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   Karpis as a Teenager
Karpis in 1979
 
 Death 

Alvin Karpis died in Spain in 1979. I have seen his death described as a suicide, but that is not true. Al was not the type of person to give up and take his own life. He was awaiting the publication of the book that I wrote with him, On the Rock; but most important, he was a survivor, he had survived 33 depressing years in prison.

Thanks to Richard Kudish, a very dedicated and thorough crime historian and author, I was informed that the Chicago Sun-Times retracted its original suicide story on August 30, 1979 in a column "World/nation digest" page 24.

The following is verbatim from the Chicago Sun-Times:

"GANGSTER ALVIN KARPIS APPARENTLY DIED OF NATURAL CAUSES POLICE SAID, CONTRADICTING EARLIER REPORTS THAT HE HAD COMMITTED SUICIDE BY TAKING AN OVERDOSE OF SLEEPING PILLS. KARPIS, TRIGGERMAN FOR THE NOTORIOUS MA BARKER GANG THAT TERRORIZED THE MIDWEST WITH BLAZING MACHINE GUNS IN THE 1930'S WAS FOUND DEAD TUESDAY AT HIS HOME ON SPAIN'S COSTAL DEL SOL. HE WAS 71."

The death certificates in the original Spanish and translated into English state clearly that Alvin Karpis died of a heart attack. The "suicide misinformation" originated from media speculation when it was reported that a bottle of prescription "sleeping" pills were found in his two bedroom apartment in Spain. They belonged to his last girlfriend, Nancy, who had left about a week before his death. Also, the bottle of pills was full, not empty.

Alvin's American attorney, James E. Carty, had arranged for his release from prison and extradition to Canada. The James E. Carty Collection at the WSU Vancouver Library-Archive in Vancouver, WA. was prepared by Archive Specialist, Robert Schimelpfenig, who kindly supplied copies of the death certificates and granted me permission to display them here.

An English gentleman, Mr. Neil McKay, who was intrigued with the life of Alvin Karpis and who holidays in Spain, set out with his wife Maureen on a quest to discover plot #2300 where Alvin Karpis was laid to rest. He took the following photographs of the San Miguel Cemetery in Malaga, Spain. Neil explains that in the cemetery there are choices of: a grave - a single occupation, below ground; a niche - a single occupation above ground; and a crypt - multi occupation for a family. Alvin's plot #2300 was a niche, but it could not be located because areas of the cemetery were undergoing renovations. These photographs of the San Miguel Cemetery are the copyright property of Mr. McKay; they cannot be used or reproduced without his written consent.

Entrance
Entrance

Examples of crypts
Crypts

Examples of niches
Niches

Closer view of niches similar to the one occupied by Alvin Karpis
Niches

In September 2009, determined, to accomplish his goal, Neil contacted an official at the cemetery associated with the 'Friends of San Miguel,' but received only a cursory e-mail in Spanish. Neil assumed that it stated the person would investigate and reply.

When Neil had received no reply by March 2010, I tried to help with the assistance of a friend in Texas, Professor James Pauff, who arranged for a translation of an e-mail message which I sent to the San Miguel official. No reply. After several months, I sent a second request for information about the grave. On May 7, 2010, I received a brief response similar to the one that Neil had received.

Another Englishman, Tom Prior, was also trying to help us locate the grave of Alvin Karpis. Tom alerted me to a Spanish custom. He explained that:
"families in Spain must prepay fees in order to obtain a long term lease for the burial plot, otherwise the remains are eventually removed and reinterred in a new grave in the mountains."

I enjoyed Tom's concluding observation:
"It seems Karpis is as hard to find dead as he was alive."

Finally success, although 'happy' might not describe it. In January 2011, as he was preparing for a return trip to Malaga, Neil McKay had an inspiration. He contacted the Spanish Tourist Office in London, to enlist their aid in locating the grave of Alvin Karpis. Neil received the following from Julio Ganzalez of the Spanish Tourist Office who was gracious enough to translate the response from the San Miguel Cemetery:
"Alvin Karpowicz, the famous gangster known as Alvin Karpis, was buried in the niche (plot #2300) in 1979. The 28th of May 1999, when his permency was expired, and nobody claim his rests (remains), he was buried in a communal mass grave. Because of this now is impossible to find his rests (remains) or his tombstone."

Whether Alvin Karpis is content with his final disposal, or whether his restless spirit is seeking retribution is a matter left to fictional imagination. I am certain that he is grateful, as am I, for the diligence and perseverance of Neil and Maureen McKay in discovering the facts. I also thank Tom Prior and James Pauff for their contributions to the search and discovery.

The elusive Karpis will never be found, even after his death.

Alvin's last girlfriend, Nancy, had left Spain only a week before his death. She contacted me from Chicago when she returned and later sent me the last photographs taken of Alvin Karpis with her and another couple who were friends and neighbours in the apartment building.

Last photographs of Alvin Karpis taken in the Summer of 1979, just before his death.

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