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Dr. Santiago Claret
Political Refugee
1934 Kidnaping

[REFERENCE: (Prosecution file, Florida State Attorney, Dade County, Florida)
#467 Garelick, Samuel, ET ALS
(Kidnaping Dr. Santiago Claret)]

[To see a full size photo, right click and VIEW IMAGE]

Photo of Claret as a hostage .. possibly a reenactment


Miami Police Department
Detective Bureau
December 10th, 1934

Our file

Report of investigation of the kidnaping of Dr. Santiago Claret:

About 9.20 AM today, Sgt. Gene Bryant, of the Miami Beach Police Dept. called Sgt. Melchen, who answered the phone, Sgt. Bryant informed Melchen that a Doctor had just come into their office and informed him that he was kidnaped between 12.00 and 12.30AM this date, and was taken to an empty apartment in Miami Beach, bound and gagged, and forced to sign a check for $16,000.00 and also write a note, both of which he presented to his chauffeur with instructions to go to the First National Bank of Miami and collect and give the money to the kidnapers as they would direct.  The chauffeur having been kidnaped with the doctor and the doctors car taken also.  Bryant informed Melchen that the kidnapers had already been to the bank for the money and were to return.  Bryant was unable to give Melchen any description whatsoever of the chauffeur or the kidnapers.  Melchen proceeded to the Bank accompanied by Roy Hancock and J H Williams.  Williams remaining in the car near the Bank, Melchen and Hancock going upstairs to the third floor to Mr. J. Northrup, who advised Melchen that a man with chauffeurs cap had come to him with a check for $16,000.00 signed by Dr. Claret, and a note by Dr. Claret, requesting that the money be delivered to the Chauffeur.  The bank delayed delivery to check up on the check and note, and also to await clearing of this amount of money which Dr. Claret was to receive from the First National Bank of a draft which he had deposited.  The man stated that he was Dr. Claret's chauffeur.  He was advised to return at 12.00 Noon.  Detective Barker arrived at this time, and was placed on a spot on the third floor of the bank.  Hancock was placed at the Elevators and Ingle at the entrance to the bank.  Melchen called Bryant at Miami Beach, and asked for the description and license number of the doctors car, also description of the men and the chauffeur.  Bryant advised Melchen that the car was a Packard Touring car painted Grey.  A later call to the Beach brought the information from Bryant that the license number of the car was W 12362, Fla.  And that the Chauffeurs name was Roy Gray, and that he lives at 837 NW 1st St.  Melchen called people living in this immediate  neighborhood whom he knew, and found that the Packard car had left that address about 8.00AM, with the chauffeur who had always been seen driving it.  Melchen then detailed Hancock Wilkinson and Kendall to watch that address for the return of the Packard and to arrest if the car appeared with three or more men in it.  If less than three men, to follow it, in an effort to locate the other men.  Detective Chambers appeared at the First National Bank and was then stationed in front of the Bank while Ingle was then stationed with Barker on the third floor.  Melchen then contacted Radio Sgt. Crews and had him broadcast for all cars to call him and he instructed each and every car to watch for the above Packard and not to touch it unless there were three or more men in it, at which time they should arrest every one in it.  If less than three men in it, to call the Detective Bureau and notify them where the car was.  Melchen then returned to the Bank, and arriving at the Bank, was met by Mr. Harry Retalick who advised Melchen that the chauffeur had returned to the main floor of the bank with the check and the note, and that he, Retalick, had the check and note which he gave to Sgt. Melchen.  The chauffeur was then pointed out to Sgt Melchen, this being about 11.50AM.  On getting a good look at the Chauffeur who was in the northwest corner of the bank, Melchen then signaled for Chambers and Ingle who were also shown the chauffeur and Barker returned from the third floor and was shown the chauffeur.  Melchen then called Bryant at Miami Beach and advised him that the chauffeur was then at the bank.  He was given a description of the chauffeur who was about 5'4", 25 to 27, 150#, wearing glasses and a full chauffeurs uniform.  Bryant replied, "Wait a minute and I'll ask the Doctor if that's the Chauffeur".  Bryant then stated that the chauffeur was a tall man with light blonde hair, and did not wear glasses, and requested that the man in the bank be arrested.  At this time, there were no idle people in the bank, all customers being either at windows withdrawing or depositing or transacting some business.  About 12.05 PM Melchen walked over the Barker and told him that he would take the man in custody, and to stand by.  A signal was given to Ingle and Chambers also, and Melchen accosted the chauffeur in the north west corner of the bank, main floor, and recognized him as a former Miamian, and said to him, "I am a Police Officer, You're under arrest, don't move, or create any scene as we have the bank and outside thoroughly  covered, and I have the check and note which you presented to the Bank."  The Chauffeur replied "I won't move, you got me, the jigs up, I was a damn fool, go and get Mr. Green, he arranged the whole affair.  I ought to have known I wouldn't get away with it".

