Monday, December 5, 2016

The Boston Belfry Murderer Claimed his First Victim - December 5, 1883

This week (December 5 – 11) in crime history – Boston belfry murderer claimed first victim (December 5, 1873); The bank robbing Reno brothers were hanged (December 6, 1868); Colin Ferguson shot and killed six and wounded 19 on Long Island commuter train (December 7, 1993); John Lennon was murdered (December 8, 1980); Frank Sinatra Jr., was kidnapped (December 8, 1963); Civil rights activist Mumia Abu-Jamal murdered a Philadelphia police officer (December 9, 1981); Bernie Madoff was arrested and charged with masterminding Ponzi scheme (December 11, 2008)

Highlighted crime 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 dressed in black with a flowing cape was seen running away from the scene. In 1874, a man fitting the same description attacked and clubbed to death another young girl, Mary Sullivan. The killer’s third victim, Mary Tynan, was bludgeoned in her own bed in 1875. Although she survived the attack for nearly a year, she was never able to identify her attacker.

Residents of Boston were stunned to learn that the serial murderer had been among them all along. Thomas Piper, the sexton at the Warren Avenue Baptist Church, was friendly with parishioners and 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 in 1876.

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



Michael Thomas Barry is the award winning author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime, 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: https://www.amazon.com/Company-Thirty-Years-California-1950-1980/dp/076435003X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1480956232&sr=8-2&keywords=michael+thomas+barry

Monday, November 7, 2016

Bodies were Unearthed at Sacramento Board and Care Home (November 11, 1988)

This week (November 7-13) in crime history – David Hendricks murdered his family in Bloomington, Illinois (November 7, 1983); Carol DaRonch escaped abduction by Ted Bundy (November 8, 1974); John List murdered his family then disappeared for 18 years (November 9, 1971); Louise Woodward’s murder conviction was reduced to second degree (November 10, 1997); Bodies are unearthed at Sacramento board and care home (November 11, 1988); Scott Peterson was convicted of murdering his wife and unborn son (November 12, 2004); FBI agents find bomb making equipment at the home of John Graham (November 13, 1955)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -


On November 11, 1988, authorities unearth a corpse buried in the yard of 59-year-old Dorothea Puente’s home in Sacramento, California. Puente operated a residential board and care home for elderly people, and an investigation led to the discovery of six more bodies buried on her property.

Puente was a diagnosed schizophrenic who had already been in trouble with the law. She had previously served prison time for check forgery, as well as drugging and robbing people she met in bars. After her release, she opened a boarding house for elderly people. Beginning in 1986, social worker Peggy Nickerson sent nineteen clients to Puente’s home. When some of the residents mysteriously disappeared, Nickerson grew suspicious. Puente’s neighbors, who reported the smell of rotting flesh emanating from her vicinity, validated Nickerson’s concern.

Although all the buried bodies were found to contain traces of the sedative Dalmane, the coroner was never able to identify an exact cause of death. Still, during a trial that lasted five months and included thousands of exhibits, prosecutors were able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Puente had murdered her boarders, most likely to collect their Social Security checks. Though she was formally charged with nine counts of murder and convicted on three, authorities suspected that Puente might have been responsible for as many as two dozen deaths. She received a life sentence without the possibility of parole and died in 2011 of natural causes at the Chowchilla Central Women’s Prison facility.

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 award winning author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime, 1950-1980. Visit his website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:


Monday, September 19, 2016

Mob Boss Anthony Carfano was Murdered (September 25, 1959)

This week (September 19-25) in crime history – The Washington Post published the Unabomber’s manifesto (September 19, 1995); President James Garfield died from gunshot wound (September 19, 1881); Benedict Arnold committed treason (September 21, 1780); The Midtown slasher claimed his first victim (September 22, 1980); Billy the Kid was arrested for the first time (September 24, 1875); The Chicago Seven went on trial (September 24, 1969); Mob boss Anthony Carfano was murdered (September 25, 1959)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -



On September 25, 1959, mob boss Anthony Carfano, known as Little Augie Pisano was shot to death in New York City on Meyer Lansky’s orders. Lansky, one of the few organized crime figures who managed to survive at the top for several decades. The son of Russian immigrants, Lansky had an eighth-grade education, which put him far ahead of many other criminals. According to legend, Lansky was a straight arrow until one day in October 1918, when he joined a fight between teenagers Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano over a prostitute. After the three were charged with disorderly conduct, Lansky and Siegel became friends and began running a high-stakes craps game.

The two later expanded into bootlegging, car theft, and extortion, and helped form the New York “syndicate.” Lansky, a ruthless leader who would not tolerate disloyalty, ordered the murder of a thief who failed to provide an adequate kickback. Although he was shot several times, the thief survived to name Lansky as one of the assailants. Lansky then poisoned his hospital food, and though he survived a second time, the threat was enough to change his attitude toward testifying. Later, he even rejoined Lansky’s gang.

In June 1947, Lansky ordered the death of his old friend Bugsy Siegel in Beverly Hills, California. Siegel, who had been sent to the West Coast in order to establish a new mob presence, came up with the idea of building The Flamingo, Las Vegas’ first major casino. The casino had been built with mob money, and Lansky was angry over the pace of Siegel’s loan payments.

