Thursday, December 5, 2013

Boston Belfry Murderer Claims First Victim - 1873



On December 5, 1873, Bridget Landregan is found beaten and strangled to death in the Boston suburb of Dorchester. According to witnesses, a man in black clothes and a flowing cape attempted to sexually assault the dead girl before running away. In 1874, a man fitting the same description clubbed another young girl, Mary Sullivan, to death. His third victim, Mary Tynan, was bludgeoned in her bed in 1875. Although she survived for a year after the severe attack, she was never able to identify her attacker. 

Residents of Boston were shocked to learn that the killer had been among them all along. Thomas Piper, the sexton at the Warren Avenue Baptist Church, was known for his flowing black cape, but because he was friendly with the parishioners, 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 death, and he was hanged in 1876. 
 
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nuremberg War Crimes Trial Began - 1945



On November 20, 1945, the Nuremberg war crimes trial begins. Following Germany's defeat in World War II, Winston Churchill planned to shoot top German and Nazi military leaders without a trial, but Henry Stimson, the U.S. Secretary of War, pushed President Roosevelt to consider holding an international court trial. Since the trial did not begin until after the death of President Roosevelt, President Harry S. Truman appointed Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson to head the prosecution team. The four countries pressing charges were Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and France.
 
In his opening statement, Robert Jackson summarized the significance of the trial. "That four great nations flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of law," said Jackson, "is one of the significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason." 

The trials attempted to hold Nazi and German military officials accountable for atrocities including the massacre of 30,000 Russians during the German invasion and the massacre of thousands of others in the Warsaw Ghetto. Twenty-four defendants were tried, including Hermann Goering, the designated successor to Hitler, and Rudolf Hess, Hitler's personal secretary. All defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges. When one of the defendants demanded that an anti-Semitic lawyer represent him, an ex-Nazi was assigned to his defense. Because of the mountains of evidence and language barriers, the trial was beset with logistical problems. Nineteen defendants were convicted: 12 were sentenced to hang, and the rest were sent to prison. Herman Goering escaped hanging by committing suicide. On October 16, 1946, 10 former Nazi officials were hanged.
 
 

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Jim Jones lead mass murder-suicide at Jonestown - 1978



On November 18, 1978, Peoples Temple founder Jim Jones leads hundreds of his followers in a mass murder-suicide at their agricultural commune in a remote part of the South American nation of Guyana. Many of Jones’ followers willingly ingested a poison-laced punch while others were forced to do so at gunpoint. The final death toll at Jonestown that day was 909; a third of those who perished were children. 

Jim Jones was a charismatic churchman who established the Peoples Temple, a Christian sect, in Indianapolis in the 1950s. He preached against racism, and his integrated congregation attracted many African Americans. In 1965, he moved the group to Northern California, settling in Ukiah and after 1971 in San Francisco. In the 1970s, his church was accused by the media of financial fraud, physical abuse of its members and mistreatment of children. In response to the mounting criticism, the increasingly paranoid Jones invited his congregation to move with him to Guyana, where he promised they would build a socialist utopia. Three years earlier, a small group of his followers had traveled to the tiny nation to set up what would become Jonestown on a tract of jungle. Jonestown did not turn out to be the paradise their leader had promised. Temple members worked long days in the fields and were subjected to harsh punishments if they questioned Jones' authority. Their passports were confiscated, their letters home censored and members were encouraged to inform on one another and forced to attend lengthy, late-night meetings. Jones, by then in declining mental health and addicted to drugs, was convinced the U.S. government and others were out to destroy him. He required Temple members to participate in mock suicide drills in the middle of the night. 

In 1978, a group of former Temple members and concerned relatives of current members convinced U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan, a Democrat of California, to travel to Jonestown and investigate the settlement. On November 17, 1978, Ryan arrived in Jonestown with a group of journalists and other observers. At first the visit went well, but the next day, as Ryan's delegation was about to leave, several Jonestown residents approached the group and asked them for passage out of Guyana. Jones became distressed at the defection of his followers, and one of Jones' lieutenants attacked Ryan with a knife. The congressman escaped from the incident unharmed, but Jones then ordered Ryan and his companions ambushed and killed at the airstrip as they attempted to leave. The congressman and four others were murdered as they boarded their charter planes. Back in Jonestown, Jones commanded everyone to gather in the main pavilion and commit what he termed a "revolutionary act." The youngest members of the Peoples Temple were the first to die, as parents and nurses used syringes to drop a potent mix of cyanide, and sedatives into powdered fruit juice. Adults then lined up to drink the poison-laced concoction while armed guards surrounded the pavilion. When Guyanese officials arrived at the Jonestown compound the next day, they found hundreds of bodies. Many had perished with their arms around each other. A few residents managed to escape into the jungle as the suicides took place, while at least several dozen more Peoples Temple members, including several of Jones' sons, survived because they were in another part of Guyana at the time.
 
