There are only a handful of references to "Handsome Jack" Klutas on the internet. He was portrayed by Terry Leonard, in the movie "Dillinger" back in the '70s. In real life he is said to have been "large in stature" and very handsome. He came from a very respectable, midwestern family, who tried to give him a college education. The University of Illinois in Champaign verifies that John Edward Klutas was a student in 1923, but he never received a degree in anything. His education was cut short and rendered useless by his chosen life of crime.
His connections with the Chicago Crime World are numerous. He had connections with Dillinger of course and he was also with a group of professional kidnappers, most likely the leader, who were called "The College Kidnappers" their specialty was kidnapping family members of other criminals. I have to wonder if this group wasn't formed while he was still in college, hence the name they gave themselves. In Chicago in 1933 the “Handsome Jack Klutas” case raised a new question of the possibility of changing finger prints and facial contours so as to defeat the arms of justice by making identification difficult and we soon learn that Jack was one of the first to try this procedure. His life was short - he lived just 34 years, when he was gunned down in a Cook County gun battle with the Bellwood Police Department. His family must have claimed his body for he is buried in the Lyndon Twp. Cemetery, Whiteside county Illinois next to his mother Ida E. (May) Klutas.
An inquiry from Eric Rotondo, asking me to verify the burial place of "Handsome Jack", started me on this challenge of digging up some facts and stories about John Klutas. Below are the few items of interest I was able to find.
From the 1900 - 1930 Census of Lyndon Twp. Whiteside Co IL, we find that John Klutas was the son of William and Ida E. Klutas. His father William was born in Germany in July 1856 and his mother was born in Iowa in 1862. William and Ida must have married in Iowa - their first child Fred, was born there, then the rest were all born in IL. The children, with birth years, listed in the home were - Fred L. 1883; Edith 1885; Ethel 1889; Alice 1891; James H. 1893; Harriet Effie 1897; John (Jack) 1900 and Ida Lucille 1904. An apparent separation occurs between the parent by 1930.. The father, William is found to be living in the home of his daughter Ethel Coats, while the mother Ida is found to be living in the home of another daughter Edith Vaughn as is the younger sister Ida Lucille. By this time brother Fred is living in Iowa and brother James has moved to Buffalo NY.
Russell Hughes Shot To Death In Peoria.
Peoria IL - Nov. 13, 1933: Russell Hughes, reputed confederate of Jack Klutas, who is one of the midwest's most notorious criminals, was shot and killed today in a gun duel with detectives. Two detectives were wounded. The gun battle occurred shortly before noon when Detective Chief Fred Montgomery and Detective Robert Moran shot it out with Hughes. Physicians said Hughes wounded both officers seriously before he was himself killed. Klutas is reputed leader of a kidnap ring that operated so extensively in the midwest that ransoms were estimated at more than one half million dollars. Three alleged members of the gang are under arrest in Chicago but search still is in progess for Klutas and others. [13 Nov 1933 - Fitchburg Sentinel - Fitchburg Mass.]
Peoria IL, Nov. 13, 1933 - Russell Hughes 35, was shot and killed in a barber shop today by police seeking to question him about the operations of "handsome' Jack Klutas half million dollar kidnapping gang. Police said Hughes was an intimate friend of Klutas and other members of a syndicate that is charged with kidnapping a dozen wealthy gamblers of Chicago and other Illinois cities. They indicated he might have been a member of the gang. Two police detectives were wounded in the fight. [13 Nov 1933 - Fitchburg Sentinel - Fitchburg Mass.]
Chicago - Nov 12, 1933; "Handsome Jack" Klutas university graduate and reputed head of a kidnap band that is accused of collecting a half million dollars in ransom, today was blamed by authorities here for the abduction of Brooke L. Hart of San Jose CA. Klutas recently was in CA said an attache of the states attorney's office assigned to investigate the gang and Tia Juana long has been one of his hangouts. I am convinced he had a hand in the CA abduction. Federal State and County officials in the midwest have for years been searching for Klutas, Mal Coughlan assistant D.A. said. The gang supposedly is blamed for the kidnaping of James Hackett, Blue Island gambler and a dozen others. The genius of the gang is obscure. Klutas, said to be a member of a respectable midwest family is about 35 years old, a graduate of a midwest university. He gathered around him several others, some of them also university men, and supposedly started out in the alchol business in the hey-day of prohibition. [13 November 1933, Helena Independent (Helena Montana)]
Handsome Jack Klutas, branded collegiate leader of the kidnap ring which has extorted nearly $500,000 ransom loot from wealthy midwest gamblers and bootleggers, is the target of a search in and near Chicago where he is reported hiding. [16 November 1933 -- Edwardsville Intelligencer]
Chicago Nov. 20, 1933 - The possibility that scientific enemies of society have, in some cases succeeded in eliminating finger prints caused speculation today in law enforcment circles. Mal Coghlan, asst. States Atty. said stories had come to him that "Handsome Jack" Klutas, leader of the gang, had had his finger prints changed.and his visage which is responsible for his nickname marred to make identification difficult. [21 November 1933 - Helena Independent]
Peoria IL Nov. 24, 1933 - John "Handsome Jack" Klutas, suspected kidnapper and killer, has been named in indictments charging him with counterfeiting, it was learned today. A grand jury indicted Klutas with five other men. It is alledged the suspects manufactured and distributed many thousands of dollars worth of spurious $5 bills. Others charged with counterfeiting in addition to Klutas are Rex Howard, Peoria business man, George Milligan, former State Highway engineer, Peoria and Howard Minnima, alias Robert J. Turner, Frank Lauer and Leo Trant, Chicagoans. [24 Nov 1933 Edwardsville Intelligencer]
These four desparados are the immediate target of a state federal drive, national in scope, to exterminate a desparate gang, the united remnant of five shattered outlaw bands. Left to right they are John Dillinger, freed from Lima Ohio jail by killing the sheriff; Charles Connors, Touhy contact man; Basil Banghart, southwestern outlaw; and John Klutas, Illinois "College Gang" Leader. Dillinger is believed to be chief of the crime merger. [21 Dec 1933 Edwardsville Intelligencer]
Chicago Jan 6, 1934 - Handsome Jack Klutas leader of a widely sought midwest kidnap band was shot and killed in a police trap today at a surburban apartment where he had been living under the guise of a secret service operative. Five persons were apprehended and taken into headquarters from Bellwood where the trap was laid. Klutas fell in a barrage of police bullets when he attempted to dash for freedom from the apartment which had been under surveilance of states attorney police for ten days. Today police received definite word that Klutas was in the apartment. A squad under Lt. Frank Johnson sent to the house and fast arrested two men who, states attorney Thomas J. Courtney said revealed details of the gang leaders hideout. Other members deployed about the building. Finally Klutas and two others came out. Johnson yelled at him to surrender. In reply, Klutas' pistol barked. Johnsons squad opened fire and Klutas fell with bullets splattered through his body. Inside, police found a quantity of tear gas bombs, weapons and other materials. The shooting occurred across the street from the home of Police Chief Henry Eggebrecht of Bellwood. Klutas, to explain his sudden comings and goings had told his landlord that he was a government secret service agent. Two of those arrested at the place were identified as Adolphe Anzone wanted in WI for bank robbery and Paul Stroud. Police were uncertain as to their connection or those of the others with the slain gangster. The slaying of Klutas climaxed a seven year search for the former University of Illinois student. who left the campus to head the notorious "collegiate band" named in nearly a dozen kidnappings. Klutas was described as one of the smartest gangsters in the nation.
Three members of the gang previously apprehended are due to appear in court next week for their participation in the abduction of James Hackett, Blue Island Gangster. Another associate Russel Hughes was was slain two months ago in Peoria, Klutas original home. Two other members of the gang Eddie Wagner and Eddie LaRue were scheduled to go on trial Monday for the Hackett kidnapping. They have not been captured. A quiet campaign by police resulted in the apprehension of Frank Soudere, Benton IL, Julian Jones of St. Charles and Gale Swolley of Peoria some months ago. They were held in private imprisonment and one finally "talked". He described several many operations of the gang including that of William Urban the gangs first kidnapping in Peoria on through the abduction of James Ward, of Hackett their # 3, and revealed that the brother - in - law of a nationally known politician also was on their roster. Jones had pleaded guilty to the 2nd kidnapping of Hackett for which the gang was paid $1500 and will receive a separate trial from his confederates. For others they would ask the death penalty. H acketts first kidnapping in May 1931 brought, according to reports, a command from the then acknowledged overlord of Chicago's underworld, Al Capone, that the abductors release him. But the Klutas gang ignored the command until the ransom of $75,000 was paid. After his associates' arrest, Klutas fled, leaving no apparant trail until a few days ago. [7 Jan 1934 Helena Independent]
Pals of Slain Klutas Held in Bonds of $50,000
Earl McMahon, alias James Glennon and Adolph Anzone, who were seized last Saturday when police raided a bungalow at 619 South 24th avenue, Bellwood, and killed Theodore [Handsome Jack] Klutas, leader of the kidnaping gang, were arraigned yesterday before Police magistrate James McBride in Bellwood. McMahon was charged with possessing a machine gun. He had one of the two weapons stolen Nov 22, 1933, from the office of Sheriff Lester Tiffany of Lake county. Anzone, who was Klutas' chauffeur, was charged with the possession of a concealed weapon. Police found a revolver in a false radio control box attached to the steering post in his automobile. Bonds were set at $50,000 each. Their arraignment followed the filing of an application for a writ of habeas corpus in an attempt to effect the release of Anzone. The petition was filed before Superior Judge Francis B. Allegretti, who set the hearing on the writ for 10 o'clock this morning. Magistrate McBride set the hearing on the charges before him for 1 o'clock this afternoon. The prisoners were returned to the detective bureau, where they have been held since their arrest. [Chicago Daily Tribune, Thursday January 11, 1934; tr. by KT]
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