When Lansky ordered the murder of Anthony Carfano twelve years later, Carfano had been intruding on Lansky’s gambling interests in Florida and Cuba. His death eliminated all competition and opened up emerging markets for Lansky in South America. During the 1960s and 1970s, Lansky made a special effort to stay out of the public eye and was fairly successful. He died of lung cancer in 1983.

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

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:


Monday, August 22, 2016

Sacco & Vanzetti were Executed (August 23, 1927)

This week (August 22-28) in crime history – Irish revolutionary Michael Collins was assassinated (August 22, 1922); The Barker gang killed a Federal Reserve officer in Chicago (August 22, 1933); Sacco and Vanzetti were executed (August 23, 1927); Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik was sentenced (August 24, 2012); Old west outlaw Bill Doolin was killed (August 25, 1896); Preppy murderer Robert Chambers killed Jennifer Levin in Central Park (August 26, 1986); NFL star Michael Vick pleaded guilty to dog fighting (August 27, 2007); Lord Mountbatten was assassinated (August 27, 1979); Danny Rolling murdered two coeds at the University of Florida (August 28, 1990)

Highlighted crime story of the week -


On August 23, 1927, despite worldwide demonstrations in support of their innocence, Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed for murder. On April 15, 1920, a paymaster for a shoe company in South Braintree, Massachusetts, was shot and killed along with his guard. The murderers, who were described as two Italian men, escaped with more than $15,000. After going to a garage to claim a car that police said was connected with the crime, Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested and charged with the crime. Although both men carried guns and made false statements upon their arrest, neither had a previous criminal record. On July 14, 1921, they were convicted and sentenced to die.

Anti-radical sentiment was running high in America at the time, and the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti was regarded by many as unlawfully sensational. Authorities had failed to come up with any evidence of the stolen money, and much of the other evidence against them was later discredited. During the next few years, sporadic protests were held in Massachusetts and around the world calling for their release, especially after Celestino Madeiros, then under a sentence for murder, confessed in 1925 that he had participated in the crime with the Joe Morelli gang. The state Supreme Court refused to overturn the verdict, and Massachusetts Governor Alvan T. Fuller denied the men clemency. In the days leading up to the execution, protests were held in cities around the world, and bombs were set off in New York City and Philadelphia.

In 1961, a test of Sacco’s gun using modern forensic techniques apparently proved it was his gun that killed the guard, though little evidence has been found to substantiate Vanzetti’s guilt. In 1977, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation vindicating Sacco and Vanzetti, stating that they had been treated unjustly and that no stigma should be associated with their names.

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 seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:


Monday, August 8, 2016

Carol Bundy Confessed Role in the Sunset Slayer Murders (August 11, 1980)

This week (August 8-14) in crime history – Six German saboteurs were executed in Washington (August 8, 1942); Sharon Tate and four others were murdered by Charles Manson’s followers (August 9, 1969); The severed head of Adam Walsh was found in Florida (August 10, 1981); Son of Sam was arrested (August 10, 1977); Carol Bundy confessed role in Sunset Slayer murders (August 11, 1980); Jonesboro school shooters pleaded guilty (August 11, 1998); Yosemite Slayer, Cary Stayner was born (August 13, 1961); Terrorist, Carlos the Jackal was captured (August 14, 1994)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -


On August 11, 1980, Carol Bundy, a nurse, confessed to co-workers her connection to the “Sunset Slayer,” the killer who had been murdering and mutilating young women in Hollywood, California, all summer. “I can’t take it anymore. I’m supposed to save lives, not take them,” she reportedly said. Her confession was relayed to police, who immediately arrested Douglas Clark, Bundy’s accomplice and boyfriend.

Bundy and Clark met in a North Hollywood bar in January. Clark was a self-described “king of the one-night stands.” But when he met Bundy, he soon discovered that she was willing to assist and indulge in his sick fantasies.

In June, Clark abducted two teenagers, sexually assaulted them, and then shot them in the head. He dumped their bodies off the freeway and then went home to brag about it to Bundy. Two weeks later, Clark struck again, killing two young women in separate incidents. In the second attack, Clark cut the head off the woman and took it home, insisting that Bundy apply cosmetics to it. Because most of his victims had been abducted from the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, the press had taken to calling the serial killer the “Sunset Slayer.”

Clark proved to be more of an influence than Bundy expected. When she blabbed about Clark’s activities to a former boyfriend, she felt compelled to kill the man to make sure that she wasn’t implicated. On August 5, Bundy stabbed John Murray to death and then cut off his head. Within a week, she was tearfully confessing to her fellow nurses. During his trial in 1981, Clark tried to pin all of the murders on Bundy, but the jurors found his story hard to believe and sentenced him to death. Bundy attempted an insanity defense, but she eventually pleaded guilty and received a sentence of 52 years-to-life.

