Monday, April 2, 2012

John Gotti Convicted of Murder & Racketeering - 1992

On this date in 1992, a jury in New York finds mobster John Gotti, nicknamed the Teflon Don for his ability to elude conviction, guilty on 13 counts, including murder and racketeering. In the wake of the conviction, the assistant director of the FBI’s New York office, James Fox, was quoted as saying, “The don is covered in Velcro, and every charge stuck.” On June 23 of that year, Gotti was sentenced to life in prison, dealing a significant blow to organized crime.


John Joseph Gotti, Jr., was born in the Bronx, New York, on October 27, 1940. He rose through the ranks of the Gambino crime family and seized power after ordering the December 1985 murder of then-boss Paul Castellano outside a Manhattan steakhouse. Behind closed doors, Gotti was a ruthless, controlling figure. Publicly, he became a tabloid celebrity, famous for his swagger and expensive suits, which earned him another nickname, the Dapper Don.

During the 1980s, Gotti’s lawyer Bruce Cutler won him acquittals three times. A jury member in one of those trials was later convicted of accepting a bribe to acquit the mob boss. In December 1990, Gotti was arrested at the Ravenite Social Club, his headquarters in New York City's Little Italy neighborhood. The ensuing trial, which started in January 1992, created a media frenzy. Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, one of Gotti’s top soldiers, made a deal with the government and testified in court against his boss. Gravano admitted to committing 19 murders, 10 of them sanctioned by Gotti. In addition, prosecutors presented secret taped conversations that incriminated Gotti. After deliberating for 13 hours, the jury, which had been kept anonymous and sequestered during the trial, came back with a verdict on April 2, 1992, finding Gotti guilty on all counts. The mob boss was sent to the U.S. Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, where he was held in virtual solitary confinement. On June 10, 2002, Gotti died of throat cancer at age 61 at a Springfield, Missouri, medical center for federal prisoners.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Marvin Gaye Shot and Killed - 1984

On this date in 1984, Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father.


He was the Prince of Motown, the soulful voice behind hits as wide-ranging as "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)." Like his label-mate Stevie Wonder, Gaye both epitomized and outgrew the crowd-pleasing sound that made Motown famous. Over the course of his roughly 25-year recording career, he moved successfully from upbeat pop to "message" music to satin-sheet soul, combining elements of Smokey Robinson, Bob Dylan and Barry White into one complicated and sometimes contradictory package. But as the critic Michael Eric Dyson put it, the man who "chased away the demons of millions...with his heavenly sound and divine art" was chased by demons of his own throughout his life.

If the physical cause of Marvin Gaye's death was straightforward—"Gunshot wound to chest perforating heart, lung and liver," according to the Los Angeles County Coroner—the events that led to it were much more tangled. On the one hand, there was the longstanding conflict with his father dating back to childhood. Marvin Gay, Sr., (the "e" was added by his son for his stage name) was a preacher in the Hebrew Pentecostal Church and a proponent of a strict moral code he enforced brutally with his four children. He was also, by all accounts, a hard-drinking cross-dresser who personally embodied a rather complicated model of morality. By some reports, Marvin Sr. harbored significant envy over his son's tremendous success, and Marvin Jr. clearly harbored unresolved feelings toward his abusive father.

Those feelings spilled out for the final time in the Los Angeles home of Marvin Gay, Sr., and his wife Alberta. Their son the international recording star had moved into his parents' home in late 1983 at a low point in his struggle with depression, debt and cocaine abuse. Only one year removed from his first Grammy win and from a triumphant return to the pop charts with "Sexual Healing," Marvin Gaye was in horrible physical, psychological and financial shape, and now he found himself living in the same house as the man who must have been at the root of many of his struggles.

After an argument between father and son escalated into a physical fight on the morning of April 1, 1984, Alberta Gay was trying to calm her son in his bedroom when Marvin Sr. took a revolver given to him by Marvin Jr. and shot him three times in his chest. Marvin Gaye's brother, Frankie, who lived next door, and who held the legendary singer during his final minutes, later wrote in his memoir that Marvin Gaye's final, disturbing statement was, "I got what I wanted....I couldn't do it myself, so I made him do it."

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Elephant Butte New Mexico Murders - 1999

On this date in 1999, law enforcement officers in Elephant Butte, New Mexico, began digging for evidence near the mobile home of David Parker Ray and Cynthia Lea Hendy after more evidence came to light about the couple's activities. On March 22, a twenty-two year old woman was found running naked, except for a padlocked metal collar around her neck, down an unpaved road near Elephant Butte State Park. She told police that Ray and Hendy had abducted her three days earlier in Albuquerque before bringing her to the mobile home where she was raped and tortured.

As police delved deeper into Ray and Hendy's background they became convinced that the woman was not the only victim. Upon hearing initial news reports, another woman called New Mexico police with her own tale of sexual torture at the hands of the couple. Then, an acquaintance of Hendy told investigators that she had previously spoken about Ray burying people near their home.

The woman escaped when Ray was at his job at the State Park. She got into a scuffle with Hendy and hit her on the back of the head with an ice pick. Hendy pled guilty to being an accomplice and then even more was revealed. Soon David Ray's daughter Jesse was also charged for her participation in a similar 1996 attack. And the Ray's friend Dennis Yancy was charged with the murder of a young woman who disappeared from in 1997 from an Elephant Butte bar.

Friday, March 30, 2012

President Ronald Reagan Shot - 1981

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan is shot in the chest outside the Washington Hilton, hotel by a deranged drifter named John Hinckley Jr.


The president had just finished addressing a labor meeting at the Washington Hilton Hotel and was walking with his entourage to his limousine when Hinckley, standing among a group of reporters, fired six shots at the president, hitting Reagan and three of his attendants. White House Press Secretary James Brady was shot in the head and critically wounded, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy was shot in the side, and District of Columbia policeman Thomas Delahaney was shot in the neck. After firing the shots, Hinckley was overpowered and pinned against a wall, and President Reagan, apparently unaware that he'd been shot, was shoved into his limousine by a Secret Service agent and rushed to the hospital.

The president was shot in the left lung, and the .22 caliber bullet just missed his heart. In an impressive feat for a 70-year-old man with a collapsed lung, he walked into George Washington University Hospital under his own power. As he was treated and prepared for surgery, he was in good spirits and quipped to his wife, Nancy, ''Honey, I forgot to duck,'' and to his surgeons, "Please tell me you're Republicans." Reagan's surgery lasted two hours, and he was listed in stable and good condition afterward.

The next day, the president resumed some of his executive duties and signed a piece of legislation from his hospital bed. On April 11, he returned to the White House. Reagan's popularity soared after the assassination attempt, and at the end of April he was given a hero's welcome by Congress. In August, this same Congress passed his controversial economic program, with several Democrats breaking ranks to back Reagan's plan. By this time, Reagan claimed to be fully recovered from the assassination attempt. In private, however, he would continue to feel the effects of the nearly fatal gunshot wound for years.

Of the victims of the assassination attempt, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and D.C. policeman Thomas Delahaney eventually recovered. James Brady, who nearly died after being shot in the eye, suffered permanent brain damage. He later became an advocate of gun control, and in 1993 Congress passed the "Brady Bill," which established a five-day waiting period and background checks for prospective gun buyers. President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law.

After being arrested on March 30, 1981, 25-year-old John Hinckley was booked on federal charges of attempting to assassinate the president. He had previously been arrested in Tennessee on weapons charges. In June 1982, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. In the trial, Hinckley's defense attorneys argued that their client was ill with narcissistic personality disorder, citing medical evidence, and had a pathological obsession with the 1976 film Taxi Driver, in which the main character attempts to assassinate a fictional senator. His lawyers claimed that Hinckley saw the movie more than a dozen times, was obsessed with the lead actress, Jodie Foster, and had attempted to reenact the events of the film in his own life. Thus the movie, not Hinckley, they argued, was the actual planning force behind the events that occurred on March 30, 1981.

The verdict of "not guilty by reason of insanity" aroused widespread public criticism, and many were shocked that a would-be presidential assassin could avoid been held accountable for his crime. However, because of his obvious threat to society, he was placed in St. Elizabeth's Hospital, a mental institution. In the late 1990s, Hinckley's attorney began arguing that his mental illness was in remission and thus had a right to return to a normal life. Beginning in August 1999, he was allowed supervised day trips off the hospital grounds and later was allowed to visit his parents once a week unsupervised. The Secret Service voluntarily monitors him during these outings. If his mental illness remains in remission, he may one day be released.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Mad Bomber Strikes New York City's Grand Central Station - 1951

On this day in 1951, a homemade device explodes at Grand Central Station in New York City, startling commuters but injuring no one. In the next few months, five more bombs were found at landmark sites around New York, including the public library. Authorities realized that this new wave of terrorist acts was the work of the Mad Bomber.

New York's first experience with the so-called Mad Bomber was on November 16, 1940, when a pipe bomb was left in the Edison building with a note that read, "Con Edison crooks, this is for you." More bombs were recovered in 1941, each more powerful than the last, until the Mad Bomber sent a note in December stating, "I will make no more bomb units for the duration of the war." He went on to say that Con Edison, New York's electric utility company, would be brought to justice in due time.
The patriotic Mad Bomber made good on his promise, although he did periodically send threatening notes to the press. After his flurry of activity in 1951, the Mad Bomber was silent until a bomb went off at Radio City Music Hall in 1954. In 1955, the Mad Bomber hit Grand Central Station, Macy's, the RCA building and the Staten Island Ferry.


The police had no luck finding the Mad Bomber, but an investigative team working for Con Ed finally tracked him down. Looking through their employment records, they found that George Peter Metesky had been a disgruntled ex-employee since an accident in 1931. Metesky was enraged that Con Ed refused to pay disability benefits and resorted to terrorism as his revenge. Metesky, a rather mild-mannered man, was found living with his sisters in Connecticut. He was sent to a mental institution in April 1957 where he stayed until his release in 1973.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The First British murder case to be solved using fingerprints - 1905

 On this date in 1905, Thomas and Ann Farrow, shopkeepers in South London, are discovered bludgeoned in their home. Thomas was already dead, but Ann was still breathing. She died four days later without ever having regained consciousness. The brutal crime was solved using the newly developed fingerprinting technique. Only three years earlier, the first English court had admitted fingerprint evidence in a petty theft case. The Farrow case was the first time that the cutting-edge technology was used in a high-profile murder case. 


Since the cash box in which the Farrow's stored their cash receipts was empty, it was clear to Scotland Yard investigators that robbery was the motive for the crime. One print on the box did not match the victims or any of the still-tiny file of criminal prints that Scotland Yard possessed. Fortunately, a local milkman reported seeing two young men in the vicinity of the Farrow house on the day of the murders. Soon identified as brothers Alfred and Albert Stratton, the police began interviewing their friends.

Alfred's girlfriend told police that he had given away his coat the day and changed the color of his shoes the day after the murders. A week later, authorities finally caught up with the Stratton brothers and fingerprinted them. Alfred's right thumb was a perfect match for the print on the Farrow's cash box.

The fingerprint evidence became the prosecution's only solid evidence when the milkman was unable to positively identify the Stratton’s. The defense put up expert Dr. John Garson to attack the reliability of the fingerprint evidence. But the prosecution countered with evidence that Garson had written to both the defense and prosecution on the same day offering his services to both. The Stratton brothers, obviously not helped by the discrediting of Garson, were convicted and hanged on May 23, 1905. Since then, fingerprint evidence has become commonplace in criminal trials and the lack of it is even used by defense attorneys.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Heaven's Gate Cult Members Found Dead - 1997

More commonly known as "Hale-Bopper's" and not technically a crime (but it should have been ). No one was ever charged with a crime in association with the mass suicide.


On March 26, 1997, following an anonymous tip, police enter a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, an exclusive suburb of San Diego, California, and discover 39 victims of a mass suicide. The deceased, 21 women and 18 men of varying ages were all found lying peaceably in matching dark clothes and Nike sneakers and had no noticeable signs of blood or trauma. It was later revealed that the men and women were members of the "Heaven's Gate" religious cult, whose leaders preached that suicide would allow them to leave their bodily "containers" and enter an alien spacecraft hidden behind the Hale-Bopp comet.


The cult was led by Marshall Applewhite, a music professor who, after surviving a near-death experience in 1972, was recruited into the cult by one of his nurses, Bonnie Lu Nettles. In 1975, Applewhite and Nettles persuaded a group of 20 people from Oregon to abandon their families and possessions and move to eastern Colorado, where they promised that an extraterrestrial spacecraft would take them to the "kingdom of heaven." Nettles, who called herself "Ti," and Applewhite, who took the name of "Do," explained that human bodies were merely containers that could be abandoned in favor of a higher physical existence. As the spacecraft never arrived, membership in Heaven's Gate diminished, and in 1985 Bonnie Lu Nettles, Applewhite's "sexless partner," died. 

During the early 1990s, the cult resurfaced as Applewhite began recruiting new members. Soon after the 1995 discovery of the comet Hale-Bopp, the Heaven's Gate members became convinced that an alien spacecraft was on its way to earth, hidden from human detection behind the comet. In October 1996, Applewhite rented a large home in Rancho Santa Fe, explaining to the owner that his group was made up of Christian-based angels. Applewhite advocated sexual abstinence, and several male cult members followed his example by undergoing castration operations. 

In 1997, as part of its 4,000-year orbit of the sun, the comet Hale-Bopp passed near Earth in one of the most impressive astronomical events of the 20th century. In late March 1997, as Hale-Bopp reached its closest distance to Earth, Applewhite and 38 of his followers drank a lethal mixture of phenobarbital and vodka and then lay down to die, hoping to leave their bodily containers, enter the alien spacecraft, and pass through Heaven's Gate into a higher existence.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Assassination of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia - 1975


On this date in 1975, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia was shot to death by his nephew, Prince Faisal.

King Faisal, son of King Ibn Saud, fought in the military campaigns in the 1920s and '30s that helped forge modern Saudi Arabia. He later served as Saudi ambassador to the United Nations and in 1953 was made premier upon the ascension of his older brother, Saud. In 1964, King Saud was pressured to abdicate, and Faisal became the absolute ruler of Saudi Arabia. As king, he sought to modernize his nation, and lent financial and moral support to anti-Israeli efforts in the Middle East. In 1975, Faisal was assassinated for reasons that remain obscure, and his son, Crown Prince Khalid, ascended to the throne.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Jonesboro Arkansas School Shooting - 1998

Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, shoot their classmates and teachers in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Golden, the younger of the two boys, asked to be excused from his class, pulled a fire alarm and then ran to join Johnson in a wooded area 100 yards away from the school's gym. As the students streamed out of the building, Johnson and Golden opened fire and killed four students and a teacher. Ten other children were wounded.

The two boys were caught soon afterward. In their possession were thirteen fully loaded firearms, including three semi-automatic rifles, and 200 rounds of ammunition. Their stolen van had a stockpile of supplies as well as a crossbow and several hunting knives. All of the weapons were taken from the Golden family's personal arsenal. Both of the boys had been raised around guns. They belonged to gun clubs and even participated in practical shooting competitions, which involve firing at simulated moving human targets. Golden reportedly shot several dogs in preparation for the actual shooting.


Because Johnson and Golden were thirteen and eleven, they could not be charged as adults in Arkansas. They were both adjudicated as delinquent and sent to reform institutes. They were to be released when they turned eighteen, as they could legally no longer be housed with minors, but Arkansas bought a facility in 1999 that enabled the state to keep the boys in custody until their twenty-first birthdays. Johnson was freed in 2005; Golden was released in 2007. Neither has any criminal record. Arkansas changed its laws following the Jonesboro tragedy so that child murderers can be imprisoned past twenty-one.

