Editor’s note — This is the second of a three-part series.
Sergeant Frank Copeland represents all that is good in a police officer. He is inquisitive, smart and alert.
On the night before the Cussins and Fearn break-in, Sergeant Copeland was on patrol in the west end of Wilmington when he noticed a suspicious truck sitting in a nearby used car lot. He peered inside the window and saw a rifle on the front seat.
Sergeant Copeland immediately wrote down the truck’s license number. The following day, he learned the truck belonged to Everett Crum.
Sergeant Copeland then contacted the Hillsboro Police Department and asked the officers if they were familiar with Crum.
“Oh, yes. We know Everett well,” they replied in unison.
In the 1960s, a suspect could be held on “suspicion” for up to two days before formal charges were filed. Sergeant Copeland incarcerated Crum and lobbied the chief of police to keep Crum locked up while he continued to investigate the case.
Little did Crum know, had he not escaped, he possibly would have been released later that day.
The Wilmington Fire Department and Wilmington Police Department were housed together in City Hall at the time of the Crum escape.
“Everett Crum put a gun in my chest, stole my revolver, locked me in this cell, and just ran out the side door. ‘Let me out!’” Officer Jones yelled at firefighter Dwight Winkle, who obtained a large, metal key from the front of the police department and freed Jones.
Within minutes, law enforcement officers from throughout Clinton County arrived at the city police department.
Crum’s younger sister, who had visited Crum before his escape, was still milling around outside near City Hall after the escape. She was arrested on suspicion of smuggling Crum the gun used for his getaway.
“All Clinton County units,” the radio dispatcher began breathlessly. “A shooting of a police officer has just occurred in Lynchburg.” The time was 11:30 p.m. and the date was Feb. 18, 1960.
Lynchburg patrol officer Ernest Wilson, who was cruising the village with his father-in-law, Deputy Harold “Windy” Shaffer, noticed a man walking down a nearby alley. The man then darted between two houses. Within seconds, the man whirled and began shooting.
The first shot struck the spotlight on the police cruiser. The second shot hit Wilson in the right side of his head. Another shot brushed Wilson’s abdomen. Deputy Shaffer was grazed. Shaffer returned fire at the fleeing suspect, but the bullets missed the man.
The man, Everett D. Crum, was still-at-large.
The next day Crum showed up in Hillsboro, into the unsuspecting presence of funeral director Hope Miller.
Crum pointed his gun at Miller and said, “I need to get out of town and I want you to take me.”
“Take my car. I don’t want to go. You can have the car,” Miller replied, visibly shaken.
Obligingly, Crum took the station wagon and fled again. Several hours later, law enforcement officers found Crum’s footprints in a snowy field in Fairview, a crossroads west of Hillsboro.
Unfortunately, when the field was searched, Crum was not there. Six hours later, Crum’s footprints were found at the Highland County Fairgrounds.
“I think Crum is headed east on the railroad tracks,” an informant told police. Hillsboro Police Sergeants Robert Martin and Willard Parr rushed to a footpath and hid quietly on a bankside along the B & O Railroad tracks.
Within minutes they heard a rustle along the tracks. The person walking along the railway evidently had seen the officers. Shots rang out at the police officers. Sergeants Martin and Parr returned fire down the dark tracks.
Sergeant Martin’s flashlight caught Crum’s face for an instant. After a brief exchange, Crum ran somewhere south in the dark, and then turned east.
According to Crum’s later account, he had slept in a church in Hillsboro Friday night. He said although the officers had surrounded him, he crawled up underneath the drive shaft of a milk truck and hid.
“I could have reached out and touched 12 different guys at once,” Crum said. “I had nothing to eat since I broke out of the Wilmington jail, except for two cups of coffee and some jelly, which I got at a home I broke into Thursday night near Allensburg outside Hillsboro. I spent that night in the attic hiding behind a chimney,” Crum added.
Saturday was the day Everett Crum planned to make his final escape from Southwest Ohio. He would be free, once and for all — or so he thought.
With that thought in mind, Crum drove to Manchester, a scenic town on the Ohio River just a few miles down river from Ripley.
Wilbur Trotter, grocer and former mayor of Manchester, and his son-in-law, William Shelton, were in the wrong place at the wrong time. As time would show, so was Crum.
Crum, who had commandeered several vehicles and kidnapped numerous people within the last two days, did it again in Manchester by leaping into Trotter’s car.
“Come on boys, let’s take a ride!” Crum lightheartedly told the two men. Perhaps he would have been less whimsical if he had known what lay in store for him a few miles up the road. “Let’s go up to Cherry Fork,” Crum said, as he pushed his loaded gun against the back of Trotter’s ear.
After cruising the Adams County countryside for a few hours, Crum and the hostages turned onto SR 136, and entered the farming hamlet of Cherry Fork, home to 200 people.
Something wasn’t right, thought Crum, but it was too late. He had ridden directly into a police roadblock. Within seconds, police completely surrounded the car.
To be continued next week …
Pat Haley is a Clinton County commissioner and former Clinton County sheriff.