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 seven books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchase from Amazon through the following link:



Monday, July 25, 2016

The Centennial Olympic Park Bombing (July 27, 1996)

This week (July 25-31) in crime history – Notorious California bandit Joaquin Murrieta was killed (July 25, 1853); Serial killer Ed Gein died (July 26, 1984); Adam Walsh was abducted (July 27, 1981); Centennial Olympic Park bombing (July 27, 1996); Son of Sam serial killer claimed first victims (July 29, 1976); Megan Kanka’s killer was charged with murder (July 30, 1994); Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa disappeared (July 31, 1975)

Highlighted crime story of the week -


On July 27, 1996, the XXVI Summer Olympics in Atlanta were disrupted by the explosion of a nail-laden pipe bomb in Centennial Olympic Park. The bombing, which occurred during a free concert, killed a mother who had brought her daughter to hear the rock music and injured more than 100 others, including a Turkish cameraman who suffered a fatal heart attack after the blast. Police were warned of the bombing in advance, but the bomb exploded before the anonymous caller said it would, leading authorities to suspect that the law enforcement officers who descended on the park were indirectly targeted. Within a few days, Richard Jewell, a security guard at the concert, was charged with the crime, but in October he was fully cleared of all responsibility in the bombing.

On January 16, 1997, another bomb exploded outside an abortion clinic in suburban Atlanta, blowing a hole in the building’s wall. An hour later, while police and ambulance workers were still at the scene, a second blast went off near a large trash bin, injuring seven people. As at Centennial Park, a nail-laden bomb was used and authorities were targeted. Then, only five days later, also in Atlanta, a nail-laden bomb exploded near the patio area of a crowded gay and lesbian nightclub, injuring five people. A second bomb in a backpack was found outside after the first explosion, but police safely detonated it. Federal investigators linked the bombings, but no suspect was arrested.

On January 29, 1998, an abortion clinic was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama, killing an off-duty police officer and critically wounding a nurse. An automobile reported at the crime scene was later found abandoned near the Georgia state line, and investigators traced it to Eric Robert Rudolph, a 31-year-old carpenter. Although Rudolph was not immediately found, authorities positively identified him as the culprit in the Birmingham and Atlanta bombings, and an extensive manhunt began.

Despite being one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives, Rudolph eluded the authorities for five years by hiding in the mountains in western North Carolina before finally being captured on May 31, 2003. As part of a plea agreement that helped him avoid a death sentence, Rudolph plead guilty to all three bombings, as well as the 1998 murder of a police officer, and was sentenced on July 18, 2005 to four consecutive life terms.

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 seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website at www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:


https://www.amazon.com/Company-Thirty-Years-California-1950-1980/dp/076435003X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469463448&sr=8-1&keywords=michael+thomas+barry

Monday, June 27, 2016

U.S. Supreme Court Struck Down the Death Penalty (June 29, 1972)

This week (June 27-July 3) in crime history – Mormon leader Joseph Smith was murdered by angry mob (June 27, 1844); Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated (June 28, 1914); US Supreme Court struck down the death penalty (June 29, 1972); NBA star Kobe Bryant was accused of rape in Colorado (July 1, 2003); President James A. Garfield was shot (July 2, 1881)

Highlighted crime story of the week -


On June 29, 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a vote of 5-4 vote in the Furman v. Georgia case, that capital punishment, as it is currently employed on the state and federal level, is unconstitutional. The majority held that, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, the death penalty qualified as “cruel and unusual punishment,” primarily because states employed execution in “arbitrary and capricious ways,” especially in regard to race. It was the first time that the nation’s highest court had ruled against capital punishment. However, because the Supreme Court suggested new legislation that could make death sentences constitutional again, such as the development of standardized guidelines for juries that decide sentences, it was not an outright victory for opponents of the death penalty.

In 1976, with 66 percent of Americans still supporting capital punishment, the Supreme Court acknowledged progress made in jury guidelines and reinstated the death penalty under a “model of guided discretion.” In 1977, Gary Gilmore, a career criminal who had murdered an elderly couple because they would not lend him their car, was the first person to be executed since the end of the ban. Defiantly facing a firing squad in Utah, Gilmore’s last words to his executioners before they shot him through the heart were, “Let’s do it.”

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 seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:


Monday, June 20, 2016

Serial Killer Melvin Rees Claimed his First Victim (June 26, 1957)

This week (June 20-26) in crime history – Mobster Bugsy Siegel was gunned down in Los Angeles (June 20, 1947); Would-be assassin John Hinckley, Jr. was found not guilty by reason of insanity (June 21, 1982); Mobster Whitey Bulger was arrested in Los Angeles (June 22, 2011); Mob boss John Gotti was sentenced to life in prison for racketeering and murder (June 23, 1992); The Unabomber send bomb to Yale professor (June 24, 1993); Serial Killer Melvin Rees claimed first victim (June 26, 1957)

Highlighted crime story of the week -

On June 26, 1957, Margaret Harold was shot and killed while out for a drive with her boyfriend near Annapolis, Maryland. Her killer swerved in front of the couple’s car, approached with a .38 revolver, and shot Harold in the side of the face, while her boyfriend managed to escape. Investigating police found an abandoned building nearby, filled with pornographic pictures, but its full significance would not be revealed until nearly two years later.
Early in 1959, the Jackson family was driving along a dirt road in Virginia, returning home, when they were forced to stop and abducted at gunpoint. Two months later, two men came across the bodies of Carroll Jackson and his one year-old daughter Janet, dumped in a remote area of Fredericksburg, Virginia. A short time later, Mildred Jackson and her five-year-old daughter Susan were found buried in a shallow grave, just outside the abandoned building that police had discovered when investigating Harold’s murder.
Mildred had been brutally raped in the same room where the pornographic pictures had been found two years earlier. Since investigators were reasonably certain that the same killer had committed the murders, the media jumped on the story. Tips began to pour in, and although most of them were worthless, one pointed authorities towards Melvin Rees.
Rees was eventually found in West Memphis, working as a piano salesman. Margaret Harold’s boyfriend picked him out of a lineup and a search of his home turned up a .38 pistol. The most damning evidence, however, was a note paper clipped to a newspaper article about Mildred Jackson in which Rees described his horrific crimes in detail.
Detectives found evidence that linked Rees to the slayings of four other young women in the Maryland area as well. Rees was tried in February 1961 for the murder of Margaret Harold and in September 1961 for the murders of the Jackson family. He was convicted of both and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1972, and he died in prison from heart failure in 1995.
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 seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime, 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Monday, June 6, 2016

Notorious Hollywood Madame, Heidi Fleiss was Arrested (June 9, 1993)

This week (June 6-12) in crime history – Civil rights activist, James H. Meredith was shot to death (June 6, 1966); Kennedy cousin, Michael Skakel was convicted on murder (June 7, 2002); James Earl Ray was arrested in London (June 8, 1968); Heidi Fleiss, the notorious Hollywood Madame was arrested (June 9, 1993); Bridget Bishop, the first defendant in the Salem Witch Trials was executed (June 10, 1692); Mobster henry Hill was born (June 11, 1943); Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered in Brentwood (June 12, 1994)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -

On June 9, 1993, madam-to-the-stars Heidi Fleiss was arrested as part of a sting operation run by the Los Angeles Police and Beverly Hills Police Departments and the U.S. Justice Department. In the 1980s, Fleiss’ then-boyfriend introduced her to the leading Beverly Hills madam Alex Adams, who, according to Fleiss, taught her the tricks of the trade. Before long, Fleiss started a competing business, and when Adams was arrested in 1988, Fleiss took her spot as the leading provider of expensive prostitutes in Hollywood. As her business grew, she enjoyed the perks of celebrity, even as her rising profile attracted the attention of local authorities. On June 9, after she sent four of her employees (along with a quantity of cocaine) to fulfill an arrangement made with three “clients” (actually undercover agents), the 27-year-old Fleiss was arrested and charged with pandering, pimping and narcotics possession.
Fleiss’ trial, during which she refused to name any of her agency’s high-profile clients (though testimony did reveal at least one of them, actor Charlie Sheen), was the talk of Hollywood. She pleaded not guilty to all the charges, and her lawyers argued that the authorities had entrapped her. In December 1994, a California grand jury found Fleiss guilty on three of five pandering counts and not guilty on the narcotics charge; she was sentenced her to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $1,500 fine. Fleiss also went on trial before a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy, money laundering and tax evasion. She was convicted in August 1995 on eight of the 14 counts and sentenced to 37 months in prison.
All told, Fleiss served three years in prison, and was released in the fall of 1999. She later began a two-year relationship with the actor Tom Sizemore, star of films such as Heat, Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down. In 2003, Fleiss filed charges against Sizemore for violent abuse; he was convicted that August on six of 16 counts, including abuse, threat, harassment and vandalism. His initial sentence of six months in jail was eventually reduced to 90 days, plus mandatory drug rehab and domestic-violence and anger-management counseling. Fleiss, who has also struggled with drug abuse, has attempted to profit from her infamy by authoring several non-fiction books and in early 2008, Fleiss opened a Laundromat called Dirty Laundry in Pahrump, Nevada; she also announced plans to open a brothel catering to female customers.
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 seven non-fiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime, 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Monday, May 2, 2016

Madeleine McCann Disappeared in Portugal (May 3, 2007)

This week (May 2-8) in crime history – Terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was killed (May 2, 2011); Exxon executive Sidney Reso died after being kidnapped (May 3, 1992); Madeleine McCann disappeared in Portugal (May 3, 2007); Japanese war crimes trials began (May 3, 1946); Haymarket Square riots leave hundreds injured (May 4, 1886); Three women were rescued after years of imprisonment in Cleveland (May 6, 2013); Serial killer H.H. Holmes was executed (May 7, 1896); Stella Nickell was convicted of murder for tampering with Excedrin bottles (May 8, 1988)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -


On May 2, 2007, three-year-old Madeleine McCann of Rothley, England, vanished during a family vacation at a resort in southern Portugal. McCann’s disappearance prompted an international search; however, she has never been found. In May 2007, the McCann family were vacationing with a group of friends at the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz (“Beach of Light”), a tourist village along Portugal’s Algarve coast. On the evening of May 3, Gerry and Kate McCann went with friends to the Ocean Club’s tapas bar, leaving a sleeping Madeleine and her brother and sister in the family’s ground-floor apartment, located near the tapas bar. The McCann’s and their friends agreed to check on the children every half hour. At around 10:00 p.m., Kate McCann went to the apartment and discovered Madeleine was missing.

