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Bonnie and Clyde’s Wild Ride and Gruesome End

By: Kate Row | Last updated: Sep 15, 2022

Bonnie and Clyde are some of America’s most well-known and infamous bank robbers. The two collided and went on an epic crime spree made for Hollywood.

However, Bonnie and Clyde couldn’t get away with it forever. In the end they met their demise in a hail of gunfire, thus putting a tragic end to their life of crime.

Read below to learn more about their humble beginnings and what lead to their tragic and sudden end.

From Very Different Backgrounds

Bonnie and Clyde both started out life in areas of West Dallas, Texas. Both were born into poor families and life from the very beginning was difficult and filled with a lot of financial strain.

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Bonnie was known for being studious, well-liked and a reader of poetry, while Clyde grew up on a farm, and at a young age already had found himself face to face with the law.

A Young Clyde

As a young boy it was reported that Clyde “Bud” Barrow had a great love and passion for music. Clyde loved to sing and play an old guitar had found his family’s farm. Initially, family members thought Clyde would have a future in music.

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Buddy Barrow Personal Collection

Clyde eventually taught himself to play the saxophone and read music on his own. Unfortunately, Clyde was negativly influenced by his older brother Buck, and close family friends. Clyde’s interests soon turned from playing music to committing crimes. 

Clyde Was Rejected By The US Navy

When Clyde was a teenager, he tried to enlist in the U.S. Navy. However, he was ultimately rejected and would never end up serving any time.

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Clyde was rejected for medical purposes due to long-term effects that stayed around after a childhood illness believed to be yellow fever or malaria. Clyde was rather unset about this rejection as he was already set on serving and even had “USN” tattooed on his left arm.

Clyde's First Crime

Although he may have died a notorious criminal, Clyde didn’t always have such a dark criminal past. In 1926, at the very young age of 16, Clyde was first arrested for automobile theft in Dallas. He was arrested after failing to return a car he had rented to visit an estranged high school girlfriend. 



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The rental car agency later dropped the theft charges, but the incident remained in Clyde’s criminal history and on his arrest record. Not even three weeks later, Clyde was arrested for the second time-alongside his older brother, Ivan “Buck” Barrow- for having a truck full of frozen turkeys. 

A Young Bonnie

As a young girl, Bonnie Elizabeth Parker also loved music. She loved to perform in school pageants and even in the school’s talent shows. She would often sing Broadway hits or some of her favorite country songs.

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Buddy Barrow Personal Collection

Bonnie was beautiful and also very intelligent. Even at a young age she told her friends that they would “see her name in lights one day.” Bonnie had a deep love for movies and imagined a future for herself on the silver screen.

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Bonnie The Poet

Bonnie also had a deep passion and talent for all things related to creative writing. She often wrote poetry and creative stories in school, and was recognized as being very talented.

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In 1932, Bonnie landed herself behind bars after getting caught during a hardware store robbery. While in a cell, she continued to write. Bonnie wrote ten different odes that she titled, “Poetry from Life’s Other Side.”

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Bonnie Was A Married Woman

Not many people know that before meeting Clyde, Bonnie was a married woman. Roy Glenn Thornton, born in 1908, was Bonnie’s first and only husband. The two met for the first time when they were both students attending a Dallas high school.

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They couple was married on September 25, 1926 when Bonnie was just 16 years old. However, after only being married for  just a little over a year the two separated for their third and final time in December, of 1927. It is believed the couple separated due to Roy’s alleged infidelity.

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Roy's Tragic End

Roy, just like Clyde, was also no saint. Roy lived a life filled with crime and was arrested in March of 1933, for robbery. Roy was sentenced to five years and within the first week of his sentence successfully escaped the Ellis County Jail in Waxahachie, Texas.

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Shortly after his recapture Roy was transferred to the Huntsville State Prison where he ultimately met his demise. On October 3, 1937 Roy was killed during an attempted prison break.

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Love At First Sight

Despite still being legally married when Bonnie and Clyde met in January of 1930, it was love at first sight. Bonnie was first introduced to Clyde at the home of Clyde’s friend, Clarence Clay.

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Source: PBS

Clyde was 20 years old, and Bonnie was 19 at the time. The two immediately fell in love and very quickly became inseparable.

