Freaky Flint History with Joe Schipani - Revenge April 7th, 1921

Flint is well known for its modern violent crimes but Flint's history is filled with little known stories that read stranger than fiction. Gruesome murders, weird accidents, and violent deaths. Join us every Thursday as Joe Schipani details some of the odd but true deaths he found in Flint's archives.

Revenge April 7th, 1921

This story starts in October of 1920 with a fifteen year old girl named Bessie.

After School, Bessie enjoyed going to her father’s grocery store on Saginaw Street. She would help out her father and earn a little money to go shopping at the second hand store just a couple blocks up the road.

On that day in October, Bessie found herself alone with the store owner Hyman Potashnich. After being gone for a while, she ran back to her father’s store, told him she did not feel well and wanted to go home. A few months went by, Bessie’s mother noticed a change in her little girl. At first she thought it was just the winter blues, but by April she knew something was seriously wrong. Bessie’s mother consulted with her close friend and the two of them sat Bessie down to find out what was wrong. Bessie finally confessed that while in Mr. Potashnich’s store in October, he assaulted her.

Outraged, Bessie’s mother told her father and he soon gathered a small group of friends to avenge his girl. Bessie’s father and friends went to the second hand store where Hyman lived in an apartment upstairs.

According to a neighbor, around three in the morning she heard gun shots and saw a number of men leave the store and drive away. Hyman’s partner in the store arrived at the scene and was the first to find Hyman. He called the police and they found Hyman with two bullet holes in his chest, lying on a small cot in an upstairs room.

After interviewing the only witness, the neighbor, they arrested seven people for questioning. Amongst the people detained were Bessie’s father, her brother, Hyman’s business partner, and a few family friends. Hyman’s partner claimed that it was a suicide and at first the police believed the claim. A rifle was placed in Hyman’s hands and the place was staged to look like it might have been a suicide.

Upon further investigation, they found a bullet hole in the side of the mattress that indicated that the shot was fired in the doorway of the room. This sparked an investigation. During the coroner’s autopsy no gun powder or residue was found on Hyman’s hand. With the new evidence, the case became a homicide.

After the investigation, Bessie’s father confessed to the murder and justified it by claiming he avenged the wrong doing of his daughter.

Hyman’s business partner was also arrested after confessing to the police that this was not the first time Hyman had been accused of assaulting someone. He felt Hyman deserved what he got.

Five people were tried for the death of Hyman and only three served time for the crime. Bessie’s father and Hyman’s business partner were indicted for murder and a close friend of Bessie’s father was convicted of attempted murder. 

~ Joe Schipani is the Executive Director of the Flint Public Art Project and the FFAR Project Assistant at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.  Find him on Facebook at 

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