A newly acquired artifact from 1930s law enforcement history goes on display at the History Center this weekend, the museum announced.
Donna J. Vorndran, daughter of former Sheriff Herman C. Holle, gave the History Center a “soap gun,” a .38 automatic fashioned out of soap that prisoner John Dee Smith made in an attempt to break out of jail.
The gun is on temporary display through October.
Mrs. Vorndran also donated a scrapbook that her family kept about crimes in Allen County.
Smith, then 22, was awaiting trial for the murder of Arlie Foster in 1935 according to a local news item published on Dec. 17, 1937. Smith later admitted he was mimicking the notorious John Dillinger, who had used the same technique to escape a jail in Crown Point several years earlier.
Holle described Smith as “too good a prisoner” and so the jail staff had him under constant surveillance once he was incarcerated in Fort Wayne after being apprehended in Los Angeles, where he had fled and lived for two years.
Smith went on trial on Feb. 14, 1938 and was executed on June 1, 1938.