Monday, November 24, 2014

DB Cooper Hijacked Plane then Disappeared

This week (November 24-30) in crime history – Jack Ruby kills Lee Harvey Oswald (November 24, 1963); FBI crime lab opened (November 24, 1932); DB Cooper hijacked plane then disappeared (November 24, 1971); Vigilantes in San Jose, California lynch two suspected murders (November 26, 1933); Great Diamond Hoax was exposed (November 26, 1872); Harvey Milk and George Moscone were assassinated (November 27, 1978); Alger Hiss was released from prison (November 27, 1954); Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was murdered in prison (November 28, 1994); Dr. Conrad Murray was sentenced for death of Michael Jackson (November 29, 2011); Serial Killer Aileen Wuornos claimed first victim (November 30, 1989); Harvey “Kid Curry” Logan, member of the Wild Bunch was sentenced to prison (November 30, 1902). 

Highlighted crime story of the week -  

On November 24, 1971, a hijacker calling himself D.B. Cooper parachuted from Northwest Orient Airlines flight 727 into a raging thunderstorm over Washington State. He had $200,000 in ransom money in his possession. Cooper commandeered the aircraft shortly after takeoff, showing a flight attendant something that looked like a bomb and informing the crew that he wanted $200,000, four parachutes, and "no funny stuff." The plane landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where authorities met Cooper's demands and evacuated most of the passengers. Cooper then demanded that the plane fly toward Mexico at a low altitude and ordered the remaining crew into the cockpit. 

At 8:13 p.m., as the plane flew over the Lewis River in southwest Washington, the plane's pressure gauge recorded Cooper's jump from the aircraft. Wearing only wraparound sunglasses, a thin suit, and a raincoat, Cooper parachuted into a thunderstorm with winds in excess of 100 mph and temperatures well below zero at the 10,000-foot altitude where he began his fall. The storm prevented an immediate capture, and most authorities assumed he was killed during his apparently suicidal jump. No trace of Cooper was found during a massive search. In 1980, an eight-year-old boy uncovered a stack of nearly $5,880 of the ransom money in the sands along the north bank of the Columbia River, five miles from Vancouver, Washington. Today, the fate and whereabouts of Cooper remain a mystery. 

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


Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that include the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nuremberg War Crimes Trials Began - November 20, 1945

This week (November 17-23) in crime history – Wealthy socialite Barbara Baekland was stabbed to death in London (November 17, 1972); D.C. Sniper John Muhammad was convicted (November 17, 2003); Mass suicide at Jonestown (November 18, 1978); Arrest warrant issued for Michael Jackson (November 18, 2003); Patty Hearst was released on bail (November 18, 1976); Nuremberg War Crimes trials began (November 20, 1945); Phil Spector was inducted for murder (November 20, 2003); Jonathan Pollard was arrested for spying (November 21, 1985); President John F. Kennedy was assassinated (November 22, 1963); Billy the Kid was born (November 23, 1859); Thomas McMahon was sentenced for his role in the assassination of Lord Mountbatten (November 23, 1979) 

Highlighted crime of the week – 

On November 20, 1945, the International Military Tribunal for the Prosecution of Major War Criminals of the European Axis began at Nuremberg, Germany. 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, Russia, and France. 

In his thoughtful opening remarks, Robert Jackson eloquently 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 the many languages spoken by the defendants and prosecutors, the trial was beset with logistical problems. During the proceedings, Rudolf Hess feigned amnesia to escape responsibility. Though many expected the most excitement to arise from the cross-examination of Hermann Goering, his testimony was a letdown: he was even attacked by his fellow defendants for refusing to take responsibility for anything. Nineteen defendants were convicted: 12 were sentenced to hang, and the rest were sent to prison. One man escaped the hanging by remaining at large while Goering escaped by committing suicide. On October 16, 1946, 10 Nazi officials were hanged. 

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

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of the award winning Murder and Mayhem: 52 Crimes that shocked Early California, 1849-1949. For more information visit Michael’s website His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link.

