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The End of the Story...

Inconceivable!

I wrote a story on ye olde Facebook over a few days in February 2023. I did not finish the story. Don't ask me what happened, I have no idea what happened yesterday, let alone what happened over a year ago. I got busy, distracted, overwhelmed, forgetful, who knows?


So, for your reading pleasure, here is the End of the Story.


Benjamin Bower was kidnapped on Tuesday, 19 January, 1932, and Denver entered it's True Crime chapter. The entire city was alarmed that a mild mannered bakery manager could be taken from his own home in the late evening hours.


The Rocky Mountain News, Denver, Colo.

Friday, January 22, 1932

front page


Three days after the kidnapping, The Rocky had pages of articles and interviews turning this investigation over to the people of Denver. Mrs. Bower and her attorney were interviewed by thirty-two year old reporter Walden E. Sweet. She had been telling the press for days that it was ridiculous that people were reporting she and her husband were wealthy. That said, she was willing to part with their entire savings and even attain loans on their properties to get her beloved husband back unharmed. "Wherever my husband may be, I want him to know there is no sacrifice I will not make nor any destitution I would not endure for his dear sake."


Twenty-nine year old, reporter and Colorado native, Alberta Pike, an early member of the Denver Women's Press Club, took to the streets of Denver to gauge the public's opinion of this unusual situation. She interviewed manicurists, barbers, beauty parlor operators, newsboys, the former Governor Alva Adams, Secretary of State, Charles M. Armstrong, local judges, Charles Williams, Deputy Sheriff in Brighton, and many others to give the widest variety of supposition for their daily readers.


"He's alive." "Denver people did it." "I believe he is safe, and is still in Denver." "It was someone who knew him who did the kidnapping." "I won't be surprised if they beat it- and leave Mr. Bower murdered." "There's a possibility that Bower has been taken to the mountains, or, again, he may have been taken as far away as Western Nebraska." "My guess would be that they have Bower hidden somewhere out east of the city, because they could get there more quickly than up in the hills and there are plenty of isolated spots in arroyos off the beaten track, where there wouldn't be any neighbors to happen on them. Of course, they could very well be in some downtown hotel." "I don't think they'll find Bower in Denver. The town is too small; neighbors know too much."


And my favorite quote goes to Miss Marion Gustin, daughter of the recently departed attorney William S. Gustin. "Isn't it exciting? It makes me wish I were a detective. I believe he will be found unharmed in some place that seemed too obvious to search."


Rocky Mountain News, 22 January 1932,
page 2, illustrator unknown

But it was veteran reporter Wallis M. Reef whose article gave all the details. You can imagine him sitting at police headquarters all night, watching, listening, and waiting for any news of poor Mr. Bower.

 

BOWER ENIGMA LEAVES POLICE STUNNED

FATE OF DENVER CAPTIVE RIDDLES AFTER 53 HOURS

CASE HAS MANY ASPECTS OF 'PERFECT CRIME'

Family of Victim Fails to Hear From Thugs; Three Grilled by Officers

 

"Sinister silence on the one hand-

Desperation on the other."


By this time, the public had learned that the two men who had carjacked Mrs. T. H. Winbourn and her friend Mrs. Clara Poole at Colfax and Grant St, first directed Mrs. Winbourn to drive to E. 1st Avenue and Madison Street (in Cherry Creek), before driving on to the Bower residence. It was about a ten minute drive from the location where Mrs. Winbourn and Mrs. Poole were hijacked. Police believed they were meeting up with accomplices who followed them to the Bower's home.


Denver Post, 21 January 1932 page 3, illustrator unknown

Denver Post, 21 January 1932 page 3, illustrator unknown

The car was found Wednesday evening near West Florida and Sheridan Blvd, in what is today known as Lakewood, Colorado. At the time, it was only open space sparsely inhabited at the border between Denver County and Jefferson County. Mrs. Poole's purse and vacuum were found in the car, untouched.


Denver Post, 21 January 1932 page 3, illustrator unknown

While Roger Knight, vice-president of Campbell-Sell bakery, and son of Stephen Knight originally balked at offering any reward for his bakery manager's return, he eventually relented at the bequest of Mrs. Bower and offered $1,000 to add to the City of Denver's $500, the Rotary club's $1,000, and the Elks club's $100.


