this day in crime history: june 12, 1962

On this date in 1962, prison officials at Alcatraz discovered that inmates Frank Morris, and brothers John and Clarence Anglin had apparently escaped from the federal prison. The escape took over two years to plan and execute. The escapees used stolen materials to make a raft to escape on and dummies to place in their bunks. They tunneled from their cells into the prison ventilation shaft, through which they climbed up to the roof of the prison. They climbed down from the roof, made it to the water, and paddled away on their homemade raft. The men were never found and were presumed drowned in San Francisco Bay.

Further reading:

“The Great Escape from Alcatraz”

FBI Files: Alcatraz Escape

IMDb: Escape from Alcatraz

Advertisements

this day in crime history: june 5, 1968

RFK

On this date in 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, was shot in Los Angeles, CA.

It was just after midnight when Kennedy finished addressing supporters at the Ambassador Hotel’s Embassy Room ballroom. His advisers decided it would be best to leave the hotel through the kitchen, so as to avoid reporters who were pushing for an impromptu press conference.

As the entourage moved through the kitchen, they were confronted by 24 year old Sirhan Sirhan, an immigrant with Jordanian citizenship. A Christian of Palestinian descent, Sirhan was angered by Kennedy’s support of Israel. He  produced a .22 caliber pistol and shot Kennedy repeatedly. Kennedy fell to the floor as his security detail, consisting of former FBI agent William Barry, decathlete Rafer Johnson, and pro-footballer Roosevelt Greer, wrestled Sirhan to the ground and subdued him. The gun discharged several times during the struggle and five people were injured. After being subdued, Sirhan managed to break loose and grab the gun again. He attempted to shoot it, but he had already used up all his ammo.

Senator Kennedy was taken to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan for emergency surgery, but the prognosis was not good. At 2 AM the following morning, a spokesman announced that Kennedy had died.

Sirhan Sirhan was tried by the State of California for murder. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the gas chamber. His sentence was commuted to life by a California court in accordance with the People v. Anderson decision. He is currently incarcerated at California’s Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego and has been denied parole over a dozen times.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – The Murder of Robert Kennedy

About.com – Robert Kennedy Assassination

Wikipedia – Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

this day in crime history: december 16, 1962


On this date in 1962 – the 25th anniversary of the Cole/Roe escape attempt – Alcatraz inmates John Paul Scott and Darl Lee Parker took a shot at busting out of The Rock. After bending the bars on the kitchen window, they made it to the shore and swam for it using inflated rubber gloves as makeshift water wings. Parker made it about 100 yards and stopped on a rock formation near the island. He was found there half an hour after the escape was discovered by prison officials. Scott was found an hour and a half after Parker, unconscious and suffering from hypothermia. He had made it to Fort Point, underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. After a stint in a nearby hospital, Scott was returned to Alcatraz. John Paul Scott is the only Alcatraz escapee who ever successfully swam to the mainland… that we know of.

Further reading:

Utica Observer“2 Escape from Alcatraz; Freedom Short Lived”

Alcatraz History – Escape Attempts

this day in crime history: december 16, 1937

On this day in 1937, Theodore Cole and Ralph Roe decided they needed a change of scenery. The two Oklahomans were inmates at the infamous federal prison on Alcatraz Island. Over a long period of time, they had filed through the bars on one of the windows in the prison mat shop, where they worked. They waited for a stormy day, when the guards in the towers would be less likely to see them leave the prison. When the time was right, they crawled through the window and disappeared. When prison officials discovered that the men were missing, they conducted an exhaustive search of the island, but there was no sign of the two men. It’s believed that the men tried to swim to shore using empty five gallon oil cans as floatation devices, and that the current – stronger than usual due to the storm – carried them out to sea, where they drowned.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Alcatraz Escape Attempts

Alcatraz History – Escape Attempts

this day in crime history: december 11, 1985

On this date in 1985, Hugh Scrutton, a computer store owner in Sacramento, CA was killed when a bomb loaded with nails and splinters exploded in the parking lot of his store. Scrutton was the ninth victim, and first fatality, in the 17 year bombing spree of the man who turned out to be the nuttiest of nutty professors: Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber. By the time he was arrested in 1994, Kaczynski had planted sixteen bombs. Two of the bombs were defused before they could explode. The other fourteen bombs killed three and injured eleven. He is currently serving a life sentence (without the possibility of parole) in federal prison.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Theodore Kaczynski

FBI – The Unabomber

The Unabomber’s Manifesto

this day in crime history: november 26, 1933

On this date in 1933, the people of San Jose, CA decided to take the law into their own hands. Thomas Thurmond and John Holmes were being held in connection with the kidnapping and murder of 22 year old department store heir Brooke Hart. The townsfolk, already enraged by the nature of the crime, whipped themselves into a frenzy when rumor spread that the two men were going to try an insanity defense. On the night of November 26th, they stormed the jail, broke down the door, and took the two men. The crowd brought them to a nearby park, where they hung each man from a tree. No one was ever prosecuted for the lynching. In fact, California Governor James Rolph, who had refused the Sheriff’s request for National Guard troops to hold off the mob, praised the action and promised to pardon anyone charged with the lynching.

Further reading:

Wikipedia: Brooke Hart

San Jose PBA: The Hart Murder and Lynching

this day in crime history: september 5, 1975

President Ford being rushed from the scene of an assassination attempt.
President Ford being rushed from the scene of an assassination attempt.

On this date in 1975, Manson family member Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme was arrested after pointing a gun at President Gerald Ford in a park in Sacramento, CA. The gun, a .45 automatic, was found to have four rounds in the magazine and none in the firing chamber. Fromme later claimed she had intentionally removed the round from the firing chamber, and that she had gone to the park to alert Ford about the plight of California redwood trees.

Fromme was charged and convicted for the attempted assassination of the president. At the sentencing hearing she threw an apple at the prosecutor, striking him in the face. She was sentenced to life in prison. (Apparently the apple-a-day thing doesn’t work on lawyers.)

Lynette Fromme was granted parole in July of 2008, but was not released until August 2009 as she had to serve extra time for a brief 1987 prison escape. Upon release she moved to Marcy, NY.

Seventeen days after Fromme’s assassination attempt, Sara Jane Moore attempted to assassinate President Ford outside a hotel in San Francisco, CA.

Further reading:

About.com – Lynette Alice “Squeaky” Fromme

Wikipedia – Lynette Fromme

Syracuse.com – Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme plans to live in Oneida County