Tom Egan Arrested for Murder

Tom Egan, one of the co-founders of Egan’s Rats, was accused of arranging murders but rarely charged with murder himself.  In 1907, though, St. Louis Police would arrest him twice for murder.

In January 1907, Egan was in the Jolly Five Club at 1505 Morgan Street, when William Gagel entered.  Egan and Gagel had known each other since childhood.  However, Gagel blamed Egan for his murder conviction.  After serving less than 9 years in prison for the killing, Gagel told several men he intended to “get Egan” after he was released in late 1904.


Artist Rendering of Tom Egan, Nellie Egan and George “Kid” Wilson from the October 23, 1907 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the Public Domain

Several convicts wrote Egan to warn him of Gagel’s intentions.  When the men met each other for the first time in 11 years, Egan was on his guard.  Gagel went to his pocket like he was retrieving a gun.  Egan quickly pulled his own gun and shot Gagel twice.  Arrested for the murder, Egan was exonerated on grounds of self-defense at his trial in the summer of 1907.

A few months later, Tom Egan was again implicated in a murder connected to the Jolly Five Club.  James or George “Kid” Wilson was standing at the corner of Ninth and Wash Streets talking to a woman.  Wilson was a member of the “Jolly Five Boys”.  The “Jolly Five Boys” were associated with Egan’s Rats.

A man walked up to Wilson and shot him twice.  Depending on the witness, the woman left before the shooting or right after.  It turns out the lady in question was Nellie Egan, the 22-year-old wife of Tom Egan.  Nellie was also Wilson’s cousin.

The only witness, Charles Batera, said he saw Wilson talking to Nellie Egan.  Tom Egan walked up and all three talked for a few minutes.  Suddenly, Tom Egan pulled a gun and a shot rang out.  Batera saw the Egans duck into an outside passage, which led to the Egan house at 814 Wash Street.

Patrolman Burke of the Carr Street Station arrested Egan coming out of his front door.  Burke took a revolver from Egan.  The revolver had recently been fired.

“Kid” Wilson was found in a doorway at 1018 Wash Street.  Wilson absolutely refused to name the shooter.  When told he was going to die, he told the police, “Don’t worry.  I’ll get him.”  Wilson died a few hours after being shot.

Egan was indicted for the killing but once again evaded conviction.  Wilson’s refusal to name his killer and a lack of witnesses kept prosecutors from securing a conviction.  The 32-year-old gang leader would seldom be directly implicated in killings again.

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Sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 23, 1907 edition, p. 5, October 24, 1907, p. 8 and November 22, 1907, p. 2

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