Woe was any criminal element in the Denver metropolitan area during this man-hunt. Police in Denver and elsewhere picked up several people over the first few days, investigating leads involving known convicts, a stolen Reo sedan from Lakeside Park, and the possibility of something fishy going on at the Campbell-Sell Bakery. The Police and Fire chief's decided to work together and add 200 firemen, armed with extra police firearm and confiscated weapons from the Colorado National Guard to assist in a house-to-house, garage-to-garage search of the entire city. Every unoccupied house and cabin in the area know as the mountain parks district was checked for the wayward criminals. The Jefferson County sheriff and an armed posse hunted in the canyons west of Denver, Turkey Creek, Deer Creek, and Coal Creek.


Police detectives began to look into previous robberies of the baking company and the kidnapping of the company's cashier on earlier in the year. In the first of those robberies, "five men stole $1,000 from the bakery office," took place in July 1931. They injured a salesman and were never identified. Then on January 9th, Charles H. E. Alexander, sixty-seven year old bookkeeper at the Campbell-Sell Bakery was kidnapped from his home by four men, taken to the bakery and forced to open the safe. The kidnappers left one man at Alexander's home to guard his wife, Jessie and their two adult daughters, Leafy, age 43, and Ada, age 35. They got away with $556.


Newspapers in every state in the union were reporting on kidnapping in Denver. The papers called the kidnapping melodramatic. They reported that Bower owned two apartment buildings and 1/4 interest in the Campbell-Sell Baking company, giving credence to the theory that the Bower's were wealthy. Mrs. Bower got her phone repaired in time for the promised 12 pm phone call on Wednesday. Police stationed at the various public phones around town (remember phone booths?) trying to catch the criminals. It must have spooked the man who rang at noon and then sharply hung up without a word.

 

On the same day Mrs. Bower made her pleas to the readers of the Rocky Mountain News, she received a note, signed by her husband.

"Dear Mary-

For God's Sake send the $50,000 ransom. I am alive and well and have not been harmed as yet- but they will kill me if you don't.

Unless you follow these directions I surely will be murdered. Above all do not give this letter to nor divulge its contents to the police. These are desperate men and they will not hesitate to kill me if the police are notified.

Now follow these directions carefully.

Make a bundle, all cash, and wrap it in a newspaper and cover it with red cloth and then drive out on the Golden road (now known as Colfax Ave) two miles from Golden. You will be met by men in a Ford roadster. They will attend to things. Be there at exactly 1 o'clock Saturday.

Do not fail me. Benjamin."

 

It was written on three slips of paper torn from a notebook, sent special delivery in the mail to Mrs. Bower. Immediately, Mrs. Bower began making preparations to comply with the note. She was insistent that she proceed as ordered as her husband's like depended upon it.


Cooler heads prevailed. The note was indeed turned over to the police. It was discovered that Bower did not write the note. Several factors led police to this conclusion. Handwriting expert George H. King, former bank teller, and Charles H. E. Alexander both concluded it was not Benjamin's handwriting. Mary Bower didn't drive. Her husband would have known this. Examples of his writing were published in the Denver Post for all to see.


Back to the foothills west of Denver the search intensified. Sighting of the kidnappers and their victim popped up along the front range. Curiosity seekers haunted the Bower's street hoping to catch a glimpse of Mrs. Bower.


 

THE DENVER POST -- FIRST IN EVERYTHING -- SUNDAY MORNING, JANUARY 24, 1932

 

B. P. BOWER IS FOUND ALIVE

BENJAMIN BOWER, UNHURT, FREED BY HIS ABDUCTORS


Pushed out of an automobile at Thirteenth Avenue and Zuni Street, Benjamin was released by his captors more than 100 hours after being forced away from his home. No ransom was paid for his release.


The unassuming man was out the $4.60 in his pocket and his Masonic pin, although he asked them not to take that. To newspaper reporters waiting at police headquarters, he laughed and said, "All this fuss about the smallest man in the room!"


Well, obviously, this is not truly the end of the story, is it? Stay tuned for the conclusion of the daring escapade of the Kidnapping of Benjamin Bower.


To read how this story began, check out Picture it, Denver, 1932.

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