Joe Mrkvicka's Story
Parents: Albert & Anna Mrkvicka, Ravenna, married in Feb 1902 in
Catholic church there.
Albert was a carpenter. 9 children, Joe was 2nd
Younger brother, Leo, got into some trouble and went to the
State Industrial School, paroled in 1925 when he was 15
Joe’s troubles started in the summer of 1928 (July)
Intoxicated; broke into a home in Ravenna
and stole some jewelry
In speeding away he collided with another car, killing one woman
injuring her husband and another couple.
Arrested & charged with manslaughter, breaking and entering, speeding
and operating an automobile while
Pleaded not guilty and was bound over to district court on two charges,
manslaughter and breaking and
Sept 6 – Mrkvicka escaped by prying a lock off his cell door
About 10 p.m. - a time when both the
sheriff and his deputy were out on other duties.
First used a long splinter of wood to try to open the cell
Then he used it to loosen a bar in
his steel bed which he used to pry the lock.
Then quietly make his way into the hall and out through the back door.
Stole a car in Kearney, and drove it to Ravenna.
Stopped and stole someone else’s plates and put them on the
At Ravenna he got some money and headed northwest.
Worked 4 weeks in Rapid City, SD
Moved on, picking up a stranger as he headed back to Nebraska.
[The car stolen in Kearney was abandoned in Lansford, SD.]
Stole another car (the stranger’s fault)
Drove through Kearney and on to Ravenna
Stole the cash register from the West Hotel (again the
Oct 29 – Arrested in Macon, Missouri on auto theft charges
Using an assumed name, Carl Marka
Nov 26, 1928 – Pled Guilty to Four Charges – grand larceny, breaking
and entering, car theft and jail breaking.
He was sentenced to serve eight years in the state penitentiary.
The cash register was recovered from
the Loup river at a point to which he directed officers.
[the manslaughter and driving while
intoxicated charges are mentioned as also having been filed but nothing
1930 census – Joe, now 25, was listed twice
1. Inmate, State Penitentiary, pants
2. Parents listed him with their
other children as if he were living a home
[Nov 26, 1936 would have ended 8 year sentence; must have been released a
Dec 28, 1935 – Stole a car from Wood River
Jan - Feb 1936
With an Indian from the Winnebago
Indian reservation, stole a car near Ravenna
Drove it to South Sioux City &
“Chief” Isaac Yellowbank, – arrested
Brought to Kearney on charges filed
here for Ravenna car theft
Meanwhile, Joe went on a small crime
He stole one
or two other cars
several liquor stores in various parts of the state,
and robbed a farm house near Arcadia
in an assault
Arrested at Tekamah
to Hall county jail for charge of stealing the car in Wood River
Local officers warned by State Sheriff to watch him closely
Late Feb, 1936
Jailer notice Mrkvicka was
spending much time in his cell
Search for possible weapons followed.
Club or “sap” was found hidden in his bed clothing in his cell
About a foot long, and apparently was
built over a wire frame (coat hanger)
Wrapped with metal and tinfoil to add weight to “business end.”
Also had manufactured a duplicate jail key out of tobacco cans
Discovery taken as evidence of a planned jail break
Placed in “Solitary” at Grand Island
Added charge of being a habitual criminal
Moved to the penitentiary, a more secure holding facility
Apr 1936 – Mrkvicka was returned to Grand Island for arraignment on
car theft charge.
District court jury convicted Joe
Mrkvicka of car theft and being a habitual criminal.
Sentencing was to be the following
week but [no news]
[No further information]
1954 – died; buried in Highland Park Cemetery, Ravenna
[Update July 2014: This information is added by Joe Mrkvicka's nephew
Joe Mrkvicka was my uncle. Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. He
was eventually convicted of murdering a Ravenna gas station attendant in
1947.... I'm not sure what he did during the war years--but he did have a
wife and daughter.]
From the Buffalo County Court Record Book – Jan. 1928-March
Many filings for nonpayment of bills for
goods, services, and occasionally for rent
Several charges of driving on highways /roads in the county at speeds
over 35 mph (one was a woman)
Usual fine was $10 plus costs of
Several charges of driving without a license and at least one for no car
Man arrested for carrying a loaded revolver while not doing any business
that would require one.
Woman went to court declaring she was unmarried and pregnant with a
bastard. She named the father.
He was arrested and a court date set.
But nothing that date or elsewhere in
that record book [Settled out of court?]
And then there were the cases involving liquor:
A man was accused of (1) having in his possession 1 quart of liquor and
(2) intent to sell without a license which would allow sale for
medicinal, mechanical, chemical, or sacramental purposes.
Found guilty on the first count,
fined $100 + costs and stay in jail until he paid.
Second count dropped.
A man was arrested for concealing intoxicating liquor in a building, not
his residence, on a lot in Ravenna.
Found guilty, fined $100 + costs
A search warrant was issued for a place in rural Buffalo County.
The search turned up 6 bushels of
mash and other material and equipment for unlawful manufacture
of intoxicating liquors.
[Location: South of UP tracks, west
of Shelton Road]