Nearly a decade before Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow captivated the nation with their notorious Midwestern crime spree, the criminal exploits of a different set of lethal lovebirds dominated local headlines: that of Baltimore’s Richard “Candy Kid” Whittemore and his wife, Margaret “Tiger Girl” Whittemore.
The couple’s 1926 arrest in connection to a major bank heist and double murder in Buffalo – and the Candy Kid’s subsequent trial here – were two of the decade’s most sensational local stories.
Richard Whittemore’s crime spree began in February 1925, after the 27-year-old Candy Kid escaped from a Maryland penitentiary by murdering an elderly prison guard and stealing his keys, The News reported on May 19, 1926.
The Whittemores and their Candy Kid Gang of outlaws spent the remainder of 1925 performing bank robberies and jewelry heists in places such as Buffalo, Cleveland, New York City and New Jersey.
When visiting the Queen City, the pair regularly stayed in Buffalo’s Seneca-Babcock neighborhood and frequented local roadhouses, the Syracuse American reported on April 11, 1926.
The couple lived lavishly wherever they went, despite Richard’s well-known status as a fugitive wanted for murder. The Philadelphia Enquirer recalled in 1939 that the devoted pair “visited the most exclusive night clubs and restaurants, drove luxurious cars, and dressed expensively,” becoming criminal celebrities.
Along with his reputation for high living and daring heists, Whittemore was also famous for his use of lethal force. By the end of 1925, the Candy Kid Gang and their eponymous leader were wanted in connection to seven murders; three of their supposed victims were former members of their own gang, Albany’s Times-Union reported on March 22, 1926.
Their luck finally ran out March 22, 1926, when the Candy Kid was indicted for a robbery and double murder in Buffalo. Tiger Girl was also arrested after former Candy Kid Gang member Anthony Paladino implicated her as an accomplice in many of the group’s crimes.
Paladino’s betrayal led the Candy Kid to promise: “If I burn, I won’t burn alone,” the Syracuse Journal reported on April 26, 1926.
Tiger Girl was later released from custody for providing police with incriminating testimony against other members of their gang.
The crime for which the Candy Kid was facing Buffalo’s electric chair occurred on the morning of Oct. 29, 1925, when several armed bandits shot up an armored truck at the Marine Midland Trust Company’s Bank of Buffalo branch, near the intersection of Main and North Division streets, killing two men and seriously wounding another.
The six bandits, including a blonde woman matching Tiger Girl’s physical description, made off with $93,000 in cash before escaping in a stolen Buick, The News reported on the night of the crime.
Richard Whittemore vehemently denied any involvement. Nevertheless, his murder trial began in mid-April 1926. The trial drew massive crowds of spectators each day, everyone eager to catch a glimpse of the notorious Candy Kid and his Tiger Girl.
The prosecution provided four witnesses who swore that Whittemore had indeed been one of the gunmen present during the October holdup, while defense attorneys had eight witnesses testify that Whittemore had been in Philadelphia the evening before the crime occurred. They argued that the long distance rendered it impossible for Whittemore to travel to Buffalo in time to commit the morning robbery.
On April 28, 1926, the jury declared that it could not agree on a verdict. The Buffalo Evening News noted how “thousands outside the courtroom greeted the announcement with cheers,” adding that “as the bandit was led back to his cell he bent over and kissed his wife, the Tiger Girl.”
But the Candy Kid’s victory was short-lived. Following his trial in Buffalo, Richard Whittemore was immediately extradited back to Baltimore to stand trial for the 1925 murder of prison guard Robert Holtman. After a brief trial that May, during which Whittemore claimed self defense, he was sentenced to the gallows.
His ever-loyal wife remained by his side until the end. The Buffalo Evening News recorded the couple’s final exchange before his Aug. 13, 1926, execution: “Don’t mind, Marge,” Whittemore told her through prison bars, “Be brave. My last thoughts will be of you.”
Twenty-eight-year-old Richard Reese “Candy Kid” Whittemore was hanged later that day.
According to the Philadelphia Enquirer in 1939, Margaret “Tiger Girl” Whittemore later remarried and settled in her native Baltimore, leaving behind her life of crime and scandal.