this day in crime history: february 15, 1936

gutterball

On this date in 1936, former Chicago Outfit trigger man “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn was gunned down in a Chicago bowling alley.

McGurn was born Vincenzo Antonio Gibaldi in 1902 in Sicily. He changed his name as a teenager while trying to make it as a boxer. McGurn would later go to work for Chicago mob boss Al Capone. He was believed to be the mastermind of the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, but the cops were unable to pin it on him when Louise Rolfe – dubbed “The Blonde Alibi” by the press – claimed that she and McGurn had spent the entire day together.

By 1936, McGurn had been cut loose by the Outfit. His notoriety had made him too hot for the low profile the Outfit was looking to maintain.

A day after the seventh anniversary of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, McGurn entered a bowling alley with two men. Another man later joined the trio. After his arrival, a commotion ensued that resulted in Jack being shot dead and the three men leaving the bowling alley together. A Valentine card was left behind bearing the following poem:

You’ve lost your job, you’ve lost your dough;
Your jewels and cars and handsome houses!
But things could still be worse you know…
At least you haven’t lost your trousers!

The murder was never solved. Was it payback from Bugs Moran, whose men were killed seven years earlier? Was it revenge by a relative of one of Jack’s victims? Or was it the Outfit, fearful that Jack’s increasingly loose lips might sink their ship?

Further reading:

My Al Capone Museum – Machine Gun Jack McGurn

Deadly Valentines, by Jeffrey Gusfield

Wikipedia – Jack McGurn

Mafia Wiki – Jack McGurn

Find a Grave – Jack “Machine Gun Jack” McGurn

this day in crime history: february 14, 1929

On this day in 1929, five of gangster Bugs Moran’s men, along with two men unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, were gunned down by men impersonating police officers. The probable sender of this grisly Valentine: Al Capone. I guess Big Al didn’t think flowers and chocolates would do the trick. The killings became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Check out author/crime historian Pat Downey’s interview with Mario Gomes, the man who knows more about Al Capone than anyone. Well, anyone alive, anyway.

Further reading:

Mario Gomes’s My Al Capone Museum: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

Ghosts of the Prairie – Blood, Roses & Valentines: The Haunted History of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

Wikipedia – The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre   

Deadly Valentines, by Jeffrey Gusfield

this day in crime history: february 12, 1976

Mineo

On this date in 1976, actor Sal Mineo was stabbed to death after parking his car in Los Angeles. Mineo, 37, had been nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor. He had just returned home from rehearsing a play when he was attacked.

Police had little to go on, other than a vague description of the attacker given by witnesses who saw the man fleeing the seen. After two years of dead ends, detectives received a call from Michigan police about a man named Lionel Williams. Williams, who had been arrested on bad check charges, was heard bragging that he was the one who killed Mineo. An interview with Williams’s wife revealed that he came home covered in blood on the night of the murder. She also provided police with a description of a knife that belonged to Williams. Her description matched the cast of Mineo’s knife wound that was made by the coroner.

Lionel Williams was tried and convicted of murder in 1979. He received a prison sentence and was paroled in 1990.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Sal Mineo

History.com – Feb 12, 1976: Actor Sal Mineo is killed in Hollywood

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.

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