Monday, May 18, 2015

Bonnie and Clyde were Killed in Police Shootout (May 23, 1934)

This week (May 18-24) in crime history – Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson vanished (May 18, 1926); Irish playwright Oscar Wilde was released from prison (May 19, 1897); Mary Kay Letourneau married her victim (May 20, 2005); Bobbie Franks was abducted by Leopold and Loeb (May 21, 1924); Amy Fisher was arrested for shooting her lover’s wife (May 21, 1992); Serial killer Wayne Williams was questioned by police in regards to a rash of child killings in Atlanta (May 22, 1981); Chandra Levey’s remains were found (May 22, 2002); Bonnie and Clyde were killed in police shootout (May 23, 1934); Captain Kidd was executed (May 23, 1701); Former Nazi Adolf Eichmann was captured in Argentina (May 23, 1960)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -
On May 23, 1934, infamous outlaw fugitives Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were killed in a police ambush near Sailes, Louisiana. A contingent of officers from Texas and Louisiana set up along the highway, waiting for the duo to appear, and then unloaded a two-minute fusillade of 167 bullets at their car, killing the criminal couple. Bonnie Parker was 19 years old when she met Clyde Barrow while visiting her husband in a Texas jail. Barrow, serving time for burglary, obviously made quite an impression on Parker, because she smuggled a gun, taped to her thigh, into prison to help him escape. He was eventually caught in Ohio and brought back to prison. When a personal appeal from his mother to the Texas governor earned his release in 1932, he vowed never to return.

Bonnie and Clyde teamed up shortly thereafter. After Bonnie was caught stealing a car, she had to spend three months in prison, while Clyde went on a robbery spree. He then killed a sheriff and deputy at a barn dance in Oklahoma. In the fall of 1932, the pair spent their time carrying out small-time robberies throughout Texas and Oklahoma. At one such robbery, they picked up W. D. Jones, a gas station attendant, who joined their team for the next 18 months. Buck Barrow, Clyde’s brother who was recently pardoned by the new Texas governor, Ma Ferguson, also joined the gang.

For some reason, the media latched onto Bonnie and Clyde. The pair loved the attention, posing for snapshots with their arsenal of weapons. In early 1934, they barely escaped a trap in Missouri, killing two lawmen in the ensuing shootout. Buck and his wife, Blanche, were shot and captured, but Buck died from his wounds. Texas Ranger Frank Hamer finally caught up with Bonnie and Clyde in May, after tracking them for more than three months. Today, Bonnie and Clyde are remembered as charming Robin Hood type characters which are far from the truth, mostly due to the sympathetic personalities portrayed in the 1967 classic movie Bonnie and Clyde, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, as well as other farfetched portrayals.

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 six nonfiction books that includes 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:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

LAPD Raided the Hideout of the Symbionese Liberation Army - May 17, 1974

This week (May 11-17) in crime history – Marie Besnards’ husbands body was exhumed in connection to her serial poisoning case (May 11, 1949); Trial of former Nazi Klaus Barbie began (May 11, 1987); Body of the Lindbergh baby was found (May 12, 1932); Pope John Paul II was shot (May 13, 1981); Three-year-old June Devaney was kidnapped from a Blackburn, England hospital (May 14, 1948); Patricia Columbo and Frank Deluca were arrested for the brutal killing of her family in Elk Grove, Illinois (May 15, 1976: Celebrity private detective Anthony Pellicano was found guilty of various crimes (May 15, 2008); Norma Jean Armistead kidnapped another baby (May 16, 1975); LAPD raids hideout of the Symbionese Liberation Army (May 17, 1974)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -

On May 17, 1974, Los Angeles police surround a home in Compton, California, where the leaders of the terrorist group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army were hiding out. The SLA had kidnapped Patricia Hearst, the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, months earlier, earning headlines across the country. Police found the house in Compton when a local mother reported that her kids had seen a bunch of people playing with an arsenal of automatic weapons in the living room of the home.

The LAPD’s 500-man siege on the Compton home was only the latest event in a short, but exceedingly bizarre, episode. The SLA was a small group of violent radicals who quickly made their way to national prominence, far out of proportion to their actual influence. They began by killing Oakland’s superintendent of schools in late 1973 but really burst into society’s consciousness when they kidnapped Hearst the following February.

Months later, the SLA released a tape on which Hearst said that she was changing her name to Tania and joining the SLA. Shortly thereafter, a surveillance camera in a bank caught Hearst carrying a machine gun during an SLA robbery. In another incident, SLA member General Teko was caught trying to shoplift from a sporting goods store, but escaped when Hearst sprayed the front of the building with machine gun fire. Although law enforcement officials began talking about the SLA as if they were a well-established paramilitary terrorist organization, the SLA had only a handful of members, most of who were disaffected middle class youths.

