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"Massacre memories, legends still linger"--The Kansas City Star; June 17, 2008 by Matt Campbell

Massacre memories, legends still linger

Officials will commemorate the event, which happened 75 years ago, at 5:30 p.m. today.

by Matt Campbell

The Kansas City Star

A son's memories, a house and perhaps a gun still link our world to the Union Station Massacre, which happened 75 years ago today. Officials will gather at the site in front of the station at 5:30 p.m. to commemorate the event that left four law officers dead along with a prisoner, who was the object of a rescue attempt by gunmen. Raymond J. Caffrey of Kansas City was invited to the event but he declined, fearing it might be too emotional. Caffrey remembers a "tall grim-faced policeman" coming to the apartment door on Linwood Boulevard to tell his mother that his father, Raymond, had been wounded at Union Station. Actually, he was killed from a ball bearing fired from a shotgun into his head. "He told my mother what happened, and she got hysterical, crying and carrying on," recalled Caffrey, who was 6 at the time. It was Caffrey's death as a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent that impelled bureau head J. Edgar Hoover to become obsessed with nabbing the gunmen and beefing up his then weak organization. The young Ray Caffrey remembers his father's body laying in an open casket for a couple of days in the dining room of his grandparents' home in Omaha, Neb. After the funeral the boy was sent to spend the summer with his uncle and cousins on a Nebraska farm. But he was aware of the furor over the massacre. Sixteen days after the shootings, Caffrey's widow, Regina, went to work as a clerk for the federal bureau in Kansas City and -- when he was 16 -- so did Caffrey. He remembers when Adam Richetti was executed for the massacre. Caffrey went on to become a pathologist in the Kansas City area. "There was a time I didn't want to talk about it", Caffrey, now 81, said about the massacre. "But as I get older..." Caffrey has read about the massacre and is aware of the contention over what really happened that day. "I don't believe anything," he said, Except: "My father apparently got killed by friendly fire." A posthumous medal awarded to his father hangs in his room in south Kansas City. And he recently took three grandsons there to read the plaque commemorating the massacre. It is just a few feet from where their great-grandfather was killed.

Special .38 The .38 special is heavy, just like it's purported history. Carl Bendert of east Kansas City believe the Smith & Wesson handgun is linked to the Union Station Massacre, based on a story passed down from his late father-in-law, who worked near the station. "He was at work and heard all the commotion and shooting and everything", Bendert said. "After the gun smoke cleared, he walked down, and here lay this pistol with nobody around. It was just laying on the sidewalk near the station doors. Either the owner got killed, or he just dropped in in the confusion." Bender, 82, still has it. Massacre stories are legion, but this one could have happened. The crime scene was not quickly secure. People were milling about, tracking through the blood and picking up shell casings. "With the chaos that ensued right after that happened, anything is possible," said John Ham, an investigator in the Kansas City Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The serial number on the butt of the gun is 43917. Ham went to Smith & Wesson, which verified that it manufactured the gun between 1919 and 1923. Further, Ham determined that the make and model would have been carried by the Kansas City police at the time of the massacre. Robert Unger, a massacre scholar, said the gun could have belonged to one of the two Kansas City detectives killed that day. But the police were not the only people with .38s. They were easy to get. "It's possible one of the bad guys could have dropped it," Ham said. The ATF is continuing to examine the gun. Bendert was a little apprehensive that if the gun turns out to have belonged to the government he would be in trouble. But Ham said he had nothing to worry about. "I think every statute of limitations on this has run out," he said.
Gangster hangout
It's an unassuming house in Kansas City's tidy Armour Hills neighborhood. But according to the FBI file, it played a key role in the events surrounding the Union Station Massacre. The house at 6612 Edgevale Road was where gangster and massacre participant Verne Miller, aka Vincent Moore, lived with his "wife", Vi Mathias. And it was here, Mathias later told federal agents, that the gunmen holed up after the massacre before skipping town. The place had been a safe house for the likes of Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd, Alvin "Old Creepy" Karpis and "Ma Barker" and her sons, among other notorious figures passing through Kansas City. A wounded bank robber is said to have died in the attic. The FBI used a fingerprint from a beer bottle in the basement to link Adam Richetti to the massacre. Today it is home to Pete and Thelma Egan, who moved in 11 years ago. "We had heard stories that this house was involved in the massacre," Pete Egan said. "The house up the street had an informant for the FBI. One house had a speakeasy in it. The original bar is still there. There were rumors of a tunnel." There also are stories about the house being haunted. "I think it is," Egan said. "Occasionally I think there's a shost running around upstairs. A nice one." The Egans are not creeped out by living in such a storied house. "Everybody thinks there's a lot money hidden here," Pete Egan said. "Someday we're going to find it." To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4905 or send e-mail to

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