The Chicago Syndicate: Ken Hansen
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Showing posts with label Ken Hansen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ken Hansen. Show all posts

Monday, August 08, 2005

Unbridled Rage: A True Story of Organized Crime, Corruption, and Murder in Chicago

`Unbridled Rage: A True Story of Organized Crime, Corruption, and Murder in Chicago " (Berkley/Penguin) is a book written by Gene O'Shea.

It is about the Chicago Outfit's favorite murderous horseman, Silas Jayne, and his associates, the obese hit man Curtis Hansen, and Hansen's brother Ken Hansen, a horseman accused of using horses to get close to boys.

It is also about a triple murder of three such boys, the Schuessler-Peterson murders, in 1955. Bobby Peterson was 14. John Schuessler was 13, and his brother Anton was 11.

They waited almost 40 years for justice, until John Rotunno and Jim Grady, two agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, took up the cold case and followed it relentlessly. "John Rotunno and Jim Grady from ATF wouldn't let it go," O'Shea said. "Those investigators were motivated by their professionalism, and by the fact that they were fathers. And I just felt I had to write the story."

O'Shea spent years covering the crime and courts beats for the Daily Southtown. Currently, he's the official spokesman for the Illinois Gaming Board. "I could identify with the boys," O'Shea told me. "Can't you? We all wanted adventure, and thought it special to go downtown when we were kids. That's what they did. They roamed around and looked for adventure."

I remember being 11 and roaming a bit. Perhaps you do as well. But we were lucky. We came home.

The boys were going downtown to a movie, to see some picture called "The African Lion." They ran into Ken Hansen. Two days later, their naked bodies were found in a ditch on a bridle path. The murders terrified the city.

O'Shea's book comes out this fall, but since I heard he was writing about the Schuessler-Peterson murders, I've been pestering him for a chance to read it. He gave me an advance copy the other day.

I read it steadily, in two sittings at a neighborhood coffee shop late into the night. There was plenty of light inside and the casual conversation of strangers and waitresses, then, finally, there was only the sound of the busboy vacuuming the carpet and the owner muttering over the cash register receipts at closing time.

Both nights it was quiet and pitch dark on the way to my car, and each time, listening to the night, I kept thinking about one passage in "Unbridled Rage."

I'm still thinking about it. I'll think about it for a long time.

It was about Hetty Salerno and how she wasn't a stranger to screams.

She was no stranger to screams because she'd heard all kinds. Only 10 or so years earlier, she'd been an ambulance driver in London during the Nazi bombardment of that city during World War II. But the war screams were nothing like those she heard from a boy on the night of Oct. 16, 1955, near the Idle Hour Stable across the road from her home in unincorporated Park Ridge, a stable owned by Silas Jayne.

The screams were terrible, "like someone beating the hell out of a child," she said.

It was a solid lead and the crime was so sensational and sensationalized--a public murder, a heater--that City Hall made sure there were plenty of police. Perhaps too many. And one officer talked to Salerno. Yet for some reason, investigators didn't follow up. It may have been a horrible mistake. Another theory is that police were steered away from Salerno's story--and the Jayne stable--by the political clout of Jayne's associates in the Chicago Outfit.

Police concentrated on other leads that led nowhere, or to tragedy, like Anton Schuessler Sr., father of two of the victims.

He was questioned, and harshly. Whether it was grief or the questioning and resulting shame or a combination, the man lost his mind. He was put in a psychiatric institution and subjected to electroshock therapy. The poor man died of a heart attack a month after his sons were killed.

Jayne's connections with organized crime, called the mob by outsiders and the Outfit by Chicagoans, were lengthy. "He'd have Outfit guys out to his stables, people like Sam DeStefano would show up, and dress up in full cowboy regalia and jump on horses and start shooting their six-shooters."

I can imagine the torturer "mad" Sam DeStefano in cowboy clothes. The guns were real. The fat Curt Hansen worked for DeStefano.

Those who were in Silas Jayne's way found themselves dead, including his brother, and a champion rider, and perhaps missing candy heiress Helen Brach.

Ken Hansen was convicted of the Schuessler-Peterson killings in 1995 and again in 2002 in a retrial. By then, Curtis Hansen and Silas Jayne were dead.

"This tells people working cold cases to never give up," O'Shea said. "Somebody knows something, and for various reasons, they keep their mouths shut. Silas Jayne died, and those who lived in fear of him were no longer afraid of what they knew."

Thanks to John Kass


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