Monday, January 30, 2017

Patty Hearst was Kidnapped (February 4, 1974)

This week (January 30 – February 5) in crime history – Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated (January 30, 1948); Andrew Jackson narrowly escaped assassination (January 30, 1835); Prosecutors announce intention to retry Ray Buckey in the McMartin Preschool molestation case (January 31, 1990); Guy Fawkes kills himself moments before his execution (January 31, 1606); Ted Bundy murdered University of Washington student (February 1, 1974); King Carlos I of Portugal and his heir were assassinated (February 1, 1908); Murder of Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor February 2, 1922); Barnett Davenport committed mass murder in rural Connecticut (February 3, 1780); Patty Hearst was kidnapped (February 4, 1974); Medger Evers assassin was convicted (February 5, 1994)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -

On February 4, 1974, Patricia Hearst, granddaughter daughter of publisher William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped from her Berkeley, California, apartment. Stephen Weed, Hearst’s fiancĂ©, was beaten unconscious by the two abductors. Soon, a ransom demand came from the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a radical activist group led by Donald DeFreeze.
DeFreeze had formed the SLA in 1973 after he escaped from prison. About two years before Hearst’s kidnapping, an SLA bomb-making factory had been discovered by the police. On November 6, 1973, the SLA shot and killed Marcus Foster, Oakland’s superintendent of schools, with bullets laced with cyanide.
The SLA instructed Hearst’s father to distribute $70 in food for ever poor person from Santa Rosa to Los Angeles. Hearst agreed to give away $2 million to the poor in Oakland. The Black Muslims, Malcolm X’s former organization, were chosen to manage the food distribution, which turned into a riot when more than 10,000 people showed up and fought for the food. Afterwards, the SLA demanded an additional $6 million giveaway. Hearst refused and they did not release Patty.
The Hearst story took a strange and unexpected turn two months after the abduction, when the SLA robbed the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco. The surveillance cameras clearly showed that Patty Hearst was one of the machine gun-toting robbers. Soon after followed a taped message from the SLA in which Hearst claimed that she had voluntarily joined the SLA and was now to be known as “Tania.”
On May 17, 1974, police were tipped that the SLA leaders were at a Los Angeles home. With 400 police and FBI agents outside the house, a tremendous gun battle broke out. The police threw gas canisters into the house and then shot at them, sparking a fire in which DeFreeze and five other SLA members died. However, Hearst was not inside the house. She was not found until September 1975.
Patty Hearst was put on trial for armed robbery and convicted, despite her claim that she had been coerced, through repeated rape, isolation, and brainwashing, into joining the SLA. Prosecutors believed that she actually orchestrated her own kidnapping because of her prior involvement with one of the SLA members. Despite any real proof of this theory, she was convicted and sent to prison. President Carter commuted Hearst’s sentence after she had served almost two years. Hearst was pardoned by President Clinton in January 2001.
Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the award winning author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil: Thirty Years of California Crime, 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Monday, January 23, 2017

Brenda Spencer - "I Don't Like Mondays" (January 29, 1979)

This week (January 23-29) in crime history – Emmett Till’s murderers publish confessions on Look magazine (January 24, 1956); BTK Killer sends message to Wichita television station (January 25, 2005); Charles Manson and three of his followers were convicted of multiple murders (January 25, 1971); The Mad Butcher of Cleveland claimed third victim (January 26, 1936); The Vampire of Sacramento murdered three victims (January 27, 1978); Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate began their murderous crime spree (January 28, 1958); Brenda Spencer shot and killed two and wounded eight children at a San Diego area school (January 29, 1979)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -

On January 29, 1979, teenager Brenda Spencer shot and killed two school employees as they enter the Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego. Eight children and a police officer were wounded in the attack. Spencer blazed away with rifle shots from her home directly across the street from the school. After twenty minutes of shooting, police surrounded Spencer’s home for six hours before she surrendered. Asked for some explanation for the attack, Spencer allegedly said, “I just don’t like Mondays. I did this because it’s a way to cheer up the day. Nobody likes Mondays.”
Spencer was only sixteen-years-old at the time of her murderous attack and suffered with anger issues. In the weeks leading up to the mass shooting, Spencer had repeatedly shot out windows at the Cleveland school with a BB gun. Still, her father gave her a .22 semi-automatic rifle and ammunition as a Christmas gift at the end of 1978.
This seemed to inspire the young girl into more grandiose plans, and she started telling her classmates that she was going to do something big to get on television. When Monday morning rolled around, Burton Wragg, the principal of Cleveland Elementary, was opening the gates of the school when Spencer began firing her rifle from across the street. Wragg and custodian Michael Suchar were killed. When asked why she had committed the shooting Spencer stated, “I just did it for the fun of it, I don’t like Mondays.”
Spencer’s statements were later memorialized by Bob Geldof, the leader of the rock group The Boomtown Rats, in the song, “I Don’t Like Mondays.”
Spencer eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to twenty-five years to life at the California Institution for Women in Corona, California and has been dined parole multiple times.
Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”
Michael Thomas Barry is the award winning author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime, 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:


Monday, December 5, 2016

The Boston Belfry Murderer Claimed his First Victim - December 5, 1883

This week (December 5 – 11) in crime history – Boston belfry murderer claimed first victim (December 5, 1873); The bank robbing Reno brothers were hanged (December 6, 1868); Colin Ferguson shot and killed six and wounded 19 on Long Island commuter train (December 7, 1993); John Lennon was murdered (December 8, 1980); Frank Sinatra Jr., was kidnapped (December 8, 1963); Civil rights activist Mumia Abu-Jamal murdered a Philadelphia police officer (December 9, 1981); Bernie Madoff was arrested and charged with masterminding Ponzi scheme (December 11, 2008)

Highlighted crime story of the week -



On December 5, 1873, Bridget Landregan was found beaten and strangled to death in the Boston suburb of Dorchester. According to witnesses, a man dressed in black with a flowing cape was seen running away from the scene. In 1874, a man fitting the same description attacked and clubbed to death another young girl, Mary Sullivan. The killer’s third victim, Mary Tynan, was bludgeoned in her own bed in 1875. Although she survived the attack for nearly a year, she was never able to identify her attacker.

Residents of Boston were stunned to learn that the serial murderer had been among them all along. Thomas Piper, the sexton at the Warren Avenue Baptist Church, was friendly with parishioners and nobody suspected his involvement. But when five-year-old Mabel Young, who was last seen with the sexton, was found dead in the church’s belfry in the summer of 1876, Piper became the prime suspect. Young’s skull had been crushed with a wooden club. Piper, who was dubbed “The Boston Belfry Murderer,” confessed to the four killings after his arrest. He was convicted and sentenced to die, and he was hanged in 1876.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”



Michael Thomas Barry is the award winning author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime, 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: https://www.amazon.com/Company-Thirty-Years-California-1950-1980/dp/076435003X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1480956232&sr=8-2&keywords=michael+thomas+barry

Monday, November 7, 2016

Bodies were Unearthed at Sacramento Board and Care Home (November 11, 1988)

This week (November 7-13) in crime history – David Hendricks murdered his family in Bloomington, Illinois (November 7, 1983); Carol DaRonch escaped abduction by Ted Bundy (November 8, 1974); John List murdered his family then disappeared for 18 years (November 9, 1971); Louise Woodward’s murder conviction was reduced to second degree (November 10, 1997); Bodies are unearthed at Sacramento board and care home (November 11, 1988); Scott Peterson was convicted of murdering his wife and unborn son (November 12, 2004); FBI agents find bomb making equipment at the home of John Graham (November 13, 1955)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -


On November 11, 1988, authorities unearth a corpse buried in the yard of 59-year-old Dorothea Puente’s home in Sacramento, California. Puente operated a residential board and care home for elderly people, and an investigation led to the discovery of six more bodies buried on her property.

