Detective Chief Nabs Desperate Robbers

     On December 3, 1896, three men entered the Home Brewery Office in St. Louis at around 2:30 p.m.  Cashier Robert Hofferkamp approached the men.  The men produced revolvers and told Hofferkamp and his assistant to throw up their hands.


Chief Desmond Article from the Sunday, October 30, 1904 edition of St. Louis Republic

     The men took $10,000 from the office in what would be a multi-million dollar heist today.  The robbers tied up and gagged Hofferkamp and his assistant.  Instead of fleeing the city though, the men stayed around St. Louis.  It would be a big mistake on the men’s part.

     St. Louis Chief of Detectives William Desmond was known as the “thief-taker” throughout the United States.  Desmond would again work his magic.  Desmond captured the three robbers, Joseph Stanley, Joseph McLaughlin and Billy Wolf, on January 6, 1897.


Shootout on Pine Street Cover

     Chief Desmond received a tip on the men’s whereabouts from Stanley’s mistress.  Desmond then personally arrested Stanley and McLaughlin in East St. Louis, Illinois as they were attempting to board a train for Indianapolis.  Desmond sent detectives to pick up Billy Wolf, a local barber.

     In contrast to their bold heist, all three men quickly confessed to Desmond.  They all admitted to their part in the robbery.   While all three men probably served some time in prison, I have not found any reference to the eventual outcome of the trial.

     Billy Wolf did continue to ply his trade in St. Louis as a barber.  He died in 1930 at 80 years of age after being run down by an automobile.  The St. Louis Coroner could not determine if Wolf was killed or if it was an accident, which indicates a hit and run accident.

     Desmond would be the bane of men like Stanley, McLaughlin and Wolf.  “The Sherlock Holmes of St. Louis” was more than a match for the criminal element.

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