View All Posts
Posted on January 22, 2021 at 3:34 PM by Melissa Dalton
Last week, we learned about Bruce B. Vandervoort and his successful fruit farm. However, we also learned that his son, Louis, got himself into a great deal of trouble with the law. This week, we look into how this young man’s life took a turn for the worse.
Louis Vandervoort was born on January 2, 1903 in Greene County. He was raised on the family’s fruit farm, and worked with his father as there were plans for him to take over the farm at some point. Vandervoort also was afforded the opportunity to go to school, and graduated from high school around 1921. In January 1923, just shortly after his 20th birthday, Vandervoort was arrested for committing a slew of robberies in the surrounding area. The robberies were more for sport, and Vandervoort was thought to be a kleptomaniac as he never tried to sell any of the stolen property; instead, he hid them in the family home. Vandervoort was arrested, but was released shortly thereafter.
Vandervoort originally claimed he did not have any accomplices in the robberies. However, he was arrested again after new evidence was discovered. This time he admitted to having some young men working with him. This admission turned out to be his demise. After naming names, the accomplices were questioned, and all stated Vandervoort was a scary and dangerous man, and they “greatly feared” Vandervoort. One accomplice, Walter Bangham (who also happened to be his cousin), accused Vandervoort of killing two officers during two different robberies in 1922, Elvas Matthews of Xenia and Emery McCreight of Wilmington (Fig 1).
Fig 1. Vandervoort named as killer, Washington C. H. Herald, 23 Jan 1923 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
The allegation of the killing of Officer McCreight was of great interest as Clarence McKinney of Cincinnati was serving a life sentence for the murder. Vandervoort tried to deny the allegations, but eventually admitted to killing Officer Emery McCreight after claiming he felt it was wrong another man was imprisoned for the crime. This confession would eventually lead to the freeing of the innocent, and wrongfully imprisoned, McKinney (Fig 2).
Fig 2. Wrongful conviction of McKinney, Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, 23 Jan 1923 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Vandervoort was arraigned for the murder of Officer McCreight on January 24, 1923 in Clinton County (Fig 3). About a month later, on February 21, 1923, Vandervoort pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree and was sentenced to life in the Ohio Penitentiary. His accomplice, Bangham, pleaded to manslaughter, and was sentenced to 1 to 20 years in the Mansfield Reformatory (Fig 4).
Fig 3. Hearing for Vandervoort, Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, 24 Jan 1923 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Fig 4. Sentencing of Vandervoort, Asheville Citizen-Times, 21 Feb 1923 (Newspapers.com)
Vandervoort would have the opportunity for parole in 1936, and spent the first decade of imprisonment as a model inmate (Fig 5). Vandervoort worked as a nurse and dentist assistant, and spent a great deal of time educating himself and taking correspondence courses (Fig 6). During his work as a dental assistant, he recognized the need for prisoners to have access to false teeth, something not previously provided. Vandervoort took it upon himself to help the hundreds of fellow prisoners in need, and invented an aluminum dental plate, which could be produced in-house. This invention garnered more praise for Vandervoort (even if he would not speak of it in any way as he did not want anything to interfere with his chances of parole) (Fig 7).
Fig 5. 1930 US Census showing Vandervoort in Ohio Penitentiary (Ancestry.com)
Fig 6. Model Pen Prisoner, Xenia Daily Gazette, 22 Oct 1935 (Newspapers.com)
Fig 7. Respect for Invention, Xenia Daily Gazette, 2 Jun 1936 (Newspapers.com)
Vandervoort got his wish of parole in 1936; however, it was revoked after the widow of slain officer, Elvas Matthews, filed a lawsuit against him for $25,000 in damages (which was eventually settled out of court, with the Vandervoort family paying damages). The Clinton County Prosecutor, George Shilling, also worked on behalf of the widow to ensure he was not released. He came up for parole again in 1938, and Shilling again protested, this time explaining that ballistics showed a match between the gun found in Vandervoort’s possession and the bullets that killed Officer Matthews. However, the detective in charge of the investigation had since died, as well as many of the witnesses. In addition, the gun also was missing, so there was no evidence to corroborate these allegations. Vandervoort came before the parole board for a third time in 1939, with Shilling’s protesting, this time stating he was convinced Vandervoort would return to crime within 24 hours of release. Again, parole was refused (Fig 8).
Fig 8. Articles describing resistance to Vandervoort parole, 1937-1939 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com & Newspapers.com)
Vandervoort had been transferred to the London prison farm as he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was greatly dismayed by the denial of parole, and would not be eligible again until 1941. Just two months later, Vandervoort and three fellow inmates, escaped from prison through the hospital wing. During the escape, Vandervoort was injured. Within four days, we was found hiding in a barn near Springfield. He was in poor condition, using a stick as a cane, and in ill health. He was taken back into custody and returned to the prison farm (Fig 9).
Fig 9. Escape from London Prison Farm, Xenia Daily Gazette, 2 Aug 1939 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Through all of his trials and years in prison, there is little mention of the family. When Bruce B. Vandervoort passed in 1941, Louis was still listed as a beneficiary of the life estate, and he signed a receipt acknowledging acceptance of funds in the amount of $11,592.26 (Fig 10). It is unclear what actually happened with those funds, and if they were deposited into some sort of account or seized.
Fig 10. Signed Receipts from the B. B. Vandervoort Estate for receipt of life estate funds (Greene County Archives)
It wasn’t until 1945 that Vandervoort finally got his wish of parole, leaving prison at the age of 40 (Fig 11). Vandervoort remained in central/northern Ohio, settling in Mansfield after being released from prison. Vandervoort lived a quiet life after prison. He took the skills gained in prison, and operated a dental laboratory in Mansfield. He became a member of the Evangelical United Brethren Church in Mansfield. Vandervoort also married Marian Spayde in 1949, and the couple had a daughter, Debra (Fig 12). Vandervoort’s health began to fail, and on March 19, 1958, he died unexpectedly. He was buried in Mansfield Memorial Park (Fig 13).
Fig 11. Notice of Parole of Vandervoort, Cedarville Herald, 5 Aug 1945 ()
Fig 12. Notice of Marriage License for L. C. Vandervoort and Marian Spayde, News-Journal, 29 Sep 1949
Fig 13. Obituary of Vandervoort, News-Journal, 19 Mar 1958 (Ancestry.com)
We have one more edition for this story – to learn what happened to the Vandervoort fruit farm. Check in next week to learn more!
Until Next Time!
Greene County Archives
before leaving your comment