Portuguese police initially believed the little girl had wandered off and would be quickly found. As a result, they failed to promptly distribute a description of the missing child or search cars crossing the Portugal-Spain border, less than two hours from Praia da Luz. McCann’s disappearance generated widespread media coverage in Europe and beyond. English soccer star David Beckham made a televised plea for her safe return, and “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling reportedly donated millions to help find the little girl. Gerry and Kate McCann, observant Catholics, also had an audience in Rome with Pope Benedict, who blessed a photo of Madeleine.

On September 7, 2007, Portuguese officials named Gerry and Kate McCann, both of whom are physicians, as suspects in their daughter’s disappearance. Soon after, authorities leaked word that Madeleine’s DNA had been discovered in the trunk of the car her parents rented in Portugal almost a month after she vanished. There was speculation that the McCann’s, in order to enjoy an evening out, had given their children sedatives and that Madeleine had a fatal reaction to the dosage she received. Afterward, the McCann’s faked her abduction and hid her body for weeks before transferring it to the trunk of their rental car. Gerry and Kate McCann labeled this theory ridiculous, particularly given the fact that they were under intense media scrutiny and constantly followed by reporters. The local Portuguese police chief later admitted that the DNA tests were inconclusive.

In July 2008, Gerry and Kate McCann were formally cleared by Portuguese officials of any involvement in their daughter’s disappearance. A third person who had been considered the case’s only other formal suspect, a British man living in Portugal, was cleared as well. Additionally, Portugal’s attorney general said there was insufficient evidence for police to continue their investigation. The McCann’s hired private detectives to continue searching for their daughter and have made publicity tours throughout Europe and the U.S. to raise awareness about her plight.

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 seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:







Monday, April 25, 2016

Lincoln Assassin John Wilkes Booth was Killed (April 26, 1865)


This week (April 25 - May 1) in crime history – John Wilkes Booth was killed (April 26, 1865); Andrew Cunanan began cross country killing spree (April 27, 1997); Jaycee Dugard’s kidnappers plead guilty (April 28, 2011); Mutiny on the HMS Bounty (April 28, 1789); Martin Bryant began killing spree in Australia (April 28, 1996); Deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was executed (April 28, 1945); Police officers in the Rodney King beating trial were found innocent (April 29, 1992); First Federal prison for women opened in West Virginia (April 30. 1927); Tennis star Monica Seles was stabbed during match in Germany (April 30, 1993); Former NBA star Jayson Williams was indicted for the shooting death of Costas Christofi (May 1, 2002)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week –


On April 26, 1865, John Wilkes Booth was killed when Union soldiers track him down to a Virginia farm 12 days after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Twenty-six-year-old Booth was one of the most famous actors in the country when he shot Lincoln during a performance at Ford's Theater in Washington D.C., on the night of April 14. Booth was a strong supporter of the Confederacy. As the war entered its final stages, Booth hatched a conspiracy to kidnap the president. He enlisted the aid of several associates, but the opportunity never presented itself. After the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House on April 9, Booth changed the plan to a simultaneous assassination of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward. Only Lincoln was actually killed, however. Seward was stabbed by Lewis Paine but survived, while the man assigned to kill Johnson did not carry out his assignment.

After shooting Lincoln, Booth jumped to the stage below Lincoln's box seat. He landed hard, breaking his leg, before escaping to a waiting horse behind the theater. Booth and his accomplice, David Herold, made their way across the Anacostia River and headed toward southern Maryland. The pair stopped at Dr. Samuel Mudd's home, and Mudd treated Booth's leg. This earned Mudd a life sentence in prison when he was implicated as part of the conspiracy, but the sentence was later commuted. Booth found refuge for several days at the home of Thomas A. Jones, a Confederate agent, before securing a boat to row across the Potomac to Virginia.

After receiving aid from several Confederate sympathizers, Booth's luck finally ran out. The countryside was swarming with military units looking for Booth, although few shared information since there was a $20,000 reward. While staying at the farm of Richard Garrett, Federal troops arrived on their search but soon rode on. The unsuspecting Garrett allowed his suspicious guests to sleep in his barn, but he instructed his son to lock the barn from the outside to prevent the strangers from stealing his horses. A tip led the Union soldiers back to the Garrett farm, where they discovered Booth and Herold in the barn. Herold came out, but Booth refused. The building was set on fire to flush Booth out, but he was shot while still inside. He lived for three hours before gazing at his hands, muttering "Useless, useless," as he died. 

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 seven nonfiction books that includes the recently published In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Monday, April 4, 2016

Old West Outlaw Billy the Kid was Convicted of Murder (April 9, 1881)

This week (April 4-10) in Crime history – Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated (April 4, 1968); Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were sentenced to death for spying (April 5, 1951); Convicted murderer Sam Sheppard died (April 6, 1970: The Rwandan Genocide began (April 7, 1994); Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph agreed to plead guilty (April 8, 2005); Old West outlaw Billy the Kid was convicted of murder (April 9, 1881); Mexican Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata was assassinated (April 10, 1919)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -


On April 9, 1881, after a one-day trial, Billy the Kid was found guilty of murdering the Lincoln County, New Mexico, sheriff and is sentenced to hang. There is no doubt that Billy the Kid shot the sheriff, although he did it in the context of the bloody Lincoln County War, a battle between two powerful groups of ranchers and businessmen fighting for economic control of Lincoln County. When his boss, rancher John Tunstall, was murdered in February 1878, the hotheaded Billy swore vengeance. Unfortunately, the leader of the men who murdered Tunstall was the sheriff of Lincoln County, William Brady. When Billy and his partners murdered the sheriff several months later, they became outlaws, regardless of how corrupt Brady may have been.

