I asked him what work he wanted done. He wanted two warts (moles) removed on the right lower forehead between the eyes and one at the left angle, outer angle of the left eye; wanted a depression of the nose filled in; a scar; a large one to the left of the median line of the upper lip excised, wanted his dimples removed and wanted the angle of the mouth drawn up. He didn't say anything about the fingers that day to me.
According to some biographers, his German grandfather, Matthias Dillinger, emigrated to the United States in 1851 from Metz, in the region of Lorraine, then under French sovereignty. Matthias Dillinger was born in Gisingen, near Dillingen in present-day Saarland. John Dillinger's parents had married on August 23, 1887. Dillinger's father was a grocer by trade and, reportedly, a harsh man. In an interview with reporters, Dillinger said that he was firm in his discipline and believed in the adage "spare the rod and spoil the child".
Dillinger's older sister, Audrey, was born March 6, 1889. Their mother died in 1907 just before his fourth birthday. Audrey married Emmett "Fred" Hancock that year and they had seven children together. She cared for her brother John for several years until their father remarried in 1912 to Elizabeth "Lizzie" Fields (1878–1933). They had three children, Hubert, born 1912, Doris M. (1918–2001) and Frances Dillinger (1922–2015).
Dillinger is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. Dillinger's gravestone has been replaced several times because of vandalism by people chipping off pieces as souvenirs. Hilton Crouch (1903-1976), an associate of Dillinger's on some early heists, is buried only a few yards to the west.
As a teenager, Dillinger was frequently in trouble with the law for fighting and petty theft; he was also noted for his "bewildering personality" and bullying of smaller children. He quit school to work in an Indianapolis machine shop. His father feared that the city was corrupting his son, prompting him to move the family to Mooresville, Indiana in 1921. Dillinger's wild and rebellious behavior was unchanged, despite his new rural life. In 1922, he was arrested for auto theft, and his relationship with his father deteriorated.
Within Indiana Reformatory and Indiana State Prison, from 1924 to 1933, Dillinger began to become embroiled in a Criminal lifestyle. Upon being admitted to the prison, he is quoted as saying, "I will be the meanest bastard you ever saw when I get out of here." His physical examination upon being admitted to the prison showed that he had gonorrhea. The treatment for his condition was extremely painful. He became embittered against society because of his long prison sentence and befriended other Criminals, such as seasoned bank Robbers like Harry "Pete" Pierpont, Charles Makley, Russell Clark, and Homer Van Meter, who taught Dillinger how to be a successful Criminal. The men planned heists that they would commit soon after they were released. Dillinger studied Herman Lamm's meticulous bank-robbing system and used it extensively throughout his Criminal career.
On Friday, July 27, Jimmy Probasco jumped or "accidentally" fell to his death from the 19th floor of the Bankers' Building in Chicago while in custody. On Thursday, August 23, Homer Van Meter was shot and killed in a dead-end alley in St. Paul by Tom Brown, former St. Paul Chief of Police, and then-current chief Frank Cullen.
Rita “Polly” Hamilton was a teenage runaway from Fargo, North Dakota. She met Ana Ivanova Akalieva (Ana Cumpănaș; a.k.a. Ana Sage) in Gary, Indiana, and worked periodically as a prostitute in Anna's brothel until marrying Gary police officer Roy O. Keele in 1929. They divorced in March 1933.
According to Art O'Leary, as early as March 1934, Dillinger expressed an interest in plastic surgery and had asked O'Leary to check with Piquett on such matters. At the end of April, Piquett paid a visit to his old friend Dr. Wilhelm Loeser. Loeser had practiced in Chicago for 27 years before being convicted under the Harrison Narcotic Act in 1931. He was sentenced to three years at Leavenworth, but was paroled early on December 7, 1932, with Piquett's help. He later testified that he performed facial surgery on himself and obliterated the fingerprint impressions on the tips of his fingers by the application of a caustic soda preparation. Piquett said Dillinger would have to pay $5,000 for the plastic surgery: $4,400 split between Piquett, Loeser and O'Leary, and $600 to Dr. Harold Cassidy, who would administer the anaesthetic. The procedure would take place at the home of Piquett's longtime friend, 67-year-old James Probasco, at the end of May.
Evelyn "Billie" Frechette met John Dillinger in October 1933, and they began a relationship on November 20. After Dillinger's death, Billie was offered money for her story and eventually penned a memoir for the Chicago Herald and Examiner in August 1934.
Dillinger was shot and killed by the special agents on July 22, 1934, at approximately 10:40 p.m, according to a New York Times report the next day. Dillinger's death came only two months after the deaths of fellow notorious Criminals Bonnie and Clyde. There were reports of people dipping their handkerchiefs and skirts into the pool of blood that had formed, as Dillinger lay in the alley, as keepsakes. "Souvenir Hunters madly dipped newspapers in the blood that stained the pavement. Handkerchiefs were whipped out and used to mop up the blood."
Dillinger was unable to find a job and began planning a robbery with his friend Ed Singleton. The two robbed a local grocery store, stealing $50. While leaving the scene, the Criminals were spotted by a minister who recognized the men and reported them to the police. The two men were arrested the next day. Singleton pleaded not guilty, but after Dillinger's father (the local Mooresville Church deacon) discussed the matter with Morgan County prosecutor Omar O'Harrow, his father convinced Dillinger to confess to the crime and plead guilty without retaining a defense attorney. Dillinger was convicted of assault and battery with intent to rob, and conspiracy to commit a felony. He expected a lenient probation sentence as a result of his father's discussion with O'Harrow, but instead was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison for his crimes. His father told reporters he regretted his advice and was appalled by the sentence. He pleaded with the judge to shorten the sentence, but with no success. (During the robbery, Dillinger had struck a victim on the head with a machine bolt wrapped in a cloth and had also carried a gun which, although it discharged, hit no one). En route to Mooresville to testify against Singleton, Dillinger briefly escaped his captors, but was apprehended within a few minutes. Singleton had a change of venue and was sentenced to a jail term of 2 to 14 years. He was killed on August 31, 1937, by a train when he passed out, drunk, on a railroad track.
Loeser met with Piquett again on Saturday, June 2, with Piquett saying that more work was needed on Dillinger and that Van Meter now wanted the same work done to him. Also, both now wanted work done on their fingertips. The price for the fingerprint procedure would be $500 per hand or $100 a finger. Loeser used a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acid—commonly known as aqua regia.