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Melchen then asked the chauffeur if there were any other members of the kidnaping gang in the bank, or anywhere else nearby.  He stated that there were not.  Melchen then asked him where the car was, and he said "Down on E. Flagler St. near McCrory's 5 & 10".  About this time, there were many less people in the bank than there were at the time the chauffeur was accosted by Melchen and Barker, so Melchen and Barker frisked him quickly and ordered him to walk to the car as if nothing would happen, or had happened.  The chauffeur stated that he was supposed to be met by these men but did not state when or where.  He was asked for the keys and handed same over to Melchen.  We started out of the Bank, the chauffeur in the lead, with Melchen on his right, a step behind, and Barker on the left, and as we neared the bank door, he again stated "I won't run, I know I"m  caught", and we proceeded out of the bank and instructed Chambers to go to the Granada Apts, and get Mr. Green and take him to the Station.  The chauffeur arrived at the car, stepped inside, and sat down behind the wheel and was watched by Barker, Melchen and Ingle for fifteen minutes, after which, the chauffeur motioned to Melchen to come over, and he said "The men won't meet me here, you might just as well take me to the station and get it over with".  Not noticing any suspicious persons around, Barker Ingle and Melchen proceeded to the Station with the chauffeur in the car.  At the Station in the presence of Chief Scarboro and others, the chauffeur stated that his name was John Roy Gray, that he was 27 yrs old, resided at 837 NW 1st St. and that he was employed by Dr. Claret as chauffeur for about two months, he stated that about 12.01 and 12.30 AM this morning, he took Dr. Claret down in the 900 block on SW 2nd St. taking home a lady guest with the Dr.  He stated that after the doctor left the car with the lady, a man came up to him (the chauffeur), and told him to stand there and to make no noise, and immediately after, a second man came, stood on the other side of the door, which Gray had opened awaiting the doctors return.  Immediately thereafter, the doctor came out, and as he reached the car, these two men drew guns on the doctor and ordered the doctor to go into the car and make no outcry, threatening to kill him if he did.  At this time, a third man came up and covered the chauffeur with a gun.  This third man then sat on the front seat and ordered Gray to drive west on SW 2nd St to 10th Ave, and then north and east to 9th Ave. north on 9th Ave to 3rd St NW, where he was ordered to stop the car and the man in the front seat got out and he claimed he never saw this man again.  The two men in the back instructed him to drive north to the river, west to 12th Ave, across the bridge to 11th St, east on 11th St, to 7th Ave, and up NW 7th Ave to 79th St, east over 79th St causeway, to a place on Normandy Isle, to an unfinished apartment building, and as he neared the apartment building, a car behind him flashed on his bright lights and then its dim lights.  He was then ordered to stop at the apartment building, and he was held in the car while the doctor and the other two men in the back seat went inside the building.  He then stated that the men who held him, made him go upstairs and there he was instructed by the doctor to take the note and check and go to the bank at 9.00 this morning and get the money and do just as he was told to do by the kidnapers.  That he was then taken downstairs by the kidnapers, forced to get into the doctors car, at which time he was told to keep driving around, go to the bank at 9.00AM get the money and keep driving around the city over the "Usual" route.  Whence they would meet him and get the money, and not to report it to the Police.  He stated that he went directly to his home, arriving there about 4.00AM and went to sleep in a little camp car in which he sleeps directly behind his home.  That he arose at about 7.30 AM had his breakfast about 8.00AM drove around the city and did not see any of the kidnapers anywhere and that a few minutes past nine, he appeared at the bank and went to the third floor to Mr. Northrup to get this money and was there advised that he would have to return at 12.00Noon as the money had not arrived.  He then stated that he left the bank and rode around the city until 11.30 AM and then parked his car on Flagler St near McCrory's.  That he leisurely walked to the bank and arrived there about 11.45AM and presented the check, and after waiting about 15 minutes was arrested.

