54 years later, train ticket leads to arrest in death of 7-year-old?

This news story has me confused. It describes the arrest of a murder suspect 54 years after the crime due to the discovery of an unused train ticket - in other words, his alibi, that he was out of town, on the train, at the time of the murder, is said to be undone by the discovery of the ticket.

Wait a minute. How is this supposed to work? That the unused ticket proves he was in town at the time and not on the train? But hold on - when he was first investigated as a suspect over half a century ago, and gave the ‘I was on the train at the time’ alibi, surely there was some corroborative evidence that he was out of town? He must have been seen on the train, no? Or, maybe there was some other proof; maybe a receipt with a time stamp issued hundreds of miles away? Obviously they didn’t just take his word for it, or did they? How does the unused ticket counter that corroborating evidence? Again, I assume there must have been such evidence. How could there not have been (unless they simply took his word for it)?

Part of my trouble with this is that the guy now charged with murder was a very, very strong suspect. According to the linked article, “He matched the description of the suspect, he wore the same clothing, he had the same first name “Johnny” and he lived about a block away” (from the victim).

What am I missing?


This story goes into a little more detail on some those aspects of the case. It still remains pretty vague which might not be that unusual in such an old case.

But it seems to boil down to being not just his word on the alibi but his parents also backing it up, saying they received a call from him that night from the town he was supposed to be going on the train. Then as the investigation continued he quietly changed his name and joined the Air Force and laid low all the years until the case just went cold.

It wasn’t the unused train ticket alone that re-opened the investigation. The detectives were there interviewing his ex-girlfriend because they already got some undisclosed new information about the case. While re-investigating him because of this new information they also stumbled across the unused train ticket hidden behind a framed photograph, adding even more to the case they were apparently already making against him.

Very helpful - many thanks!

If you’re interested, while following your link, I came across this story about the crime from a 2007 article about an ‘unsolved murder from 1957’. It has additional info.

Is it me, or is it just not weird that the ticket was kept behind a framed photograph?

My impression on reading the story was that Chicago cops were even less competent then than they are now.

Wow… It’s hard to imagine why so many details seem vague now.

I have taken several train trips where the conductor did not collect the ticket.

Just sayin’ :dubious:

Dunno about back then, but its pretty impressive the current police force got this far after so much time has passed

Yea, that was my thought too. Granted I have no idea what the procedrue was for train tickets circa 1957. But I hope their other piece of evidence is a little more convincing. The witness testimony isn’t going to be terribly convincing to a jury after 50 years have passed, assuming she’s still alive to testify.

I’ll have to confess to wondering how you can prosecute – or defend – a 54-year old case. Most of your witnesses will be dead or unavailable, forensic technology was in its infancy, physical evidence will have been lost or deteriorated, etc.

I can second this. I’ve had uncollected bus tickets as well. I road all the way from Chicago to Minneapolis once and I guess the collector thought he had checked me.

I imagine since 9-11 this would be much different now

Yeah, that jumped out at me, too. How does that make any sense?

Apparently not. A police officer friend told me that behind framed photos or paintings is a common place to hide things, and so they generally look there when doing a search warrant.

Why would he not just throw it out though?

Yeah it’s a very common hiding place. But normally that is because it’s something of value or that otherwise needs to be preserved, yet hidden.

The obvious question here would be why not just destroy the ticket? He could tear it in 2 pieces and throw it up in the air with a much better chance of avoiding detection than hiding it away behind a framed photo for no apparent reason.

In one of the stories cited it sounded more to me like his ex-girlfriend is the one who found it. They asked if they could have the photo, and as she took it out of the frame to give it to them the ticket just fell out.

Well it does if, as other posters point out, tickets are often not collected. Then he could have retained it as proof of his alibi.

Againg according to my policeman friend: killers often keep ‘souvenirs’ of their crimes. Which are usually strong evidence against them, if they are found.

Well, yes, but they’re using this as evidence against his alibi. That he saved the ticket seems somewhat odd to me, but not necessarily, because of your point. That the police are pinning this on him because he saved an unused train ticket behind a picture frame–that’s what makes no sense to me.

What about the statute of limitations? I know next to nothing about this, but I’ve heard it on TV cop shows that there’s an amount of time after which you can no longer be prosecuted, and I thought it was as short as 7 years.

There generally are no statutes of limitations for murder.

There are many such reasons one might save a ticket. One may be he found it after the commotion and everything was over. At which point the ticket may have meant more to him then a ordinary ticket, as it could have helped him prove himself. Perhaps placing it there just in case things are reopened.