Following along with my recent interest in crimes that happened in places that I’ve lived, I’ve found an interesting case that also happened in Tipton, Indiana.
In late August 1942 (long before I was born), a 36 year-old Mexican migrant worker (Nestor Rios Vargas) was in Tipton working the tomato crop. For those not familiar with this, migrant workers frequently travelled with the crops to harvest them in order to have work. Tipton and the surrounding area was known for its tomato harvest which was a staple for the tomato product companies in the area. I remember growing up and knowing it was fall when you could smell the tomato products being made in the factories.
Back to Vargas. Apparently Vargas and another man got into a disagreement and went outside of the tavern they were in to settle it. This is in question. Some accounts say that Vargas simply left the tavern and was accosted by Gerald Glen Grose (a 25 year-old Tipton County resident) . During the “brawl”, Vargas was knocked down, his head struck an iron gate and he never regained consciousness. He died in early September 1942. Although I can find that the tavern owner was Everett Stout, I can’t find the name of the tavern anywhere. Having lived in Tipton for a good portion of my life, and reading that Vargas was struck outside of the Diana Theater near Jefferson and Independence Streets, I have speculated that it might have been the Tic-Toc Tavern. This bar has long since gone out of business. I think it was closed when I was still living there.
The idea that someone working hard to make a living came to a violent death by a local is bad enough. However, a whole different can of worms opened up upon his death. It had to do with citizenship. Some relatives reported that, although Vargas had been born in Mexico, he had become a U.S. citizen in 1913. Other members of his family said that he had never gained U.S. citizenship.
The family members contacted the Mexican Consulate’s Office in Chicago, Illinois in order to gain help in investigating the incident. I didn’t find anything where the Consulate helped the family. Grose was originally put in jail for assault and battery. Upon Vargas’ death, his charge was changed to manslaughter. Grose refused to cooperate in the investigation.
The trial was moved from Tipton County to the nearby Howard County and started in May 1943. Grose claimed that he was only acting in self-defense. Witnesses for the prosecution said that Vargas had tried to leave the bar without fighting but that Grose had followed him out and assaulted him.
The trial lasted only three days. Deliberation lasted 10 minutes and Grose was acquitted of all charges.
Vargas was buried in the local “Catholic cemetery” known as St. Joseph’s cemetery. I’m assuming that the family did not have money to send his remains back to Mexico to be buried there.
Again, a sad story that seems to say that justice isn’t always served. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any photos to go with this story.
Peace, Love & Mysteries
Hoosier Barn Chick