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Fred "Killer" Burke
Frederick "Killer" Burke
His real name was Thomas Camp. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Wall Camp.
He was born 1893 in Mapleton,Kansas. He was part of a family of eight children.
He grew up in Mapleton and attended school in which he was exceedingly intelligent.
He also attended Sunday school regularly.
On the 5th of June 1925, the City of St. Louis police dept. Arrested Fred Burke along with his brothers in arms Gus Winkeler and Milford Jones.All were found to be carrying an arsenal of weapons.After being chased by police, the gangsters threw weapons out the windows of their vehicles.One Smith and Wesson revolver, .38 Caliber fully loaded, Two .45 Caliber Automatics and in a leather handbag they found a fully loaded Waffenbrak Mauser .30 Caliber (German machinegun).
Burke was a traveling bankrobber / hitman who would do anything if the price was right. Killers to many, but to Winkeler, Harvey Baily and othe gangster friends, Burke was a funny bear like friend who like to goof around and have a couple of beers.
Not so in the news. After His participation in The St. Valentine's day massacre.
Burke was hiding out everywhere trying not to be noticed.
December 14,1929 a Ford driven by a farmer by the name of George Kool was struck by another car attempting to pass him in St. Joseph, Michigan. Kool's fender was damaged and Kool approached the driver demanding payment for it. An arguement ensued and patrol officer by the name of Charles Skelly approached the scene. Burke fled the scene. Officer Skelly jumped on Kool's running board and signalled him to follow Burke. Burke picked up his revolver and fired three times at Officer Skelly. Skelly later died on the operating table. Burke fled South on Highway 12. His car was later found in a ditch after striking a telephone pole near St. Joseph. From the car's registration papers,it was learned that the vehicle belonged to Fred Dane an alleged "Oilman" who lived with his wife in a bungalow near St. Joseph. The Berrien county sheriff raided the place ,but Dane wasn't there. Pretending to be Burke's wife, Mrs. Viola Dane professed to know nothing of her husbands' business or whereabouts.
Viola Brenneman, Burke's woman friend.
She was lying as a verification of her background showed she had earlier been a underworld character. At first police believed her to be Mattie Howard, the underworld bandit who had killed a man.They later discounted this assumption after her name and i.d. proved her to be Viola Brenneman. She had married and later divorced a man named Brenneman from Kankakee in 1912-13 and had a 15 year old child from him. Her maiden name was Ostrowski and she used the alias of Daniels. She was in fact a criminal buddy and love interest of Burke.Police charged her on Dec.14 with receiving stolen property. In the house they found Burke's arsenal of two Thompson submachine guns (one model 21AC and one model 21A).
The serial number for these guns were Model 21 AC =S.N.7580
and Model 21A S.N. 2347
Two "C" Drums along with a half a dozen "L" drums were found.Boxes totaling 900 rounds of .45 ACP ammo was there along with a high powered rifle, two sawed off shotguns,several pistols,assorted ammunition,and several bullet proof vests.Also in the cache was found stolen bonds totaling $319,850 .These were stolen in a robbery back in Nov.7,1929. His laundry markings had the initials of FRB.The police now knew that Fred Dane was in actuality Fred"Killer" Burke who was wanted all over the country.The Thompsons were tested for ballistics by expert Calvin Goddard.The guns proved to be used in the Valentine Massacre and in the killing of Frankie Yale in New York on July 1,1928.The original owners of the guns were also traced.One was purchased by Deputy Sheriff Leslie Farmer (Marion ,Illinois) who had ties with Egan's Rats.The other Thompson was traced to gangland arms dealer Russell Thompson who went by the real name of Frank Thompson (Elgin,Illinois). Frank Thompson had purchased it from one Peter Von Frantzius who was known to supplied guns to gangsters in Chicago.
Killer Burke remained on the lam for another year with rewards totalling $100,000
Burke was finally apprehended from a tip by an amateur detective who recognized him from a True Detective Mysteries magazine. Burke was now married to a woman by the name of Bonnie Porter and he himself had been living under the alias of Richard F. White. On March 26,1931 in Green City he was arrested at his father in law's home without a shot being fired. He was extradited to Michigan (No death Penalty) for the murder of Officer Skelly. He pleaded guilty and received life imprisonment at the Michigan State Penitentiary. Fred Burke died on July 10, 1940 of a massive heart atack. He had been diabetic for some years. His death made sure he evaded trial for the murders of the seven in the 2122 North Clark garage. Both of Burke's Valentine massacre Tommy guns and his bullet proof vest are in posession of the Berrien County Sheriff's Office.
Mugshot of Fred Burke.
What went wrong with him?
Here is a list of crimes attributed to Mr. Burke.
MURDERS: Shot Frank Wright, Isaac Reisfeld and William Harrison all at once in Detroit March of 1927.(Part of a Purple Gang hit known as the Milaflores Apartment Massacre).
Frank Marlowe and Frankie Uale(Yale) New York 1928(Presumed as bullets were proven from machinegun found in Burke's posession at the time of arrest.This gun also proved through ballistics to have been used in Chicago's Valentine Massacre .
Thomas Bonner, Hess Lake, Michigan 1930.
St. Valentine massacre of Peter and Frank Gusenberg, Johnnie May, Adam Heyer, James Clark, Dr. Rienhart Schwimmer and Al Weinshank,Chicago, 1929
Killed Officer Charles Skelly,St Joseph,Michigan Dec.14,1929.(This done to avoid being prosecuted in Chicago for massacre murders).
A bank Cashier in Louisville ,Kentucky.
A woman in Columbia City ,Indiana Bank Robbery 1929.
A policeman slain during a hold-up in Toledo. Patrolman George Zientara 16 April 1928.
Bullets fired from Burke's confiscated machinegun matched perfectly with slugs removed from Frankie Yale's body. Also noteworthy Burke was the only man identified by his missing tooth.One of the fake cops leaving 2122 North Clark steet was identified as having Burke's build and possibly missing a front tooth.
Other crimes include :Wounding of a woman and a sheriff during a bank hold-up;
Robbery of Merchants Trust Company,Patterson,N.J. ;Jewel Robberies in Detroit and Los Angeles;
Robbery of the Farmers' and Merchants bank,Jefferson, Wis.; Bank robberies at Peru, Indiana; Cadillac, Michigan,;Cincinnati and Hamilton, Ohio.
Fred Burke and his cohorts were evolved from Egan Rats and Cuckoos gangs in St. Louis.
He befriended many a robber and gangster along his criminal carreer.
Gus Winkeler, Harvey Bailey, Fred Goetz, The Purple gang etc....
He was a bankrobber and a killer for hire.
He was employed along with Winkeler and Goetz as Al Capone's American boys.
They were paid a couple a thousand per week plus expenses to kill and muscle for the Chicago mob.When Al Capone went to prison most of them were in turn exterminated on orders from Frank Nitti who dispised the
American boys and was beginning to worry of their growing power in the Chicago mob. The American boys were uncontrollable cold blooded killers.
A Photo showing the many different appearances of Fred Burke.
House in Stevensville, Michigan used by Burke under the alias Fred Stevens.
He hid out here for awhile after the St.Valentine's day Massacre in 1929. It was in this home that the thompson machine guns used in the St. Valentines massacre were found. The house is still around today.
House in Stevensville,Michigan used by Burke under the alias Fred Stevens.
He hid out here for awhile after the St.Valentine's day Massacre in 1929.
(Photo courtesy of historian / author Chriss Lyon)
The old Burke house today.
(Photo courtesy of historian / author Chriss Lyon)
Front view shows that it's now a Coldwell Banker.
(Photo courtesy of historian / author Chriss Lyon)
The house where Burke was put under arrest. (Green City, Missouri)
He though the arresting officers were gangland hitmen sent to kill him.
Huge arsenal of weapons including St. Valentine's massacre machineguns found in Burke's Home.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Bill Helmer)
Burke recovered bullet mounted in frame.
(Mario Gomes collection)
Actual bullet taken from Burke's arms cache
(Special thanks to Mr. Bill Helmer who made this possible).
U.S. Cartridge Co. 17
Poor Mrs. Burke being questioned by Harry Ditchburne(Assitant States attorney Cook County, Illinois, H. Thurman Chief of Detectives Kansas and Assistant States attorney Walter Butler of Cook County. She had no clue who she had married.
Burke's boyhood farmhouse in Mapleton Kansas where he grew up. After his mom died he turned to crime.
Burke's wife Bonnie Porter. She married Burke in 1930 and only knew him as Richard F. White, a business man that travelled often.
Burke's wife, Bonnie Porter (Bonnie White, aka Bernice Burke) would later make an appearance for the inquest into Gus Winkeler's murder in 1933.
She had also saved Georgette Winkeler from attempted suicide.
Courageous Officer Charles Skalay killed by Burke after he was approched by Skalay for committing a hit and run.
Officer Charles Skalay (often referred to as Skelly). He was shot and killed by Burke during a traffic violation (hit and run).This was probably done on purpose by a paranoid Burke who was feeling the pressure of the law and mob closing in on him.This killing prevented him from being extradited to Chicago for the massacre killings which was a death sentence. Instead Burke received life in prison in Marquette for Skalay's murder.
Officer Skalay's funeral. The hunt for Burke was on.
Officer Skalay laid to rest. Note the name on stone spells his real and correct name of Skalay.
Officer Skalay's stone today at Crystal Springs cemetary in Benton Harbour Michigan.
A brave man who died so needlessly.
(Photo courtesy of historian and author Chriss Lyon)
Close up of headstone.
(Photo courtesy of historian and author Chriss Lyon)
A jovial Burke happy to be arrested. He first thought the arresting police where hitmen sent to shut him up.
Burke at police station covering his face.
Police with weapons found.
Police officers who nabbed Burke.
Burke in custody at police station.
Fred Burke died in prison an obese diabetic in 1940.
Some Info and photos taken from True Detective magazine. Other Info taken from Rick Mattix and William J. Helmer's Public Enemies. Special thanks to Chriss Lyon and the Berrien County Sheriff's department.
First Posted June 2007
New upcoming book!
To be released in late 2013
A KILLING IN CAPONE’S PLAYGROUND: THE TRUE STORY OF THE HUNT FOR THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN ALIVE
By author Chriss Lyon
“Bloody Chicago” was the name given to America’s most corrupt city after the grotesque scene that left seven humans embedded into masonry walls and oil-slickened concrete. Two Thompson submachine guns did the majority of the damage but the masterminds behind the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre escaped. Ten months later on December 14, 1929, St. Joseph, Michigan Police Officer Charles Skelly working a routine traffic crash came face to face with a killer. Shots were fired, the assailant escaped and the dying Officer Skelly identified his murderer before taking his last breath. The trail led to a home in Stevensville, Michigan where authorities found an arsenal of weaponry, over $300,000 worth of stolen bonds, bulletproof vests, and two Thompson submachine guns. The hideout belonged to Fred Burke, a highly sought suspect in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and now the most wanted man in the nation.
The “backwash of bloody Chicago” had made its way into the rural neighborhoods of Southwestern Michigan and Northern Indiana. Citizens who turned a blind eye to crime, helped create “Capone’s Playground,” an environment abundant in all that is illegal and immoral.
Using never before published police reports, interviews with family members of key witnesses, and leading experts, historian Chriss Lyon establishes the foundation for what would develop as a haven for gangsters from the onset of the Prohibition Era through to the mid-twentieth century, while revealing new information about the eventual capture of notorious gangster Fred “Killer” Burke.
Contact the author at email@example.com