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

this day in crime history: may 30, 1937

mdm1937

On this date in 1937, ten unarmed demonstrators were shot and killed by Chicago Police outside the Republic Steel mill. The demonstrators were members of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. They were on strike against Republic and other steel companies that had refused to sign a labor agreement similar to one reached with U.S. Steel, the largest of the American steel companies.

On Memorial Day, hundreds gathered at SWOC headquarters and prepared to march on Republic Steel. As they neared the mill, their path was blocked by members of the Chicago Police Department. The protestors were told to turn back. When they refused, the police answered with tear gas, billy clubs and bullets. Ten of the protestors were killed, dozens more were injured.

A coroner’s jury would later rule the deaths as “justifiable homicide.”

If you’d like to judge for yourself whether deadly force was justified, check out this video of the incident. The violence starts about five and a half minutes into the video. Not a great moment in Chicago Police history.

Further reading:

Wikipedia: Memorial Day Massacre of 1937

Chicagoist – Flashback: Memorial Day Massacre of 1937

this day in crime history: may 21, 1924


On this date in 1924, two spoiled sociopaths in Chicago, IL committed what they thought would be the perfect crime; all to prove their status as Nietzschean supermen. Nathan Leopold, 19, and Richard Loeb, 18, kidnapped and murdered 14 year old Bobby Franks. They might have gotten away with it, had their perfect crime been just a little more… perfect. But perfection is hard to achieve, especially when you do things like:

-Hide the body where it will be quickly found

-Drop your (very unique) glasses at the body dump location

-Build your alibi around going for a drive in a car that could be shown to have been in the shop at the time

It didn’t take long for the alibi to break down and for both men to confess. So much for supermen, Nietzschean or otherwise.

Famed trial attorney Clarence Darrow was brought in to defend the indefensible. He couldn’t get his clients acquitted, but he did manage to head off a death sentence. Both men were sentenced to life in prison.

Loeb died in prison in 1936, the victim of a razor attack by another inmate. Leopold was paroled in 1958. He moved to Puerto Rico, where worked in a hospital. He died in 1971, at the age of 66.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – Leopold & Loeb

Famous Trials – Illinois v. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb

this day in crime history: may 11, 1920

BigJim

On this date in 1920, Chicago mobster Big Jim Colosimo was shot and killed in his restaurant while waiting for a delivery. Colosimo, who had built his south side gang into a criminal organization to be reckoned with, balked at getting into the bootlegging business. He was making enough money through more traditional criminal enterprises like gambling, prostitution and protection rackets. Besides, he was also making a pretty penny selling illegal hooch in his restaurant. He saw nothing but potential trouble in setting up a distribution network that might attract the attention of the feds.

Unfortunately for Big Jim, his underboss, Johnny Torrio disagreed. Torrio arranged for Big Jim to be at the restaurant to take delivery for a shipment of booze. But the only thing Big Jim took delivery of was hot lead from a hired gun. The shooter was never arrested and the murder remains technically unsolved. Likely candidates for the shooter include Torrio’s right-hand man, Al Capone, and New York wiseguy Frankie Yale. (Between you and me, my money’s on Yale.)

Further reading:

My Al Capone Museum – Colosimo’s

American Mafia History – Giacomo “Big Jim” Colosimo

Wikipedia – James Colosimo

this day in crime history: may 4, 1932

On this date in 1932, “Scarface” Al Capone boarded a train for Atlanta to start serving his prison sentence for tax evasion. Big Al learned the hard way that there are some lines you shouldn’t cross. Lie, cheat, steal, bribe, bootleg, murder–knock yourself out, dude. But you’d damn well better PAY YOUR TAXES!

Capone was released from prison in November 1939 after 7 1/2 years behind bars. The repeal of Prohibition put a hurting on his business. Syphilis put a hurting on his brain. He died of cardiac arrest in 1947.

Lessons learned from Big Al:

1. Pay your taxes
2. Diversify your business
3. Wear a Jimmy hat

Further reading:

My Al Capone Museum – Al Capone’s tax trial and downfall

Al Capone at Chicago Historical Society

Al Capone on Wikipedia