#73 Frederick P. Grey

Frank Sutton (Abt. 1854-????), aka Fred P. Gray, Frank Smith, Big Frank Norton, William Gray, George Perry – Thief

From Byrnes’s 1886 edition:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-two years old in 1886. Born in United States. Medium build. Single. No trade. Height, 5 feet 10 inches. Weight, 165 pounds. Brown hair, blue eyes, light complexion, brown mustache, and a thin growth of brown beard. Large ears.

RECORD. Grey, or Gray, is no doubt a clever burglar, from the fact that he was one of the “Johnny Dobbs” gang, that gave the authorities all over New England so much trouble in 1884. He is from the West, and is not very well known in the Eastern cities.

He was arrested in Lawrence, Mass., on March 3, 1884, in company of Johnny Dobbs (64), Denny Carroll, alias Wm. Thompson, alias ” Big Slim” (147), and Tommy McCarty, alias Day, alias Tommy Moore, alias “Bridgeport Tommy” (87). See record of No. 64 for full particulars. Kerrigan, alias Dobbs, and Carroll pleaded guilty. McCarty and Grey stood trial, were convicted, appealed their case without avail, and were finally sentenced to ten years each in State prison, at Concord, Mass., on February 11, 1885. See record of No. 87. His picture is an excellent one, taken in March, 1884.

From Byrnes’ 1895 edition:

Grey was arrested again in Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 16, 1895, under the name of Frank P. Sutton. He was in company of one Charles Johnson, who is said to have served a term of four years for burglary in California. A number of burglars tools were found in their rooms in Brooklyn. They were wanted for a number of post office robberies throughout the country. His second trial resulted in his acquittal on June 19, 1895. He was then delivered to the authorities of Matteawan, N.Y., who wanted him for an alleged post office robbery in that place. Later on he was admitted to bail.

Chief Byrnes’s 1895 edition went to press with Frank Sutton’s trial for a post office robbery in Dutchess County, New York, still pending. There is little doubt that Sutton was a professional criminal well-versed in covering his tracks with aliases, tight lips, and good lawyers. His real name and family history are still unknown, as is his fate. However, details of the crime that took place at Matteawan and its subsequent trial shine a bit of light on the character of Frank Sutton (the name he was most often known by).

On the night of February  5, 1895, three burglars entered the small town of Matteawan, New York and robbed a hardware store, then broke into the post office and blew open the safe there, using so much dynamite that the whole front of the building collapsed into the street.  On their way out of town they knocked down a watchman with a sandbag, then encountered a policeman, Officer Marshall Snyder, who emerged from a doorway two houses down from the post office. A short, thick-set man, supposed by authorities to be a thief named Charles Johnson, spotted the officer, pointed a pistol at him, and told him to get back inside the house. Snyder hesitated, and Johnson fired at him. The bullet went through Snyder’s mouth and into his neck, just missing his spinal column, and Snyder fell onto his back just inside the doorway. He was stunned, but conscious.

After a few seconds, a taller man leaned over Snyder and struck a match. “Are you much hurt?” the taller man asked with concern. Snyder’s mouth was full of blood, and he could not reply. The stranger lit several more matches, examining Snyder’s wounds. Over the tall man’s shoulder, Snyder saw the short, stocky man who shot him looking on anxiously. The tall man said to his partner, “You had no business to shoot this man. We may get in trouble for this.”

The shorter man snorted, “There will be trouble enough if you stay here much longer.” The taller man acknowledged that remark, and leaned over to take Snyder’s revolver and handcuffs. “You won’t be needing these tonight.” Then the burglars disappeared.

Police had no clues to identify to perpetrators, but as arrests were made of burglars in New York City, over the next few weeks, a check was made against the descriptions that Snyder and other residents of Matteawan had offered. In March of 1895, Charles Johnson and Frank Sutton were arrested in Brooklyn for possessing burglar’s tools. There had been a recent string of burglaries in Brooklyn, but the case against Johnson and Sutton there was weak. Officer Snyder, still healing from his gunshot wound,  was brought down to the city and identified Frank Sutton as the taller burglar, the one who was concerned over his injury. Snyder invited other Matteawan residents who had seen the supposed burglars in town just before the robbery to take a look a Sutton, and they agreed he was one of the culprits.

Frank Sutton was transferred to the Dutchess County jail in Poughkeepsie to stand trial for the Matteawan robbery. Following him from Brooklyn to Poughkeepsie was a “handsome, well-dressed” woman who claimed to be Sutton’s wife. One newspaper reported that she had been the wife of a Cleveland lumber dealer who decided to leave her husband and accompany Frank Sutton on his adventures.

Sutton was tried in June, 1895. He entered court finely dressed, wearing jewelry, and well-groomed. Officer Snyder was placed on the stand to testify, and under cross-examination began to waver in his certainty that Sutton had been the tall man. Snyder’s doubt was enough to discharge Sutton. As the courtroom cleared, Sutton’s companion rushed over to Snyder and thanked him profusely.

Sutton walked out of the Dutchess County jail a free man, vindicated by sworn testimony. Had he been found guilty, he would have returned to his county jail cell to await sentencing before being transferred to a State prison. However, he might have had a backup plan in mind in that event. After Sutton had left town, the sheriffs found in his cell a piece of soap on which he had made impressions of jail warder’s keys; and behind the tin sheeting of the tiles in the prisoner’s wash room, they found: nine saws, two door keys, three handcuff keys, and three files. One of the door keys fit the main cell block door, and another would have opened Sutton’s leg shackles.


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