Editor’s note: This special edition of Timeline from the Past chronicles one of Kosciusko County’s longest unsolved mysteries.
WARSAW — One of Kosciusko County’s unsolved mysteries occurred 93 years ago in 1927, according to records kept by the Kosciusko County Historical Society.
Frank Tucker, a 58-year-old cigar store clerk, reportedly vanished while walking from work to his home on Pike Street on the evening of Friday, Jan. 28, 1927.
News reports from the time claimed Tucker had $4,000 worth of cash and checks on him when he disappeared. Adjusted for inflation, $4,000 in 1927 would equate to slightly more than $59,000 in 2020. Police suspected foul play regarding his disappearance due to the large sum of money allegedly on his person.
News reports claimed police received confessions from two men who said they were involved in the Tucker’s suspected murder. However, a conviction wasn’t ever obtained due to a lack of a body and alleged infighting within local law enforcement at the time.
Tucker was claimed to be eccentric about his finances. Reports stated he could usually be found carrying substantial sums of money with him. He was apparently known to make loans without seeking interest.
When he disappeared, 34 people apparently owed him more than $1,500 combined in 1927 currency. Adjusted for inflation, his debtors would owe more than $22,000 in today’s currency.
While working at the cigar store, reports say Tucker would frequently show off all of the money he carried, invite his people to count it and walk away.
Tucker was last seen walking along Lake Street the night of his disappearance. He did not report in for work the following Saturday. Concerned, Tucker’s boss sent two men to Tucker’s house for a welfare check. After talking to neighbors and checking inside the residence, the men discovered Tucker never returned home.
A few days after Tucker’s disappearance, a cap with traces of blood spatter was apparently found in an alley off East Main Street. The cap was believed to be Tucker’s. A private detective was hired by Tucker’s family.
The detective developed a lead which led to three men being jailed for robbery. They apparently had attempted to rob Tucker previously.
A fourth man allegedly provided evidence and eventually received a suspended sentence.
According to news reports, one of the men convicted of robbery confessed to aiding in Tucker’s murder. According to his story, the assailants grabbed Tucker near the corner of Pike and North Lake street, attacked him and brought him down an alley toward Center Lake. He said they took money from Tucker and then tied a gear to his leg.
According to the alleged confession, the men carried Tucker to the edge of the lake, cut a hole in the ice and threw him in. While leaving the scene in a vehicle, one of the men saw Tucker’s bloodied cap on the floor and threw it into an alley as they fled.
An effort to clear the ice on Center Lake with dynamite and drag the lake was carried out. Tucker’s body was not recovered.
Another reported confession claimed Tucker’s body may have been disposed of in Elkhart or lower Michigan. Recovery efforts in those areas were unfruitful.
According to reports, Tucker often said that if an attempt was ever made to rob him he would turn the money over to his attackers without a struggle.
When he went home at night Tucker allegedly told people he always used the back door. He would toss his roll of money on the floor before entering, then pick it up after he turned the lights on. News reports said he kept the money inside a base burner in the living room. No money was found in the room the day after Tucker’s disappearance.
Another theory suggested Tucker vanished on his own. Unverified reports from the period suggested Tucker fled to Cuba, Canada or the west coast. The reasoning stems from Tucker allegedly telling friends he could disappear and nobody would be able to find him. News reports claim some suspected Tucker could easily have boarded the late train out of Warsaw from a Pennsylvania railroad station near his home on Pike Street.
Despite never finding a body, Tucker was declared dead a year after his disappearance. His wife and family received the remainder of his savings after covering the cost of the investigation into his disappearance.