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Escaping From Prison

Just weeks after Bonnie and Clyde’s relationship began, Clyde was sent off to jail for car theft and burglary. Clyde enlisted Bonnie in his escape plan.

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He had her smuggle in a gun into the jail cell, which helped Clyde escape from that prison with two of his fellow inmates. However, this escape was short lived as one week later he was discovered and sent back to jail where he remained.

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Bonnie Stuck by His Side

While serving his time in jail, Clyde ended up beating a fellow inmate to death with a lead pipe for sexually assaulting him. Bonnie waited two agonizing years for Clyde to be released from the prison.

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One friend of the couple said that Clyde underwent a transformation while in prison. The friend stated that Clyde went from “schoolboy to rattlesnake,” and was forever changed by his time in the prison.

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While in Prison, Clyde Chopped Off Two Toes

It was January 1932 when Clyde was caught after escaping prison for robbery and car theft. He was sentenced to 14 years in a Texas prison. While there, he was experiencing some brutal conditions at the notoriously tough Eastham Prison Farm.

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The Pointe

In a tactic to get transferred to a hopefully less rough facility, Clyde decided to chop off two of his toes with an axe. However, this action became quite unnecessary as six days later he was released on parole.

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Life on the Run

Soon after Clyde got out of prison, the two began committing robberies together as a dynamic criminal team.

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In 1932, Clyde’s crimes began to escalate when one of their accomplices in a store robbery killed a store owner. Clyde decided to go on the run, and he took Bonnie along with him.

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Their Life Wasn't Glamorous

While films and pop culture often glorify the lives of Bonnie and Clyde as successful criminals who lived glamorously, that simply wan’t the case. Being on the run from the law meant long nights and constant strategy.

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Credit: Buddy Barrow, Personal Collection

They didn’t have a permanent place of residence. They would bathe in rivers, eat cans of sardines, and take shifts driving throughout the night to escape from police. This photo from 1933 is of the couple in the forest, cleaning their guns while on the run.

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Bank Robberies Weren't What They Were Known For

When we think about Bonnie and Clyde, we often imagine them as expert bank robbers who stole from high and mighty financial institutes at the time of the Great Depression.

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However, this was not the case. The dynamic duo instead planned their robberies on smaller business, grocery stores, gas stations, and other mom-and-pop shops. With one robbery, they often only stole an amount of $5 to $10 in total.

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Dallas Gas Station Linked to Bonnie and Clyde

An old gas station in West Dallas, Texas has recently been determined to be connected to Bonnie and Clyde. Clyde’s father actually used to own the old station.

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Dallas Public Library / Dallas History & Archives Division

When a local purchased the building, he had every intention to get rid of it or demolish it, but a recent vote by 14 to 1 shows that the Landmark Commission wants to instead preserve it as a historical landmark.

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They Became Media Darlings

Back in the 30s, the press ate up Bonnie and Clyde’s harrowing and illegal escapades, which put an even bigger target on their backs when it came to the police. As they tore through the country, authorities wanted the twosome from Texas to Minnesota.

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The press portrayed Clyde as a rebellious hoodlum and Bonnie as a lovestruck partner in crime.

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Infamy Has Its Costs

By 1933, the two were evolved in their life of crime. They famously had a shootout in Joplin, Missouri which left two officers dead.

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An investigation of the crime scene turned up a camera full of photos of the two that ran in newspapers across the country.

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The 1933 Car Accident

On June 10, 1933 Bonnie and Clyde got in a rather rough car accident. Clyde was speeding in north Texas and missed an important construction sign that warned of bridge construction ahead.

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Clyde ended up smashing his car going 70 mph into a construction barricade. Their car then when airborne before landing in a dried up riverbed.

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A Second Look At The Accident

As mentioned previously in this article, Clyde was missing two toes on his right foot. This was due to his logic that if he cut off two of his toes he would evade longer jail time. After this “accident” Clyde’s balance was never the same.

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Clyde even walked with a bit of a hobble. He also had to drive in his socks, since he couldn’t balance correctly on the pedals of a car while wearing shoes. Clyde was driving in his socks in the summer of 1933 when the couple crashed into the riverbed. 

