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Bootleggers in the 1920's
Our organized crime columnist, examines a perplexing unsolved double murder case from Cleveland.
by Allan May
On January 16, 1920, prohibition went into effect nationwide. Two weeks later, in Cleveland, Ohio, a double murder took place that shocked the city. Were the bootleg wars off to a bloody start in the city on the shores of Lake Erie? Or was there something else behind the murder of the two successful businessmen from New York. The police quickly advanced two murder theories. One was that the killings were due to a whiskey running operation - the victims were killed to prevent the arrest of other gang members, or to prevent a whiskey shipment from being confiscated. The second theory was that the killings were linked to a vendetta, family feud, or plot of the Camorra or the Black Hand.
Just after midnight on January 30, 1920, two Salvation Army workers, Sherman and Elizabeth Ransopher, were returning from a meeting in Cleveland. As they walked from West 25th Street down Pearl Road on the city’s near west side, Mrs. Ransopher spotted a leg extending from a ditch near the edge of the road at the corner of Bader Avenue and Pearl Road. She screamed. The couple slowly moved closer. Although it was dark, the couple had no problem making out three bodies piled together in the snow-filled ditch. The faces of the three bodies were covered with blood and small pools of blood had already begun to form beside them.