Investigation Team: Dave Miller
Investigation Date: January 12, 2017         Lima, Ohio

Dillinger was transferred to from Dayton to Lima on September 28, 1933 where he was wanted for robbing the Citizens National Bank in nearby Bluffton. Dayton Detective Pfauhl warned Allen County Sheriff Jesse Sarber in Lima that Dillinger wasn’t an ordinary criminal and that his pals had broken out of an Indiana prison two weeks earlier. Sarber replied that “he was just another punk”.

On Oct. 12, 1933, Sheriff Sarber, Mrs. Sarber and a deputy had just finished supper and began reading the Lima News. Mrs. Sarber was a good cook and had just fed Dillinger and three other prisoners pork chops and mashed potatoes. The jail was a stone block wing at the rear of the Sheriff’s home on North Street across from the courthouse. Dillinger was in the cell playing Pinochle with the other prisoners. At 6:25pm three of Dillinger’s gang dressed in suits walked in. The men said they were state of Indiana officials coming to take custody of Dillinger. Sheriff Sarber asked to see their credentials. Gangster Harry Pierpoint pointed a gun and said “these are our credentials”. When Sarber reached for a gun, Pierpoint shot a bullet through Sarber’s left lung and began beating him to get the whereabouts of the cell key. Mrs. Sarber grabbed the keys from a drawer and gave them to Pierpoint. Dillinger was released. Mrs. Sarber and the deputy were locked in the cell. Sheriff Sarber died 90 minutes later. Dillinger and his gang eluded several police roadblocks and spent the night in Hamilton, Ohio eventually returning to Indiana where they continued their crime spree.

At the Allen County Museum in Lima where I visited is an exhibit showing Sheriff Sarber at his desk and John Dillinger in his cell. Photo’s of Sheriff Sarber, Dillinger and Dillinger’s gang that freed him are on exhibit. Many more photos show the gang members on trial after they were eventually caught. A display case holds Sheriff Sarber’s police hat and badge, a machine gun used during the court trials and several hand written notes signed by Dillinger asking for gum, snacks etc. It was a very informational exhibit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *