Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Bonnie Parker Highway Patrol Fingerprint Card Fact Or Fiction??

Its sometimes asked whether Bonnie had her mugshot taken, when arrested in 1932?? As no mugshots of Bonnie have surfaced in 75 years now, the answer apparently is-- it doesn't appear so. Also related to Bonnie's arrest, questions are asked about the intriguing image above. The Bonnie Parker Hwy Patrol fingerprint card, has seemed shrouded in mystery for decades. When this image 1st appeared and where it originated, I'm not sure is known. But now based on documentation found within the Dallas FBI files-- compelling new evidence may prove, the fingerprint card as pictured above, never existed in 1934?? There in lies the heart of this mystery. What exactly is this image, and is it authentic??

When I first purchased The B&C Signatures, I received an e-mail, cautioning me that Bonnie's signature within the dual signatures, didn't match Bonnie's script on the Hwy Patrol fingerprint card. Although I had examined this curiously plain artifact, within my initial inquiry into the signatures, my thought was-- with so few Bonnie signatures available with which to compare, and with Clyde's signature exhibiting such striking similarities to known signatures-- I decided to deal with the Hwy Patrol fingerprint card, within a more detailed investigation later.

I traced Bonnie’s "Highway Patrol" fingerprint card as its known, and discovered this unusual document to be a "Missouri" Highway Patrol Museum exhibit. Stories have circulated for years regarding the source of this alleged fingerprint record. It seems most often reported, that Bonnie's prints were requested by Joplin Chief of Detectives Ed Portley, after the Joplin shootout. However this account is questioned by some, as this incomplete card possesses only partial prints-- and "none" of the expected police identifiers or fingerprint classification codes, which should be present on a valid police record. Also, no copy of this card nor a request for it, seems present within Ed Portley's Joplin Police files. My interviews with Kemp, Texas and Kaufman County police, historians and administrators, yielded no evidence which remains, to support this mysterious fingerprint card having any basis in fact-- from Bonnie’s only known arrest in April 1932.

Since within our inquiry, at first-- we weren’t sure which "Highway Patrol" was being referred to within the artifact’s title, we needed to discover whether in 1932, the newly formed Texas Highway Patrol, could have played a role in Bonnie Parker’s arrest or confinement. Interviews with Kaufman County historian Dr. Horace P. Flatt as well as Kemp Texas officials, revealed the Texas Highway Patrol likely had no involvement in Bonnie’s arrest or transport. Having eliminated a logical and "primary" source for the Bonnie fingerprint card, we later found this now dubious record-- to have been provided by the Missouri Highway Patrol. Of course as is known, Bonnie was never arrested in Missouri. Capt. Christian Ricks of the Missouri Highway Patrol Museum, was most gracious-- in providing a copy of Bonnie’s fingerprint card, along with a card for Clyde as well.

Although Clyde’s card seems more complete, again no police agency identifiers are present which "should" be. Unfortunately, what are said to be Bonnie’s left fingerprints are faint on the Missouri Highway Patrol card, and "only" her left prints are usable from her Bienville Parish death fingerprint card-- as her right hand was so badly damaged from the ambush. Also, Bonnie’s signature from this card bears little resemblance, to her signatures revealed from a family source-- written upon the verso of Bonnie's lost poem "The Street Girl". Unlike the Hwy Patrol card, "The Street Girl" has an assured provenance. It was Bonnie's signatures from "The Street Girl"-- which were used in comparison to the Bonnie signature within The B&C Signatures. Emma Parker cast further doubt on The Highway Patrol fingerprint card, when in Fugitives she said Bonnie was fingerprinted only once-- upon death.

That's where the investigation stood, into this mysterious historical or non-historical artifact, until the release of Dallas FBI file 26-4114 in 2008. Thankfully, within the pages of this remarkable file, there are numerous references to the Bonnie Parker fingerprint card in question-- said created in Kaufman, Texas. Upon reviewing these documents, I learned I had been in some pretty good company-- in wanting to gain further insights into Bonnie's reported fingerprint record. In reading these FBI records, it became clear that in 1933 and 34, the U.S. Bureau of Investigation, spearheaded by an effort by J. Edgar Hoover himself-- was involved in the hunt to substantiate, a reported Bonnie Parker fingerprint record.

As Bonnie hadn't formally been issued identification orders through the Bureau, Hoover seemingly wanted Bonnie's fingerprints, in order to expand the scope of the charges against her. As such it was apparently procedure, to include known fingerprint records within identification orders published. Hoover had contacted the Bureau's Dallas field office, in order to obtain information regarding her prints. Hoover was provided a response, stating Bonnie's fingerprints were reportedly provided to the U.S. Bureau of Investigation-- by the Kaufman County Sheriff's Office at the time of her arrest in Texas. It was further learned, that Kaufman Deputy Sheriff Dunnen-- stated that he himself took Bonnie's prints, and forwarded them to the Bureau on or about June 16th, 1932. However after a Bureau search at Kaufman, and additional searches within Bureau records, no trace of Bonnie's fingerprint record was found.

Thanks to this search, Bonnie's married name known to the Bureau as Mrs. Roy Harding-- was discovered to be erroneous. Harding was a real person and convict friend of Bonnie's husband Roy Thornton. However for some reason, the Bureau had Bonnie's married name wrong-- from the inception of their complaint against B&C. Having discovered this error, seemingly all possible combinations of Bonnie's given and married names were used, to further search for Bonnie's fingerprint record. Finally on April 3, 1934, Hoover states that a careful search of identification unit files, does not indicate any fingerprints of Bonnie Parker-- were transmitted on April 20th, 1932 by the Sheriff's office at Kaufman Texas. Although the discrepancy in dates between Hoover's April 20th date and Deputy Sheriff Dunnen's June 16th admission remains unknown-- never the less Hoover's message is clear. The Bureau's exhaustive searches, failed to uncover a Bonnie Parker fingerprint record.

Of course any number of possibilities could be true, regarding this supposed Bonnie Parker fingerprint card. This card made without proper identifiers, could have been lost or misfiled, and re-discovered later. Also as Bonnie was known to have been quite bright, she could have provided a false signature on this card. It's also quite possible, in 1932 the Kaufman Sheriff's office in not realizing the importance, of a then unknown Bonnie Parker-- didn't follow through and take her prints. Thus when her importance became known, and with others searching for her prints, it became CYA time in Kaufman. Its also conceivable Portley was sent the original, and thus no copy remained in Kaufman when Hoover searched?? However this theory wouldn't explain, why the copy said sent to the Bureau couldn't be located. Or perhaps a "replacement card" for the one never taken, was contrived after the fact, and thus became the card received by Portley-- which ending up in Missouri Hwy Patrol custody.
Based on the evidence as it exists now, perhaps that's a fair assumption. But even so, one would need to ask how 2 quite similar and flawed B&C fingerprint cards, ended up in Missouri-- when Bonnie's couldn't be located within an extensive search as late as April 1934, and Clyde's card seems to have no noted source what so ever??

The Bonnie Parker Highway Patrol fingerprint card is a great B&C mystery. It appears the Dallas FBI files, have confirmed our findings from the signatures inquiry, regarding this mysterious artifact. Today as in 1934, it seems no credible evidence exists, to support this supposed Bonnie Parker fingerprint card as having validity.
If anyone has additional information or ideas regarding this mystery, I would welcome hearing from you.

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