Plot To Kidnap Betty Bloch

Wheeling Intelligencer
October 6, 1934

McKee Denies Nervous Plotter Gave 'Tip On Kidnaping Plans

Says First Information Was Received From Bridgeport Miner

Bowen Visited By His Wife Friday; Pair Listen To Ball Game

Denial of the report that the information on the Bloch kidnaping plans had been received from a person who had been a member of the plot but later became fearful of the law, was made Friday afternoon by Prosecutor Don McKee.

McKee made this denial following an item of a newspaper service claiming federal agents had reported the "tip" had been received from a third person who had withdrawn from the plot.

The prosecutor said that the first information as to the plot was made to him on September 22. He said, "It is a man who resides in Bridgeport and I believe he is a miner, but I will not tell his name. This man told me that he had heard the two men talking on the street and that he should report the conversation to authorities.

Report Made

"I did not think much of the report at the time," McKee continued, "but I could not let it pass without a complete check. I later called in agents of the department after which time it was learned that such a plot was being hatched. The additional information resulted in the organization of the police agencies and brought a successful conclusion of the investigation.

"I do not deny that there may have been a third person in the plot, but we did not receive the 'tip' from such a person. The third person, in my opinion, was to step into the case after Miss Bloch had been seized. The victim was likely to be taken to the home of this person and it may have been that the ransom transactions would be completed through this person."

McKee further stated that the investigation into the case is not being dropped because Thurman F. Bowen, 31, and Harry Thornton, 31, both of Bridgeport, are being held in the Ohio county jail. He said that officers are still seeking all evidence possible.

Agents At Work

Federal agents are still known to be in the Bridgeport section and are attempting to secure evidence. The place where Miss Bloch was to be hidden after her abduction has not been located, although reports have been that the hide-out was to be located on Kirkwood Heights where there are a number of abandoned houses.

A thorough check of the Kirkwood Heights section was being made after residents had reported they had seen men about homes that have not been occupied for months. It could not be learned Friday evening if agents had found any concrete evidence in this section of the Bridgeport district.

Bowen and Thornton, arrested late Wednesday evening, after they had abandoned their plans to seize the heiress as she left the Howard Apartment in Pleasant Valley following a party in her honor. The pair, under the watchful eyes of police, were seen near the apartment house and later withdrew after noting the well lighted grounds and complicated road leading to the National road.

The pair made complete confessions after being questioned for several hours, claiming that they alone had plotted the kidnaping. They later pleaded guilty to charges of a conspiracy to violate the Lindbergh kidnaping law and are being held on default of $100,000 bonds. Their case will be presented to the U. S. district court grand jury, October 26. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The two men are said to be resigned to their fate. Both are reported to have listened to the radio report of the world series baseball game. A radio has been installed in the cell block of the jail and the two defendants took an active interest in the game.

Visited By Wife

Mrs. Bessie Bowen, Bowen's wife and the mother of his five-year-old daughter, visited him for a few minutes in jail Friday afternoon. They conversed in low tones. The strain that the wife has been under since the arrest was notic[e]able. She returned early Friday evening and gave the jailer a change of clothing for her husband. She did not talk to him at this time.

Miss Betty Bloch, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jesse A. Bloch, who was to have been the victim of the plot, was in much better spirits Friday. She had been told of the plot soon after the reports were received and was under a constant nervous strain, but had not shown one sign of breaking down.

Wedding Today

The wedding of the intended victim is scheduled for this afternoon at the Bloch home in Pleasant Valley. She is to marry Wilmot L. Harris, formerly of Washington, D. C., and now of Wheeling. The plans for the wedding had been carried foreward [sic] although the bride-to-be was in constant danger.

Thornton and Bowen are held on charges of a conspiracy to violate the so-called Lindbergh kidnaping law. The warrant, which was served on the pair at the Ohio county jail by U. S. Marshal Harry Weiss, charges that they had planned to kidnap the heiress and take her into Ohio. It is also charged that chloroform was purchased and was to be used to stiffle [sic] any cries Miss Bloch would make after she had been seized.

Crime and Punishment

West Virginia Archives and History