this day in crime history: june 26, 1957

perpwalk

On this day in 1957, Margaret Harold was out for a drive near Annapolis, MD with her boyfriend, a US Army Sergeant. The couple was run off the road by a man in a green Chrysler. When the other driver got out of the car, he confronted them and shot Harold in the face. The soldier managed to escape. He ran to a nearby house to call police.

When police arrived, they had little to go on. While the boyfriend was calling police, the killer had removed Harold’s clothing and sexually assaulted her. After searching the area, they discovered an abandoned building that had apparently been broken into. Violent porn and autopsy photos had been left there.

In January 1959, Carroll and Mildred Jackson and their two daughters disappeared in Virginia. Their abandoned car was found on the side of a road, but there was no indication of what may have happened to the family. In early March, the body of Carroll Jackson was found in a ditch near Fredericksburg, VA. He had been shot in the back of the head. The body of one of his daughters was found underneath his.

On March 21, 1959, The bodies of Mildred Jackson and one of her daughters were found near Annapolis, MD. Both bodies showed signs of torture and sexual assault. A search of the area found the abandoned building thought to the the hideout of Margaret Harold’s killer. Inside the building, they found a button from Mildred Jackson’s dress. At that point, police were convinced the two crimes were related.

Police in Fredericksburg received an anonymous letter naming Melvin Rees, a local a salesman, as the killer. But Rees vanished before they could question him. In 1960, police received another anonymous letter, apparently from the author of the first letter, informing them that Rees had surfaced in Arkansas. The letter writer, later identified as Glenn Moser, had previously worked with Rees. Moser had been creeped out by a conversation he had had with Rees the day before the Jackson family disappeared. He also could place Rees near Annapolis on the date of the Harold murder.

Police arrested Rees. When they searched his house, they found a note describing the Jackson family murders. Margaret Harold’s boyfriend later identified Rees as her killer. Melvin Rees was tried and convicted in Maryland. He was sentenced to life in prison. He was then tried and convicted in Virginia, where he was sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to life.

Melvin Rees was suspected in four other murders near the University of Maryland, but police were never able to link him to the crimes. He died in prison in 1995.

Further reading:

Murderpedia – Melvin Rees

Wikipedia – Melvin Rees

this day in crime history: june 25, 1906

murderatthegarden

On this date in 1906, prominent architect Stanford White was shot and killed at the rooftop theater of Madison Square Garden. The shooter was Harry Kendall Thaw, of Pittsburgh. Thaw, the heir to a multimillion dollar fortune, held a grudge against White, whom he blamed for thwarting his efforts to achieve the respect of high society. White was also the former lover of Thaw’s wife, Evelyn Nesbit. Nesbit had been a popular model and chorus girl and was the inspiration for the movie The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing.

At trial, Thaw went with a temporary insanity defense (“temporary” probably being the only part that was exaggerated). The jury wound up deadlocked. At the second trial, Evelyn Nesbit took the stand and testified that Stanford White had abused her and that Thaw was just acting in her defense. She performed this task in exchange for the promise of a divorce and a million dollars from Thaw.  The jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity. Thaw received a sentence to the state mental hospital at Matteawan. Nesbit received her divorce, but not the money.

Thaw escaped from Matteawan in 1913 and fled to Canada. He was eventually apprehended and extradited to New York. After receiving a new trial, he was found sane and not guilty of murder. He was released from state custody in 1915.

Thaw was arrested again in 1916, this time for the abduction and sexual assault of 19 year old Frederick Gump (no relation to Forrest). He was found not guilty by reason of insanity (it’s like déjà vu all over again). In 1924, Thaw was judged sane and released from the asylum where he had been incarcerated.

Harry Thaw died of a heart attack in Florida in 1947. In his will, he left Evelyn Nesbit ten thousand dollars, about one percent of his estimated net worth.

