A half pint of moonshine liquor and a pistol in his pocket brought about Clark's undoing.
After five years of freedom, during which he roamed all over the United States at will and finally drifted into Louisville, Ky., about a year ago, F. L. Clark, 38 years old, alias Ernest L. Edwards, an escaped convict from the Wyoming penitentiary, must go back to prison for perhaps the rest of his life iust because science has discovered finger printing—the infallible method of identifying criminals.
It was while police were raiding the home of a well-known gang criminal in Louisville that Clark walked in, was apprehended, and was found to have had liquor and the pistol. He was slated under his assumed name of Ernest L. Edwards on charges of possessing liquor and carrying a concealed, deadly weapon.
That's where things began to break bad for Clark. Like thousands of others, a simple charge against him developed into a much more serious one. His finger print records were taken and were sent, according to the usual procedure, to Washington.
It was not long before the Louisville police received a letter from the Washington Bureau stating that the "finger prints of Ernest L. Edwards tallied exactly with those of F. L. Clark, on record as an escaped convict who had fled a long-term sentence from the Wyoming penitentiary five years ago.
When Edwards was arraigned before the magistrate he promptly denied his identity as Clark and insisted that he was Edwards. By a little explaining of the finger print system and the pounding home of the fact that it was infallible and that no two persons had finger prints exactly alike, Edwards saw the "light of day" and admitted his identity.
He said he was convicted at Douglas, Wyo., for the attack and robbery of a 17-year-old girl on the outskirts of Rawlins, Wyo., in 1915, and escaped from a coal mine at the penitentiary five years ago and had roved about ever since until he came to Louisville about a year ago. He had been employed at various times as a fireman at a sanitarium there, he said.
The letter from the Washington Bureau said that Clark had been sentenced to serve from 80 to 106 years for a double crime, but that on October 12, 1922, the sentence had been commuted to 15 to 25 years. The records showed that he had escaped from the State Penal Farm on February 4, 1923.
"Drinking whisky and running around with bad women caused me to start that way," signed Clark resignedly, after telling the detectives his story.
Wyoming authorities were notified of Clark's confession and of the fact that he was in custody in Louisville. A warden was dispatched from the Wyoming penitentiary to return Clark to "Home Sweet Home."
1. "Finger Prints End Fugitive's Freedom", Finger Print and Identification Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 12, June 1928, page 8.