Clarence McKinney

Clinton County, Ohio
Date of Crime:  February 14, 1922

Late in the evening, Wilmington police officers Henry Adams and Emory McCreight were patrolling an alley skirting the post office on Main Street when they heard a racket at the back of the Murphy and Benham hardware store.  After approaching the area, the officers saw two shadowy figures against the building.  Unbeknownst to the officers, the two were cutting their way through the rear door of the hardware store.

Adams called out, “What are you doing here?”  “Looking for a dog,” came the reply.  “You are liable to get in bad in here,” answered Officer McCreight, as Adams flashed his light full in the face of the nearest figure.  Pistols then flashed as the two mystery men fired bullets into Adams and McCreight, before escaping in a waiting automobile.  McCreight was mortally wounded and died the following afternoon.

A witness named Smalley later came forward.  He said he had seen two Cincinnati men that he knew with a flat tire on the morning following the murder.  The men had several gallons of whiskey in their car, which was illegal under then existing Prohibition laws.  As the witness was leaving, one of the men said to him, “Smalley, don't you never say a word you saw us on this road this morning.”  Smalley identified the men as Clarence LeRoy McKinney and Jim Bill Reno.  The two were arrested.

Officer Adams said that the shooter he saw had on a sheepskin coat and a toboggan cap.  These articles of clothing were put on McKinney.  The lights were then turned out and Adams flashed his light in the suspect's face, as he had done on the night of the shooting.  Adams identified McKinney as the shooter whose face he had seen.  Other witnesses provided testimony that McKinney and Reno were in town on the night of the murder.

Both McKinney and Reno were initially tried and convicted of illegally transporting liquor.  When tried for murder, McKinney provided alibi witnesses, but these witnesses were not especially effective, in part because McKinney's alibi was falsified to avoid possible conviction on liquor charges.  McKinney was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.  Reno was not tried for murder, but held in jail while he served out a sentence for his liquor charge.

About a year after the shootings, two other men were implicated in the crime.  Both confessed not just to the murder of McCreight, but also to a number of other burglaries in Clinton and Greene counties.  The men led investigators to some of their stolen loot.  After these men pleaded guilty, McKinney's conviction was vacated and he was released.  As a form of restitution, the fines in the liquor cases against both McKinney and Reno were suspended.  [11/07]

Reference:  Convicting the Innocent

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Western Ohio Cases, Police Officer Murder Cases