John Dillinger's Family Drops Efforts to Exhume Gangster's Body - Rolling Stone
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John Dillinger’s Body Won’t Be Exhumed, After All

Dillinger’s nephew has halted exhumation plans following cemetery’s denial and History Channel’s exit

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There are still questions surrounding John Dillinger, but his body won't be exhumed.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Members of John Dillinger’s family have called off their efforts to exhume the Depression-era gangster’s body. The decision comes a month after a lawsuit that argued for the exhumation was dismissed without prejudice by an Indiana court.

In July 2019, Michael C. Thompson, Dillinger’s nephew, filed a permit with the Indiana Department of Health to have Dillinger’s corpse exhumed in concert with a History Channel documentary; the permit was approved and a September 16th exhumation was planned before the Crown Hill Cemetery, the Indianapolis, Indiana cemetery where Dillinger is buried, refused permission.

Dillinger’s nephew and great-nephew filed a lawsuit with the Marion County Superior Court in an effort to supersede the cemetery’s decision, but the court ultimately sided with Crown Hill Cemetery in December. The window to appeal that decision was January 15th, but the Dillinger family instead opted to abandon their exhumation efforts. The History Channel exited the planned documentary in September 2019.

“We continue to maintain our right to deny the exhumation out of respect for the decedent’s family and to protect Crown Hill Cemetery from unnecessary disturbance,” a spokesperson for the cemetery told the Indianapolis Star. Dillinger’s body is encased in two-and-a-half tons of concrete, a defense against a previous rash of grave robbing and body snatching in Indianapolis.

While the exact purpose of the exhumation was unknown at the time of Thompson’s permit, it was later revealed that the planned History Channel documentary bought into the long-spread rumors that federal agents gunned down a Dillinger lookalike outside Chicago’s Biograph Theater on July 22nd, 1934.

“It is my belief and opinion that it is critical to learn whether Dillinger lived beyond his reported date of death of July 22, 1934,” Michael C. Thompson, affirmed in the affidavit. “If he was not killed on that date, I am interested in discovering what happened to him, where he lived, whether he had children, and whether any such children or grandchildren are living today.”

Following news of the History Channel documentary and the planned exhumation, the FBI issued a statement reaffirming that it was Dillinger, a former Public Enemy Number One, who was killed outside the Biograph and dismissing the “common myth” that it was a Dillinger doppelgänger; the FBI also noted that, in addition to other evidence, the fingerprints of the deceased matched Dillinger’s.

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