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”

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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’

this day in crime history: january 13, 1939

On this date in 1939, five inmates, including Arthur “Doc” Barker of the infamous Barker-Karpis gang, attempted to escape from the federal prison on Alcatraz Island. The men escaped from the cell house after sawing and bending the bars on a window. They made their way to the shoreline and attempted to escape on a makeshift raft. When they were discovered, three of the inmates, William Martin, Henri Young, and Rufus McCain surrendered. Barker and inmate Dale Stamphill were shot by guards. Barker died later from his wounds.

Further reading:

Alcatraz Escape Attempts

Alcatraz – Escapes

Alcatraz – Arthur “Doc” Barker

this day in crime history: january 11, 1794

On this date in 1794, Robert Forsyth became the first U.S. Marshal killed in the line of duty. Forsyth, who was appointed U.S. Marshal in Georgia by President George Washington, was accompanied by two of his deputies as he attempted to serve civil legal papers on brothers Beverly and William Allen. When Forsyth knocked on the door to the room where Beverly Allen (a former Methodist minister who probably had a chip on his shoulder over being tagged with an unmanly name) was hiding, Allen shot him in the head, killing him.

Beverly Allen was eventually arrested for murdering Forsyth, but he escaped, never to be recaptured.

Further reading:

U.S. Justice Department – The First Marshal of Georgia: Robert Forsyth

this day in crime history: january 5, 1945

On this date in 1945, Albany, NY Police Chief William Fitzpatrick was shot and killed in his office at police headquarters. It all started when the Chief’s bodyguard and longtime friend, Detective John McElveney, entered the office at 3:00 PM. The two men began to argue. The argument ended at 3:10 when Detective McElveney drew his pistol and shot Chief Fitzpatrick in the head, killing him.

According to the Albany Police and the D.A.’s office, the argument was part of an “ongoing dispute.” Contemporary news reports suggest the dispute was over payment for recent dental work done to correct injuries McElveney suffered after having been struck by Fitzpatrick.

Detective McElveney was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, avoiding the appointment with the electric chair that usually awaited most cop killers back in those days. He was released in 1957, when his sentence was commuted by Governor Averill Harriman. He died of cancer in 1968 at the age of 71.

According to Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy, the late Dan O’Connell, founder and former chair of the Albany Democratic political machine, told him that Chief Fitzpatrick, back when he was a sergeant, was one of the gunmen who killed gangster Legs Diamond in 1931. Of course Chief Fitzpatrick was conveniently dead when this accusation was made, and therefore unable to dispute O’Connell. Or sue him for defamation.

Further reading:

Albany Police – Chief William J. Fitzpatrick

O Albany!, by William Kennedy

Schenectady Gazette, January 29, 1946 – “Pleads Guilty to 2nd Degree Murder Count”

Legs Diamond: Gangster, by Patrick Downey

this day in crime history: january 3, 1791

Police Officers Memorial, Albany, NY

 

On this date in 1791, a posse in Stephentown, NY attempted to arrethis day in crime history: january 3, 1791st local resident Whiting Sweeting on a warrant for theft. Sweeting resisted, and in the process of arresting him, Albany County Constable Darius Quimby was stabbed. Quimby later died of his wounds. He is commonly believed to be the first law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty in U.S. history. Sweeting was charged with Quimby’s murder. He was convicted in July of 1791 and was executed the following month.

Further reading:

Officer Down Memorial Page – Constable Darius Quimby (Note: This is one of many online sources that incorrectly state that Quimby was shot)

An NYCHS Timeline on Executions by Hanging in New York State

Ancestry Message Boards – Whiting Sweeting, Darius Quimby