Retro Charlotte

1929: Kidnapped 12-year-old girl found in Charlotte

“Dapper kidnaper” shown in inset. March 30, 1929
“Dapper kidnaper” shown in inset. March 30, 1929 Charlotte Observer

From the Charlotte Observer, March 30, 1929

“A nation-wide search ended in Charlotte yesterday when city police seized a dapper kidnaper and gave protection to a small school girl that he had abducted in Philadelphia two days before.

The little girl, blond haired, blue-eyed child of small stature for her 12 years, who smiled her way into the heart of the Charlotte police department, is expected to go with them.

Arrested in the morning as he stepped up to the counter of a telegraph office here to get $50, which he claimed he wanted to send his companion back home, Curtis S. Devonshire, 30-year-old collector for an electrical appliance house, readily admitted his identity, and led Detectives Porter and Pittman to the child, who sat in his automobile, parked three and half blocks away.

‘I just got drunk, that’s all,’ the kidnaper explained. ‘I picked her up and then got lost. When I sobered up I was scared to take her home and just kept driving.’ Attired in a light grey suit and overcoat, with a black derby cocked at a saucy angle on his head, Devonshire, a sharp featured, light complexioned man, told his story without hesitation.

He said he went to a house to collect and the owner had moved away. The child he abducted, Alice Labutis, was playing next door and he asked her if she would take him to where the woman moved.

‘I’ll give you 50 cents if you will,’ he said. Alice, the daughter of a Wilkesbarre miner, consented to show him.

Devonshire said he was drunk at the time and got mixed up on directions and headed away from town.

Little Alice, who talks with a slight lisp, occasioned by swallowing lye when she was a baby, became frightened and tearfully pleaded to be taken home.

‘I wanted to take her home,’ said Devonshire, ‘but was afraid to do so. So I kept driving south.’ Late that night they stopped by the roadside and went to sleep in the machine, a small cabriolet.

Alice said her companion treated her well. She said she liked the ride and talked to several men the kidnaper picked up, who bought gasoline and oil. ‘No, we didn’t have any trouble,’ said the driver, for whom police all over the country were on the lookout. ‘Why, I stopped at several police stations on the way down and asked for directions.’”

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Little Alice was taken back to Philadelphia and testified against Devonshire at trial there the following month. “The little girl was self-possessed when she took her place on the witness stand, and she answered all questions in a steady voice that showed she was not frightened or embarrassed at being the central figure in a front-page drama.” The court found the kidnaper guilty of false imprisonment and sentenced him to one year in county jail.