For all its social cachet, the horse show ring is viciously competitive, a fact of which everyone was abruptly reminded last week in Chicago when still another chapter was written in the bloodiest feud in all sports. Silas Jayne, prominent horse trainer and dealer, was sentenced to six to 20 years for conspiring to murder his late brother George, also a well-known horseman and a licensed judge of the American Horse Shows Association. Si Jayne's lawyer, F. Lee Bailey, announced that he would file an appeal in what he called "the most bizarre murder case I've ever seen"—quite an accolade from the defender of the Boston Strangler, Dr. Sam Sheppard and poisoner Dr. Carl Coppolino.
Also sentenced by Judge Richard Fitzgerald in Cook County Criminal Court were Si's accomplices: Joe LaPlaca, 50, self-employed carpet layer, admitted perjurer, convicted counterfeiter of federal reserve notes and sometime polo player, and Julius Barnes, 39, a glue-roll operator for a Stockyards meat-processing plant and the trigger man who gunned down George Jayne. The former received six to 20 years for conspiring to commit murder and the latter 25 to 35 years for homicide. (The defense is going to be busy come appeal time. A federal grand jury in Florida has indicted Bailey on 28 counts of mail fraud, and his associate, Gerald Alch, who defended LaPlaca, put in a good deal of time on national TV last week explaining to a Senate committee his version of his relationship with ex-client James McCord, the Watergate wiretapper.)
Pending Bailey's appeal, Si Jayne is not free. Cook County prosecutors Nicholas Motherway and James Schreier recommended the maximum sentence, though it is unlikely Jayne will spend a full 20 years in jail. Marion Jayne, George's widow, says, "I can only feel safe, and feel my children are safe, as long as Si is in jail" and a look at the record shows her point to be well taken. Si Jayne's vendetta against his brother George has made Cain versus Abel look like Love Story. For a decade Si's death threats—before witnesses—recurred with the steady thud of hoofbeats. And George finally did meet his oft-predicted end on the evening of Oct. 28, 1970, shot to death in the basement of his home in suburban Palatine while preparing to deal a bridge hand to his wife, daughter and son-in-law.
Now 65, Silas Jayne was left the oldest of the 14 children born to a Barrington, Ill. farmer. George, 16 years younger, was the baby of the family. George grew up a somewhat more polished man than Si, though a person capable of such behavior as removing his shoes and socks during cocktails to pare his toenails while visiting the home of a wealthy horseman. Curiously, while Si was even cruder, he was the more popular. The Chicago horsey set was much amused by his antics, and as long as they were not the ones getting stung, people treated him with tolerance as a sort of Peck's Bad Boy of the show ring. Standing around the show gate, Si would make bets, play the clown and enjoy recounting how he had skinned some greenhorn in a deal. "Isn't Si a card?" was the typical reaction, but horsemen aware of Si's darker side knew he was a dangerous card to deal with. When so moved, Si would demand a 10% cut of any show horse deal in Chicagoland, and few were inclined to cross him. Violence was a habit with him. Once, when Si was losing at a horse show, he got hold of the rider who was winning and he and another brother, Frank, held him while George, then still in his teens, beat him until he could no longer compete.
June 3, 1973
Si deliberately enhanced his reputation for violence, a reputation that made horse dealing easier. He was, for example, given to boasting about a year he had served in Joliet. Asked about this, he would cheerfully admit, "Yeah, I stabbed a guy. I can still see the blood coming out of his chest." He was lying. He never did a year in Joliet for anything, although when he was 17 he was sent to the state reformatory at Pontiac for rape. This conviction was not mentioned in Si's murder trial, but it did cause the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department to seize the extraordinary number of guns in his house when he was charged with George's murder. Federal law forbids a felon to possess firearms.
George started in the horse business in the 1940s, and Si assisted him during a relatively amicable period in the 1950s. But George, having prospered, eventually decided to go his own way. He and Si argued about many of the American Horse Shows Association rules because, Marion remembers, Si "didn't believe in a lot of them." She also recalls that Si was "bothered" when George elected not to assist in bombing the homes and barns of competitors on the circuit. It was during this period that George's own house burned down. He always suspected that Si was responsible because it just so happened Si had wanted George to buy his home and stable, and George had refused. He did wind up buying Si's place, but shortly thereafter the fraternal schism was complete.
The break came at the Oak Brook Horse Show in 1961 when Cherie Rude, a professional rider who had been fired by Si and subsequently hired by George, won a gambler's choice jumping class. In addition to the blue ribbon involved, the winning horse gained monetary value. Furious, Si protested the win to the show committee on the grounds that Cherie had taken a wrong fence. When the committee backed Cherie and George, war was declared. Si made this clear after George's horse beat him at another show. In the presence of George, his wife and the boy leading George's horse, Si announced, "You S.O.B., I'll kill you." At the 1963 Northwestern Horse Show there was a hack-off for the junior championship between Si's rider and George's daughter Linda. Before the hack-off, Si was standing near the latter and George warned him, "Don't bug my daughter." Si replied, "Shut up, or I'll kill you." At the Lake Forest show in 1964 Linda was waiting to enter the ring when she heard Uncle Si again say to her father, "I'll kill you, you...." That same year Si ran into George at the International Amphitheater and told him, "I'll get you, one way or another." At the Kansas City show in 1965 Si drove his car up a loading ramp where George was standing and said, "You'll never make it home." Perhaps on the theory that George had not yet gotten the idea, Si told him that same year at the Lake Forest show, "You're as good as dead."
These evidences of unbrotherly love were punctuated by violent incidents. George's empty stable office was riddled by 28 bullets. Snipers shot at him and at his stable hands. Sugar was poured in his gas tank. His tires were slashed. Two of his horses were poisoned.
In June of 1965 George was on the phone at his Tri-Color Stables in Palatine when he asked rider Cherie Rude to do an errand for him and handed her the keys to his Cadillac. She got into the car, stepped on the gas, and the booby-trapped automobile blew up, killing her instantly. "It was meant for me," George said, an assertion nobody could dispute. At the inquest George said that he feared for his life, but a coroner's jury concluded that Cherie Rude had been murdered by a person or persons unknown.
That same June two men, Steve Grod and Edward Moran, came to George to report that a week after Cherie's death Si had hired them to kill him. However, Grod and Moran had decided to double-cross Si. They suggested that George hide out so that Si would think the murder had been accomplished and pay off. After all, they pointed out, Si would find it difficult to sue for return of his money, and George, they assumed, would be happy to see Si cheated (to say nothing of remaining alive).
George called the Cook County sheriff's police and told all. The police put him into protective custody and had his wife Marion announce that he was missing. Grod was instructed to place a phone call—taped—to Si to report that George had been killed. Grod and Si discussed the matter in code, but in the excitement the code broke down and Si said enough for him to be indicted by a Cook County grand jury for "solicitation" of a crime. The prosecution believed it had a strong case, but at the trial the tapes were ruled inadmissible, and Grod, for reasons known only to Grod, suffered a sudden loss of memory. The charge against Si was dismissed.
During all this time, to add injury to attempted injury, Si was also striking at George in business. Patrick Butler, a well-to-do horseman (he owns Sloopy, the mount Neal Shapiro rode to a bronze medal at Munich), recalls the occasion George gave him such a buildup on a Canadian horse named Happy Landings that he was ready to buy at almost any price. George told Butler the horse would cost $18,000 and that the payment was going to have to be in cash because the owner was in tax trouble. Butler paid the cash and got the horse. Happy Landings won only one major championship for Patrick Butler, and Butler suspects that the win was rigged by George's bribing of a judge. It is certain that Happy Landings was older than he was represented as being and that he had been "nerved," that is, a foot had been surgically anesthetized. On top of which, Si came around to report to Butler that George had swindled him on the price. The price, he said, had been only $8,000 and the owner had not been in tax trouble: George had upped the figure to $18,000 and asked for the money in cash so that he could pocket $10,000 on the deal. Butler checked with the Canadian owner and found Si to be right.
In early 1967 Si and George attended a family meeting expressly arranged for the two of them to discuss their differences. According to Si's testimony at his murder trial last spring, his quarrel with George, which he claimed ended at this meeting, had originally stemmed from George's doping of horses. "You could take a very cheap horse, a horse that was worth nothing, if you didn't work hard on it and give it a shot, a tranquilizer; it would work just as good as a horse that was trained, then when you sold it to a customer, the customer was cheated," Si testified virtuously. As Si recalled, he told George it would be a "terrible disgrace" for the family, or anyone named Jayne in the horse business, if George ever got caught fooling with doped horses. At the 1967 meeting, Si went on, he said to George, "If you straighten out and fly right, we will just shake hands and forget about all this." He also testified that he told George, "I can help you, and you can help me," and added, "I did help him after that."
George nevertheless remained uneasy, and after dynamite was thrown at his house he hired a bodyguard—Frank Michelle Sr., a former private police chief. Michelle deemed it prudent to place an electronic beeper in Si's car so that George would be warned if Si happened to drop by. A ghastly byproduct of this arrangement was that Michelle's son, Frank Jr., was shot and killed by Si, who later claimed that young Michelle, who had a criminal record, had fired shots at him through the door of his home in Elgin. Although Si at the time was sitting watching television, he happened to have loaded .32 and .22 caliber pistols on hand when the shots whistled by. As might be expected of a man of Si's temperament, he defended home and hearth with gusto, loosing one salvo in the direction of the door and another through a window.
He got his man. The wounded Michelle crawled off, but Si grabbed a handy carbine, caught up with Michelle and pumped several more rounds into his body. At the time Si himself described the killing somewhat mysteriously as "a great victory," adding, "I'm going to stay right here and wait for the next one." Si claimed young Michelle had been hired to kill him, but Marion Jayne points out that Michelle's wife and child had gone to the Jayne house with him, unlikely companions on a hit, even in Chicagoland. Whatever the truth of the matter, Si was not charged with anything at all.
