"Doc" Barker, third-born son of the ill-fated, probably mentally ill mother known as "Ma" Barker, died on Alcatraz on Friday the 13th, in January 1939.
Short, bitter, and most likely an alcoholic, "Doc" was catapulted to fame after getting out of prison for murder in 1931 and joining up with his brother, Freddie, and Alvin "Ol' Creepy" Karpis. The three of them formed the nucleus of the Karpis-Barker gang, one of the most vicious groups in the "dirty thirties." Despite his nickname, Barker was not terribly bright, but probably because of the nickname he is the best remembered of the Barker clan.
The Karpis-Barker gang were known chiefly for two sensational kidnappings in 1933 and 1934. Both operations were so large they involved the complicity of a crooked police detective, two St. Paul casino owners, a post office official, and numerous sidekicks. Despite the large ransoms ($100,00 and $200,000), the actual kidnappers only got $7,500 each per kidnapping. One casino owner, Jack Peifer, committed suicide before going to prison, and nine others, including Karpis and Barker, were sent to Alcatraz.
"Ma" was promoted by J. Edgar Hoover as the "evil genius" behind the gang but that was an exaggeration. She benefitted from their crimes, perhaps, and certainly set them in motion as the mother of four thieves.
The entire Barker clan died violently. Herman committed suicide while cornered by police after killing a cop. Freddie and "Ma" died in a gun battle with the FBI. "Doc" was shot in the head on Alcatraz trying to escape. And Lloyd survived 16 years at a maximum security prison, got out and was killed by his wife.
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