By Ronald Sharp, Times-Union City Editor
Thirty years ago today, on Jan. 28, 1927, Frank Tucker disappeared from Warsaw, never to be heard from again.
It is suspected that the 58-year-old clerk at Breading's Cigar store met with foul play on his way home from work that night. His habit of carrying a large sum of money with him at all times gives cause for suspicion. When Tucker disappeared it was thought that he had $4,000 worth of cash and checks on him.
After Tucker's disappearance law enforcing officers were able to get two confessions from men who said they were implicated in the murder of Tucker. Officers obtained the confession of four men for conspiring to rob Tucker prior to January, 1927.
NO CONVICTION OBTAINED
However, no conviction was ever obtained nor was a body ever found. One man was tried for murder, but the trial resulted in a hung-jury. A second trial brought forth a verdict of not guilty, and the accused was set free.
Old timers who were close to the "Tucker Case" say that petty bickering between law enforcing officers resulted in a miscarriage of justice, and that the guilty parties were caught but went free.
Tucker worked and lived in Warsaw for 30 years. At one time he was city clerk. He was about five feet, eight inches tall with a medium build, blue eyes and thinning gray hair. He was married, but his wife had left him, leaving Frank living alone in the Tucker home at 412 Pike street.
Rather eccentric, especially in financial matters, Tucker always carried huge sums of money with him. He loaned this money freely and cashed checks of any amounts for anyone, friends or strangers alike. Frank would say he could tell whether a fellow was honest merely by talking to him. He charged no interest on his loans.
When he disappeared, 34 Warsaw men owed him more than $1,5000.
Tucker told one of his friends that his personal "bank" did hundreds of dollars of business per week. In fact, he mentioned that he had done $1,200 worth of business that day.
"COUNT MY MONEY"
Frank, while working at Breading's, would bring out his roll of bills, show it around and invite his friends to count it, then walk away.
He was last seen by Charles Armington on that wet and slippery Friday night. Armington had been down to the depot to mail a letter. Coming up Lake street, he saw Tucker in the middle of the street, turning up lake from Center street. They talked briefly, Arminton walking on the sidewalk and Tucker in the street. At the Christian church corner, Armington went to his parents' home where he and his wife were visiting. Tucker walked on up Lake street to oblivion.
Tucker did not turn up for work on Saturday morning. Bob Breading thought this rather odd. Tucker was always prompt. When Frank didn't show up by 9:30 a. m. two men went to his house to see what was wrong. They found his bedroom undisturbed and his bed untouched.
He apparently had not been home at all. A check of the neighborhood revealed that the neighbors did not remember seeing Frank come home. He had left Breading's about 8:30 p. m. Armington had seen him before 9 p. m.
A few days later a cap with blood spots was found in an alley off East Main street. Frank Tucker's twin brother, Fred, who worked at Phillipson's, identified it as Frank's cap. The hunt was on. A private detective was hired by Tucker's estate to find clues.
He turned up a lead implicating four men who had conspired to rob Tucker twice before. Confessions were obtained, and three of the men went to prison for two to fourteen years on the robbery charge. One man turned state's evidence and was given a suspended sentence.
A posse searched the rivers and lakes area meticulously for Tucker but still no evidence was turned up.
One of the men who was convicted of robbery confessed that he helped do away with Tucker. According to his story the assailants grabbed Tucker from the back at the corner of Pike and North Lake street, slugged him on the head, then went down an alley to Center lake. They took the money from Tucker, then tied a gear they found near the old ice house to his legs.
(The old icehouse was located then where the Girl Scout cabin is today, in the city park off North Buffalo street.) They hauled Tucker to the edge of the lake where a hole had been cut through the ice and threw him in. Then they proceeded up Main street, missed the turn at Detroit street and went down an alley where one of the men saw Tucker's cap on the car floor, and threw out the cap in the alley. They then drove back to Detroit street and left town.
This confession touched off a hunt for Tucker in Center lake which rivaled anything that had before or has ever happened since in Warsaw. No expense was spared; the ice was cleared from the lake by dynamite. Drag lines with teams of horses and gas engines were used to drag the lake.