 

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Franklin "Buckskin" Leslie shoots and kills Billy Claiborne in the streets of Tombstone - 1882



On November 14, 1882, gunslinger Franklin "Buckskin" Leslie shoots Billy Claiborne dead in the streets of Tombstone, Arizona. The town of Tombstone is best known today as the site of the infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral. In the 1880s, however, Tombstone was home to many gunmen who never achieved the enduring fame of Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday. Franklin "Buckskin" Leslie was one of the most notorious of these largely forgotten outlaws. 

There are few surviving details about Leslie's early life. At different times, he claimed to have been born in both Texas and Kentucky, to have studied medicine in Europe, and to have been an army scout in the war against the Apache Indians. No evidence has ever emerged to support or conclusively deny these claims. The first historical evidence of Leslie's life emerges in 1877, when he became a scout in Arizona. A few years later, Leslie was attracted to the moneymaking opportunities of the booming mining town of Tombstone, where he opened the Cosmopolitan Hotel in 1880. That same year he killed a man named Mike Killeen during a quarrel over Killeen's wife, and he married the woman shortly thereafter. 

Leslie's reputation as a cold-blooded killer brought him trouble after his drinking companion and fellow gunman John Ringo was found dead in July 1882. Some Tombstone citizens, including a young friend of Ringo's named Billy Claiborne, were convinced that Leslie had murdered Ringo, though they could not prove it. Probably seeking vengeance and the notoriety that would come from shooting a famous gunslinger, Claiborne unwisely decided to publicly challenge Leslie, who shot him dead. The remainder of Leslie's life was equally violent and senseless. After divorcing Killeen in 1887, he took up with a Tombstone prostitute, whom he murdered several years later during a drunken rage. Even by the loose standards of frontier law in Tombstone, the murder of an unarmed woman was unacceptable, and Leslie served nearly 10 years in prison before he was paroled in 1896. After his release, he married again and worked a variety of odd jobs around the West. He reportedly made a small fortune in the gold fields of the Klondike region before he disappeared forever from the historical record.
 
 

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Japanese War Criminals were Sentenced - (1948)



On November 12, 1948, an international war crimes tribunal in Tokyo passes death sentences on seven Japanese military and government officials, including General Hideki Tojo, who served as premier of Japan from 1941 to 1944. The trials lasted 30 months with all 25 Japanese defendants being found guilty of various war crimes. In addition to the death sentences imposed on Tojo and others principals, such as Iwane Matsui, who organized the Rape of Nanking, and Heitaro Kimura, who brutalized Allied prisoners of war, 16 others were sentenced to life imprisonment and various other lesser sentences. Unlike the Nuremberg trials in Germany, where there were four chief prosecutors representing Great Britain, France, the United States, and the USSR, the Tokyo trial featured only one chief prosecutor, American Joseph B. Keenan, a former assistant to the U.S. attorney general. However, other nations, especially China, contributed to the proceedings, and Australian judge William Flood Webb also presided. In addition to the central Tokyo trial, various tribunals sitting outside Japan judged 5,000 other Japanese guilty of war crimes, of whom more than 900 were executed.  
 
 

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following links: 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Doc Holliday died - 1887



Gunslinger, gambler, and occasional dentist, Doc Holliday died on November 8, 1887 from tuberculosis. Though he was perhaps most famous for his participation in the shootout at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, John Henry "Doc" Holliday earned his reputation well before that famous feud. Born in Georgia, Holliday was raised in the tradition of the southern gentleman. He earned his nickname when he graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery in 1872. However, shortly after embarking on a respectable career as a dentist in Atlanta, he developed a bad cough. Doctors diagnosed tuberculosis and advised a move to a more arid climate, so Holliday moved his practice to Dallas, Texas.
By all accounts, Holliday was a competent dentist with a successful practice. Unfortunately, card playing interested him more than dentistry, and he earned a reputation as a skilled poker and faro player. In 1875, Dallas police arrested Holliday for participating in a shootout. Thereafter, the once upstanding doctor began drifting between the booming Wild West towns of Denver, Cheyenne, Deadwood, and Dodge City, making his living at gambling halls. Holliday was a good friend of Wyatt Earp, who believed that Holliday saved his life during a fight with cowboys. For his part, Holliday stood by him during the 1881 shootout at the O.K. Corral and the bloody feud that followed. In 1882, Holliday fled Arizona and returned to the life of a western drifter, gambler, and gunslinger. By 1887, his hard living had caught up to him, forcing him to seek treatment for his tuberculosis at a sanitarium in Glenwood Springs, Colorado where he died in his bed at the age of 36.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:
 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gunpowder Plot was foiled - 1605



