Was it a wedding ring given by one murderous gangster to his partner in crime?
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That was the first thought of Bobby Livingston, vice president of R&R Auctions, when he saw the silver ring adorned with three snakes with jeweled eyes. It was taken in 1933 from Bonnie and Clyde’s bullet-riddled getaway car.
The ring – and the mystery behind it – is featured on the latest episode of Strange Inheritance with Jamie Colby. It premieres on the Fox Business Network on Monday, March 5, at 9:30 p.m. ET.
“If Clyde gave that ring to Bonnie Parker, then it is the closest thing there is to a wedding ring between Bonnie and Clyde,” Livingston tells Colby in the program.
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow met as teenagers, but she was married to another man when the gangsters were gunned down in Louisiana in 1934.
The ring was inherited by the grandchildren of legendary Dallas County Sheriff Richard “Smoot” Schmid. One of them, Debbie Daily, says Schmid’s greatest claim was that “he came this close to nabbing Bonnie and Clyde.”
That was in November 1933. The bank-robbing lovebirds were wanted for multiple murders, and Schmid got a tip that they were going to attend a Barrow family picnic outside Dallas.
The sheriff and his posse set up an ambush and opened fire. Clyde, however, was able to drive his bullet-ridden car far enough to hijack another one. After he and Bonnie escaped, the lawmen went back and collected souvenirs from the gangsters’ abandoned vehicle.
“I’m sure Grandpa was disappointed that attempt to catch them did not work out, but he was a big hero after it,” says Daily.
Schmid died in 1963, but it was 50 years before his grandchildren discovered the strange jewelry piece he grabbed from the Bonnie and Clyde car. They were cleaning out the family home near Houston, and sorting through familiar memorabilia from Schmid’s storied career – his badge, service revolver, monogrammed cowboy boots, scrapbook and the like.
Then they found something they’d never seen – an apparent inventory of additional items their grandfather had stashed somewhere.
One item on the list: “Bonnie Parker ring, three silver snakes with tiny jewels.”
“That’s the first we had ever seen or heard anything about the ring,” says Diana Knowlton, another Schmid granddaughter.
After hours of rummaging through the house, they found a bag of costume jewelry in a closet.
“We poured it out on the floor and sat around, going through the jewelry,” says Knowlton, who was first to spot a small black box. “I opened it up and it was Bonnie Parker’s ring!”
Schmid had other Bonnie and Clyde relics, too – including mug shots, arrest warrants and a four-page letter to a Barrow gang member handwritten by Bonnie and signed by Clyde.
After watching a Strange Inheritance episode featuring an auction of Bonnie’s and Clyde’s guns, the family decided to sell their artifacts.
“We thought the items would be better off in the hands of a collector, someone who will truly appreciate them,” Knowlton says.
“When I heard it was the famous Sheriff Smoot Schmid, I got on the first plane to Dallas,” recalls Livingston.
Although Livingston was unable to prove his hunch that the ring is an engagement or wedding ring given to Bonnie by Clyde, the relic sold for $20,000. In all, the Smoot collection brought in just under $100,000 at auction.