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THE TRI-STATE TERROR
Real Name: Wilbur Underhill, Jr
Birth – Death: March 16th, 1901 – January 6th, 1934
Lore: Underhill is so overlooked today there are times when it seems like there IS no lore about him. That is good, actually, since rabid criminals like this don’t deserve the romanticized treatment they usually get.
Criminal Career: In 1918 Underhill was convicted of burgling the home of his family’s next-door neighbor in Joplin, MO and was sent to prison. He was released in 1922 and began robbing necking couples who were parked in cars, making him one of many “Lover’s Lane Bandits” across the country.
Underhill, still just a One State Terror at this point, was convicted of armed robbery after police decoys caught him one night in 1923 pulling off a Lover’s Lane holdup. Wilbur was sentenced to five years but was released on parole in 1926. He celebrated Christmas of 1926 by robbing an Oklahoma drug store with “Skeet” Akins and killing a 19 year old customer in the process.
Wilbur and Skeet (NOT a wacky Morning Zoo deejay team) were arrested January 7th, 1927 but escaped jail before they could be brought to trial. Sympathetic parties had smuggled hacksaws into the jail for Underhill and Akins, enabling that escape.
Skeet was soon recaptured then shot to death attempting to escape custody. Underhill remained on the loose, robbing an Oklahoma movie theater and killing a Deputy before being caught on March 20th. He began serving a life sentence for his latest crimes on June 3rd, 1927.
In 1931 Underhill celebrated Bastille Day by escaping from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Okay, I’m kidding, but his escape WAS on July 14th. Before the end of the month Wilbur officially became a Tri-State Terror by robbing a Kansas theater of $300 and stealing (some sources say buying) a new car.
A month-long spree of gas station holdups ended when Underhill crashed his new wheels during his getaway from one of the holdups. That led to an encounter with a local patrolman who got shot to death by the Tri-State Terror. Wilbur fled on foot and in a running (literally) gunfight with the cops a 12 year old boy was killed in the crossfire. Police fire wounded Underhill, bringing about his recapture.
On May 30th of 1933 the Tri-State Terror used smuggled weapons to escape Lansing State Prison. Escaping with him were many of the criminals who would form a gang led by Underhill and co-escapee Harvey Bailey.
By mid-June the Underhill/ Bailey gang robbed a bank in Black Rock, AR and were falsely implicated in the so-called Kansas City Massacre, often cited as one of the FBI’s many deceitful concoctions meant to cover up their own incompetence and/ or corruption.
(It was not until recent decades that additional evidence – reluctantly pried from the FBI itself – indicated that law enforcement may have accidentally shot their own men at the “Kansas City Massacre” but the FBI conveniently blamed the deaths on assorted criminals known to be at large, Underhill among them. Then as now, FBI apparently stood for “Fuggedda Bout Integrity.”)
Meanwhile, the Tri-State Terror and his gang spent over 6 months robbing banks in Kansas and Oklahoma, with time out for a Kentucky bank robbery as a “wedding gift” to Underhill’s new bride, Hazel Jarrett, sister of the infamous Jarrett Brothers.
On December 26th, 1933, a team of 24 police and federal agents surrounded the Shawnee, Oklahoma cottage where Underhill, Hazel, Ralph Roe and his girlfriend were hiding out. After a brutal exchange of gunfire in which the Tri-State Terror was wounded 5 times, he fled the vicinity and collapsed on a bed in a furniture store several blocks away, where he was soon arrested.
Hazel Underhill and Ralph Roe were also arrested, but Roe’s girlfriend was killed. Wilbur Underhill lingered, handcuffed to a hospital bed, until perishing from his wounds on January 6th, 1934.
MORE NON-DILLINGERS COMING SOON.
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