For many years, handwritten ledgers were used for inmate booking and releases. Several of these old ledgers were stored in a secluded and possibly forgotten part of the department. Some ledgers even dated back to the mid and late 1800's. Berrien County Sheriff's Department Historian and 911 Supervisor Chriss Lyon recently uncovered these ledgers and although much attention is given to Fred "Killer" Burke as Berrien County's most famous inmate, Gus Winkeler also deserves to be mentioned.
Born August Henry Winkeler on March 28, 1901 in St. Louis, Missouri, he became better known as Gus Winkeler and could be described as a freelance hitman, working for various biggies including Al Capone. Although Gus had been affliliated with Egan's Rat's and the Purple Gang, he hooked up with Fred "Killer" Burke but disbanded after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and Burke's subsequent murder charge and incarceration.
While taking a leisurely drive through Southwestern Michigan for a supposed golf game with his associate John (Babs) Moran in August of 1931, he was spotted loading a revolver while riding in the passenger seat of their vehicle by Trooper Myron Gillette of the Michigan State Police. Not willing to stop and chat with the police, Moran, in the driver's seat, put his foot into the accelerator and soon enough, a pursuit had ensued. Berrien County Weighmaster John Hovan joined in as the light Ford vehicle swerved in and out of traffic along a stretch of Red Arrow Highway just south of Bridgman. But as luck would not be on their side, one swerve took them too far into oncoming traffic where they ended up running off the road and flipped their vehicle over after colliding with a large sedan driven by C. J. Anderson of Chicago.
As officers approached the vehicle, it was apparent that both men were severely injured. Found in their vehicle were two guns, whiskey, a pilot's license and $700 in cash. As additional help arrived, both Winkeler and Moran were taken to Mercy Hospital in Benton Harbor. After several touch and go moments of not knowing whether either were going to live and a handful of false names, Sheriff Fred J. Cutler finally determined their true identity and it was revealed that both were wanted in connection with various charges in other states including armed robbery and impersonating a police officer charge in Illinois for John Moran and a bank robbery charge in Nebraska for Gus Winkeler. After an almost 3 week stay in the hospital, Gus Winkeler was finally taken to the Berrien County Jail and booked in on August 31, 1931. Even on the way from Mercy Hospital to the jail, Gus Winkeler stated to Sheriff Fred Cutler that he would rather be taken to a hotel and if that would be possible to which the Sheriff's reply was, "No."
Inmate #6855 on last line shows August Winkeler, Male, 32 years old, White, Married, Birthplace is Missouri, Residence is St. Louis, Missouri and Occupation is "Contractor".
Closer view of name
Last line shows, "Hold for Nebraska Officers, Bank Robbery", Office where received shows Sheriff, St. Joe. Gus Winkler was sent back to Nebraska on September 15, 1931 and the bank robbery charges were later dropped because a witness could not confirm his identity. Two years later Winkler would be fatally gunned down by unknown subjects in Chicago on October 9, 1933. It has been said that he died in the hospital reciting "The Lord's Prayer". His body was taken back to his home town and buried in Park Lawn Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri.
Ezra Milford Jones, Gus Winkler, Fred Burke in St. Louis, Missouri, 1925, from St. Louis PD.