School shootings were highly publicized in the media during the late 1990s who ascribed the supposed epidemic to violent movies, television and video games. However, violence against students in school actually went down significantly in the late 1990s, throwing into the question the entire theory.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Luis Donaldo Colosio Mexican Presidential Candidate is Assassinated - 194

On this date in 1994, Luis Donaldo Colosio, Mexico’s ruling party's presidential candidate, is gunned down during a campaign rally in the northern border town of Tijuana.


As a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the political party that held power in Mexico for most of the 20th century, Colosio became the protÝgÝ of future Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari and was elected to the Congress and Senate. In 1988, he was the campaign manager of Salinas' successful presidential campaign and the same year was named PRI party head. In 1992, President Salinas appointed Colosio social development secretary. He became increasingly reform-minded in this capacity; although his promises to reduce Mexico's widespread poverty failed to stop anti-government guerrilla activity in the state of Chiapas. Salinas designated Colosio his successor in late 1993, making him the PRI candidate and thus the favorite to win the presidential election scheduled for August 1994. Colosio campaigned as a man of the people and often appeared without the protection of bodyguards.  

On March 23, 1994, he was assassinated at a campaign rally in Tijuana. Mario Aburto Martinez, a factory worker, was arrested at the scene and later convicted as the sole shooter. During the next few years, however, evidence was uncovered suggesting a conspiracy that may have led all the way up to President Salinas' office. Colosio had promised to fight Mexico's rampant political corruption, of which Salinas, who had ties to organized crime in Mexico, was guilty. I

In the wake of the assassination, Salinas appointed Ernesto Zedillo the PRI presidential campaign. Zedillo was elected in an election unusually free from fraud, and served as Mexican president until 2000. Salinas spent the late 1990s in exile but returned to Mexico in 2000. His administration has been implicated in other political assassinations, and in 1999 his brother Raul was convicted of ordering and financing the September 1994 murder of Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu, the secretary general of the PRI.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

McMartin Pre-school Molestation indictments - 1984

On this date in 1984, seven teachers at the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California are indicted by the Los Angeles County grand jury after hearing testimony from 18 children. Included among the charged are Peggy McMartin Buckey, the head of the school and her son Ray Buckey, after seven years and millions of dollars, the case against the teachers came to a close with no reputable evidence of wrongdoing and no convictions. 


The McMartin school debacle began on August 12, 1983 when Judy Johnson reported to the police that she believed her 2-1/2-year-old son had been molested at the McMartin Preschool. The first major blunder occurred less than a month into the investigation. On September 8, the Manhattan Beach Police Department sent out a form letter to more than 200 families, alerting them of an investigation into the allegations of child molestation and naming Ray Buckey as a suspect. The latter set off a wave of hysteria in the community and compounding the problem, virtually every child who attended the school was sent to the Children's Institute International, an organization that claimed it could get children to reveal abuse even when they didn't want to talk about it. Unfortunately, CII was also capable of getting easily manipulated children to reveal abuse when it had never actually happened. 

The allegations that CII produced grew more bizarre every day. They reported that they had been taken to a cemetery where dead bodies were dug and hacked to pieces (causing blood to spurt out). The local Catholic Church invited an expert on Satanic cults to talk to the congregation in the wake of the allegations. Of course, there wasn't any corroboration of these wild allegations from any witnesses although the school often had visitors and guests. The truth or falsity of the allegations mattered little to the community at large. The McMartin School was burned down in an arson attack and seven other local preschools closed down as people who worked with children began to fear that they would be the next accused. Unfortunately for other child care workers around the nation, the abuse scare of the early 1990s found many victims. More recent research has demonstrated that questioning techniques of children can easily be manipulated so that the child will give the answer that the questioner desires.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Alcatraz Prison Closes - 1963

On this date in 1963, Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay closes down and transfers its last prisoners.


At it's peak period of use in 1950s, "The Rock, or ""America's Devil Island" housed over 200 inmates at the maximum-security facility. Alcatraz remains an icon of American prisons for its harsh conditions and record for being inescapable. The twelve-acre rocky island, one and a half miles from San Francisco, featured the most advanced security of the time. Some of the first metal detectors were used at Alcatraz. Strict rules were enforced against the unfortunate inmates who had to do time at Alcatraz. Nearly complete silence was mandated at all times.

Alcatraz was first explored by Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775, who called it Isla de los Alcatraces (Pelicans) because of all the birds that lived there. It was sold in 1849 to the U.S. government. The first lighthouse in California was on Alcatraz. It became a Civil War fort and then a military prison in 1907. The end of its prison days did not end the Alcatraz saga. In March 1964, a group of Sioux claimed that the island belonged to them due to a 100-year-old treaty. Their claims were ignored until November 1969 when a group of eighty-nine Native Americans representing the American Indian Movement (AIM) occupied the island. They stayed there until 1971 when AIM was finally forced off the island by federal authorities. The following year, Alcatraz was added to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is now open for tourism.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tokyo Subways Attacked with Sarin Gas - March 20, 1995

                                

On March 20, 1995, several packages of deadly sarin gas are set off in the Tokyo subway system killing twelve people and injuring over 5,000. Sarin gas was invented by the Nazis and is one of the most lethal nerve gases known to man. Tokyo police quickly learned who had planted the chemical weapons and began tracking the terrorists down. Thousands of checkpoints were set up across the nation in the massive dragnet.
 
The gas attack was instituted by the Aum Shinrikyo (which means Supreme Truth) cult. The Supreme Truth had thousands of followers all over Japan who believed in their doomsday prophecies. Because it claimed the personal assets of new cult members, the Supreme Truth had well over a billion dollars stashed away. Shoko Asahara, a forty-year-old blind man, was the leader of the cult. Asahara had long hair and a long beard, wore bright robes, and often meditated while sitting on satin pillows. His books included claims that he was the second coming of Jesus Christ and that he had the ability to travel through time.

Japanese authorities raided the Supreme Truth compounds across the country, but could not find Asahara. At one camp at the base of Mt. Fuji, police found tons of the chemicals used to produce sarin gas. They also found plans to buy nuclear weapons from the Russians. The police eventually located Hideo Murai, one of the cult's other top leaders, but when he was being taken into custody he was stabbed to death by an assassin who blamed Murai for the poison gas attack.

Shortly after, the police found a hidden basement at the Mt. Fuji compound where other cult leaders were holed up, including Masami Tsuchiya, a chemist who admitted making the sarin gas. Still, Asahara remained at large and the Supreme Truth made four more gas attacks on the subways, injuring hundreds more. Another potential deadly chemical bomb was defused in a subway restroom. The nation's top police officer was shot by a masked terrorist, adding to the country's unrest.
Finally on May 16, Asahara was found in yet another secret room of the Mt. Fuji compound and arrested. Along with scores of the other Supreme Truth leaders, Asahara was charged with murder. Their doomsday predictions had finally come true, albeit on a much smaller and more personal scale than they had envisioned.

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 six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael's website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:


Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Yosemite Murders - 1999

On this day in 1999, the bodies of Carole Sund and Silvina Pelosso are found in a charred rental car in a remote wooded area of Long Barn, Califonia. The women, along with Sund's daughter Juli, had been missing since February when they were last seen alive at the Cedar Lodge near Yosemite National Park. Juli Sund's body was found thirty miles away a week after the car was found. The mysterious disappearance of the three women had drawn national attention and landed them on the cover of People magazine. Compounding the mystery, Carole Sund's wallet had been found on a street in downtown Modesto, California, three days after they had disappeared. Police and the FBI initially focused their investigation on Eugene Dykes, Michael Larwick, and a group of methamphetamine users in Northern California. However, all these leads went up in smoke in July when Joie Ruth Armstrong, a twenty-six-year-old Yosemite Park worker, was brutally killed and decapitated near her cabin in the park.

The discovery of her body led investigators to Cary Stayner, a thirty-seven-year-old man who worked at the Cedar Lodge motel, where the Sunds were last seen. Stayner was tracked down and caught at a nudist colony in Northern California. Stayner confessed to the murder of Armstrong and then surprised the detectives by admitting that he was also responsible for the murders of the Sunds and Pelosso. Stayner had been on the other end of another high-profile crime years earlier. His younger brother, Steven, was abducted in Merced when Cary was eleven years old. Steven Stayner was held for more than seven years by a sexual abuser, Kenneth Parnell. Following his escape, a television movie, I Know My First Name is Steven, dramatized the incident. Steven Stayner died in a tragic motorcycle accident when he was twenty-four. The family saw further tragedy when Jesse Stayner, Cary and Steven's uncle, was shot to death in 1990 during a bungled robbery attempt. Stayner pled guilty to the Armstrong murder in 2001. He was convicted of the other three counts of murder in 2002 and sentenced to death.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Raymond Clark III pleads guilty to the murder of Annie Le - 2011

On this day in 2011, 26-year-old Raymond Clark III, a former animal research assistant at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, pleads guilty to the murder and attempted sexual assault of 24-year-old Yale graduate student Annie Le. On September 13, 2009, Le’s partially decomposed body was found stuffed behind a wall in the university research building where she was last seen five days earlier.

Le, a doctoral student in pharmacology from Placerville, California, was found dead on the day she was scheduled to be married, prompting initial speculation after her September 8, 2009, disappearance that could be a runaway bride. However, that theory soon appeared to be largely ruled out by investigators. Surveillance video showed Le entering the Yale lab building, which was accessible only by electronic keycard, but never leaving it. Her money, cell phone and ID were found in her office, located in a separate building.

Le’s disappearance set off a massive investigation that included more than 100 officers from university, state and local police and the FBI. The case also garnered national media attention. A break came on September 12, when investigators found bloody clothing above ceiling tiles in the lab building. The following day, Le’s body was discovered behind a wall in the building’s basement. It was determined the 4-foot-11-inch, 90-pound Le had been strangled.

Middletown, Connecticut, resident Raymond Clark, who cared for the animals in the lab where Le worked, soon sparked the suspicions of police after he was observed scrubbing the seemingly clean floor in the room where Le was last seen. On September 17, police arrested Clark, after finding DNA and other evidence they said linked him to the crime. Among the evidence was a bloody sock with both Clark’s and Le’s DNA on it, as well as a pen found under Le’s body with Clark’s DNA. Additionally, investigators discovered scratches on Clark’s body (which he claimed were from a cat), and found keycard records placing him and Le in the same room in the lab building on the day she was reported missing.

In January 2010, Clark pleaded not guilty to murder. However, on March 17 of the following year, after negotiations between the prosecutor in the case and Clark’s lawyers, the former lab technician pleaded guilty to charges of murder and attempt to commit sexual assault, in order to avoid a trial. He did not specify a motive, and the reason for his actions remains unclear. On June 3, 2011, Clark was sentenced to 44 years in prison without the possibility of early release.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Jilted Lover Murder, Judge Roy Bean dies, Terry Anderson is kidnapped, & Robert Blake is aquitted of murder

The Jilted Lover Murder - 1881


Francisco "Chico" Forster is shot to death on downtown Los Angeles street by his jilted lover, eighteen-year old Lastania Abarta. The forty-year old Forster was the son of wealthy Los Angeles land developer and considered one of the city's most eligible bachelors despite his reputation for womanizing and poorly treating women. Abarta worked in her parent's pool hall, where she sang, played the guitar, and met frequent customer Forster. On March 14, she was invited to perform at a party given by Pio Pico, California’s last Mexican governor. The former politician had just lost a sizable tract of land near San Diego to Chico Forster's father. During a song, Abarta changed the lyrics to mock Pico and then ran off with Forster to the Moiso Mansion Hotel. 

Apparently, the couple made love after Forster promised to marry Abarta. But when Forster disappeared and didn't return with a ring or priest to perform the ceremony, Abarta and her sister Hortensia started to comb the city in search of him. They finally found him at a race track gambling and dragged him to their carriage for a trip to the church. But Forster got out of the cab on the way, the women closely following behind until Abarta suddenly pulled out a gun and shot him through the eye. Outraged by his son's untimely death, Forster's father hired a special prosecutor to make sure that Abarta was properly punished. 

Abarta's lawyers tried a novel defense, they ran with America's 1880s obsession with "female hysteria." Medical theories of the time held that women could be driven crazy because of their reproductive system. Their first step was to introduce in evidence the blood stained sheets from the hotel where Abarta lost her virginity to Forster. The lawyers then trotted out no less than seven medical experts who expounded their hysteria theories. They testified that Abarta was clearly displaying classic "hysterical symptoms" caused "because her brain was undoubtedly congested with blood," when she killed Forster.

However, the most important testimony came from Dr. Joseph Kurtz who received applause from the spectators in the courtroom when he stated that "Any virtuous woman when deprived of her virtue would go mad, undoubtedly." The jury, all men of course, took just twenty minutes to acquit Abarta, who left town and disappeared out of sight.

Judge Roy Bean Dies - 1903


Roy Bean, the self-proclaimed "law west of the Pecos," dies in Langtry, Texas. A saloonkeeper and adventurer, Bean's claim to fame rested on the often humorous and sometimes-bizarre rulings he meted out as a justice of the peace in western Texas during the late 19th century. By then, Bean was in his 50s and had already lived a life full of rough adventures. Born in Kentucky some time during the 1820s, Bean began getting into trouble at an early age. He left home in 1847 with his brother Sam and lived a rogue's life in Mexico until he shot a man in a barroom fight and had to flee. He next turned up in San Diego, where he enjoyed playing the dashing caballero. Again he shot a man during a quarrel and was forced to leave town quickly. He fell into the same old habits in Los Angeles, eventually killing a Mexican officer in a duel over a woman. Angry friends of the officer hanged Bean in revenge, but luckily, the rope stretched and Bean managed to stay alive until the woman he had fought for arrived to cut him down. Bearing rope scars on his neck that remained throughout his life, Bean left California to take up a less risky life in New Mexico and Texas. For about 16 years, Bean lived a prosperous and relatively legitimate life as a San Antonio businessman. In 1882, he moved to southwest Texas, where he built his famous saloon, the Jersey Lilly, and founded the hamlet of Langtry. Saloon and town alike were named for the famous English actress, Lillie Langtry. Bean had never met Langtry, but he had developed an abiding affection for the beautiful actress after seeing a drawing of her in an illustrated magazine. For the rest of his life, he avidly followed Langtry's career in theatre magazines. Before founding Langtry, Bean had also secured an appointment as a justice of the peace and notary public. He knew little about the law or proper court procedures, but residents appreciated and largely accepted his common sense verdicts in the sparsely populated country of West Texas. Bean was often deliberately humorous or bizarre in his rulings, once fining a dead man $40 for carrying a concealed weapon. He threatened one lawyer with hanging for using profane language when the hapless man referred to the "habeas corpus" of his client. Less amusing was Bean's decision to free a man accused of killing a Chinese rail worker on the grounds that Bean knew of no law making it a crime "to kill a Chinaman."

By the 1890s, reports of Bean's curmudgeonly rulings had made him nationally famous. Travelers on the train passing through Langtry often made a point of stopping to visit the ramshackle saloon, where a sign proudly proclaimed Bean to be the "Law West of the Pecos." Bean fell ill during a visit to San Antonio. He returned to Langtry, where he died on March 16, 1903. Lillie Langtry, the object of Bean's devoted adoration, visited the village named in her honor only 10 months after Bean died. 

