The participants that we knew were involved—one of them got shot and a couple of them went to prison. There was really only four participants in that one.
One of them was a local chiropractor, Tom Sturgeon, and the other was a black girl, a nurse by the name of Love. And then there was a couple of black guys. One of them was Perry Harris, and the other one was Big Man. But he’s dead. He got killed.
He got shot during the investigation, but a lot of our information, Charlie’s and mine, it came from this Perry Harris, Pepper, and he told us how he and this Big Man supposedly disposed of the body, after an abortion attempt which was conducted by this Dr. Sturgeon. And then this Belinda Love, she was the nurse in attendance. Our understanding was that it went wrong, and the girl bled to death.
We talked to Dr. Sturgeon. We executed a search warrant on his office and home. He went to prison, I think.
There was this house, down on 5th Street, and it belonged to Sturgeon. We were convinced, and we’d been told, that he was performing abortions there, in his office. Right across from Mercy and a little bit north. And Ramza’s Beauty Salon was right there, too. She was Sturgeon’s wife. He was also involved in counterfeiting, we felt at the time, so the search warrant we executed there was in regard to that.
Pepper Harris, he was afraid. He thought Sturgeon was gonna do him in, and so he’s the one that gave us the scoop. He told us what went down. He said he and Big Man dumped the body. About five months later, then, she washed up in the ditch out on there on Otis Road. I was at a guy’s cabin out there. The night they found her we had a poker party probably not a mile from where she washed up.
One thing was strange, though, and that was that there was some kind of binding on her hands and feet, and we could never figure that out.
The working theory at the time, and which was pretty much confirmed by Pepper Harris, was that she bled to death in an abortion attempt, and then Sturgeon called Pepper and Big Man in to dispose of the body.
He told us they got a hundred bucks apiece or something for doing that, which was a lot of money then. I don’t know how much the going rate was for an abortion in those days. It wasn’t very much. Like three or four hundred dollars, maybe.
And the way her hands were tied, there was something involved there, but it was hard to tell what, with the condition of things by that time. And then when we talked to Pepper, his explanation—hypothetical of course—was that when they were trying to move her and stuff, her arms and legs were flopping around, so they had to tie her up to keep her contained. I mean, she was already dead, when they loaded her in the trunk.
But what Pepper told us, we couldn’t use it. It wasn’t a confession or anything. It was off the record, because we had Miranda warnings then and so he always spoke hypothetically. Like, this is what could have happened. It wasn’t a statement. We couldn’t write it out and say, you know, in first person, that he said that. So it wouldn’t have been a case. If that’s all you’ve got. Unless you have some other physical evidence or information that would tie in, well then you could use it, I suppose, maybe. But that was never our decision. We leave the reports, and the County Attorney makes the decision. Pepper was already under arrest, so that was that.
He didn’t just come in there and say, “Okay, I did this and Ernie did this and Doc Sturgeon did this.” He laid it out, what happened, without incriminating himself, and we left a report. Then at that point the County Attorney, he’s the one that looks at it and says, “Okay, we got a case,” or “Nope, we don’t have a case.” And, well, number one, we didn’t have a case because we didn’t have anything to back it up with. And Pepper’s not going to get on the stand and say, “Oh, yeah, I said that.” And number two, all the principles that were involved they were either gone or they were dead.
And even if it did go down the way he indicated that it did, it wasn’t a murder one for sure. It was accidental, to begin with. Although it was during the commission of a felony. Abortion. Which would have made it murder one, but it was something that, according to him, what Pepper knew about it, which he didn’t because he came into it after the fact, but Belinda did for sure, and so she’s the one that, you know, could have really done something for us.
But here’s the thing. Paula would have had to enter into it knowingly and willingly, if in fact that’s the way it went down, and we were convinced at that time, Charlie and I were anyway, that it was.
We had a lot of people giving us information. But as far as informants go, they just give you insight. Maybe. And then probably more than fifty percent of the time it’s wrong, because an informant generally wants something. And the ones that are in a position to know anything about what you’re asking are bad people to begin with. And they want something. And sooner or later they’ll burn you, so you just really have to know how to work them. If you can turn them, that is, and then you gotta work them and always be aware of the fact that they’ll tell you what you want to hear. And so you kinda get a feel when you know these people, especially, for whether they’re dissing your or telling you the truth.
But all of the times when you’re in an interrogation, people tell you the damndest things. You can’t just prosecute or arrest them because of what they said if you can’t tie it in with something.
Sometimes somebody will come forward with information. But overall, informants are dubious, at best. Some of them are good and some aren’t. If you put all your aces on an informant, well sooner or later you’re gonna go down the tube. Because they lie to you.
But anyway this was well after the fact, when Pepper shot Big Man, and all the principles in fact were gone. I think Doc Sturgeon was in prison by that time. And Big Man was dead, and Pepper was gonna take the trip. So all the principles involved were gone, so to speak. Except for maybe Belinda Love, and I don’t know where she was.
But my primary goal wasn’t to solve a crime. My primary goal was justice. That’s all. Pure and simple, and that’s all. Justice however you can get it. See, you start out as a young policeman, you think you’re gonna save the world, and then pretty soon you would be satisfied with just making the difference and pretty soon, by the time you leave, by then it’s just a matter of surviving. You know, hanging in there until it’s over.
I’d have loved to have closed that case. But we really didn’t have any evidence, physical evidence. All the evidence we had came through interrogation and informants, and there was quite a period of time between the death and the time that we knew about it. When it became a murder case or homicide at least.
We solved a lot and a lot we didn’t. I didn’t let that frustrate me. It was just a job, that’s all. I mean, you do what you can and some you do and some you don’t. That’s just how it is. And the fact is, we did a really good job in those days. We didn’t have that many murders, so we had time to work on them. And we solved a good share of them. There wasn’t very many unsolved murders in my time, over a fifteen, twenty year period that probably ten years or more of I worked all the major homicides.
I don’t know what it is, exactly, that got me into that kind of crime. It wasn’t something that I actually wanted to be. I was a policeman and then I was a detective, and homicide’s a major crime, let’s face it. So you want to be the best, and you want to be the top, and that’s where I was.
Perry Harris, it was. Him and Big Man. They were tight. You didn’t see one without the other. They were always together. And then strange thing about it was that Perry Harris wound up killing Ernie. They were having a poker game, and this man by the name of Tom Sturgeon—we called him Doc Sturgeon, and he’s the one that did the abortion—Doc Sturgeon came up and he got Perry Harris. And they left for about a half hour. Then he come back and Perry Harris walked in and shot Ernie Jordan three times in the back. And then he stood there and waited for us to come and pick him up.
Now I don’t know why that happened. And he didn’t know why either. He just did it. The only thing we could guess was that Ernie Jordan was squeezing the Doc for more money or something like that. And then for some reason or other, Doc Sturgeon got Perry Harris to turn on his friend. And I don’t know how and I don’t know why.
I don’t know why they felt they had to tie her up, either. Maybe they just wanted to stabilize her while they took her out of that house. But here’s another funny thing. Ernie Jordan had this big gold Mercury that he always drove. And we always just figured it was his. But come to find out, he had rented it from a rental agency. And so Ken and I went up there and talked to the guys, and this was almost a year later. We asked if they remembered Big Man bringing that car in there.
“Yeah,” he said, “he had it for a while, and then he brought it back, and we had to clean it up quite a bit.”
And I said, “Well, what about the trunk?”
He said, “You know, a funny thing about that. There was no mat in the trunk. It was gone.” And then he said, “That car was only a year old.”
So there’s another thing that worked for us, which did no good at all. Because there had to be blood on that mat, and we could have matched that to her and then we’d have known that’s the car they used, and we already knew who had the car.
She bled to death. I’m sure she did. I mean, if you nick an artery, I don’t know out how long it takes you to bleed to death, but I presume it’ll last maybe half an hour or so. Which means she would have been conscious, up to a point anyway. After you lose so much blood, you get comatose. But they had to tie her up because otherwise she would have just been flopping around in that trunk. They couldn’t put her in the car, because she’d get blood all over the seats. And so they put her in the trunk, because they could get the mat out of there, and she could be flopping around on that.
So what happened is, we didn’t know that Sturgeon was involved until after Ernie was dead and Perry was in jail. And then you have to have a basis to grab somebody and drag them in. And it was Perry who told us this information. No rights, no nothing. We weren’t even asking him about that. He just said, “I don’t want to repeat this, and I’m gonna tell you once.”
He was not a bad kid, really. Strangely enough, he was not a bad kid. That was it. He wouldn’t tell anybody else that, just me and Ken. And it wasn’t a statement. Nothing like that. We just had occasion to visit with him, and it came up and that’s what he told us.
We never talked to Doc Sturgeon, because you’ve got to have probable cause and we didn’t have it. I mean, if you can ask a guy to come down voluntarily, and he comes down, fine. But Doc Sturgeon was not that kind of guy. You either charge him or he’ll tell you to get the hell out of there. He’d be saying “You gonna arrest me?”And you say, “No.” Well then, “I don’t want to talk to you. Get outa here.” That’s the way it is in law enforcement. You just can’t stop somebody for no reason at all, if they don’t want to be stopped. Unless they’re violating a law that you know of. And that’s how a lot of homicides happen where you know who did it, but there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. It’s just one of those things.
