Famous Empty-House Burglar Captured in Charlotte, September 1926

William Barber, famous empty-house burglar, has been sentenced to ten to fifteen years in the Jackson Pen!

Because he thought that entering homes at night and stealing might prove an easier method of making a living than by earning it with the sweat of his brow, William Barber, 48, of Charlotte, Mich., was caught, accused of entering a number of homes with intent to steal, and convicted through his finger prints.

Image of William Barber

After six Charlotte homes had been ransacked, J. A. Pawelko, F. P.E., of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation of Lansing was put on the job. He found, in almost every instance, a like manner of entering, i. e., cutting a panel from the door near the lock and then reaching inside and unlocking. The loot in every instance was light, a few pieces of jewelry, silverware, or old firearms, for which Barber seems to have had a mania. A radio and loud speaker were the man's final undoing. A stolen radio had been reported the day before in the papers, and when Barber returned the next day to his rooming-house with a radio, his landlady became suspicious and called the sheriff.

Meanwhile, Pawelko was on the job. No latent finger prints were available for photographing, but on a piece of glass showed faint prints from dry skin and heavy ridges. Two faint arch patterns could also be seen and the impression of two fingers.

Later he talked with Barber, who had already been jailed, and when the thief was confronted with the evidence of his finger prints, he finally dictated a statement of his activities in the neighborhood. Barber, at first, objected to being fingerprinted, and when led to his cell tried to rub the ridges from his fingers on the stone floor. Pawelko's ready evidence quickly convicted a case which otherwise might have had to be tried at an expense of money and time. Barber said that he had selected homes unoccupied at the time of his entrance because he did not wish to kill. He was unarmed.

1. "Three Michigan Robberies Solved by Finger Prints", Finger Print and Identification Magazine, Vol. 8, No. 3, September 1926, page 16.

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