Journalist Terry Anderson is kidnapped - 1985

In Beirut, Lebanon, Islamic militants kidnap American journalist Terry Anderson and take him to the southern suburbs of the war-torn city, where other Western hostages are being held in scattered dungeons under ruined buildings. Before his abduction, Anderson covered the Lebanese Civil War for The Associated Press (AP) and also served as the AP's Beirut bureau chief. On December 4, 1991, Anderson's Hezbollah captors finally released him after 2,455 days. He was the last and longest-held American hostage in Lebanon. Although his seven-year ordeal was the longest of the 92 foreigners abducted during Lebanon's civil war, he was saved the fate of 11 hostages who died or were believed murdered. Anderson spent his entire captivity blindfolded and was released when the 16-year civil war came to an end. In 1993, Anderson published Den of Lions, a memoir of his time in captivity. In 2002, he won a lawsuit against the Iranian government and was granted a multi-million dollar settlement. The next year, Anderson ran for the Ohio Senate as a Democrat, but was defeated. 

Actor Robert Blake is acquitted of his wife’s murder - 2005


On this day in 2005, after a three-month-long criminal trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, a jury acquits Robert Blake, star of the 1970s television detective show Baretta, of the murder of his 44-year-old wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. Blake, who was born Mickey Gubitosi in 1933 in New Jersey, made his movie debut at the age of six, in MGM’s 1939 movie Bridal Suite; the studio soon featured him in its Our Gang series of short films. After changing his name to Robert Blake, he starred in the 1960 gangster movie The Purple Gang and numerous other films. In 1967, Blake memorably portrayed Perry Smith, one of two real-life murderers at the center of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, when the book was adapted for the big screen. As an actor, Blake was best known for his Emmy-winning work as the street-smart plainclothes policeman Tony Baretta in the ABC series Baretta. The show ran from 1975 to 1978, and Blake won an Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series at the end of its first season. During his criminal trial, Blake’s defense team portrayed the aging actor as a rather pathetic figure and argued that Bakley had a pattern of sending letters and nude photos of herself to famous men and had trapped Blake into marrying her by becoming pregnant. The couple’s daughter, Rose, was born in June 2000, and though Bakley initially claimed that the child was fathered by Christian Brando, son of the celebrated actor Marlon Brando, a paternity test proved the baby was Blake’s. Blake and Bakley married that November. Their brief, unhappy union lasted until May 4, 2001, when Bakley was shot to death as she sat in a car outside a Los Angeles restaurant. 


Blake was arrested for the murder, and the prosecution produced two former stunt doubles who claimed the actor had recruited them to kill his wife. During cross-examination, the stuntmen were revealed to be cocaine and methamphetamine users. In their acquittal of Blake, the jury made it clear they didn’t believe the stuntmen’s statements, and also concluded that the prosecution had failed to place the murder weapon in Blake’s hands. In November 2005, eight months after the criminal trial ended, Robert Blake was found guilty in a civil trial of “intentionally” causing Bonny Lee Bakley’s death; he was ordered to pay $30 million to Bakley’s children. Rose remained in the care of Blake’s eldest daughter, Delinah. Though he did not testify in the criminal trial, Blake did take the stand during his civil trial to deny the accusations.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ides of March 44 BC - Julius Caesar is murdered


Julius Caesar, the "dictator for life" of the Roman Empire, is murdered by his own senators at a meeting in a hall next to Pompey's Theatre. The conspiracy against Caesar encompassed as many as sixty noblemen, including Caesar's own protege, Marcus Brutus. Caesar was scheduled to leave Rome to fight in a war on March 18 and had appointed loyal members of his army to rule the Empire in his absence. The Republican senators, already chafing at having to abide by Caesar's decrees, were particularly angry about the prospect of taking orders from Caesar's underlings. Cassius Longinus started the plot against the dictator, quickly getting his brother-in-law Marcus Brutus to join.
Caesar should have been well aware that many of the senators hated him, but he dismissed his security force not long before his assassination. Reportedly, Caesar was handed a warning note as he entered the senate meeting that day but did not read it. After he entered the hall, Caesar was surrounded by senators holding daggers. Servilius Casca struck the first blow, hitting Caesar in the neck and drawing blood. The other senators all joined in, stabbing him repeatedly about the head.

Marcus Brutus wounded Caesar in the groin and Caesar is said to have remarked in Greek, "You, too, my child?" In the aftermath of the assassination, Antony attempted to carry out Caesar's legacy. However, Caesar's will left Octavian in charge as his adopted son. Cassius and Brutus tried to rally a Republican army and Brutus even issued coins celebrating the assassination, known as the Ides of March. Octavian vowed revenge against the assassins, two years later Cassius and Brutus committed suicide after learning that Octavian's forces had defeated theirs at the Battle of Philippa in Greece.
Antony took his armies east, where he hooked up with Caesar's old paramour, Cleopatra. Octavian and Antony fought for many years until Octavian prevailed. In 30 B.C., Antony committed suicide. Octavian, later known as Augustus, ruled the Roman Empire for many more years.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

FBI's 10 Most Wanted List debuts - 1950



On this day in 1950, the Federal Bureau of Investigation institutes the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list in an effort to publicize particularly dangerous fugitives. The creation of the program arose out of a wire service news story in 1949 about the "toughest guys" the FBI wanted to capture. The story drew so much public attention that the "Ten Most Wanted" list was given the okay by J. Edgar Hoover the following year. As of 2011, 465 of the criminals included on the list have been apprehended or located, 153 as a result of tips from the public. The Criminal Investigative Division (CID) of the FBI asks all fifty-six field offices to submit candidates for inclusion on the list. The CID in association with the Office of Public and Congressional Affairs then proposes finalists for approval of by the FBI's Deputy Director. The criteria for selection is simple, the criminal must have a lengthy record and current pending charges that make him or her particularly dangerous. And the the FBI must believe that the publicity attendant to placement on the list will assist in the apprehension of the fugitive.
Generally, the only way to get off the list is to die or to be captured. There have only been a handful of cases where a fugitive has been removed from the list because they no longer were a particularly dangerous menace to society. Only eight women have appeared on the Ten Most Wanted list. Ruth Eisemann-Schier was the first in 1968. The FBI also works closely with the Fox television show America's Most Wanted to further publicize the effort to capture dangerous felons.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rancho Santa Elena Murders

On March 13, 1989, cult leader Adolpho de Jesus Constanzo sacrifices another human victim at his remote Mexican desert compound Rancho Santa Elena. When the victim didn't beg for mercy before dying, Constanzo sent his people out to find another subject for torture and death. When they abducted American college student Mark Kilroy outside a bar in Matamoros, Mexico, Constanzo inadvertently set in motion the downfall of his bizarre cult.

Up until then, Constanzo and his cult had ritually killed at least twenty people, and maybe as many as 100. He had escaped detection because his victims were almost exclusively prostitutes, homeless people and drug dealers. But when Mark Kilroy disappeared, it became an international incident that focused attention on Mexican law enforcement efforts. Authorities in Mexico were pressured to step up their campaign against drug smuggling across the Texas border. On April 1, Serafin Hernandez, a cult member and the nephew of the leader of the Hernandez family drug-smuggling network, which had hired Costanzo to use black magic to bring them profit and protection, drove right through a police roadblock. Apparently, he actually believed that the magic potions Constanzo sold to drug dealers worked. Hernandez thought that he was invisible to the police and led the police directly to Rancho Santa Elena where officials found a large stash of drugs and guns.

Cult disciples who were arrested began to tell police about the human sacrifices at Rancho Santa Elena. Within a week, authorities had found 27 mutilated bodies, including Mark Kilroy, at or near the cult headquarters. When police raided Constanzo's Mexico City home, they found a hidden torture chamber and a large stash of homosexual pornography, but no sign of Constanzo himself.
The cult leader didn't turn up until May 6 when he panicked and opened fire on police who were going door-to-door in search of a missing child. An intense gun battle ensued, and as the police closed in, Constanzo insisted that one of his assistants, El Duby, shoot him. Constanzo was dead when police finally stormed in. El Duby and Constanzo's other surviving cohorts were tried and convicted for the murders at Rancho Santa Elena.

Monday, March 12, 2012

George Harrison arrested for drug possession



On March 12, 1969, the London drug squad appears at house of George Harrison and Pattie Boyd with a warrant and drug-sniffing canines. Boyd immediately used the direct hotline to Beatles headquarters and George returned to find his home turned upside down. He is reported to have told the officers "You needn't have turned the whole bloody place upside down. All you had to do was ask me and I would have shown you where I keep everything."

Without his assistance, the constables, including Sergeant Pilcher who had directed the drug-related arrest of John Lennon the previous year, had already found a considerable amount of hashish. Harrison and Boyd were arrested and as they were being escorted to the police station, a photographer began shooting pictures of the famous couple. Harrison chased after the photographer, with the cops trailing right behind him down the London street. Finally, the man dropped his camera and George stomped on it before the officers subdued him.

Harrison and his model wife, who missed Paul and Linda McCartney's wedding that same day because of the arrest, were released on bail. A few weeks later, Harrison and Boyd were allowed to plead guilty. Despite the rather prodigious amount of hash recovered from their home, the authorities were satisfied that it was all for their personal use. They were fined 250 pounds each, and even had a confiscated pipe returned to them. Ten years later, Boyd married guitarist Eric Clapton and Harrison sang and played at their wedding. Sergeant Pilcher, the man behind the raid, was convicted of planting drugs in other cases and went to jail in 1972.George Harrison died in November 2001 after a struggle with cancer.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

COPS TV show airs for the first time in 1989



On this day in 1989, COPS, a documentary-style television series that follows police officers and sheriff's deputies as they go about their jobs, debuts on Fox. COPS went on to become one of the longest-running shows in television history. The show, which was created by John Langley and Malcolm Barbour, was a pioneer in reality television. Crews with camcorders followed law enforcement officers on patrol, tracking down suspects and making arrests. The show was unscripted, which worked in Langley and Barbour's favor when they pitched the original concept to Fox: At the time, there was a writers' strike in Hollywood, and the network needed new programming that wouldn't require writers. In 1989, the debut episode of COPS featured the men and women of the Broward County Sheriff's Department in Florida. The show has aired nearly 1,000 episodes and filmed in 140 U.S. cities, as well as international locations including London and Hong Kong. With its widely recognized theme song, "Bad Boys" by the reggae group Inner Circle, COPS had spawned numerous imitators in addition to parody shows

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rapper Notorious B.I.G. was shot and killed and the Onion Field Murder (1963)


Christopher George Latore Wallace, better known as the rapper Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls was born on May 21, 1972 in New York, New York. When Wallace released his debut album Ready to Die in 1994, he became a central figure in the East Coast hip-hop scene and increased New York's visibility at a time when West Coast artists were more common in the mainstream. The following year, Wallace led his childhood friends to chart success through his protégé group, Junior M.A.F.I.A. While recording his second album, Wallace was heavily involved in the East Coast/ West Coast feud, dominating the scene at the time. On March 9, 1997, Wallace was killed by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. His double-disc set Life After Death, released 15 days later, hit #1 on the U.S. album charts and was certified Diamond in 2000 (one of the few hip hop albums to receive this certification). Since his death, a further two albums have been released. His ashes were given to family and final disposition is unknown.

The Onion Field Murder (1963)


On the night of March 9, 1963, LAPD officers Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger pulled over a car containing two suspicious-looking men on a Hollywood street. The two men, Gregory Ulas Powell and Jimmy Lee Smith (aka "Jimmy Youngblood"), had recently committed a string of robberies. Powell, the driver, pulled a gun on Campbell and ordered Hettinger to surrender his gun to Smith. The two officers were then forced into Powell's car and driven north from Los Angeles to an onion field near Bakersfield where Campbell was fatally shot. Hettinger was able to escape, running nearly four miles to reach a farmhouse. The killing occurred primarily because Powell assumed that the kidnapping of the officers alone already constituted a capital crime under the state's Little Lindbergh Law. However, Powell's interpretation was incorrect, as under the Little Lindbergh Law kidnapping became a capital crime only if the victim was harmed. Powell was arrested on the night of the murder. The following day, Smith was apprehended as well. The lead LAPD investigator on the case was Sergeant Pierce Brooks. Both suspects, convicted of murder and sentenced to death, ultimately received life-imprisonment sentences following a second trial for each, several appeals and a California court decision that found California's death penalty to be cruel and unusual punishment.


Though Hettinger was able to escape, he felt scorned by his fellow officers and officials at the Los Angeles Police Department and suffered severe emotional trauma for both the initial incident and the following treatment. Eventually a police training video was made using his experience as example of what not to do when stopping and approaching a vehicle. Hettinger was forced to resign from the LAPD in 1966 after being accused of shoplifting. Years later, Hettinger was appointed to serve as a Kern County Supervisor for Bakersfield, California, where he served multiple consecutive terms. In 1994, he died from liver disease at the age of 59.

Smith was initially released in 1982, but returned to prison several times on drug-related parole violations. In December 2006, he failed to report to his parole officer and a warrant was issued for his arrest. In February 2007, a man matching Smith's description was detained by police in Los Angeles's Skid Row area and eventually identified as Smith. He was arrested and charged with violating his parole, and sent to the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic, California. On April 7, 2007, while in that facility, he died of an apparent heart attack. Powell remains incarcerated and on October 18, 2011, the California State Parole Board denied a compassionate release for Powell, who has been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. The board stated that Powell did not wish to be released from prison and was likely to be uncooperative if paroled.
Officer Ian Campbell is buried at Forest Lawn Glendale.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Lonely Hearts Killers are executed

On March 8, 1951 - The Lonely Hearts Killers – Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck were executed


Between 1947 and 1949 they are believed to have killed as many as twenty women. The 1970 movie The Honeymoon Killers, the 1996 movie Deep Crimson, the 2006 movie Lonely Hearts, and an episode of the TV series Cold Case were all based on this case. 

Raymond Fernandez was born on December 17, 1914 in Hawaii. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Connecticut. As an adult, he moved to Spain, married, and had four children, all of whom he abandoned later on in life. After serving in Spain's Merchant Marine and then the British Intelligence service during World War II, Fernandez decided to seek work. Shortly after boarding a ship bound for America, a steel hatch fell on top of him, fracturing his skull, and injuring his frontal lobe. The damage left by this injury may well have affected his social and sexual behavior. Upon his release from a hospital, Fernandez stole some clothing, and was imprisoned for a year, during which time his cellmate taught him voodoo and black magic. He later claimed black magic gave him irresistible power and charm over women. After having served his sentence, Fernandez moved to New York and began answering personal ads by lonely women. He would wine and dine them, then steal their money and possessions. Most were too embarrassed to report the crimes. In one case, he traveled with a woman to Spain, where he visited his wife and introduced the two women. His female traveling companion then died under suspicious circumstances, and he took possession of her property with a forged will. In 1947, he answered a personal ad placed by Martha Beck.

Martha Beck was born Martha Jule Seabrook on May 6, 1920 in Milton, Florida. At her trial, she claimed to have been sexually assaulted by her brother. When she told her mother about what happened, her mother beat her, claiming she was responsible. After she finished school, she studied nursing, but had trouble finding a job due to her weight. She initially became an undertaker’s assistant and prepared female bodies for burial. She quit her job and moved to California where she worked in an Army hospital as a nurse. She engaged in sexually promiscuous behavior, and eventually became pregnant. She tried to convince the father to marry her but he refused. Single and pregnant, she returned to Florida. Unemployed and a single mother, Beck escaped into a fantasy world, buying romance magazines and novels. In 1946, she found employment at the Pensacola Hospital for Children. She placed a lonely-hearts ad in 1947, which Raymond Fernandez then answered.  

Fernandez visited Beck and stayed for a short time, and she told everyone that they were to be married. He returned to New York while she made preparations in Florida, where she lived. Abruptly, she was fired from her job, likely because of rumors about her and Fernandez. She then packed up and arrived on his doorstep in New York. Fernandez enjoyed the way she catered to his every whim, and he confessed his criminal enterprises. Beck quickly became a willing participant, and sent her children to the Salvation Army. She posed as Fernandez' sister, giving him an air of respectability. Their victims often stayed with them, or with her. She was extremely jealous and would go to great lengths to make sure he and his "intended" never consummated their relationship. When he did have sex with a woman, both were subjected to Beck's violent temper. 

In 1949, the pair committed the three murders for which they would later be convicted. Janet Fay, 66, became engaged to Fernandez and went to stay at his Long Island apartment. When Beck saw her and Fernandez in bed together, she smashed Fay's head in with a hammer in a murderous rage, and then Fernandez strangled her. Fay's family became suspicious, and the couple moved on to a new victim.

They traveled to Wyoming Township, Michigan, a suburb of Grand Rapids, to meet Delphine Downing, a young widow with a two-year-old daughter. While they stayed with Downing, she became agitated, and Fernandez gave her sleeping pills. Enraged by Downing's crying daughter, Beck strangled her, though not killing her. Fernandez thought Downing would become suspicious if she saw her bruised daughter, so he shot the unconscious woman. The couple then stayed for several days in Downing's house. Again enraged by the daughter's crying, Beck drowned her in a basin of water. They buried the bodies in the basement, but suspicious neighbors reported the Downing’s disappearances, and police arrived at the door on February 28, 1949. 

Fernandez quickly confessed, with the understanding that they would not be extradited to New York; Michigan had no death penalty, but New York did. They were, however, extradited. They vehemently denied seventeen murders that were attributed to them, and Fernandez tried to retract his confession, saying he only did it to protect Beck. Their trial was sensationalized, with lurid tales of sexual perversity. Beck was so upset about the media's comments about her appearance that she wrote protesting letters to the editors. Fernandez and Beck were convicted of the three murders and sentenced to death. On March 8, 1951, both were executed by electric chair at Sing Sing Prison. Despite their tumultuous arguments and relationship problems, they often professed their love to each other, as demonstrated by their official last words:  

"I wanna shout it out; I love Martha! What do the public know about love?" - Raymond Fernandez.  

"My story is a love story. But only those tortured by love can know what I mean [...] Imprisonment in the Death House has only strengthened my feeling for Raymond...." - Martha Beck.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Andrea Yates - Trial

The Defense Rests -


On March 7, 2002, the defense rested in the trial of Andrea Yates, a 37-year-old Texas woman who confessed to killing her five young children by drowning them in a bathtub. Less than a week later, on March 13, 2002, Yates was convicted and sentenced to life in prison; however, her conviction was later reversed.

Andrea Pia Kennedy was born July 2, 1964, in Houston, Texas, and married Russell Yates on April 17, 1993. The couple's first child, Noah, was born in February 1994. Three more boys followed, in 1995, 1997 and February 1999. Later that year, Yates attempted suicide twice and was diagnosed with psychosis and postpartum depression. She was also advised not to have any more children; however, in November 2000, she gave birth to a daughter. Several months later, she had another breakdown and was hospitalized. 

After her husband, a NASA employee, left for work on the morning of June 20, 2001, Andrea Yates drowned her five children in the bathtub of the family's suburban Houston home. Afterward, she called 911 and then phoned her husband to tell him he needed to return home immediately. Police found the body of the Yates' oldest son Noah, age 7, face-down in the tub. Yates had placed the bodies of her four younger children—John, 5, Luke, 3, Paul, 2, and Mary, 6 months—next to each other on a bed and covered them with a sheet. She confessed her actions to police and later made statements that she heard voices and believed she was saving her children's souls by killing them.

At her 2002 trial, Yates' attorneys argued that she was insane, while the prosecution charged she failed to meet Texas's definition of insanity because she was able to tell right from wrong. After deliberating for less than four hours, a jury found Yates guilty, rejecting her insanity defense, and she was sentenced to life in prison. In 2005, a Texas appeals court reversed the conviction and granted Yates a new trial after it was learned that prosecution witness Dr. Park Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist, gave erroneous testimony that had influenced the jury. On July 26, 2006, a jury found Yates not guilty by reason of insanity. Since that time, she has been committed to a state mental hospital in Texas. 

Russell Yates was supportive of his wife in the aftermath of the murders, blaming her behavior on severe mental illness and also criticizing her doctors for failing to properly treat her condition. In turn, he was criticized for being controlling and for leaving his wife unsupervised at the time she killed their children, when he had been advised not to do so. Russell Yates filed for divorce in 2004 and remarried two years later.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Smuttynose Murders


On the late winter night of March 6, 1873, Louis Wagner travelled to Smuttynose, an island about ten miles off of the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He was searching for $600 he thought was being saved by residents to buy a schooner. Wagner stole a rowboat and made his way to Smuttynose, arriving around 11 p.m. He broke into the home of Karen Anne Christensen and Anethe Christensen in hopes of robbing them of their money but found nothing.


In a fit of rage he hacked the sisters to death with an axe. Arrested the next night by Boston police on a description provided by Portsmouth authorities, Wagner was publicly derided and even stoned when he returned to Portsmouth the next morning. During his trial in Alfred, Maine, the most damning piece of evidence was a white button belonging to Karen that was in Wagner's possession when he was arrested. The jury took only 55 minutes and returned a verdict of guilty for first degree murder. A series of reprieves followed, but Wagner joined another convicted murderer on the gallows at Thomaston State Prison June 25, 1875. He professed his innocence up to the moment he died, and many had come to believe him. No positive evidence has been uncovered to support Wagner's contention. The murders have been the subject of many books and poems. They include, The Weight Of Water by Anita Shreve, Ballad Of Louis Wagner by John Parrault, and A Memorable Murder by Celia Thaxter. There is also a movie in the works by director Oliver Stone.

Monday, March 5, 2012

John Schrank and the failed assassination of Theodore Roosevelt and John Adams the last surviving mutineer of the HMS Bounty

John Schrank and the failed assassination of Theordore Roosevelt


During a stop in Milwaukee on his 1912 "Bull Moose" campaign for the presidency, former President Theodore Roosevelt was shot at close range by John Schrank (was born on March 5, 1876 in Germany), a psychotic New York saloonkeeper. Schrank had his .38 caliber pistol aimed at Roosevelt's head, but a bystander saw the gun and deflected Schrank's arm just as the trigger was pulled. Roosevelt did not realize he was hit until someone noticed a hole in his overcoat. When Roosevelt reached inside his coat, he found blood on his fingers. Roosevelt was extremely lucky. He had the manuscript of a speech in his coat pocket, folded in two, and the bullet was slowed as it passed through it. He also had a steel spectacle case in his pocket, and the bullet deflected off of it, before entering Roosevelt's chest.  

Roosevelt was examined in a Milwaukee hospital, and then observed for 8 days in a Chicago hospital. He was discharged on October 23, 1912, only a few days before the election. The bullet had effectively stopped Roosevelt's campaign. He finished second to Woodrow Wilson, but ahead of the incumbent President, William Howard Taft. The bullet was never removed, and caused no difficulty after the wound healed.  

Schrank, who had stalked Roosevelt all over the country, was never tried for the assault. He said he was motivated to shoot Roosevelt after a dream: I saw President McKinley sit up in his coffin pointing at a man in monk's attire in whom I recognized Theodore Roosevelt. The dead president said, "This is my murderer, avenge my death." Schrank was committed to the Central State Mental Hospital in Waupun, Wisconsin, where he remained until his death on September 15, 1943. In more than 30 years of confinement, he never received a visitor or a letter and his body was donated to Marquette University for medical study.

John Adams and the HMS Bounty Mutiny


John Adams was born on December 4, 1767 and was the last survivor of the HMS Bounty mutineers. The mutineers of Bounty settled on the Tahitian island of Pitcairn and set fire to the Bounty. Although the settlers were able to survive by farming and fishing, the initial period of settlement was marked by serious tensions among the settlers. Alcoholism, murder, disease and other ills had taken the lives of most of the mutineers and Tahitian men. He died on March 3, 1829.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Death of Hattie Carroll


"The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" was a song written by Bob Dylan and released on his 1964 album, TheTimes They are a-changin’ and gives a generally factual account of the killing of 51-year-old barmaid Hattie Carroll on February 9, 1963 (she was born on March 3, 1911) by Billy Zantzinger (whom the song calls "William Zanzinger"), and his subsequent sentence to six months in a county jail. The lyrics are a commentary on the racism of the 1960s. In 1963 when Hattie Carroll was killed, Charles County was still strictly segregated by race in public facilities such as restaurants, churches, theaters, doctor's offices, buses, and the county fair. The schools of Charles County were not integrated until 1967.

