A Thoroughly Desperate Criminal: Installment Three

McVey and Burns had become friends in the Nevada State Prison. Burns, “a highway man by reputation,” was released in April of 1911. According to the Salt Lake Telegram, he recognized McVey as “being a man of iron nerve and a thoroughly desperate criminal, equal to any crime that might be profitable to the team,” so he waited for McVey’s release and the two joined forces. McVey, aka “Bakersfield Slim,” had been sentenced to nine years in prison in 1908 for burglary and jail-breaking, but was paroled November 1, 1911. The two men headed to Utah. Nevada authorities notified Utah police who kept an eye on them, but lost track of them the day before Sandercock’s murder. After the murder, the two fled the state and authorities offered rewards for information on their whereabouts. They may have headed to California first, but quickly moved on to Texas and then Louisiana.

Mardi Gras drew McVey and Burns to New Orleans as they figured the city would be ripe for graft, but police there were on the lookout for criminals and the gang of thieves they hooked up with quickly got caught up in a raid. Burns managed to elude capture, but McVey was not so lucky. New Orleans’ police figured out that McVey was wanted in Utah and reached out to authorities there.

The press interviewed McVey while he waited for extradition and he expressed confidence that he would be exonerated. According to McVey, “If one woman can remember my face, she knows I was not in Salt Lake or Garfield when the murder was committed.” The reporter asked, “Who was that woman?” McVey smiled quietly and responded, “she may remember me and if she does everything will be alright.” McVey went on to say he had thought about turning himself in, but “figured that a paroled ex-convict had no chance, so I blew the state and made my way to New Orleans. I am not a squealer and you can depend upon it that I will never say anything which will hurt me or my friends. I am going back and I mean to fight this charge with full confidence that I can win out.”

Salt Lake County Sheriff Joseph C. Sharp and Deputy Jack Corless traveled from Utah to New Orleans to retrieve McVey and were surprised when they walked through the jail to see Frank Miller, aka “James Murphy,” aka “Philip Lewis,” in a cell near McVey. They had arrested Miller months before, the day after the murder in the initial sweep of Garfield and had charged Miller with vagrancy. Miller had a history of pretending to be deaf and mute, and in this way he was able to escape Utah without the Sheriff connecting him to McVey. Miller was not involved in the actual murder, but he may have been involved in the planning stages and he joined McVey afterwards. When police finally caught up with the two men in New Orleans, they were preparing to flee to South America. Sharp and Corless decided to take Miller back to Utah with McVey and both men complied even before a court order for extradition went through. Since McVey had a reputation for violence, Sharp and Corless took no chances. The two men took turns sleeping and guarding the prisoners during the long trip home.

Come back on Tuesday for the next installment….

“Men Pardoned from Nevada Prison Accused of Bloody Garfield Murder,” Salt Lake Telegram, December 1, 1911, 8.

“Men Pardoned from Nevada Prison Accused of Bloody Garfield Murder,” Salt Lake Telegram, December 1, 1911, 8.

Entry contributed by Dr. Michaele Smith,  Archivist,  Salt Lake County Archives.


Salt Lake Herald, 1911-12-2, “Searching Country for Sandercock Murderers”

Salt Lake Telegram, 1911, 12-1 “Men Pardoned from Nevada Prison Accused of Bloody Murder”

Logan Republican, 1912-2-13, “M’Vey Confident of Proving Alibi”

Logan Republican, 1912-2-27, “Officers Return With Suspects”

This entry was posted in Interesting record discoveries, Utah history and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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