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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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020514ROBBERY.jpg

captured—1956 photo of law enforcement officers and posse members capturing suspected Peshtigo National Bank robbers Harold Vaughn and Albert James Vito. The pair were captured in the Peshtigo Harbor Area. Vito is the robber who shot Yvonne (Valliere) Sielaff.

Woman Shot In ‘56 Bank Robbery Dies Saturday

Yvonne M. (Valliere) Sielaff, 85, of Menomonee Falls, former Peshtigo resident, died of natural causes Saturday, Feb. 1, in Menomonee Falls, still carrying a bullet in her jaw since the May 21, 1956 robbery of the Peshtigo National Bank where she had worked for many years with her husband, Robert. It was the first bank robbery in Peshtigo and in Marinette County.

The .22 caliber bullet was never removed from her jaw for medical reasons but it was closely watched by her dentist through the years. The bullet may now be recovered after cremation.

It was a sunny Monday morning as the four bank employees were working. Mrs. Sielaff was sitting at a table behind a counter, her husband was at the counter, and Jeannette Rhode and Oscar Bartels, cashier, were on the telephone. It was about 9:58 a.m. when the two bandits, Harold Vaughn, 17, formerly of Porterfield, and Albert James Vito, 21, entered wearing jackets over their colored shirts and sun glasses which they had just purchased at Driscoll Service Station. They had just bought $1.50 worth of gas at DeHart Gas Station.

Vaughn walked to the middle of the three windows where Robert Sielaff was checking a deposit left several minutes earlier by the bank president, Earl DeHart Sr. The other bandit, Vito, occupied a position about eight feet behind Vaughn and had a commanding view of the entire bank. Three .22 caliber bullets were fired. One bullet, allegedly fired by Vaughn, was aimed at Bartels, but struck the leg of a chair. The other two were alleged to have been fired by Vito, one in the direction of Robert Sielaff and the other at his wife. The bullet fired at Mrs. Sielaff went through a half inch plywood panel and may have ricocheted off a coin holder behind the panel, striking her in the front jaw. The bandits were in the bank for only about one minute.

Mrs. Sielaff slumped to the floor in a small pool of blood and was rushed to Marinette General Hospital by her husband and Earl DeHart Jr. She remained in the hospital for several days but the bullet was not removed.

The two bandits left the bank in about one minute with $1,045 and went to their parked vehicle on West Front St., one block away. It was a 1956 red and yellow Mercury convertible. Prior to the robbery, the vehicle had been noticed by several city residents and police traveling around the city who became suspicious and wrote down the license number. Police Officer Stewart Jarvis was one of the persons who copied the license number when he observed the pair sleeping at Badger Park.

The robbers then sped down West Front St. heading south and apparently were unfamiliar with the area as they ended up in the Peshtigo Harbor Swamps, six miles south of the scene of their crime. Within minutes of the robbery, a search began and they were captured by a posse of over 200 individuals within 2 1/2 hours at the Peshtigo Harbor. The robbery happened close to 10 a.m. and by 12:30 p.m. they were handcuffed by Sheriff Marriner Kohlman.

The posse and law enforcement response drew praise from Sheriff Kohlman who issued a statement expressing appreciation to the posse and law enforcement officers from Marinette, Menominee, Oconto, Peshtigo and sheriff officers from the counties of Menominee, Mich., Oconto, Brown, and Shawano as well as State Police, DNR wardens and pilots Capt. Ted Axtell of the Civil Air Patrol and Earl DeHart who assisted in the search.

The car of the two bank robbers was spotted around noon from the air in the Peshtigo Harbor Area by Capt. Axtell of the Civil Air Patrol. Law enforcement officers were already in the nearby area, but Axtell had no radio and had to land his plane on a roadway to inform officers.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Kohlman and five members of the posse were creeping up on the robbers who were lying exhausted on a small strip of land separated from the mainland by about 50 feet of water. Kohlman fired a shot and warned the robbers to surrender. He then ordered them to take off their trousers and to wade across the water to him. At the same time, the pair were unaware that a boatload of posse members was approaching them from the rear. When captured the pair had $990 and admitted losing part of the loot in their attempted get-away.

Under questioning, the pair admitted the bank robbery and also their first intention was to rob the Peshtigo State Bank but were deterred by the number of people in that bank. They also admitted to entering the Marinette Sporting Goods Store in Marinette on Saturday, two days before the bank robbery, to steal the three .22 caliber guns they used in the robbery. When captured, the pair had no guns and told authorities they had thrown the weapons away.

Reason for the robbery was to obtain money to pay off a $3,600 mortgage on the car owned by Vaughn.

On Tuesday, May 22, the pair were handed over to the FBI since a national bank had been robbed. They appeared before U.S. Commissioner John Reynolds Jr., who set bond at $50,000 each. The pair were then transferred to the U.S. District Court in Milwaukee.

Vito was charged with violating the federal bank robbery act and Vaughn, because of his age was held under the federal juvenile delinquency act.

There were several interesting sidelights to the capture. The robbers headed towards the bay believing they could take a side road over to Marinette, only the Peshtigo River was in the way and the only bridge was in Peshtigo, and then drive up into Michigan. Instead they ended up in the yard of Tom Motkowski’s Fish Haven where they turned around and headed back towards Peshtigo. At the Hale Road School, they turned east on a sand road which led to the Peshtigo Harbor where they followed a car driven by Howard Brabender Jr., Peshtigo, who was going fishing at the harbor.

The pair turned around and drove as far as the Thompson Red Barn and attempted to park their vehicle in the barn. However the barn was not suitable and then drove into the marsh in an attempt to hide the vehicle after hearing a description of their vehicle and license number on the car radio.

Meanwhile, Brabender was returning to Peshtigo from fishing when he noticed the partially hidden car. He considered stopping to help pull the vehicle out but seeing neither of the men, continued on his way home. Upon arriving home, he was informed by his mother of the robbery who gave him a description of the get-away car. Brabender then went to the Peshtigo Police station and notified authorities of what he had seen.


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