Further reading:

Murderpedia – Harry Thaw

Wikipedia – Harry Kendall Thaw

IMDb – The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing

this day in crime history: june 22, 2011

WnC-Busted

On this date in 2011, Whitey Bulger, the former head of Boston’s Winter Hill gang, was captured after sixteen years as a fugitive. For twelve of Bulger’s years on the run, he was featured on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Bulger had been indicted on multiple counts of racketeering. The racketeering charges included complicity in nineteen murders.

Bulger, who had worked as an FBI informant since the 1970s, was tipped off to the indictments by his FBI handler, Special Agent John Connolly. Bulger and longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig skipped town and disappeared. The last credible sighting of the couple was in London in 2002.

In 2011, the FBI decided to change its tactics in locating the fugitive mobster. Instead of focusing their efforts on Bulger, they would focus on Greig, in hopes that they might hear from someone who had spotted her. A public service announcement was recorded and aired during daytime television programs. The strategy paid off rather quickly. A woman who had lived in Santa Monica recognized Greig and Bulger as former neighbors. According to the Boston Globe, the tipster was Anna Bjorn, an Icelandic model and actress who was Miss Iceland 1974. Bjorn was reportedly paid a $2 million reward for the tip.

Agents found Bulger at home when they arrived. They used a ruse to lure him from his apartment and placed him under arrest. They then entered the apartment and placed Greig under arrest for harboring a fugitive.

Bulger and Greig were returned to Boston for trial in federal court. Bulger was convicted on multiple counts of racketeering, including complicity in eleven murders. He received two life sentences plus five years. He is currently incarcerated at USP Coleman II. Greig pleaded guilty to harboring a fugitive and identity fraud and was sentenced to eight years. In April 2016, she was sentenced to an additional 21 months for contempt..

Further reading:

National Post – Accused Boston crime Boss Whitey Bulger Arrested

Daily Mail – Whitey Bulger tipster revealed

Wikipedia – Whitey Bulger

this day in crime history: june 20, 1947

On this date in 1947, Bugsy Siegel got whacked. Iced. Taken out. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel — who hated that nickname, by the way — was shot while sitting next to a window in the Beverly Hills house he shared with girlfriend Virginia Hill. According to his death certificate, the cause of death was “cerebral hemmorage” (apparently spelling was not a high priority at the L.A. County Registrar’s Office) due to “gunshots of the head” (neither was grammar, I guess). One shot hit Siegel right near his eye. If he saw it coming, he didn’t see it for long.

The murder was never solved, but theories abound. Who was behind it? Was it Meyer Lansky? Lucky Luciano? Some investors who were less than happy about the profitability of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino? Author Warren Hull has a theory about the identity of the trigger man. Check out this interview with Hull.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – Bugsy Siegel

Wikipedia – Bugsy Siegel

Family Secret, by Warren Robert Hull

this day in crime history: june 19, 1975

On this day in 1975, Chicago mob boss Salvatore Giancana, aka “Momo,” aka “Mooney,” aka “Sam the Cigar,” aka “Sam Flood” and aka “Sam Gold,” was killed in the basement of his Oak Park, IL home. Giancana was due to testify before a Senate panel later that month. He was shot several times, once in the back of the head, and several times in the face.

Further reading:

Gangsters Incorporated: 1975:Murder of Sam Giancana

Find-a-Grave: Sam Giancana (1908-1975)

American Mafia: Sam Giancana

Wikipedia: Sam Giancana

this day in crime history: june 18, 1984

ABerg

On this date in 1984, radio talk show host Alan Berg was shot and killed outside his home in in Denver, CO. Berg, who frequently courted controversy on his radio show, was shot by members of a white nationalist group known as The Order. Eventually, two members of the group, David Lane and Bruce Pierce, were convicted of racketeering and civil rights violations in connection with Berg’s death. Lane was sentenced to 190 years in prison, Pierce to 252. Lane died in 2007, Pierce in 2010.

Further reading:

Denver PostThe murder of Alan Berg in Denver: 25 years later

Wikipedia – Alan Berg

Wikipedia – The Order