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

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this day in crime history: october 9, 1919


“Say it ain’t so, Joe.” On this date in 1919, the Chicago White Sox lost game eight of the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, 10-5. This gave the series to the Reds, five games to three. Of course, losing a baseball game isn’t a crime. Unless the game was fixed. And this one was, reportedly by NY gangster Arnold Rothstein. Eight of the Chicago White Sox players – dubbed the Black Sox – were banned for life from baseball.

Further reading:

Chicago Tribune“The Black Sox”

Wikipedia: Black Sox Scandal

Wikipedia: Arnold_Rothstein

this day in crime history: september 29, 1982

On this date in 1982, 12 year old Mary Kellerman of Elk Grove Village, IL took an Extra-Strength Tylenol capsule for a sore throat and runny nose.  Shortly after taking the capsule, she was found unconscious on the bathroom floor.  She was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.

That same day, 27 year old Adam Janus was rushed to the hospital after losing consciousness in his Chicago-area home.  Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.  He died shortly after arriving at the hospital.  A heart attack was suspected as the cause of death.  That evening, Janus’s family gathered at his home to mourn.  His brother and sister-in-law, both suffering from headaches, each took Extra-Strength Tylenol from a bottle they had found on the kitchen counter.  Both soon collapsed on the floor.  An ambulance was called and they were rushed to the hospital where they both died.

The sudden deaths of three family members led investigators to focus on poisoning as the cause of death.  Toxicology tests eventually showed that all three, as well as Mary Kellerman, had ingested large amounts of cyanide.  The Extra-Strength Tylenol was eventually identified as the source of the poison.  The public was alerted to the danger and a massive recall was instated by Johnson & Johnson (Tylenol’s manufacturer), but three more people in the Chicago-area had died by this time.  The other victims were Mary Reiner, Paula Prince, and Mary McFarland.

As the investigation continued, it became apparent that the five bottles that had caused the deaths (as well as three others that were discovered during the recall) were tampered with in stores, as all had not been manufactured in the same plant.  All of the poisoned capsules were found in the Chicago area.  Several suspects emerged, including a man who attempted to extort $1 million from Johnson & Johnson, but there was insufficient evidence to link them to the crime.

In recent years the FBI has shown renewed interest in James Lewis, the man who was convicted in the $1 million extortion attempt.  In January 2009, they searched his home in Massachusetts and took DNA samples from him and his wife.

In May 2011, the investigation began to focus on Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. Kaczynski’s early crimes took place in the Chicago area, and his parents owned a home there at the time. The investigation remains open.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – Chicago Tylenol Murders

The Eighties Club – The Tylenol Murders

Wikipedia – Chicago Tylenol murders

this day in crime history: july 22, 1934

On this day in 1934, John Dillinger was shot and killed by lawmen as he left the Biograph Theater in Chicago, IL. FBI agents under Special Agent in Charge Melvin Purvis, along with officers from the East Chicago, IN Police Department set up a stakeout outside the theater, which was showing the film Manhattan Melodrama.

After the movie, Dillinger walked out with his girlfriend Polly Hamilton and Anna Sage, the infamous “Woman in Red” (she was really wearing orange, but “The Woman in Orange” doesn’t have quite the ring to it). Agent Purvis ID’d Dillinger, and the agents closed in. The outlaw ran toward an alley and tried to draw a pistol from his pocket. The agents opened fire, and Dillinger was hit four times. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“It’s like the coroner said, ‘Crime don’t pay!’ does it?”

Further reading:

Crime Museum – John Dillinger

FBI Famous Cases – John Dillinger 

Biograph Theater

this day in crime history: june 19, 1975

On this day in 1975, Chicago mob boss Salvatore Giancana, aka “Momo,” aka “Mooney,” aka “Sam the Cigar,” aka “Sam Flood” and aka “Sam Gold,” was killed in the basement of his Oak Park, IL home. Giancana was due to testify before a Senate panel later that month. He was shot several times, once in the back of the head, and several times in the face.

Further reading:

Gangsters Incorporated: 1975:Murder of Sam Giancana

Find-a-Grave: Sam Giancana (1908-1975)

American Mafia: Sam Giancana

Wikipedia: Sam Giancana

this day in crime history: june 9, 1930


On this date in 1930, Chicago Tribune reporter Jake Lingle was murdered in the Illinois Central Train Station underpass. Lingle, a “leg man” who gathered the information and phoned it in to news writers, covered stories from Chicago’s underworld. It was first thought that Lingle’s murder was related to the news stories he covered. It soon emerged that Lingle was on the payroll of local mobsters.

A hoodlum named Leo Brothers was arrested for the crime. He was tried and convicted of Lingle’s murder and sentenced to fourteen years in prison. He was paroled in eight. The light sentence was due to the belief that Brothers was taking the fall for someone else.

A popular theory of the motive for the murder is that Lingle was attempting to blackmail Al Capone in order to get money to pay off large gambling debts. If that was the case, Lingle learned the hard way what most people in the Windy City already knew: You don’t cross Big Al.

Further reading:

American Mafia – The Lingle Killing

Chicago TribuneThe shooting of Jake Lingle

TimeThe Press: Martyr Into Racketeer

this day in crime history: june 1, 1948

On this date in 1948, bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson (not to be confused with another musician who had appropriated his name), was murdered during a robbery in Chicago, IL. Williamson was walking home after playing a gig at Chicago’s Plantation Club when he was attacked. His last words were reported to have been, “Lord have mercy.”

Further reading:

The Blues Harp Page – Sonny Boy Williamson I

Fact Monster – Sonny Boy Williamson

Wikipdeia – Sonny Boy Williamson I