Stanley and his accomplice, Charles Williams, were probably starting to think they’d really gotten away with it this time. It had been nearly two weeks since they had sped away from the filling station outside Arlington, Ohio, shoving its proprietor off the running board of their moving vehicle.
Then, suddenly, the prospect of a Sunday meal with the family dwindled to a far-distant dream. Stanley would be spending his afternoon at the police station. By this point, the people there might have been just as familiar as family (and had roughly the same amount of control over their connection to him).
Clyde Richard, the owner of the filling station in question, was unlikely to forget the faces of the men who had so recently robbed him. On March 29, 1931, he picked Stanley out of a lineup of ten young men; the next day, he accompanied Hancock County deputy sheriff Lyle Harvitt to Lima, where he pointed out Charles Williams in the street. 1
The two were taken to Stanley’s old haunt, the Hancock County Jail.
For the next month, the two bided their time in different sections of the jail. The weekend before their trial, Sheriff O. E. Willford and Deputy Sheriff Lyle Harvitt transported several other prisoners to the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus, leaving Deputies Paul Solt and Justin Stone in charge.
Married to the Law
Once again, it’s proven that you can’t throw a stone in Hancock County without hitting a relative. We’re related to yet another player in Stanley’s saga. Deputy Paul Solt was married to Frona Arras, the second cousin of Oliver Arras, Stanley’s brother-in-law.
Just a year and a half after this episode, Paul Solt died at 40 years of age. His kidneys had failed due to chronic interstitial nephritis caused by an infection of the right knee joint. Frona was left alone to care for their 14 year old daughter, Marjorie.
Not Quite Houdini
Stanley Smith and Charles Williams attempted to take full advantage of the sheriff’s absence. Apparently they caused quite the ruckus. Would you expect any less?
“…Deputies Paul Solt and Justin Stone found that Williams had one bar almost sawed off. He had used the teeth of a pair of pliers. Beneath the bunk the officials discovered concealed an improvised dagger made from a brace off the cot. A necktie had been wrapped around the one end to be used as a handle.
Bolts had been taken out of the hinges of Williams’ cell door. He had also torn an old hot air register from the wall, apparently seeking a means of escape in that manner.
Smith’s efforts to escape had not advanced as far as that of his companion. He tried to pick the lock with wire from a clothes hanger. Part of the wire became stuck in the lock. He also tore some plaster from a wall between his cell and an adjacent one….” 3
Admittedly, Stanley’s attempt plays a bit “Three Stooges” to Charles’s “Escape From Alcatraz”.
No Laughing Matter
The following Monday, the two appeared in the court of common pleas, where they offered no defense. Their lawyers, William Snook of Findlay and Dudley Henderson of Lima, asked the jury to have mercy. Within half an hour of retiring, the jury returned with a verdict.
Stanley Smith and Charles Williams were found guilty of highway robbery, a crime which carried a sentence of ten to 25 years in the state penitentiary. 4
Next Time: A Question of Justice
1 “Hold 2 In Gas Theft,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 31 Mar 1931, p 2 col 7.
2 “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” FamilySearch , (www.familysearch.org, accessed 25 Aug 2017), death certificate image, Paul Solt, 13 Nov 1933, digital image from FHL microfilm 1,992,982.
3 “Frustrate Jail Break Attempt,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 18 May 1931, p 5 col 6.
4 “Found Guilty of Robbery Charge,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 19 May 1931, p 3 col 1.