Powers of the mystic world were even consulted. A clairvoyant visualized Tucker's body in the lake and even reported the spot. (Later she saw him in the outlet to Walnut creek). A huge magnet was used in an attempt to lift the gear which was supposed to be around Tucker's legs.
Alas, one night the searchers pulled up a black thing; it must be Tucker's coat (it was gray), but it turned out to be an old umbrella. The lake investigation went on until it was decided that the confession was not valid without a "corpus delecti" and it wasn't in Center lake.
Another confession was forthcoming. According to this one, the body wasn't cast into Center lake, but all the other details were the same, instead the body was taken either to Elkhart or Michigan. But more digging still uncovered no body.
In the meantime, petty bickering was going on among the sheriff's department. The chief of police and the special detective who was hired to investigate the case for clues by the Tucker estate.
After the second confession one of the men who had turned state's evidence in the conspiracy case agreed to plead guilty to the murder of Frank Tucker but one of the law enforcing officers declined the plea. So it went to trial. After the first trial in Whitley county court produced a hung jury, the second trial in the same court resulted in a verdict of not guilty.
Other charges against the ones who had confessed to being a part of the murder were dropped, and everyone walked free.
The Warsaw city chief of police believed even up to the time of the murder trial that Tucker had just "gone away." Rumors through the years reported Tucker's being in Cuba, Canada and out west, but none of these have been verified.
However, Tucker did tell a friend that he could disappear from Warsaw and no one would know where he was. It is possible that Tucker did just that. He had plenty of time to go from Pike street to the Pennsylvania railroad station, watch to see if anyone was on the platform, climb on the late train and leave Warsaw.
But why would he have done that? The day after Frank disappeared an administrator was appointed by the court to collect money owed him and take care of his affairs. Upon investigating his finances, it was found that he had $4,000 in bonds and cash in Warsaw bank, as well as $1,500 owed him according to records.
None of the checks that Tucker honored on Jan. 28 ever turned up. Witnesses to his financial transactions that fateful day reported he had cashed many checks.
His estate was valued at more than $5,200, of which more that $2,000 was spent trying to locate him. Bills for private detective services, teams to drag Center lake, gasoline for engines to drag the lake and other incidentals accounted for the large expenses.
Tucker was declared dead a year after his disappearance. His wife received $500 with the remaining sum being divided among relatives, most of which went to his twin brother, Fred.
According to acquaintances, Frank Tucker often said that if an attempt was ever made to rob him he would turn the money over to his assailants without a struggle. However, most persons believed that he carried some weapon for protection, When he went home at night Frank was quoted as saying he always used the back door, he would toss his roll of money on the floor before entering, then pick it up after he turned the lights on. He kept the money inside a base burner in the living room. Fred searched the room the day after Frank's disappearance, but no money was found.
FIND MANY SKULLS
Since that fateful night 30 years ago numerous skulls have been found in the area. It was reported that Fred identified one of them as being his brother's and had it buried in his grave. (The tombstone does not verify this). But maybe in a lost desperate hope that his brother had been found, Fred did say that this one was his brother's.
But for all evidence presented Frank Tucker never has been found. You can draw your own conclusions. Did Tucker board a late train out of Warsaw and just forget about the money he had in the bank and leave the money owed to him, as well a brother who was apparently close to him, and go to Cuba or elsewhere? Or was the confession of one of the men tried for the murder of Tucker true and his body still lying at the bottom of Center lake? Or is Tucker in an unmarked grave somewhere outside the county?
During the past few years, sheriffs have received mysterious telephone calls asking if they would like to know who murdered Tucker. Is this the work of someone with a guilty conscience who would like to get things cleared up? Or is it just a gruesome joke that someone can't resist indulging in?
If you had the idea his wife could have done it, she couldn't. She proved to authorities that she was out of the state at the time.
Artist's Sketch - This picture of Tucker was drawn by Fred Olds, Warsaw City schools art supervisor. It was sketched from a picture published in the Warsaw Times in Feb. 1928. This picture is believed to have been taken when Tucker was in his early 30's
Warsaw Times-Union Monday, January 28, 1957
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