Joe Richetti was born on 22 Mar 1899, in Freemont County, Rockvale, Colorado. He was the oldest of 6 Richetti
children. Little is known about Joe's young life other than he grew up with the 3 older DeMatte children by his
mother's first marriage. Joe eventually married Bess (Lillian Mae) Warren on 22 Dec 1919 in Broken Arrow
Oklahoma. The couple moved from Pennsylvania in 1925 after a mining accident that caused him to lose his
left leg. They eventually settled in Bolivar Missouri settling at 304 Summit Rd. Joe used his talents for
tinkering with engines & welding skills to help earn extra money until he eventually found full-time employment
as a mechanic at the Bitzer Chevrolet garage in Bolivar, Missouri. Joe and Bess had two children, Warren F,
and Betty F.
Joe had been involved with his youngest brother Adam on more than one occasion, most often not by choice.
On January 12, 1933 Adam along with Aussie Elliot whom he had met while in McAlester State Penn, John L.
Moore, and Edgar Dunbar robbed the bank near Springfield, Missouri of $4,000. They eventually ended up at
Joe's place over night where Adam gave his brother $300 of the robbery money..
The most noted involvement in the small town of Bolivar, Mo., came on June 16, 1933. Joe's brother Adam and
his partner Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd had stolen a car on June 8th from the Excelsior school district, four miles
north of Cromwell, Oklahoma. By the time they arrived in Bolivar at Earnest Bitzer's Garage where Joe worked
the 1933 Pontiac Coupe was in tow and in need of repair.
After Adam and Charles greeted Joe and talking for a while to Mr. Bitzer, Joe began to work on the car. Sheriff
Killingsworth had parked his car about a half a block from the Bitzer garage that morning leaving his weapons
behind. Between 7:10 and 7:15 he had entered the garage with the intent of having some work done on his car.
As he walked into the garage he saw the manager . Ernest Bitzer talking to an individual that the Sheriff didn't
know at the time but was to later identify as Charles Floyd. Adam familiar with the sheriff from previous visits to
Bolivar became alarmed when he spotted Jack Killingsworth giving Floyd the once over, Adam reached into the
Pontiac and brought out a handy submachine gun that had been hidden beneath a blanket on the back seat.
"That's the law", Adam shouted to Charles Floyd. Adam then waved the weapon at the sheriff and the others.
"Line up against that wall. If you try to get away, we will kill you." Adam herded the three mechanics and three
salesmen into a corner.
Then he turned the gun toward the sheriff, but Joe jumped in front of Jack Killingsworth. "If you're going to
shoot the sheriff, you'll have to shoot me first," Joe told his brother. Adam had been drinking early that morning
and at this time told Joe to let the Sheriff leave. As Killingsworth was about to step out the door, Floyd yelled,
"Take one more step and I'll kill you." Angry and confused Adam cursed and threatened the terrified men until
Charles Floyd quieted him down. It had taken them about 30 minutes to figure out what they were going to do
and at 7:45 with Charles Floyd standing guard, Adam wanting to getaway quickly, was about to steal the
Sheriff's car when he noticed his brother's new 1933, cream colored, Chevrolet, 4 door sedan just across the
street. Adam decided the newer car would make a better escape vehicle. After filling the tank at the dealership,
Floyd forced the Sheriff into the front seat at the point of a machine gun, and got in the back on the passenger
side. Once inside the car Adam began to drive and had asked the Sheriff, "You know the road out of here, get
us out of here." the Sheriff had then asked, "Where do you want to go?", Floyd and Adam had told him Kansas
City, and then the Sheriff told them, "Turn north."
Shortly thereafter other law enforcement personnel interviewed Joe Ricchetti, and he confirmed that his brother
Adam and his partner Charles Floyd had kidnapped the Sheriff and stolen his car. He was torn by mixed
emotion, and regret that his brother had been involved in such a ruthless affair, and fear that his brother would
be killed. He had also urged everyone else in the garage not to talk to freely as he was fearful that Adam and
his partner would come back.
Eventually when the press found out about this they wanted to interview Joe, and he refused to mention a word
about this. Later on when the press had gathered to take a picture of everyone involved in the Bitzer garage
that day, Joe also refused to be a part of that picture. He told the members of the press that even if they laid a
$1,000 bill on the table for him, he still would not do it.
The town of Bolivar was in an uproar. Over 300, many local law enforcement officers gathered a large posse
and chased after the men that had kidnapped their sheriff. Jack Killingsworth's wife was in a panic, and awaiting
any news. She lived by the telephone. Joe Ricchetti remained silent, and alone. He was fearful of his brothers
actions, and ashamed for what his brother had done. Sheriff Curtis telephoned the municipal airport and
enlisted C.R. Downing and George Prescott of the Ozark Airways in an air search. Detectives Oren Brown and
Tom Persell accompanied them in their plane in a search that took them to Seldalia.
Meanwhile back at the Bitzer Garage, the sleek 1933 Pontiac coupe which the pair had left behind was
spattered with mud, as if it had traveled through back roads at high speed and a front fender was dented. The
coupe bore Oklahoma license plates no. 154-637, and in a baggage compartment officers found hidden
another pair of plates, Oklahoma, no. 106-637. Rewards totaling approximately $6000 have been posted in
Oklahoma, Missouri and Ohio for Floyds's and Richetti's capture, dead or alive.
During the next couple of years Joe continued to keep his family focused on their normal daily routine despite
the notoriety and distraction his brother had created. Joe had tried to help his younger sister Eva during her
time of need also. He had been in touch with his brother's and sister's in Oklahoma and Ohio trying to keep
tabs on Adam and his exploits. During the first part of August 1934 Special Agents returned to Bolivar to
interview Sheriff Jack Killingsworth regarding Joe and his relationship with his brother Adam and Floyd. On 11
Aug 1934, special agents HE Andersen and VF Toslnor interviewed Sheriff Jack Killingsworth about 6 miles
west of Bolivar, Missouri regarding his relationship with Floyd and Adam. Sheriff Killingsworth requested the
meeting outside of town fearing that the town was so small that everyone would know what was going on if the
agents came into town. He also requested of the agents not to interview anyone else in town as that would
create further speculation as to what was going on. The agents questioned the Sheriff why he had informed
the press that Floyd was a perfect gentleman and why he did not report his release by Adam and Floyd
promptly to authorities but only to his wife at the time. He relayed to the agents that because of his personal
fears and the consequences to his family that may happen from Adam's kinfolk in town taking retaliation caused
him to be guarded.
He also filled the agents in on Joe Richetti, that he was employed in the Chevrolet garage in Bolivar and that he
is regarded as a good citizen and that he is positive that Joe was aware of the whereabouts of Adam and Floyd
at all times. Jack also cautioned the agents that it would be to no avail to interview Joe as he himself has never
been able to secure any information from him directly.
The Sheriff then relayed that there was a man in Bolivar who does furnish information to him and upon whom
he could rely upon and has been very friendly with Joe and his wife Bess, especially close with Joe's wife.
During the first week of August 1934 Joe had returned from a visit with his sister Eva at Seminole, Oklahoma
and that apparently while at Seminole, Oklahoma, Joe had received information from his sister Eva that his wife
and her gentleman friend had been together at Seminole having a good time together. Joe returned to Bolivar
and according to information which had come to the Sheriff, Joe had accused his wife of infidelity and late in the
night, while greatly enraged, told his wife that he was going to Kansas City to get Adam and Floyd in order that
they might kill the supposed paramour. According to the Sheriff, Joe's wife stopped him and then told this
information to her male friend who in turn relayed this to Sheriff Killingsworth. It was then that Joe had invited
Sheriff Killingsworth to travel to Kansas City to meet up with the "boys". The informant who was a truck driver
was out of town at the time in Memphis, Tennesee.
Sheriff Killingsworth also informed the agents that Joe Richetti had recently approached him asking that he
accompany Joe to Oklahoma on a visit. Joe informed him that the "boys" had some money they wanted to give
him and that Adam and Floyd desired to return to Bolivar. Sheriff Killingsworth advised Joe that he did not want
any money belonging to Floyd and Adam and was at a loss to understand why they should desire to give him
any. Sheriff Killingsworth then advised Joe that he could pass the word on that Floyd and Adam should stay
away from Bolivar and he wanted nothing to do with them and that he was not interested in the apprehension of
either of them.
Shortly after the above interview the FBI had placed surveillance on him in order to find out his brother's
Once Adam had been captured and sentenced to prison Joe visited him from time to time throughout those few
brief years. On October 5th 1938, Joe and his brother Dave had visited Adam for the last time. The next day
he was scheduled to be executed During Adam's execution Joe and Dave spent the night in town. They did
not attend nor witness the execution as Adam had requested that they not be present.
Joe and Dave claimed Adam's body which was returned to Bolivar, Missouri, under the supervision of the Polk
County Sheriff, Harry D. Butler, and the funeral director of the Butler Funeral Home, Mr. Willard B. Erwin. There
in the Butler Funeral Home services were held with Joe Richetti presiding. Adam Richetti was buried at the
Greenwood Cemetery in Bolivar, Missouri on October 10, 1938. The funeral was attended by over three
thousand people. His small, nondescript tombstone, rests alone, the adjoining plots remain empty to this day.
Joe Richetti listed Adam's occupation as a mechanic on the funeral record.
Joe's life had been painfully impacted by his younger brother Adam. Joe died in Oct. 1978, and is buried at the
Cochrans Grove Cemetery, Windsor Shelby, IL Bess Warren Ricchetti born May 30, 1906, died Aug 6 1961 at
55 years old. She is buried at the Cummings Cemetary in Maud, Oklahoma.
Joe and Bess's children went on to have successful careers and families. Warren F. Ricchetti was born in 1927
and went on to graduate from the University of Oklahoma in 1960. He received his Doctorate in
Anatomic/Clinical Pathology medicine and was certified by the American Board of Pathology.. After a successful
career Warren passed away in 1991 at age 64. Betty went on teaching at Jefferson Junior High School in
Mattoon, Illinois for 25 years. . Surviving her are children in the Robertson and Bridges families. Betty was born
on Mar 14, 1926 and died Jan 30, 2008. She is buried at Cochrans Grove Cemetery, Windsor, IL
|Left: Stolen Car Floyd and Adam left behind. Right Scene at Bitzer's Garage.