George Jayne was murdered in his home late the following year on the occasion of a family celebration. There had been a birthday party for George Jr., who was to be 16 the next day. After dinner George, Marion, daughter Linda and her husband went downstairs to the basement rec room to play bridge. They cut the deck for partners, and as a result of the cut made little jokes about how the women were going to beat the men. While George was shuffling the cards a shot was fired through a window opening directly down upon him and he died almost instantly from a 30-06 rifle bullet that entered his right chest and came to rest in his lower back.
In May 1971 a plot Byzantine in its intricacy began to unfold when agents of the Illinois Bureau of Investigation broke the case. Acting on an anonymous telephone tip, the IBI zeroed in on one Mel Adams, 39, of suburban Posen. Investigation revealed that Adams was a friend of Edward Nefeld, chief of detectives in nearby Markham, a town notorious for its corrupt police. Further gumshoeing disclosed that Nefeld was in the horse business and close to Si Jayne. In short order, Nefeld and Adams began to talk. Nefeld told authorities that Si had originally offered him the contract to kill George, but that he had withdrawn in favor of Adams. (In April 1972 Nefeld pleaded guilty to conspiring to murder and is now serving three to 10 years.) Adams, given immunity for turning state's witness, told all.
Dishonorably discharged from the Air Force after serving three years at Leavenworth for credit-card forgery, Adams went to work for a meat processor in the Chicago Stockyards and settled in Posen. He had talked himself up as a local tough guy, and in 1969 Nefeld told him that a man named Si Jayne had offered him the hit on his brother George up-county. Nefeld inquired if Adams knew of anyone who would like to take over the contract. Adams wanted more details, and Nefeld introduced him to Joe LaPlaca, a pal of Si's. LaPlaca lost no time in offering Adams $10,000 to kill George, but said there would be no front money because a previously hired killer had run out on the deal. Adams expressed interest, and LaPlaca showed him around Palatine, a newly developed suburban area with numerous dead-end roads 50 miles north of Markham. With LaPlaca as guide, Adams familiarized himself with the area. He also discovered that George—whom he had yet to see—was a man of no fixed habits.
LaPlaca arranged for Adams to meet Si. At the meeting, which took place in Si's car, Si and Adams agreed that George should be killed at home, along with any witnesses, such as his wife and children. (Adams testified that he did not think much of Si's suggestion that he machine-gun George on the highway or capture him, load him in the trunk of his car and deliver him alive for burial on Si's farm in Elgin.) At this meeting Si gave Adams a .38 revolver, later lost, and a .30 caliber "Enforcer" with the serial number filed off. The IBI later used acid to raise the number and traced the gun to Si.
For all the advice and armament so helpfully provided by Si, Mel Adams had yet to lay eyes on George by April of 1970 and so, with LaPlaca acting as finger man, he decided to stalk George on the horse show circuit. The two spotted him at a show in San Antonio, but Adams could not make the hit there. In New Orleans, on the first night of the show at the fairgrounds, Adams followed George out of the ring into the parking lot. He had the .38 in his pocket, ready to blow George's brains out, but later said, "I didn't have the courage, or whatever it takes."
Adams was back in Chicago and unhappy on the job by June, but LaPlaca told him, "Si likes you. We'll go to $20,000." In July Adams asked LaPlaca for permission to get another man on the deal and to up the fee to $30,000. LaPlaca agreed, and Adams hired Julius Barnes, who worked with him in the Stockyards. Bringing a fresh eye to the job, Barnes suggested the duo might be better off with a high-powered rifle, and Adams got his girl friend to procure a 30-06 Savage from a friend. At Si's farm Adams test-fired the rifle into a grove of trees, and subsequently he and Barnes took to driving up to Palatine after work to look for George.
On the night of Oct. 28 they found George at home. Adams waited by the car while Barnes crept up to the open basement window and fired. As Barnes later boasted to Adams in a conversation overheard by an IBI agent, "Yeah, I got him good. I got him dead center."
Once Adams confessed, the IBI got him to retrieve both the murder weapon and Si's "Enforcer" from Barnes. Ballistics tests matched the slug that killed George Jayne with slugs removed from the trees on Si Jayne's farm. Moreover, Si's left thumb print was found on one of the payoff bills.
Si, LaPlaca and Barnes were arrested and charged with murder and conspiracy to murder on May 22, 1971, charges Si himself has steadfastly denied. At the conclusion of the recent trial the jury of nine women and three men found Barnes guilty of murder, and Si and LaPlaca were found guilty of conspiracy to murder, a decision Attorney Bailey claims is "ridiculous."
Silas Jayne has spent two years in the county jail awaiting trial for George's killing. Should Bailey's appeal fail, this time will be credited against the judge's sentence. In robust health, Si conceivably could live out his sentence and return to the horse show ring. Minus one competitor, of course.