Governor Miriam (“Ma”) Ferguson went on a spree of pardoning prisoners in the State Pen at Huntsville, Texas. Among them was a bank robber, Marshall Ratliff, who immediately took up his former profession. He collected two other former cellmates, Henry Helms and Robert Hill, and planned to rob the bank in Cisco, Texas. They added a fourth, Louis Davis, a family man who “needed money.”
The four arrived in Cisco in a stolen car. Ratliff donned a Santa suit he’d gotten from his landlady. Followed by curious children, the four robbers entered the bank. They drew their guns and forced a teller to open the vault. A Mrs. Blassengame ran out of the bank and called for help, alerting Chief of Police G. (“Bit”) Bedford and a crowd of citizens. While Ratliff raided the vault, Robert Hall fired a shot through a window, to let people outside know they were armed. Gunfire was returned – those Texans outside the bank were armed themselves. Several were wounded, including the bank’s president.
The robbers took two small girls as hostages but got into a gun fight in the alley anyway. Chief Bedford and his deputy were mortally wounded.
The robbers fled with their young hostages, but they were nearly out of gas and a tire had been shot out. They attempted to hijack an Oldsmobile driven by young Woody Harris. The robbers piled into the car but Woody had taken the keys with him. They returned to their original car, leaving a wounded Davis behind along with the money. Cisco’s citizens gave up the chase when they found the bag of money.
After a succession of stolen cars, the three robbers were ambushed when trying to cross the Brazos River. Texas Ranger Cy Bradford brought down Ratliff; the other two were captured soon after. A total of eight men were wounded, including the three robbers and two men wounded by accidental discharge of their own guns.
At trial, Hill pleaded guilty to armed robbery and was given a 99 year sentence. Helms was identified as the gunman was sentenced to death. Ratliff appealed his own death sentence, pleading insanity. Citizens of Cisco were infuriated. A local judge issued a bench warrant for an armed robbery charge, and Ratliff was returned. Locals took the matter in hand, pulled Ratliff from the jail and lynched him.
No one was ever accused or tried for the lynching.
Maybe Santa Claus suits are unlucky, at least for bank robbers.