After three years on the run and several other murders, Pat Garrett finally arrested Billy in early 1881. Garrett, a one-time friend, was the new sheriff of Lincoln County. On this day in 1881, a court took only one day to convict Billy of the murder of Sheriff Brady. Sentenced to hang, Billy was imprisoned in Lincoln’s county jail while Sheriff Garrett gathered the technical information and supplies needed to build an effective gallows.

On April 28, while Garrett was out of town, Billy managed to escape. While one of the jail’s two guards was escorting a group of prisoners across the street to dinner, Billy asked the remaining guard to take him to the jail outhouse. As the guard escorted him back to his cell, Billy somehow managed to slip a wrist through his handcuffs. He slugged the guard and shot him with a pistol either that he took from the guard or that a friend had hidden in the outhouse for him. Hearing the shot, the second guard ran back to the jail, and Billy killed him with a blast from a shotgun he found in Garrett’s office. Reportedly, Billy then smashed the gun and threw it down on the dead guard, yelling, “You won’t follow me anymore with that gun!”

After murdering the guards, Billy seemed in no hurry to flee. He armed himself with two pistols and, according to one account, “danced about the balcony, laughed and shouted as though he had not a care on earth.” Apparently, the people of Lincoln were either too fearful or too admiring of the young outlaw to act. After nearly an hour, Billy rode off. He was not able to ride far enough. Upon his return to Lincoln, Garrett immediately formed a posse and set off to recapture the outlaw. On July 14, 1881, Garrett surprised Billy in a darkened room not far from Lincoln and shot him dead.

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

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:



Monday, March 14, 2016

The Yosemite Murders (March 18, 1999)

This week (March 14-20) in crime history – The FBI debuted the 10 most wanted list (march 14, 1950); Jack Ruby was sentenced to death (March 14, 1964); The Birmingham Six were released (March 14, 1991); Julius Caesar was assassinated (March 15, 44BC); Lastania Abarta shots her lover on the streets of Los Angeles (march 16, 1881); Judge Rot Bean died (March 16, 1903); American journalist Terry Anderson was kidnapped in Lebanon (March 6, 1985); Raymond Clark III pleaded guilty to killing Yale Grad student (March 17, 2011); The Yosemite Killings (March 18, 1999); The Tokyo subway s were attacked with sarin gas (March 20, 1995)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -


On March 18, 1999, the bodies of Carole Sund and Silvina Pelosso are found in a charred rental car in a remote wooded area of Long Barn, California. The women, along with Sund’s daughter Juli, had been missing since February when they were last seen alive at the Cedar Lodge near Yosemite National Park. Juli Sund’s body was found thirty miles away a week after the car was found.

The mysterious disappearance of the three women had drawn national attention and landed them on the cover of People magazine. Compounding the mystery, Carole Sund’s wallet had been found on a street in downtown Modesto, California, three days after they had disappeared. Police and the FBI initially focused their investigation on a group of methamphetamine users in Northern California. This changed in July when Joie Ruth Armstrong, a twenty-six-year-old Yosemite Park worker, was brutally killed and decapitated near her cabin in the park.

The discovery of her body led investigators to Cary Stayner, a thirty-seven-year-old man who worked at the Cedar Lodge motel, where the Sund’s were last seen. Stayner was tracked down and caught at a nudist colony in Northern California. Stayner confessed to the murder of Armstrong and then surprised the detectives by admitting that he was also responsible for the murders of the Sund’s and Pelosso.

Stayner had been on the other end of another high-profile crime years earlier. His younger brother, Steven, was abducted in Merced when Cary was eleven years old. Steven Stayner was held for more than seven years by a sexual abuser, Kenneth Parnell. Following his escape, a television movie, I Know My First Name is Steven, dramatized the incident. Steven Stayner died in a tragic motorcycle accident when he was twenty-four. The family saw further tragedy when Jesse Stayner, Cary and Steven’s uncle, was shot to death in 1990 during a bungled robbery attempt. Stayner pleaded guilty to the Armstrong murder in 2001. He was convicted of the other three counts of murder in 2002 and sentenced to death.