Puente was a diagnosed schizophrenic who had already been in trouble with the law. She had previously served prison time for check forgery, as well as drugging and robbing people she met in bars. After her release, she opened a boarding house for elderly people. Beginning in 1986, social worker Peggy Nickerson sent nineteen clients to Puente’s home. When some of the residents mysteriously disappeared, Nickerson grew suspicious. Puente’s neighbors, who reported the smell of rotting flesh emanating from her vicinity, validated Nickerson’s concern.

Although all the buried bodies were found to contain traces of the sedative Dalmane, the coroner was never able to identify an exact cause of death. Still, during a trial that lasted five months and included thousands of exhibits, prosecutors were able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Puente had murdered her boarders, most likely to collect their Social Security checks. Though she was formally charged with nine counts of murder and convicted on three, authorities suspected that Puente might have been responsible for as many as two dozen deaths. She received a life sentence without the possibility of parole and died in 2011 of natural causes at the Chowchilla Central Women’s Prison facility.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the award winning author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime, 1950-1980. Visit his website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:


Monday, September 19, 2016

Mob Boss Anthony Carfano was Murdered (September 25, 1959)

This week (September 19-25) in crime history – The Washington Post published the Unabomber’s manifesto (September 19, 1995); President James Garfield died from gunshot wound (September 19, 1881); Benedict Arnold committed treason (September 21, 1780); The Midtown slasher claimed his first victim (September 22, 1980); Billy the Kid was arrested for the first time (September 24, 1875); The Chicago Seven went on trial (September 24, 1969); Mob boss Anthony Carfano was murdered (September 25, 1959)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -



On September 25, 1959, mob boss Anthony Carfano, known as Little Augie Pisano was shot to death in New York City on Meyer Lansky’s orders. Lansky, one of the few organized crime figures who managed to survive at the top for several decades. The son of Russian immigrants, Lansky had an eighth-grade education, which put him far ahead of many other criminals. According to legend, Lansky was a straight arrow until one day in October 1918, when he joined a fight between teenagers Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano over a prostitute. After the three were charged with disorderly conduct, Lansky and Siegel became friends and began running a high-stakes craps game.

The two later expanded into bootlegging, car theft, and extortion, and helped form the New York “syndicate.” Lansky, a ruthless leader who would not tolerate disloyalty, ordered the murder of a thief who failed to provide an adequate kickback. Although he was shot several times, the thief survived to name Lansky as one of the assailants. Lansky then poisoned his hospital food, and though he survived a second time, the threat was enough to change his attitude toward testifying. Later, he even rejoined Lansky’s gang.

In June 1947, Lansky ordered the death of his old friend Bugsy Siegel in Beverly Hills, California. Siegel, who had been sent to the West Coast in order to establish a new mob presence, came up with the idea of building The Flamingo, Las Vegas’ first major casino. The casino had been built with mob money, and Lansky was angry over the pace of Siegel’s loan payments.

When Lansky ordered the murder of Anthony Carfano twelve years later, Carfano had been intruding on Lansky’s gambling interests in Florida and Cuba. His death eliminated all competition and opened up emerging markets for Lansky in South America. During the 1960s and 1970s, Lansky made a special effort to stay out of the public eye and was fairly successful. He died of lung cancer in 1983.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:


Monday, August 22, 2016

Sacco & Vanzetti were Executed (August 23, 1927)

This week (August 22-28) in crime history – Irish revolutionary Michael Collins was assassinated (August 22, 1922); The Barker gang killed a Federal Reserve officer in Chicago (August 22, 1933); Sacco and Vanzetti were executed (August 23, 1927); Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik was sentenced (August 24, 2012); Old west outlaw Bill Doolin was killed (August 25, 1896); Preppy murderer Robert Chambers killed Jennifer Levin in Central Park (August 26, 1986); NFL star Michael Vick pleaded guilty to dog fighting (August 27, 2007); Lord Mountbatten was assassinated (August 27, 1979); Danny Rolling murdered two coeds at the University of Florida (August 28, 1990)

Highlighted crime story of the week -


On August 23, 1927, despite worldwide demonstrations in support of their innocence, Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed for murder. On April 15, 1920, a paymaster for a shoe company in South Braintree, Massachusetts, was shot and killed along with his guard. The murderers, who were described as two Italian men, escaped with more than $15,000. After going to a garage to claim a car that police said was connected with the crime, Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested and charged with the crime. Although both men carried guns and made false statements upon their arrest, neither had a previous criminal record. On July 14, 1921, they were convicted and sentenced to die.

Anti-radical sentiment was running high in America at the time, and the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti was regarded by many as unlawfully sensational. Authorities had failed to come up with any evidence of the stolen money, and much of the other evidence against them was later discredited. During the next few years, sporadic protests were held in Massachusetts and around the world calling for their release, especially after Celestino Madeiros, then under a sentence for murder, confessed in 1925 that he had participated in the crime with the Joe Morelli gang. The state Supreme Court refused to overturn the verdict, and Massachusetts Governor Alvan T. Fuller denied the men clemency. In the days leading up to the execution, protests were held in cities around the world, and bombs were set off in New York City and Philadelphia.

In 1961, a test of Sacco’s gun using modern forensic techniques apparently proved it was his gun that killed the guard, though little evidence has been found to substantiate Vanzetti’s guilt. In 1977, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation vindicating Sacco and Vanzetti, stating that they had been treated unjustly and that no stigma should be associated with their names.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:


Monday, August 8, 2016

Carol Bundy Confessed Role in the Sunset Slayer Murders (August 11, 1980)

This week (August 8-14) in crime history – Six German saboteurs were executed in Washington (August 8, 1942); Sharon Tate and four others were murdered by Charles Manson’s followers (August 9, 1969); The severed head of Adam Walsh was found in Florida (August 10, 1981); Son of Sam was arrested (August 10, 1977); Carol Bundy confessed role in Sunset Slayer murders (August 11, 1980); Jonesboro school shooters pleaded guilty (August 11, 1998); Yosemite Slayer, Cary Stayner was born (August 13, 1961); Terrorist, Carlos the Jackal was captured (August 14, 1994)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -


On August 11, 1980, Carol Bundy, a nurse, confessed to co-workers her connection to the “Sunset Slayer,” the killer who had been murdering and mutilating young women in Hollywood, California, all summer. “I can’t take it anymore. I’m supposed to save lives, not take them,” she reportedly said. Her confession was relayed to police, who immediately arrested Douglas Clark, Bundy’s accomplice and boyfriend.

Bundy and Clark met in a North Hollywood bar in January. Clark was a self-described “king of the one-night stands.” But when he met Bundy, he soon discovered that she was willing to assist and indulge in his sick fantasies.

In June, Clark abducted two teenagers, sexually assaulted them, and then shot them in the head. He dumped their bodies off the freeway and then went home to brag about it to Bundy. Two weeks later, Clark struck again, killing two young women in separate incidents. In the second attack, Clark cut the head off the woman and took it home, insisting that Bundy apply cosmetics to it. Because most of his victims had been abducted from the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, the press had taken to calling the serial killer the “Sunset Slayer.”

Clark proved to be more of an influence than Bundy expected. When she blabbed about Clark’s activities to a former boyfriend, she felt compelled to kill the man to make sure that she wasn’t implicated. On August 5, Bundy stabbed John Murray to death and then cut off his head. Within a week, she was tearfully confessing to her fellow nurses. During his trial in 1981, Clark tried to pin all of the murders on Bundy, but the jurors found his story hard to believe and sentenced him to death. Bundy attempted an insanity defense, but she eventually pleaded guilty and received a sentence of 52 years-to-life.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of seven books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchase from Amazon through the following link: