Richard J. Sandlands

Image of Prohibition Agent Richard Sandlands
Date of Birth: 
1905
Date of Death: 
August 3, 1929
Location of Death: 
Detroit, MI

Circumstances of Death

On August 3, 1929, Prohibition Agent Richard Sandlands and U.S. Customs Patrol Inspector Milton Larson were patrolling the Detroit River searching for rum-runners.  The agents observed a boat operating without running lights coming from Canada.  It was recognized as the "Maxie," and ordered to stop for inspection.  The Maxie had been involved in previous liquor violations.  Agent Sandlands boarded the Maxie for inspection and ordered it to follow the Customs patrol boat into the dock.  Customs Inspector Larson (later) reported that there were three persons on board the Maxie at the time of seizure.  As the boats approached the dock, Inspector Larson tied up the Government boat first and then left to call in his report.  When he returned to the dock only "four minutes later," neither the Maxie nor Agent Sandlands was present.

A massive search by Prohibition and U.S. Customs Agents found the body of Agent Sandlands in the Detroit River four days later.  His death was attributed to a fractured spine and a broken neck.  His head and body showed evidence of being severely battered with a club.  John and Maxine Heath, the owners of the boat, were later arrested and charged with the murder of Agent Sandlands.  They were tried on two separate occasions, but each trial ended with a "hung" jury.  No one was ever convicted or held responsible for the murder of Agent Sandlands.

Background

Agent Sandlands joined the Prohibition Bureau on June 27, 1928, with an annual salary of $1,680.  He was assigned to the New York Field Division in Brooklyn.  At the time of his death, he was on temporary assignment to the U.S. Customs Service in Detroit.  Previously, he had proudly served in the U.S. Navy.  Agent Sandlands' father, David, was also a Treasury Agent, and was detailed to Detroit to assist local agents investigating his son's disappearance.

Personal

Agent Sandlands was survived by his wife, Carrie; their daughter, Doris; and son, Richard, Jr.

Associated Artifacts: 
Image of the Detroit Times newspaper article, dated August 5, 1929, with the headline, Kidnaped Dry Agent Hunted
Image of the Detroit Times newspaper article, dated August 6, 1929, with the headline, Wife Tells Death of Dry
Image of the Detroit News article's header, dated August 7, 1929, with the headline, Find Sandland's Body in the Detroit River
Image of the Detroit Times newspaper article, dated August 8, 1929, with the headline, Heath's Wife in Custody
Image of The Detroit News article, dated August 10, 1929, with the headline, Federal Court to Try Heath
Image of the Detroit News article, dated August 7, 1929, with the headline, Find Sandland's Body in the Detroit River
Image of the Detroit News article, dated August 8, 1929, with the headline, U.S. Officials Hunting Heath
Image of photos in a newspaper with the headline, Family Stunned by News of Agents' Drowning
Image of the Detroit Times newspaper article, dated August 5, 1929, with the headline, Kidnaped Dry Agent Hunted
Image of a newspaper article with the headline, Dry Men Hunt Missing Agent
Image of a service record card for Richard J. Sandlands
Image of the Detroit Times newspaper article, dated August 8, 1929, with the headline, Heath's Wife in Custody
Image of a newspaper article with the headline, U.S. Officials Hunting Heath
Last Reviewed August 19, 2015