Tales from the Morgue: Kidnapped, Part 7, conclusion

2010-08-25T00:00:00Z 2011-06-03T18:36:00Z Tales from the Morgue: Kidnapped, Part 7, conclusionJohanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star
August 25, 2010 12:00 am  • 

The Morgue Lady can't possibly do better that the headline splashed across the front page of the Arizona Daily Star, May 14, 1934:

 

KIDNAPPED ROBLES CHILD RETURNED TO PARENTS
__________

Uncle and County Attorney Find Girl In Living Grave
__________

June Robles, six-year-old kidnaped child was found at three o'clock this afternoon, nine miles from town. The information which came from the governor's office was stated to have been a letter from Chicago which gave the location of the baby.

Nine miles from town a freshly turned bit of earth about six feet long and two feet wide attracted the attention of the three men and upon closer inspection they found it to be a dug out affair, covered over.

The dugout was constructed of gunny sacks, wood and tin, and June was chained by one ankle on the inside. June was dirty and covered with vermin. Food to the extent of a jug of water and a loaf of fresh bread was on the inside of the cage.

The first words the baby spoke were: "I want my mamma."

The letter from Chicago was dated May 10 and was in the same printing as the two previous letters received. It was signed "XYZ Obey."

The letter was sent from Chicago to Governor B. B. Moeur, who in turn sent Riley Bryan, state highway patrolman, to Tucson with the instructions. These were followed by County Attorney Clarence Houston, Assistant County Attorney Carlos Robles, uncle of the child, and the patrolman, who spent the entire morning trying to find the child. Houston was credited with having spied the mound of dirt and the dugout.

Nineteen days ago June Robles was kidnaped from near the school which she attended and from all appearances she had been confined to her prison for most of that time.

The dugout was securely covered over and the lock on the chain attached to the child's ankle was opened by the child herself when the key was discovered lying on the roof. The key was handed down to her. She was so weak, however, she had to be carried to the car.

The letter, which had broken the 19-day cloud of mystery, was turned over to the Department of Justice at once, and the wires carried an immediate demand to operators there to check up on its mailing on May 10 and the possibilities of tracing its source.

The child was taken to the home of her parents by Houston and her uncle and officers under command of C.S. Farrar, undersheriff, and C.A. Wollard went immediately to the scene of the rescue of the baby and immediately began the search for signs that might lead to the kidnapers.

Houston, in describing the find, said that when he found the baby he was alone. He looked over the top of the pit and saw the baby. In a low voice he said:

"Hello, June, do you know me? Are you afraid of me?"

Looking up in a startled manner, the child said: "No, I'm not afraid of you," and Houston called Robles.

He saw then that the child was chained and when he tried to get into the hole he found that he could not. He found the key to the cage-like cave on a small piece of tin near by as the uncle of the child came up.

Carlos, overjoyed at finding his little niece, was horrified at the manner in which the child had been kept.

The baby, when given the key, unlocked herself. She was so weak she could not walk when placed on her feet.

She did not know the men who had kept her, she said. He added that she had never seen them before and that the two men she had seen were called Bill and Will and that one "wore gloves."

 

What was described in the May 14 article as "a loaf of fresh bread," turned out to be not so fresh. It was later indicated that most of the food was rotten.

More information on her prison followed in the days after June's rescue. The description in the Star on May 15, 1934, of her cage was horrifying:

 

The pit in which she was found measured only 3 feet by 3 feet, nine inches by 6 feet.

The sheet iron cage and its contents were brought to the sheriff's office last night and brought expressions of horror from officers and bystanders who saw it. The old galvanized iron had been nailed to a rough framework if old planks. The metal had been cut with a pair of tin snips to form a door two feet wide and two feet six inches long in the top of the cage. This was the only method of entering or leaving the pit.

Well Camouflaged

After the cage was buried in the ground the men had covered it with prickly pear, cholla and dirt until it was almost impossible to locate from the directions given in the letter which was rushed here by the governor. Houston explained that he almost stumbled over the cage before he realized that there was anything there.

Air was supplied to the imprisoned girl by a few nail holes punched through the top of her cage. Food with which she was supplied was spoiled when the girl was found. Water was provided in two dirty galvanized iron cans. Sanitary provisions consisted of a graniteware pot buried in the floor of the pit. The pot had a hole in the bottom so that some drainage into the soil was provided.

The girl sat (she could not stand up in the narrow cage) for 19 days. So far as the dazed girl could inform the men who found her, she had been visited only three or four times by her abductors. With filth, rotting food and vermin around her, the chain which was padlocked around her ankle clanked every time she moved. An old dog chain and a rusty automobile tire chain had been linked together to form her tether. One end of the chain was fastened outside the box to a long steel pipe which had been driven into the ground. The chain had been passed through a hole in the galvanized iron and thence around her ankle.

 

The searchers had expected to find a dead body if they found anything at all. The men who found her told a story that indicated June must have been quite resilient even though she was likely in shock. The Morgue Lady is sure the girl had nightmares for some time.

From the Star on May 15:

 

Joy of finding Live Girl Instead of Dead One Told
__________

Houston Amazed at Girl's Cleanliness Despite Having To Live in Dirty Tomb; Asks for Key and Unlocks Padlock; Angry at Chain Marks
__________

The story of two discouraged men, seeking what they knew to be a dead body and their joy when they found a live girl instead, came out slowly last night as Carlos Robles, uncle of kidnaped June Robles, and Clarence Houston, county attorney, talked over their experiences in Houston's office.

Houston told how he and Robles separated in their desert search, how he wearily sought the shade of a tree and there saw a sprig of cactus and an old pasteboard box which gave him the impetus to search again. The child's coffin-prison was found by accident a few feet from where he rested.

He was certain that June was dead. He had been almost lost on the desert and had been calling for Robles, but now decided to peek into the grave, see the condition of the body and call an undertaker and not tell Robles until later.

Prepared to find a decomposed body, he was shocked to find the live girl chained in her grave-cage. He told of his first remarks to the girl, his query, "Were they good to you?" and her answer, "Yes."

"Honey, I can't get down there to unlock that thing," he told her.

"Give me the key," she called imperiously. She unlocked the padlock "quick as a flash," he said. She took a drink of orange juice from the glass in her prison before allowing herself to be helped out.

She failed to recognize Houston and seemed to believe him one of the kidnapers until he got her to help shout for her uncle. "After that I was her pal," Houston explained.

As they were leaving the place Houstion said, "I don't know whether I can find that place again."

"Oh, yes you can," June said. "Don't you remember, you hung your handkerchief up in a tree." Then Houston mused over the kidnaping.

Houston paused — "My big regret is that we have no capital punishment for such a crime," he mused.

Houston explained that he was careful not to question the girl too closely. She was forced to turn her back whenever the men visited her, she stated.

"Gee, my teacher will be glad to see me back," was one of her remarks.

"When I heard June call 'Liche,' I forgot all about the evidence," Robles said last night. (Liche is short for Caliche and is a nickname reference to the fair complexion of Carlos.)

Houston and Robles both paused in their discussion to give high praise to all the officers who worked with them in the case.

In recounting the joy of the family when little June came back, Carlos recalled that his grandmother was in church praying when the child was returned. When she learned the child was alive she returned to church to pray again.

After a pause in the talk, Carlos said — "Well, after all, that's a trip we'll never forget."

In remarking on the luck which took its part in the final finding of the child, Houston recalled it took him an hour to go back to the place even after he had hung his handkerchief in a tree near the spot.

Houston recalled that June was angry at the marks of the chain on her leg. "Look at that!" she said. "Just look at that!" She pointed to the scar, her dark eyes snapping with anger. Her extreme concern over her personal appearance was also subject to comment. "I don't know how she kept so clean in that hole," Houston said. "She pulled down her little dress, fixed her sleeves and fluffed up her hair as soon as she saw me."

Then Robles took up the story to tell how she demanded a bath as soon as she got home. "In spite of the doctor's orders for rest she wants to go to school tomorrow," he stated. She was bitten by insects or had prickly heat across her forehead; it was bleeding a little. That bothers her, too.

 

The Morgue Lady can't imagine that June's mother would let June out of her sight to go to school for a long while.

The hunt for the kidnapers continued for some time and theories were batted about, but no one was ever charged with the crime.

June grew up and married, and all evidence indicates she is still alive today. The Morgue Lady is a praying person and prays there are no nightmares and that June is a happy woman.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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