By: Larry Schroeder

Facing Fear depicts the true story of Evelyn (Billie) Frechette, the beloved companion of John Dillinger. The unyielding violence that ravaged the Native American Race made survival extremely dangerous. As society fought to overcome the Great Depression, Evelyn tried to make ends meet by taking work wherever it presented itself. Many times, she performed with her sister in the Native American ceremonial dances on the reservation for production entertainment.

Evelyn, like many young Native Americans, was forcibly taken to an Indian Boarding School in South Dakota. She spent much of the next ten years learning Christianity. Western Culture believed it was necessary to civilize the Indians, thereby saving the man inside. In the 1930s poverty ran rampant among the population, especially the minorities. Evelyn’s only relative that did not live on the reservation at the time was her sister Anna, who lived in Chicago, Illinois. On the trip from South Dakota, traveling alone, hitchhiking when possible, she was brutally attacked and raped.

Facing Fear Book

In the aftermath of the forcible violation, doctors informed Evelyn she was pregnant. At twenty-one, she gave birth to a baby boy who was severely handicapped because of a syphilis infection. The deformities left him impaired, forcing Evelyn to leave him in the care of the Brooks Baby Farm. Authorities later suspected that Brooks let poor babies die or even had them killed, that he buried in the woods behind the main house.  One of the graves held the remains of Evelyn’s baby boy, hence the nickname Billie.

Evelyn, like many young women, sought to find love and start a family. In her travels, she met and married Welton Sparks. Blind to Welton’s escapades, their shot-gun wedding took place in the jail before they sentenced him to twenty-five years for mail fraud. After his admittance to Leavenworth, she began collecting endangered spouse payments to supplement her income. One evening while out with her girlfriends ‘cabereting,’ she met a man named Jack Harris.

An instant attraction blossomed. “I’ll never forget that. It happened the way things do in the movies. I was 25 years old, but I wasn’t any different from all the other girls that were my age. Nothing that had happened to me up to that time could amount to anything. However, that night everything changed. I started a new kind of life,” Billie said.

Evelyn quickly learned what it meant to be loved; her new companion instantly showered her with luxurious gifts. The young girl who fought to endure a failing economy discovered how the other side lived. However, the perks of their relationship came with a downside. The law-abiding lifestyle she lived would soon collide when her love affair with John Dillinger flourished. 

John Dillinger known as Public Enemy #1 kept a low-profile dodging coppers on the run, because of his extracurricular activities. As his bank robberies continued around the countryside, the FBI closed in when he traveled across state lines. On July 22, 1934, Hoover issued a shoot to kill order; closing in on his whereabouts, the sting took place in front of the Biograph Theater in Chicago. When gunfire erupted, Dillinger died because of his injuries a short time later.

The turn of events devastated Evelyn but was serving time for her involvement in the bank robberies. After her release, she wrote a booklet about her experience. It sold for twenty-five cents. At the same time, she joined the show called ‘Crime Does Not Pay.’ Evelyn said she is a survivor and has a story to tell. Facing Fear reveals the hidden life of Evelyn Frechette, John Dillinger’s girlfriend. An incredible woman who faced the unthinkable.

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