The main incident of the song took place in the early hours at the Spinsters' Ball at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland. Already drunk before he got to the Emerson Hotel that night, Zantzinger, assaulted numerous employees. At the Spinsters' Ball, he called a 30-year-old waitress a racial slur and hit her with the cane; she fled the room in tears. Moments later, after ordering a drink that Carroll didn't bring immediately, Zantzinger cursed at her, called her a another derogatory name and struck her on the shoulder and across the head with his cane. After a delay of perhaps a minute, he complained about her being slow and struck her again. Within five minutes of the first blow to the head, Carroll leaned heavily against the barmaid next to her and complained of feeling ill. Carroll told co-workers, "I feel deathly ill, that man has upset me so." The barmaid and another helped her to the kitchen. Her arm became numb, her speech thick. She collapsed and was hospitalized. Hattie Carroll died eight hours later.


Zantzinger was initially charged with murder but that was reduced to manslaughter, for which he was convicted on August 28, 1963 and sentenced to six months in prison. He was not tried by a jury of peers but by a panel of three judges. The sentence was handed down on the same day that Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Bob Dylan, 22 at that time, was one of the celebrities at the march and on the journey home, read about the conviction of Zantzinger and decided to write a topical protest song about the case. He recorded it on October 23, 1963, when the trial was still relatively fresh news, and incorporated it into his live repertoire immediately, before releasing the studio version on January 13, 1964. The song continued to haunt Zantzinger until his death in 2009. Hattie Carroll is buried at the Baltimore National Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lindbergh Kidnapping


On March 1, 1932, Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped. The toddler, 18 months old at the time, was abducted from his family home in East Amwell, New Jersey on the evening of March 1, 1932. Over two months later, on May 12, 1932, his body was discovered a short distance from the Lindbergh’s home. A medical examination determined that the cause of death was a massive skull fracture. After an investigation that lasted more than two years, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested and charged with the crime. In a trial that was held from January 2 to February 13, 1935, Hauptmann was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death. He was executed at the New Jersey State Prison on April 3, 1936 and Hauptmann proclaimed his innocence to the end.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Murder of Sheriff Pat Garrett

On February 29, 1908, legendary lawman Pat Garrett died. He was born on June 5, 1850 in Cusseta, Alabama. He was Sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico and best known for killing Billy the Kid.


 On November 7, 1880, the sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico, George Kimbell, resigned with two months left in his term. As Kimbell's successor, the county appointed Garrett, who had reputation as a gunman and promised to restore law and order. Garrett was charged with tracking down and arresting an alleged friend from his saloon keeping days, Henry McCarty, a jail escapee and Lincoln County War participant who often went by the aliases Henry Antrim and William Harrison Bonney, but is better known as Billy the Kid. McCarty was an alleged murderer who had participated in the Lincoln County War. He was said to have killed 21 men, one for every year of his life, but the actual total was probably closer to nine. New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace had personally put a US$500 reward on McCarty's capture.


On December 19, 1880, Garrett killed Tom O’Folliard, a member of McCarty's gang, in a shootout on the outskirts of Fort Sumner. On December 23, the sheriff's posse killed Charlie Bowdre, and captured the Kid and his companions at Stinking Springs. Garrett transported the captives to Mesilla, New Mexico, for trial. Though he was convicted, the Kid managed to escape from the Lincoln County jail on April 28, 1881, after killing his guards. On July 14, 1881, Garrett visited Fort Sumner to question a friend of the Kid's about the Whereabouts of the outlaw. He learned the Kid was staying with a mutual friend, Pete Maxwell. Around midnight, Garrett went to Maxwell's house. The Kid was asleep in another part of the house, but woke up hungry in the middle of the night and entered Maxwell's bedroom, where Garrett was standing in the shadows. The Kid did not recognize the man standing in dark. Garrett shot him twice, the first shot hitting him above the heart, although the second one missed and struck the mantle behind him. (Some historians have questioned Garrett's account of the shooting, alleging the incident happened differently. They claim Garrett went into Paulita Maxwell's room and tied her up. The Kid walked into her room, and Garrett ambushed him with a single blast from his rifle.

Billy the Kid's Grave

There has been much dispute over the details of the Kid's death that night. The way Garrett allegedly killed McCarty without warning eventually sullied the lawman's reputation. Garrett claimed Billy the Kid had entered the room armed with a pistol, but no gun was found on his body. Other accounts claim he entered carrying a kitchen knife, but no hard evidence supported this. Garrett's reputation was also hurt by popular stories that he and Billy had once been friends, and that the shooting was a kind of betrayal, but historians have found no evidence of such a friendship. Still, at the time, the shooting solidified Garrett's fame as a lawman and gunman, and led to numerous appointments to law enforcement positions, as well as requests that he pursue outlaws in other parts of New Mexico.

His law enforcement career never achieved any great success following the Lincoln County War, and he mostly used that era in his life as his stepping-stone to higher positions. After finishing out his term as sheriff, Garrett became a rancher and released a book in 1882 titled, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, which was a first-hand account about his experiences with McCarty, which helped raise the Kid to the level of historical figure, was in large part ghost written by his friend Ash Upson. Garrett lost the next election for Lincoln County sheriff and was never paid the $500 reward for McCarty's capture, since he had killed him. In 1882, he ran for the position of Sheriff of Grant County, but was defeated. In 1884, he lost an election for the New Mexico State Senate. Later that year, he left New Mexico and helped found and captain a company of Texas Rangers. 

On December 20, 1901, Theodore Roosevelt, who became a personal friend of Garrett, appointed him customs collector in El Paso, Texas. Garrett served for five years. He then retired to his ranch in New Mexico but was suffering financial difficulties. He owed a large amount in taxes and was found liable for an unpaid loan he had cosigned for a friend. Garrett borrowed heavily to make these payments and started drinking and gambling. By this time, questions surrounding the manner in which Garrett had killed Billy the Kid and his general demeanor had led to his becoming quite unpopular. He no longer had any local political support, his support from President Roosevelt had been withdrawn, and he had few friends with power. 

On February 29, 1908, Garrett and Carl Adamson, who was in the process of talks with Garrett to purchase land, rode together, heading from Las Cruces. Jesse Brazel showed up on horseback along the way. Garrett and Brazel began to argue about the goats grazing on Garrett's land. Garrett is alleged to have leaned forward to pick up a shotgun on the floorboard. Brazel shot him once in the stomach, and then once more in the head as Garrett fell from the wagon. Brazel and Adamson left the body by the side of the road and returned to Las Cruces, alerting Sheriff Felipe Lucero of the killing. 

There has occasionally been disagreement about the identity of Pat Garrett's killer. Today, most historians believe Jesse Brazel, who confessed to the shooting and was tried for first degree murder, did in fact commit the crime. Brazel claimed self defense, claiming Garrett was armed with a shotgun and was threatening him. Adamson backed up Brazel's story. The jury took less than a half-hour to return a not guilty verdict. Cox hosted a barbecue in celebration of the verdict. To date, the common belief is the death happened as Brazel said it did. Garrett was known to have carried a double-barreled shotgun when he traveled, and he had a fiery temper. Garrett could have reacted violently during his argument with Brazel. Garrett's body was too tall for any finished coffins available, so a special one had to be shipped in from El Paso. His funeral service was held March 5, 1908, and he was laid to rest at the Masonic Cemetery in Las Cruces, next to his daughter, Ida.

Garrett family plot at the Masonic Cemetery in Las Cruces