Served: 3 years
1925 to April 8, 1928
Peter Dumele was born in Hungary. He served his native country in the police department, rising to the rank of Sergeant, and then in the Artillery for six years. He immigrated to the United States about 1907. The Village of North College Hill elected him Marshal during 1925 and by 1928 he was serving his second term.
During the early morning hours of April 8, 1928, Easter Sunday, a gang of six to eight men armed with sawed-off automatic shotguns and revolvers, each wearing a black mask over his chin and mouth, entered William Warnken’s Pelican Club Poolroom at Hamilton and Sundale Avenues. The leader stepped to the center of the room and ordered, “everybody step to the walls and put up your hands. … If one of you moves, we’ll blow your brains out!” He then went over to Lee Staib who had not yet put his hands up, grabbed him by the shoulder, jerked him around and smashed him in the face with the butt of his revolver. They then coolly and methodically robbed each of the twenty patrons of his cash and ordered Warnken to open the safe.
Marshal Dumele had just finished his rounds and was heading home when he noticed the light on in the pool room. He saw confusion in the windows and found the door locked. Warnken saw the Marshal at the door. Warnken pleaded with the leader, “Men, here comes the marshal. For God’s sake, don’t hurt him; he’s a good guy.” Two of the bandits opened the door and covered Marshal Dumele with their revolvers.
Marshal Dumele walked into the tense atmosphere of the smoky room and Warnken pleaded with him, “For God’s sake, Pete, please put up your hands;” but Marshal Dumele reached for his rear pocket and his revolver. “Give it to him, men!” the leader ordered. Two shotguns and a revolver exploded into him. The revolver shot passed through Marshal Dumele’s body. A shotgun blast tore off his hand and shattered his arm. The other shotgun blast went into his chest. Marshal Dumele collapsed to the floor.
One of the robbers then pointed his shotgun at Warnken and pulled the trigger, but Warnken had suddenly dropped to his knees to aid Marshal Dumele. The shotgun blast instead went into the back of Samuel Keller, another of the patrons. Keller also collapsed to the floor.
The bandits got into an automobile and escaped north on Hamilton Avenue. They took $1000 of the businesses money with them.
Both Marshal Dumele and Keller were transported to Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati. He told his wife Eva, “Mama, I wouldn’t be a coward. Rather than be a coward, I would die for my village.” And a short time later, at 5 a.m., he did.
Marshal Dumele was also survived by his adopted daughter. He was buried on April 12, 1928, in St. Mary’s Cemetery of Mt. Healthy.
Four people were eventually identified in the murder and two others are suspected:
Rodney Ford of Cincinnati was apprehended immediately, tried for 1st Degree Murder, convicted, and sentenced to death. At 8:35 p.m. on July 19, 1929, 1¼ years after the murder, he was electrocuted.
John (Todd) Messner of Hamilton was also apprehended right away. He was once called “one of the most desperate criminals who ever went out of Hamilton to follow the paths of gangland.” He had been tried in the 1925 murder of Eddie Schief in Hamilton and acquitted when key witnesses either disappeared or suddenly lost their memories on the witness stand. He had been involved in bootlegging, rum running, hijacking and possibly other vices in Butler County for several years. For his part in Marshal Dumele’s murder, he was sentenced to life in prison. He was later paroled and died in Butler County during 1971.
Breck Lutes of Middletown had also been involved in bootlegging, rum running, hijacking and possibly other vices in Butler County for several years. He was sentenced to life in prison. He was later paroled and died January 15, 1989, in Manatee County, Florida.
Robert “Bob” Zwick of Newport was a well-known Newport gangster with George Remus and Al Capone associations. The Chicago mafia viewed him as a witness that needed to be killed. He survived multiple attempts on his life while committing robberies in Ohio and Kentucky and was finally caught after a shootout with a Toledo policeman during January 1933 when he was wounded. For his involvement in the Marshal Dumele murder, he was convicted of 1st Degree Murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on April 8, 1933. At some point, he was paroled and later died peacefully in a Cincinnati nursing home at the age of 99 during January 1997.
The fifth suspect was possibly Raymond “Crane Neck” Nugent of Cincinnati, an Al Capone hit man. Eight days after the North College Hill incident, April 16, 1928, Nugent was involved in the killing of Toledo Patrolman George Zientara during an armored car robbery. On February 14, 1929, he was one of the shooters in the Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago. By 1931 he was running a business in Florida where he bought his alcohol from the “wrong” source. During April 1931 he alleged to have been escorted into the Everglades in Florida and fed to the alligators.
The last suspect was possibly Fred “Killer” Burke, another Capone hit man. Burke was also involved in Toledo Patrolman Zientara’s murder and he planned and executed the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago. On December 14, 1929, he killed Patrolman Charles Skalay of the St. Joseph, Michigan, Police Department. During his life, he was involved in many other robberies and murders throughout the United States, but only convicted of killing Patrolman Skalay; for which he plead to a charge of 2nd Degree Murder and sentenced to life in prison. He died of a heart attack while in prison on July 10, 1940.
If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer or incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at Director@police-museum.org.
This narrative was revised December 8, 2011 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society President, with research assistance by Joyce Meyer and others of the Price Hill Historical Society. All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.