Kitty Malm – Tiger Girl
The fourth real criminal that gave Maurine Dallas Watkins inspiration for her book and play Chicago, is Kitty Malm, the “Tiger Girl”. In the movie she is played by Lucy Liu and called “Go To Hell Kitty”. She had a much larger part in the original book. She was called by the newspapers a Defiant Flapper, the Tiger Girl and the Wolf Woman.
Kitty was born in Austria and the family immigrated to the United States when she was 7 riding in steerage on a ship. The fifth grade was as far as she went in school. She then went to work in machine factory where her mother worked.
When she was 15, she married Max Baluk who she told reporters, “Finally Max Baluk, the Russian in the factory, he married me in 1921. Then I learned what rotten names a bad man can call his wife.”
She gave birth to her daughter two years later. When she left her husband Baluk she sent baby “Tootie” to her mother and paid her $15 a week to take care of her. She further told reporters, “I didn’t go home. My stepfather called me worse names than my husband did. But the baby was safe while I was working as a waitress. “
Kitty then went on to explain that she had asked Otto Malm to pose as her husband and to “smash the face of a dirty man down the street who’s tryin’ to steal my kid.” Otto did and the two went into partnership, Otto calling Kitty, “Sweetheart”. Otto showered baby Tootie with luxuries, clothes, toys, food, whatever Kitty wanted. Together along with Eric Noren and a changeable gang, they robbed a variety of places.
On November 5, 1923 an amateur night watchman, Edward Lehman was shot and killed during a holdup of the Delson Knitting Works. Also included in the loot from the Delson Knitting Works was $100 worth of baby clothes for baby Tootie.
There were four suspects, three were arrested “Blonde Kitty”, Ethel Beck, an 18-year-old from the north side and Walter Bockleman, the head of a small gang of robbers.
The third suspect was Otto Malm. Malm had been sentenced twelve years before for the murder of a tailor, Andrew Jensen, he was sentenced to Pontiac Reformatory from which he escaped. Otto Malm was arrested for the robbery of a butcher shop and while he was being questioned about the robbery, Otto confessed to the murder of Edward Lehman, although he was sure that it was Kitty’s bullet that killed Lehman. He also confessed to many robberies including the theft of a dining room suite for their bungalow, a bedroom suite also for their home, furs and baby clothes.
The fourth was the “Tiger Woman”, Kitty Malm, Otto’s common law wife. Kitty was shot in the head during the hold-up and Otto threw her into the car that Eric Noren was driving.
The police returned to the house where Otto and Kitty were living and were refused entrance. Deputy Sherriff Louis Flentye ordered policeman to guard the front and back while he went back to the station to see what to do. While he was gone Kitty and Victor McCarthy left from the back door and went to a Boarding House in Indianapolis.
The police were inside of the apartment, not guarding the doors as ordered and shot at Flentye when he returned thinking he was McCarthy, they fired six or eight shots over his head and as he ran for his life, they arrested him and took him back to the station in the paddy wagon. Sherriff Morgan was indignant and made a formal complaint to the Police Chief, Morgan Collins. The police involved were suspended.
Police were on the hunt for Kitty. The Chief of Police issued a shoot-to-kill order to all the Chicago policemen. The reason he did was that her “husband”, Otto told them that she had her “gat” with her. Otto her husband confessed to shooting Edward Lehman but also confessed that Kitty shot at him too. 19-year-old Kitty was desperate and on the run.
With Otto in jail, police took custody of their two-year-old daughter Tootie. Kitty turned herself in so that she could see her baby.