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Ashley Gang Shot On Wooden Bridge

Q: Was O.B. Padgett one of the deputies who “captured” the Ashley Gang? — D. S. Padgett, Lamont, Fla.
A: Mr. Padgett doesn’t say whether he’s related to the deputy who was part of one of the most dramatic moments in the history of Treasure Coast crime.
On Nov. 1, 1924, deputies stopped John Ashley and colleagues Hanford Mobley, Ray “Shorty” Lynn and John Middleton on a wooden bridge over the St. Sebastian River in what was then St. Lucie County.
Deputies said the gang was shot because the men tried to escape.
But many believed the Ashleys were assassinated by lawmen tired of being humiliated from Stuart to Miami by the gangsters’ bank robberies, moonshining and murder.
As early as 1928, Hix Stuart’s The Notorious Ashley Gang identified O.B. Padgett as one of the four Palm Beach County deputies, along with two St. Lucie deputies and the sheriff, who were on the bridge.
In 1997, Ada Coats Williams, a retired teacher of creative writing at Fort Pierce’s Indian River Community College, completed Florida’s Ashley Gang, the first book on the Ashleys since 1928.
A retired deputy who’d been on the bridge that night had confirmed to her in the 1950s that the men were shot while handcuffed, after John made a sudden move.
He had told her on the condition that she keep the secret until after all those involved had died.
Ten years later, in October 2007, in Indian River Magazine, Warren J. Sonne, a private eye and a retired New York police detective,concluded that the deputy who shot Ashley, and who confided to Ada Williams, was not O.B. Padgett, but Elmer Padgett (we couldn’t learn whether the two were related).
Williams still refuses to identify her confidant.

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg June 18, 2008 at 10:47 am.

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