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    True Crime History: The Strange Murder Of Corrupt Journalist Jake Lingle

    "A tall man with blond hair walked up behind Lingle and fired a bullet at the back of his head..."

    If you're someone who enjoys true crime stories — aka a human with a pulse — then you've come to the right place. Today we're going to look at a crime from Capone-era Chicago that took place in June 1930. So lock the doors, pull up a chair, and let's talk about...

    This week in true crime: the mysterious mob murder of Jake Lingle

    On the early afternoon of June 9, 1930, Chicago Tribune journalist Alfred "Jake" Lingle was gunned down in Chicago with a .38-caliber firearm.

    New York Daily News Archive / NY Daily News via Getty Images

    Here's a photo of Lingle's body, lying in the passenger tunnel of the Illinois Central Railroad just after his murder.

    There were reportedly "numerous" witnesses to Lingle's murder...

    A huge crowd of people gather outside the spot where Lingle was shot
    Chicago History Museum / Getty Images

    According to the Tribune-Star, a witness had said that "a tall man with blond hair walked up behind Lingle and fired a bullet at the back of his head. After pausing a moment over the body, the assailant dropped his weapon — a .38 revolver — and fled, accompanied by at least one accomplice."

    ...and it was a dramatic scene that sounded like something straight out of a movie. (The Untouchables, anyone?)

    The body of Albert Jake Lingle being placed in an ambulance following his fatal shooting
    Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

    "The men first ran back through the tunnel together. Then, suddenly, the gunman reversed his direction, ran past Lingle’s lifeless body, leaped over a railing, and exited onto Michigan Ave. Several bystanders pursued the hitman before he disappeared into an alley," the same article continued.

    Now, it's important to note that Lingle was no stranger to the infamous 1930s Chicago mobster scene. In fact, he'd conducted several interviews with Al Capone in jail.

    A mug shot of Al Capone
    Santi Visalli / Getty Images

    Apparently, Capone even referred to him as "my good friend." As you can imagine, this was probably a pretty questionable thing to be called back in 1930.

    However, Lingle's ties to gangsters were not known to the public...until after his death. In fact, before his underworld connections came to light, his murder was called an "assassination" and was big national news at the time.

    Front page of a newspaper from 1930 of Lingle's funeral announcement
    Chicago Tribune / Via

    Lingle's funeral was reportedly grand, "with marching bands and a legion of police and military personnel in parade dress."

    The Tribune, Chicago Press Club, and Chicago Evening Post all offered rewards — totaling $40,000 — to find the journalist's killers.

    Front page of Chicago Tribune June 10, 1930, with $30,000 reward for Lingle's assassin
    Chicago Tribune / Via

    The WEIRD thing was, Lingle wasn't a particularly famous reporter or, realistically, anyone whose death would call for a "funeral usually reserved for royalty." So why the big fanfare?

    Orion Pictures / IFC / Via

    Well, it turns out that Lingle was something of a crook himself and had deeper ties to crime than anyone (publicly) realized.

    I forgot to tell you, but apparently Lingle was wearing a diamond-studded belt — a gift from Capone — when he was gunned down. So, yeah, RED FLAG.

    According to the Tribune, Lingle made $65 a week as a reporter. But somehow, after a little over two years, he was able to put away $63,000 in the bank.

    Lingle as a journalist in a newsroom
    Chicago Tribune / Via

    A photo of Lingle inside the newsroom.

    He reportedly lived with his family "in a suite with a million-dollar view of Lake Michigan at the posh Hotel Stevens on Michigan Ave., vacationed in Havana, and owned a weekend home near the water east of Chicago in Michigan City, Indiana." Not exactly the kind of lifestyle you'd expect from your average low-level newspaper reporter.

    So WHY was Lingle murdered?

    CBC / Via

    It's a little complicated, but the gist is that he was — ~SHOCKER~ — involved with racketeering. And it eventually came back to get him.

    This was not an uncommon practice for reporters, police officers, and politicians throughout the city in that era.

    An article in the Indianapolis Times from July 10, 1930, had actually reported that Lingle was "known among gangsters as the unofficial police chief of Chicago." And Chicago's actual police chief at the time, William F. Russell, was one of Lingle's best friends.

    Indianapolis Times / Via

    In the aftermath, Harry Brundidge, a reporter for the St. Louis Star, discovered that Lingle had been partners with Russell in a stock market account that apparently lost $150,000 over three years.

    He also unearthed $85,000 in checks written to Lingle from various people or "benefactors."

    According to the Daily News, "There was $5,000 each from an alderman, the mayor's spokesman, and the city's civil service czar, $30,000 from the publisher of a racetrack newspaper, and $2,000 from the top banana of Capone's gambling rackets."

    And he discovered that Capone had "tossed in" a diamond-studded belt buckle for Lingle. YUP. The same buckle he was wearing when he was murdered.

    Basically, Lingle and Russell were in on these crimes together. Mobsters would pay them to go about their business without punishment, and cops would pay them for promotions.

    Major A.V. Dalrymple, associated with Prohibition, and an unidentified man sorting through a storage house in Chicago in 1920
    Chicago Sun-Times / Chicago History Museum / Getty Images

    (Note: The image above isn't of Lingle; it's just a generic photo of two men sorting through a Prohibition-era storage house.)

    And that wasn't just it. It turned out that Lingle was involved with everything from horse racing, gambling, and even "setting the price of beer" in Chicago.

    Within 24 hours of Lingle's fatal shooting, a man named Joe Traum was apprehended (among many others).

    Traum and his brother were known criminals, having been tried for violating the National Prohibition Act, as well as being suspects in a past murder.

    And not long after that, a man named Frank Bell was caught by police on June 30, 1930, after robbing a radio shop. He confessed to many alleged crimes and later, on Oct. 4, testified that he "drove the car which delivered Lingle’s murderers to the crime scene." One of those people was Traum.

    A page from the Chicago Daily Tribune with the headline "Frank Bell and His 'Confession' in Lingle Case"
    Chicago Tribune / Via

    Here's Bell's paraphrased testimony from Time magazine's Oct. 30, 1930, issue:

    I was hired by Joe Traum, Indiana and Kentucky gangster, and Richard Michael Sullivan, who was a friend of mine. I drove them in a stolen car to the Illinois Central pedestrian subway. There they were joined by a blond man whose name I never knew. These three killed Jake Lingle. I think the blond man fired the shot. They were acting for Christ Patras ... who represented Jack Zuta. 

    Jack Zuta (pictured below) was a Chicago "North Side" gangster and Capone rival. After Bell's testimony, he was pegged for arranging the murder of Lingle. Zuta was supposedly "outraged when Lingle demanded $15,000 for a blessing on his backroom casino."

    Jack Zuta wearing a three-piece suit, sitting in a chair, and holding a cigarette
    Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

    Zuta was interrogated but was eventually released. After the interrogation, a police officer gave Zuta a ride from the station "for safety," but the vehicle was gunned down. Zuta survived and fled to Wisconsin. A month later, he was shot to death. His murder was never solved.

    But who was this mysterious "blond man," the man who witnesses said murdered Lingle and who Bell said fired the shot?

    20th Century Fox / Via

    It's, again, a somewhat complicated answer. Basically, some weeks later, authorities got a tip that someone going by the name of "Buster" had shot Lingle. Investigators eventually traced a wiretapped call to a hotel and arrested this supposed "Buster," who turned out to be a man named Leo V. Brothers.

    Brothers supposedly matched the description of the gunman — tall, with wavy blonde hair — and also had quite the crime record. He was eventually tried and convicted for Lingle's murder.

    Still, it remains questionable if Brothers truly was the shooter. There have been theories that Capone himself set up Brothers to take the blame, just to "smooth public outrage and deflect police scrutiny."

    In fact, Brothers' conviction "rested solely on eyewitnesses."

    A newspaper column with the headline "Jury Deliberates on Lingle Murder"
    The New York Times / Via

    According to Chicago Magazine, "Seven individuals took the stand and identified Brothers as the man seen fleeing the scene of the murder. The defense responded with seven who said he wasn’t. Brothers himself never testified."

    The jury found Brothers guilty of murder but only gave him the minimum sentence of 14 years in prison (signaling that it was kind of a "compromise" verdict). Brothers was freed after just eight years.

    Over 90 years later, the truth behind Lingle's very public murder remains a mystery — did Zuta truly order the hit? Was Brothers actually the blonde shooter? Or did Capone orchestrate the whole thing?

    Chicago Tribune / Via, Ullstein Bild Dtl. / ullstein bild via Getty Images

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