“BABY FACE” NELSON DEAD: LIFE IN REVIEW
“Baby Face” Nelson’s shredded body was discovered today, lying naked in a ditch near Niles, Illinois, after a deadly encounter with 2 FBI agents yesterday, November 27,1934. The FBI agents, Sam Cowley and Herman Hollis, were also tragically killed in the crossfire.
“Baby Face” Nelson, real name was Lester M. Gillis. He went by many other aliases such as George Nelson, Alex Gillis, and “Big George.” He grew up with the Chicago street gangs, which is where his gang members named him “Baby Face Nelson,” despite the fact that he hated it.
By the age of 14 he was stealing cars. In his teens he took part in stealing tires, running stills, bootlegging, and armed robbery. In 1922, he was committed to a boys home for auto theft. Two years later he was released on parole, but returned in 5 months for a similar charge. He meet Helen Wawzynak in 1928, and later married her. In January of 1931 he robbed a bank in Chicago, Illinois, and was sent to prison for one year to life.
He escaped and came to Sausalito, California. There he met John Paul Chase. Nelson worked with Chase as an armed guard for the truck used to transport illegal liquor. Together, they moved to Reno, Nevada, where Nelson had killed a person for being a witness to the United States mail fraud case.
In 1933 Nelson, and his new friends, Tommy Carrol and Eddie Green robbed banks in Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Most of the blame for these went to Dillanger and his gang. A year later Dillanger joined gangs with Nelson.
On March 4,1934, Nelson got in a car accident which was his fault. The other driver got out of his car and started to yell at Nelson, who pulled out his gun and shot the driver three times in the head, and then sped off. Two days later the Dillenger- Gillis gang robbed a bank in Sioux City, South Dakota. The very next day, he robbed another bank in Mason City, Iowa, killing one employee and leaving with $52,000.
On April 22,dozens of FBI agents surrounded the Little Bohemia lodge in Northern Wisconsin, where Nelson and his gang were staying. Each of the gang members escaped except for “Baby Face” Nelson, who stayed to shoot it out with the agents. The FBI, in trying to shoot Nelson, accidentally killed 1 innocent bystander and injured 2 others. Nelson, escaped through the back of the hotel. As he was escaping, he came across two state troopers and an FBI agent. He stuck his gun through the window and said, “I need your car. I understand you guys wear bullet proof vests, so I’m going to shoot low.” He then killed the FBI agent, and injured the other two. After escaping, he hid out in an Indian Reservation. Nelson then became Public enemy number one.
Then on November 27,1934, two FBI agents, Cowley and Hollis spotted Nelson’s car, along a country road near Fox River Grove, Illinois. In the car was his wife, Helen Gillis, and John Paul Chase, his best friend and a fellow gangster. They began a wild chase with bullets flying in both directions. Nelson then stopped the car just outside of Barrington, and Helen ran to a nearby field to hide. Nelson was carrying a machine gun and his partner Chase with a BAR. Hollis crouched behind the car with a shotgun and Cowly threw himself into a ditch carrying a machine gun. Nearby construction workers dropped to the floor, as the agents and Nelson began to fire. After several minutes of shooting, Nelson dropped his gun to his side and started to walk towards the two agents, while being shot at.
” I never seen nothing like it,” explained one of the witnesses. “That fellow (Nelson) just came right a-coming at them two lawmen and they must a hit ‘im plenty a times, but nothin’ was gonna stop that fellow.” Actually it was 17 times that Nelson was struck, but he continued to steal the FBI car and back it up to his wife and Chase. He then said to Chase, “You’ll have to drive. I’ve been hit.” They dumped his body 20 miles away, and stripped it so that it could not be easily identified.
John Paul Chase will serve time in the state penitentiary, and Helen Gillis will spend a year in the Madison, Wisconsin, women’s prison. As for Lester M. Gillis, also know as “Baby Face” Nelson, he received the greatest punishment of all: Death.