Friday, April 22, 2016

Killer Roams Norwalk – April 1926 – Part 2

Here’s the conclusion of the story that I began yesterday of the story of Jimmy Lyon, the escaped killer who turned Norwalk upside-down for a day back in April 1926 – 90 years ago this month.

Busy, Peaceful Norwalk Was Once Taut As Posse Roamed For Killer – Part 2

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.

The hunt was on. Into Norwalk poured a small army of law enforcement officials to swell a citizens’ posse hunting the fugitives.

A day passed and then two. Finally a week went by without a trace of the brothers. The posse disbanded and the hunt died down.

About three weeks later Huron County Sheriff Ed Gregory received word from Sheriff Ed Hatch of Alpena County, Mich., of the capture of the Lyon brothers following a gun battle in which Alpena Police Chief Dougal MacKenzie was wounded on a chase which ended on a barricaded road near Lachine.

It had taken police and deputies, together with a posse armed with shotguns and high-powered deer rifles which Jim Lyon later confided to newsmen, “could have blown us out of the car,” to stop the pair.

Jim Lyon sits in his cell in Huron County Jail
posing for a photographer. His desire for
publicity led him to break jail, which threw
Norwalk into turmoil for a day.
Jim Lyon and his brother were brought back to Norwalk to stand trial for McGrath's cold-blooded slaying by Sheriff Gregory. Lyon gloried in and bragged on the headlines he had made.

Speedily indicted by the grand jury for first degree murder, Jim Lyon faced trial on April 8 before Common Pleas Judge Irving Carpenter. County Prosecutor Ed Martin prepared to demand the death penalty.

Then Lyon, in a bid for bigger and better headlines, escaped. Later investigation revealed he had smuggled a wire into his cell and managed to trip the door locks and escape via the "Bridge of Sighs," which today still connects the jail and the court room.

After keeping the city in a turmoil all day, Lyon calmly walked up to the front door of the sheriff's quarters. He eluded his heavily armed searchers and surrendered to Gregory's two terrified daughters.

It was revealed later that he escaped simply to create more headlines and had actually visited a newspaper reporter in the reporter's hotel to make sure the story of his latest exploit made page one.

He told Sheriff Gregory" "You'd better take this jail out and have it fixed."

Jim Lyon was tried and found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death in the electric chair. He spent his final hours playing a ukelele. His brother, Leonard, pleaded guilty and received a life sentence.

To read a detailed account and legal analysis of the State of Ohio’s case against James Lyon, click here.

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