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

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980 and Murder and 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 links:





Monday, March 7, 2016

Rapper Notorious BIG was Shot to Death (March 9, 1997)

This week (March 7-13) in crime history – Defense attorney’s rested in the Andrea Yates murder trial (March 7, 2002); The Lonely Hearts Kills, Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez were executed (March 8, 1951); Old West outlaw Emmet Dalton goes to prison (March 8, 1893); Rapper Notorious B.I.G was shot to death (March 9, 1997); David Gunn was murdered by anti-abortion activist (March 10, 1993); James Earl Ray plead guilty to assassinating Martin Luther King Jr. (march 11, 1969); COPS TV series debuted on FOX (March 12, 1989); Terrorists bombed trains in Madrid (march 12, 2004); Elizabeth Smart was rescued from her captures (March 13, 2003)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -



On March 9, 1997, Christopher Wallace, a.k.a Biggie Smalls, a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G., was shot to death at a stoplight in Los Angeles. The murder was thought to be the culmination of an ongoing feud between rap music artists from the East and West coasts. Just six months earlier, rapper Tupac Shakur was shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. Ironically, Wallace’s death came only weeks before his new album, entitled Life After Death, was scheduled to be released.

Wallace was the most prominent East Coast practitioner of “gangster rap,” peppering his song with profane, violent and misogynistic lyrics. His 1994 record Ready to Die sold millions. That same year, Shakur, the West Coast’s leading rapper, was shot several times in a robbery at a recording studio in New York. Shakur claimed that Wallace was partially responsible and later taunted Wallace on one of his songs. He claimed to have slept with Wallace’s ex-wife, singer Faith Evans, and insulted the overweight rapper for his ample girth.

Wallace’s raps about violent street life were not completely fiction. He grew up in a poor section of Brooklyn and had many run-ins with the law growing up. Even after he reached stardom in the music world, his legal woes continued. In the summer of 1996 he was arrested when police found marijuana and firearms at his New Jersey home. He also gave a new meaning to fan appreciation when he assaulted a pair of admirers with a baseball bat. The murder of Wallace has never been solved, though it has been suggested that either Marion “Suge” Knight, the former head of Death Row Records, Shakur’s label, or the Crips gang may be have been responsible. Knight was also shot (but not wounded seriously) in the fatal Las Vegas attack on Shakur and is rumored to have engineered a retaliatory strike against Wallace, whom he held responsible for the Las Vegas shooting. Since Wallace’s death, Knight had been in and out of court and prison on a variety of charges. Wallace’s murder remains open and unsolved.

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 seven nonfiction books that includes the soon to be released In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980 and the award winning Murder and 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 links:




Monday, February 29, 2016

The Rodney King Beating (March 3, 1991)

This week (February 29 - March 6) in crime history – Malik Nettles opened fire on school bus in St. Louis killing two (February 29, 1996); The Lindbergh baby kidnapping (March 1, 1932); The Salem Witch trial began (March 1, 1692); Grave robbers steal the body of Charlie Chaplin (March 2, 1978); The Rodney king beating (March 3, 1991); Martha Stewart was released from prison (March 4, 2005); Louis Buchalter, head of Murder, Inc. was executed (march 4, 1944); Jim Morrison was charged with lewd behavior in Florida (march 5, 1969); Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg began (March 6, 1951)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -


On March 3, 1992, at 12:45 a.m. robbery parolee Rodney King stops his car after leading police on a nearly 8-mile pursuit through the streets of Los Angeles, California. The chase began after King, who was intoxicated, was caught speeding on a freeway by a California Highway Patrol cruiser but refused to pull over. Los Angeles Police cruisers and a police helicopter joined the pursuit, and when King was finally stopped by Hansen Dam Park, several police cars descended on his white Hyundai.

A group of LAPD officers led by Sergeant Stacey Koon ordered King and the other two occupants of the car to exit the vehicle and lie flat on the ground. King’s two friends complied, but King himself was slower to respond, getting on his hands and knees rather than lying flat. Officers Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Ted Briseno, and Roland Solano tried to force King down, but he resisted, and the officers stepped back and shot King twice with an electric stun gun known as a Taser, which fires darts carrying a charge of 50,000 volts.

At this moment, civilian George Holliday, standing on a balcony in an apartment complex across the street, focused the lens of his new video camera on the commotion unfolding by Hansen Dam Park. In the first few seconds of what would become a very famous 89-second video, King is seen rising after the Taser shots and running in the direction of Officer Powell. All the arresting officers were white, along with all but one of the other two dozen or so law enforcement officers present at the scene. With the roar of a helicopter above, very few commands or remarks are audible in the video.

With King running in his direction, Powell swung his baton, hitting him on the side of the head and knocking him to the ground. This action was captured by the video, but the next 10 seconds were blurry as Holliday shifted the camera. From the 18- to 30-second mark in the video, King attempted to rise, and Powell and Wind attacked him with a torrent of baton blows that prevented him from doing so. From the 35- to 51-second mark, Powell administered repeated baton blows to King’s lower body. At 55 seconds, Powell struck King on the chest, and King rolled over and lay prone. At that point, the officers stepped back and observed King for about 10 seconds. Powell began to reach for his handcuffs.

At 65 seconds on the video, Officer Briseno stepped roughly on King’s upper back or neck, and King’s body writhed in response. Two seconds later, Powell and Wind again began to strike King with a series of baton blows, and Wind kicked him in the neck six times until 86 seconds into the video. At about 89 seconds, King put his hands behind his back and was handcuffed.

