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

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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

this day in crime history: november 6, 1982

On this day in 1982, Shirley Allen was arrested for murdering her husband Lloyd. The murder weapon? Poison. Anti-freeze, to be precise. The motive? Lloyd’s life insurance policy.

It seems that old Shirley had lost a previous hubby, John Gregg, under mysterious circumstances in 1978. Unfortunately for Shirley, Mr. Gregg had replaced Shirley as beneficiary on his life insurance policy shortly before he died.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Shirley took another crack at whacking a husband while married to one Joe Sinclair. Joe noticed that his coffee tasted a little off, and went to the police. He elected not to press charges and filed for divorce instead.

For Shirley, third time was the charm. And you can bet she did her homework and checked into Lloyd’s insurance policy before she offed him. Gotta love a woman who learns from her mistakes. But Shirley never got to spend the money. Her daughter saw Shirley putting the antifreeze into Lloyd’s drink and turned her in. An autopsy confirmed that Lloyd Allen had consumed a lethal dose of anti-freeze. Shirley Allen was tried and convicted of murder. She was sentenced to life in prison.

Maybe we shouldn’t judge Shirley Allen too harshly. Her real motive may have been altruistic. Maybe she thought her husband needed anti-freeze in his system. After all, look who he was sleeping with. One. Cold. Bitch.

Murderpedia – Shirley Elizabeth Allen

History Channel: A woman ices her husband with anti-freeze

this day in crime history: november 4, 1928


On this date in 1928, notorious gambler Aronold Rothstein lost his biggest bet. When Rothstein, thought to be the brains behind the 1919 World Series fix, showed up at room 349 at the Park Central hotel in Manhattan, he was greeted with a bullet to the abdomen. The shooting was allegedly motivated by an unpaid gambling debt. As the story goes, Rothstein–the ultimate gambling fixer himself–thought that the poker game where he lost three hundred large was rigged. As a result, he balked at paying. Another theory has it that the Rothstein hit was perpetrated by rivals looking to take over his rackets. Either way, Rothstein died a couple days later. He refused to name the shooter, and no one was ever convicted of his murder. The case remains officially unsolved.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Arnold Rothstein

DavidPietrusza.com – Rothstein

Gangster City, by Patrick Downey

this day in crime history: november 2, 1979


On this date in 1979, three members of the Black Liberation Army broke fellow BLA member Assata Shakur (aka Joanne Chesimard) out of the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in Union Township, NJ. The escape began when the BLA members, posing as prison visitors, drew .45 pistols and took two guards hostage. They seized a prison van and used it to flee the prison with Shakur. Once outside the prison, they switched cars and made their getaway. The two hostages were released unharmed.

Shakur, step-aunt of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, was serving a life sentence for her role in the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973. After escaping prison, she lived as a fugitive in the U.S. She eventually fled to Cuba where she was granted asylum by the government.

Further reading:

FBI Podcast – JOANNE DEBORAH CHESIMARD

Wikipedia – Assata Shakur