On November 5, 1605, King James I of England learns that a plot to blow-up Parliament has been foiled. Only hours before he was scheduled to attend a general parliamentary session. At about midnight on the night of November 4-5, Guy Fawkes was found lurking in a cellar under the Parliament building and after a search of the building 20 barrels of gunpowder was located.Fawkes was taken into custody and after being tortured revealed that he was a participant in an English Catholic conspiracy to annihilate England's Protestant government and replace it with Catholic leadership. What became known as the Gunpowder Plot was organized by Robert Catesby, an English Catholic whose father had been persecuted by Queen Elizabeth I for refusing to conform to the Church of England. Guy Fawkes had converted to Catholicism, and his religious zeal led him to fight in the Spanish army in the Netherlands. Catesby and the handful of other plotters rented a cellar that extended under Parliament, and Fawkes planted the gunpowder there, hiding the barrels under coal and wood. By torturing Fawkes, King James' government learned of the identities of his co-conspirators. During the next few weeks, English authorities killed or captured all of the plotters and put the survivors on trial. Guy Fawkes was sentenced, along with the other surviving chief conspirators, to be hanged, drawn, and quartered in London. Moments before the start of his gruesome execution, on January 31, 1606, he jumped from a ladder while climbing to the hanging platform, breaking his neck and dying instantly. In 1606, Parliament established November 5th as a day of public thanksgiving. Today, Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated across Great Britain in remembrance of the Gunpowder Plot.
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rap pioneer Jam Master Jay was murdered - 2002



On October 30, 2002, influential rap pioneer, Jason William Mizell was murdered. He is better known by his stage name Jam Master Jay, who was a founding member of the hip hop group Run-DMC. During the 1980s, Run-D.M.C. was one of the biggest hip-hop groups in the world and is credited with helping rap music break into mainstream music with hits such as “It’s Tricky,” “King of Rock” and a remake of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.”
On the night of the murder Mizell and some friends were hanging out at his Jamaica, Queens, New York studio packing some equipment for a show in Philadelphia, Mizell got a bite to eat and took a seat on a couch at the rear of the studio. His friend, Uriel (Tony) Rincon, sat next to him and the pair began playing a video game. A short time later, Mizell's assistant, Lydia High, entered the cramped studio to go over his itinerary for the next day. High's brother, Randy Allen, Mizell’s longtime business partner soon came in with two friends, but they shut themselves in the control room at the front of the studio. Everyone had been in the room for less than an hour when a man dressed in black, possibly wearing a hat, stepped in and gave Mizell a hug about 7:30 p.m., but after the short embrace, the man pulled out a .40-caliber handgun. A witness heard Mizell yell out “Oh s---,” before a shot rang out. A bullet hit Mizell in the head, killing him before he hit the floor. The killer and his accomplice, who was standing outside the door, both sprinted out of the two-story building and disappeared. The murder remains unsolved.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

President William McKinley's assassin was executed - 1901



On October 29, 1901, President William McKinley’s assassin, Leon Czolgosz, is executed in the electric chair at Auburn Prison in New York. Czolgosz had shot McKinley on September 6, 1901; the president succumbed to his wounds eight days later. McKinley was shaking hands in a reception line at the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo, New York, when a 28-year-old anarchist named Leon Czolgosz approached him with a gun concealed in a handkerchief in his right hand. McKinley, perhaps assuming the handkerchief was an attempt by Czolgosz to hide a physical defect, kindly reached for the man's left hand to shake. Czolgosz moved in close to the president and fired two shots into McKinley's chest. The president reportedly rose slightly on his toes before collapsing forward, saying "be careful how you tell my wife." Czolgosz was attempting to fire a third bullet into the stricken president when aides wrestled him to the ground.
McKinley suffered one superficial wound to the sternum and another bullet dangerously entered his abdomen. He was rushed into surgery and seemed to be on the mend by September 12th, but later that day, the president's condition worsened. On September 14th, McKinley died from gangrene that had remained undetected in the internal wound. According to witnesses, McKinley's last words were those of the hymn "Nearer My God to Thee." Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as president immediately following McKinley's death. Czolgosz, a Polish immigrant, grew up in Detroit and had worked as a child laborer in a steel mill. As a young adult, he gravitated toward socialist and anarchist ideology. He claimed to have killed McKinley because the president was the head of what Czolgosz thought was a corrupt government. The unrepentant killer's last words were "I killed the president because he was the enemy of the good people, the working people."
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Old West gunslinger Tom Horn was hanged - 1903