He was then questioned again, and almost repeated the same story.  Melchen accompanied by Medina and Dr. Claret, went to Gray's home, 837 NW 1st St, where a search was made with permission of his mother for a tie or adhesive tape such as used in binding up the doctor.  This tape and piece of tie were brought over by Sgt. Bryant of Miami Beach.  It was then ascertained from Mr. Gray that J Roy Gray arrived home sometime in the early hours of the morning, had his breakfast about 7.30 and left the house at 8.00AM, but that her son Fred had not been home all night.  A roll of 1" adhesive tape, similar to that used to bind up the Doctor, was found in the dining room, which was used as sleeping quarters, on the dresser.  Mrs Gray was asked if she knew whether or not Fred or J Roy had taken any of the adhesive tape out of the house in the past day or two, and she replied that she could not tell.  Melchen and Medina and the Doctor returned to Police Headquarters and ascertained from J Roy Gray that his brother

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Fred was employed as a jitney driver between Miami and Miami Beach.  When asked if he had seen his brother Sunday, he said "No I haven't seen him since Saturday".  Melchen then called Sgt. Bryant at Miami Beach, and requested Sgt. Bryant to pick up Fred Gray and bring him to Miami., which he did.  On being in Miami Police Station, Fred Gray stated that he resided at 837 NW 1st St. and that he was 30 yrs old.  On being questioned by all concerned, he stated that he had not seen his brother Roy to talk to, since Saturday, but later changed and said he had seen his brother at the jitney stand on SE 1st near Burdines.  On being questioned as to his movements between 6.00PM Sunday night, Dec. 9th, and 7.00 AM Dec. 10th he stated that he worked until about 6.30 PM and he arrived in Miami about 7.00 PM Sunday night, and that he went to the Biscayne Hotel to visit another jitney driver named Sam, where they had several drinks of liquor in Sam's room and that he left Sam about 9.30PM, and went out to W Flagler St, and 17th Ave, where he played poker up to about midnight, and that he caught the last trolley to town to Miami Ave & Flagler St, and that he took a jitney to Miami Beach and went to Liggetts Drug store and met a miss Wheeler who was employed there and remained with her until 6.30AM at an apartment house on Meridian Ave.  He could not remember the address, and that he went to work at 7.00AM, and had not seen his brother up to this time, Sgt. Melchen then called Sgt. Bryant at Miami Beach and asked him to bring Miss Wheeler over, which he did immediately, and Miss Wheeler stated that Liggetts closed their store at 10.00PM and that the assistant manager Mr. Babbitt or Bobbitt drove her home in Miami immediately after closing the store, and that she remained home all night.  Fred Gray was then confronted by her, and asked if this was the Miss Wheeler he referred to, which he replied "I'm awful sorry I brought her name into this, I did not meet her at all last night.  "Miss Wheeler was then permitted to return to her work.  On repeated questioning, Fred Gray refused to state where he was between 12.00midnight and 7.00AM.  Since the name of Sam was mentioned, Sgt. Melchen sent Detective Jenkins after Sam at the Biscayne Hotel, Miami, who according to Fred Gray, was supposed to occupy room #6.  He was not in, however, later was located and brought in, and he stated that his name was Sam Geller, of Bayonne N.J. that Geller was not his real name, but Sam Garelick was his real name.  When asked if Fred had been to his room, any time between 6.00PM Sunday night, and 7.00AM today, he stated "Absolutely not".  When questioned as to his moves between these hours, he stated that he arrived home at 6 to 6.30PM from Miami Beach, went to his room in the Biscayne Hotel, and about 11.00 or 11.30PM went across the street on Miami Ave to a restaurant and he immediately retired to his room.  That he went over to Miami Beach about 7.00AM today.  Fred Gray was then confronted with Sam Geller and Gray again repeated that he was in Sam's room #6 at the Biscayne Hotel, from 9.00 until 6.00AM this morning, and that they both drank several drinks of liquor, and that he, Fred, arose about 6.30AM, and proceeded to Miami Beach, to work, leaving Sam in the room.  Fred Gray's attention was then called to the variation in his statements as to time, and he stated that he was wrong, and did not get to Sam's room until about midnight, and remained until 6.30AM.  Sam absolutely denied this.  Fred was then remanded to the jail and Sam was questioned again, and stuck to his original story.  About this time Sgt. Bryant called from Miami Beach and said that he had found a piece of shoe-string in the room where the doctor had been bound and tied, and the shoes of J Roy Gray were checked and laces found to be O.K. and Fred in the meantime was being brought back for further questioning, and it was found that his shoe string on the right shoe had been broken off.  Gene Bryant was requested to bring this piece of shoe string over, and Fred was again questioned by Melchen Bryant and Medina, and when asked why he could not account for his time between 6.00PM Sunday night, and 7.00AM Monday morning, and informed that he had apparently lied on two instances to this question, he replied "I don't want to tell where I was".  It was then that he was informed that his brother was under arrest, charged with the kidnaping and that he was a suspected accomplice and was again informed as was his brother and Sam Geller before they were questioned, that anything he might say could be used either for or against him.  He stated that he had nothing more to say.  He was then ordered placed back in the jail, and as he was being taken over, by Potterton and Medina, he asked Mr. Medina if he could talk to him and Melchen alone.  Mr. Medina returned him to the Detective office, Mr. Medina then told Melchen that the boy wished to make a statement, which he, Fred Gray, did, and which Mr. Medina took down on the typewriter, and when the statement was completed, Fred Gray read it and signed it, and it was witnessed by Medina and Melchen.  Copy of this statement is attached.  In this statement, Fred stated that he, his brother, John Roy Gray, Sam Geller, and