I was involved in twenty-seven homicides and cleared twenty-five of them. So I was pretty lucky. Ken and I. Mostly Ken and I. I rode with the other guys, too, before I got to working with him.
We had a girl lived up on 10th Street. Found her laying on the trunk of a car way down there by the river. And we never got to anything. I think I know who did it, but there again, I don’t know. And if you can’t prove it, you can’t get a warrant.
I don’t count the Oberbroeckling girl as one of those, because we know what happened there. And everybody who was involved went away, in one way or another. They either got killed or they got sent to jail for something else.
Like Doc Sturgeon. He got arrested for counterfeiting. He was just trouble looking for someplace to happen. He always was that way. He had a bad attitude about everything. How he got to be a doctor, I don’t know. I don’t even know that he really was a doctor. Said he was a chiropractor, but I never saw his license. I never had a reason to ask for it. But he just grew up over there on the Old West Side, near where I did. We went to the same school, but we didn’t chum around. I think he was a year or two older than me. But, he wasn’t a likeable person. Nobody really liked him.
I don’t know where Perry Harris is now. I think he’s dead. He got sent up for murdering Big Man, and then I don’t know if he got killed and died in jail, or if he died outside. But I woulda known if he was out. Because he and I were friends, up to that point. I used to talk to him all the time. And I woulda known if he had got out of prison. So I think either he’s still there now, or he’s dead.
If he was still alive, and we had that DNA or something like that, we could still go after him. Any felony committed in your presence, it’s yours, too. Like if you and I went into a store and I robbed the guy and I gave you the money and ran out, then you’re just as guilty as I am even though maybe it seems like you didn’t do nothing. But Perry told us about what happened with that girl when he was waiting to go to jail for killing Ernie. And it was one of those things where you can’t use it. He wasn’t Mirandized. Before that came along, we used to say, “Well, this was before the Constitution.” But as it was, he just said it, and he told us he never would say it to nobody else, cause, he said “I know you guys. I wouldn’t say it to nobody else.” And that was the way it was. We might have tried to talk to the County Attorney. But we knew all we’d get was, “Blah, blah, blah. Can’t use it.”
The County Attorney back then was a guy named Faches. Bill Faches, and he was a good County Attorney. Most of them would just read the information and then tell you whether you had the case or not. And if you did, he’d say go ahead and do it. Go arrest him. Get a warrant and go arrest him. Faches, though, he’d say, “Maybe better do this first and this first and this first. Then go arrest him.” He was good.
But even if we know who did it, that Paula Oberbroeckling case can’t be called closed. Homicide, it’s never closed. Most crimes will have a statute of limitations, some eighteen months, some whatever, but homicide, it’s always there, until somebody gets caught and put away for it. Not closed, but it’s cold. Stone cold. I mean, if you listen to television, it takes about forty-eight hours for a case to go cold. If you don’t get them in the first forty-eight hours, you aren’t gonna get them. Well, that’s all baloney. When people quit calling about it and people quit making statements or saying stuff, then it’s cold. But not until then. And, like I said, the statute of limitations never runs out on a homicide. I mean if you killed somebody fifty years ago and we found out about it and we can prove it, well, we can arrest you for it today.
I’m never satisfied with a cold case, but there’s some you just can’t do, you know. And this Paula Oberbroeckling one, that’s one of those. Just because we think we know who did it, it’s not official. It ain’t stamped cleared. No matter what we say, it’s not official, because everybody’s got their own ideas, and I’m sure a lot of people would disagree with me and Ken both. But it’s not cleared until whoever you think did it is arrested or they die, and then it’s done.
Percy G. Harris, MD
My wife was having a social gathering and I got a call from the police department that night that the girl’s body was found, and so I went to the site. We didn’t have a forensic pathologist here at the time. So I called Earl Rose, down at the University in Iowa City. Earl Rose taught me how to investigate.
We had a body. I don’t remember who found it, but at that time, we didn’t know anything about an abortion. There was no evidence, as I recall, of an abortion.
The death certificate says the cause of death is unknown, but her hands and feet were bound and we know that was something that they did to make it look like a homicide. But not much of her body was there. The skeleton was there. I don’t remember there being any blood. There was little left of her. She was just tied up, dried up, and mostly bones and ligaments.
We don’t know where she died, but first, clearly she didn’t die there. That’s one thing. And it wasn’t long before the police knew her name. Second, we knew also that the bounding of her extremities was something that was done to make it look as though it was something else. What else, I don’t know. And third, there was not much flesh on her. Time, animals and such. They did know that there was no trauma to her bones.
We didn’t have any idea that she died from an abortion. Although, of the possibilities, that one was good, because there was no other evidence of any instrument that could have been used.
To do an abortion was simple. You put a speculum into the vagina and you take a catheter and you just push that catheter into the cervix, up into the uterus. If it were successful, that would act as an irritant, so the uterus would just kick the pregnancy out. And what happened with the lady from Waterloo, they tried more than once, because they had been paid. And what they used, I don’t know. I don’t know what they would have tried on a second time. They could have then resorted to using a clothes hanger. For self-induced abortions, the clothes hanger was something that women used.
Probably what they had told her, they would have shown her, said, “This is what we’re going to do. And your uterus is going to reject this. And when that uterus rejects the catheter, you’ll bleed, and sometime after that, could be in the next hour, next day, next couple of days, you will no longer be pregnant.” And that could have been any time.
If it didn’t work, then on the second try they could have used a larger catheter or they could have used a smaller, stiffer catheter. Just get into the uterus. All they have to do is slip it up in there. In most abortions, that would do the job. The catheter is put into the uterus and left there.
One time a doctor I knew, he said, “Percy, you can put a catheter in there.” He was telling me how to do something to augment my income.
You would walk around and you might not have any symptoms at all. If you felt cramping, then that was an effort on the part of the body to get rid of that foreign body. And if everything was going well for the abortionist, the catheter might come out first. The fetus might have come out at the same time. But it would take longer than an hour. A day or two, maybe. They’d send her home. After they’d asked her, “How do you feel? You’re not bleeding? Call me if you start bleeding.”
So, I don’t think that she died immediately after. I think that she had that catheter and if she called and she wasn’t bleeding, they would ask her, “Are you cramping?”And if she said, “Yes,” the abortionist would have said, “That’s a good sign, everything seems to be all right, give it a little bit more time.” But if she wasn’t, she probably called them again and they got her and that’s when she died and she died in the place over behind the fish market.
So, she could have been in that house for longer than that night.
Then they didn’t have any place that they could hide the body. It’s difficult to get rid of a body. They wouldn’t have left her there if she was still alive. She was dead when they dumped her.
There wasn’t any blood there. The first thing the pathologist showed me was sheets. He said, “Percy, this is the way we do this.” She’s lying there and he puts the sheet down below her, all under her body as far as it would go. And then with gloves on, they just dug out everything around her and collected it and put it onto the sheet. So we didn’t lose any evidence there.
We don’t know that she bled to death. We just know that she died, and it’s pure speculation that they were using catheters. They could have used something else, but a catheter is used as an instrument to produce an abortion, which if everything went well, the uterus would have expelled the fetus and the catheter would have come out. So when she started to bleed and they couldn’t control the bleeding, they put her in the trunk of a car.
By the time the police found the car, the trunk had been cleaned out. That was one of the mistakes. They knew whose car it was. There are always mistakes or oversights on death investigations. They had had the car, but no one checked the blood. For some reason they had the car in their possession, and apparently they knew that there was blood in there, but it was cleaned out.
Sturgeon was not charged, but they didn’t have any doubt about it. The police department felt certain that he did it. What we thought was that he gave her an abortion and he failed. The effort failed.
I remember seeing that girl. She was in a car, and I was standing out in front of my house. And someone drove her up in a car. She had a nightgown on. And I asked her where she was going. And she told me she really didn’t know where she was going. She was with a fellow named Dr. Sturgeon, and she said he was taking her up there a couple houses up. And so that’s where they took her, up there. The place was next to the Boston Fish Market up there. Big old two story house. And that’s where he took her. And whatever they did to her after that.
One guy named Big Man was there with Dr. Sturgeon. And the other guy’s name was Harris or something like that, and that’s where they performed an abortion on her. Up there. And then Dr. Sturgeon, he couldn’t stop her from bleeding and she bled to death. But, as far as I know, they took her up and tied her around some kind of tree or something and she bled to death there. And Dr. Sturgeon paid these two guys to keep quiet about it.
They called me the Superman. My mother gave me that name when I was about ten or twelve years old. We was out fishing one day and I think my sister was with me, or brother, and we had an old Ford, I think it was. And in them days we was picking hickory nuts and things, you know. And anyway we had a flat tire and didn’t have no jack and so we got some rocks and put them up under the wheel and we got a big old tree limb and put it up there and we jacked it up as high as we could. And then I put my back end up and raised it up. And my mother thought it was gonna hurt me, you know. And so we raised it about that high to put some rocks under there to get the wheel off and my mother said, “My little Superman.” She called me that and then the ballplayers found out that and they called me that all my life. Superman. And that’s been going on all my life.
I played twenty-five years with some of the best players ever lived. I hit a homerun off the great Dizzy Dean. He was with the Cardinals. And the only pitcher I didn’t have much success with was Satchel Paige. He struck me out before 44,000 people in Detroit. Three times. Yeah, he embarrassed me. Yeah, he say, “Come on up little boy.” I was wearing khaki pants then. He said, “Come on up little boy, don’t be afraid.” And, oh boy, it made me so mad. But I just couldn’t hit him. He was fast. We played a double header in Detroit and I hadn’t seen my granddaddy all my life till we got to Detroit and he was hollering up there, “It don’t take but one to hit it,” and all that stuff. So they beat us, I think three or four to two or something like that. But the next game—we played a double header—and the next game they had a good pitcher named Jack Something, and he was pitching, and I hit him out of the park in Detroit. Briggs Stadium. Out of the park. His ball was slower than Satchel Paige. Satchel Paige was throwing over one hundred miles per hour. Yup, that’s why I got the name Superman. Them was the good days.
I had poker games in my basement. And this Big Man, he was quite a good gambler and so they had a lot of money. Dr. Sturgeon was giving them money to keep quiet. And at the poker game that night, Big Man, he was playing and all at once this Harris came to the door. And I went up to see who it was. It was Harris, and he had a gun on him, right in his belt. And I told him, I said, “You can’t come in here with a gun.” I said, “I’m sorry, you can’t come in here.” So he went back I guess and put it in the car and then he came back in. And he kept his eyes on Big Man. You could tell he hated him or something. And Big Man would throw him twenty or thirty dollars, you know, and he wouldn’t play the hand good. He’d just like throw the money in the pot. He didn’t take time to look at the cards and then he throwed them in. And after the game they left out. Then my friend, his name is Prentis Thurmond—I called him Top Cat—he had the game up at his house.
I didn’t go up there right away, because I had something to do, but when I got ready to go up there, I saw the guys running down the street. They was running. So I saw them running and Dr. Sturgeon was right with the bunch. He was running, too. And I said, “What the hell where you all running for?”So he said, “One of the guys got shot up there.” I say, “What?”He say, “Yep.” So I inquired about that. Couple guys I talked to told me Harris was mad because Doc Sturgeon gave Big Man so much money and he didn’t get his amount to keep quiet.
So Top Cat, he had his game, and this Harris came in, but he wasn’t paying him no mind. I guess he had his gun like when he came to my house, and the poker game, I think they had four or five guys there. At least five. And Harris took his gun out and reached right across and shot Big Man. Shot Big Man and then all the guys started running out of the house and down the streets and so when they got the ambulance here they took him to the hospital. He died at the hospital, because he shot him right in the heart.
And then Harris, they had to find him. And they found him at a place, a tavern, they call it the Cougar Lounge. And the cops all swarmed around at that place down there, cuz he had a gun, you know. And his sister was crying and screaming and she thought they was gonna kill him. And I imagine they would have if he wouldn’t have dropped the gun. So anyway, he dropped the gun and I believe that when they went to trial, I think they gave him thirty, forty years for the murder.
I don’t know exactly what happened to Doc Sturgeon, because it was very quiet about what happened. But it finally got out, you know, that he the one that tried to, I don’t know what you call it. Abortion or something. On this girl. Yeah, cuz she was pregnant.
The two guys, Harris and Big Man, they are the ones that tied her up there. Sturgeon didn’t do it, but he was head of it. And Big Man and Harris was the two guys that he was paying off. He was giving them good money to keep quiet. And so this Harris didn’t get his share of the money, so that’s why he killed Big Man.
And he would have shot him in my house if I wouldn’t have stopped him when he had the pistol and I told him he couldn’t come in there. Cuz see, I always had a pistol. I had a pistol on me for forty-some years, and they knew that he couldn’t come in my house and he was at the poker game with them and he was running, too. Yeah, all of them was running after this guy shot Big Man. He just reached right across the table and shot him right in the chest.
That’s the true facts.
I saw her that night. I told her grandmother the same thing. Her grandmother worked at Siegel’s down there. I knew her many years. And I told her I saw her granddaughter there before they performed that abortion on her. I don’t know how all that happened, but she was prepared for something because she was in a nightgown. She was in a housecoat and a nightgown. And so she knew what they was gonna do to her. Because when I talked to her she wasn’t excited or anything. She just said that she was going up there to that big house with Dr. Sturgeon.
He shouldn’t have never tried to do that.
Dr. Sturgeon, I don’t know much about him. I don’t even know what kind of a doctor he was in the first place. I never did know. But he shouldn’t have had her up there in a house to operate on her like that. He must not have been too good a doctor to perform an operation like that.
Place got to be clean like a hospital. Do something like that with a young lady.
I didn’t see this, but the car she was in, they put her in that car and took her up there on the hill and tied her to that tree. And they took her car and washed it out, cuz the car was full of blood. They had her in the trunk of the car. And they washed that car out.
Course, I knew the house they was in and where she was going, and I really did hate it, too, because I knew her and her grandmother very well.
Harris and Big Man weren’t there before she went into that house. I didn’t see them. I don’t know where they came from. I don’t remember seeing nobody but Dr. Sturgeon. These guys, I think he picked them up to get rid of the body. Course, they didn’t know about no abortion or nothing.
But they killed her. Cuz she didn’t die right then. She died up there on the hill, when they tied her up. She bled to death.
I don’t think it was anything to do with prostitution. Course I never knew too much about that house. I never knew anything about it till those guys and Dr. Sturgeon come along with that girl, cuz I never went up to that place. I never did know anything about that house until I saw her and Big Man up there, cuz I played poker with him. And I didn’t know too much about Harris, but he played poker sometimes too with us. But he was very dangerous after Dr. Sturgeon was giving them that money. I don’t know how true it was, but some said that Dr. Sturgeon gave Big Man $500 to keep quiet, and he didn’t give Harris much money and Harris asked him for some more money and he just gave him some dribbles of maybe five or ten dollars, and after he found out how much money Big Man had, he killed him.
Harris had a sister here, too. I didn’t know too much about him at the beginning. Just he played poker. Fact, I didn’t know too much about Big Man. He just had a lot of money all the time and he played and he never give no problem. I didn’t have no people problem in my house, what my wife and kids was there and I didn’t have no mess like that.
I hadn’t never heard she’d been raped or nothing but something must have been happened, because she was pregnant and had to have that abortion. But I never heard about no rape or anything like that. Course, that house they went up to, I would never go up in that kind of place. Never. I don’t even know who had that house up there. I don’t really know what that house was, because people would go to that house, and it was something going on. I don’t know if it was gambling or what it was. Lot of people was going up there from these the tavern down there, right down the street, the Cougar Lounge. I never went to places like that.
So I was really surprised to see her, too. In that car in that gown. I knew something was going on and she didn’t tell me anything. She said she was going up to that big house up there and after I found out Dr. Sturgeon was up there, then I figured out that something like that was gonna go on, and I said, “A doctor?”I don’t know what kind of doctor he was. I don’t think he was any kind of surgeon or anything like that, I just think he was a jackleg.
And then later on I found out that they found that girl up there tied to a tree or something and she bled to death. And then this car. They put her in the trunk of the car. She must have been unconscious or something. They put her in the trunk of the car, and then they took the car up there and washed it all out at some kind of car wash.
The cops, they searched all over the car and everything, and I don’t know if they sent Dr. Sturgeon to prison or what. I believe he was in trouble though about that, because after Big Man got killed, then all that stuff came out, cuz I think Harris told everything about it and they arrested Dr. Sturgeon and arrested Harris, too.
I don’t believe they ever asked me anything cuz they didn’t want to connect me with those guys, so they never came and asked me anything about that crime. Because they had these three that they had, you know. Sturgeon and them two guys. And then after Big Man got killed, they picked up Harris and I know they arrested Dr. Sturgeon. I don’t know whether they gave him time or what, but her grandmother was awful upset. Cuz I was down at the Seigel’s once and she asked me a lot of questions about it. And I told her all I know is I saw the girl before this happened and I talked with her. I asked her what was she doing and was she going up there and why and she didn’t tell me. But then I found out she was pregnant and somebody told me about her boyfriend. Williams. She was going with Williams.
That Williams, he was a guy what was a strange guy. I couldn’t figure why he wasn’t there. And that was his girlfriend, he’s going with her.
I didn’t know it was gonna be an abortion, but I knew it was something different. She had on a nightgown, going up there with them guys. I said, “My stars, it’s got to be something in there.” When they said Dr. Sturgeon, then I just tried to put two and two together, say something’s going on. But I think he was a dumb man to go up in a little room in that big house and try to do something for her like that. So I don’t know how much time they gave him or if they gave him any time at all. I didn’t keep up with that.
It just bothered me when they found her up here dead. Cuz I knew her and I knew her grandmother. I didn’t go up there in the house. I don’t know about the house, but I saw her before they killed her. Cuz she’s talking to me just smiling and I didn’t ask her what was she going up there for or anything. She just said she’s going up there with the doctor. And I wondered what for, but I didn’t have no idea she was pregnant. Course she didn’t look it. But she did a stupid thing. She should have went to the hospital, ‘stead of fooling with those guys.
Cuz all those guys, they couldn’t be first class or anything. Even the doctor. He picked up them two guys to help him get rid of the body. Course those guys, both of them, they didn’t do anything like help the doctor or nothing. They just helped the doctor to take the body up there and tie it down and put her in the back of a trunk of a car and that’s about it.
