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Crime Scenes: John Dillinger's Indiana Exploits

Editor’s Note, March 27, 2013: This article originally appeared in the July 2004 issue of IM alongside this feature story. In 2009, actor Johnny Depp played Dillinger in the movie Public Enemies, about the Indiana desperado’s notorious Depression-era crime spree. Earlier this month, the Indianapolis International Airport announced plans to display Dillinger’s 1933 Essex Terraplane.

1. Indianapolis. Dillinger was born on the near-eastside in 1903. A stone wall is all that’s left of the homestead.

2. Mooresville. The Dillinger family relocated to a farm on the outskirts of town in 1920. The house remains, but the farm is long gone.

3. Martinsville. In 1924, before going to prison, Dillinger spent time in the Morgan Country Jail. The building is now an antiques, gifts, and tea shop.

4. Michigan City. In 1929, Dillinger transferred to the state penitentiary, purportedly to play on the baseball team, and remained there until 1933. Later that year, he helped organize a jailbreak for his former fellow inmates.

5. Daleville. In 1933, Dillinger robbed his first bank: the Commercial Bank of Daleville, which now stands empty.

6. Indianapolis. Dillinger’s only known bank robbery in the state capital occurred in 1933 at the Massachusetts Avenue State Bank, now home to an art gallery.

7. East Chicago. In 1934, Dillinger’s gang robbed the First National Bank and Trust Co., and Dillinger allegedly killed a police officer. The building, which still houses a bank, and its elaborate neoclassical interior have changed little since the ’30s.

8. Crown Point. In 1934, Dillinger escaped from the Lake County Jail, reportedly using a fake wooden gun; the building is currently under renovation. Next door, the old Criminal Courts Building, where Dillinger was arraigned, houses a bar, banquet facility, restaurant and offices.

This article appeared alongside the feature story “Our Gangster” in the July 2004 issue. Click here to read it.

Since first joining Indianapolis Monthly in 2000, West has written about a wide range of subjects including crime, history, arts and entertainment, pop culture, politics, and food. His feature stories have twice been noted in the Best American Sports Writing anthology and have received top honors from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “The Collapse,” West’s account of the 2011 Indiana State Fair tragedy, was a 2013 National City and Regional Magazine Awards finalist in the category of Best Reporting. He lives on the near-east side.