this day in crime history: july 27, 1996

rudolphwanted

On this day in 1996, a bomb was detonated at the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, GA during the 1996 Summer Olympics. One person was killed by the blast. Another died of a heart attack at the scene.

The bomb, actually three pipe bombs in a military-style pack, was discovered by security guard Richard Jewell. Jewell managed to clear most of the spectators away from the area before the detonation. In addition to the two fatalities, 111 people were injured.

Jewell was hailed as a hero. At first. Within three days of the bombing, the FBI leaked to several media outlets that Jewell was a “person of interest” in the investigation. Jewell was painted in the media as a failed wannabe cop who planted the bomb in order to play hero. NBC talking head Tom Brokaw said, “The speculation is that the FBI is close to making the case. They probably have enough to arrest him right now, probably enough to prosecute him, but you always want to have enough to convict him as well. There are still some holes in this case.” As it turns out, there were more holes than there was case.

By October, the FBI had given up on Jewell for lack of evidence. The US Attorney went so far as to send Jewell a letter informing him that he had been cleared of any wrongdoing related to the bombing.

Jewell sued the media outlets that had libeled him. He reached settlements with NBC, CNN, the New York Post, and his former employer, Piedmont College. A lawsuit against the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was dismissed in 2007 after Jewell died at the age of 44.

After clearing Jewell, the investigation into the bombing stalled out until early 1997, when two more bombings occurred in the Atlanta area. While investigating the bombings of an abortion clinic and a lesbian nightclub, investigators noted similarities between those bombs and the one detonated at the Olympics. Evidence from the 1997 bombings led the feds to a new suspect: Eric Robert Rudolph.

In May 1998, Rudolph was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. He was believed to be hiding somewhere in the Appalachians. Multiple searches were unable to locate him. He was finally arrested in May 2003 in Murphy, NC. Officer Jeffery Postell spotted him behind a Save-a-lot store at four in the morning. Suspecting a burglary in progress, Postell arrested Rudolph, who was unarmed.

In exchange for not receiving a death sentence, and for revealing the location of a large cache of dynamite, Eric Rudolph pleaded guilty to all charges. He is currently incarcerated at the federal supermax prison in Florence, CO. He will never be eligible for parole.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Centennial Olympic Park Bombing

Wikipedia – Eric Rudolph

Wikipedia – Richard Jewell

Washington Post – Richard A. Jewell; Wrongly Linked to Olympic Bombing

this day in crime history: july 22, 1934

On this day in 1934, John Dillinger was shot and killed by lawmen as he left the Biograph Theater in Chicago, IL. FBI agents under Special Agent in Charge Melvin Purvis, along with officers from the East Chicago, IN Police Department set up a stakeout outside the theater, which was showing the film Manhattan Melodrama.

After the movie, Dillinger walked out with his girlfriend Polly Hamilton and Anna Sage, the infamous “Woman in Red” (she was really wearing orange, but “The Woman in Orange” doesn’t have quite the ring to it). Agent Purvis ID’d Dillinger, and the agents closed in. The outlaw ran toward an alley and tried to draw a pistol from his pocket. The agents opened fire, and Dillinger was hit four times. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“It’s like the coroner said, ‘Crime don’t pay!’ does it?”

Further reading:

Crime Museum – John Dillinger

FBI Famous Cases – John Dillinger 

Biograph Theater

this day in crime history: july 21, 1873

RIandP

On this date in 1873, a group of western bank robbers known as the James-Younger gang tried their hand at train robbery.  The gang sabotaged the track just outside Adair, IA and waited for the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific train’s approach.  Around 7:00 PM, the locomotive derailed, killing the engineer.

Some of the robbers hit the express car while the rest guarded the train’s passengers and crew.  The gang believed that the train would be carrying tens of thousands of dollars in gold.  As it turns out, they were mistaken.  They left the scene about ten minutes later with a few thousand in cash.

Some have referred to the 1873 Rock Island &Pacific robbery as the first peace-time train robbery in US history, but this is incorrect.  The Reno gang beat the James-Youngers to it, robbing an Ohio and Mississippi train in Seymour, IN in 1866.

Further reading:

NY Times – “Daring Railway Robbery”

Old West Legends: The James-Younger Gang – Terror in the Heartland

Wikipedia – James-Younger Gang

this day in crime history: july 19, 1879

DocH

On this date in 1879, John Henry Holliday, an 1872 graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery, became former Army scout Mike Gordon’s Huckleberry. Mr. Gordon, it seemed, started an altercation in Dr. Holliday’s saloon in Las Vegas, NM. Big mistake. The argument spilled out into the street, where Mr. Gordon drew his pistol–an even bigger mistake–and fired it at Dr. Holliday. In what was sure to be the biggest mistake of all, Mr. Gordon missed. Dr. Holliday responded by drawing his own pistol and shooting at Mr. Gordon. He didn’t miss. Mr. Gordon died. And Dr. Holliday discovered a new favorite game: Play for Blood.

Further reading:

Wikipedia: Doc Holliday

Legends of America: Doc Holliday – Deadly Doctor of the West

this day in crime history: july 15, 1997

Cunanan

On this day in 1997, fashion designer Gianni Versace was shot and killed outside his home in Miami Beach, FL. Versace’s killer, Andrew Cunanan, had gone on a killing spree that started three months earlier in Minneapolis. Versace was Cunanan’s fifth and final (known) victim. Cunanan committed suicide on July 24th on a houseboat in Miami. His motive for the killings remains unknown.

Further reading:

FBI: Serial Killers – Andrew Cunanan Murders a Fashion Icon

Crime Museum – Versace Murder

Wikipedia – Andrew Cunanan