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Crime and Terrorism
The Barker-Karpis Gang, Part 1



The Barker-Karpis Gang, Part 1
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 7 to 9
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.69

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    gamblers, bootleggers, mastermind, heist, proficient, petty, alias, files, chases, excel, photographic, gang, presented, suspect, successful, overly
     content words:    Great Depression, Ma Barker, Edgar Hoover, Fred Barker, Alvin Karpis


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The Barker-Karpis Gang, Part 1
By Mary Lynn Bushong
  

1     What do a grandmother, four petty criminals, and a criminal mastermind have in common? They formed the base of the Barker-Karpis gang, one of many that terrorized the Midwest during the Great Depression.
 
2     The grandmother of the gang, Kate "Ma" Barker, was born near Springfield, Missouri in 1872. Her four sons, Herman (died 1927), Lloyd (murdered by his wife in 1949 after being released from prison), Arthur "Doc" (died 1939), and Fred (died 1935), began their careers as petty criminals while still young.
 
3     In later accounts, Ma Barker was presented to the public by the FBI as a criminal mastermind who taught her sons to excel in the underworld trades. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to gang members, Ma was not an overly bright woman. It was only J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, who painted her as a brilliant criminal and gang leader. In fact, many times when the "boys" were out committing their crimes, she was out watching a movie or sitting at home. She was there to care for her sons, and they liked having her there because she made them look more like an innocent family.

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