On October 22, 1903, infamous hired killer, Tom Horn was hanged for having allegedly murdered Willie Nickell, the 14-year-old son of a southern Wyoming sheep rancher. Some historians have since questioned whether Horn really killed the boy, pointing out that the jury convicted him solely on the basis of a drunken confession that Horn supposedly made to a detective. The jury also seems to have failed to give adequate weight to the testimony of a number of credible witnesses who claimed Horn could not possibly have committed the crime. Yet even Horn's defenders in the Nickell case do not dispute that he was a brutal hired killer who was unquestionably responsible for many other deaths.
Born in 1860 in Memphis, Missouri, Horn reportedly showed an aptitude for hunting and marksmanship at an early age. After moving westward in the mid-1870s, Horn was at various times a cowboy, miner, army scout, deputy sheriff, and packer for the Rough Riders in Cuba, but his most notorious job was as a hired gun. Horn first worked for the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency which hired him to track down and apprehend, western outlaws who were preying on Pinkerton clients, but after four years he became bored; and in 1894 he signed on as a hired killer with the privately run Wyoming Cattlemen's Association. For several years the large Wyoming ranches had been fighting a vigilante war in Johnson County against a diverse group of small farmers, sheep ranchers, and rustlers who were resisting their domination. By 1894, negative publicity had made a public war too costly. Instead, the ranchers shifted to more stealthy means, hiring Horn to use his gun-handling skills to murder any man the ranchers marked as a troublemaker. Some historians suggest that Horn may have murdered Willie Nickell by accident, having mistaken the boy for his father. Others, though, argue that it is more likely that Horn was deliberately convicted for a crime he did not commit by Wyoming citizens seeing an opportunity to take revenge.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Friday, October 18, 2013

John Lennon & Yoko Ono were arrested on drug charges - 1968



On October 18, 1968, John Lennon and Yoko Ono are arrested for drug possession at their home near Montagu Square in London, England. The arrests came at a tempestuous time for the couple. Only days earlier, an announcement was made that Ono was pregnant, creating a scandal because both Lennon and Ono were still married to other people. Her pregnancy ended in a miscarriage a few days after the arrest.
Detective Sergeant Norman Pilcher, the instigator behind the raid on Lennon and Ono, was an anti-drug zealot who would later arrest George Harrison and his wife on similar charges. While Lennon was frantically trying to get rid of the evidence, the police read a warrant through a bedroom window and then broke down the front door. Drug-sniffing dogs found 200 grams of hashish, a cigarette rolling machine with traces of marijuana, and half a gram of morphine. However, the couple denied that the drugs belonged to them. When the matter finally approached trial, Lennon pleaded guilty because he was worried that Ono would be deported. He was received a small fine and warned that another offense would bring a year in jail.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Texas Rangers were established - 1835



On October 17, 1835, Texans approve a resolution to create the Texas Rangers, a corps of armed and mounted lawmen designed to guard the frontier between the Brazos and Trinity Rivers. In the midst of their revolt against Mexico, Texan leaders felt they needed a semi-official force of armed men who would defend the isolated frontier settlers of the Lone Star Republic against both Santa Ana's soldiers and hostile Indians; the Texas Rangers filled this role. After gaining independence from Mexico the following year, Texans decided to keep the Rangers, both to defend against Indian and Mexican raiders and to serve as the principal law enforcement authority along the sparsely populated Texan frontier. Although created and sanctioned by the Texas government, the Rangers were an irregular body made up of civilians who furnished their own horses and weapons. Given the vast expanse of territory they patrolled and the difficulty of communicating with the central government, the government gave the men of the Rangers considerable independence to act as they saw fit. Sometimes the Rangers served as a military force, taking on the role of fighting the Indians that in the U.S. was largely the responsibility of the Army. At other times the Rangers mainly served as the principal law enforcement power in many frontier regions of Texas, earning lasting fame for their ability to track down and eliminate outlaws, cattle thieves, train robbers, and murderers, including such notorious bandits as John Wesley Hardin and King Fisher. Even as late as the first two decades of the 20th century, the state of Texas continued to rely on the Rangers to enforce order in the wilder regions of the state, like the oil boomtowns along the Rio Grande. Increasingly, though, some Texans began to criticize the Rangers, arguing that they used excessive violence and often failed to observe the finer points of the law when apprehending suspects. As a result, in the 1930s, the state won control over the Rangers, transforming it into a modern and professional law enforcement organization.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mata Hari was executed - 1917



On October 15, 1917, exotic dancer Mata Hari was executed by a French firing squad for the crime of espionage. She was born Margueretha Gertruida Zelle in a small town in northern Holland and formerly married to a captain in the Dutch army; Mata Hari had performed in Paris as a dancer since 1903. She adopted an elaborate stage persona, claiming she was born in a sacred Indian temple and taught ancient Indian dances by a priestess who gave her the name Mata Hari, which meant "eye of the dawn." Her exotic dances soon earned her fans all over Europe, where she packed dance halls, largely because of her willingness to dance almost entirely naked in public.
A courtesan as well as a dancer, Mata Hari amassed an impressive catalog of lovers, including high-ranking military officers and political figures from both France and Germany. With the outbreak of World War I, these relationships immediately made her suspicious to French intelligence, which reportedly put her under surveillance. The circumstances of her alleged spying activities during the war were and remain unclear: It was said that, while in the Netherlands in 1916, she was offered cash by a German consul to report back information obtained on her next visit to France. When British intelligence discovered details of this arrangement, they passed them on to their counterparts in France; Mata Hari was arrested in Paris in February 1917.
Under interrogation by French military intelligence, Mata Hari herself admitted that she had passed outdated information to a German intelligence officer, yet she claimed that she had also been paid to act as a French spy in Belgium (then occupied by the Germans) though she had not informed the French of her prior dealings with the German consul. She was apparently acting as a double agent, though the Germans had apparently written her off as being ineffective. She was tried in a military court and sentenced to death. The trial was riddled with bias and circumstantial evidence, and many believed that the French authorities, as well as the press, trumped her up as "the greatest woman spy of the century" to distract the public from the huge losses the French army was suffering on the Western Front. After her last-minute plea to the French president for clemency was denied, French officers carried out the death sentence on October 15, 1917. Unbound and refusing a blindfold, Mata Hari was shot by a firing squad at the Caserne de Vincennes, an old fort outside Paris. Viewed by many as the victim of a hysterical French press contemptuous of her career as a dancer and courtesan and seeking a scapegoat, Mata Hari remains one of the most glamorous figures to come out of the shadowy world of espionage, and the archetype of the female spy.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Amityville murder trial began - 1975



On October 14, 1975, the murder trial of Ronald DeFeo Jr. began. Defoe was accused of killings his parents and four siblings in their Amityville, New York home. The family’s house was later said to be haunted and served as the inspiration for the Amityville Horror book and movies. On the evening of November 13, 1974, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. entered an Amityville bar and told people his parents had been shot inside their home. Several bar patrons accompanied DeFeo back to his family’s home, at 112 Ocean Avenue, where a man named Joe Yeswit called Suffolk Country police to report the crime. When officers arrived, they found the bodies of Ronald DeFeo Sr., his wife Louise, and their four children. The victims had been shot in their beds. Ronald DeFeo Jr., initially claimed the murders were a mob hit; however, by the next day he had confessed that he committed the crimes.
Police investigators were at first puzzled by the fact that all six victims appeared to have died in their sleep, without struggle, and neighbors didn’t hear any gunshots, despite the fact that the rifle DeFeo used didn’t have a silencer. When DeFeo’s trial began, his attorney argued for an insanity defense; however, the jury did not believe this and he was found guilty of six counts of second-degree murder and later sentenced to six consecutive sentences of 25 years to life in prison. DeFeo, who gave conflicting accounts of these events, later claimed his sister Dawn and two other accomplices were involved in the murders. In December 1975, the DeFeo house was sold to George Lutz, who moved in with his wife and three children. The new owners resided in the house for 28 days, before they fled, claiming it was haunted. Skeptics accused Lutz of concocting the story to make money, but he maintained he was telling the truth. In 1977, Jay Anson published a novel titled The Amityville Horror. The book became a best-seller and inspired a 1979 movie of the same name, as well as a 2005 remake.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Chicago area bootlegger Roger Touhy escapes from prison - 1942



On October 9, 1942, notorious Chicago area bootlegger Roger "The Terrible" Touhy escapes from Statesville Prison by climbing the guard's tower. Touhy, who had been framed for kidnapping by his bootlegging rivals, was serving a 99-year sentence for a crime he did not commit. The son of a police officer, Touhy had served in the Navy during World War I and later set up a trucking business in the Chicago suburbs. When business slowed during Prohibition, Touhy realized he could earn a better living through bootlegging. Along with his partner, Matt Kolb, Touhy began brewing his own beer and shipping it to speakeasies all over the state. His beer was widely considered the finest available at the time. When mob boss Al Capone heard about Touhy's operation, he wanted to get in on the action, but since Capone was not really familiar with the environment outside of the city, Touhy had an advantage. After a meeting with Touhy, Capone's henchmen reported back that he wasn’t someone to mess with. Undeterred, Capone had Matt Kolb kidnapped and then forced Touhy to pay $50,000 in ransom for his release. When Kolb was murdered in 1931, the feud escalated. Capone was instrumental in orchestrating the fake kidnapping plot of Jake Factor, which was pinned on Touhy. He was convicted of the crime and sent to prison. Shortly after his escape in 1942, Touhy was returned to prison but his conviction was eventually overturned upon appeal in 1959. Three weeks after his release from prison, Touhy was gunned down at his sister’s home. Before he died, he was reported to have said, "I've been expecting it. The bastards never forget." No arrests were made in Touhy’s murder.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Botched sweat lodge ceremony kills three - 2009



