Thursday, April 21, 2016

Killer Roams Norwalk – April 1926 – Part 1

Occasionally, I like to let my Lorain County nostalgia blog drift into other nearby counties.

This is one of those times. The destination: Norwalk, in Huron County.

Why? Because I have a certain affection for Norwalk. It’s where my Great-grandfather Brady moved to from Mansfield. My grandfather was born and raised there, too. He left Norwalk to come to Lorain.

Plus, Norwalk is such a charming town – full of wonderful Victorian homes and throwback businesses, as well as a classic, old-time Downtown that I’m rather jealous of.

But I’m afraid that this nostalgic and wistful setup is somewhat at odds with the subject of today’s post. The particular news item that I’m sharing today and tomorrow is from the Lorain Journal of Thursday, June 20, 1957. It’s the story of an accused (and late convicted) murderer that escaped from authorities and ran amok in the Maple City for a day.

Here’s the story, as written by Jack Heil, Jr. It’s long, so I split it in two parts. (Plus, it builds the suspense.)


Busy, Peaceful Norwalk Was Once Taut As Posse Roamed For Killer – Part 1

Reporter Jack Heil Jr. retells the story of an exciting incident in Norwalk’s history that his father covered as a reporter for a Cleveland newspaper 31 years ago.

NORWALK – Norwalk today is a peaceable city of friendly people busily going about their daily work. It was not so carefree 31 years ago – on April 8, 1926 to be exact.

A legion of law enforcement officials roamed the streets. Railway Express company detectives, sheriff’s deputies, city police and private citizens, all heavily armed, searched the town while newspaper headlines in neighboring cities screamed:


For more than 12 hours that day, the city knew no peace.

Business stood still, women and children stayed off the streets. Lawmen puzzled over the escape and whereabouts of Jimmy Lyon, who had been slated that morning to stand trial for the murder of Frank McGrath, American Railway Express agent.

The events leading up to the trial and escape began six weeks earlier on the cold, snowy morning of Feb. 18 as express agent McGrath, his assistant James Morgan, Deputy Harley Vinson, and Chief Deputy Sheriff Frank Adelman pulled up at the Lyon farm house near Havana.

The law had come to question Jim Lyon about petty thefts which had occurred in the Huron County area. McGrath was particularly interested in the Norwalk express company office job where thieves had taken $35 and the office pistol.

McGrath and deputy Adelman were met at the door by Leonard Lyon, who told them his brother had gone to Willard. Flourishing a search warrant, the officers entered anyway, and made Lyon show them his brother’s room.

When they entered the bedroom, the door slammed shut behind them and from behind it stepped Jim Lyon, a gun in each hand. Warning that if they made a false move he’d kill them, Jim Lyon with his brother, Leonard, herded the two men out and started downstairs.

As Jim Lyon backed down the stairs, facing the helpless officers, McGrath tried to jump him from above. Lyon shot him dead.

McGrath’s assistant, James Morgan and Deputy Harley Vinson had waited outside. Hearing the shots, they rushed in to be met by a hail of bullets from the Lyon brothers.

The officers took cover outside, determined to get the Lyon boys when they left the house. However, they were unable to do more than duck when the brothers, holding Adelman as a shield, made their break, firing steadily at the law men.

Piling in the sheriff’s car, the two men careened through the farm yard gate and down the road, leaving Adelman shaken but unharmed behind them.

The hunt was on.

Tomorrow: Part 2


Anonymous said...

Now you are in my current territory. I go through Havana or "Hay"vana as some locals call it. Wondering if that farm house still exists. Awaiting the second installment. In a more recent murderous rampage in New London in 1974. (not that you cover murders) Anne Lowery a local wrote a book called "Rumor Has It" It's about the killing of the Hooker brothers who owned property destined to be part of our beautiful reservoir. Rae

Dan Brady said...

Hi Rae!
I was out that way last Sunday to see if I could find that farmhouse. Unfortunately the only address is "near Havana." I thought maybe it was on Lyon Road southeast of town, but I never did find the road! I ended up circling back up to Norwalk.