Amazon -

Monday, November 10, 2014

Serial Killer Ed Gein Claimed Final Victim - November 16, 1957

This week (November 10 – 16) in crime history – British au pair Louise Woodward’s murder sentence was reduced to involuntary manslaughter in death of Mathew Eappen (November 10, 1997); Police find first of six bodies buried in the yard of elder care home owner Dorthea Puente in Sacramento, California (November 11, 1988); Scott Peterson was convicted of murdering his wife and unborn child (November 12, 2004); Police search home of airline bombing suspect John Graham (November 13, 1955); Ivan Boesky pleaded guilty to insider trading (November 14, 1986); Serial killer Ed Gein claimed final victim (November 16, 1957).

Highlighted Crime of the Week -

On November 16, 1957, infamous serial killer Edward Gein claimed his final victim, Bernice Worden of Plainfield, Wisconsin. His grave robbing, necrophilia, and cannibalism gained national attention, and may have provided inspiration for the characters of Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and serial killer Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. Gein was a quiet farmer who lived in rural Wisconsin with an extremely domineering mother. After she died in 1945, he began studying anatomy, and started stealing women's corpses from local cemeteries. In 1954, Gein shot and killed tavern owner Mary Hogan, piled the body onto a sled, and dragged it home.

On November 16, Gein robbed Bernice Worden at the local hardware store she owned and killed her. Her son, a deputy sheriff, discovered his mother's body and became suspicious of Gein, who was believed to be somewhat odd. When authorities searched Gein's farmhouse, they found a horrifying scene: organs were in the refrigerator, a heart sat on the stove, and heads had been made into soup bowls. Apparently, Gein had kept various organs from his grave digging and murders as keepsakes and for decoration. He had also used human skin to upholster chairs. Though it is believed that he killed others during this time, Gein only admitted to the murders of Worden and Hogan. In 1958, Gein was declared insane and sent to the Wisconsin State Hospital in Mendota, where he remained until his death in 1984.

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

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California (2012). Visit Michael’s website for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Monday, November 3, 2014

John List Murdered his Family then Disappeared for 18 Years - November 9, 1971

This week (November 3 - November 9) in crime history – Serial killer Bobby Joe Long abducts victim who will lead to his arrest (November 3, 1984); Famed gambler Arnold Rothstein was shot & killed in New York (November 4, 1928); Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated (November 4, 1995); U.S. Army Major Nidal Hassan kills 13 and wounds 30 at Foot Hood (November 5, 2009); Jewish extremist Meir Kahane was shot & killed in New York (November 5, 1990); The Gunpowder Plot to blow-up the English Parliament was foiled (November 5, 1605); David Hendricks murders his family in Bloomington, Illinois (November 7, 1983); Western gunslinger Doc Holliday died (November 8, 1887); John List murdered his family then disappeared for 18 years (November 9, 1971).

Highlighted Crime of the Week -

On November 9, 1971, John List slaughters his entire family in their Westfield, New Jersey, home and then disappears. Though police quickly identified him as the most likely suspect in the murders, it took 18 years for them to locate him and close the case. John List was an outwardly normal and successful father. A Sunday school teacher and Boy Scout troop leader, List was a strict disciplinarian who insisted his children follow extremely rigid rules.

On November 9, seemingly out of the blue, List shot his mother Alma, his wife Helen, and three children. He then left the murder weapon alongside their carefully laid-out corpses. List had methodically devised a plan so that the bodies would not be discovered for quite a while, cancelling newspaper, milk, and mail delivery to his home in the days leading up to the murder. He then called the children's schools to say that the family was going to visit a sick relative out of town. By the time authorities discovered the bodies, List had vanished without a trace.

Local law enforcement officials had essentially given up looking for List when the television show America's Most Wanted began airing in the late 1980s. After a segment about the List murders aired on May 21, 1989, calls began flooding in. Although most of them proved to be unhelpful, one viewer claimed that John List was living in Virginia under the alias Robert Clark. Indeed, List had assumed a false identity, relocated to the South, and remarried. In 1989, he was returned to New Jersey to face charges for the death of his family. The following year, he was convicted of five counts of murder and received five consecutive life sentences.

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of numerous books that include the award winning, Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949 (2012, Schiffer Publishing). The book was the WINNER of the 2012 International Book Awards and a FINALIST in the 2012 Indie Excellence Book Awards for True Crime.  Visit Michael’s website for more information. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: