York City Police Department K-9 Unit.
This is a late 1960s photo of the York City, Pennsylvania Police Department K-9 unit taken at the York Fair grounds. The officers, accompanied by their dogs, are in their training uniforms. The officers are, from left to right: Ron Heist, Earl Frey, Fred Gibson, Steve Gibbs, Charlie Morrow, Bill Farrell, and Nevin Barley.
West York Police Department.
This 1950's era photograph shows three members of the West York Borough, Pennsylvania Police Department and their patrol vehicles, two motorcycles and a Ford patrol car. The officers and their vehicles are on the driveway of the Reliance fire house, then located in the 1400 block of West Market Street in West York Borough.
Officer Ed Myers, Red Lion Police Department.
Pictured in 1924 is Red Lion Police Officer Ed Myers astride his sidecar equipped police Harley Davidson motorcycle. The sidecar was a common accessory for police motorcycles of that era. The officer is carrying a semi-automatic pistol, carried in an open top cross draw style holster. The semi-auto pistol was unusual, as most officers of this era were carrying revolvers.

All Because of the Food

Posted on February 21, 2022

On Wednesday evening, June 8, 1955, two inmates at the York County Prison overwhelmed the prison warden and a deputy, and made their escape from the prison, fleeing and eluding authorities during a month-long multi-state crime spree before finally being captured. And the prisoners claimed that they had decided to escape from the prison because the food was "slop."

Kenneth Norman Phillips, 28, and Ernest Lynn Lindsay, 22, both of Harrisburg, were about three months into serving their nine-month sentences for burglary, larceny and receiving stolen goods. Both inmates had been on good behavior during their incarcerations. Phillips had notified the warden, J. Clyde Sweeney, that he wanted to give some personal items in his suitcase to Lindsay. The mens' personal items were stored in the warden's office, and both men were brought to the office around 7:00 p.m. by Deputy Omer A. Decker while the rest of the prisoners were on their evening recreation break. The prison received a phone call, and Warden Sweeney turned his back to the prisoners while he asnwered the call.

When the warden ended the call, he was grabbed around the neck from behind by Lindsay, while Phillips jumped Decker, cutting Decker's finger with a knife that was believed to have been taken from the suitcase. The warden struggled and fell to the floor. The prisoners took the prison keys from the warden and deputy, and forced the men into the padded cell just ten feet away from the telephone. Phillips took $98 in cash from Decker before locking the men into the padded cell. The inmates used the warden's keys to unlock the front gate and fled the prison.

The warden and his deputy forced open a "peep hole" in the cell door, and began shouting for help. Deputy Russell Shellenberger, the only other man on duty at the prison, was busy watching the 82 other prisoners in the exercise yard in the old section of the prison. The inmates were playing volleyball, and the noise prevented Shellenberger from hearing the calls of the warden and deputy in the padded cell. They were instead heard by Mrs. Sweeney, who was in the warden's living quarters in the prison. Investigating, she found her husband and Decker and released them from the cell. They had been locked up for about five to ten minutes. The warden quickly notified city and state police of the escape.

Phillips and Lindsay fled east on foot from the prsion, and ended up at the beauty parlor of Esther Van Hyning at 450 Wallace Street. They had Van Hyning's son call a taxicab for them. A Yellow Cab, driven by George Zeigler arrived to pick them up at 7:35 p.m. The men directed Zeigler to take them to King and Queen Streets, where they would find a 1949 green convertible parked. The men told Zeigler they were in a hurry, and asked him if he could drive any faster. They were unable to locate the green convertible, and the men had Zeigler drive around the block several times to try to locate the car. One of the men noted that the traffic lights were flashing yellow, a signal used by the police to notify of an emergency, and commented that there must be a fire somewhere. Instead, the lights were flashing as part of the manhunt that was already underway.

Still unable to locate the green convertible, the men instructed Zeigler to take them to Red Lion. As he approached the city line, Zeigler told the men that due to company policy, they needed to provide a $5 deposit in advance for out of town fares. One of the men tossed a $5 bill on the front seat. As the cab passed Spurg's restaurant at 2266 South Queen Street in Spry, the taxi dispatcher transmitted a radio alert for all cab drivers to be on the lookout for the escaped prisoners. Hearing this, the men told Zeigler to stop the cab. Zeigler stopped by the Spry Furniture Store, and the two men quickly exited the cab. One of the men opened the right front door of the cab, grabbing the $5 bill from the seat and replacing it with two $1 bills, apparently to cover the $1.75 fare with a 25 cent tip. The two men fled into a wooden area, while Zeigler alerted the dispatcher to what had happened.