On May 17, Los Angeles police shot an estimated 1,200 rounds of ammunition into the tiny Compton home as six SLA members shot back. Teargas containers thrown into the hideout started a fire, but the SLA refused to surrender. Autopsy results showed that they continued to fire back even as smoke and flames were searing their lungs; they clearly chose suicide and martyrdom over jail. The raid left six SLA members dead, including leader Donald DeFreeze, also known as Cinque. Patty Hearst was not inside the home at the time. She was not found until September 1975.

Patty Hearst was put on trial for armed robbery and convicted, despite her claim that she had been coerced, through repeated rape, isolation, and brainwashing, into joining the SLA. Prosecutors believed that she actually orchestrated her own kidnapping because of her prior involvement with one of the SLA members. Despite any real proof of this theory, she was convicted and sent to prison. President Carter commuted Hearst’s sentence after she had served almost two years and she was pardoned by President Clinton in January 2001.

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 six nonfiction 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, May 4, 2015

Former Italian Prime Minster Aldo Moro was Assassinated - May 9, 1978

This week (May 4-10) in crime history – The Haymarket Riot (May 4, 1886); The remains of navy veteran William McGuire were found in a suit case near Virginia Beach (May 5, 2004); Ohio kidnap victims were rescued from the home of Ariel Castro (May 6, 2013); Old West hangman George Maledon died (May 6, 1911); Serial killer H.H. Holmes was executed (May 7, 1896); Edward Munch’s “The Scream” was recovered after it was stolen in Oslo (May 7, 1994): Stella Nickell was convicted of murdering her husband by tampering with capsules of Excedrin (May 8, 1988); Andrew Cunanan continued his cross country killing spree (May 9, 1997); Former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro was assassinated (May 9, 1978); Captain Blood stole the crown jewels (May 9, 1671); J. Edgar Hoover was named acting director of the Bureau of Investigation (May 10, 1924)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -

On May 9, 1978, the body of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro was found, riddled by bullets, in the back of a car in the center of historic Rome. He was kidnapped by Red Brigade terrorists on March 16 after a bloody shoot-out near his suburban home. The Italian government refused to negotiate with the extreme left-wing group. Moro was a five-time prime minister of Italy and considered a front-runner for the presidency of Italy in elections due in December.

Aldo Moro was regarded by many as Italy’s most capable post-World War II politician. A centrist leader of the Christian Democratic Party and promoted cooperation between Italy’s disparate political parties. When he formed his first cabinet in 1963, he included some Socialists, who were thus participating in the Italian government for the first time in 16 years. Moro last served as prime minister in 1976, and in October 1976 became president of the Christian Democrats.

On March 11, 1978, he helped end a government crisis when he worked out a parliamentary coalition between the Communist Party and the dominant Christian Democrats. Just five days later, Mr. Moro’s car was attacked by a dozen armed Red Brigade terrorists. His five guards were killed, and Moro was abducted and taken to a secret location. On March 18, the Red Brigade issued a communique claiming responsibility for the kidnapping.

The Red Brigade, established in 1970 by Renato Curcio, employed bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, and bank robberies as a means of promoting communist revolution in Italy. The Italian Communist Party, which supported democracy and participated in Parliament, condemned the terrorist organization. Curcio and 12 other Red Brigade members were on trial in Turin when Moro was kidnapped, and legal proceedings were only briefly halted after his abduction.

The Italian government declined to negotiate with the kidnappers, claiming that such an action would undermine the state and throw Italy into chaos. Some critics accused the Christian Democrats of yielding to pressure from the Communist Party, whose leaders were even more strongly opposed to a dialogue with the Red Brigade. Police and the army arrested hundreds of suspected terrorists.

On March 19 and April 4, letters apparently written by Moro were delivered pleading with the government to negotiate. The government attempted secret talks, but on April 15 the Red Brigade rejected these negotiations and announced that Moro had been found guilty in the people’s trial and sentenced to death. Threats to execute him led nowhere, and on April 24 the terrorists demanded the release of 13 Red Brigade members held in Turin in exchange for Moro’s life. On May 9, his body was found on Via Caetani, near the headquarters of the Christian Democrats and Communist Party. According to a wish expressed by Moro during his abduction, no Italian politicians were invited to his funeral. During the next decade, many Red Brigade leaders and members were arrested, and the organization was greatly weakened.

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 six nonfiction books that includes 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: