this day in crime history: january 22, 1957

On this day in 1957, George Metesky was arrested at his home in Waterbury, CT. Metesky was suspected of being the “Mad Bomber” that had terrorized New York during the 1940s and 50s. In all, he had planted thirty-three bombs. Twenty-two of the bombs exploded, injuring fifteen people. His motive: denial of a worker’s compensation claim against Consolidated Edison in 1931. Metesky’s arrest was the result of an early use of profiling techniques by police. He was found legally insane and committed to a mental institution in 1957. He was released in 1973, and died in 1994 at the age of 90.

Further reading:

NPR: A 16-Year Hunt For New York’s ‘Mad Bomber’

Wikipedia: George Metesky

Time: An article from 1957 titled “George Did It”

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this day in crime history: january 21, 1959


On this date in 1959, Carl Switzer, best known for playing Alfalfa in the Our Gang series, was shot and killed by a friend. Switzer, who was drunk at the time, got into an argument with the man over $50 that Switzer thought he was owed. The man shot Switzer after being assaulted and threatened with a knife. He was arrested and charged with murder, but the jury acquitted him.

Further reading:

The Death of Carl Alfalfa Switzer

Wikipedia – Carl Switzer

Here’s a video of Alfalfa demonstrating his considerable musical talent:

this day in crime history: january 17, 1950

On this date in 1950, the Brinks Armored Car depot in Boston, MA was robbed of over $2.5 million in cash, checks and money orders. It took years for cops to solve the crime, but all eleven of the robbers were eventually arrested and convicted. The robbery inspired a 1978 movie starring Peter Falk.

FBI History: The Brinks Robbery

Wikipedia: Great Brinks Robbery

The Brinks Job (1978)

Friday Movie Quote – July 8, 2011

this day in crime history: january 16, 1935

On this date in 1935, Kate “Ma” Barker, matriarch of the infamous family of criminals, died along with her son Fred in a hail of gunfire near Ocala, FL. Far from the Tommy-gun toting outlaw she’s been portrayed as in popular culture, Ma Barker’s role in the Barker-Karpis gang was probably limited to providing logistical and moral (or is it immoral?) support.

On January 8, 1935, her son Arthur “Doc” Barker was arrested in Chicago. When he was searched, he was found to have a map of the area where his brother Fred Barker was hiding out with Ma. On the 16th, federal agents surrounded the house and ordered the Barkers to surrender. A gunfight followed. Both Ma and Fred were killed in the battle. When they entered the house, agents found a Tommy gun still in Ma’s hands. Or so they claimed.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Ma Barker

Find a Grave – “Ma” Barker

FBI – Barker-Karpis Gang

Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, January 17, 1935 – “Fred Barker and Mother Slain in Florida Hideout”

this day in crime history: january 15, 1947

On this date in 1947, the mutilated remains of a young woman were found in Los Angeles. The woman would soon be identified as Elizabeth Short, an unemployed 22 year old, originally from Massachusetts. The news media would soon dub her the Black Dahlia. The LAPD conducted an exhaustive investigation, but the case remains unsolved.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – Black Dahlia

Wikipedia – Black Dahlia

this day in crime history: january 14, 1979

On this date in 1979, Lucchese crime family associate Thomas “Two-Gun Tommy” DeSimone was reported missing by his wife. Turns out he was whacked, reportedly by members of the Gambino family. DeSimone, who was believed to have killed at least ten people, apparently killed someone he shouldn’t have. I guess if you kill enough people, that’s bound to happen eventually. Anyway, DeSimone’s victims included William “Billy Batts” Devino, a made man with the Gambino family, and Ronald “Foxy” Jerothe, a protege of future Gambino family boss John Gotti. Killing made men without permission is a big no-no in the mob, which Tommy found out the hard way.

He was lured to his death by Lucchese family members who told him he was being “made,” and that they were taking him to the ceremony. But instead of getting made, he got dead. DeSimone’s body was never found. His remains were thought to be buried in a “mob graveyard” on the Brooklyn-Queens border.

Tommy DeVito, the character played by Joe Pesci in the movie Goodfellas, was based in large part on Thomas DeSimone.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Thomas DeSimone

The Free Information Society – DeSimone, Thomas

American Mafia History – Goodfella, Thomas DeSimone

New York PostJohn Gotti killed mobster played by Joe Pesci in ‘Goodfellas’