Read Part I of this series here
There is the briefest of Wikipedia pages of the history of Jake Bird which can be read here. However, today’s post is going to delve into the history of the man and his time in Omaha and the brutal wave of destruction that he left in his wake. While Jake was born 14 December 1901 in Louisiana, this story begins in July of 1928, shortly after the disappearance of Harvey Boyd.
JAKE BIRD ARRIVES IN OMAHA
On a cloudy July 11th night, at the age of 24, Jake Bird watched a man die.
Jake, a transient, had been traveling the rails where he met up with Gordon Gigor, 18, and James Berwald, 18, both of Cleveland, Ohio, when the train they were on stopped suddenly in Ashland, Nebraska. A rail agent climbed on top of the car where Bird, Gigor, and Berwald were riding and ordered them from the train. A fight ensued, Berwald ran away, Bird was struck several times and Gigor was forcibly thrown from the rail car, falling between two cars. As the train started up again, heading toward Omaha, Gigor’s right leg and left hand were crushed. Although he was rushed to a hospital in nearby Omaha where a medical student offered himself for a blood transfusion, Gigor passed away on the operating table, suffering from shock and a loss of blood.
Bird, insisting that he see justice done for Gigor, remained in the area so that he could testify in court. He was offered free lodging at the jail in Wahoo, Nebraska but Bird declined, stating that it was “too hot.” He chose instead to settle in Omaha and began seeking employment. And trouble soon began.
Although Bird testified in the trial against the rail agent in August of 1928, Bird found himself in hot water later that year.
BLOODY AX FOUND
J.W. Blackman, 74, was discovered by his son Sunday morning, November 18th. Believing his father to be sleeping on a daybed in the living room, he tried not to disturb him. However, when his son grew suspicious of his father’s lack of movement, the son raised the blanket from his father’s form and found his father covered in blood. Blackman’s head had been beaten in as he lay sleeping. Further investigations found a bloodied ax hidden beneath a nearby pile of wood.
“CHOPPER” SLAYS OMAHA SISTERS; STRIKES AS BOTH SLEEP
At 2pm on Monday, November 19th, Waldo Resso returned home from work at Roberts Dairy. He entered the bedroom he shared with his wife and discovered her bloodied body lying on the bed. Waldo ran, screaming through the house for his sister-in-law, racing toward her upstairs bedroom, where he discovered that she too had been murdered. Mrs. Gertrude Resso, 21, and her sister, Creda Brown, 18, were found in their beds with their heads crushed. Mrs. Resso had been choked and then beaten to death, while her sister Creda had been gagged before having her head pounded with a blunt instrument. But strangely, Mrs. Resso’s two sons, Melvin, 9 months, and Robert, 3 years, who were sleeping in a crib right beside her were unharmed. According to the newspaper, an imprint of a bloody handprint had been smeared across Melvin’s face.
County Attorney Beal said of the murder that, “It is without question the foulest murder I have ever come in contact with in my 10 years as prosecutor in Douglas county.”
The next morning, the “Chopper” struck again.
CHOPPER AT CARTER LAKE
Harold Stribling, 25, and his wife were attacked by an intruder around three in the morning at their Carter Lake home. Harold was beaten on the head with an ax. He suffered skull fractures with a deep depression and was considered to be in extremely dangerous condition. Mrs. Stibling suffered a blow to her face, resulting in a small fracture of her nasal bone with a cut that ran from her forehead and left eye. Mrs. Stribling spent the better part of an hour pleading with the intruder to spare the life of their 16-month-old baby. He agreed but forced Mrs. Stribling to leave with him, walking some three miles away to the swamps outside East Omaha before releasing her around six in the morning.
On Friday, November 23, Bird was arrested. He was taken immediately to the Lord Lister Hospital where Mrs. Stribling was yet recovering.
“That’s the man. Take him away.” She was to have said according to detectives before breaking down in hysterics. Bird was then transported to Lincoln where he placed in a prison cell. Other witnesses claim that Mrs. Stribling did not immediately identify Bird as the suspected attacker but that she requested he be returned so that she could look upon him at a different time.
Although Bird would eventually be convicted and charged to a 30-year prison sentence for his attack on Mr. Stribling, he was released on Christmas Eve in 1941. He was not paroled but was released for time served and good behavior after serving only twelve years.
Throughout the indictment and trial and even after his conviction, Bird maintained that he was innocent. Several Omaha officers even testified on Bird’s behalf, stating that he did not fit the initial description given to police by Mrs. Stribling. There were even multiple reports and letters mailed to investigators that Bird may not have been the guilty party, but given Mrs. Stribling’s account and identification, Bird was found guilty of the attacks on her husband and herself.
Bird was never charged with the murders of J.W. Blackman, Mrs. Resso or her sister Creda Brown. However, Bird would be arrested again in Michigan in February of 1943 after a series of burglaries. Bird admitted guilt to the robberies and was sentenced to 4 1/2 to 5 years. This was his third prison term in twenty years.
It would not be his last.
“Probe Death of Chicago Youth on Freight Train” Omaha World-Herald (Published as Evening World-Herald.) – July 12, 1928
“Declines Jail Lodging” Omaha World-Herald (Published as Morning World-Herald.) – July 21, 1928
“2 Grigor Witnesses Paid, Defense Hints” Omaha World-Herald (Published as Morning World-Herald.) – August 25, 1928
“Bloody Ax Found Concealed is New Blackman Clue” Omaha World-Herald (Published as Omaha World-Herald) – November 19, 1928
“Chopper Slays Omaha Sisters; Strikes as Both Sleep” Omaha World-Herald (Published as Omaha World-Herald) – November 20, 1928
“Chopper at Carter Lake” Omaha World-Herald (Published as Omaha World-Herald) – November 20, 1928
“Reports Conflict on Identification by Mrs. Stribling” Omaha World-Herald (Published as Omaha World-Herald) – November 23, 1928
“Bird Gets 30 Years; Claim New Suspect” Omaha World-Herald (Published as Omaha World-Herald) – February 13, 1929
“Lincoln Chief is Given a ‘Tip’ on Ax Murders” Omaha World-Herald (Published as Omaha World-Herald) – September 24, 1929
“Chopper is Serving 3rd Prison Term” Omaha World-Herald (Published as Sunday World-Herald) – April 4, 1943
Be sure to stop by again next Friday for the final installation of this series!