CHICAGO -- The crime is almost 90 years old. And almost a century later there is still so little known about one of the most notorious mob hits of all time.
In a WGN broadcast exclusive, new documents recently un-earthed in Cook County give us a closer look at the St. Valentine's day massacre.
The documents come from the medical examiner's office.
Two years ago the executive director there had them dug out and dusted off from an old warehouse on the South Side to see what might be learned.
James Sledge, from the Cook Co Medical Examiner's office, is a history buff and the thought of resurrecting old documents from one of the most historic mob hits of all time was a thrill for him.
It’s remarkable because contained in one box was hundreds of pages of transcripts and seven autopsy reports, one for each person killed that fateful day.
One of the reports for victim John May show his lungs were perforated 12 times.
The mass shooting took place at 2122 North Clark Street, it’s nothing more than a parking lot now.
The only evidence of the Valentine's Day massacre is a black line on the building next to where the mob hangout once stood.
John Russick, Mob Expert from the Chicago History Museum, suspects it marks the roof line of the old garage.
“There's a lot of assumptions that have been made over the years about this and some new documents like this are really critical to understanding,” he says.
There were seven victims, four guns and no real witnesses and no arrests.
These stacks of transcripts detail the coroner's jury inquest ordered by the official Cook County coroner Dr. Herman n. Bundesen. And due to the nature of this high-profile case, Bundesen empanelled six jurors to verify his findings. Their signatures were on each and every autopsy. Even the press was present. It’s not the way it’s done today.
"I think what struck me is that they understood the significance of what they were doing,” says Sledge.
He added that Bundesen appears to have done a thorough job and tried at every turn to keep the controversial, headline grabbing assassinations on the up and up.
No DNA back then, fingerprinting was hardly used, but the science of ballistics was just being discovered right here in Chicago.
“Ballistics was in its infancy and because of this particular incident, they had to go to great lengths to create a science to look at the bullets," says Sledge.
It’s something that's standard today but everyone was on the take and suspicion among law enforcement, government officials and your average Joe on the street, and in 1929 it was rampant.
It all came down to two things: booze and turf. Al Capone was king on the South Side and Bugs Moran the North. Legend has it Capone ordered the massive hit to take down Moran and his henchmen.
Moran never showed.
Five mob men, an auto-mechanic and an optometrist were shot execution style instead. The hit men were reportedly disguised as Chicago police.
These delicate papers actually point the finger at Fred "the killer" Burke.
The jury wanted him charged with the murders. He never was.
Capone was never mentioned once.
James sledge says the way Bundesen drew up autopsies back then is virtually the same way medical examiner's do it today--they were just less sanitized back then.
The one for John May, the mob mechanic, says "I will bury remains."
Another autopsy, this one for the optometrist in the group, Reinhardt Schwimmer, says the victim was divorced and living in a hotel.
With these documents suddenly everything seems a bit more personal.
"The docs shows that this was well planned, carried out with precision, it shows that these were professionals who knew what they were doing,” says Sledge.
"It doesn't surprise me at all that it exists. If history teaches you anything, it's that evidence is out there, sometimes it’s just really hard to find,” says Russick.
The Cook County medical examiner’s office has also pulled the autopsy for American gangster John Dillinger.
The executive officer says the portrayal of Dillinger in books, movies is all wrong. He says the autopsy proves it.
So what will happen to these original documents?
All of them will remain the custody of the medical examiner's office.