Thomas R. Limerick

Last updated
Thomas Robert Limerick
Born(1902-01-07)January 7, 1902
DiedMay 23, 1938(1938-05-23) (aged 36)
Cause of death Gunshot wounds
Criminal status Deceased
Conviction(s) Bank robbery (12 U.S.C. § 588b)
Kidnapping (18 U.S.C. § 408)
Criminal penalty Life imprisonment

Thomas Robert Limerick (January 7, 1902 May 23, 1938) was an American criminal, who took part in the third documented escape attempt from Alcatraz Island on the night of May 23, 1938.



Thomas Limerick was born on January 7, 1902 [1] in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He grew up in a middle-class family until his father died when he was 15. His family was soon thrown into poverty and left Thomas, the oldest of 5 children, to get a job. Originally a boxcar bandit, he joined a gang of bank robbers headed by Maurice Denning based in Gage County, Nebraska in 1934. On August 23, 1934, the gang robbed a National Guard Armory, and between October and November of that year, robbed large banks in Hawarden, Iowa, Dell Rapids, South Dakota and Superior, Nebraska. They kidnapped three people during one of the robberies. Limerick was arrested in a nightclub in St. Joseph, Missouri on May 25, 1935, and eventually sentenced to life imprisonment at Leavenworth Penitentiary, but later transferred to Alcatraz. [2]

Alcatraz escape attempt

In the spring of 1938, Limerick, James Lucas, and Rufus Franklin planned an escape from Alcatraz. Their escape plan began by incapacitating an unarmed guard supervising a work detail on the top floor. Once the supervisor was rendered unconscious, the convicts would escape through a window to the rooftop, where they would incapacitate an armed guard and leave the island via a seized police boat. They enacted their escape plan on May 23, 1938, in the prison's mat shop, where they assaulted Custodial Officer Royal Cline with hammer blows to his head. They proceeded to the roof, where armed guard Harold Stites (who was later killed in the 1946 Battle of Alcatraz) shot both Franklin and Limerick, although Lucas wasn't shot. Other guards arrived at the scene. Franklin, Limerick, and Lucas were cornered and surrendered to the guards. [3]

Cline died of his injuries the next day, as did Limerick. [4] Lucas and the other surviving convict, Rufus Franklin, were tried for murder [5] [6] [7] and sentenced to life imprisonment. [8] [9]

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  1. "Ancestry - Sign up".
  2. "Limerick". Scottsbluff Daily Star-Herald. 1934-12-15. p. 1. Retrieved 2022-04-18.
  3. "Three Convicts Fail in Break at Alcatraz; Slug Guard; Two Are Shot, Third Cornered". New York Times. 1938-05-24. p. 1. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
  4. "Hammer Blow Kills Alcatraz Aide in Break: 2 Surviving Felons to Face Murder Charge; Third Slain in Flight". Washington Post. 1938-05-25. p. X1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers document 240807832.
  5. "Alcatraz Prisoners Hear Shooting Related by Guard". Los Angeles Times. 1938-11-05.
  6. "Court Calls for Bullets that Halted Convict Flight". Los Angeles Times. 1938-11-09.
  7. "Alcatraz Convicts Deny Killing Guard In Escape Attempt". Washington Post. 1938-11-23.
  8. "Killers of Alcatraz Guard Escape Execution; Jury Limits Penalty of Felons to Life Terms". New York Times. 1938-11-27. p. 1.
  9. "Alcatraz Pair Get Life". Los Angeles Times. 1938-11-27.