10
Feb
16

this day in crime history: february 10, 1981

 Phillip Bruce Cline

Philip Bruce Cline

On this date in 1981, a fire broke out at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel. The fire came 90 days after a fatal fire at the Las Vegas MGM Grand had killed 85 people. As a result of the MGM Grand fire, the Hilton was undergoing a modernization of its fire safety system on the day the fire started.

Eight people were killed in the fire and dozens more were injured. An investigation into the cause of the fire revealed it to be arson. Police quickly zeroed in on a suspect: hotel employee Philip Cline. Cline eventually confessed to starting the blaze, but claimed it was an accident. The fact that the fire had four apparent points of origin cast serious doubt on Cline’s story. He was tried and convicted on eight counts of murder and was sentenced to eight consecutive life terms in prison. He is currently incarcerated at Southern Desert Correctional Center.

Further reading:

Clark County Nevada – Las Vegas Hilton Fire – February 10, 1981

Las Vegas Review JournalKiller says deadly Hilton blaze in 1981 ‘wasn’t meant to hurt anybody’

Wikipedia – Las Vegas Hilton

09
Feb
16

this day in crime history: february 9, 1960

On this date in 1960, Adolph Coors III, heir to the beer company, was kidnapped after leaving for work. Evidence eventually pointed to a Fulbright scholar-turned-crook named Joseph Corbett, Jr. (pictured above). A nationwide manhunt was launched, with the FBI releasing over 1.5 million wanted posters.

By September 1960, the remains of Adolph Coors were found near Pike’s Peak. Apparently, he had been shot during the abduction. In October 1960, Corbett was arrested by Canadian police in Vancouver, BC. He was convicted in 1961 and sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled in 1978 and died at age 80 in an apparent suicide in 2009.

Further reading:

This Day In History – Coors brewery heir is kidnapped

Wikipedia – Adolph Coors III

Wikipedia – Joseph Corbett, Jr.

08
Feb
16

this day in crime history: february 8, 1932

On this date in 1932, bootlegger, kidnapper, and hitman Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll was gunned down (this would constitute “death by natural causes” in Coll’s line of work) in a drug store phone booth. Legend has it that he was on the phone with Hell’s Kitchen mob boss Owney Madden, and that Madden kept Coll on the phone until the shooter — possibly working with Dutch Schultz — could get in place. The shooter put enough lead into Coll to kill a whole pack of mad dogs. Fifteen bullets were recovered from Coll’s body. A bunch more went right through him. “Can you hear me now?”

Wikipedia – Mad Dog Coll

Find A Grave –  Vincent Mad Dog Coll

Gangster City website – Photo of the phone booth where Coll was gunned down

Gangster City, by Patrick Downey

05
Feb
16

friday movie quote

VonRyansExpress

“It would take you too long to strangle a man, Colonel. The average Nazi would get impatient while you were doing it.”

-Major Eric Fincham (Trevor Howard), Von Ryan’s Express (1965)

04
Feb
16

this day in crime history: february 4, 1974

On this date in 1974, 19 year old heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped from her Berkley, CA apartment by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army. The following April, she was photographed holding a weapon during a San Francisco bank robbery. She was eventually arrested in September of 1975. She would later claim she was brainwashed by the SLA. The jury at her trial didn’t buy it, and she was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Her sentence was eventually commuted to 7 years, and she was granted a pardon in 2001.

Further reading:

Crime Museum: Patty Hearst Kidnapping

Wikipedia – Patty Hearst

PBS – The Taking of Patty Hearst

02
Feb
16

this day in crime history: february 2, 1922

On this date in 1922, film director William Desmond Taylor was found dead in his bungalow in Los Angeles. He was originally thought to have died of natural causes, but when the body was rolled over, a single bullet wound was found in his back.

Cash and valuables were found on Taylor’s person, ruling out robbery as a motive. More than a dozen suspects emerged, including Taylor’s valet, his former valet, a studio executive, and several actresses. Police were never able to make a case against any of the suspects. Poor case management led to the loss of much of the physical evidence.

Newspapers of the day featured sensationalized stories and rampant speculation about the identity of the killer and the motive for Taylor’s murder. The murder occurred less than six months after the Fatty Arbuckle scandal and helped shape the public’s view of Hollywood as a hotbed of decadence.

In 1999, it was revealed that Margaret Gibson, an actress who had worked with Taylor, had confessed on her deathbed in 1964 to having killed Taylor. The confession has never been confirmed.

Further reading:

Taylorology – An archive of information about the case

William Desmond Taylor: The Unsolved Murder

Wikipedia – William Desmond Taylor

30
Jan
16

this day in crime history: january 30, 1835

On this date in 1835, Richard Lawrence became the first person in history to attempt to assassinate a United States President. Lawrence, who fancied himself King George III of England, blamed President Andrew Jackson for a host of things, including the death of his father. Lawrence purchased two pistols, and then, in true “deranged gunman” fashion, he tracked Jackson’s movements for some time before making his move (he must have seen Taxi Driver).

On January 30th, he attempted an ambush as the President was leaving a funeral service. He aimed one of his pistols at Jackson’s back and pulled the trigger. Misfire. Then he aimed the second pistol and pulled the trigger. Same deal. And since he didn’t have the foresight to arrange for a backup shooter in the grassy knoll, Lawrence’s assassination attempt fell flat. And so did Lawrence, after the crowd, which included Congressman (and King of the Wild Frontier) Davy Crockett, tackled him. Rumor has it that even the President got in on the act, whacking the wannabe shooter with his cane for good measure.

Lawrence was tried and found not guilty by reason of insanity. He spent the remainder of his life in an insane asylum that would later house future wannabe assassin John Hinckley. For years there was speculation that Lawrence was put up to the assassination attempt by enemies of President Jackson, but there was never any evidence to support the charge. A conspiracy? No evidence to prove its existence? I’m thinking we have Oliver Stone’s next movie here.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Richard Lawrence

About.com – Presidential Assassinations and Assassination Attempts




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