this day in crime history: april 19, 1995


On this date in 1995, a terrorist bomb was detonated outside the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including 19 children under the age of six. Almost 700 people were injured.

An hour and a half after the bombing, an Oklahoma State Trooper pulled over a car that did not have a license plate. The driver, Timothy McVeigh, was arrested for unlawfully carrying a weapon. McVeigh was soon linked to the bombing by forensic evidence. The investigation led to accomplices Terry Nichols, Michael Fortier, and Fortier’s wife Lori. McVeigh, Nichols and Fortier met while they were in the Army. They were motivated by the deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX by the FBI in 1993. The bombing took place on the anniversary of the raid.

McVeigh and Nichols were both convicted of murder and conspiracy. McVeigh was sentenced to death. He was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001. Nichols was sentenced to life without possibility of parole. He is currently housed at the Administrative Maximum (ADX) facility at the Florence Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, CO.

Michael Fortier agreed to testify against McVeigh and Nichols in exchange for immunity for his wife and a lighter sentence for him. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and a $75,000 fine. He was released after 10 1/2 years and disappeared into the witness protection program.

Some people believe that there were more people involved with the bombing. Theories include involvement by members of militia groups and middle eastern terrorists. The FBI dismisses these theories and considers the case closed.

Further reading:

Oklahoma City Memorial & Museum

Wikipedia – Oklahoma City bombing

Were There More OKC Conspirators?: The Elohim City Connection (Presents evidence of militia group involvement in the bombing)

JaynaDavis.com – From Middle America To The Middle East (Presents evidence of a Middle Eastern connection to the bombing)

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this day in crime history: april 15, 1920

On this date in 1920, an armed robbery in South Braintree, MA resulted in the deaths of a paymaster and a security guard. On May 5th, two men were arrested for the crime: Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. The two men, both Italian-born anarchists, were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. They were executed in the Massachusetts electric chair on August 23, 1927. Controversy still rages to this day as to the guilt of the men, but their conviction has yet to be overturned. Oh yeah, and they’re still dead. I guess it’s all academic at this point, isn’t it?

Further reading:

The Sacco-Vanzetti Case

Wikipedia – Sacco and Vanzetti

this day in crime history: april 14, 1943


On this date in 1943, four inmates tried to escape from the Alcatraz federal prison. The men, James Boarman, Harold Brest, Floyd Hamilton, and Fred Hunter, overpowered two guards in the industries area of the prison and tied them up. They climbed out the window and made their way to the water’s edge.

While the would-be escapees were entering the water, one of the guards they had tied up managed to alert others of the escape attempt. The alarm was sounded, alerting the tower guards, who opened fire on the men. Boarman was hit. His body sank and was never recovered. Hunter and Brest were rounded up by guards. Hamilton, who was assumed to have died in the escape attempt, hid in a cave on the island until the search was over. Cold and hungry, he was caught three days later hiding in a store room in the prison.

Further reading:

Alcatraz History – Escape Attempts

BoP – Alcatraz

Wikipedia – Alcatraz escape attempts

this day in crime history: april 13, 1934

johndillinger

On this day in 1934, outlaws John Dillinger and Homer Van Meter went shopping for guns in Warsaw, Indiana. Their shopping expedition began in the early morning hours of April 13th, when they assaulted Warsaw Police Officer Judd Pittenger while he walked his nightly beat. The two outlaws forced Pittenger to accompany them to the police station, where they stole two pistols and some bullet-proof vests. No background check was performed when the two bank robbers acquired their guns. This was due to the fact that in 1934, there was no law requiring criminals to pass a background check before stealing guns. To this day, no such law exists.

Further reading:

FBI – John Dillinger

Dillinger – Robbed Warsaw Police Station

this day in crime history: april 10, 1936

1936bomb

On this date in 1936 in Pennsylvania,  former union head Thomas Maloney unwittingly detonated a mail bomb that had been sent to him. The bomb was hidden inside a cigar box, and Maloney, a former union official, opened it on his kitchen table. His sixteen year old daughter and four year old son were with him when the bomb exploded. Maloney and his son eventually died from their wounds. The daughter was seriously injured and required lengthy hospitalization.

Maloney was not the only target of the bomber. Local school director Michael Gallagher was killed when he opened a similar package he had received in the mail. Former Sheriff Luther Kniffen, another intended victim of the bomber was spared when the bomb sent to him failed to detonate when he opened it. Three more bombs were intercepted before being opened. The press began referring to the incident as the Good Friday bombings.

By July 1st, the police had arrested coal miner Michael Fugmann for the bombings. His motive was believed to be revenge for the actions of his victims during recent labor conflicts.  Fugmann was tried the following September. He denied guilt, but was convicted after a two week trial and sentenced to death. He was executed in the electric chair at Rockview State prison on July 17, 1938.

Further reading:

Citensvoice.com – Mail bomb spree by disgruntled coal miner marks 75th anniversary

timesleader.com – 80 years ago, Luzerne county hit by Good Friday Bombings

this day in crime history: april 9, 1934

On this date in 1934, John Dillinger’s girlfriend, Evelyn “Billie” Frechette, was arrested by G-men in Chicago and charged with harboring a fugitive. An angry Dillinger vowed to break her out of jail, but a girlfriend of one of his gang members talked him out of it. He did pay for her legal defense, but she wound up being convicted anyway. Billie Frechette spent two years in federal prison. When she was released in 1936, she toured the country in a theatrical show called Crime Doesn’t Pay. Several members of Dillinger’s family were also featured in the show. I guess sometimes crime does pay after all.

Further reading:

Biography – Billie Frechette

Don’t Call Us Molls – Evelyn “Billie” Frechette