Family of John Dillinger announce youth fund - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Family of John Dillinger announce youth fund

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Johnny Depp plays John Dillinger in 2009 movie, "Public Enemies." Johnny Depp plays John Dillinger in 2009 movie, "Public Enemies."
John Stehr/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - The family of Hoosier outlaw John Dillinger wants to change his legacy. They want the man known for being the first person designated as the "FBI's Most Wanted" criminal to now be known as someone who is helping to steer young people away from crime.

On the 75th anniversary of John Dillinger's death, surviving family members are trying to find the good in a life gone bad. Standing in front of a museum display about Dillinger. they announced their plan.

"This John Dillinger Troubled Youth Fund will help kids that have gotten on the wrong path. We're gonna place Christian literature to help them, Bibles, speakers, we'll have fundraisers, but we're also going to help kids who have been victimized by crime," said Jeff Scalf, John Dillinger's great nephew.

The John Dillinger Troubled Youth Fund is meant to honor Dillinger's seven immediate family members and it will start with $1,000 in each of their names.

"They were a God-fearing, Christian family and they didn't approve of what John did," said Travis Thompson, John Dillinger's great nephew.

Even 75 years after his death, what Dillinger did in his life is still the subject of some debate. Police gunned down the Mooresville farm boy outside a Chicago theater in 1934, after a 14-month crime spree that included bank robberies, prison escapes and alleged murder.

The family disputes the murder charge and says that Dillinger had a human side.

"He wouldn't take the people's money but rather just the banks' money. I think that shows a really good trait of him," said Scalf.

The display at the Indiana State Museum includes several items from Dillinger's life including sunglasses, the bloody belt he wore the night police shot him, a hat, and the $7.71 he had in his pockets when he died.

The family wants to change the message from the painful story of Dillinger's life to the one left by his father shortly after John Dillinger died.

The foundation will begin its work in Morgan County and it hopes to raise enough money to spread to other Indiana cities -- and, even other Midwestern states.

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