Thirty-one-year-old George Henry Savage surrendered to Mass. authorities on Nov. 27, 1927. The accused burglar explained that he wanted to prevent his mother’s house from being taken as …
Thirty-one-year-old George Henry Savage surrendered to Mass. authorities on Nov. 27, 1927. The accused burglar explained that he wanted to prevent his mother’s house from being taken as collateral and to clear the name of his wife, Loretta, who was sitting in jail charged with being his accomplice.
Loretta (Gallagher) was married to Harry Lanning Hook and was the mother of his two children when she first met George in 1924. She would later claim in court that she knew George “Red” Savage was a bootlegger but nothing more serious than that. After the relationship between her and George began to grow, she divorced Harry after nine years of marriage, on Aug. 15, 1927, and exchanged vows with George three days later.
Prior to their marriage, George had lived in the Rocky Point section of Warwick and Loretta had been working as a cloth inspector at a mill for about seven months. Now they would move to Barrington and George would become her sole support. She would later claim from a witness stand that, other than dealing in illegal booze, she had no knowledge of her husband being involved in unlawful affairs.
One month and four days after their marriage, police descended on the Barrington home to conduct a raid. In Feb. of that year, the Pawtucket Post Office had been robbed of $250,000 worth of stamps and authorities believed that George was the ringleader of the event.
George was also implicated in a robbery which had taken place at the Plainville Stock Company in Mass. After the safes there had been drilled open, $25,000 worth of items had been stolen in the form of 1,200 gold rings, amethyst stones, topaz, opals and other valuables.
There had been several crimes committed around New England – bank robberies, safe-blowing, factory hold-ups and more – which George was suspected of being involved in along with cohorts including Pawtucket Johnnie, Whitey Miller, Beanie Kelliher and Jimmy the Pole.
During the raid, police allowed Loretta to take feed out to the barn for the animals. However, they went on to discover numerous handbags stuffed with jewelry secreted in the barn. Among the stash were cufflinks engraved with the logo of the Plainville Stock Company. Police also found a number of shotguns, pistols and rifles as well as burglary tools such as sledgehammers and drills.
Accused of hiding goods in the barn, Loretta was arrested and charged with being in possession of the firearms and tools and taken to the jail in Providence. George was nowhere to be found. Police quickly set out a dragnet in which to snare him. Checking bars and hotels in the areas of West Warwick, Arctic and Riverpoint left them empty-handed.
Loretta was grilled in court about her history of being dishonest. She admitted that she lied under oath in order to obtain a divorce from Harry and that she had lied in order to register vehicles for three other people, including the Cadillac belonging to Joseph Casey who had been shot during a showdown between bootleggers and hijackers on Feb. 14. Other than that, she claimed she was innocent and was supported by her attorney John Curran. The prosecution, however, claimed that Loretta knew as much as her husband did and that she was more involved in the life of a gangster than she wanted the court to believe.
After 45 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned to the courtroom. Loretta, who had testified in her own defense for two days, her voice low and hesitant and totally void of emotion, now grabbed her lawyer’s hand as her eyes filled with tears. The 24-year-old woman was found guilty. Curran filed an appeal and, before long, George gave himself up.
Cheerful, optimistic and upbeat, George was faced with the separate indictments and pleaded nolo. Despite the maximum penalty for one of the charges being life imprisonment, his only concern was that his mother be allowed to keep her home and his wife be set free.
Curran withdrew Loretta’s appeal and she was sentenced to serve five months at the Providence County Jail. George was sentenced to serve 13 years at the US penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, found guilty of involvement in the post office robbery. In the penitentiary, he worked as a baker in the facility’s kitchen.
In 1935, George received a pardon from President Roosevelt. He reunited with Loretta and her two children, opened his own cabinet-making shop and settled into a home in Pawtucket. The law never stopped following them however – Loretta was charged, at different times, with possessing illegal alcohol and maintaining a nuisance while George was accused of being involved in the 1937 harboring of an alien who was wanted for white slavery, as well as the 1941 robbery at the Paramount Wool Company.
George died at the veteran’s hospital in Davis Park in 1966. Loretta died in 1993 at a Pawtucket hospital. Until her last day, she claimed that her husband had not been involved in any crimes other than bootlegging.
Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.
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