this day in crime history: november 16, 1957

EdGein

On this day in 1957, hardware store owner Bernice Worden went missing. Worden’s son contacted police and relayed his suspicions that a local man named Ed Gein may have had something to do with it. Gein had been in the store the previous evening and promised to return the following day to purchase some antifreeze. The last receipt made out by Bernice Worden before she had disappeared was for antifreeze.

Police searched Gein’s property, where they found Worden’s decapitated body hung upside down in a shed. One witness described it as “dressed out like a deer.” A search of Gein’s house turned up human noses, human female heads, masks made from human skin, a belt made of female human nipples and various other grisly accessories. They also found the head of Mary Hogan, a tavern owner who had been missing since 1954.

Police arrested Gein. He eventually confessed to killing Hogan and Worden. He claimed the other body parts were obtained through grave robbery. There was evidence at local cemeteries to back up Gein’s claim that he had robbed nine graves. He told police that he specifically targeted recently deceased women who bore a resemblance to his late mother.

Gein’s bizarre behavior apparently began after the death of his domineering mother (sound familiar?) when he decided that he wanted to become a woman. He had used the corpses to create a “woman suit” so he could pretend to be female (that one rings a bell too, doesn’t it?).

At his arraignment, Gein pled not guilty by reason of insanity. He was found not competent to stand trial and was committed to a maximum security hospital for the criminally insane. In 1968, Gein’s doctors declared him competent to stand trial. He was tried and convicted of the murder of Bernice Worden, the only murder for which he was ever convicted. He was returned to a secure mental hospital, where he died in 1984 at the age of 77.

Further reading:

Murderpedia – Edward Gein

ThoughtCo – Ed Gein

Wikipedia – Ed Gein

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This Day in Crime History: November 15, 1959

On this date in 1959, two ex-convicts murdered four members of the Clutter family at their home in Kansas. The murderers, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, broke into the Clutter home after being told of Herbert Clutter’s cash-filled safe. After discovering there was no safe, and that Herbert Clutter did not keep large amounts of cash on hand, Smith flew into a rage and killed Clutter by slitting his throat and shooting him. Following Herbert’s murder, his wife Bonnie, and his children Nancy, 16 and Kenyon, 15 were each killed with a shotgun blast to the head.

Police were quickly onto Hickock and Smith, thanks to a tip from the same prison inmate that had told the two killers about the nonexistent safe in the Clutter home. They were arrested in Las Vegas, NV on December 30, 1959. At trial they attempted, unsuccessfully, to plead temporary insanity. Both men were convicted of the murders. They were executed by hanging at Kansas State Penitentiary on April 14, 1965.

Further reading:

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

Crime Museum – In Cold Blood

GCPD – Clutter Family Murders

Wikipedia – In Cold Blood

this day in crime history: november 14, 1957

On this date in 1957, New York State Police in Apalachin, NY interrupted a meeting of about 100 mafia luminaries from the US, Canada, and Italy. The meeting was held at the home of Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara, boss of the Scranton-Wilkes Barre, PA mob family. Over 60 of the attendees were detained by police, with an estimated 40 more fleeing into the woods.

Further reading:

Apalachin, NY

Gangsters, Inc. – Mob Meeting at Apalachin: The Big Barbeque

Wikipedia – Apalachin Meeting

this day in crime history: november 13, 1974

HighHopes

On this date in 1974, 23 year old Ronald “Butch” DeFeo, Jr. walked into Henry’s Bar in Amityville, NY and announced that he thought his parents had been shot. Several people left the bar with him and went to his house to check on his parents. As it turns out, they were dead in their bed. The police were called. When they arrived, they searched the house and discovered that DeFeo’s four younger siblings, two brothers and two sisters, were also dead in their respective beds. All six family members had been shot.

DeFeo, a known troublemaker and drug abuser, spun a tale for police about a mob hitman killing his parents. As the investigation progressed, details of DeFeo’s story didn’t hold up. He eventually confessed to all six of the murders.