All Harris could talk about is taking the body up there. He said she was alive when they took her up there and tied her down to some tree or something. The whole thing was very bad.
Her grandmother kept asking me about that. Could I do this, could I do that, and I told her I wasn’t gonna mess with them hoodlums. Cuz they was dangerous.
I knew Joe Abodeely well. He used to come out to my Homerun Club. He was a little musician, and he had a club downtown, too. The Tender Trap. So he always would come to the Homerun Club I had after he closed, and he’d have me come down to his club, too.
And he had that hotel. He had prostitutes in that hotel. But they got him for whiskey. Buying whiskey from out of the state.
Abodeely was a big business guy. I knew him very well, cuz every time we’d have a bash at the Homeroom Club, he would be there.
I don’t know nothing about him in that kind of abortion business, but I knew he had a lot of girls that were working. He had some nice looking girls there in that place, in that little motel or whatever he had there. He always had something going on.
But I never did hang around them guys. I lived down the street, a block away from that place, over there by the Boston Fish Market. That’s a whole block from me. On Fifth Street. Boston Fish Market is up by 8th Avenue And then the next block was me, down on Fifth.
I was standing out there and that car pulled up with that girl, cuz when I saw her I went over to the car and talked to her and I said, “Where in the world you going?”And she said, “I’m going up to that big house up there.” I don’t think I asked her for what or why’s she going up there or anything. But she knew me, and I knew her and her grandmother. Every time she’d call me up or either I’d go down to the shop where she worked, and she wanted to know about her granddaughter. But I couldn’t give her the answers cuz I never did associate with her or anything. I just knew her. But I knew the crew that she was around. Wasn’t much of anything.
Then I heard that about how they found her up there tied up. Oh boy, that was awful. I don’t know how in the world they couldn’t have took her to the hospital to a doctor and they could have stopped the bleeding or something. They just stuck her up there. I don’t even know if she paid Dr. Sturgeon or what. But they had to give him some money for something to do this. And I don’t know how he picked up Harris and Big Man. But they did it.
She wasn’t the one that was driving. Somebody else was driving. She was in the back seat. Cuz I went to the window there and talked to her. And I saw her in the gown. I said, “Where in the world you going?”And she pointed at that big house up there.
It was a large car, and I don’t know what kind of car. That really bothered me after they found her dead because I had seen her alive and she was a nice-looking girl. She knew me well, too, cuz I’d been seeing her with her grandmother and I’d always be going down to Siegel’s there talking to her, and she was a nice, nice girl, a nice-looking girl, kind of tall girl, and she had a nice-looking face and she had a nice-looking body, too.
Course, I couldn’t see her with these people. And I know she wasn’t with Big Man and that Harris fella. She wasn’t with that class, huh-uh. No, just Dr. Sturgeon.
That had to be Dr. Sturgeon’s car that drove her up there.
After all that stuff happened, I just couldn’t believe that was her. And her grandmother crying and telling me about this. She wanted to know everything, and I couldn’t tell her any more than what I’m telling you. I said, “I don’t know nothing about those guys.” I didn’t even know too much about Williams, the one she was going with. In fact, I never did know they was going together. I didn’t see them together. And I never did go to that tavern down there, either. I don’t go to taverns and things.
We played poker many many a year. I had a poker table in my basement. We had about eight or nine players, cuz sometimes we had to have two tables. Dr. Collins. Lloyd Capes. Couple of white fellows. All them guys, they had money. But I think all of them’s dead now. Dr. Collins was a dentist. Had another white fellow too, was a doctor or something, but they had a lot of money in them days. But we had a nice game. We didn’t have no drinking, no fighting, nothing like that.
Played in the basement. That’s where I had my poker games. In the basement. Because I had my kids and wife upstairs. Nope, they never go upstairs. Just the basement. I had a big poker table. I had a refrigerator, TV, everything down there.
We had a limit. Five dollar limit and you could make three bets. You could raise the pot three times. We didn’t play for the whole paycheck. If we did we couldn’t a had no game. Just a few of them, the white fellow and Dr. Collins and three or four of them guys, they had money. Cuz it was three white fellas. They had money and they just liked to play. And Dr. Collins. He used to be a dentist up there at Fort Madison, for the penitentiary. And I believe one of the other fellows also worked up there doing something at Fort Madison, because they’d come to the poker game. In fact, we had a couple women, too, that played there.
Sometimes we’d play to daybreak. Mostly on Fridays. We didn’t play every night. Play on the weekends. Guys when they got paid off and played on Friday nights. Sometimes we’d play till Saturday. Sometimes they came back, have to go eat or something, they came back and we’d play Saturday and Sunday. Three days. That was the good games then.
But Prentis, he hadn’t had games like me. I had the big games. And I don’t know what in the world happened to him in that game. They was playing, then this Harris guy came in. He just came in and he wasn’t even in the game, cuz they had a table full, and he just came in and reached across one of the guys and shot Big Man right in the chest.
I believe it was on a Sunday that he had it there in his house. And I was on my way up there because they always came to my game. But I wasn’t coming up to play, I was just coming up to see what was going on.
Harris that shot him, he’s a light-skinned guy and he’s tall and he’s not fat. He’s a nice-looking young man. Real light-skinned colored guy. But he wasn’t no regular player. He was just playing sometimes. So he wasn’t a regular player. Cuz if he’d a been a regular player he never woulda come in there with a pistol.
He had a sister named Rosetta. The guys at the poker game, they always started something when they got started. “I’ve seen you around with Rosetta.” I said, “No, you haven’t.” “Yes, you have, yes, you have, we’ve seen you.” I laughed, said, “You guys are crazy.”
Yep, that was a sad day. Cuz I knew her grandmother. That’s how I got to know the girl, and her grandmother was one of the first ones that come to me. I told her, I don’t know them guys that well. And in fact, I didn’t know Doc Sturgeon. I didn’t know him. I knew him after all this stuff happened. And the main reason I really knew him was when he was up at this house, at Prentiss’s house when they was playing cards and when I went to go up there I seen him running, too. After he shot that boy, then I seen him and some other guy running down the streets.
I think Harris did a bad thing killing Big Man, and all of them did a bad thing by what they did to the girl.
But she went there. She wasn’t excited or anything when I talked to her. Nothing, just like she was going up there to be operated on or something, because she had a nightgown on and a coat.
So I guess she asked for it.
Yeah, I used to go to the Cougar Lounge. I did gamble when I went down there. Drank, gambled, that’s what I went down there for. Played poker and played Tonk. That’s a fast game that you can win money with. The stakes were probably two and four, sometimes five and ten. Dollars. But if you got caught, you’d have to pay an extra five. You’d go down with your hand and somebody’d catch you – got a lower hand. Like if you got ace, three and somebody got ace, four and they think they got the best hand, they go down and the dude who got the ace, three would catch them and they’d have to pay another five dollars.
This was Bubba Washington and myself and Ernie Gibson, then some other guys would come in like from Iowa City or somewhere like that. Art Pennington didn’t play, he didn’t play Tonk.
I was TopCat. Drinking and clowning and acting stupid. They just called me that. I mentioned it to them or something.
I’d go down to the police station and they’d question me and ask me questions, you know, and I told them at the best of my knowledge what I know about it and went down that evening and then I went down on the trial, so that was about it there. Only twice I think I went down.
Ernie Jordan was Big Man. I never knew his real name. Yeah, he used to play Tonk, too. Perry’s brother was called Pepper. That’s what I think was his brother’s name. The brother was the one they called Pepper.
Someone says they’d robbed that Laundromat down there on Mt. Vernon Road. Somebody’d robbed that Laundromat that night just before and they had a whole bunch of quarters in a bag, in a big old brown paper back when they came in playing. And so, that’s all I know. I don’t really know whether that’s true or not, but that’s what I had heard. Big Man had robbed that Laundromat and he got the money out of the machine.
Sturgeon, he played with us every once in a while. He played with us down to Art’s, I believe. I don’t know. I think he did. I think he played down there. Or he played at the Doc Collins’s or somewhere. I don’t know. Ernie Gibson’s house. But he used to play once in a while with us.
I just played poker. I wasn’t running around with him or anything. We’d just meet up and play poker. I don’t know who invited him or why he started playing with us. I don’t know.
He was all right as far as I know. Most of them guys would be out for blood. To win. I’m the only one that would be acting the fool. Mostly half-drunk and didn’t care. But that day I wasn’t. I’d be generally drinking at the time we’d be playing cards.
Yeah, I was shocked. Really shocked. Didn’t have no idea that was coming that day.
Perry never said nothing. Never apologized. Never said anything about it. That’s it.
He was out the back door. The money was on the table.
Probably was in the early afternoon, early morning when it happened. Because we’d just got started and the wife she was gone, she wasn’t here when it happened.
I don’t know what Big Man did. Them apartments out on J street out there. He used to clean them and do floors or something at one time.
I used to go into Art Pennington’s house and be lit up on a Friday night. I didn’t care about winning the money or not. I’d be half gone.
As far as I know Perry and Big Man was running around together. Used to be together a lot.
Paula, that’s the one that had that abortion. I remember that. They were talking about that one. I just heard that he did a abortion on her and she died.
I wasn’t paying no attention. That kind of stuff I didn’t pay no attention to it.