Sergeant Koon never made an effort to stop the beating, and only one of the many officers present briefly intervened, raising his left arm in front of a baton-swinging colleague in the opening moments of the videotape, to no discernible effect. An ambulance was called, and King was taken to the hospital. Struck as many as 56 times with the batons, he suffered a fractured leg, multiple facial fractures, and numerous bruises and contusions. Unaware that the arrest was videotaped, the officers downplayed the level of violence used to arrest King and filed official reports in which they claimed he suffered only cuts and bruises “of a minor nature.”

George Holliday sold his video of the beating to the local television station, KTLA, which broadcast the footage and sold it to the national Cable News Network (CNN). The widely broadcast video caused outrage around the country and triggered a national debate on police brutality. Rodney King was released without charges, and on March 15 Sergeant Koon and Officers Powell, Wind, and Briseno were indicted by a Los Angeles grand jury in connection with the beating. All four were charged with assault with a deadly weapon and excessive use of force by a police officer. Though Koon did not actively participate in the beating, as the commanding officer he was charged with aiding and abetting it. Powell and Koon were also charged with filing false reports.

Because of the uproar in Los Angeles surrounding the incident, the judge, Stanley Weisberg, was persuaded to move the trial outside Los Angeles County to Simi Valley in Ventura County. On April 29, 1992, the 12-person jury, which included 10 whites and no African Americans, issued its verdicts: not guilty on all counts, except for one assault charge against Powell that ended in a hung jury. The acquittals touched off rioting and looting in Los Angeles that grew into the most destructive U.S. civil disturbance of the 20th century. In three days of violence, more than 50 people were killed, more than 2,000 were injured, and nearly $1 billion in property was destroyed. On May 1, President George H.W. Bush ordered military troops and riot-trained federal officers to Los Angeles to quell the riot.

Under federal law, the officers could also be prosecuted for violating Rodney King’s constitutional rights, and on April 17, 1993, a federal jury convicted Koon and Powell for violating King’s rights by their unreasonable use of force under color of law. Although Wind and Briseno were acquitted, most civil rights advocates considered the mixed verdict a victory. On August 4, Koon and Powell were sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for the beating of King. King received $3.8 million in a civil suit against the Los Angeles police department.

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 seven nonfiction books that includes the soon to be released In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980 and the award winning Murder and 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 links:





Monday, February 15, 2016

Malcolm X was Assassinated (February 21, 1965)

This week (February 15-21) in crime history – Chicago Eight defense attorneys were sentenced for contempt of court (February 15, 1970); Old West gunslinger John Wesley Hardin was pardoned (February 16, 1894); Union leaders were arrested in connection with the assassination of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg (February 17, 1906); A South Korean subway train was set ablaze by arsonists (February 18, 2003); The Green River Killer – Gary Leon Ridgway plead guilty to murdering his 49th victim (February 18, 2003); San Francisco vigilantes took justice into their own hands (February 19, 1851); Reg Murphy, the editor of the Atlanta Constitution was kidnapped (February 20, 1974); Malcom X was assassinated (February 21, 1965)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -


On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated by rival Black Muslims while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights. Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, Malcolm was the son of James Earl Little, a Baptist preacher who advocated the Black Nationalist ideals of Marcus Garvey. Threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced the family to move to Lansing, Michigan, where his father continued to preach his controversial sermons despite continuing threats. In 1931, Malcolm’s father was brutally murdered by the white supremacist Black Legion, and Michigan authorities refused to prosecute those responsible. In 1937, Malcolm was taken from his family by welfare caseworkers. By the time he reached high school age, he had dropped out of school and moved to Boston, where he became increasingly involved in criminal activities.

In 1946, at the age of 21, Malcolm was sent to prison on a burglary conviction. It was there he encountered the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, whose members are popularly known as Black Muslims. The Nation of Islam advocated Black Nationalism and racial separatism and condemned Americans of European descent as immoral. Muhammad’s teachings had a strong effect on Malcolm, who entered into an intense program of self-education and took the last name “X” to symbolize his stolen African identity.

After six years, Malcolm was released from prison and became a loyal and effective minister of the Nation of Islam in Harlem, New York. In contrast with civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X advocated self-defense and the liberation of African Americans by any means necessary. A fiery orator, Malcolm was admired by the African American community in New York and around the country.

In the early 1960s, he began to develop a more outspoken philosophy than that of Elijah Muhammad, whom he felt did not sufficiently support the civil rights movement. In late 1963, Malcolm’s suggestion that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was a matter of the “chickens coming home to roost” provided Elijah Muhammad, who believed that Malcolm had become too powerful, with a convenient opportunity to suspend him from the Nation of Islam.

A few months later, Malcolm formally left the organization and made a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, where he was profoundly affected by the lack of racial discord among orthodox Muslims. He returned to America as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and in June 1964 founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which advocated black identity and held that racism, not the white race, was the greatest foe of the African American. Malcolm’s new movement steadily gained followers, and his more moderate philosophy became increasingly influential in the civil rights movement, especially among the leaders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. On February 21, 1965, one week after his home was firebombed, Malcolm X was shot to death by Nation of Islam members while speaking at a rally of his organization in New York City.

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 seven nonfiction books that includes the soon to be released In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980 and the award willing Murder and 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 links: