Kansas City and the Pendergast Legend by: William M. Reddig
Frank Nash and Harvey Bailey belonged to that weird company of public enemies that included
Fred (Killer) Burke, Machine Gun Kelly, Wilbur Underbill, Charles (Pretty Boy) 'Floyd, Adam Richetti and
Verne C. Miller. They were boys from the farms, small towns and cities of the Middle West, adventurous
spirits of an unsettled time. Floyd, Nash and Richetti came from Oklahoma, Underbill from Missouri. Miller
had been a sheriff at Huron, South Dakota. Bailey was a farm boy from Sullivan County, Missouri. He hid
Killer Burke on his mother's farm after the St. Valentine's Day massacre in Chicago in 1929, in which
Burke was one of the machine gunners, Burke was captured on the Bailey farm after he was identified
by a filling station operator from a picture of the killer in a detective magazine. * ,These dangerous men
were not identified with a city gang but moved over a large section of the country, demanding and
receiving protection from the underworld wherever they operated. At the time of his arrest in Kansas City,
Bailey was working in a large band that roved between St. Paul, Chicago, Kansas City and Hot Springs,
Arkansas, Individually the gunmen, bandits, kidnapers and killers of the road dwarfed the city type of
gangster, and their collective operations were beginning to make the fratricidal wars of the city gangs
look like a minor disturbance. They worked individually, in teams and in family groups, as with Ma Barker
and her fearful brood. They robbed and killed with their women. Clyde Barrow and his cigar-smoking,
pistol-packing mama, Bonnie Parker, fought their way out of a trap near Kansas City not long before they
were killed together in 1934 in a crime tour that took them over several states of the Middle West and
South. The gun moll was a familiar figure in the police showup (as Kansas City calls the line-up).
These men and women of old American stock made it all too clear that the lawless revival was not
confined to the congested centers where the foreign-born were segregated. They also made it clear that
crime had passed beyond the stage of local or state problem and had become a national peril.
As you read the below account of the KC Massacre, keep in mind that Adam Richetti was tried,
convicted, and sentenced to death for the murder of KC Police Officer Frank Hermanson. Adam was
executed on Oct 7th,1938
Here's what the Sisters of Adam Richetti, Minnie and Eva had to say: "The boys just got involved with
some very bad people."
Here's what the Nephew of Charles Floyd, Jim Lessley had to say: "He had a good heart, and just got
mixed up with the wrong people."
On June 7, 1933 Richetti and Floyd steal a Pontiac Coupe from a school teacher in Cromwell,
Oklahoma. By June 16th, Richetti and Floyd abandon the car in Bolivar Missouri at the Bitzer Garage
where Richetti's brother Joe is employed as a mechanic. They take Joe's car, transfer some personal
effects and a foot locker of personal belongings and weapons and kidnap the town Sheriff Jack
Killingsworth and use him as a hostage and guide to Kansas City, Mo. Arriving in Deepwater, Missouri
they commandeer another car belonging to Walter Griffith. Now with two hostages they head towards
While Adam and Charles are en route to Kansas City, there is a collaboration of Kansas City local
mobsters and friends. Many phone calls are made; (Richard Galantas, Herbert Farmer, Esther Farmer,
Louis (Doc) Stacci, Frank “Fritz” Mulloy, Mrs Frank Nash, and Vivian Mathis) to effect the rescue of their
friend and one of their own, Frank “Jelly” Nash .Now a Federal prisoner after being captured by the
FBI in Hot Springs Arkansas early in the day of June 16th. Frank Nash is in custody en route to
Leavenworth Prison via train to Union Station. Additional phone calls are made throughout the day to
Verne Miller so that he can make arrangements to do the rescue attempt at Union Station.
At 5:00pm that afternoon of June 16th, Vi Mathis received a call at home from Fritz Mulloy wanting to
get in touch with Verne Miller. Fritz ask to have Verne call him back right away. Vi calls the Milburne Golf
Glub and leaves a message for Verne, known at the club as Mr White to call home. An hour or so later
Verne arrived home for dinner and tells Vi that their friend Frank Nash had been picked up in Hot Springs.
Around 9:00pm that night as Vi was putting her daughter to bed Verne left the house and headed to the
Horseshoe Tavern owned by Frank “Fritz” Mulloy. Verne makes several phone calls while there and puts
out the word he needs some assistance. Later that evening around 10:17pm Vi received a phone call
from Esther Farmer who was in Joplin, Missouri asking for Verne. Esther then left a message with Vi
which said; tell Verne “that party” left Ft Smith at 9:15pm.