Sturgeon, he was trying to do abortions and didn’t know what he was doing I guess. That’s what I heard.
I think he died. Didn’t he go to prison? Counterfeit money.
People talking. He got picked up, I guess, and somebody said he got picked up for counterfeit money.
Perry musta wanted some money or something and Big Man didn’t give it to him or something.
Perry, he was real quiet. Quiet guy. He came back like he was going to play poker. We thought he was going to play. He played down at Art’s too.
I think it was a .22. It was the most long one. I think it was a .22.
He didn’t say anything as far as I know. He was just standing there.
I didn’t care if I won any money or not. I just loved to be playing. Clowning. Acting the fool. I was the clown. Make everybody mad with me. I was married.
We went out back and up in the ally. Big Man went out the back door and went around the house. Perry went out the front door because we all went out the back. A few other guys and I’m sure that Big Man went that way too and I think he came around the house and was leaning on the front porch and said, “Call 911.” I don’t remember who called 911. Whoever called 911, maybe I called, I don’t remember. But they came and picked him up, and I don’t know, he was out in the street. The last time I seen Big Man, he was leaning on the porch, he mighta went down to the street. Because he was gasping for air and we was up in the alley looking back down this way, we could see some of the action around there, not much, but we was trying to make sure that Perry wasn’t coming the way we were going. That’s why we went that way. I didn’t know what he was going to do. We didn’t know why he was shooting. That was the problem. See, we didn’t know.
I don’t know whether it was blue jeans or what he had on. But just casual clothes.
You couldn’t see because I guess it was such a small hole. That with a .22 you don’t see anything.
That’s all there was. Just one shot. No there wasn’t two shots. Just one.
I didn’t know Corky Jordan too well. I just knew her. We played at his house I think one time, too.
Big Man lived over by the employment office. Somewhere in there. By the Jerusalem Church up further this way on 9th Avenue, going back toward 7th Street. He was living in there somewhere. Because I remember playing poker at his house one time.
They didn’t play poker down on 5th Street. No, not down there. Uh-uh.
Perry Henry Harris
At one time my father was using the name Bob Gunn. And they transferred him from Ohio to Chicago, and my mother came to Mississippi and got us, and we had to go and stay in Cannon, Mississippi with her brother Bill, until they could get enough money together to get us to Chicago. And when I came into Chicago, it was the first time I’d ever seen snow, and I couldn’t understand how it could be that cold.
I was discharged from the Navy, and I went back into Chicago. I was aboard all the aircraft carriers, except for one they put me on to ship me out of Norfolk and to get me back in the Caribbean. And after that I was transferred over to the Saratoga. I found life in the military was great.
And then I went back into Chicago, and I immediately started hustling. And we would go downtown and basically we was on it to trick white guys into thinking they was getting a woman. We’d even take turns standing in a doorway with a dress on, waving from across the street, while another guy’s called “playing Murphy,” and then we’d get the money, when we’d get them to the place where they was supposed to be meeting the girl. That’s when we robbed them. When I wasn’t doing that I was driving taxis. Since I couldn’t afford a car and didn’t have insurance or anything to go along with it that would make my father want to help me, I figured if I went over and I got a job driving taxis, then I had a vehicle I could move around, when no one would pay me no mind.
At that time, I would have been in the first of 1969, I went to work for R&R Donnelly. I was in and out of trouble. I never got actually caught in the robberies and stuff, except for the one where they said I tried to rob a police officer even after he showed me a badge. So they locked me up for that.
My father could not live with us, because my mother had to receive assistance, and back in those days a man could not live in the house with a woman receiving assistance. So he had to live off on his own. Come to find out when he was off on his own he married a white lady on the North Side, and they had five kids. He was living between two houses.
I have two sisters and a brother. My mother already had a daughter when my father and mother married. So altogether, with all my father’s kids, I have 26 sisters and brothers. And I’ve only met about 14 or 15 of them. And passing that, I only know 4 or 5 of them – outside of the ones I was raised with – real good.
After I got into trouble in a shooting, and I had shot or stabbed several people, then I made the mistake. He turned out to be my brother-in-law, Lonnie. She was a police officer, and he was the precinct captain, and we was at a dice game, and he put his hands on me, which was understood was a no-no. But he was due respect so we done it like the west. We both went and got armed, we went under the El station, and the count to three and then we stopped. And once you stopped, whoever fall the other one was responsible for helping the other one’s family bury him. That was the way of keeping your name clean and being honorable. The only thing was that I drinked and stuff and it didn’t bother me one way or another, because I thought I could outdraw him.
We up under the El. The El runs over the top. The Sumac El. And we out there on 24th up under the El. He just had a little .25 automatic, and I had a pistol grip over-and-under .14 and .22. And he told me to count, and everybody stepped back, and people stepped back and they watch it and I count but I lied and started counting to 3 and I shot him on 2. I gut-shotted him in the testicle area, and then just as I went up to put one in his head, the police whirled in the alley and told me to stop.
And they let me walk away. Well, I had a problem because from another earlier time I had stabbed a guy and threw him down in a basement and they found him and he lived and he told who I was, so the only reason they was letting me stay on the street was they had a guy that was a child molester. This lady’s name was Betty. She had five kids and he’d been molesting the kids, with the exception of his son, which was the youngest. And they had him going to prison, but he ended up with a slick lawyer that got him 6 months, and he was getting out. So when they got me, they told me, say, “Uh, we got a problem.” Say, “You take care of this problem for us, you won’t get a case out of this and you will get to start all over.” So I moved in with her and when I went and hustled at night or went to driving the cab, then she was at home. When she went to work, then I was there with them kids. And the day he got out of jail, well, I was just gonna go right on and do him and be done with it, cuz I was tired of sitting around. But she asked me not to. Well, then that was just before I shot Lonnie [Nonnie Green] under that El station, and when I done that they told me all bets was off. I had to get out of town. And so we packed up the truck and everything and I was leaving. Her and the kids looked out the window. They stayed on the 7th floor, and my mother stayed on the 5th floor, next door to them in the projects, and they seen me leaving and come asked me, and I told them I couldn’t stay with them, and the kids was crying and she said, “Wait a minute.” And she asked my mother, could the kids go and she said, “Well, y’all have to get in the back of the truck with him,” cuz I couldn’t ride up front so I could be seen. I only had that little safe ground. And she said, “I’ll be back.” So I told them, I said, “Well,” and say, “Uh, let me go up there an do him before we go, cuz I ain’t gonna let him get away, cuz they gonna give me life anyway,” but then as I went to go to the building, I heard something, and she had put 9 slugs in before I could get up there. And we left out of there in the back of that truck and came on up to Cedar Rapids.
My father and my mother had a place in Cedar Rapids already, and my sister had moved over here.
There was two Big Mans. One of them was my first cousin, and he was George Wright. The other one was Big Man which was Ernie Jordan. And there was two Perry Harrises. One was my little brother, which if you check police records he was here getting cases under my name while he was AWOL from the Marine Corps while I was in Chicago. And no one put everything together, but if you look at the police records, you’ll say “Wait a minute. How did Perry get it for an armed robbery here and he’s sitting over here in jail doing a year for robbing the police?”
Pepper was my name in Chicago. My brother took that name and come over here. When I come over here I was nicknamed Salt, and he kept the name Pepper. Roy was the other Perry Harris. But in Chicago my name was Pepper. And then later on in life he became known as Pepper, until they gave him time in Illinois. And then things went. But unless you was on the inside or family, no one knew who was coming or where. If they say that Pepper was coming or Pepper done something, they didn’t know whether they was talking about me or my brother. Only inside people knew.
I wasn’t doing anything when I came to Cedar Rapids, except for doing stickups and hanging paper. They didn’t know anything about hanging paper over here, and the mailman just dropped checks in mailboxes. So I put together a group of little girls and on the check dates we’d follow the mailman around and take the checks, and you could go in any service station anywhere and cash the checks. And then we done a little counterfeiting money, but everything was basically based on the young ladies. That’s all I hung with and kept around me.
Dale Peyton was Big Man’s young lady. She was not a part of my crew.
In 1970, my mother was staying on 7th Street, and that’s where I went over to a card game – first time I ever laid eyes on Big Man. And I’ll never forget, I had aces and he had queens and all my money was in and he raised the deck up and he pulled a queen out from under the bottom of the deck, and I looked at him, and I said, “Okay, uh that’s your first time.” And I left and we never had anything to say and then one day he came to me, because he had some counterfeit money orders he wanted to get cashed. And I could use the girls to do the money orders, plus he wanted in on the check scheme. And so, you know, we started making money that way. So you see, when I ended up taking his life, I hadn’t hung with him for six months. Just that period of six months was the only time we was actually in business together.
There was no doubt. We done everything. We turned every dime and we was supposed not to keep no secrets. Then when I went over to his house he had a young lady that was staying over there that I wanted to date. And so I dated her, and then it was the same day was the first time I ever seen Doc Sturgeon. The girl was white. I dated her and her sister. Rachel and Corby Powell. And I only dated her that one time, and then he had her to date the Doc. I didn’t know nothing no different, he was just another trick, and then he explained to me he was a chiropractor and he had the karate thing that was up there. I know he had bodyguards, and they was teaching karate in his classes up there.
The girls in my crew, there was a large posse. Some names like Denise, Corby, Rachel, Karen, Sheila. But Sheila wasn’t involved in any paper thing. She was good for a ride. They was mixed. Even Mexican. I didn’t discriminate.
When I come I started off and I asked to do things, like, go to the bar. I would sit with the ladies and doing everything, and you tried to do something to a lady with me then, I had no problem with trying to put you out of your misery. And before long the ladies trusted me. And I kept my word about everything. If they went out, I didn’t care if they went out and turned tricks. “I don’t want your trick money. That’s your body. You keep your money. If you want to buy me a drink and we laugh and joke, that’s okay, but I’m not gonna send you out there to lay down while I collect.” And they appeared to like that at the time.
Prostitution, checks, everything, including everything else, even with the stickups.
I had was one gun at the time, and I was borrowing it, back and forth in the family, and then after me and Big Man hooked up, he came to me and he told me that a group out of Fort Dodge—three brothers, and their daddy was a pastor—they robbed a gun shop and they brought down and they had a parade of small arms, everything from a .22 to a .45. He didn’t know how to get rid of them, and he wanted me to get rid of them at the streets of Chicago. And I told him that I could get buyers for that, we didn’t have to worry about that. And we kept on hustling and doing and I let them go as it went and out of it I took two pearl-handled long-barreled .22s and those I carried on me all the time. As a matter of fact, I was so skinny and small at the time I had a string around my neck with one that hung in the way so it wouldn’t pull my pants down off of me, and I wouldn’t lose it. The only thing that happened with those was that we set up a card game to be robbed up above the Cougar Lounge. There was nine shots in each one, but we only put five in, and we put them on the back side, because as soon as we had the boys come in and rob the card game, the first thing everybody did was jumped up and asked me for a pistol, cuz everybody, including the police, knew I wasn’t going nowhere without a pistol. I had a fear of not feeling safe.
I was actually a chickenshit. But, you know, with a weapon I would balance myself. It didn’t matter if it was a knife or whatnot, I never mutilated people or done anything. If I shot or cut somebody, I even took them to the hospital. I was sick, and I believed you only done what was necessary if somebody disrespected me and I shot them or stabbed them. I believed it was between them and God after I’d done it, and I did not have a right to try and take away from what decision God was making. So if I shot you and you fell down and you was done, then I’d call and ambulance and get them to take you to the hospital.
I was only shooting because I had a fear of being disrespected, that I was gonna be less than, and I wanted to appear equal or more than. And the fact that I was over 6 foot one-and-a-half inches and I weighed 128 pounds and everybody else looked like Hercules and stuff, and girls wanted their muscles and I just couldn’t stand the fact, and after the way my father used to whoop me when I was younger, and I told him when I was 12 years old that if he ever hit me again I’d kill him. And he pushed me when I was about 16, and when he went to sleep, I went in and the only reason he’s alive today is because just as I leveled down to pull the trigger, he heard a noise or something and he jumped up and he grabbed the barrel, just reached up like that and grabbed the barrel and moved me out the house the next day, into my own place. He went and rented it and told me I was a man, I had to stay in my own place
So the gun holds nine bullets, and we put five, and instead of to the left, we put them to the right so they wouldn’t go off. We’d give the boys time enough to get back out that way. Big Man was setting up the robbery and I was only there to make sure that things went right, because if it got into where it was supposed to be, a bad shootout then. I’d a had to go and do what I needed to do.
The robbers was working for Big Man, because they was the ones that had brought him down the guns to get rid of.
I wasn’t supposed to do nothing but set there and watch in case somebody else pulled up on it. But what we’d already checked and when they robbed, they got all the money and got down the steps, and a guy named Bubba Washington told me, “Hey, give me a pistol.” I handed him a pistol and he hung around the corner and he pulled it 3 or 4 times, and it didn’t go off, and they made it down the steps, and he hollered, and then the other guy grabbed it and pulled the trigger and it went off. Fool! You wasn’t doing something right, and we went on down and laughed, met them, but they ended up going to prison for it, on that one. Everybody knew, but knowing something and going to do something about it, that’s not the same thing.
During that day I wasn’t a person that you wanted to go up and punch and think it was going to be over. And most people was not about it, even the crazy guys like Willie Love, all of them, they was about fighting. But when it came time to lay that hammer down, no, they wasn’t about that. No, it was a phoniness within a phoniness. I wanna be tough, but I don’t wanna be tough to go to jail.
But me, I didn’t know any better. And mine was for keeps at all times, and I never done anything to anyone without a warning.
While I was with Big Man I met a guy named Jesse, and Big Man had told us what a loan shark was, and where he kept his money. On Mt. Vernon Road it used to be a service station and a car wash there. Right across from the cemetery, where the Laundromat is, that used to be a car wash. And the guy that owned the place was actually loaning money out. And he’d been spotted. And he’d take the money at night in this big iron metal box with the strap lock and stuff on it, and that was where all the money was kept until he took it to the bank. So we went out there one night with a crowbar, Jesse and I, and we was trying to take off the lock when the police pulled in. Jesse looked at me and I looked at Jesse and they said, “Freeze,” and Jesse said, “That’s 50 years.” I took off running, and Jesse took off. It was a big tree grew up. It was a fence line, and I leaped, and just as I leaped I got turned over, and I heard Jesse scream, and I grabbed a branch on the way down, and I was hanging there and I had a little burning in my back, but I looked down under me, and there the police was kicking Jesse, telling him to get up, and they’d shot him through the foot. Well, when he got up, I dropped off the tree and took off down the alley and ran to Henry Morgan’s, which was across the street from Big Man, and he answered the door, but because I was messing with his daughter Denise, so I had to run again, and I ran down and ran through my brother’s and through the back of the bill place, went over to Meryl Buck and she picked some buckshot out of my butt and lower back. That’s Larry Buck’s sister.
Later years I got two kids by Denise Morgan, and that’s how my name come back up in something else, cuz I gave her some money to go get the kids Christmas shopping, and she didn’t do it, so I cut her throat, so they gave me more penitentiary time for that.
Okay, there was a couple things that happened. During the summer, my cousin Big Man, who was George Wright, lived in the back of me, and up under me lived Dale Peyton, which was with Big Man Ernie Jordan, and they ran the prostitution thing and everything, and me and my women was just hustling and wasn’t no prostitution involved. But then while I was gone one day, Ernie sent me out to take somebody else to do something to make some money, and he went in, he brought this guy to the house and told my old lady that I wanted her to turn a date with the guy. And he gave her 10 dollars, and he pocketed the rest of the money. And they kept it a secret from me. And then I noticed that she would look at me kind of funny when he was around, so one day I said, “Okay, you can tell me now before I get pissed off,” and she told me the whole story, and I went to him and I told him, I said, “Now that’s the second time. I won’t give you a third chance to do that.” And he apologized, and he gave me the money. And when that thing happened, when I shot him, we went to that game and was supposed to been talking first, and he was gonna be dealing second from under the bottom, and I was gonna be the winner that would take the money away, and when I got a certain amount, to leave. Well, then when we get there then Doc shows up and there was a couple other people showed up afterward. Prentiss’s wife, she was there, and I just can’t think of other names, but I can see everybody and where everybody was sitting, and Roy, too. And we playing the cards and then all of a sudden I’m waiting because once we get into the argument and stuff and I don’t even have a pistol on me because his wife, Big Man’s wife, is not at home at the time and so I gotta go back to her house to even get a pistol. Then I set up there and I’m doing okay, while we gonna get this and go and then all of a sudden I notice that he done dealt me seconds on a hand that I’m winning, to allow somebody else to win, and I asked him, “Hey, what’s your problem, partner?” and he jumps up and we goes to blows. He throw a couple punches and he hits me, and I said, “Wait a minute.” I said, “I told you don’t do that.” And they break it up and we settle down. And the thing was, I was supposed to go to get something to eat. That’s when I picked the weapon up, and so I say, “Okay, I’m going to get something to eat.” He said, “Well, bring me back a hamburger and fries and a pop.” And somebody else ordered some, and I was gonna walk around, but then Doc Sturgeon asked me, Did I want a ride? And he gave me a ride, and he was telling me that he’d seen the same thing and stuff, and he don’t understand what Big Man was doing.
And I knew Big Man was blackmailing him over something, but I didn’t know it was over what they said it coulda been over, but I knew he was paying up. He never told me why, he always grin, but he never told me why. It was a long time before I put what was really going on, because I was an alcoholic crazy man. I didn’t care about none of that, but anyway, so I went and got the hamburgers and stuff and stopped by, and his wife was at home and I told her that it was on, and I come to pick up a package and she went back and the only thing she brought out was a Luger, and she couldn’t find my pearl handles. So I took the Luger and put it in my pocket and we went back and I gave him his food and everything, and everybody stopped to eat and then I kept drinking and I really do not know for sure. I know what I’ve been told. I know I pulled the gun and I said something, and everybody went that I shot him in the shoulder and the bullet went off his shoulder and went down and cut a main artery.
