The Two Most Incompetent Criminals Ever Known

Burglars typically use balaclavas or ski masks to hide their identity, not these two.

The world is littered with clever cunning criminals. Major heists that took years of planning, murderers that have never been caught. Criminals can either be highly intelligent, lucky or extremely stupid. The Hole in the Ground Gang who thought that burgling a fireworks factor using acetylene torches, were not clever. The resulting fireworks display could be seen for miles around.

These two criminals, though, took stupidity to a whole new level.

Twenty-three-year-old Matthew McNelly and twenty-year-old Joey Miller were two such dumb criminals. Their idiocy saw them arrested and narrowly avoid a severe prison sentence. However, the embarrassment of being America’s least competent crooks will remain for a lifetime.

On 23rd October 2009, the hapless pair decided to rob the home of a local resident in their hometown. Police believe one of the alleged burglars targeted the house because he suspected his girlfriend had a relationship with the man who lived there. They had a few drinks to steady their nerves. The problem was when they left for their burglary; they were so drunk they could barely stand, let alone drive.

Being that they were robbing a home in their own town, they needed to disguise their identity. There were several things they could have done, burgled a house in a different town, worn a fake beard or balaclava or even a scarf. However, these two blind drunk criminals had another idea; they covered their faces in marker pen, permanent marker to be more precise. Although the marker may have disguised their appearance, it didn’t wash off as they thought it would. The black marks around their face soon aroused suspicion from bystanders and police.

The pair were caught as Mcnelly was driving with an equally intoxicated Miller as a passenger. Their 1994 Buick Roadmaster was pulled over; instead of hiding their identity, the black marker served as a beacon to give them away.

The police reaction bordered on outright hilarity.

We’re very skilled investigators and the black faces gave them away. I have to assume the officers were kind of laughing at the time. — Police Chief Ray Caylor

He commented that through his extensive career in the force, which spanned twenty-eight years, he had seen a range of strange and funny crimes; none had been as funny as these two.

Once the offices had stopped laughing, they arrested the pair and charged them with attempted burglary. They also faced a charge of driving a vehicle whilst intoxicated. Iowa has a reputation of dealing harshly with criminals, and burglary can carry up to twenty-five years in prison.

Crime and punishment

They went to court on 30th October, where Judge Christopher Polking took pity on the pair dismissing the attempted robbery charges. No evidence could be found that they were sufficiently sober enough to enter the property; they merely tried with no success. That, combined with the fact neither had a weapon, and no body had been injured, meant that the judge felt the charges lacked probable cause. The judge was pleased to note at the time that the disguises had washed off. He also thought that the hangover and embarrassment of being America’s worse criminals was punishment enough.