Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Neosho Bank Robbery

In my previous post about the Irish O'Malley gang's 1932 robbery of the Avilla (Mo.) bank, I mentioned that the gang later also robbed a bank at Neosho. The latter caper occurred on March 2, 1935. The men who pulled off the job were unidentified at the time but were later reported to be the O'Malley gang.
In the early morning of March 2, which was a Saturday, Leslie Cooper, janitor of the First National Bank of Neosho, was waylaid as he walked across the public square in Neosho and forced him to open the door to the bank on the south side of the square. From inside the building, the bandits "greeted" the bank's employees as the business opened for the day, tying them up and guarding them as they awaited the opening of the vault, which was controlled by a time lock.
The Joplin Globe reported the following day that the gang consisted of four or five bandits but that only three participated in the actual robbery, the others acting as lookouts or getaway drivers. Another report put the total number of gang members at seven or eight, and Leo O'Malley himself was supposedly one of the men who stood lookout outside the bank. No one was harmed during the holdup, but according to the Globe report, the bandits "used threatening language" toward the hostages. After securing between $8,000 and $18,000 in currency and negotiable bonds, the gang fled in two cars, one of which was reported to be a 1934 Chevrolet coach. The bandits went west out of Neosho before separating a short distance outside town and going in two different directions.
About three months after the Neosho caper, the O'Malley gang was broken up and most of the members arrested when they started ratting each other out after one or more of them were captured following a Fort Smith (Ark.) bank robbery. O'Malley was captured in Kansas City and extradited to Illinois on a prior kidnapping charge. Declared insane, he died there in 1944.
Sources: Joplin Globe, March 3, 1935 and Wes Franklin's "Our Gangster Connection" in January 5, 2013 Neosho Daily News.

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