This week (December 1-7) in crime history – Russian revolutionary Sergey Kirov was murdered (December 1, 1934); Defense presents case in the Hamptons Murder trial (December 1, 2004); Rape trial of William Kennedy Smith began (December 2, 1991); John Brown was hanged for treason (December 2, 1859); Five-year-old Melissa Brannen disappeared from Christmas party (December 3, 1989); Amanda Knox was found guilty of murder (December 4, 2009); Black Panther members Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were killed in a shootout with police (December 4, 1969); Boston Belfry Murderer claimed first victim (December 5, 1873); Colin Ferguson kills six on Long Island Commuter train (December 7, 1993).
Highlighted Story of the Week -
On December 5, 1873, Bridget Landregan was found beaten and strangled to death in the Boston suburb of Dorchester. According to witnesses, a man 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 die, and he was hanged on May 26, 1876.
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 include the award winning Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: