this day in crime history: october 19, 1982


On this date in 1982, maverick auto executive John Z. DeLorean was arrested at a hotel near the Los Angeles airport. DeLorean was charged in connection with a $24 million cocaine transaction that he took part in to save his failing company. (Rumors that the $24 million in cocaine were needed to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity it takes to travel through time are, to this day, unconfirmed.) DeLorean maintained that he had been entrapped by an informant working for the FBI. The jury agreed, and Delorean was acquitted (even though his defense team had called no witnesses). His business, DeLorean Motors, wasn’t so fortunate. The British government, which had partnered with DeLorean in the venture, shut it down in November of 1982.

John DeLorean died of a stroke in 2005 at the age of 80.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – John DeLorean

The Citizen, Auburn, NY (October 20, 1982) – DeLorean faces cocaine charges

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this day in crime history: october 14, 1912

On this date in 1912, New York saloon keeper John F. Schrank shot former President Teddy Roosevelt in Milwaukee, WI. Roosevelt, who was running for president on the Bull Moose party ticket, was in Milwaukee to give a speech. Prior to the speech, he had dinner with advisers at the Hotel Gilpatrick. As he left the hotel, supporters waiting outside cheered him. Also waiting for the former president was John Schrank, armed and ready for action. As Roosevelt turned and waved to the crowd before getting into his car, Schrank aimed a pistol at Roosevelt’s head. Just before he pulled the trigger, a spectator named Adam Bittner struck Schrank’s arm, spoiling his aim. The bullet struck Roosevelt in the chest, hitting a glasses case and a fifty page speech before lodging in the former president’s body.

The crowd pounced on Schrank and began pummeling him. The beating continued until Roosevelt stood up and implored the crowd to show mercy to the man. The police arrived and took Schrank into custody. Roosevelt eschewed a trip to the hospital, and vowed to give his speech “if it’s the last thing on earth I do.” Roosevelt arrived at the Milwaukee Auditorium several minutes later and gave his speech to 10,000 supporters, the bullet still lodged in his chest. Roosevelt eventually lost the election, coming in second to Woodrow Wilson. The incumbent, Republican William Howard Taft, came in third; the only incumbent president ever to do so. The bullet remained lodged in Roosevelt’s body for the rest of his life (on the lower left in the x-ray photo above).

John Schrank, who claimed the assassination attempt was done per the instructions of the ghost of President William McKinley, was (unsurprisingly) declared insane. He spent the rest of his life in mental institutions. He died of natural causes in 1943 at the Central State Mental Hospital in Waupun, Wisconsin.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – John Flammang Schrank

Wikipedia – Theodore Roosevelt

this day in crime history: october 12, 1978

On this date in 1978, 20 year old Nancy Spungen, girlfriend of former Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, was found dead in the bathroom of her room at the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. Spungen had been stabbed in the lower abdomen.  The murder weapon was a knife that belonged to Vicious (real name John Simon Ritchie).

Police arrested Vicious, who gave conflicting accounts of what happened.  Some versions pointed to his innocence, others implicated him in the murder.  There were numerous theories as to who else may have killed Nancy, with most theories involving a drug deal gone bad.

The case never went to trial.  On February 2, 1979, while out on bail, Sid Vicious died of a heroin overdose.  He was 21 years old at the time.

Further reading:

Find A Grave – Nancy Spungen

Wikipedia – Nancy Spungen

Daily MailDid Sid really kill Nancy? Explosive new evidence suggests the punk rocker may have been innocent

this day in crime history: october 11, 1923

On this date in 1923, twin brothers Ray and Roy DeAutremont, and their younger brother Hugh, attempted one of the last great train robberies in the United States. The robbery started when the brothers hid in a railroad tunnel outside Siskiyou, OR. As the Southern Pacific Gold Special passed through the tunnel, they jumped onto the train and made their way to the engine. After forcing the engineer to stop the train, they planted a bomb on the mail car to open the door. The bomb, which was more powerful than they expected, blew the car to pieces, killing the mail clerk inside.

Once they concluded that the robbery was a total failure, the brothers fled into the woods. Before they left, they shot and killed the engineer, the fireman, and the conductor, leaving no witnesses who could identify the robbers.

The police investigation, with the assistance of early forensic science pioneer Dr. Edward Heinrich, quickly identified the perpetrators. Tracking them down, however, would prove a bit more daunting.

The brothers figured that their chances of escape would improve if they split up. Roy and Ray went their separate ways, eventually meeting up in Ohio, where they got jobs working under assumed names. Hugh’s escape was slightly more creative. He joined the US Army under an assumed name, and was eventually posted in the Philippines. He was shipped back to the United States in 1927, after an Army buddy saw a wanted poster and recognized his friend “James Price” as Hugh DeAutrement. Roy and Ray were arrested a short time later when one of their co-workers had a similar revelation.

After two trials (the first ended in a mistrial) Hugh was convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison. His older brothers, seeing what was in store for them, pled guilty and received similar sentences.

Hugh DeAutrement was diagnosed with cancer while in prison. He was paroled in 1958 and died in early 1959. Roy went insane while in prison. He was transferred to a mental hospital, where he was given a lobotomy. He died of cancer while in the mental hospital. Ray DeAutrement, who had been described as a model prisoner, was paroled in 1961, on the anniversary of the robbery. His sentence was commuted by the governor of Oregon in 1971. He died in 1984, at the age of 84.

Further reading:

The Last Great Train Robbery

Oregon’s Trails: The “great train robbery” that wasn’t

Wikipedia – DeAutremont Brothers

this day in crime history: october 9, 1919


“Say it ain’t so, Joe.” On this date in 1919, the Chicago White Sox lost game eight of the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, 10-5. This gave the series to the Reds, five games to three. Of course, losing a baseball game isn’t a crime. Unless the game was fixed. And this one was, reportedly by NY gangster Arnold Rothstein. Eight of the Chicago White Sox players – dubbed the Black Sox – were banned for life from baseball.

Further reading:

Chicago Tribune“The Black Sox”

Wikipedia: Black Sox Scandal

Wikipedia: Arnold_Rothstein

this day in crime history: october 8, 2004

On this date in 2004, domestic diva Martha Stewart reported to the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in Alderson, WV where she became inmate number 55170-054. Alderson, also known as “Camp Cupcake,” had previously been home to jazz great Billie Holiday, World War II propaganda queens Axis Sally and Tokyo Rose, and would-be presidential assassins Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Sara Jane Moore.

Stewart, who had been convicted of four counts of obstruction, was paroled on March 4, 2005, an event she would doubtless describe as “a good thing!”

Further reading:

CNN – Stewart convicted on all charges

Wikipedia – Alderson Federal Prison Camp

Wikipedia – Martha Stewart