Tales from the Morgue: Kidnapped, Part 1

2010-08-19T09:00:00Z 2011-06-03T18:36:52Z Tales from the Morgue: Kidnapped, Part 1Johanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star
August 19, 2010 9:00 am  • 

On April 25, 1934, six-year-old June Robles left Roskruge school to go to her cousin's house, as she normally did after school. She never arrived.

Later that afternoon, her father, who didn't yet know she wasn't where she should be, received a letter demanding $15,000 or little June would die.

Other kidnappings were in the news at the same time, but this was in Tucson, this was a little girl, a member of a prominent family. Tucsonans started the search.

From the Arizona Daily Star, April 26, 1934:

 

In true western style, and with no Chicago flourishes, the greatest manhunt ever staged in the west was in full swing late last night — after the man or men who late yesterday abducted little June Robles, 6-year-old granddaughter of Bernabe Robles, wealthy Tucson pioneer, and held the child for $15,000 ransom. Hundreds of men, officers, cattlemen friends of the rancher and real estate owner, joined in the search for the child and her kidnappers, to be followed by 300 American Legionnaires this morning.

And kidnapping, the ugly word which has not inflamed southern Arizona for over two years, spurred on the heavily armed groups of officers and men, bent on a quick capture of the abductor and a resuce from a threat of death if ransom was not paid, in the ransom letter received by Fernando Robles, father of the tot.

The child was lured from Fifth street, adjacent to Roskruge school, as she left an afternoon class yesterday to go with her 6-year-old cousin Barney Kengla, to his house around the corner. Nearly two hours later the unsuspecting father received the sinister printed letter with the awful news that the child had vanished and the demand for $15,000 — or death to little June.

 

There were two witnesses to the kidnapping, June's cousin and the mother of another student.

 

(June) was lured into a small car just after she left the Roskruge school, where she is a kindergarten pupil, shortly after 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon. The little girl was on the way to the house of her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Herman Kengla, ... where she was wont to visit until late afternoon, when called for by her mother.

Accompanying her was her six-year-old cousin, Barney Kengla, and one of the two apparent eye witnesses to the kidnapping. Young Barney related that, as he hurried home, around the corner from the school to commence the afternoon play with his little sister Sylvia, June lagged behind. (Morgue Lady's note: Sylvia was actually June's little sister, a fact noted elsewhere in the reports.) Rounding the corner from Fifth street on to North Second avenue, the boy said that he saw a man in a "little black car, smaller than daddy's — maybe a little Ford" stop and call to June. June walked over to the car, got in, and the car drove away, the child said.

Mrs. Harold D. Smith, sister of Carlos Ronstadt, also saw the kidnapping, although partially unaware of what was taking place. Mrs. Smith was driving home from Roskruge after calling for her child, saw a small car, a dilapidated sedan, stopped at the curb and the man driver attempting to coax a little girl therein. Mrs. Smith stated that a thought of kidnapping flashed through her mind, but she dismissed it when her child asked her not to drive so slow, but to hurry home.

Partially Disguised

The man, described by Mrs. Smith, was partially disguised with large sunglasses, wore dark dirty clothing, and seemed very emaciated, his clothes hanging on him. The child, Mrs. Smith said, seemed to be refusing to enter the car, saying "No, no." But the man seemed to be insisting, Mrs. Smith said.

The Robles family was apprised of the abduction of little June shortly before 5 o'clock when the kidnap note was delivered to Fernando Robles, father of the child, at the Robles Electric company on North Church, which he owns. A small boy, Rosalio Estrada, ... carried the note from the Fox theatre parking lot across Church street to Robles' store. The boy told officers all he knew of the affair was that a man, an American in dirty clothes, paid him twenty-five cents to deliver the note and wait for and return an answer.

From across the street Ray Orcutt, operator of the parking lot, saw the man and boy come on to the lot from Congress street. The man, standing between two parked cars, gave the boy directions, and started him off; recalled him, gave him more directions and something from his pocket, Orcutt reported. The boy then left and walked across Church street to the Robles store.

As he did, Orcutt related, the man ran from the parking lot onto Church street and north to Pennington, where he turned west onto Pennington and disappeared. The boy told officers that the man had ordered him to walk about the downtown streets, in the event that he was not at the parking lot on his return from the Robles store.

 

The kidnapping evoked memories of a kidnapping two years earlier:

 

SAWYER KIDNAPPING CASE IS RECALLED

The kidnapping of the Robles child was the second time in Tucson's history that the "snatch racket" invaded the city. The first case was two years ago when Gordon Sawyer, vice-president of the Southern Arizona bank was stolen from his home, late in the evening. Sawyer was found, bound and gagged, at the bottom of an abandoned well on the Adkins ranch the following day. A ransom of $60,000 had been asked.

After a gun fight with sheriff's depities, Clifford Adkins was arrested and later tried and convicted for the crime. He was sentenced by Judge C. C. Faires to life imprisonment in the state penitentiary where he is now.

Carlos Robles, uncle of the missing child, was co-prosecutor of Adkins in his capacity as assistant county attorney of Pima county.

 

Next: Negotiations.

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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