#188 Charles Bennet

Alias William T. Angell (Abt. 1849-????) — Burglar

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-seven years old in 1886. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, 145 pounds. Dark complexion. Had cast in one eye, which was operated upon, and is hardly noticeable now. Very genteel-looking. Good talker and writer. Dark brown hair. Generally wears a full dark beard, or mustache and whiskers, as in picture.

RECORD. Bennett is a very daring thief. He was an old partner of Fairy McGuire (78) and Sleepy Gus, and traveled through the country with them smashing in windows and robbing them. He is an expert burglar, and is well known in all the large cities, especially Philadelphia and New York.

Bennett was arrested in Middletown, Conn., on December 5, 1878, with a lot of burglars’ tools in his possession. He was tried and sentenced to two years in State prison, by Judge Morton, on the same day of his arrest. He has served terms in Sing Sing and the Eastern Penitentiary in Philadelphia since. This man, of late years, is not relied upon much by the fraternity, on account of his fondness for liquor. Bennett’s picture is an excellent one, taken in December, 1878.

Inspector Byrnes reached his cryptic worst in his entry for this professional criminal. The one arrest and conviction he cites from December 1878 was made under the name William T. Agnell–an alias not used before or after this one incident.

There were many records for a “Charles Bennett” being sent to New York prisons prior to 1886, but none were sent to Sing Sing–the only New York prison with accessible registers that give ages, birthplaces, descriptions, and (sometimes) family contacts. Therefore there is no way to determine if any of these is the man that Byrnes was talking about.

All the major newspaper databases combined have only a small handful of arrests of a Charles/Charley/Charlie Bennet/Bennett; again, from those brief entries, it is impossible to tell if any match Byrnes #188.

Tantalizingly, there was a William Bentley (one of the alias surnames Byrnes mentions) who was sent to Sing Sing in 1874. Bentley was the same age and physical description as Byrnes’s Bennett–and even had the same scarred eye; but William Bentley was stabbed to death by a fellow inmate a month into his stint at Sing Sing.

For now, Bennett’s claim to fame will have to be limited to the fact that he was partner to two of the quaintest-named old crooks: Fairy McGuire and Sleepy Gus (Augustus Tristram).




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