Snaring the elusive Everett Crum


Editor’s note — This is the final part of a three-part series.

In the movies, the story usually ends when police surround the criminal and he gives up with his hands high in the air. This wasn’t a movie, and Everett Crum was not about to give up.

Crum released William Shelton, but held a cocked pistol at the other hostage Wilbur Trotter’s head for the next two hours. He demanded safe passage through the roadblock in exchange for Trotter’s release.

Trotter’s car was pinned and trapped against the side of a garage, owned by Ray Downs.

“Crum had a gun cocked and held right at his Trotter’s ear.” Downs said. “I heard Crum tell the officers to, ‘Let me through or I’ll shoot him.’”

Within half an hour, 150 lawmen descended upon the small village of Cherry Fork.

One of the officers was Herb Conner, the popular game warden from Clinton County. Herb was a personable and able officer who had served our community with distinction. Conner was from the same hometown of Crum, Lynchburg, and knew Crum well for years.

The law officers had been pleading with Crum for over an hour-and-a-half to release Trotter and give up. The negotiations were going nowhere.

Conner decided to approach the car.

According to reports, Connor walked to within 15 feet of the Chrysler where Crum had jammed the weapon to the man’s ear.

He calmly talked to the fugitive: “Now Everett, you haven’t killed anyone yet. There’s no blood on your hands. You can come out of this alive. You’re trapped. Now just let that man out of there. Put your gun down and step out. You’ll be alright.”

Talking through the open right window of the idling Chrysler, the escapee said convincingly, “I’m taking him, and I’m getting out of here.”

“You can’t get out of here,” Connor came back. “And you’re not going to shoot him. You wouldn’t do that, Everett. Think of your daughter. What will it do to her? Do you want her to go to school Monday saying her dad murdered a man trying to escape police?”

“They want to hurt me,” the wiry face behind the horn-rimmed glasses responded. He was referring to the surrounding officers, about 40 feet away, armed with rifles, shotguns, pistols, tommy guns and tear gas.

Crum stood his ground, knowing in a sense he was holding the reins.

Connor said, “Now if you don’t let him out, you’re still going to murder him, even if you don’t shoot. That man has heart trouble. He may die right there in your arms, and it’ll be your fault. Look how quiet he is, and his eyes are shut. Is he OK?”

Crum said, “Yeah, he’s OK.”

“Let me see him raise up,” Connor said. Trotter moved his head sidewise and looked toward the game officer.

“All right, Everett, we’re giving you just 10 minutes to make up your mind to let him go or not,” Connor bluffed, suddenly acting impatient. “Your running days are over.”

“Yeah, even if I give up and they don’t shoot me, there’ll be about 20 years for me,” Crum said.

“You’ll have a long sit alright,” Conner replied. “But at least people will say you had the decency to let this man go.”

The game protector, Herb Conner, then walked the remaining 10 feet between him and Crum. He leaned on his elbow casually against the right window.

The tense crowd hushed, waiting for the gun to fire.

A voice came from the Chrysler: “You’re getting pretty close,” Crum warned in a louder voice now on edge.

Connor kept up his banter, which seemed to calm Crum. Conner then called Cherry Fork’s Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Paul Duncan, from the crowd to talk to Crum. Without hesitation, Duncan talked to Crum a considerable time.

Then, the ordeal was over. Crum surrendered to Conner.

Crum, known as “Wahoo’’ by his associates, was returned to the Highland County Jail where he attempted to escape again, but Sheriff Walter Reffitt thwarted his plans.

During his interrogation, the investigators asked Crum why he came back to Lynchburg.

“I had $300 hidden inside a fruit jar buried on a creek bank at the edge of Lynchburg. That’s how I happened to be back at Lynchburg the night those fellows were shot. I walked down through the banks of the creek, sometimes in the water of the creek, some of the time barefooted, and I walked about 18 miles to get that money,” Crum told the detectives.

Crum was charged with numerous criminal charges and eventually pled guilty to them all, which totaled more than 300 years. Judge Swaim sentenced Crum to more than 30 years in prison from Clinton County.

Evidently miffed, Crum kicked a Wilmington News Journal reporter on his way out of the courtroom.

Crum attempted another unsuccessful escape from the Clinton County Jail on Aug. 11, 1960, using a loaded revolver.

Sheriff Floyd Foote and Deputy Sheriff Harold Hormell delivered Everett Crum to the Ohio Penitentiary after sentencing for his 55-hour crime spree, which included escape, kidnapping, wounding two police officers and stealing three automobiles.

Everett D. Crum, 84, of Manchester, passed away Monday, Aug. 5, 2013, at his residence.

Pat Haley is a Clinton County commissioner and former Clinton County sheriff.

Pat Haley Haley

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