But I never thought nothing about it. I just got my hamburger and kept on eating it, walking on out the door. And I walked down the street to some house and I laid down and went to sleep, and when I woke up I got me a drink and got my pistols and I walked on down to the Cougar Lounge. And I went into the Cougar and Maury poured me a drink and told me that was okay. And I took the drink, and when I walked back to the door, somebody told me the police was coming to me. And somebody reached in my belt and took the pistol out and said, “Don’t go out like that, boy.” Said, “You don’t know what you done done yet.” Said, “You go on. I’m gonna take your drink. And walk outside.” And so I drunk up the drink, walked outside, and my sister was pulling up, and then the police pulled up and they got out and say, “You know Big Man died, don’t you?” And I say, “No, I didn’t know he died.” And they said, “Well, okay.” And all I had was that glass of beer, and the officer said to me, “Well, finish your drink, and we gotta take you down.” And I say, “Okay.” And I took my drink and got in the car, and he took me to the station. And when I come around the next day, then everybody had to explain to me what had went on.
All I did was drink, and you could not, if you done drugs, you couldn’t come in my house. Or if you took like a hit of acid or something, cuz we used to go to the park, and everybody would get naked and get up on the rooftop and they’d take acid and stuff. Me, I just enjoyed the young girls. I was taught that if you done dope, heroin or cocaine, you broke up the plates after you ate at the family dinner. We would not even wash plates behind you. It took a lot of years before I would even try drugs.
Doc Sturgeon, I met him that one time when he turned that date at that house. He came there then, the next time I met, this was at the house. At Big Man’s house on 9th.
Not at 810, that was where I lived then later on, after I met him. Big Man did not stay there. Big Man’s house was on 9th Avenue, because the Morgans stayed across the street. That was where him and his wife lived then. 916 or what. Big Man took care of that house at 810. I never knew who the owner was. That’s just like owning the Fish Market down there off the railroad tracks. I never got into that. That wasn’t my business. My business was protection and money.
I met Doc Sturgeon when he came to Big Man’s house and the next time I seen him and Big Man it was on 10th Street where they had a drive-thru. They used to have that drive-thru where you got the liquor and stuff, and we was coming out there one night and we was short of money, and he said, “Wait a minute. I can get money.” And he wheeled into Doc Sturgeon’s place there, and he told me to come on, and I went in and that’s when I met Doc again, but we didn’t talk or do anything, and then when we left that’s when he told me, he said, “We ain’t got to worry about nothing.” He said, “I got his ass.” Said, “I’m gonna get paid a long time.” And that’s the only thing that I ever knew about his relationship with Doc, other than Doc used him to turn tricks. And then the next time I see Doc was at the card game, and then that’s when I found out he had a couple karate guys for bodyguards that looked out for his interests. But we never talked, done anything, and one day Big Man called and told me that Doc’s nephew, whatever Joe Abodeely was, he had a problem and they wanted to hire me to look out after the girls, cuz they was having a disagreement with some Sicilians. The Abodeely’s was having a problem with Sicilians out of Minnesota. I never knew what it was about, but it don’t make no difference. It sounded like good money, and if all I had to do was shoot somebody, oh hell, I was going for it.
And they took me over to the Unique Motel. And if I wanted a girl, I could just take one of the girls and go upstairs, but it didn’t last but a minute, because come to find out the problem was being created. They jumped up, said, “This is a fake. This is Feds putting this in.” The Federal was after Joe and his brother-in-law. In fact, they was after that whole family. And so I begged off of that, and after that game I never had anything to do with Doc.
It wasn’t about any abortion ring. There was more than that was going on. There was so much. There was counterfeiting going on. They got me while I was in prison, but since I had 40 years, all I had to do was confess to all the ones I could remember, and that had to be a good 400 of them. All the checks, counterfeits, and everything that I myself was involved in and the places that they had. As a matter of fact, I cleaned up a lot of their records, and then they agreed that they wouldn’t take any of the girls or do anything, they’d just let this thing go, cuz I wasn’t ever gonna see daylight anyway.
I was in 5 years, 8 months, and 27 days.
I had a robbery charge, and they had me down from that thing with Jesse, when Jesse got shot. They arrested me in November and they come to me and said, have you heard anything about it? Cuz I said, “No, I don’t know anything about that.” This is in November when I got arrested. He said, “Well, somebody got rid of the body.” They kept saying Big Man, but I was with Big Man the time we had guns in the car and we seen the Feds set up and Leroy, my cousin, was the one that came out and pointed us out in the car, cuz the Feds didn’t know which car we was in, and I said, “Man, he just pointed,” and Big Man whipped in the alley. I grabbed a box of guns, jumped out of the car, run up through the gate and set them on the back porch. They come in, they took apart the lining of the trunk of his car and everything, and that was the first time I found out that they was actually looking to find out if somebody had disposed of a body. But most of that turned out to be bullshit.
Can we go with a personal opinion? Okay, they figured they knew and they shoulda known, who done the abortion. This is where all of that trouble started. The abortion.
They figured they knew that Big Man and somebody else had got rid of the body. And from then on, everybody’s name that came up, they went back to one person: that Williams boy. And every time he gave them somebody else’s name. Which after I looked at it for years, none of it made no sense. Because, number one, I don’t care if it was Joe or whoever set up that abortion, she did not go in there alone. That’s too far out of pocket. She didn’t go in there by herself. The boyfriend or somebody took her, because they had to take her away after it was done. They have never come up with who took her in there. Who did she go with?
Who put the money up? And the only people, the boyfriend, and the people that’s close, that should have known what was going on, they are the ones started giving other people’s names and started sending that out in left field, and to this day I do not ask and even when they come ask me or they think I was the father, I’m going, you can do this on TV, you do it in the courtroom, everywhere, I don’t have that much brains but I just ask that everybody come down take a lie detector test.
I’ve never been asked to take one. I even offered to take one when I was asked about it in the penitentiary by Lt. Byrnes’s son. I said, tell your daddy if he want to know, I’ll take a lie detector test, because I didn’t know anything about that other than what they had brought, and the only thing that I can find is that they need to find out who took her over there.
The only thing that doesn’t add up true is that Doc had these bodyguards, they was karate experts. And you couldn’t get nowhere near that building. They was always there. I never even heard them mentioned in the police report. He wouldn’t even come down in the ghetto without his bodyguards, unless he had Big Man with him. Where did all of those bodyguards go? Where did all of the people go that was up there doing their karate lessons? What happened to those people? There had to be some cleanup or something. And it never came up. And every time this come up, the only time you ever hear it is Robert done said somebody Federal or somebody come back asking questions. But for a sound investigator trying to put it together, you got to go through all the notes and all you gonna find is garbage there.
There was other things. Joe Abodeely was a hated man by the police. They tried to hook him into any and everything, so if he doing abortions and they want to say this is about an abortion, well here’s another chance for us to go get Joe. They don’t forget about what they had over there. I mean, it don’t make any sense.
None of us was on the street then knew what happened. You heard different things, and nobody exactly know. Somebody said she had a boyfriend that mighta killed her – I don’t know what his name was, but that went on for a while, then it went on that Big Man had done away with the body for Doc, and then I was included with it with Big Man, and then there was Willie Love and got in another guy.
This don’t take no genius. You know this wasn’t no abortion. Why would you tie her up?
They never have investigated me. They done had me, I’d a been in prison when at any time they wanted to question me, do you know I’ve never been questioned about this other than when Millsap asked me had I heard anything? Other than him mentioning that, I have never been talked to by a police officer or a detective or nobody, not a federal, and it’s been 40-some years and my name’s bounced back and forth, and every time I ask about it, “Ah that was just bullshit, Perry. You know everybody gonna put something in.” I ain’t been asked one time, because as soon as they come ask me a question, I say go get that lie detector. We gonna find out right now. We gonna put an end to this. But it hasn’t happened. In 40 years, they haven’t done it.
I didn’t have anything to do with abortion. That’s a jinx. That’s bad luck. Everyone one of my girls got them babies right now. Everybody got their babies. I got Sidney by her, I got Morrow and Diamond by Denise. It’s still your baby if you’re the man of the house. One of my kids isn’t mine. He came from a date, but I’m still on the birth certificate. I’m the daddy. I was the man of the house. And I knew what had went on. Why in the hell would you let a child be raised with no father or no mother, and here you well. See you benefiting, you having fun from what’s going on? No. If I’m the man in the house and a child come in, it’s just like somebody going out there buying eggs to have a child. I am a daddy. There is no other way, and there is no way, and especially in the black community, when everybody was poor, who in the hell want to get rid of a baby that’s gonna get a check for five years? Let’s be honest about.
I heard of Debby Kellogg, but I didn’t know her. But that’s another one. If she was the roommate, she know exactly where she is. There’s no way you had a roommate and didn’t talk.
We talking about 1970. There is no one on one. Who was the other guy? Now you gotta come up with another one. You had the man that you was in love with – is gonna date. Then you had somebody that you got high with and hung around with and drink with. Like, you know, couples that are married tonight and we used to go up and have orgies up on the roof and stuff. There was no such thing as one on one, except for crazy people, and they was all listed downtown for beating up their woman, cuz she was caught with somebody else. But where is that other guy?
Even if she was going to see Robert and Robert wasn’t there, then there was somebody else. There’s more than one name gotta come up for her now, folks.
All these years I’ve never known this, have never asked this question. We could never come up with who was this other guy. Now we not saying that every woman was sluts or stuff, but this was the culture back then. There must be another guy.
Also, the clothing doesn’t fit with any abortion. And now she went to look for one, and you know already that she was with another one and something went on. And he left and now you already at 10:30 or later at night and she’s back home. So now she’s borrowing a car to leave again. There’s a third guy. Or that second guy lied and she went back to meet him again wherever he was.
She had to go meet somebody. The second one, the backup is gonna bring you home and you gonna come in the house and we roommates and we talk about everything and you just gonna get up and tell me, in your nightie, that you want to borrow my car. You ain’t saying you want to run down to the store, you wanna to run over to Robert’s, you gonna do something, what the hell is you going out in your drawers for at 2 o’clock in the morning in my car and you’re not gonna tell me something that’s gonna make me understand? And who is going to have an abortion in their nightie? At 2 o’clock in the morning? None of that.
Somewhere there is something, and I think one day it might come out, but I do not believe that that abortion end of it was the truth.
If she went in on 810 5th Street, then she had to be going to Dale’s. Dale Peyton’s. That was Big Man’s woman. And that’s where Doc went to turn his tricks at.
And yeah, that would make sense.
There was no table for her to be on. This is another thing. You know, Art’s a straight-up baseball playing police person. If he told this to the police, why didn’t they go in Dale’s place and strip it out and look for blood or signs of something going on?
If he’d told the police this that would have changed everything around.
Abodeely didn’t fall and go down until either the end of 71 or 72 because I was already in the penitentiary and out of quarantine. And he came to my table and played cards when he come in, and we laughed and joked. And not only him, but his brother-in-law, the Syrian that owned the hamburger joint out there. Nassif. All of us was in jail under the cover that he was with the Church of the New Song, and if you go to the penitentiary and look in the register for 1971-72, there he is. This what made, well, I don’t want to say the gangster thing, but this was a contact being made, and no one ever even seen. It was all the same family.
Even when they say that Big Man done it, now he had two cars. They went through and they got everything out to test for blood and everything. One was powder blue, and the other one was an older model dark blue car that his wife drove back and forth to work. Big Man drove the new one, and she drove the older one. Corky. And they went through that car and got pieces, checked everything and everything, and his arrest depended upon what forensics brought back. And they never came and got him. Never came and got anybody.
The gun was a luger, because I was pissed off because that was the only thing his wife brought me to the door. It was a .22.
The only thing I remember was that he put his hand on me, but it was all supposed to be part of the scheme, but to be honest, the only thing that turned out to be was that a lot of things ran together and the alcohol was the culprit that allowed it to get out of control. And, I heard so many things, but I cannot remember. I done heard everything from I was twirling two guns in the air like I was a cowboy and trust me, it was a luger. It was no big long barrel gun whatsoever.
I know where it’s at now. It’s down there in the river by the courthouse. The guys that took it from me threw it in the river and they called and said it would never turn up, if they dragged that you’d find every gun that we had. We done anything, we went down there and that’s where we threw it at.
Now I know Otis Road going around Cargill, and then you go up and Lockhart had that dog pound.
You could think of Big Man doing that, because when you turn that curve and you come right there, you cross the tracks and you pass around. You come down, you take the road to go around, to go up to the dog pound. Right there in the opening was the best catfish, perch fishing in town. If you wanted to stay in town, we used to go down there and sit and get drunk all day and fish. Big Man showed me where to go fishing down there, and my brother-in-law, everybody set. And there usually was people out there all night long fishing. At night. We used to go down there.
Plus, not only that, when you got off that road and went up further, let’s face it. We’re talking about 1970. If you took your black butt up there, you was through gambling. And I mean you could get shot or the police would be there. You didn’t go on white people’s property in the middle of the night.
That would be somebody who knows exactly and knows who the people are and where things are to be able to go up there. That ain’t some somewhere somebody stumbled into. Somebody would have to know somebody to go up there. That don’t make any sense. Because you got the dog pound when you ride down there and them damn dogs barking all the time that they’re hearing noises and stuff. And then you got all them deer and shit running down through there. You had turkeys and everything else back then.
Let me say this: I do not know that it wasn’t Big Man, because the only thing I do know is that he had something on Doc. And the only other person that would know is dead, and this is Dale, because she got killed in a car accident. As a matter of fact, everyone that could add anything to this, other than the person that assisted her that night into getting over there, would be her roommate. Matter of fact, her roommate is the only one that could shed any light on why she was going over there. Because she didn’t just go over there… to give her her car to go blindly into the night in a nightgown.
Here 8th Avenue is and you got the Chosen Few, the motorcycle gang. You got bikers all out here on the street. We even had shootouts with them. And there was the Fish Market and then you had Big Man, my cousin and his white girlfriend stayed upstairs, and you got down to 5th on the corner, there wasn’t no other blacks around down there. That was all white.
It just don’t add up.
They was boosting. They was stealing clothes. Drug addicts done that to supply. She wouldn’t have been doing that for Big Man. Not on the clothes stealing. We done with the money.
Most of the people that done it back then done it to supply their own habit. Now you gotta remember, Robert was a drug addict, so I would assume that was a heroin addict, so you gotta assume everyone she hung with was a heroin addict. Robert was a heroin addict. Yeah, he was sprung big time. [In 1970?] Yes, he was. That’s when they busted \Brown and all of them. That Tobin boy, he turned everybody in, and only a few of the users got away.
If she ain’t got no habit, what is she doing prostitution and clothes for if she working and don’t have a habit? Now explain that.
Ain’t no way in hell she would have went to 810 5th Street to buy. There wasn’t nothing there. Downstairs there was a couch. There was a cot-like bed, and most of the shit in the kitchen was dope spoons and stuff. And if you wanted food, you went over to the Fish Market next door. I hadn’t moved in at that time, but afterwards I was upstairs, and in the back was my cousin Big Man. Now she could have went in there if she wanted to use drugs, but if she went over there wearing a nightie, she went over there to turn a trick, not to get an abortion. She went over there to turn a trick, cuz that’s what that was for, was trick turning.
Back then most of it was $20, $25 a trick.
The only thing I knew about Dale… now I can understand it, but I didn’t figure it out, what a young girl like Dale was doing with a 36-year-old man like Big Man, and it didn’t make no sense.
The police disliked her action. As a matter of fact after Big Man, she married one of the guys that I was doing time with that came here with me. Him and my brother-in-law and my sister got 25 years for doing the robberies in the dope houses in Des Moines.
His name was Smith, and he ended up being a probation officer in Waterloo until he got another drug charge. Everything ran to drugs. The drugs ran everybody and you had to be in the know to know who everybody was and if you wanted something fixed. But that Paula. If you get into that and you got all of the records together – FBI and everybody – and you get to talking and you look, “Wait a minute. Something went wrong here. We gotta go back and get rid of this garbage.” And you gonna end up the same place. “Why did she get that car at 2 o’clock in the morning?” And that same person is not gonna tell you anything, and then you go back up with the two boyfriends, because you do not go out on the street and learn to turn tricks and be that big a fool.
I do not have anything to hide. If you have any questions. And if you want to get together with the police, it ain’t no different than what I would tell them. Because I done made mistakes in my life and now that I done got away from it, and I have – and this might sound corny – I have confessed my sins and I did not hide for what I done, to shoot people or whatever, because if I wanted you, I did not care if you was sitting in church or if you was out in the woods somewhere, I was doing you then in front of everybody. There was never no question. But now I done got away from that and I done asked forgiveness for it, and it’s long gone cuz I don’t harbor secrets and lie.
Then I think I’m forgiven with just the peace of mind I got.
For a while we were always finding flowers left on Paula’s grave. Strange flowers, like maybe one little blossom stuck in or something. I always attributed it to Robert. Maybe it wasn’t him, but I always thought it was. This was shortly after she died.
Then Lynn and I went there a couple years ago and there was a faded silk purple lilac, one flower stuck in there. It was just stuck in the ground. This wasn’t more than three or four years ago. And I said, “Look, someone else has been here thinking of her.” It had been there a little while, cause it looked like it was either purple or lilac, and it was faded real light.
Lynn and I, we wonder all the time what she would look like now. We wonder if she would have gotten heavy like me or if she would have stayed skinny like Lynn. I’ll bet she would have gotten a little bit heavy, because she was chubby when she was little. She would have gone back to that again, I think.
I miss her. Sometimes I get really upset, because I think of all the fun things we’ve missed out on. You know, when there’s a family get-together and she’s not here.
And I want to know what she’d look like now. That’s what Mom and I talk about. What would she look like? Would she have gotten fat? Would her hair be gray like mine?
Another thing that Mom and I sometimes say, and I guess it’s our little roadblock that we’ve put up—we both will say, “Maybe it’s for the better. Maybe something really bad was coming her way.” Maybe this is God’s way of saying, “I’m going to take her now, because I’m going to protect her from a lot of bad stuff that’s coming her way.” And the reason we say that is because everybody, everybody says, “What a waste.” “What a truly remarkable person.” She could charm you and then turn around and just be this quiet little innocent person. She was beautiful. She was smart. She was talented. She was artistic.
I think the thing is, I just miss her so much. To this day I still miss her.
We were so close.
I think about all that we’re missing out on. I think, and then… it wasn’t fair.
But I did hear that he died. That doctor or chiropractor or whatever he was. And that bothered me tremendously, because I thought, now I can never go talk to him. But they said his nurse was still alive. So I’ve thought many times about trying to get her name and just going over and saying, “Would you just tell me? I promise I won’t tell anybody. I just want to know what happened.”