Detective Desmond Stops Jail Escape

     On the morning of Wednesday, July 8, 1885, the Coroner’s Clerk Jimmy Spaulding rushed into the Police Court at the Four Courts building.  Spaulding announced one of the jail inmates waiting in the holding pen had just escaped.  While most of the members of court sat stunned, Detective Billy Desmond jumped to his feet and rushed out of the courtroom.

     The 28-year-old detective ran to the pen just in time to see two legs hanging out of the hole, where the other prisoner escaped.  Desmond grabbed one of the legs, said “come back here” and forcefully dragged the man back into the pen.  Desmond looked down to see notorious St Louis thief Con Foley.  When Foley realized Desmond was holding his legs, he surrendered.


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

     Foley quickly identified the escaped prisoner as William Clark.  Clark was better known by his alias Skippy Dean.  Dean had escaped the St. Louis Jail previously in the incident, which took the life of Patrick Doran in 1881.

     Prior to his arrest, Dean was awaiting trial for robbery of store on Chouteau Avenue.  Dean was last seen running down Eleventh Avenue.  Dean would make good his escape.

     Dean wouldn’t escape the authorities forever.  Illinois authorities arrested Dean for  new crimes.  By 1887, Dean was serving a long prison sentence in Joliet, Illinois.

     Con Foley would continue to bounce in and out of jail.  In November 1886, Foley was sentenced to 6 months in jail for stealing a $10 overcoat.

     Detective Billy Desmond would go on to become St. Louis Chief of Detectives William Desmond, the Sherlock Holmes of St. Louis.  Con Foley would be far from the last St. Louis criminal to find himself in Desmond’s iron grasp.

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Sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 8, 1885 edition, p. 7, July 13, 1885 edition, p. 1 and November 19, 1886 edition, p. 2.


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