SPRINGFIELD TENNESSEE: (Smokey Barn News) – Back in 1958 when we still had the old jail that was located on the corner of 5th Ave. and Willow St., MAP our sheriff was R. W. (Dick) Benson. He had held the office of sheriff since the 1930’s. The old jail wasn’t all that secure and there were a few escapes. But one in particular was unusual.
There was a man from Nashville being held in our Springfield jail for jewelry theft charges of about $6,500. That was a lot of money in the 1950’s. But what was interesting in this case was that several of the burglaries that he committed in Springfield occurred while he was in the Robertson County jail!
You can imagine the surprise to the county sheriff when they found that out. Sheriff Benson said, “I don’t know how he got out of jail or how he got back in.” It was the first time anyone in Robertson County had broken back into jail.
The burglaries occurred on Sunday morning early. All was quiet and he broke out of jail and broke into Downey and Jones Jewelry Store on Main St. in Springfield and Wingo’s Restaurant on Memorial Blvd. stealing $81 from a cigarette machine. He also broke into Hall’s Restaurant on 10th Ave. where he got $50 from a juke box and Robert Pearson Service Station located in the split of the roads of S. Main St. and Batts Blvd. He stole another $50 from the cigarette machine there also. Then he would go back into the jail somehow and be in his bed by morning.
After he was found missing from the jail one night he was caught in Nashville with the jewelry he had stolen and admitted to taking the money from the other businesses. He was caught with 30 rings he had stolen from Downey & Jones Jewelry Store. He was returned to the Robertson County jail again. He had just been sentenced six months for a burglary of the Oakhurst Country Club in Springfield of $800.
They found later that he was a trustee working in the kitchen and was supposed to be locked up at night. But he got out at night, did the burglaries, and got back in by morning. He wouldn’t tell Sheriff Benson how he did it.
The officers on the case was Sheriff W.R. (Dick) Benson, deputy Ernest Webster and Springfield Police Chief Otto Murphy.
When he was finally caught he still had most all what he had stolen.
A year before this in 1957, six men escaped from the old jail. They sawed off two bars from the second story window in the prison and escaped. One was caught the next day in Nashville. Twenty five other prisoners had the chance to escape but remained in the jail. The others caught a ride on a transfer truck to Nashville and were caught later.
Writer: Will Jones
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