The escape of Everett Crum

Pat Haley - Contributing columnist

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series.

Every summer night after family dinner, a little after seven o’clock, a ritual took place at our home. My dad, Bob Haley, would reach on top of the kitchen refrigerator and turn on the little red Arvin radio to listen to Waite Hoyt and Jack Moran announce the Cincinnati Reds game.

Without fail, my dad would quickly shake his hand, like a man shaking a tambourine, after receiving a slight electrical shock from the tiny radio.

My brother, Jack, and I often wondered why dad was shocked, since we didn’t remember the radio ever shocking us.

Years later we found the answer. We had taken the radio to a vintage radio repair shop in Springboro. The repairman plugged the radio in and quickly shook his hand just like our dad did years ago.

Quietly, the man lit a Camel cigarette, folded his arms, and took a long drag. He held the smoke in as long as he could. Finally, he slowly exhaled. “You boys are lucky you weren’t electrocuted,” the man said, sagging back into his chair. “How long has the radio been shocking you?” he asked.

“About fifty years, I guess,” I replied.

He shook his head and took a long look out the window at the traffic on SR 741 before speaking again.

“OkK,” he said at last. “I can’t make this radio safe. I suggest you throw it away. Someone could get seriously hurt.”

Jack and I took the radio home and decided we would not tempt electrocution. I cut the wire and placed it on a shelf in the garage, where it still sits today.

“I wonder where Dad bought that radio?” I asked Jack.

“He got it at Cussins and Fearn,” Jack answered.

The Cussins & Fearn Company operated a line of hardware stores throughout Ohio for many years. The Wilmington store was located at 1085 W. Main St. across from Gate Two of the Clinton County Fairgrounds. An Auto Value Parts store is located at that location now.

The old hardware store sold Whitehouse appliances, gas stoves, wringer washers, vacuum cleaners, and Arvin radios.

But from December 1 until December 25, the shelves became magical. Row after row of toys lined the shelves — the largest selection of playthings any kid could hope to see. Every year our dad would take us to the store to “look around” and we would spend hours walking the aisles, dreaming.

A couple months after Christmas — Friday, February 12, 1960 — a breaking and entering occurred at the store. The bandit had broken a restroom window in the back and made entry.

The intruder attempted to open the company safe, but failed after clumsily knocking off the door handle.

Within a few hours, a suspect was jailed on “suspicion” of breaking and entering. The suspect was described as 5 foot, 9 inches tall, and 165 pounds. He was wearing black horn-rimmed glasses and a left glass eye that made him look cross-eyed at the time of his arrest. He was dressed in black trousers, red cap, and five-buckle overshoes.

His name was Everett D. Crum.

On the morning of February 18, 1960, Crum had a visitor to his cellblock at the old City Hall Police Department. It was Crum’s 16 year-old sister, who had walked away from the West Union Children’s Home approximately eight months earlier. She had been working as a waitress in the Wilmington area.

Police Officer Harry Jones was working that morning. Jones was one of the finest officers to ever pin on a badge in the City of Wilmington. Harry was smart, dedicated and professional.

Officer Jones started work on the day shift at 7 a.m. At shift change he was told an arrest had been made in the Cussins & Fearn break-in, and he was asked to photograph and fingerprint the suspect later that morning.

At approximately 9:40 a.m., Officer Jones walked back to the tiny cell to begin processing the prisoner.

“Mr. Crum, we need to take a couple of pictures and fingerprint you this morning,” Officer Jones said to Crum.

“Sure. Come on in,” Everett Crum replied.

“Put your hands up or I will shoot you,” Crum told Jones when he approached the cell.

Crum pointed the smuggled gun, which appeared to be either a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson, or an automatic, directly at Jones’ chest.

Harry opened the cell door and Crum, age 32 at the time, grabbed the officer’s gun. He told Officer Jones to sit down on the bench or he would shoot him.

Harry complied. Crum locked Jones inside the cell and fled out a side door onto the yard of the Quaker Church.

A car was stopped at the traffic light at Mulberry and Locust Streets. Crum pointed the gun through the window at the driver, the Reverend Kenneth Santee, pastor of the Cuba Friends Church.

Unfortunately, Santee’s son, Stephen, age 4, and his nephew, Jerry, age 5, were in the front seat, too.

Crum jumped into the back seat and ordered the minister to drive west. They passed Van’s Dairy Crest, Swindler’s and the old Wilmington High School.

At that point, Crum told Santee to stop the vehicle, and for him and the boys to get out of the car. Crum then roared out of town at a high rate of speed.

Crum, a construction worker from Bainbridge, but who recently had been living in a trailer and working at the old Clinton County Air Force Base, then had a stolen car and two loaded .38 caliber revolvers in his possession.

As 200 law enforcement officers from four local counties would later discover, Everett Crum was a force to be reckoned with.

To be continued next week …

Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner and former Clinton County Sheriff.

Pat Haley

Contributing columnist