In February 1926, two masked men robbed jeweler Fred H. Cole, his wife, and their daughter of $25,000 in jewelry at their home in St. Petersburg, Florida. Since the robbers were masked, the victims could not provide many identifying traits of the perpetrators. However, the Coles did report that one of the two masked men stuttered when he spoke during the robbery. This clue led the police to Dave S. Kloss, Jr.
Kloss had served in World War I and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania before moving to Florida to work in the banking business. He was the son of a prominent Pennsylvania banker, and the Kloss family had been seeking to establish a bank in Florida during the land boom that was taking place in the 1920’s. At the time of the robbery, David Kloss was living in St. Petersburg, Florida, working on this endeavor, and the Kloss family had hired private detective Stephen A. Guilfoyle to do some investigative work with regard to this project. Kloss was known for stuttering when he spoke, and on this basis, police viewed him, and his associate Stephen Guilfoyle, as possible suspects in the Cole robbery.
Police asked the Coles listen to Guilfoyle’s and Kloss’s voices, and the Coles confirmed that these were the voices of their robbers. The men were arrested on June 2, 1926. Both men were able to provide multiple witnesses to confirm that they were at a “Better Homes Show” at the time of the robbery.
Although Guilfoyle and Kloss continuously and vehemently denied their involvement in the robbery, both men were convicted in their respective separate jury trials despite their solid alibis. They were each sentenced to ten years in prison.
While serving their prison terms, Guilfoyle and Kloss were working prison jobs at a factory in Raiford, Florida. While at the factory, they met a new prisoner who told them that he knew the two men who had robbed the Coles in 1926. This prisoner identified the true perpetrators as Lawrence L. Ghere and Arthur “Red” McClellan, both of whom were then serving time for other crimes. Brannon Casler, the attorney for Guilfoyle and Kloss, located Ghere and McClellan, both of whom signed statements confessing to the Cole robbery and providing minute details of the crime. Ghere and McClellan admitted to selling the stolen jewelry in Chicago for $3,000.
Once the police felt confident that Ghere and McClellan were the true perpetrators, Guilfoyle and Kloss were released from prison with conditional pardons on January 30, 1929. They had each served nearly two years. Guilfoyle applied for and received a full pardon in 1932, and the Florida Legislature awarded him $3,500 in 1939. This money was awarded “as damages for wrongful incarceration.”
It was not until September 1956 that Kloss applied for and received a full pardon, which he needed for his employment. In 1963, Kloss sought compensation for his wrongful conviction from the Florida Legislature, but it is not clear whether he received such compensation.
- Meghan Barrett Cousino
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.