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The 1934 abduction of Lewis Coffey (and subsequent events) - III

(Part 3 of 3.)
When last we heard from Messrs. John Austin Violette and John Holland Marie, they had left Miss Gladys Burdette at Howard's Cafe, 819 South Third Street in Louisville, while they went "to get some money." Their plan was dirt simple: after all, what could go wrong relieving the proprietor of Scotty's Cottage Inn, a tiny eating establishment at 113 East Lee Street, same city, of his hard earned greenbacks and specie of the realm? Well.............. As wrote the Scottish Ploughboy, "The best laid plans o' mice an' men / gang aft agley." - JIM
The next earlier installment: JIM: The 1934 abduction of Lewis Coffey (and subsequent events) - II
Click on headline for complete and compelling Part 3 of 3 with the rest of the story, Dramatis personae:

By JIM (c)

Had the would-be stick-up artists done minimal research, they quickly would have discovered that Irvin Lilienfeld, the gentleman who ran Scotty's, was not a man with whom one wanted to tangle or trifle. Although a peaceful citizen, Mr. Lilienfeld, just short of his 40th birthday, was a battle-tested leatherneck, a sharpshooter who had endured the front-line horrors of World War One as a member of the storied 6th Machine Gun Battalion, 2nd Division, United States Marine Corps. In all, he had spent some four years in the armed service in a time frame preceding and encompassing the entirety of the U.S. involvement in the conflict.



Piecing together the story from official documents and articles in the Adair County News and the Courier-Journal, the sequence of events unfolded thus:

The two men entered Lilienfeld's establishment late Sunday night, March 25, 1934 -- eighty-four years ago today -- with Marie wielding a shotgun and Violette armed with a pistol. Marie stood in the doorway and held the others present under cover as Violette stepped behind the counter of the small eatery, pointed his weapon at Lilienfeld, and demanded the cash. Lilienfeld backed up a few feet and replied, "Take it; it's all yours," and Violette snatched up two money boxes containing a total of between thirty and thirty-five dollars.

At that moment, combat veteran Lilienfeld grabbed his .38 revolver, holstered and hanging behind the counter, and quick as a wink put two slugs in Violette, one entering his shoulder and the other piercing his chest, the latter shot causing instant cessation of life. Lilienfeld immediately ducked behind a wall, just as Marie pulled the shotgun trigger and blew a hole through that wall near where the former's head occupied space on the other side.

Lilienfeld, still partially protected by the wall, reached around it and fired two shots at Marie. One missed completely but the other "entered the left ear and came out the head." Marie, mortally wounded, slumped to the floor only few feet from where Violette's remains lay. However, he somehow clung to life for thirteen hours, dying a little before one o'clock Monday afternoon. According to the Louisville newspaper, the pair was identified by "Major Schmidt, Detective Sergt. C. J. Burns and Commonwealth's Detective Robert Peebles."

None of the other five occupants of the lunchroom were injured, although one patron required treatment for shock. Lilienfeld's wife Sadie and their eleven-year-old son were among these present. As it turned out, the Louisville police were already searching for Burdette and Violette because of the stolen Chevy, but Lilienfeld "found" the latter and Marie first.

Louisville authorities made the Violett-to-Burdette connection by way of the purloined Chevrolet. Remarked the Louisville newspaper,

"A sedan with a Barren County license, found on Lee Street, less than a square from the lunch room, was said by police to have been stolen March 15 from the Columbia Motor Company, Columbia, Ky., by Violett. Police and detectives had been hunting for him here since that date, they said."

Lilienfeld, quickly arraigned and released on bail, appeared in court a day or two later for a perfunctory examining trial. Not only did the judge dismiss the manslaughter and shooting and wounding charges against the proprietor, said the Courier-Journal, "Police Judge John Brachey Tuesday congratulated [Lilienfeld] for slaying two bandits."

Dramatis personae:

The remains of John Austin Violette were interred in his native Marion County, Ky.; those of John Holland Marie in his former home, Jefferson County, Tennessee. The latter was survived by his widow and three sons.

Gladys E. Burdette appealed her conviction but in January 1935, the Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's action. The ruling included a summary of the trial, including information not brought to light in the newspaper accounts, including these paragraphs:

"Complaint is made because the attorney for the commonwealth was permitted to ask the appellant whether she and Violet had been living together as man and wife. Appellant admitted all the facts testified to by Coffey, but her defense was that she was forced by Violet to take part in the robbery. The evidence complained of, while it tended to prove the commission of another crime by the appellant, was competent to refute her claim that she was forced to participate in the robbery and acted under duress.

"The attorney for the commonwealth in his argument to the jury referred to the fact that she had lived with John Violet in Louisville, Ky., for three weeks, and he stated that she knew Violet had no occupation except robbing and stealing for a living, and that she was merely a gunman's pal. It is contended that this argument was improper and prejudicial, but since, as we have seen, the evidence referred to was admissible, the attorney for the commonwealth was within the bounds of legitimate argument in referring to it, and his inferences therefrom were fair and reasonable."

[The full text of the Court of Appeals ruling is viewable at casemine-dot-com, specifically at www.caseminecom/judgement/us/5914a502add7b049346c32a2

After her release from prison in February 1935, Miss Burdette faded from public view, but she appeared in the 1940 Jefferson County, Ky., census as Gladys B. Strong, age 27. At the time, she lived with her then-divorced mother, a younger sister, and an uncle at 308 West Breckinridge, Louisville. The census indicated she had lived in the "same place" in1935. She passed in San Bernardino County, Calif., in 1998 where she was buried under her maiden name.

Between 1935 and 1940, the Lilienfeld family moved from Louisville to Tampa, Florida, where Mr. Lilienfeld died in 1942.

In September 1934, some six months after the harrowing abduction experience, Lewis Coffey married Miss Mary Wood Judd. He remained in Adair County all his life and served as city clerk of Columbia for nearly twenty years in addition to his private accounting practice. Mr. Coffey died in late October 1984, a little over half a century after the terrifying journey on the Ides of March, 1934.

(c) 2018 Jim


Note: The story of the 1934 abduction of Lewis Coffey (and subsequent events) is posted in three parts:


This story was posted on 2018-03-25 05:14:26
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