Special Agent Robert W. Conners
Served: 4 years
January 1979 to December 16, 1982
Robert was born on October 12, 1946 in Dayton, Ohio. He graduated from Ohio University with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1968. Robert served in the United States Air Force where he was a pilot and pilot-instructor and held a L-382 (Lockhead Hercules C-130) rating. He also held a commercial pilot license for single/multi-engine and instrument ratings and had in excess of 3,000 flying hours. Robert entered the FBI in January 1979. He was assigned to the Chicago Division in May, 1979. Special Agent Conners resided in Naperville, Illinois with his wife Beverly and three children.
Special Agent Charles L. Ellington
Served: 3 years
December 1979 to December 16, 1982
Charles was born in Atlanta, Georgia on December 20, 1946. After high school, he spent 4 years in the United States Marine Corps, which included a tour of duty in Viet Nam. He obtained an Associate Degree from DeKalb College in Clarkston, Georgia in 1973 and graduated from Georgia State University in 1977 with a Bachelors of Business Administration / Management Degree. Charles entered the FBI in December, 1979. Special Agent Ellington was assigned to the Atlanta Division until August, 1981 when he was transferred to Chicago. He resided in Naperville, Illinois with his wife Juliana and a daughter.
Special Agent Terry Burnett Hereford
Served: 3 years
December 1979 to December 16, 1982
Terry was born in Pomona, California on July 24, 1948. After high school, he served in the United States Army Airborne. He was wounded in action in Viet Nam and received a Purple Heart. He then attended San Diego Mesa College, San Diego State University, and the United States International University. He earned an Associate Degree in Business Management, a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. Terry entered the FBI in December, 1979. Special Agent Hereford was assigned to the San Diego Division until December, 1980 when he was transferred to Chicago. He was a licensed commercial pilot and resided in Wheaton, Illinois with his wife Nancy and four children.
Special Agent Michael James Lynch
Served: 6¾ years
March 1976 to December 16, 1982
Michael was born in Lima, Ohio on September 21, 1947. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree at Wright State University in 1975. Between high school and college, Michael served a four-year tour of duty in the United States Air Force. Michael entered the FBI in March 1976. Special Agent Lynch was assigned to the Indianapolis Division until November 1978 when he was transferred to Chicago. He resided in Woodridge, Illinois with his wife Jane and four children.
During the early to mid-1970s, Chicago law enforcement investigated a bank fraud and embezzlement of $614,851 from the Chicago Bank. About that time, Carl Henry Johnson, a bank executive, went missing. Unknown to Johnson’s wife or Chicago authorities, Johnson had started a new life in San Diego. While there, he became active in the Religious Science Church Center.
On December 2, 1982, a week after his wife in Chicago successfully had him declared legally dead, Johnson turned himself into authorities and identified himself as the embezzler. He was transported back to Chicago where he began showing FBI agents where he had secreted the embezzled funds.
He advised the FBI that he had also buried $50,000 in Cincinnati and told them where. Local agents were unable to find it. He told them, “if you take me down there I’ll show you were it is.” On December 16, 1982, Johnson, his attorney, Special Agents Conners, Ellington, Hereford, and Lynch, and a retired police officer hired by the law firm boarded a twin-engine Cessna destined for Cincinnati. Special Agents Conners and Hereford piloted the plane.
When they approached Cincinnati Lunken Airport, they found the area cold and cloudy with a low ceiling and foggy environment. About eleven miles out from Lunken Airport, over the City of Montgomery, the Cessna struck some power lines. Witnesses said the plane came in low and loud; that it turned on its side and flew down an alley avoiding a lot of people in the surrounding buildings. Then it straightened back up in order to gain altitude. But it struck the Sheppards Book Store foundation and exploded into a 1000º ball of flame. All six men aboard were killed instantly. It was the largest, single-day loss of agents in the history of the FBI.
Special Agent Conners is buried in Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery, Naperville, Illinois.
Special Agent Ellington is buried in the Timberridge Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Henry County, Georgia.
Special Agent Hereford is buried in Glacier Memorial Gardens, Kalispel, Montana.
Special Agent Lynch is buried in Elm Grove Cemetery, St. Mary’s, Ohio.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Hank Boyd, the Ohio State Patrol, and the National Transportation Safety Board investigated the accident. The reports of that investigation were turned over to the FBI. The general consensus was that the Cessna’s altimeter indicated false readings and the pilot(s) could not see anything until they were under 300 feet in Montgomery.
The FBI did not put out much information on the location of the money, but many people looked for it, generally on the west side of Cincinnati. There was no report of it having been found by anyone; but then if they had, it would have been confiscated. Based on Special Agent Boyd’s knowledge of the case, he asserted in 2013 that it would have been exposed to the elements and gone to compost.
If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding these agents or incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This narrative was researched and revised December 14, 2014 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society President. All rights are reserved to him and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.