returned to Maryville, where he appeared in Circuit Court Tuesday afternoon and was sentenced to 7 years in the penitentiary.
At the last report, no trace of Sweringen had been found.

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