A week before Christmas in 1953, a midday robbery turned Dayton upside down

A week before Christmas in 1953, a daring mid-day holdup turned Dayton upside down.

A young bandit with a gun slipped up to the seventh floor of the Rike-Kumler Co., held up two cashiers and made off with more than $30,000.

“He came in so quietly we didn’t hear him,” said Betty Ryan, who was one of the cashiers in the payroll office. “We were alone in the office. I was getting the money ready for deposit in the bank when I heard this man say in a very casual-like voice: ‘This is a stick-up.’

“I was stunned ... so confused. I didn’t know what to do so I picked up the telephone and dialed for the operator. Send the police, a man is trying to take the money.”

“Put the telephone down, lady,” the robber said as he held the gun and a green Rike’s shopping bag.

The robber stuffed a white canvas Winters National Bank cash bag into the Rike’s bag, scooped up a couple of thousand dollars in loose bills, rushed out of the office and disappeared into the Christmas shoppers.

In his haste to make a speedy exit, he picked up just one of two bags packed with cash that were scheduled to be picked up by the Brinks armored car.

“The whole thing didn’t take a minute,” Ryan told reporters. “He left just as quietly as he came in.”

Dayton police descended on the scene. They cordoned off the building at Second and Main streets and posted officers at every door.

A city-wide alarm was broadcast for a “white man, about 30 years old, five feet nine inches tall and weighing about 170 pounds.” He was described to be wearing a dark blue cap and carrying a “small, dark gun.”

Inside the store, the elevators were brought to a halt, exits were barred and 50 police officers searched for the suspect among more than 3,000 shoppers. He was nowhere to be found.

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The police followed up every tip they received in the following days but “clues were lacking.”

“The hold-up was a well-executed job and it evidently was pulled by someone who knew the working of the office,” said a police captain. “Then too, it may have been a lucky stab.”

Two days before Christmas, Betty Esterly, a female store detective at Shillito’s department store in Cincinnati, chased a man “after he created a nuisance” in front of her on a store stairway.

After he was caught and charged with indecent exposure, officers found $3,800 on him. His description matched the Rike’s-Kumler bandit.

“It was easy,” said Eugene Adkins, 30, of Hamilton, when he admitted to the robbery. “I got out of the store before the alarm sounded. I threw the gun away after the holdup and went home and hid the money.”

When asked if he was casing Shillito’s for another robbery he said, “Hell, no. I’ve got enough to last me.”

He told police that tools he used for his television and radio repair business had been recently stolen and he could no longer earn a living.

“I was forced out business,” he said. “It was several days later that I made up my mind to stage a robbery. Some time ago, I had lived in Dayton and knew of the Rike-Kumler department store and selected that.

“I had a gun that I kept around the shop. I entered the store around noontime and hung around the cashier’s cage until someone came out, then I went in.”

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According to an account in the Journal-Herald, Adkins told officers where the rest of the money was hidden in his house but “refused to accompany officers there, saying he was afraid to face his wife.”

When Adkins’ wife opened the door to a throng of police officers, reporters and photographers, she collapsed. Officers found the stolen money hidden inside the house, stuffed in a pillow case.

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