This article was last modified on January 4, 2016.

Chicago’s Crazy Irish Mobster, Gene Geary

Eugene “Gene” Geary was born April 26, 1881 in Ireland to David and Minerva Geary.

He was said to be a protege of labor leader and gangster Maurice “Moss” Enright, as well as “Sonny” Dunn. (I have not found any direct connection yet.)

Ran a tavern at 3451 Indiana Avenue in 1917, and was arrested with several others in 1917 for “shooting up” the place.

On November 22, 1919 at 2:00am Geary shot Yellow Cab driver Leon Tripole (or Leonard Tripple) at the Cadillac Bar (2138 South Wabash). Witnesses said Geary kissed Tripole on the cheek, then pushed his gun into the driver’s abdomen before firing. Geary tried to flee in a street car, but several taxi drivers blocked the car and forced him off. Lt. Michael Hughes took Geary into custody.

At trial on March 4, 1920, Geary claimed he shot Tripple because of “chivalry”, saying that the cab driver had assaulted a woman. Ruth Kirk testified that the night before the murder she had quarreled with Tripple at the Vestibule Saloon (22nd Street) about her purse. She said Tripple slapped her twice and Geary physically removed Tripple from the bar both times. Backing up her story was Mrs. Albert Smith and J. Fred Smith (no relation). John Morton, a bartender at the Cadillac Bar, said on the night of the murder he saw Tripple’s friend, Patrick Barton, attempt to get Geary and Tripple to shake hands. Morton thought this was a trick so Barton could shoot Geary when his hand wasn’t free. Although he testified at the inquest that three shots were fired, Morton now said there were only two. (Also on trial was John Ganey, who was alleged to hold the crowd back on Geary’s behalf during the murder.)

Acquitted of the Tripole murder circa March 1920. State’s Attorney Hoyne warned, “It will only be a matter of weeks before another man will be shot down by this gangster if he is allowed to walk the streets.”

Saloon-keeper Harry J. Reckas was shot at Jim O’Brien’s Horn Palace Saloon (4165 South Halsted) on May 27, 1920. Although Geary shot Reckas in front of several witnesses, including Detective Edward Davis, he was allowed to walk away. Talk soon spread that Davis would be suspended, or even that he as protecting Geary. After walking out of the Horn Palace, Geary went to Jim O’Leary’s saloon nearby (4183 South Halsted). “Big Jim” O’Leary was a well-known gambler and the son of the infamous Mrs. O’Leary, whose cow allegedly started the Chicago Fire. If the stories are to be believed, his saloon was said to be fireproof, bomb-proof and police-proof.

The murder of Reckas was caused by one of two factors, according to those who knew Geary best. Either he was insane and acted merely out of drunken rage, or his move was calculated and the alcohol was a cover-up. Reckas had recently pointed out Rex Bain and Oscar Mayes as con men who sold him colored water claiming it was whiskey. If Geary knew Bain and Mayes, he may have been getting revenge for them or preventing the key witness against them from testifying.

On May 29, 1920, while police searched for Geary, unidentified friends told the Tribune that the murder had been “a manifestation of his liquor-crazed brain satiating a lust for blood.” They said he was like Jekyll and Hyde, and a “good fellow” when sober.

Detectives from the state police caught Geary on June 3. He had been hiding out at the apartment of Patrick J. “Double” Griffin on West 42nd Street. Police found Geary passed out drunk, empty whiskey bottles and two loaded pistols nearby.

December 14, 1920, Judge Joseph Sabath ruled that he did not think he had the authority to stay Geary’s execution. It was up to the governor. Sabath, however, felt a reprieve was appropriate and personally wrote a letter to Governor Lowden on Geary’s behalf. Geary had wanted an appeal but was not able to raise the $500 needed to get copies of his records in time to file one.

Reprieved by Gov. Small in July 1921 (or 1920?)

On September 15, 1921, the jury was selected for Geary’s second insanity trial. Those picked included Louis Ohm, Delbert Lane, Bernard Nisberg, Andrew Cotter, Julius Buhle, E. C. Boutelle, Edward Kalina, Lawrence Gardner, G. W. Koehler, John Dering, Hannibal Muscako and Otto Schultz.

At opening statements, prosecutor Edward S. Day told the court, “This man is not insane. He is sane enough to be hanged today. We will show this man who is declared to be the victim of hallucinations is merely malingering in an attempt to save his life. His reactions and actions are those of a normal man. He was pessimistic when told that he must die. He rejoiced when told of his reprieve and kissed everybody near. Are those the reactions of a demented man?”

On day one (September 16) the jury heard witnesses talk of Geary’s alleged hallucinations he experienced while in his cell on death row. Those testifying included Jailers George Lee and Peter Lawrence, as well as guard Fred Burmeister. Even his own parents, David and Minerva Geary, testified. He was said to have seen “weird lights” in his sleep and be visited by “mysterious doctors” who stood ready to “take stuff from his body”. On one occasion, his heart left his body and he feared it would be stolen. Other times “dark clad figures” would light old newspapers on fire under his cell, and he was haunted by the shades of Yellow Cab drivers. Spies stun him with electric stingers.

On September 20, 1921, Dr. Archibald Church testified that Geary was sane and fully understood he was being saved from death by the governor. “Why, he kissed everybody. Even the assistant jailer.” Geary’s attorney, Tom Nash, shouted out, “I object! He did not!” The assistant state’s attorney, Edward Day, responded, “It’s true just the same. I was here when the jailer testified.” Nash then said, “Mr. Day’s remarks are unfair. He has no business…” and Day interrupted him, saying, “I object to being called unfair every time I get up.” Following this exchange, Judge George Kersten summoned the jailer, Lorenz Meisterheim. The jailer did say that Geary had kissed “everybody”.

Continuing his testimony, Church announced, “In my opinion, he has been insane for several years. If he was sane on November 20, when he was to have been hung, then I’m all wrong in my conclusions now.”

Died October 21, 1942 in the psychiatric ward at the Menard State Prison in Chester, Randolph County. He was buried in Menard.

Also try another article under Organized Crime
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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