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Bonnie Had a Limp After The Accident

When the car landed, acid from the car’s destroyed battery ended up splashing on Bonnie’s right leg resulting in third degree burns.

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After the accident, Bonnie walked with a limp and really struggled with walking. She needed Clyde to carry her around at times.

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Passing Secret Messages To Their Families

Despite one’s perception of criminals, Bonnie and Clyde still were very connected to their families and frequently visited them in between sprees.

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To pass messages along to his family, Clyde would tie secret messages to a Coca-Cola bottle, speed past his family’s home, then throw the bottle out the window. His parents would then find the bottle which would have directions on where to meet up with the outlaws.

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Their Families Were Actually Very Helpful

Though their families didn’t necessarily approve of their actions, they were willing to speak in code with the couple over the phone and constantly arrange meetings.

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Credit: John Neal Phillips, Personal Collection

Bonnie and Clyde often shared their riches with their families. In return, if the couple was ever in trouble, their families helped them during their struggles with new clothes and some money.

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Clyde's Family Members Experienced Jail Time

Eventually, the help that Clyde constantly received from his family members got out. A few members of the Barrow family ended up with jail sentences because of it.

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These sentences were relatively short, but they ultimately got caught for aiding and abetting the infamous criminal.

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Marvin Ivan "Buck" Barrow

Marvin Ivan “Buck” Barrow, Clyde’s older brother, certainly had a huge impact on Clyde’s life. Buck was also known for his criminal record.

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Credit: Crime Museum, Washington D.C.

He got Clyde started in criminal activity in the 1920s when they would steal poultry and automobiles together. They later on would form the Barrow Gang and commit even more crimes together. In 1933, Buck breathed his last breath during a police shootout, but Bonnie and Clyde were able to escape from this incident.

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Clyde's Sister-in-Law Gets Involved

Once Buck and Clyde began the “Barrow Gang,” Buck’s wife, Blanche ended up reluctantly getting involved in the antics for four months as well. She never held a gun, but she followed the brothers and Bonnie around.

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During one of the getaways, she got blinded in one eye. In the incident that ended her husband Buck’s life, Blanche was arrested and ultimately served six of her ten years in prison before being let out.

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Bonnie's Sister Billie Jean

Billie Jean Parker unfortunately would often get mistaken for her sister. She was arrested and charged with murder multiple times, under the misunderstanding that she was actually Bonnie. She even attended her sister’s funeral in handcuffs only to later on have the charges dropped against her.

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Similar to Clyde’s family members, Billie Jean was sentenced to one year in jail for helping Bonnie while she was on the run. She served her sentencing in West Virginia at Alderson Prison.

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Violence Wasn't The Goal

For Bonnie and Clyde, the main goal was always profit and escape. They didn’t like resorting to violence, but at times they felt like they had to in order to avoid getting captured and sent back behind bars.

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Clyde would more often than not try abducting those who were onto the couple and trying to alert authorities, including lawmen themselves. Once they escaped far away, he would release the individual, unharmed and even give them some cash to return home.

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Negative Public Opinion

Public opinion of the couple went from “Media Darlings” to absolute monsters on Easter Sunday of 1934. During an interaction with police, rookie officer H.D. Murphy (it was his first day on the job), was one of two policemen brutally killed by a member of Bonnie and Clyde’s gang.

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Bonnie & Clyde

Murphy was about to get married, and his fiancée later wore her wedding gown to his funeral. This outraged the public, who had often rooted for the brazen underdog-outlaws. The public wanted to see the couple caught- dead or alive.

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An Apparent Miscommunication

The slaying of both patrolmen- E.B. Wheeler and H.D. Murphy, were said to have been due to a miscommunication between Clyde and his friend Henry Methvin. Sleeping on the side of the road in their car near Grapevine, Texas, Bonnie, Clyde and Henry were startled when the two officers approached the car.

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 The officers suspected the car of being occupied by sleeping drunks and were preparing to ticket the occupants. Clyde said to Henry,“Let’s take them,” meaning kidnap, and Henry misinterpreted the command as an encouragement to fire his weapon resulting in the officers deaths.

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The Gang's Hideout

On April 1, 1933, the four-member Barrow gang and W.D. Jones, another partner of the group, made their way to Joplin, Missouri. Once there, the group rented this garage apartment and spent the next 13 day gathering ammunition and coming up with a game plan for their next course of action.

 

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It didn’t take very long for neighbors to get suspicious and call the police. The groups stay ended abruptly with a shootout that ended in the deaths of two more police officers- Officer Wes Harryman and Officer Harry McGinnis.

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Bonnie's Love Of Theatrics

As the gang rushed out of their hideout, they left behind a number of items, including a camera with their photographs. These photographs were later used by the police to help identify group members and were a big part in taking the group down.

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This famous image of Bonnie is one of many completely staged photographs that were found in the hideout. Bonnie never smoked, so posing with the cigar was only for show and an attempt to toughen-up her image.

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Bonnie and Clyde's Trail of Bodies

After two years on the road, robbing and running, Bonnie and Clyde left an estimated 13 people dead in their wake. The number is a guess according to the FBI and historians, who tried to piece the series of crimes together.

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Buddy Barrow Personal Collection

However, the only people who really know the answer to these questions with absolute certinity, would never get the chance to say. Bonnie and Clyde had no idea of the horrendous fate waiting for them in the very near future…

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A Brutal End

After countless incidents, the heat was on and police had issued a $1,000 reward for the bodies of Bonnie and Clyde, not their capture.

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On the night of May 23, 1934, six police officers from Texas and Louisiana planned an ambush against the notorious bank robbers. The police attacked them on a rural road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.

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Police Used a Friend as Bait

Police enlisted a man the two knew to wait on the side of the road as bait. The two slowed to see what he was doing on the side of the road and police open fired. Clyde was killed instantly through a shot to the head.

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One officer recounted hearing Bonnie scream when Clyde was hit. Police kept firing, about 130 rounds. When the smoke cleared, the two were dead. Bonnie was 23 years old, Clyde was 24.

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Souvenir Hunters Showed Up at the Scene

With a criminal duo so infamous and well known in the media, their passing attracted just as much if not more attention than their crime sprees.

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Souvenir hunters showed up to the scene in an attempt to collect memorabilia from the criminals. One man even tried to cut off Clyde’s ear as a souvenir. Another ended up collecting a small lock of hair from Bonnie.

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The Coroner’s Report

The coroner’s report detailed 17 holes in Clyde’s body and a total of 26 holes in Bonnie’s body. This was unofficial, and there is believed to have been many more. 

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PDNB Gallery, Dallas, TX

C.B. Bailey, the undertaker assigned to preserve the bodies for the funerals, found that the bodies had so many holes in them in so many different places that it was difficult to keep embalming fluid in them.

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They Kidnapped The Man Who Ended Up Embalming Them

H. Dillard Darby was an undertaker in town. Bonnie and Clyde once stole his car in Louisiana in 1933 which resulted in a car chase. Darby took after the couple with Sophia Stone in her car. When the two pairs met, Bonnie and Clyde kidnapped both Darby and Stone inside Darby’s car.

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Photo: FBI / Wikimedia Commons

The four drove from Louisiana to Arkansas and chatted along the way. Bonnie enjoyed talking to Darby and begged him to eventually embalm the couple when they pass. They ended up releasing both Darby and Stone in Arkansas with $5 to get back home. After the fact, Darby didn’t seem too phased about the kidnapping and did in fact go on to embalm the couple after their deaths.

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Returning the Infamous Car To Its Owner

After Bonnie and Clyde’s passing, one of the Louisiana police wanted to take the “Death Car” for himself. However, a federal judge ruled otherwise.

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He ruled that the Ford V-8 sedan Bonnie and Clyde stole should be given back to its true owner, despite being riddled with bullet holes now. The owner of the car was a Kansas man named Ruth Warren.

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Touring With The "Death Car"

Ruth Warren ended up selling the vehicle to Charles Stanley who was a touring lecturer against crime. Stanley would tour around different cities with the bullet-riddled car and the mothers of both Bonnie and Clyde.

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He would charge a fee for visitors to see the infamous automobile. This ultimately led to other fraudulent scammers popping up as five replicas were created and advertised as the real car.

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You Can Go See The Car Today

The car shuffled through many different hands and museums over the years. Even the fake versions of the car have been displayed in different car museums and even used by Warner Bros for their 1967 Bonnie and Clyde film.

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Today, the real version of the infamous vehicle is on display in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can find it at Whiskey Pete’s Resort and Casino.

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Together Until The End

Bonnie and Clyde did in fact go down together like they had always promised one another.  Bonnie’s head was found at rest on Clyde’s shoulder in the death car. 



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Crime Museum Washington DC

After their death, police found multiple weapons inside their stolen car, including rifles, shotguns, revolvers, pistols, and 3,000 rounds of ammunition. Bonnie was even found with a gun resting on her lap.

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Bonnie's Mother Ensured The Two Were Buried Apart

The pair of star-crossed lovers were together through it all and wished to remain that way in death as well. However, Bonnie’s mother had other thoughts on how their eternal resting places would be situaited.

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Bonnie’s mom had always disapproved of Clyde and thus made sure that her daughter was buried in a separate Dallas cemetery from Clyde.

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Sister-in-Law, Blanche Reflects

In the newspaper announcing Clyde had been slain, Blanche sounded off by saying she was glad that both Clyde and her husband Buck had now passed.

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Lubbock Morning Avalanche, 24 May 1934

Blanche mentioned how it was “the easiest way out” for her. Blanche unfortunately seemed to have gotten wrapped up in the crime without wanting to. After she was released from jail, she ended up leading a quiet life and remarried.

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Blanche Helped With The Creation of the Film

Years after Bonnie and Clyde’s passing, the criminal couple would be forever remembered in various forms of pop culture. In 1967, Warner Bros released their film titled Bonnie and Clyde.

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As a surviving member of the Barrow Gang, Blanche was consulted a lot for the movie to create the fictionalized film. Estelle Parsons played Blanche in the film and ended up winning an Oscar for this role. However, Blanche did not like how the film portrayed her.

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Honoring The Officers The Killed

In 1996, a marker was erected to memorialize Officer Wheeler- 26, and  Officer Murphy- 22, at the place of their death on Dove Road where Henry Methvin shot them. Doris Edwards who has been married to Office Wheeler for just over 2 years was in attendance.

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Bonnie & Clyde History

Mrs. Edwards said she appreciated the memorial because Bonnie and Clyde had become infamous for being murderers, yet their victims were often forgotten. She was reported as stating “I want the world to know what vicious killers and murderers they are.”

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Bonnie & Clyde, The Musical

In 2009, the criminal couple received a different adaptation, in musical form. The musical, Bonnie & Clyde, began gaining attention in San Diego at La Jolla Playhouse.

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NATHAN JOHNSON

By 2011, the musical made its way to Broadway and had 69 different shows. The Broadway show starred Laura Osnes as Bonnie Parker and Jeremy Jordan as Clyde Barrow.

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Bonnie & Clyde Miniseries

In 2013, there was a two-episode television miniseries called Bonnie & Clyde that premiered on A&E Network stations. The first episode covered Clyde’s childhood leading up to meeting Bonnie and starting small crimes.

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The second episode depicted the formation of the Barrow Gang with Buck and Blanche leading up to Bonnie and Clyde’s death. The series stars Emile Hirsch, Holliday Grainger, Lane Garrison, and Sarah Hyland. It was ultimately criticized for its historical inaccuracies despite being shown on the History Channel.

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The Highwaymen

In 2019, Netflix released a film titled The Highwaymen. Instead of following the story of Bonnie and Clyde, the film followed two Texas Rangers who were on the hunt to track down the infamous duo.

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The film stars Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson who played the rangers Frank Hamer and Maney Gault. It received average reviews with a 58% approval on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Possible Engagement Ring Discovered

In 2018, a family in Texas found a ring in their closet that is believed to have belonged to Bonnie and Clyde. The woman who found the ring was the granddaughter of a Texas sheriff, Richard ‘Smoot’ Schmid, who at one point was in hot pursuit of Bonnie and Clyde during his career as a sheriff.

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@Fox/ Strange Inheritance

The ring features three snakes with jewels for eyes. Though Bonnie was married to another man throughout her time with Clyde, this ring is believed to be an engagement or even wedding ring that Clyde gave to her. The ring was taken from the couple’s vehicle after their passing and discovered over 80 years later. Bonnie and Clyde’s ring sold at an auction for $20,000.

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