At trial, DeFeo and his attorney, William Weber, attempted an insanity defense. The jury didn’t buy it, and Defeo was convicted of six counts of second degree murder. He was given six consecutive twenty-five to life sentences. DeFeo is currently incarcerated at Green Haven Correctional Facility. His next parole hearing is in July 2017.

If this story sounds familiar, it’s probably because it was this crime, and DeFeo’s attempt at an insanity defense, that were the inspiration for the story of The Amityville Horror.

Further reading:

The Amityville Murders

Wikipedia – Rondald DeFeo, Jr.

Amityville: Horror or Hoax

this day in crime history: november 12, 1941

On this date in 1941, Murder Inc. associate-turned stool pigeon Abe “Kid Twist” Reles went on a flight. Out the window of room 623 of the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. It was a one-way trip. And no frequent flier miles for old Abe Reles, who had flipped on his former Murder, Inc. associates, was under police protection at the time. Did he jump, or was he pushed? Did the cops look the other way, or did they take a more “active” role? Did Reles’s fellow snitches occupying the “Squealers Suite” at the Half Moon have a hand in it? Thanks to a thoroughly shoddy investigation by the police and the Brooklyn D.A., we’ll probably never know for sure. But one thing we do know is that “Kid Twist” traded in his nickname for a new one: “The canary who sang, but couldn’t fly.”

Further Reading:

Wikipedia – Abe Reles

J-Grit – Abe “Kid Twist” Reles

The Canary Sang but Couldn’t Fly, by Edmund Elmaleh

this day in crime history: november 11, 1919

AmLeg

On this date 1919, four members of the American Legion were shot and killed during an Armistice Day parade in Centralia, WA. The men were shot by members of the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies.

The incident started when members of a local Legion post passed in front of the Wobblies’ union hall in Centralia. Legion post commander Warren Grimm was shot in the chest by a Wobbly sniper. Legionnaire Arthur McElfresh was next, shot in head by a rifle from long distance. At that point, Legionnaires stormed the Wobbly building. Legionnaires Ben Cassagranda and Dale Hubbard were killed by armed Wobblies after they moved on the union hall. Five more Legionnaires were injured. A number of Wobblies inside the building were captured and turned over to law enforcement.

That night, a crowd stormed the local jail and took IWW member Wesley Everest from his cell. They brought him to the Chehalis River Bridge and lynched him. This, and other actions by vigilantes, led to the governor sending the National Guard to Centralia to quell the unrest.

There are two versions of how the shooting started. The Legionnaires claimed that they stormed the Wobbly hall after Grimm and McElfresh were shot in the street. The Wobblies claimed they did not open fire until after the Legionnaires stormed the hall. They had only armed themselves in self defense after multiple attacks on IWW members in the months leading up to the incident. But the first two men killed were shot at long range with rifles. The blood trails from both men indicated they were shot while standing in the street, over 100 feet from the Wobbly hall.

A trial was eventually held in Montesano, WA. Seven Wobblies were convicted of second degree murder. They received prison sentences of 25-40 years. Six of the men were paroled in 1931 and 1932. The seventh was paroled in 1939. No one was ever charged with the murder of Wesley Everest.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Centralia Massacre (Washington)

University of Washington – Essay: The Centralia Massacre

this day in crime history: november 10, 1924

On this date in 1924, Chicago North Side gang boss Dean O’Banion was shot and killed in the back of the Schofield flower shop (pictured above), which served as his headquarters. Apparently the Chicago Outfit, which ran the South Side, decided it didn’t like the competition. They sent some of the boys to visit O’Banion in his shop. They gunned him down as he was working on a floral arrangement for mob luminary Mike Merlo’s funeral. The hit touched off a gang war between the two factions that would last five years, and would come to an end in the wake of the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

My Al Capone Museum – Dean Charles O’Banion

Wikipedia – Dean O’Banion

Graveyards of Chicago – Dion “Deany” O’Banion