this day in crime history: august 15, 1914

JulianCarlton

On this date in 1914, Julian Carlton (pictured above) murdered seven people on the estate of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Carlton, a native of Barbados, was employed as a servant at Taliesin, Wright’s estate near Spring Green, WI. Wright was out of town on the day of the murders. Carlton struck during lunch. Several estate employees were in the dining room, Wright’s mistress and two children on a nearby screened in porch. Carlton bolted all but one of the dining room doors shut. He poured gas under the doors and started a fire. After starting the fire, he ran to the screened-in porch and murdered Martha “Mamah” Borthwick and her two children with an ax. He then waited outside the dining room and attacked the employees as they tried to escape the fire. Three employees and the thirteen year old son of the estate’s head carpenter were killed. Only two of the dining room’s occupants survived.

After the fire was under control, Wright’s neighbors went looking for Carlton. They found him hiding in the basement furnace room. He had attempted unsuccessfully to commit suicide by drinking muriatic acid. Carlton was brought to the local jail, and later made several court appearances. He died of starvation before coming to trial. He never gave a reason for the attack. Calrton’s wife Gertrude, who worked at the estate as a cook, claimed she did not know why her husband committed the murders.

Further reading:

Provedentia – The Taliesin Murders

Wikipedia – Frank Lloyd Wright

this day in crime history: august 14, 1936

Bethea

On this date in 1936, convicted rapist Rainey Bethea was executed by hanging in Owensboro, KY. In addition to the rape, Bethea also confessed to robbing and murdering his victim, 70 year old Lischia Edwards, but was never tried on those charges. A crowd of 20,000 people were on hand to witness the hanging. His hanging was the last public execution in the United States.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Rainey Bethea

Murderpedia – Rainey Bethea

this day in crime history: august 11, 1965

WattsRiot

On this date in 1965, a minor scuffle following a traffic stop in Los Angeles would escalate into what would become known as the Watts riots. The unrest would continue until August 17th. When it was all over, 34 people were killed, over 1000 injured, and 3400 arrested. Almost a thousand buildings, mostly businesses, were damaged or destroyed. Damage was estimated to be about $40 million.

Further reading:

Watts Rebellion (Los Angeles, 1965)

Wikipedia – Watts Riots

this day in crime history: august 9, 1969

On this date in 1969, members of Charles Manson’s “family” murdered five people at the Los Angeles home of actress Sharon Tate.  The victims included Tate (who was eight months pregnant), hair stylist Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Polish actor/writer Wojciech Frykowski, and recent high school graduate Steven Parent.  Three of the victims were friends of Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski.  Polanski was in Europe filming a movie at the time of the murders.  The fifth victim, Steven Parent, had the misfortune of visiting the home’s caretaker (who was staying in an adjacent cottage) on the night of the murder.  He was intercepted by the Mansonites as he was leaving the property.

The victims were all shot and/or stabbed by Manson followers Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Watkins, and Patricia Krenwinkle while Linda Kasabian stood watch.  After the murders, Atkins wrote “pig” on the front door of the house using Sharon Tate’s blood.

The following night, the four killers, along with two other Manson followers, Leslie Van Houten and Steve “Clem” Grogan, would murder Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.  Manson would actually accompany the murderers to the scene this time, but left the dirty work to his minions.

When police finally caught up to Manson and his crew, they convinced Linda Kasabian, who hadn’t actually committed any of the murders, to testify against the other members of the family.  All of the defendants were ultimately convicted.  They are all currently incarcerated in California, except for Grogan, who was paroled in 1985, and Atkins, who died in prison in 2009. Linda Kasabian returned to her native New Hampshire after the trial.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – Charles Manson and the Manson Family

Find-a-Death – The Death of Sharon Tate and the Manson Murders

this day in crime history: august 8, 1962

EADmug

On this day in 1962, Elizabeth Ann “Ma” Duncan was executed in the gas chamber at California’s San Quentin prison. Duncan had been convicted in 1958 for conspiracy to commit murder. She had paid two men, Augustine Baldonado and Luis Moya, to kill her daughter-in-law, Olga Duncan. Olga was seven months pregnant at the time. The two killers beat and strangled her, then buried her in a shallow grave. According to the coroner, she was still alive when they buried her. The elder Mrs. Duncan’s motive was her fear that the impending birth of her grandchild threatened her incestuous relationship with her son.

Ma Duncan and her two henchmen were tried and convicted. They were all sentenced to death. Sentence was carried out for all three on August 8, 1962.  It was the last triple execution in California, and the last execution of a woman in the state before the US Supreme Court suspended capital punishment in 1972.

Further reading:

Murderpedia – Elizabeth Duncan

Los Angeles Times – The Case of a Mother’s Lethal Love

Wikipedia – Elizabeth Ann Duncan

this day in crime history: august 7, 1970

On this date in 1970, four men took hostages in the Marin County, CA courthouse in an attempt to free three prison inmates. The incident began when Jonathan Jackson carried a bag containing several guns into court during the trial of San Quentin inmate James McClain. He used the guns to free McClain, as well San Quentin inmates Ruchell McGee and James Christmas, who were there to testify at the trial. The men took Judge Harold Haley, Deputy District Attorney Gary Thomas and jurors Maria Elena Graham, Doris Whitmer, and Joyce Rodoni hostage. They walked the hostages out of the building and to a rented van. On the way out of the building, they informed the police of their demand: Release the “Soledad Brothers” by 12:30 PM that day. The Soledad Brothers were three inmates who were charged with murdering a prison guard at Soleded Prison in January 1970. The guard was killed in retaliation for the the fatal shooting of four black inmates by a prison guard at Soledad. One of the men, George Jackson, was the brother of Jonathan Jackson.

While moving between the courthouse and the van, there was a brief exchange of gunfire. The gunmen then loaded the hostages into the van and drove off. As the van headed to the 101 freeway, it was stopped by a police roadblock. After the van stopped, police and the gunmen engaged in a shootout. In the ensuing battle, hostage-takers McClain, Christmas, and Jackson were killed. McGee was seriously injured. Judge Haley was killed by the shotgun the hostage-takers had secured to his neck. Deputy DA Thomas was paralyzed by a shot to his back, and juror Graham was wounded in her arm.

Radical activist Angela Davis was eventually arrested and charged with conspiracy, as the guns used by the hostage takers were registered to her. She was acquitted of the charges. George Jackson was killed the following year while leading a prison riot at San Quentin Prison.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Marin County courthouse incident

Wikipedia – Harold Haley

NY Times – Angela Davis is Sought in Shooting that Killed Judge on Coast