Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Street Gutter Corpse: Clifford M. Hicks, Attorney at Law

A young 28 year old attorney, with a sordid past, and questionable friends, was murdered in the spring of 1927. The assailants were found, after the police put just about every thug through the interrogation grind.

Clifford Hicks, partner of the firm Major, Hicks and Turner, of St. Louis, Missouri, had been found on a lonely roadside just outside the city limits. Judge Sam Hogdon rode his horse on early Sunday morning, along Watson Road, where he spotted the body laying face up.  It had been riddled with bullets. He contacted the coroner and the deputies arrived shortly to identify the deceased as Clifford Hicks. He had been shot six times and the only items on his body were a watch and some letters and papers. Nearby residents were questioned, and they reported hearing gun shots around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. A pair of women's gloves were found about 100 feet away from the body.  Mud on the gloves matched the type of mud on the shoes of the corpse.

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 Clifford and his brother, Glenn, were partners in an insurance brokerage business.  Glenn was mentioned as the beneficiary in several life insurance policies on his brother, Clifford.  With all the totals of the policies gathered, Glenn was expected to reap over 365 thousand dollars upon the death of his brother.  Some of the policies taken out in 1923 went through beneficiary changes from the original script, all naming Glenn as the beneficiary.  Glenn Hicks, along with two others, Harry Bostleman and William Davis,  both ex cons, were arrested for the murder of Clifford Hicks.

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Clifford Hicks reported that he had been held up and robbed of $5,200 on April 29th, just two days before he was found murdered. The day that Hicks was killed, he had updated his will naming his brother Glenn the executor of his estate without bond and sole beneficiary. Mrs. Hicks told of her husband's nervous ways since he had been robbed.  He sat at home in the dark every evening after the robbery, telling her that "these guys are after me", often with tears in his eyes.  Mrs. Hicks was an expectant mother, so her husband did not want to alarm her by telling her any more about his fears. She said that he had taken a pistol with him when he went to Sunday school, which scared her.  He told her that he felt he needed it for protection. He told his wife that he had been repeatedly threatened. They had made plans to go to the Ozarks to get away for a few days.  However, that trip never happened.  He went to his office on Saturday in the morning, and that was the last time she had seen him. Mrs. Hicks could not believe that her husband's younger brother would murder her husband. Glenn told her that $200 thousand dollars of insurance was to be put in a trust for her by him.  He said that he could handle the money much better than she could.  Sure.

 The office secretary and stenographer, Miss Ida Sinnwell, was questioned by the police.  Clifford Hicks seemed to be looking over his shoulder a lot, and he told her that he might be killed by gangsters one day. She said that on the Sunday morning of the murder, Glenn Hicks phoned her to come to the insurance office. At about 7:30 a.m., he told her that Clifford had been found dead. The body had not been found until around 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Glenn could not explain how he knew his brother was dead before the body had been discovered.

On that Sunday morning, Glenn Hicks had entered into his brother's office when he met with Miss Sinnwell. He had taken, destroyed and burned a number of papers from the office files. After being arrested, he told the police, "I know it looks bad for me, I guess I am in for it now". No kidding.  He handed a farewell letter supposedly written by Clifford to his widow.  His note contained information that he had been threatened three times. Mrs. Hicks and her sister were together when Glenn Hicks and Davis came to her home to give her the note, saying that Clifford told him to give it to her in the event that he was reported missing or found dead.  He and Davis stayed at the Hicks home until 2:00 a.m., then left for the office, with plans to take some of Clifford's papers. It was reported that Clifford also left farewell letters addressed to his law associate, and his bank president.  The contents of these notes were not disclosed to the public. The bank president, Mr. Crain, was told by Glenn Hicks that his brother had completed a list of pall bearers to be attending his funeral. What?

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Police probed into the background of Clifford Hicks.  Apparently he had been involved with William Davis, who had stolen railroad bonds in Ohio, and proceeded to sell them with the help of Hicks, who was using an assumed name.When it comes to the street robbery of Mr. Hicks, he was carrying over $5,000, said that he was on his way to make a deposit, and was accosted by two men, he could not identify.  He said at one time that the money belonged to the trust company, and he filed for reimbursement of the cash from the insurance company.  Yet, he told another officer that the money belonged to himself, not the trust company.

Mr. Hicks had heavy financial debts. He apparently booked two hotel rooms on that Saturday at different hotels in the city, and registered under false names.  Records showed that he made numerous telephone calls from both rooms. He had an appointment to meet with Mr. Crain at the Page Bank, but did not show up.  Instead he was seen lunching with a woman at the Elks Club, a woman with no identity.  The waiter from the club said they stayed at the venue from 12:30 until about 2:30.  He said the woman was about 35, dressed in black and had brown hair. Hicks had his briefcase open on the table and was showing this woman a life insurance policy. He got up from the table to phone his wife, he planned to come home for dinner that evening.  But he returned to the Elks Club after a brief walk, about 6:30 p.m. and remained there talking with the mystery woman until about 8:30 p.m. The Club employees said they saw them leave together at that time.

Clifford Hicks was a director of the Page Bank until April 20th, when the bank was held up.  He resigned because he said the robbery looked strange. He was badly in need of cash.  He first said the $5200 taken from him was his own, and not insured.  Late he said that it belonged to the St. Louis Finance Corporation.  He was treasurer of this entity, and put in an insurance claim on the money. The claims agent had many questions, and Hicks was evasive with his answers.

Glenn Hicks, the younger brother, said he was at his own home entertaining a Sunday school group until about 9:30 p.m. on that Saturday night.  He took a phone call from his brother's wife who was worried about Clifford, who had not come home for dinner.  Glenn headed over to his brother's home about 10:00 p.m.

The sister of Mrs. Hicks, Anne Betts Walton, told police that Mr. and Mrs Hicks were dinner guests at her home on Thursday evening before his death.  He was acting very nervous, pulling down the window shades in her home and telling of being threatened.  They went for a drive, with Clifford driving Anne's car.  He was acting as if someone was following them while he drove, and tried to speed up to evade anyone tailing them.

In mid May of 1927, a brunette woman and a known gangster friend of Glenn Hicks were taken into custody for questioning.  Neither were identified by the police, and no report was divulged from their interrogation.

In June of 1927, many insurance companies charged fraud in the case of Clifford Hicks and his many life insurance policies.  Petitions charged that policies were obtained fraudulently by concealing that he was engaged in questionable, irregular and illegal business practices.  He was also found to be misappropriating his own funds belonging to others, and he engaged in businesses with felons and lawbreakers. He procured insurance upon his own life from many companies in large sums, and could not have been able to meet the premium payments with the known legitimate source of income.

So, what was the REAL story of Clifford Hicks?  You tell me.





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