Police units from various agencies quickly swarmed the area. Roadbocks were established, and a search of wooded areas was coordinated. The Lincoln Fire Company from the city supplied their canteen truck, which was setup at a checkpoint in the area of South George Street and Powder Mill Road. A special radio network was established using Civil Denfnse radios. Police officers, firefighters, auxiliary police and civilians were all used in the search for the escapees. The manhust was coordinated by Corporal J. A. Tappe from the Pennsylvania State Police barracks at 800 East Market Street. The local commander, Sergeant John Thompson, was away on military leave. Troopers from Harrisburg, Gettysburg and Carlisle joined in the search. Private Robert Kissner was one of the troopers assigned from the Gettysburg barracks. Kessner and others were searching a barn in the area of Leader Heights Road and Powder Mill Road on Thursday June 9th around noon when he fell 25 feet from a hayloft inside the barn. Kissner was knocked unconscious, and an ambulance responded to tarnsport Kissner to the hospital. Kissner had just graduated from the State Police Academy on April 1st. Kissner was discharged from the hospital on Friday, June 10th, and transported back to Gettysburg.

The manhunt stretched to Delta, in southeastern York County, when authorities learned that two men in a car traveling the back roads between Yoe and Delta around 3:30 a.m. were stopping at intersections asking for directions to Delta. It was also discovered that a recently released inmate, a cellmate of one of the escapees, lived in Delta and could possibly be aiding the inmates. Although a number of leads were investigated, the men remained at large. State Police continued a round-the-clock patrol of southern York County, which they suspected the men were heading towards.

On Tuesday morning, June 14th, it was discovered that the office of Five Town Motors, Inc., along the Susquehanna Trail near Shrewsbury, in southern York County, had been broken into. Missing was about $20 in cash and a 1950 automobile. It was this business that the two escapees were arrested and serving time for when they broke into it on February 23rd. Police suspected that the inmates, knowing "the lay of the land" at the business, returned and broke in to aid in their escape. Police departments in 23 states were alerted to the escape and to be on the lookout for the inmates. But the trail quickly turned cold. Police received no new leads on the missing inmates.

On Friday, July 8, 1955, two police officers in Jeffersonville, Indiana on routine patrol stopped to check an occupied vehicle parked along the street in western Jeffersonville at 4:05 a.m. As one officer approached the driver's side of the car, the second officer approached the rear. Inside, they found two men, one holding a map on his lap. Underneath the map, the man was holding a revolver. The men were taken into custody, and admitted they were the escapees from York. Police found three more stolen guns in the car, 600 round of ammunition, and about $1,000 in stolen items. The men admitted to about a dozen burglaries and traveling through 15 states since their escape.

The men reported that they hid in the wooded area near Spry for five days and six nights, much of it during heavy rains. They said that police search parties passed nearby them several times, but never spotted their hiding place. They eventually made their way to Red Lion and on to Shrewsbury, where they stole the car from Five Town Motors. They drove that car to the area of Fort Smith, Arkansas, where they abandoned that car. The men then stole a second car, continuing their flight from justice. The third car the men stole was from Elk City, Oklahoma, and was the car the two men were in when they were arrested. It was estimated that the men traveled 9,000 miles in their flight, traveling as far west as Las Vegas, Nevada.

The men waived extradition, and a State Police trooper and two Sheriff's deputies traveled to Indiana to return the men to York. They were returned to the York County Prison on Wednesday, July 13th. The men said they planned to plead guilty to the charges filed against them. The men stood before Judge Walter I. Anderson on Monday, July 18th, where they were sentenced to a total of eight to sixteen years in the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. The judge also ruled that the men would first have to complete their remaining six months from their original sentence, putting them in prison for at least eight-and-a-half years. At 8:15 a.m. on Wednesday, July 20th, the two men departed the York County Prison for the last time, when they were transferred to the Eastern State Penitentiary.

This was originally the end of the case study. However, a curious member of our web team decided to dig a little further. and the story continues....

In August of 1955, York City Police Chief Gorman J. Christine had been contacted by authorities from Oshkosh, Wisconsin to "check certain elements of the case of the escapees" as it may relate to the disappearance of Herbert A. Diestler, 62. Diestler, of Lawndale, California, had last been seen by his brother who he was visiting in Oshkosh. Diestler had left Oshkosh on June 6th, heading to Minneapolis, Minnesota to visit another brother. Diestler was traveling in his 1951 dark blue Studebaker half-ton truck that had been converted into a motor home. Diestler was known to keep in touch with his brothers by mail, and was least heard from by a postcard written on June 18th in Luck, Wyoming, but not postmarked until June 20th in Keeline, Wyoming. When he had not returned to California from his trip, a brother in California contacted police. During the investigation it was found that the license plates from Diestler's truck were found on the stolen automobile that Phillips and Lindsay were in when arrested in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Two clothes trunks and a suitcase, believed to belong to Diestler, were found on June 25th on Route 41 between Jasper and Chattanooga, Tennessee, about 1,200 miles from where he was last heard from. Cashier's checks belonging to Diestler were also cashed and found in Tennessee. On June 29th, Diestler's partially burned truck was discovered near Warner, Oklahoma. A burglary in Warner had been attributed to Phillips and Lindsay. Police from multiple agencies were involved in the investigation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations were "unofficially interested" in the case as they were invetigating the interstate transport of stolen vehicles by Phillips and Lindsay. As the case progessed, the FBI became an active player in the investigation.

A 1953 Buick stolen on June 15th in Rensselaer, Indiana was recovered in the area of Shawnee, Wyoming in late June. Investigation of the vehicle found the fingerprints of Phillips and Lindsay in the vehicle. A search for Diestler was concentrated around that area. Phillips and Lindsay were interviewed, admitted to stealing guns from Valentine, Nebraska, but admitted to nothing regarding Diestler. It was discovered that some of Diestler's cashiers checks were cashed in Joes, Colorado on June 20th, about 200 miles from where Diestler was last seen at Keeline, Wyoming. A person who had cashed the cheks had identified Lindsay from a photo lineup.

On September 22nd, the partially decomposed body of Diestler was found in a shallow prairie grave about 15 miles southwest of Casper, Wyoming off of a small country lane in a clump of willows. An autopsy on September 23rd confirmed that the body found was that of Herbert Diestler. Fingerprints matched those of Diestler's military records, and the body had surgical scars known to have been on his body. The body had suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Diestler had indeed been murdered.

First degree murder charges were filed against Phillips and Lindsay, and they were isolated from each other in the penitentiary. The state of Wyoming filed an extradition request with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Governor George M. Leader signed the extradition orders on October 6th. The men were taken to Douglas, in Converse County, Wyoming, assigned counsel, and a trial date was set for February 6, 1956.

The state of Wyoming listed 53 state witnesses from 8 states in their charges against the men. The men were to be tried individually, with Lindsay being tried first. Jury selection began on Monday, February 6, 1956, when a pool of 75 jurors was exhausted that morning with only six selected. On Tuesday, 38 more prospective jurors were excused with no more being selected. The trial began Wednesday morning after a jury of nine men and three women were finally selected. After four days of testimony, and with Lindsay admitting on the stand that he shot Diestler, a jury took only an hour and forty minutes to find Lindsay guilty of first degree murder. The verdict carried a mandatory death sentence.

The trial of Phillips began on Tuesday, February 14th, with Phillips pleading guilty to second degree murder. Phillips was sentenced to 20 years to life by Judge S. J. Lewis on Wednesday, February 15th, while Lindsay was sentenced to death in the state gas chamber on March 20th. Lindsay's attorney appealed the death sentence and filed a stay of execution. On Tuesday, November 5, 1957, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled there was no reversible error of Lindsay's conviction of first degree murder, and Lindsay was set to be executed on Janury 4, 1958. An appeal for clemency was submitted to Wyoming Governor Milward L. Simpson by Lindsay's attorney, while an appeal for mercy was submitted to the governor by Lindsay's mother. On December 17th, Governor Simpson commuted the death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

On January 16, 1961 the Wyoming State Parole Board reviewing murder cases reduced Lindsay's sentence to 70 to 90 years. They also reduced Phillips' sentence to 20 to 75 years. On January 3, 1962, the Parole Board again reduced sentences, reducing Lindsay's sentence to 60 to 70 years, and reducing Phillips' sentence to 6 to 75 years, making him eligible for parole. Our research was unable to determine if he was granted parole, or any additional information about Phillips after this hearing.

On Wednesday, May 23, 1962, Lindsay, again a model prisoner and assigned as a trusty, walked away from a prison work crew outside of the prison and escaped. Lindsay was arrested by police in Elko, Nevada on May 31st after breaking into an auto company garage. On January 6, 1971 the Wyoming State Board of Pardons commuted his sentence to 14 to 16 years and approved parole for Lindsay. Lindsay died on December 10, 1977 in Wyoming.

(NOTE: In some newspaper accounts, Ernest Lindsay's last name is spelled as Lindsey. The correct spelling is undetermined.)



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