Around 10:45 Adam and Charles arrived in Kansas City, and release Sheriff Killingsworth and Walter
Griffith. Floyd makes contact with the local gang and makes their presence known. During the hour and
a half or so between the time when Richetti and Floyd arrived in Kansas City from their kidnapping trip,
Verne Miller had left the Horseshoe Tavern and headed to Union Station. While there he makes a call
to Mrs. Nash a few minutes after midnight. Verne tells her she would see her husband again and
discusses various rendezvous points where she could be reached.
Once Floyd and Richetti made contact, Fritz Mulloy gets in touch with Mike Pitts, who has a close
relationship with Rose Baird and has them pick up Floyd and Richetti taking them to Miller's residence.
Richetti and Floyd arrived at Verne Miller's residence at 6612 Edgevale Rd, Kansas City, Mo where Miller
and his wife Vi Mathis had been living under the alias of V.C. Moore sometime after midnight.
On June 17, Frank Nash was escorted off the train by 7 law enforcement officials through Union Station
out to the parking lot. The Head of the FBI's Kansas City Office, R.E. Vetterli together with
FBI Special Agent Ray Caffery, FBI Agents F.J. Lackey and Frank Smith, and Chief Otto Reed, Chief of
Police of McAlester, Oklahoma, William Grooms and Frank Hermanson of the KC Police Department.
Approximately 07:15am Agent Caffrey seats Nash in the front seat driver’s side, this allowed the front
seat on the passenger side to be flipped forward so that 2 FBI Agents Lackey, Smith, and Chief Reed
could enter the back seat. Officers Hermanson and Grooms stood beside the front passenger fender,
as well as SAC Reed Vetterli.
As Agent Caffrey came around the front of the car making his way back to the driver's side door, Miller,
Floyd, and Richetti appeared from beside an adjacent vehicle. Miller peering up over the hood of the
adjacent car, next to where Officers Hermanson and Grooms were standing, shouts “Up, Up Get Em Up”,
and demands Nash, while Richetti and Floyd are moving around the passenger side of the adjacent car
towards the rear of the officer’s car. At the first inclination of trouble, Agent Lackey sitting directly behind
the prisoner began to pull up the shotgun he was carrying to defend themselves. In that instant the
shotgun loaded with buckshot goes off killing Frank Nash sitting in front of him, also blowing out the front
window as well as striking Agent Raymond Caffrey in the head, fatally wounding him. As soon as the first
shot went off one of the gunmen yells: “Let em have it”. Agent Lackey still sitting in the back seat trying
to defend themselves from the shooters pulls the shotgun around to the right and fires another shot out
the passenger side door hitting Frank Hermanson in the head, killing him instantly. In a matter of
seconds 3 are dead from the shotgun blasts.
The gunmen started firing at the right front of the car where Verne Miller was standing (passenger side
fender). Richetti and Floyd while proceeding around the passenger side of the adjacent car at a fast
pace began firing into Agent Caffrey’s car. They continued to circle the Officer’s car firing indiscriminately.
Officer Grooms was the next and 4th killed falling on top of Officer Hermanson where they had stood
at the right front fender. SAC Reed Vetterli, unarmed, was wounded in the arm, he had been standing
near Officers Grooms and Hermanson and had ducked down against the adjacent car and avoided being
in the line of fire. When the opportunity arose SAC Vetterli then runs off to the main entrance of Union
Station. Chief Otto Reed was the 5th shot and killed, he was sitting in the rear seat passenger side.
Agent Smith sat in the middle of the rear seat and had ducked to avoid the shotgun blast while
Agent Lackey fired, Smith was wounded in the back as Floyd followed by Richetti continued to circle
behind the car firing. Agent Lackey sitting in the rear seat, driver’s side was then wounded in the back.
As Floyd rounded the car, he approached the driver's side door, pulled a shotgun out of the car, and said;
"They are all dead". In less than 45 seconds, 5 are dead and 3 were wounded. Killed by probable friendly
fire were Agent Raymond Caffrey, KC Police Officer Frank Hermanson, and the prisoner
Frank “Jelly” Nash. Killed by the gunmen are, KC Police Officer William Grooms, OK Police Chief Otto
Reed. Wounded were SAC Reed Vetterli and Agents Frank Smith and Joe Lackey.
Following the shooting at Union Station that morning of June 17th Verne Miller, Charles Floyd, and Adam
Richetti returned to the Miller residence around 9am. Verne awakened his wife and told her that
Fritz Mulloy would be by soon to take her and her daughter to the Mulloy Residence. Sometime later that
morning Verne phone’s the Mulloy residence and asks Vi to return home without her daughter.
Vi catches a cab and on the way home from the Mulloy’s hears the news of the shooting at Union Station
that morning. Returning home Vi finds Verne and two other men whom she later identified as
Charles Floyd and Adam Richetti. Floyd had been resting in her daughter's bed nursing a minor wound
in the left shoulder which didn't seem severe enough to have it treated. Vi notices that Verne had a small
wound to his right little finger. Later that day, Verne tells Vi that he, Floyd, and Richetti had used his
Chevrolet Sedan in making the trip to and from Union Station early that morning to get Frank and that
there had been some shooting and Frank had been killed. Vi had said that Verne was visibly shaken.
Floyd and Richetti had remained in the bedroom for the remainder of the day with the exception of
Richetti who came out from time to time for coffe. Vi served coffee to Floyd a couple of times throughout
the day. Sometime after dark around 7:30pm Miller left the house and walked 5.5 miles to Union Station
where he met John Lazia and Charlie "Wopp" Corella at the restaurant in Union Station. They held a
private discussion within a few hundred feet of the scene of the massacre that morning as Miller
described the events. Miller then arranged through Lazia help in aiding Floyd and Richetti. After Miller
returned about an hour later, Charlie “Wopp” Corella showed up at the Miller residence, as he walks onto
the front porch Verne tells Vi to move to the bedroom. After a brief exchange with Floyd and Richetti
discussing Floyd's ability to travel, Charlie “Wopp” Corella tells Floyd and Richetti that they will hide
them out in the Italian sector of the City for a few days for safe keeping until things cool down. Floyd and
Richetti loaded their effects into the awaiting car and in 20 minutes were gone. They stayed for a few
days in Kansas City before moving on to more familiar territory back in Oklahoma.
HERE'S WHAT THE STATE & FBI SAY:
STATE: It was proven by the State that Richetti and Floyd had been in communication with Miller and
joined the conspiracy. Richetti had admitted that he and Floyd had come to Kansas City about ten-forty-
five o'clock the night before the massacre at the end of a flight across parts of Missouri and Kansas in
which they had kidnapped Sheriff Killingsworth of Polk County and Walter L. Griffith of Clinton. The State
also proved there was a close underworld friendship between Verne Miller, his wife Vi and Frank Nash
and his wife . In an FBI interview dated Sept 30, 1934 Verne Miller's paramour Via Mathis states that on
June 17, 1933 that sometime during the day Verne remarked that he and Floyd and Richetti had used
his Chevrolet in making the trip to and from Union Station. Sometime after dark Verne had left the
house by himself. He was gone for about an hour. When he returned someone walked onto the porch.
Vi had remained in the bedroom about twenty minutes and when she came out into the living room
Floyd and Richetti were gone.
STATE: Richard Galantas, Herbert Farmer, Esther Farmer, Louis "Doc" Stacci, Frank “Fritz” Mulloy,
Mrs Frank Nash, and Vivian Mathis . Eventually all of the conspirators are identified tried and found guilty
of the attempted rescue of Frank Nash. In addition Mrs. Frank Nash, and Vivian Mathis (Verne Miller's
paramour) were charged. Mrs Nash testified for the government in return for her freedom. Vivian Mathis
plead guilty. The conspirators were indicted by a Federal Grand Jury at Kansas City, Missouri, on
October 24, 1934 and convicted on Jan 4th 1935.
STATE: It was proven by the State that Richetti and Floyd had been in communication with Miller and
joined the conspiracy. Richetti had admitted that he and Floyd had come to Kansas City about
ten-forty-five o'clock the night before the massacre at the end of a flight across parts of Missouri and
Kansas in which they had kidnapped Sheriff Killingsworth of Polk County and Walter L. Griffith of Clinton.
The State also proved there was a close underworld friendship between Verne Miller, his wife Vi and
Frank Nash and his wife .
FBI: In an FBI interview dated Sept 30, 1934 Verne Miller's paramour Via Mathis states that on June 17,
1933 that sometime during the day Verne remarked that he and Floyd and Richetti had used his
Chevrolet in making the trip to and from Union Station. Sometime after dark Verne had left the house by
himself. He was gone for about an hour. When he returned someone walked onto the porch. Vi had
remained in the bedroom for about twenty minutes and when she came out into the living room Floyd and
Richetti were gone.
STATE: According to the testimony of those employed or present in the immediate area of Union Station
say that there were at least 3 shooters. Trial testimony of Eyewitness's and descriptions are somewhat
vague but consistent in identifying Verne Miller, Charles Floyd, and Adam Richetti. While the identifying
testimony of Mrs. West and Agent Lackey is somewhat contradictory — and contradicted — and while
they doubtless were excited when they witnessed the massacre, that does not make their testimony
incompetent or incredible. During the trial, Verne Miller, Charles Floyd and Adam Richetti were identified
by eyewitnesses: Miller, by Federal agent Smith; Floyd, by agent Vetterli and Mrs. Lottie West, a social
worker for the Travel Aid Society at Union Station; and Richetti by Mrs. West and Agent Lackey. Adam
Richetti had denied that he was in Kansas City "the morning day or night of Saturday, June 17, 1933," the
date of the massacre, and also denied that he had been at Union Station any time that day. That was all
of his testimony; he did not say where he was during this time. Sheriff Bash of Jackson County testified
that Richetti told him he came to Kansas City the evening of June 16 and left some time the middle of the
night or early morning, and that he was not in the city before or after these hours. Agent Lackey was
seated on the west side or driver’s side back seat of the officers' car. He saw one gunman standing
behind the next car west with a gun with a vertical grip pointed at them, and another man going north
from that point until he got to the back of the car.
The back windows of this adjacent car were up but the front windows were partly down. Through
them he could see the man's head and the part of his torso above the car body but not his hands or
weapons. His view necessarily was brief. Mr. Lackey said the man wore a brown coat, felt hat with turned
down narrow brim, and was dark complexioned; he gave an estimate of his height and weight which
checked pretty closely with that of Richetti; and he identified that man as Richetti. Richetti and Floyd had
three pistols and a machine gun on the kidnapping trip according to the testimony of Killingsworth. They
used the same number and kind of firearms in the massacre the next day — Mrs. West said Richetti had
two pistols, and the defense witness Parman saw a man in the position where Mrs. West placed Floyd
firing a machine gun and a pistol. Richetti and Floyd had three pistols and a machine gun on the
kidnapping trip according to the testimony of Killingsworth. Sixteen months later when the law overtook
the two fugitives in Ohio they still had three pistols and a machine gun. One of these pistols, Exhibit 8,
and the machine gun, Exhibit 7, were definitely identified by Sheriff Killingsworth as being among those
in the possession of the outlaws on the kidnapping trip. The machine gun was substantially identified by
Agent Vetterli as one he saw Floyd shooting in the massacre. Ballistic evidence connected the pistol
Exhibit 8 with the massacre. Trial and FBI files indicate there was ballistic evidence tending to prove that
an automatic pistol which Floyd had on the kidnapping trip and at the time of his death was used in the
massacre. Both these firearms were admitted in evidence along with a pistol which was found on Floyd's
body. But there was no ballistic or other evidence connecting the latter two weapons with the massacre.
This evidence taken together warrants an inference that the same three pistols and machine gun were
used on all three occasions by the known possessors thereof, Richetti and Floyd; and strengthens the
testimony of the State's witnesses identifying them as participants in the massacre.
The foregoing conclusion is based on the theory that the three pistols Exhibits 8, 9, and 10, all were used
in the massacre. While they were offered in evidence below, they have not been brought up to this court
for our inspection. Mrs.West testified one of the pistols she saw appellant using appeared in the sunlight
to be nickel plated. If she meant to affirm as a fact that it was nickel plated and neither of the three
exhibits is, our theory would fall. But even so, we still think the pistol Exhibit 10 taken from Floyd's body
was properly admitted in evidence against appellant.
STATE/FBI; Trial testimony and FBI documents indicate that twelve days after the massacre a Federal
agent and finger print expert, John E. Brennen, with other officers searched the vacant residence at 6612
Edgevale Ave in Kansas City where Verne Miller, one of the gunmen, had resided for over two months
before and several days after the homicides. They found two beer bottles with latent finger prints thereon
which became visible when dusted with powder. This had some tendency to prove that Richetti during the
night of June 16 had been at the residence of Verne Miller, one of the killers. The bottles were
photographed in the presence of Mr. Brennen who found them, on the same day, and they and the
negatives were marked by him. He identified them at the trial, and said the finger prints were still on the
FBI files indicate that by midsummer of 1933 the FBI suspects John Lazia’s rumored involvement in the
Kansas City Massacre. John Lazia is killed in July 1934. Verne Miller, Charles Floyd, and Adam
Richetti are implicated in an Aug 1934 FBI interview with Jimmy "The Needle" LaCapra. LaCapra
implicates his under boss John Lazia's involvement. Lazia had described how Floyd and Richetti became
involved with Miller and how they did the shooting. Lazia had taken Floyd and Richetti to the outskirts of
town after the shooting where they hid out for an unknown time.