Jail Escape at Farmington, MO (1948)


The Lead Belt News, Flat River, MO 
Friday, Oct. 22, 1948

The above picture, made on Wednesday morning, Oct. 20, 1948, shows the hole in the floor of the Farmington [St. Francois County] Jail, where six desperate criminals crawled through to liberty. 

     Six Prisoners burrowed their way out of jail at Farmington sometime during Tuesday night, escaped in a stolen car, and are now being hunted in Illinois.  Sheriff Herman Heck checked conditions in the jail at 11:30 p.m., Tuesday, and noticed nothing unusual.  The men had evidently been digging for several days after breaking through the concrete floor.  The hole through which they crawled down into the cellar is barely large enough for a man to squeeze through.

     The men took the '41 Chevrolet of Horace Coffield and drove it to Mehlville, where it was abandoned when they ran out of gas.  In their flight they slugged Oscar Flinn at his home four miles north of Hillsboro in Jefferson County, bound him with wire, and took his car and shotgun.  His car was found near Effingham, Ill.

     Listed as leader of the six is Edgar J. Herman, 45, a former convict from St. Louis.  Others were identified as Michael T. Kittel, 20, and Ernest Williams, 44, a Negro, both of St. Louis.  Henry R. Thompson, 21, of Mattoon, Ill., who was caught after a three-day search last August in connection with a truck hi-jacking, James L. Bishop, 20, of Joplin, and Junior Lane, 15, a Negro, whose address was not available.

     All of the desperadoes were facing trial in the November term of court and had made several attempts to get out of jail, on one occasion they had tried to pull a trusy through the door in order to take his keys from him.

The Lead Belt News, Flat River, MO
Friday, Oct. 29, 1948

     Two of the fugitives who escaped from the Farmington jail last Wednesday were recaptured last Thursday.  James L. Bishop of Joplin, who had been held on an auto theft charge, was arrested in a tavern at Mattoon, Ill.  Authorities said two more of the fugitives had been seen near Mattoon and were being sought.

     Michael T. Kittel, 20, was arrested at the home of his mother in St. Louis.

     Detective Sgt. Glenn Scism said Kittel told him that he and the other prisoners worked three weeks with pliers, spoons and tin cups in digging through the floor of the 80 year old jail.

     Kittel was held at Farmington on burglary and larceny charges.  


      I assume the remaining escapees were probably eventually captured, but I have, as yet, found no further follow-up articles on their status. If I come across anything further, it will be posted here.