Here’s Jim Lyons' own story of how he escaped from jail and eventually turned himself in, as it appeared on the front page of the Lorain Journal
on April 13, 1926.
It’s a fascinating look inside a criminal’s mind. He’s actually a pretty good writer (and at least up to blogger standards).
I still think this tragic tale would make a good TV movie.
“Two-Gun Bad Man,” Sent
Back to Jail by Wife to
Face “Chair,” Tells Story
Escape from Cell “Easy,” Asserts James Lyons, Who
Eluded Posses, Troopers and Returned Self
to Custody of Sheriff
EDITOR”S NOTE: James Lyons, youthful confessed killer, has written his own story of his escape and surrender for the United Press. The story follows:
By JAMES LYONS
(Copyright 1926 By United Press)
NORWALK, April 12 – A woman – my wife whom I hadn’t seen until yesterday for nine months – sent me back to jail to face the electric chair.
I was not outside of Norwalk all day Monday.
I walked about the streets, passing persons I knew well.
I took this occasion to visit a few of the boys who had been talking too much, and to leave them a little message that I might be back to see them most any time unless they did less talking.
I found out 10 days ago that I could unlock the jail door and escape.
I walked around the bull pen, I studied the locks and found I could pick all of them.
I was going to wait until later to make my get-away but last night I decided they might place a guard in the cell with me after the trial started so I made up my mind to leave.
With a little piece of wire I threw the bolts on the bull pen door.
Picked The Locks
After I opened the bull pen door, I picked the lock on the outside door. Then I went back to my cell and put on my clothes. Hugh Burdue, the guard, came up and looked into the cell but I was in bed.
I fixed up a dummy in the bed, put on my clothes and walked out.
When I got out to the bridge of sighs I found a Yale lock on the door to the courthouse and because this would take too long to fix, I went back to the jail and got a blanket off my cot.
When I came back I struck a loose bar in the bridge and it rang out like a bell. I thought sure I was gone. I tied the blanket to the bottom of the bridge and crawled up to the roof thru a hole I had noticed when they took me over for arraignment.
I slide down the blanket and started to run out of the alley and east on Seminary-st.
Fled To Wife
I decided to go and see my wife. I married her two years ago.
I knew what would happen when I saw her. That she wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I hadn’t done right by her so I told her I would lay low until they put another thousand on my head.
“Then,” I told her, “you can turn me in and get the reward.”
I proposed this to her while we ate breakfast. She refused.
I was with her five hours and then went to call on some of my friends.
Saw The Searchers
Late in the afternoon I built a fire beside the road, just east of town and dried my shoes. Trolley cars went by so close I could see the passengers. I saw the searchers go by. I decided to take my wife’s advice and come back.
I walked up Seminary-st after I had been on Main and other streets, then went to the sheriff’s home.
I rang the bell and the sheriff’s son, Clarence, opened the door. I asked if Sheriff Gregory was in. Clarence said: “No,” and started to close the door.
Then he said: “I’ll be damned if it isn’t Jim!” and he grabbed my shoulders. He called his sister, Lucille.
Back To Stay
She looked at me and said: “It’s Jim Lyons, it’s Jim Lyons. Are you back for good Jim?”
I said: “Sure, why not. What did you think I came back for – for another suit of clothes or something.”
Here's the cover of the April 14, 1926 Lorain Journal
, two days after Lyons was captured, as the trial was about to get underway.
A week later, Jim Lyons decided to make a break for it again. But this escape was thwarted, according to the article below, which appeared in the Lorain Journal
on April 19, 1926.
It’s a good thing, too, as his guards risked modern-day comparisons to Barney Fife
if Lyons had escaped a second time.
Lyon’s Second Escape Is
Frustrated By Deputies
Wire Found in Cell, Steel Watch Spring Missing;
Gunman Wills Pistol to Wife
By UNITED PRESS
NORWALK, April 19 – Plans of James “two gun” Lyon to make another break for liberty from the county jail were believed frustrated today when Deputy Sheriffs Frank Adelman and Hugh Burdue searched his cell and found a long piece of wire similar to the one he used in his escape a week ago.
The cell was searched while Lyon was on trial for the murder of Frank McGrath, agent of the American Railway Express Co. The deputies also learned, they said, that Lyon had taken apart his watch and had failed to replace the mainspring.
The cell was searched thoroly but the spring was not found.
Sleuth on Stand
Lyon will be searched when he is returned to his cell.
While the search was on Lyon was listening to testimony of Capt. T. Rowe, of the B. and O. Railroad police who accompanied Lyon back to Norwalk from Alpena, Mich, where he was captured.
Rowe’s testimony was regarded as one of the strongest links to the chain of evidence by which the state hopes to send the alleged killer to the electric chair.
The defense contends Lyon did not fire the shot that killed McGrath. Rowe testified that enroute from Alpena to Norwalk Lyon admitted he fired the fatal bullet.
Four Shots Fired
"We asked Lyon how many shots were fired,” Lowe said. “He said four had been fired.”
Lyon, under heavy guard, entered the courtroom smiling today. He had just made his last will and testament in which he bequeathed his German Luger to his wife.
“I am leaving the pistol to my wife,” the young desperado told reporters. “She has had it most of the time anyway and I want her to keep it."
Jim Lyons made plans for one last attempt to avoid the electric chair – or die trying. However, he was unable to convince his brother to slip him a weapon, and was executed, as described in the article below on the front page of the April 9, 1927 Lorain Journal.