Luke Kennedy Is Killed
Luke Kennedy served as one of the toughest enforcers for the Hogan Gang, who rose to be the Egan’s Rats rival in St. Louis organized crime. However, after Kennedy was shot in the leg on December 30, 1921, Kennedy was practically an invalid. Kennedy was forced to move back to his father’s house at 4409 Greer Avenue.
Kennedy may have thought his weakened condition would lead Egan’s Rats to forget about him. If Kennedy believed the Rats would forget him, he underestimated William “Dinty” Colbeck. Colbeck swore revenge for the killing of his boss, William Egan. The ruthless Colbeck was determined to keep his promise to the dying Egan.
On the afternoon of April 17, 1922, a friend drove Kennedy and his automobile to meet his girlfriend, Mrs. Edith Gershbach. Mrs. Gershbach had recently left her second husband, who complained to police about Kennedy stealing his wife.
Kennedy could not drive because of his injury, so Mrs. Gershbach drove to 6601 Hamburger Avenue in Wellston, where her father had a grocery store. As Mrs. Gershbach pulled to the curb on Red Bud Avenue near Hamburger Avenue, three men jumped out of the car behind her.
According to Mrs. Gershbach, the men began firing into the automobile with all three of them still in the vehicle. According to witnesses, however, the men allowed Mrs. Gershbach and her 5-year-old daughter Evelyn exit the vehicle before the committed their grisly mission.
All three men opened fire on the helpless Kennedy. 26 bullets shredded his upper body before the men retreated to the waiting Essex automobile. Witnesses also identified a Willys-Knight automobile as the trailing vehicle in Rats’ hit squad.
As the men were leaving, they told Mrs. Gershbach’s father to stay where he was or they would kill him. Mrs. Gershbach’s father and his assistant Clarence Felter heard the gunshots and went outside to investigate.
After the killers left, the men were going to carry the body inside the store. However, Mrs. Gershbach begged them to take back to his home. Clarence Felter drove all three of them back to the Greer Avenue residence, where the police were alerted.
In one of the strange aspects of this case, Mrs. Gershbach married Clarence Felter after her second divorce. Unlike her first two marriages, this union would last until death separated them.
Mrs. Gershbach refused to identify any of the gunmen. When brought into view a lineup, she made sure to yell loudly “I can’t identify anyone.” She wanted to make sure the Rats knew she wanted no part of being a witness.
Mrs. Gershbach faded into history but the war between the Rats and the Hogan Gang was far from finished. Who would be targeted next?
Source: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 18, 1922 edition, pp. 1-2Pin It