On October 8, 2009, two people die and more than a dozen others are hospitalized following a botched sweat lodge ceremony at a retreat run by motivational speaker and author James Arthur Ray near Sedona, Arizona. A third participant in the ceremony died nine days later. The sweat lodge exercise was part of a five-day event held at a rented retreat center located six miles from Sedona. At the time, Ray was known for such books as his 2008 best-seller Harmonic Wealth: The Secret to Attracting the Life You Want, and had appeared as a guest on a number of TV programs, including “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Ray’s sweat lodge ceremony, modeled after a Native American custom intended to purify the body and spirit, was held in a wood-frame structure covered with tarpaulins and blankets. Inside the enclosed space, water was poured over heated rocks to create steam and the temperature became dangerously high, causing many of the more than 50 participants to develop breathing trouble and become disoriented. Witnesses later reported Ray had urged people to remain inside and endure the intense heat as a form of personal challenge.

Two people, Kirby Brown and James Shore fainted but were left inside the sweat lodge and perished from heat stroke. More than a dozen other people were hospitalized for dehydration and other medical issues. On October 17th, a third ceremony participant, Liz Neuman died. In February 2010, Ray was indicted on manslaughter charges. When his case went to trial the following year, the prosecution argued that the self-help guru had acted carelessly and shown no regard for the people who got sick during the ceremony. The defense claimed the participants were free to leave the sweat lodge at any time, and said the deaths were an accident and might have been caused by unknown toxins in the ground. During the four-month trial, witnesses claimed that people had become ill or injured at previous retreats run by Ray, and Native American groups expressed outrage over his misuse of their sacred sweat lodge tradition. On June 22, 2011, Ray was found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide and was sentenced to three two-year prison terms, to run concurrently, and ordered to pay some $57,000 in restitution to the victims’ families.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Friday, October 4, 2013

Jim Bakker was indicted on federal charges - 1988



On October 4, 1988, televangelist Jim Bakker was indicted on federal charges of mail and wire fraud and of conspiring to defraud the public. The case against the founder of Praise the Lord (PTL) Ministries and three of his aides exploded in the media when it was revealed that Bakker had sex with former church secretary Jessica Hahn.
On December 6, 1980, Bakker and Hahn had a sexual encounter in a Florida hotel room. Although they each told different stories of what had happened, Bakker eventually paid Hahn over $350,000 to remain silent. When the arrangement became public, the scandal helped to bring down the entire PTL ministry. Hahn, who claimed that she didn't want to be in the spotlight, became an overnight celebrity. Bakker and his wife, Tammy Faye, were enormously successful at raising money for their televised religious programs, and after its 1974 debut, their cable show became the highest rated religious show in the country. The Bakkers then added talk-show elements to standard preaching, often featuring celebrities, music, and comedy. With all of the money they made from their programming, they built a 2,200-acre resort, Heritage USA. When the sex scandal was leaked, other televangelists were outraged. Jimmy Swaggart, in particular, went out of his way to condemn Bakker. Tammy Faye responded to their critics by singing "The Ballad of Jim and Tammy Faye" to the tune of "Harper Valley PTA" on their show. Still, Tammy Faye could not defend the ministry against federal charges that the funding for Heritage USA had been acquired by defrauding their viewers and donors. Although the evidence was not particularly strong, Jim Bakker was convicted in 1989 and sentenced to 45 years in prison. The sentence was later reduced to eight years, and he was released in 1994. Tammy Faye divorced Jim while he was in prison; she died in 2007.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Amanda Knox's murder conviction is overturned - 2011



On October 3, 2011, an Italian appeals court overturns the murder conviction of Amanda Knox, an American exchange student who two years earlier was found guilty in the 2007 murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher. At the time of her 2009 conviction, Knox received a 26-year prison sentence, while her ex-boyfriend, Italian college student Raffaelle Sollecito, who also was convicted in the slaying, was sentenced to 25 years behind bars. The sensational, high-profile case raised questions in the United States about the Italian justice system and whether Knox, who always maintained her innocence, was unfairly convicted.
On November 2, 2007, the 21-year-old Kercher of Coulsdon, England, was found fatally stabbed in the bedroom of the home she shared with Knox and two other women in Perugia, the capital city of the Umbria region in central Italy. Investigators said the British exchange student had been slain the previous night. After questioning by police, Knox, a Seattle native and University of Washington student doing her junior year abroad in Italy, was arrested. She denied any wrongdoing, saying she was at another student’s house the night of the murder. Police claimed Knox later gave them conflicting statements about her whereabouts at the time of the crime. She said that police had coerced her into making incriminating statements.
During the nearly yearlong trial that followed, prosecutors charged that Knox, along with Sollecito and another man, Rudy Guede, had viciously attacked Kercher in a sex game gone wrong. (Guede was convicted for his role in Kercher’s death in a separate, fast-track trial in 2008. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, which was reduced to 16 years on appeal.) The prosecution’s main evidence against Knox included tiny traces of her DNA and that of Kercher’s on a knife discovered at Sollecito’s home. Traces of Knox’s DNA were also found on a bra clasp belonging to Kercher. Knox’s attorneys argued the bra clasp was found over a month after the murder at a contaminated crime scene, and that the knife blade couldn’t have made the wounds on the victim.

Knox and Sollecito appealed their convictions, and at their subsequent trial court-appointed experts testified the original DNA evidence was unreliable and did not definitively link the young American and her former boyfriend to the crime. On October 3, 2011, an appellate court jury of two judges and six civilians in Perugia acquitted the two defendants of murder. (The court upheld Knox’s conviction on a charge of defamation for accusing her former boss of murdering Kercher. Knox was given time served along with a fine.) The 24-year-old Knox, who had been jailed in Italy since her 2007, flew home to the United States the following day. In March 2013, in a new twist in the case, Italy's highest court overturned the acquittals of Knox and Sollecito and ordered that they be retried. The retrial is expected to take place sometime in 2014.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

West Nickels Mines Amish School shooting - 2006



On October 2, 2006, Charles Roberts fatally shoots five female students and wounds five more at the West Nickel Mines Amish School in Nickels Mines, Pennsylvania. Roberts, a 32-year-old milk truck driver from a nearby town, entered the one-room schoolhouse at around 10:30 a.m. armed with an arsenal of weapons. He forced all of the boys and several women with infants to leave and made the 11 remaining girl’s line up against the blackboard. When police arrived at the schoolhouse a short time later, Roberts had barricaded the school doors and tied up his hostages. Roberts spoke briefly with his wife by cell phone and said he was upset with God over the death of his baby daughter in 1997. He also told her he had molested two girls 20 years earlier and was having fantasies about molesting children again. At approximately 11 a.m., Roberts spoke with a 911 dispatcher and said if the police didn’t leave he’d start shooting. Seconds after, he shot five of the students. When authorities stormed the schoolhouse, Roberts shot himself in the head. Roberts had no prior criminal record or history of mental illness. Additionally, his family knew nothing about his claims that he had molested two young female relatives. The Amish community, known for their religious devotion, consoled Roberts’ widow in the wake of the tragedy; some members even attended his funeral. Ten days after the shootings, the community tore down the schoolhouse and built a new one nearby.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Former Nazi leaders are sentenced at Nuremberg - 1946



On October 1, 1946, twelve high-ranking Nazis are sentenced to death by the International War Crimes Tribunal in Nuremberg. Among those condemned to death by hanging were Joachim von Ribbentrop, Nazi minister of foreign affairs; Hermann Goering, founder of the Gestapo and chief of the German air force; and Wilhelm Frick, minister of the interior. Seven others, including Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s former deputy, were given prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life. Three others were acquitted. The trial, which had lasted nearly 10 months, was conducted by an international tribunal made up of representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and Great Britain. It was the first trial of its kind in history, and the defendants faced charges ranging from crimes against peace to crimes of war and crimes against humanity. On October 16th, 10 of the architects of Nazi policy were hanged one by one. Hermann Goering, committed suicide by poison on the eve of his scheduled execution. Nazi Party leader Martin Bormann was condemned to death in absentia; he is now known to have died in Berlin at the end of the war.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and author of Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Monday, September 30, 2013

Jack the Ripper murders Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes in same night - 1888



