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 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 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 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, September 25, 2013

Mobster Anthony Carfano and former beauty queen are murdered - 1959

On September 25, 1959, mobster Anthony Carfano, known as Little Augie Pisano is shot to death in Queens, New York City on the orders of Meyer Lansky. Carfano was a Captain the Luciano Organized Crime Family. His was murdered because he refused to meet with Vito Genovese after Genovese took control of the Family in 1957. He was shot to death in his car on a street in Queens, New York, along with Janice Drake, a former Miss New Jersey and wife of comedian Alan Drake. During dinner at Marino’s restaurant in New York City, Carfano allegedly received a phone call. After hanging up, he told his group that he and Drake had to leave; he had been called away "on urgent business". Carfano and Drake left and drove away in his Cadillac. Police later theorized that this phone call was from Frank Costello warning Carfano about a possible hit. When Carfano and Drake left the restaurant, they were allegedly heading to La Guardia Airport to board a flight to Miami. However, according to this theory, assassins had anticipated such a move and had hidden in the back seat of Cafano’s Cadillac. Once on the road, the gunmen forced Carfano to drive to a quiet location near the airport. At 10:30 that evening, 45 minutes after Carfano and Drake left Marino's, their bodies were found in Carfano's car near the airport. Both had been shot in the head.
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for 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, September 24, 2013

Warren Commission Report on the assassination of JFK is released - 1964

On September 24, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson receives the Warren Commission’s report on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Since the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald’s motive for assassinating the president remained unknown. Seven days after the assassination, Johnson appointed the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy to investigate the event. The commission was led by Chief Justice Earl Warren and became known as the Warren Commission. It concluded that Oswald had acted alone and that the Secret Service had made poor preparations for JFK's visit to Dallas and had failed to sufficiently protect him.
The circumstances surrounding Kennedy's death, however, have since given rise to numerous conspiracy theories. The commission's conclusion that Oswald was a "lone gunman" failed to satisfy some who witnessed the attack and others whose research found conflicting details in the report. Critics of the Warren Commission's report believed that additional ballistics experts' conclusions and a home movie shot at the scene disputed the theory that three bullets fired from Oswald's gun could have caused Kennedy's fatal wounds as well as the injuries to Texas Governor John Connally, who was riding with the president. Because of these controversies another congressional investigation was conducted in 1979; that committee reached the same conclusion as the Warren Commission. During its almost year-long investigation, the Warren Commission reviewed reports by the FBI, Secret Service, Department of State and the attorney general of Texas. It also poured over Oswald's personal history, political affiliations and military record. Overall, the Warren Commission listened to the testimony of over 500 witnesses and even traveled to Dallas several times to visit the site where Kennedy was shot. The enormous volume of documentation from the investigation was placed in the National Archives and much of it is now available to the public.
Michael Thomas Barry 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:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Chicago Eight trial began - 1969

On September 23, 1969, the Chicago Eight trial begins. Eight antiwar activists had been arrested and charged with instigating the violent demonstrations at the August 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The defendants included David Dellinger of the National Mobilization Committee (NMC); Rennie Davis and Thomas Hayden of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, founders of the Youth International Party ("Yippies"); Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers; and two lesser known activists, Lee Weiner and John Froines. The group was charged with conspiracy to cross state lines with intent to incite a riot. All but Seale were represented by attorneys William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass. The trial, presided over by Judge Julius Hoffman, turned into a circus as the defendants and their attorneys used the court as a platform to attack Nixon, the war, racism, and oppression. Their tactics were so disruptive that at one point, Judge Hoffman ordered Seale gagged and strapped to his chair. When the trial ended in February 1970, Hoffman found the defendants and their attorneys guilty of 175 counts of contempt of court and sentenced them to terms between two to four years. Although declaring the defendants not guilty of conspiracy, the jury found all but Froines and Weiner guilty of intent to riot. The others were each sentenced to five years and fined $5,000. None of the defendants served time because in 1972, a Court of Appeal overturned the criminal convictions and eventually most of the contempt charges were dropped as well.
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for 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:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Benedict Arnold Commits Treason - 1780

On September 21, 1780, American General Benedict Arnold meets with British Major John Andre to discuss handing over West Point to the British, in return for the promise of a large sum of money and a high position in the British army. The plot was foiled and Arnold became synonymous with the word "traitor."
Arnold was born on January 14, 1741 into a well-respected family in Norwich, Connecticut. He apprenticed with an apothecary and was a member of the militia during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). He later became a successful trader and joined the Continental Army at the onset of the Revolutionary War in 1775. During the war, Arnold proved himself a brave and skillful leader, helping Ethan Allen's troops capture Fort Ticonderoga in 1775 and then participating in the unsuccessful attack on British Quebec later that year, which earned him a promotion to brigadier general. Arnold distinguished himself in campaigns at Lake Champlain, Ridgefield and Saratoga, and gained the support of George Washington. However, Arnold had enemies within the military and in 1777 five men of lesser rank were promoted ahead of him. Over the course of the next few years, Arnold married for a second time and he and his new wife lived a lavish lifestyle in Philadelphia, accumulating substantial debt. The debt and the resentment Arnold felt over not being promoted faster were motivating factors in his choice to become a traitor. In 1780, Arnold was given command of West Point, an American fort on the Hudson River in New York. Arnold contacted Sir Henry Clinton, head of the British forces, and proposed handing over West Point and his men. On September 21st of that year, Arnold met with Major John Andre and made his traitorous pact. However, the conspiracy was uncovered and Andre was captured and executed. Arnold, the former American patriot, fled to the enemy side and went on to lead British troops in Virginia and Connecticut. He later moved to England, though he never received all of what he'd been promised by the British. He died in London on June 14, 1801.
Michael Thomas Barry 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:

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

President James A. Garfield died - 1881

On September 19, 1881, President James A. Garfield succumbs to wounds inflicted by an assassin 80 days earlier. Garfield's assassin was an attorney and political office-seeker named Charles Guiteau. Guiteau was a relative stranger to the president and his administration in an era when federal positions were doled out on a "who you know" basis. When his requests for an appointment were ignored, a furious Guiteau stalked the president, vowing revenge.
On the morning of July 2, 1881, Garfield headed for the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station on his way to a short vacation. As he walked through the station toward the waiting train, Guiteau stepped behind the president and fired two shots. The first bullet grazed Garfield's arm; the second lodged below his pancreas. Doctors made several unsuccessful attempts to remove the bullet while Garfield lay in his White House bedroom, awake and in pain. Alexander Graham Bell, who was one of Garfield's physicians, tried to use an early version of a metal detector to find the second bullet, but failed. Historical accounts vary as to the exact cause of Garfield's death. Some believe that experimental medical treatments may have hastened his demise. Others insist Garfield died from an already advanced case of heart disease. By early September, Garfield, who was recuperating at a seaside retreat in New Jersey, appeared to be recovering. He died on September 19th. Autopsy reports at the time said that pressure from his internal wound had created an aneurism, which was the likely cause of death. Guiteau was deemed sane by a jury, convicted of murder and hanged on June 30, 1882.
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for 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:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Patty Hearst was captured - 1975

On September 18, 1975, newspaper heiress and wanted fugitive Patty Hearst is captured in a San Francisco apartment and arrested for armed robbery. On February 4, 1974, Patricia Hearst, the 19-year-old daughter of newspaper publisher Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped from her apartment in Berkeley, California. Her fiancé, Stephen Weed, was beaten and tied up along with a neighbor who tried to help. Witnesses reported seeing a struggling Hearst being carried away blindfolded, and she was put in the trunk of a car. Neighbors who came out into the street were forced to take cover after the kidnappers fired their guns to cover their escape.
Three days later, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a small U.S. leftist group, announced in a letter to a Berkeley radio station that it was holding Hearst as a "prisoner of war." Four days later, the SLA demanded that the Hearst family give $70 in foodstuffs to every needy person from Santa Rosa to Los Angeles. This done, said the SLA, negotiations would begin for the return of Patricia Hearst. Randolph Hearst hesitantly gave away some $2 million worth of food. The SLA then called this inadequate and asked for $4 million more. The Hearst Corporation said it would donate the additional sum if the girl was released unharmed. In April, however, the situation changed dramatically when Patty Hearst declared, in a tape sent to the authorities, that she was joining the SLA of her own free will. Later that month, a surveillance camera took a photo of her participating in an armed robbery of a San Francisco bank, and she was also spotted during the robbery of a Los Angeles store. On May 17th, police raided the SLA's secret headquarters in Los Angeles, killing six of the group's nine known members. Among the dead was the SLA's leader, Donald DeFreeze, an African American ex-convict who called himself General Field Marshal Cinque. Patty Hearst and two other SLA members wanted for the April bank robbery were not on the premises. Finally, on September 18, 1975, after crisscrossing the country for more than a year, Hearst, or "Tania," as she called herself, was captured in a San Francisco apartment and arrested for armed robbery. Despite her later claim that she had been brainwashed by the SLA, she was convicted on March 20, 1976, and sentenced to seven years in prison. Her prison sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter and she was released in February 1979. She later married her bodyguard. In 2001, she received a full pardon from President Bill Clinton.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

California Judge sets speed record for hearing cases - 1884

On September 17, 1884, Judge Allen disposes of the 13 criminal cases on his Oakland, California, docket in only six minutes. Although he set a new record for speed, defendants in Oakland's criminal court did not stand much of a chance of gaining an acquittal. In a 40-year period at the turn of the century, only 1 defendant in 100 was acquitted. Although Judge Allen was notoriously speedy, the quick disposition of criminal cases was not necessarily commonplace in early American courts. In the early 1800s, criminal courts were often held up by those who used them to settle personal problems. For instance, in Philadelphia, a man named Henry Blake was prosecuted by his wife in criminal court "for refusing to come to bed and making too much noise, preventing her from sleeping." Today, the courts would immediately dismiss such a domestic squabble.