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Curly Millard, were implicated in this kidnaping.  Detectives Papy and Chambers were then ordered by Sgt. Melchen to go to Miami Beach where Millard was a starter for the jitneys and have Millard picked up and brought to Miami for questioning.  Millard was picked up at his home 145NW 30th St, and brought to the Station.  In the meantime Geller was again questioned by Medina, Melchen Chief McCreary, etc, and he stuck to his original story.  Before Millard arrived at the Miami Police Station, J Roy Gray was brought over to be questioned again, and after being warned again, he stated to Medina and Melchen that he "just had to tell the truth" and he made the statement copy of which is attached, in which he implicated his brother Fred, Sam Geller, himself and Curly Millard as the four and only four persons implicated in this kidnaping case.  In the meantime, Fred Gray, when show the piece of shoe string which was found in the apartment building at Miami Beach stated that he realized when told at first about the shoe string that it was his, and that his statement implicating those mentioned was true, and that if his brother got the money,  they were to meet his brother later, and share the money share and share alike.  J Roy Gray in the meantime, had finished his statement, which Medina typed, as he spoke, and after reading same, signed it voluntarily and said, in the presence of Melchen and Medina, that he was glad to get it off his chest.  Geller was then questioned again by Melchen, Medina, Mr. McCreary and he still stuck to his original story.  Geller and the two Gray boys were remanded to the jail and Millard was brought in to be questioned in the presence of Mr McCreary, Melchen and Dr. Claret, and McLendon, and he stated after being warned properly, that he didn't know whether he had anything to say or not, and wanted to know what it was about, and was informed by Melchen about the kidnaping of Dr. Claret, and of the developments up to this time, and then he said give me until tomorrow morning and I'll tell you all about it".  He was then remanded to the Jail and the investigation closed for the time being.

Dictated by Melchen to Hanford
12/10/34 11.50PM to 12/11/34 1.50AM.

Detectives Hancock and Williams have received an AVO to contact the officials at the Granada Apts, and check the records of telephone calls from the desk to the Biscayne Hotel, phone 29402, to see if the call was made about 9.00PM 12/9/34 as stated by J Roy Gray.

Barker has received an AVO to photograph and make several copies of the check and note in question and to turn the note, check and photographs over to the Detective Bureau for evidence.

Officers in this case:
J. O. Barker, Supt of Identification, Detectives Roy Hancock, J. H. Williams, Ed Chambers, C. M. Ingle, J, Medina, Det. Sgt. Melchen, Clerks Hanford and Schwelm, Chief of Detectives L. O. Scarboro, and Chief of Police, S D McCreary all of the Miami Police Department.  Also Detectives C W Potterton, B M Howard Joe Jenkins, J A McLendon, and C C Papy.
Miami Beach officers, so far as known were Sgt. Gene Bryant, and Chief of Police R T Teaney, Detectives Wichman and Carpenter.

Evidence being held:
One pair of shoes with right shoe string broken, taken off Fred Gray.  One Piece of a blue tie.  One piece of adhesive tape.  One piece of broken shoe string, the check and note hereinbefore mentioned.  One piece of sashcord.

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