#OnThisDay: Ray Ryan Murder

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

Officials/investigators inspect the mangled remains of a car behind the electric substation on Bellemeade Ave., near the Hale & Sons Auto Parts store, Lawndale Branch, at 5009 Bellemeade Ave. Given the location, date, and shape of the car, this is most probably the murder of Ray Ryan, a man in the oil business and a gambler. He went to his health club (Olympia Health and Beauty Resorts, Inc. at 4920 Bellemeade Ave.) the morning of Oct. 18, 1977, and when he came out and started his car, it exploded. The murder was not solved, but is widely believed to have been a mob hit., 1977. Source: University Archives and Special Collections, MSS 038-1732.

Mangled remains of a Ray Ryan’s car behind the electric substation on Bellemeade Avenue, 1977. Source: University Archives and Special Collections, MSS 038-1732.

On this day in 1977, Evansville and the Mob had a violent encounter because one person: Ray Ryan. Ryan was a local oilman and had his wealth in oil. On this day, a bomb exploded inside of Ryan’s car, killing him instantly. His murder occurred outside of a health club near 4920 Bellemeade Avenue: as of March 21, 1997, the Ray Ryan murder was never been solved (Browning Genealogy Database, n.d.).

Ryan was originally from Watertown, Wisconsin until coming to Evansville, Indiana in the 1930’s; however, he was a local celebrity in Evansville but he had celebrity friends such as William Holden and John Wayne (Davis, 1977a). Ryan is best known as “Mr. Palm Springs” because “… in the early 1960s and was the largest single developer” (Heiman, 1977). He had numerous investments in various places throughout the world such as Mount Kenya Safari Club in East Africa (Davis, 1977a), Lake Malone, Kentucky, Jamaica, and many more (Heiman, 1977).

Man sweeping and shoveling debris from an automobile and putting it into a box for investigation purposes. Next to him is an Evansville Fire Department employee, and other law enforcement officials are nearby, some inspecting the mangled remains of the car. Given the location, date, and shape of the car, this is most probably the murder of Ray Ryan, a man in the oil business and a gambler. He went to his health club (Olympia Health and Beauty Resorts, Inc. at 4920 Bellemeade Ave.) the morning of Oct. 18, 1977, and when he came out and started his car, it exploded. The murder was not solved, but is widely believed to have been a mob hit, 1977. Source: University Archives and Special Collections, MSS 038-1729.

Murder scene of Ray Ryan on 4920 Bellemeade Avenue, 1977. Source: University Archives and Special Collections, MSS 038-1729.

He had been involved in a two major court cases 1964 and 1970 because of his “… involving contact with the alleged underworld” and served time in prison (Davis, 1977b). He testified for the U.S. Justice Department against Las Vegas gamblers in 1971 (“Car blast kills Ray Ryan”, 1977) and Johnny Rosselli, a fellow mobster (Bagbey and Marynell, 2012).

If you are curious and want to read more about this case, check out Mob Murder of America’s Greatest Gambler by Herb Marynell and Steve Bagbey. A copy is available at Rice Library.

Man gathering debris from a mangled automobile and putting it into a box for investigation purposes. Given the location, date, and shape of the car, this is most probably the murder of Ray Ryan, a man in the oil business and a gambler. He went to his health club (Olympia Health and Beauty Resorts, Inc. at 4920 Bellemeade Ave.) the morning of Oct. 18, 1977, and when he came out and started his car, it exploded. The murder was not solved, but is widely believed to have been a mob hit., October 8, 1977. Source: University Archives and Special Collections, MSS 034-1728.

Murder scene of Ray Ryan, 1977. Source: University Archives and Special Collections, MSS 038-1728.

References

Bagbey, S. and Marynell, H. (March/April 2012). His cheating heart. Evansville Living. Retrieved from http://www.evansvilleliving.com/articles/his-cheating-heart

Browning Genealogy Database (n.d.) Ryan, Ray. Retrieved from http://browning.evpl.org/

Car blast kills Ray Ryan (1977, October 18). The Evansville Press. Retrieved from http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/image/v2:1425EEB9C7F2D85F@EANX-NB-1463547B233D43A2@2443435-14634B17AF31AC03@0-14634B17AF31AC03@?p=WORLDNEW

Davis, R. (1977, October 19). Holden shocked by Ryan’s slaying. The Evansville Courier. Retrieved from http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/image/v2:1425EEA2CB57B634@EANX-NB-154D5EA649C65CB5@2443436-1549C3250254C124@19-1549C3250254C124@?p=WORLDNEWS

Davis, R. (1977, October 19). Stars, mobsters knew him. The Evansville Courier. Retrieved from http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/image/page/v2:1425EEA2CB57B634@EANX-NB-154D5EA649C65CB5@2443436-1549C30571CE7011@0?p=WORLDNEWS

Heiman, R. (1977, October 19). Ray Ryan had business interests in many parts of world. The Evansville Press. Retrieved from http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/image/v2:1425EEB9C7F2D85F@EANX-NB-1463547C17C1AB6D@2443436-14634B9013945694@4-14634B9013945694@?p=WORLDNEWS

This entry was posted in #OnThisDay, Crime, Evansville, Indiana, history. Bookmark the permalink.

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