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  • Writer's pictureKathryn McMaster

FBI's Most Wanted: George William Krendich

George William Krendich would soon top the FBI Most Wanted list for murder. The story begins on April 27, 1951, when the Akron, Summit County, Ohio Police Department file a missing person’s report on a woman last seen on April 22 when she left her home in the company of a man and was never seen again. Despite an extensive search, police could find no clues to her disappearance.

A portrait image of Juanita Marie Bailey
Juanita Marie Bailey

Five days earlier, at 287 Brown Street, Akron, pretty, red-haired Juanita Marie Bailey, 23, fastened her light tan-colored coat over a blue dress with a lacy top. On her feet she wore tan snake-skin shoes to match. She, and boyfriend, George, 28, were going out that Sunday evening.

Six years prior, In Decatur, Indiana, Juanita had married Robert Bailey, with whom she had a daughter. However, the marriage soon ran into trouble and in February, 1951 divorce proceedings were underway. In the interim, she had met George and decided she liked him a lot.

“George and I are going to look at a house tonight,” she told her family.

On the same Sunday night, April 22, 1951 at 382 Lewis Street, Akron, at 6:45 p.m. George walked out the front door. Inside, his mother Mary was in the kitchen fixing a meal. George, was due back at work at 11:30 p.m. He had come home to change clothes to go to work.

Soon after leaving the house, George pulled up outside Juanita's house in a 1948 sedan. Waving goodbye to her daughter, Jennifer Ann, 4, Juanita walked to the car, got in, and it pulled away from the sidewalk. That would be the last time anyone would see Juanita alive.

After midnight, George’s mother remembers hearing George running upstairs, yanking open a dresser drawer, and then a few minutes later, leaving again.

The following day, George didn’t show up for work but a friend punched his card for him.

“We do that sometimes, if a fellow’s late,” he explained. His mother began to get worried, as she hadn’t seen him since that Sunday evening. When neither Juanita nor George could be found, people began to get worried. People started remembering snippets of conversation, unimportant at the time, but weighing in with significance now.

“I may marry George one of these days,” Juanita had told a neighbor.

People remembered how George didn’t get on with Juanita’s father, George Wilson. He didn’t like to sit long at her home if other family members were there, particularly her father.

On April 25, 1951, George sold his sedan car to a dealer in Cincinnati. Although George had paid $1500 for it on initial purchase, it sold it for $550 less. When the sale was made, Juanita was not with him.

That same evening he looked up an old friend whom he had worked with in the Air Force. Asked later if there was anything odd about his behavior, the friend said, “No, there wasn’t anything unusual about the way George acted.”

“Was he alone?”

“Yes, he was.”

On April 27, one of George’s sisters in Akron received a letter from him postmarked Chicago, April 26. “Mabel and I have split up. I’ve sold my car. She’s going to Arizona to look up her husband. And I’m going to meander West.” He scribbled a few instructions about his tools at the job.

Who was Mable? It was Juanita’s nickname.

On April 27, George Wilson reported his daughter, Juanita Bailey missing.

On May 10 that same year, citizens of Bracken County, Kentucky, were shocked to learn that a partly decomposed, weighted body of a woman had been found partially submerged in Turtle Creek, near Augusta. The body, weighted down with a 50-pound piece of angle iron tied around her left foot with barbed wire and a 25-pound railway tie-plate around her neck. also secured with barbed wire, was also without shoes. For a few weeks there had been a lot of rain, and so the creek was swollen. Once the water levels dropped, despite being weighed down by 75-pounds of iron, the body became visible.

The body had been in the water about a week, according to Hamilton County pathologist Dr. Frank Dutra. Under the circumstances, identification of the body was very difficult and although fingerprints had been taken from the body, there was no match in their records. There were no scars on the body other than an old vaccination, a burn mark on her inner left arm, and an old scar under her right knee-cap. However, the doctor was able to say the cause of death was strangulation. She was also three months pregnant.

Although police were given several possible local identities, due to the nature of the crime, news soon spread of the atrocity, and the story soon gained widespread public indignation.

It was the scar on the arm that prompted a Mrs. Rosie Marie Weiss from Maysville to declare that she thought the dead woman might be her sister, Eliza Quisenberry Lowe. She said that her sister had disappeared with her seven-month old child. With this information, the authorities dragged Turtle Creek looking for the infant. The first dragging used fish poles. The following day they had planned to use grappling hooks and a boat.

Going to the morgue to identify the body, Rosie Weis wept when she saw the dress worn by the victim and said that it had been her wedding dress. At his wife's distress, Mr. Weiss told the police, "This is enough for us."

Police then accompanied Rosie Weiss to the home of her father, Lee Quisenberry, only to discover her sister, Eliza Lowe and infant son were alive and well.

Another person came forward with a positive identification. William Reed of Williamsburg, Ohio, identified the body found in Turtle Creek as that of his wife, 30-year-old Fannie Goodpaster Reid, mother to his three children. His two sisters identified a rhinestone necklace as belonging to her. However, despite two neighbors viewing the body and stating it was not Fannie, a funeral was held and the body buried in a Williamsburg Cemetery. Mr. Reed collected $2, 500 in life insurance.

Bracken County Sheriff, Hamer K. Jett was convinced enough of her identification that he arrested three Augusta men and charged them with murder. The trio had been seen drinking with a woman who was thought to have been Mrs. Reed.

Bracken County Sheriff, Hamer Jett was convinced enough of her identification that he arrested three Augusta men; Lee Teegarden, Eugene Vogel, and J.P. Clark, and charged them with murder. The trio had been seen drinking with a woman who was thought to have been Mrs. Reed.

Before the men came to trial, Mrs. Reed surfaced, and on December 1, contacted her family to say that she was alive and well. She was in Alliance, Nebraska. She was coming home to visit her children, she wrote, and indeed, later arrived by train, declaring to reporters, “I’m glad I’m not dead.”

It was during this time that relatives of the woman reported missing from Akron in April, read the newspaper articles and feared that it was Juanita.

The body was erroneously identified yet again, before on December 6, Sheriff Jett of Bracken County brought the dead woman’s clothing to Akron for a fourth possible identification.

As soon as Juanita’s mother saw scraps of fabric from her daughter’s clothes she said, “That’s enough … that’s Juanita’s.” The family gave them two birth certificates with the footprint of two infants and the mother’s thumb print on each Dental records proved beyond doubt the body was indeed Juanita Marie Bailey, as she had 16 front teeth, but all 16 back teeth were missing.

At least now police knew who their Jane Doe was. But who was the man Mrs. Bailey was last seen with the day she disappeared? Who was George?

His name was George William Krendich. After meeting Juanita, people said that George ‘slowed down’. “He wouldn’t go out with the boys like he used to,” said a friend. “He made a career out of dating her.”

George Krendich was born in Akron, Summit County, Ohio, on September 7, 1923. He was the youngest and only son of Theodore ‘Thomas’ and Mary Krendich of Akron. He had two sisters, Ann and Mildred. Thomas, his father, was from Serbia, and as a result, George could speak and write Serbian. He was a nice-looking young man, tall, standing six foot with a slender build. He had dark hair, brown eyes with a medium complexion. Under his left eye, he had a small scar. Dressing casually for most of the time, George liked playing bowls and golf. He also liked reading, especially adventure stories.

People who knew George Krendich said he was a likable fellow and had a good reputation. He had attended Ohio State University for seven months where he studied engineering. After that he went to Berry College, in Mt. Berry, for five months. From September, 1941 to February, 1943 he worked at the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, after which he joined the Air Force.

He was a pilot with the 38th Bomber Group, 71st Squadron and was employed by the Air Force during World War II. When he was discharged in 1946, he was a second lieutenant. After the war, he returned to Firestone, but kept up with his flying, flying light aircraft from time to time. However, his main occupation was that of machinist and turret-lathe operator. One relative said of his work, “He was good at it.”

Detectives Thomas Faragher and Walter Hart of the Cincinnati Homicide Squad were able to trace George’s sold vehicle. Inside the car were blood stains on the back seat. Bloody hairpins were found under the rear seat. Suddenly, George became a person of interest.

A warrant was obtained on December 7, 1951, charging Krendich with willful murder. However, because Krendich had fled to Kentucky, Bracken County, authorities asked for the help of the Federal authorities. Perhaps it was ideas from the adventure stories he so like to read that allowed him to evade the FBI for so long. For despite countless tips and sightings, George William Krendich was always one step ahead of the authorities.

An FBI Most Wanted Poster of George William Krendich
An FBI Most Wanted Poster of George William Krendich

One woman, Nell C. Berg of Duluth, Minnesota said that she had seen Krendich in a Duluth bus station talking to a middle-aged woman who called him George.

Mrs. Lorna Scanion, from a New York hotel said she met a man in Reno a year previous who called himself Bill. He was an official of the Coast Guard Intelligence, he said. Mrs. Scanion wrote to authorities telling them of her encounter.

“He tried to involve me in a gambling racket. Then I got a card saying he was drafting into the Army.” Mrs. Scanion went on to say that the man in question was definitely George Krendich.

A mine operator wrote in August that he had spotted a man fitting the description of Krendich and he had spoken to him. “Said he was a pilot, used to work in Ohio.”

Police had theories of their own as to where George Krendich could be. Some suspected that he had escaped to somewhere like South America and was flying for a commercial airline. Or deep in a ‘banana republic’ where “You might keep going indefinitely, once out of this country.”

Perhaps he was dead. More like, not, police believed. Some thought, sooner or later he would be found.

“It’s awful hard to hide these days,” Lt. Carroll Cutright said, "especially with social security and draft registration. His fingerprints are on record in Washington."

Despite his ordinary lifestyle, there was another side to George, as can be seen from the description of him given to the news reporters from the FBI, who had him listed as the FBI’s most wanted men.

“Dangerous and desperate in his flight, George William Krendich poses a major problem to investigating law enforcement officers. Accused of a vicious, hideous crime as his first criminal exploit, he has left few avenues of pursuit open. His very criminal anonymity and the dearth of personal characteristics and history are proving valuable assets to him in his flight from justice.”

The only photo the FBI had of Krendich was taken in 1944.

The FBI flyer says, “Krendich should be considered dangerous. He is being sought for a brutal murder.”

On October 11, 1953, two years later, two Indian hunters, Albert and Guy Fox, in the Badlands of North Dakota, found the body of an unidentified man along an isolated country road in a plum thicket. The two men from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation had been out hunting rabbits when they came across a curtained jeep with 1953 Texas licensing tags containing the body of a man. The man had been dead two to three weeks and it looked like a suicide as a hose connected to the exhaust pipe of the jeep he was in was fed into the vehicle’s interior. The key to the ignition was turned on. The body was encased in a sleeping bag with one of the front seats moved into a position so the body could recline.

Next to the body, dressed in work clothes was a .22 rifle, a suitcase and $7.00 in cash. There was no suicide note.

Inside the man’s wallet was an identification card identifying him as George William Krendich. The pathologist matched an old scar under his left eye to photos and descriptions. The FBI examined scars on his fingers to fingerprints on record. They matched. In addition, hand prints were sent to Washington and again a positive identification was made.

It was indeed George William Krendich. The hunt for one of the FBI’s most wanted men for the murder of Juanita Marie Bailey had finally come to an end.

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