On the early morning hours of September 30, 1888, serial killer Jack the Ripper claimed two victims in one night, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes. Jack the Ripper is the name given to an unidentified serial killer who was active in the Whitechapel district of London in 1888.
The name originated in a letter, written by someone claiming to be the murderer that was disseminated in the media. The letter is widely believed to have been a hoax, and may have been written by a journalist in a deliberate attempt to heighten interest in the story. Attacks ascribed to the Ripper typically involved female prostitutes who lived and worked in the slums of London and whose throats were cut prior to abdominal mutilations. Extensive newspaper coverage bestowed widespread and enduring international notoriety on the Ripper.
Stride's body was discovered at about 1 a.m., in Dutfield's Yard, off Berner Street in Whitechapel. The cause of death was one clear-cut incision which severed the main artery on the left side of the neck. Witnesses who thought they saw Stride with a man earlier that night gave differing descriptions. Eddowes' body was found in Mitre Square, in the City of London, three-quarters of an hour after Stride's. The throat was severed, and the abdomen was ripped open by a long, deep, jagged wound. The left kidney and the major part of the uterus had been removed. These murders were later called the "double event.” Part of Eddowes' bloodied apron was found at the entrance to a tenement in Goulston Street, Whitechapel. Some writing on the wall above the apron piece, seemed to implicate a Jew or Jews, but it was unclear whether the graffiti was written by the murderer as he dropped the apron piece, or merely incidental. Police Commissioner Charles Warren feared the graffiti might spark anti-Semitic riots, and ordered it washed away before dawn.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Friday, September 27, 2013

Future gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok, then a sheriff shoots and kills man during brawl in 1869



On the early morning hours of September 27, 1869, then lawman Wild Bill Hickok (and future gunslinger) responded to a report of men brawling at a saloon in Hays, Kansas. A local ruffian named Samuel Strawhun and several friends were tearing up John Bitter's Beer Saloon when Hickok arrived and ordered the men to stop, Strawhun turned to attack him, and Hickok shot him killing him instantly.
Famous for his skill with a pistol and steely-calm under fire, James Butler Hickok initially seemed to be the ideal man for the sheriff of Ellis County, Kansas. The good citizens of Hays City, the county seat, were tired of the wild brawls and destructiveness of the hard-drinking buffalo hunters and soldiers who took over their town every night. They hoped the famous "Wild Bill" could restore peace and order, and in the late summer of 1869, elected him as interim county sheriff. Hickok had a reputation as a deadly shot and this keep many potential lawbreakers on the straight and narrow. But when Hickok applied more aggressive methods of enforcing the peace, some Hays City citizens began to wonder about their decision. Shortly after becoming sheriff, Hickok shot a belligerent soldier who resisted arrest, and the man died the next day. A few weeks later Hickok killed Strawhun. While his brutal ways were indisputably effective, many Hays City citizens were less than impressed that after only five weeks in office he had already found it necessary to kill two men in the name of preserving peace. During the regular November election later that year, the people expressed their displeasure by not reelecting Hickok. Though Wild Bill Hickok would later go on to hold other law enforcement positions in the West, his first attempt at being a sheriff had lasted only three months.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Phil Spector's first murder trial ends in mistrial - 2007



On September 26, 2007, Music producer Phil Spector's first trial for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson ends in a mistrial. On February 3, 2003, police responded to a 911 call and found the 40-year-old Clarkson dead of a gunshot wound in the foyer of Spector's mansion in Alahambra, California. Spector, who pioneered the "Wall of Sound" production technique in the 1960s and worked with numerous top musicians, including the Beatles and Ike and Tina Turner, met Clarkson earlier that night at The House of Blues in West Hollywood, where she was a hostess. Clarkson, who had appeared in various B movies, agreed to go back to his home that night for a drink. The legendary record producer had a reputation for carrying guns and being eccentric and domineering.
Spector was arrested for the murder and then freed on $1 million bail. Jury selection began in March 2007, with opening statements the following month. During the trial prosecutors argued that Spector shot Clarkson because she resisted his advances. The prosecution put a series of women on the stand who testified that Spector had threatened them with guns in the past. Spector's chauffeur, who had driven the pair back to the mansion that night, testified that Spector came outside with a gun in his hand and told him, "I think I just killed somebody."
The defense claimed Clarkson, depressed about her career and struggling with money problems, had shot herself, accidentally. There was no forensic evidence to prove Spector had held the gun, although there was a spray of blood on his clothing. The defense argued the blood pattern showed Spector was too far away to have shot Clarkson. On September 18, 2007, after deliberating for a week, the jury came back deadlocked, 7-5. However, Judge Larry Paul Fidler refused to grant an immediate mistrial and instead gave the jurors new instructions and ordered them to resume deliberations. The jury returned on September 26 to report they were still deadlocked, 10-2, with the majority voting to convict Spector. Shortly after Judge Fidler declared a mistrial, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced plans to seek a retrial. Spector was convicted of murder in 2009 and sentenced to 19 years to life in prison.
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: