Fatal Fortune: The Death of Chicago's Millionaire Orphan

By Virginia A. McConnell | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
The Grifters

They’re nothing but a couple of lazy panhandlers.

—State’s Attorney Robert Crowe

In 1924 William Darling Shepherd was an overweight, jowly, florid-faced man whose clothes always looked as if he had slept in them. His gait was described as “shambling,”1 and he never exerted himself overmuch. He had large gaps in his front teeth, thick lips, and bulging eyes that were set too far apart, projecting the image of a none-too-bright, self-indulgent lump of a man.

Shepherd’s wife, Julie, was a large woman about the same height as her husband (5’8”), although not as rotund as Darl, with a somewhat hard cast to her face and bright, shrewd eyes. It was difficult to see in her the young girl who had once been termed “the Belle of Salina, Kansas” at the turn of the century.2

Shepherd drifted, Forrest Gump-like, against the background of the exciting eras in which he lived. Another sort of man would have looked on it as adventurous and stimulating. But William Darling Shepherd was not that sort of man.

Drifted is the word most often used to refer to Shepherd, as he seems to have been primarily an aimless wanderer for much of his life. Back and forth between friends and relatives, from state to state, to whoever would provide him with food and

-17-

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Fatal Fortune: The Death of Chicago's Millionaire Orphan
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Chapter 1 - The Fatal Fortune 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Grifters 17
  • Chapter 3 - The Avenging Fury and the Confidence Man 35
  • Chapter 4 - Hippodrome 59
  • Chapter 5 - The State of Illinois V. William Darling Shepherd 73
  • Chapter 6 - Defending Darl Shepherd 91
  • Chapter 7 - Was It Oysters or Murder? 105
  • Chapter 8 - The Will Contest 125
  • Chapter 9 - Epilogue 133
  • Notes 143
  • Selected Bibliography 167
  • Index 169
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