James Stewart, alias James Gordon, alias James Andrews, alias John Hogue, safe blower of a decade ago and convicted murderer...
So went the opener of yet another newspaper article on the still-unfolding saga of John Hogue—this one from the Escanaba Daily Press of April 1, 1926. Though Escanaba is about as far away from Battle Creek as you can get and still be in Michigan, its interest in the Hogue case—or the Stewart case, as they still presumed—revealed just how intent the people of Michigan were in seeing that the man, whoever he was, pay his debt to society for crimes committed in Battle Creek a full ten years beforehand.
If you thought Hogue was still sitting in a cell at the Kingston Penitentiary in Ontario, you and I both missed something. Embedded within the lead to another Michigan newspaper's coverage of the 1926 chapter of the unfolding Hogue story—this time, from the Marshall Evening Chronicle on April 22—was this surprise:
John Hogue, who stood in the shadow of the gallows, and who at the last moment secured a commutation of sentence to life and later to ten years....
Somehow, I missed that last detail. To ten years? How did that happen?
Knowing that I could find all the Essex area newspapers from that time period in Ontario online, I tried in vain to locate any mention of that latest change in sentence.
Lest you assume this Hogue fellow lived a charmed life, think again. Apparently, not even he knew about the surprise in store for him upon his release from prison that year. Back in Manitoba—a place full of people who also had a vested interest in watching Hogue's every move—the Brandon Daily Sun noted on April 8, complete with the usual litany of aliases,
John Hogue, alias James Steward, alias James Gordon, pardoned murderer from Kingston, Ont., penitentiary, professed complete astonishment when turned over to Battle Creek police by Ontario officers. The transfer was made on a Detroit-bound car ferry from Windsor. Hogue declared his rearrest an unexpected and unpleasant development.
Of course, if he had been reading the Escanaba Daily Press, it wouldn't have been such a surprise to him, since back on April 1, the headline there had announced the plans, "Paroler will be arrested."
The Marshall Evening Chronicle provided the explanation for this abrupt change in plans: Hogue was charged with burglarizing a Battle Creek pool hall ten years prior. Being the county seat of Calhoun County in which Battle Creek was located, Marshall, Michigan, would be the location of the newspaper of record for that county's proceedings, and was likely keen to get the scoop on any reports concerning the long-awaited suspect Stewart, er, Gordon, er, Hogue. Once again, John Hogue would be getting his day in court—whether he wanted it or not.