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Eleanor Berendt JARMAN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "The Blond Tigress"
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 4, 1933
Date of birth: 1904
Victim profile: Gustav Hoeh (clothing store owner)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Status: Sentenced to a 199-year prison term in 1933. Escaped on August 8, 1940. She never was caught
 
 
 
 
 
 

Eleanor Jarman (born 1904) was an American runaway, fugitive from justice, and robber who was jailed, escaped from jail in 1940, was placed on the FBI ten most wanted fugitives list, and remains missing.

Early life and crime career

Jarman was born to Julius and Amelia Berendt, the youngest of eight children, in Sioux City, Iowa. She married and had two children with a man called Leroy Jarman. When Jarman left the family, she moved to Chicago, Illinois and worked in odd jobs until she met George Dale. Dale supported her, although Jarman later claimed that she did not know Dale did it by robbery.

On August 4, 1933, Dale, Jarman and Leo Minneci tried to rob a clothing store in Chicago's far West Side. In a struggle with the shop owner, Gustav Hoeh, Jarman clawed at him, but then Dale shot him.

When the robbers drove away, several witnesses noted the license plate. That led police to Minneci, who blamed the other two, who were soon arrested. Dale blamed Minneci for the robbery. Jarman said that she did not know which one did it. She claimed she was in the back room looking for clothes.

However, witnesses described how Jarman and Dale had entered the store and claimed she had threatened the clerk. Press made her a major player in all of Dale's crimes, dubbed her “the Blond Tigress” and compared her to Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie and Clyde).

Jarman was not tried for robberies but for complicity in Hoeh's murder. Her defense attorney was A. Jefferson Schultze. The prosecuting attorney, Wilbur Crowley, called for the death penalty.

George Dale was sentenced to die in the electric chair. As his last wish, he wrote a love letter to Jarman. Minneci and Jarman were sentenced to jail, Jarman for 199 years, one of the longest criminal sentences ever imposed at the time. Her children were sent to live with her older sister and her husband, Hattie and Joe Stocker, in Sioux City, Iowa.

A model prisoner

For the next seven years, Jarman was a model prisoner. In 1940, according to her family, she heard that her son was about to run away, and concerned about her children, escaped the prison on August 8, 1940. She apparently went to Sioux City, Iowa, confirmed that her children were all right and then went underground. She was put into the FBI's Most Wanted list, but was never found.

The 1975 meeting

Over the next thirty-five years, Jarman maintained surreptitious contact with her family through classified ads. In 1975, she arranged a secret meeting with her brother and sister-in-law, Otto and Dorothy Berendt, and her son, Leroy, who was in his fifties at the time. During this meeting, which the family disclosed decades later, Leroy tried to persuade Jarman to give herself up. She refused, though she said she was not worried about capture, believing the authorities had long since stopped looking for her. Communications with her family through newspaper ads tapered off in the mid-1990s. Attempts by relatives to have her officially pardoned failed. Although she remains officially a fugitive, it is likely that she is dead and that her death was recorded under whatever alias she was using. As of 2012, if she were still alive, she would be 108 years old.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

Eleanor Jarman Please Phone Home

August 1933 was a bad time to be on trial in Chicago.

Following the shooting death of a policeman in a Cook County courtroom, the county’s chief judge, the Hon. John Prystalski, decided to vent his anger on the defendants who appeared in the dock. Prystalski ordered his fellow judges back from their summer vacations and they began to work their way through the court’s crowded docket with ruthless efficiency.

During the month of August, 232 defendants received long jail terms and two cop killers in unrelated cases were sentenced to death in one week. A third man was condemned later that month.

“Technicalities were pushed aside,” wrote The Edwardsville (Ill.) Intelligencer during the almost-unprecedented sessions. “In few cases have jury deliberations been more than a few hours, and in virtually every trial a guilty verdict has been returned.”

At the end of the month came the climactic trial that ended with a death sentence for one man and 199-year sentences for his two accomplices for the murder of a Chicago haberdasher.

In a city where traditional law enforcement had nearly broken down, the murder of 71-year-old Gustav Hoeh stood out only because one of the three defendants on trial had been dubbed “The Blonde Tigress” by the press.

The Blonde Tigress was 30-year-old Eleanor Jarman described as “cold as a block of ice” by police. She picked up her moniker because she was a vicious armed robber who travelled with a blackjack and revolver in her purse and was unafraid to use either.

Although Jarman appeared in contemporary news accounts to be an attractive, petite young woman, her victims said there was nothing gentle about her. According to the popular press at the time, Jarman was fond of pounding her victims on the head with either her blackjack or the butt of a pistol.

But violent women are nothing new. What makes Jarman’s story even more interesting is the fact that she escaped from the Joliet reformatory for women in 1940 and has not been heard from since. Born in the first decade of the 20th century, it’s extremely unlikely that Jarman is still alive, despite coming from a family that reportedly has a reputation for being long-lived.

Where she went and what ever became of Eleanor Jarman remains a mystery.

The saga of the Blonde Tigress began earlier in August 1933 when Jarman, her lover George Dale, and a third man, Leo Minneci, were headed to a Chicago Cubs game and decided to stop off on the way to rob Hoeh’s clothing store. The robbery went bad and Dale shot Hoeh.

According to testimony, while Hoeh lay dying, Jarman kicked him in the face. Arrested shortly after the murder, the trio denied planning to kill Hoeh, and Jarman asserted in her brief trial that she was completely unaware that Dale and Minneci were going to rob Hoeh’s store. Dale, however, said Jarman carried the murder weapon in her oversized purse.

Whil Jarman and her cohorts waited for their day in court, a parade of hold-up victims passed through their cellblocks and more than 50 identified the Blonde Tigress as robbing them.

She testified there were so many robberies that no particular hold-up stood out in her memory.

“It was fun and it was an easy way to get swell clothes and anything you wanted,” she told the jury at her trial.

Jarman came to Chicago from Sioux City, Iowa, after leaving her husband of six years whom she said was a “drunken lout.” She took her two children to Chicago where she ran a “beer flat” until beer was legalized as Prohibition was relaxed. With Dale and Minneci, she began to take up armed robbery.

At trial, Jarman’s only defense was that she didn’t know her companions planned the robbery of Hoeh’s store and that she didn’t fire the fatal shots. Her story was that she was elsewhere in the store — looking at neckties — when Dale shot Hoeh. Other testimony at the trial contradicts this, however. She was reportedly beating and “clawing” Hoeh when he was struck by the bullet and kicked him while he was down.

With so many victims willing to testify that the trio was responsible for sticking them up, it’s unlikely that Jarman didn’t know what Dale and Minneci were going to do when they entered that store.

In the swift justice of Chicago, Jarman was quickly convicted and the court sentenced her to a 199-year prison term. She was the first woman in Illinois to receive such a long sentence. The 199-year term was given to ensure that Jarman never get parole. Under state law at the time, prisoners were eligible for parole after serving one-third of their sentence. With a nearly sentence nearly 2 centuries long, she would not have been even eligible for release until she was 95 years old.

Minneci also received a 199-year term, but served a term of around 20 years before being released in the 1950s. Dale was sentenced to death and died in the electric chair April 20, 1934. One of Dale’s last acts was to write a love letter to Jarmon.

Jarmon was serving her term in Joliet and was known as “an industrious, obedient, and model woman in almost every respect,” according to warden Helen Hazard when she and another stick up artist, Mary Foster, disappeared from a cottage on prison grounds. Foster, a bank robber, was serving a 1-to-10 year stretch and was located in Massachusetts a few months later.

The pair had been scrubbing floors when they jimmied the cottage lock, stole dresses from the closet (the cabin belonged to a staff member) and scaled a 10-foot fence around the reformatory. They had a one-hour head start on jailers and Jarman hasn’t been seen since.

Actually, that’s not quite accurate. Over the years some people learned her real identity — mostly family members — and they protected her from authorities. Generally, they believed her claims that she was innocent of Hoeh’s murder.

“Jarman has served 7 years in jail for being with the wrong people at the wrong time,” her grandchildren wrote in a 1993 clemency petition to Gov. Jim Edgar. “She is and will in whatever time remains for her be an remain a good and completely rehabilitated citizen.”

Survivors of Gustav Hoeh, however, were unconvinced.

“In one respect I could understand their feeling,” said Hoeh’s grandson, Kenneth Hoeh. “I just as soon they leave alone what was left forgotten.”

Another grandson was equally unsympathetic.

“It was a vicious crime. As I understand the details, she played an active part,” Dan Hoeh told The Chicago Tribune. “Even if it had been a minor role, she would get no mercy from me.”

After his father, LeRoy died in 1993, her grandson, Doug Jarman, began a campaign to clear his grandmother’s name.

In numerous interviews, he said that a letter she sent during her incarceration, as well as conversations with people who knew her before her arrest, convinced him that she was innocent.

“‘I’m goig to be here the rest of my life. I’m never going to be with you,’” Doug Jarman quoted her as writing. “‘I always want you to know that I was innocent.’”

Shortly after her escape, according to a Jarman family legend, she appeared in Sioux City where her two sons, LaVerne and LeRoy, were living. She had received a letter days before that her sons were threatening to run away from their custodians. According to Hazard that was the reason she escaped.

After telling her boys to behave, she disappeared for 35 years, communicating through classified ads, but apparently “afraid of rejection” by her family. In 1975 she arranged for a meeting with her brother, Otto Berendt, and they went to a lake outside Sioux City to talk.

“She was relaxed and looked pretty good,” Berendt’s widow told The Chicago Tribune in 1993. “All she wanted to know was if her boys were OK. We told her they were grown men and doing good for themselves.”

LeRoy, who also saw his mother that night, pleaded with her to surface and straighten out her situation. To do so would have required her to return to Illinois, which she apparently declined to do despite her assumption that police had stopped looking for her years before.

By the mid-1990s, contact with Jarman through the newspapers tapered off and Doug Jarman began to attempt to locate his grandmother in midwest nursing homes. However, patient privacy rules made that extremely difficult.

Publically, her fate remains a mystery.

MarkGribben.com

 
 

The Tigress File

By John O'Brien - ChicagoTribune.com

June 27, 1993

In 1933, Eleanor Jarman was known as the "Blond Tigress," the most dangerous female outlaw alive. She escaped from prison in 1940 and has eluded police ever since. Her family thinks she may still be alive and wants to clear her name.

For more than 50 years, Eleanor Berendt Jarman has been a wanted woman, an escaped killer who has been lost in time and mystery.

Her grandchildren, who say longevity runs in the family, believe she might still be alive, living a fugitive's life at age 92. In a most unusual undertaking, they have asked Gov. Jim Edgar to grant their grandmother executive clemency. Alive or dead.

Ella Jarman was the notorious "Blond Tigress" of the 1930s, as newspapers gleefully dubbed her. She was convicted with two accomplices of murdering a Chicago clothier during a holdup on their way to a Cubs game.

Police condemned her as the most dangerous female outlaw alive. Newspaper photos were doctored to show her head pasted on the neck of a marauding jungle cat.

In 1940, while serving a 199-year prison sentence in the state reformatory for women at Dwight, Jarman donned a polka dot dress and scaled a prison wall. Since then, her whereabouts have been a mystery, to the law at least.

It was not until 1975 that anyone saw her again. Then she emerged from the shadows of a bus station in Sioux City, Iowa, immediately asked relatives about "my boys," two adult sons then in their 50s, and later met with one of them before leaving that same night. Raised in foster homes after she went to jail, the sons had settled in their native Sioux City.

Then Jarman disappeared again and may or may not have kept in touch with family members since, a subject the family steps gingerly around.

That was 18 years ago.

Today's fugitive apprehension squads have never heard of Ella Jarman, the FBI stopped looking for her in the 1950s and post offices around the country pulled her wanted poster from public display when stamps sold for pennies.

"I want to bring her out (of hiding) more than anybody else," said Doug Jarman, 45, the grandson and Sioux City businessman who believes she may be alive. He is leading the drive for clemency, aided by Chicago lawyer David P. Schippers. They hope to have her prison term commuted to time served.

"A lot of Ella's grandchildren and great-grandchildren would like to see her and touch her and know they have a grandmother who is alive," Jarman said. "I want her to sit on my lap so we can talk."

The request now goes to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, which will make its recommendation to Edgar. Diane Ford, counsel to the governor, said Friday that Edgar and will decide whether to commute Jarman's sentence after the review board submits its findings to him, which might not be until fall.

Ford acknowledged that the case is a novel one, for which no apparent precedent is known. If Jarman is alive but chooses not to surrender or make known her whereabouts, she and the board might be able to exchange information by sworn affidavit, Ford said. Jarman's behavior over the years will be a point of close scrutiny, she said.

The police never found Ella Jarman, but that's not to say the family has been totally in the dark about her life since the escape.

As it turns out, Jarman kept in touch in a way that didn't jeopardize her need for secrecy. If the method was a bit hokey, it was also reminiscent of an old-time movie thriller.

According to Doug Jarman, his father, LeRoy Jarman, and grandmother talked via classified, coded ads they placed in newspapers. It was a simple way to reach out with assurance the message would be delivered, effectively and inexpensively.

The ads, the grandson said, began appearing in the Kansas City Star and other newspapers after his grandmother's secret visit to Sioux City in 1975, where she related that she had never remarried after her escape and worked in restaurants to support herself.

The frequency of the messages isn't known. But simple phrases, such as "Let's Have Coffee," meant something to them, and no one else, Jarman said, adding he believes he knows the secret pseudonym his grandmother went by in the ads.

Whether Ella Jarman would welcome a reunion with family members remains unknown. Only a few of the people she knew are still around, among them a 98-year-old brother, Otto Berendt. He is in a nursing home.

LeRoy Jarman, 71, a retired Sioux City real estate broker and firefighter, died March 1. A brother, LaVerne Jarman, 67, is a recluse in Florida.

They were youngsters, aged 8 and 11, in Chicago in 1933 when the law went looking for their mother. Before her arrest for murder, she managed to get them back to Iowa.

LeRoy Jarman's death proved to be the catalyst for the family campaign now under way.

Although Doug Jarman wants clemency for his grandmother, he acknowledged that his father opposed the idea, right up to his death, for fear publicity might expose the family to ridicule, tarnish their businesses and lead to possible arrest.

Two of Doug Jarman's uncles on his mother's side, both police officers, had vowed to capture her and collect a reward. The amount or existence of a reward has also been obscured by time.

Still, the elder Jarman often spoke of the mother he barely knew.

"My dad led me to believe she is alive," Jarman, who operates a volume used car business in Sioux City, told the Tribune. "That's what I am relying on. I honestly, sincerely, seriously believe she is alive.

"Dad said that if anything happened to her, the people she was with, her friends, would contact this family. There has been no contact."

Doug Jarman also learned from his father that, as a woman on the lam, Ella Jarman worked as a restaurant "hostess" and avoided any connection to crime. Restaurant work enabled her to get paid in cash and not leave a Social Security paper trail.

Chicago authorities 60 years ago insisted Ella Jarman was a one-woman crime wave, "the moll" for a boyfriend who was put to death in Cook County's electric chair for the same murder she was imprisoned for.

But Jarman's family has long questioned that portrayal. Such an image, the family says, was a product of an overzealous and a sensation-seeking media.

As family members see it, Jarman may have been a victim of circumstances. Deserted by her husband in 1930, she found herself a single mother with two boys to care for in the depths of the Depression. From Sioux City, she traveled to Chicago looking for work. Instead, she found a sweetheart and a murder rap.

She was the daughter of immigrant German parents; a determined and sinewy gray-eyed woman who weighed no more than 110 pounds and spoke her mind. Before arriving in Chicago, she had washed laundry and worked as a waitress. The waitress job was in a rough-and-tumble cafe near the Sioux City stockyards.

Until now, the family Jarman left behind had disclaimed knowledge of her, much less any public interest in her whereabouts. To do otherwise, some relatives said, invited police and FBI interrogation. Such questioning had gone on at their jobs, schools and neighborhoods years ago, they said, and was intended to embarrass the family, to prompt someone to say what authorities wanted to hear. It never happened.

At the time of her prison escape, Ella Jarman was 39 years old. She had served 7 years of a 199-year sentence imposed on her as an accomplice to the 1933 fatal shooting of North Side clothier Gustav Hoeh.

Witnesses said Jarman pummeled and clawed Hoeh as her boyfriend, George Dale, first struggled and then shot the shopkeeper in a holdup.

Dale, convicted of actually pulling the trigger, was executed for Hoeh's murder the following year in the Cook County electric chair. One of his last acts was to send a letter to Jarman declaring his love.

A third suspect, Leo Minneci, also was sentenced to 199 years in prison. He was paroled in 1957.

Police said Jarman had carried the murder gun in her purse. All three suspects were implicated in a total of 37 holdups in the city during the summer of 1933. None of the trio, however, was actually convicted of any crime other than Hoeh's murder.

In the murder case, the petition to Edgar said, Jarman was "completely unaware" that any law was about to be broken.

It said she and her two companions were driving to Wrigley Field to see a Cubs game. The men had stopped to buy shirts and Jarman had walked to the back of the clothing shop to look at neckties for her sons. The sound of a scuffle and a shot were her first indications anything was wrong.

"Jarman has served 7 years in jail for being with the wrong people at the wrong time," Schippers, the Jarman family attorney, observed in the governor's petition.

"She has been effectively in exile, away from her family," he said. "She is and will in whatever time remains for her be and remain a good and completely rehabilitated citizen."

After Jarman's escape from prison, Dwight warden Helen Hazard disclosed a possible motive: Jarman's concern for her sons.

Only days before the escape, Hazard said, Jarman got a letter from a relative back in Sioux City informing her that her boys had run away or were threatening to do so.

According to a family story handed down over the years, Jarman came to Sioux City after her escape to check on her sons. Satisfied they were behaving, she departed the city, never to return until 1975.

No one knows why she stayed away 35 years. Doug Jarman says his father told him the reason was a "fear of rejection."

Dorothy Berendt, the wife of Ella's brother Otto, was among the last to see Ella Jarman, during the 1975 visit to Sioux City. Dorothy is 93, a year older than Ella.

In an interview at her Sioux City home, Dorothy Berendt told of accompanying her husband to the 1975 meeting with Jarman; then driving out to talk at a small lake.

"I was looking around the bus station for her because that is where she said on the phone she would be," Berendt said of her sister-in-law.

"A voice in the shadows said, `Are you looking for somebody?' I said I was, and the voice replied, `Could be me you are looking for."'

That's when Ella Jarman stepped forward.

"She was relaxed and looked pretty good," Berendt said of her sister-in-law. "Still the same woman I had known. We got in the car and Otto drove out to Isaac Walton (lake) to talk. All she wanted to know was if her boys were OK. We told her they were grown men, and doing good for themselves."

During the lakeside chat a police car appeared, its driver looking over the trio, the only people around. Otto and Dorothy Berendt stiffened but Ella Jarman "didn't blink an eye."

"She said, `Relax. The police stopped looking for me years ago.' "

That night Ella ate dinner at a drugstore and then met with her son, LeRoy Jarman. Doug Jarman, quoting his father, told what happened next.

"Dad told me he said, `Mother, let's get in my car right now, go to Illinois and straighten this out.' "

The grandson said that when she refused, his father, then 53, wept openly. Again quoting his father, he said Ella Jarman told her son, "I have a lot of friends where I am at. They know the true story."

Ella Jarman was not one for long goodbyes, and did not want anyone to accompany her on her way out of town. Their last view was of Ella walking rapidly in the direction of the Greyhound bus station.

"I don't think she wanted us to know what bus she was taking or where it was going," Dorothy Berendt said.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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