In Albany on a Wednesday morning, Feb. 15, 1939, Livingston Parish Deputies Willie Scivicque and P.R. Erwin stopped two couples driving stolen vehicles on the Hammond-Baton Rouge Highway. The lead vehicle, a Ford pickup truck, towed a camper trailer, filled with stolen goods.
In the three months before the stop, the men, Hernandez W. “Bob” Lemoine, 36, and William M. Lenard, 41, robbed five stores and two post offices in Livingston Parish, while their companions lived in the camper on the Tickfaw River.
In the three months prior, the deputies later learned, the foursome ran the same operation along the Red River in Avoyelles Parish, where Lemoine grew up.
That morning, Chief Criminal Deputy Erwin said he would lead their captives to the sheriff’s office in Springville. He ordered Deputy Sheriff Scivicque to ride with Lemoine in the stolen car, a small coupe, and follow Lenard in the pickup truck towing the camper. Lenard’s wife, Rose, 41, and Lemoine’s girlfriend, 29-year-old Lona Brown, remained seated, riding next to Lenard in the truck’s cab.
Halfway to Springville, the car Lemoine drove jerked left to right and back again.
“Stop that,” Deputy Scivicque yelled at Lemoine.
“I’m not doing anything,” Lemoine replied, “We’ve got a flat. Passenger rear, I think.”
“Damn it,” Scivicque barked as the automobiles they followed vanished around the curve ahead of them. “Pull over and let me see.”
As the car slowed, Scivicque opened the passenger side door and looked back before Lemoine kicked him outside and sped away.
Rolling in the gravel on the shoulder of the road, Deputy Scivicque fired three fruitless shots from his revolver before standing, dusting off his trousers, and thumbing a ride to the Springville Courthouse.
At the sheriff’s office, Scivicque found Chief Deputy Erwin and an angry Sheriff Rudolph Easterly interrogating William Lenard.
Lenard told the sheriff about the robberies and said they would find the stolen merchandise inside the camper. However, ringleader Lemoine, he said, kept the stolen cash, over $1,500, tucked neatly inside his right boot, and thanks to Scivicque, Lemoine had escaped with the money.
Lenard told investigators the group took only what they needed. Inside the camper, deputies found new shoes, canned goods, liquor, leather goods, and a 100-pound sack of sugar.
The following day, Sheriff Easterly told The Denham Springs News that Lemoine and Lenard robbed a Killian saloon of $300 in alcohol and tobacco on Nov. 27, 1938. They blew a safe in an Albany store on Jan. 12, stealing over $400 in cash and an undetermined amount of food. At a grocery store in Cottonport, Jan. 19, and another in Arnaudville, Jan. 26, the bandits collected clothing, groceries and miscellaneous merchandise. In February, they robbed two post offices of $250 in cash. Along the way, the sheriff said, they also left a trail of stolen and abandoned cars.
“We know after his getaway from Officer Scivicque, Lemoine spent some time in the area before leaving,” the sheriff said, “H.T. Bailey, president of the Livingston Parish Police Jury, came near losing his car the night after. Lemoine took the plates from it and backed the vehicle out of Bailey’s garage. We’re thanking God he backed into a ditch and left the thing stuck there.”
“August Oubre in Livingston wasn’t so lucky,” Sheriff Easterly added. “We haven’t found his car. We suppose the bandit made his escape in it.”
While William Lenard and the others sat in the Springville jail, the sheriff said, Bob Lemoine robbed another store. This time in Hammond. Later, authorities arrested 30-year-old Alvis Lemoine, Bob’s brother, as he tried to sell the goods stolen from that store to another in Ponchatoula.
One year later, police captured Bob Lemoine in Kennett, Missouri. However, in July 1939, held in the county jail at Caruthersville, Missouri, Lemoine escaped while working in a rock quarry, awaiting transfer back to Louisiana.
Capt. W.D. Adkins with the Louisiana State Police told reporters, “Lemoine is also wanted by federal authorities. What he has done here, he has done across the nation.”
His first incarceration was in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola from July 7, 1922, to March 7, 1923. He returned on Dec. 7, 1928, serving consecutive five-year sentences for larceny and burglary. He escaped on Sept. 9, 1931. Later recaptured, the state released him April 15, 1933. Since that time, he has operated under the aliases Robert Brown, Robert Vernon, Robert Baston, and Hernandez Ley Moniz, among others. He caught the attention of federal authorities when he began taking stolen cars across state lines.
According to the U.S. census, Lemoine resided in Angola in 1930 and Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1940.
Today, no one knows how many arrests, how many prisons he resided in, or how many times he escaped, but on Sept. 26, 1980, Lemoine wrote a letter to The Alexandria Town Talk newspaper, speaking against prison reform.
In his letter postmarked Marksville, Lemoine said:
“As one who has been there and knows prisons, in Louisiana, Missouri, Kansas, Leavenworth, and Alcatraz when it was a prison, I can say there is nothing worse than a torturous steel box, but in these prisons, seven-by-seven cells are not in the sun, and during my visits, they were always ventilated properly and supervised humanely.”
Hernandez Wilford “Bob” Lemoine died in Marksville on Oct. 4, 1999.
He was 97 years old.