this day in crime history: march 18, 1990

On this date in 1990, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA was robbed. It was just after midnight when two men dressed as police officers appeared at the museum’s door, claiming they had received a report about a disturbance at the museum. One of the two guards on duty that night let them in. Minutes later the guards were overpowered, bound with duct tape, and stashed in separate parts of the museum’s basement. The two bogus cops went to work stealing various items, including works by Rembrandt, Degas, and Manet. The estimated value of their haul: over $300 million. It was the largest art heist in US history. To date, the case remains unsolved, and none of the stolen works of art have been recovered.

Further reading:

FBI – Art Theft program

Boston.com – Secrets behind the largest art theft in history

this day in crime history: march 3, 1934

On this date in 1934, notorious bank robber John Dillinger escaped from the Lake County jail in Crown Point, IN. Dillinger, who had been arrested in Tucson, AZ in January, was awaiting trial for the murder of a police officer. On the morning of March 3rd, Dillinger pulled what was later reported to be a fake gun on jail guards and convinced them to open his cell. He and another inmate locked up the guards, grabbed some machine guns, and fled the jail with a deputy as a hostage. They made their way to a nearby garage, where they stole Sheriff Lillian Holly’s (front row, far left in the above photo) brand new Ford V-8. Dillinger and company fled across the state line into Illinois. This turned out to be John Dillinger’s fatal mistake. He had taken a stolen car across state lines, which is a federal crime. He would soon have the full attention of the FBI – the kind of attention he could live without.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – John Dillinger

FBI Files – Famous Cases: John Dillinger

Time Magazine – Whittler’s Holiday

Wikipedia – John Dillinger

this day in crime history: february 26, 1993

WTC1993

On this date in 1993, a truck bomb was detonated under the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. Six people were killed and over a thousand were injured.

A massive task force was quickly assembled to search for the culprits. A vehicle identification number (VIN) that was found at the scene matched a rental truck that was reported stolen on the day of the bombing. FBI agents arrested Islamic extremist Mohammad Salameh as he was trying to get his deposit back from the rental company. Three more suspects were quickly rounded up. Agents also found a storage locker containing a large amount of cyanide gas. All four men were charged, tried and convicted of the bombing.

The investigation led to the arrest of another terrorist cell that was planning multiple attacks in and around New York. Ramzi Youseff, the mastermind of the bombing remained at large, as did co-conspirator Abdul Rahman Yasin.

In 1995, Diplomatic Security Service agents arrested Ramzi Yousef in Pakistan. At the time, Yousef was planning multiple bombings of US airliners. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

On September 11, 2001, terrorists financed by Yousef’s uncle, Khalid Sheik Mohammad, used hijacked airliners to knock down both WTC towers.

Further reading:

FBI – First Strike: Global Terror in America

US News & World Report – The 1993 World Trade Center Bombing: A New Threat Emerges

Wikipedia – 1993 World Trade Center Bombing

FBI Wanted Poster – Abdul Rahman Yasin

this day in crime history: february 9, 1960

On this date in 1960, Adolph Coors III, heir to the beer company, was kidnapped after leaving for work. Evidence eventually pointed to a Fulbright scholar-turned-crook named Joseph Corbett, Jr. (pictured above). A nationwide manhunt was launched, with the FBI releasing over 1.5 million wanted posters.

By September 1960, the remains of Adolph Coors were found near Pike’s Peak. Apparently, he had been shot during the abduction. In October 1960, Corbett was arrested by Canadian police in Vancouver, BC. He was convicted in 1961 and sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled in 1978 and died at age 80 in an apparent suicide in 2009.

Further reading:

This Day In History – Coors brewery heir is kidnapped

Wikipedia – Adolph Coors III

Wikipedia – Joseph Corbett, Jr.

this day in crime history: january 16, 1935

On this date in 1935, Kate “Ma” Barker, matriarch of the infamous family of criminals, died along with her son Fred in a hail of gunfire near Ocala, FL. Far from the Tommy-gun toting outlaw she’s been portrayed as in popular culture, Ma Barker’s role in the Barker-Karpis gang was probably limited to providing logistical and moral (or is it immoral?) support.

On January 8, 1935, her son Arthur “Doc” Barker was arrested in Chicago. When he was searched, he was found to have a map of the area where his brother Fred Barker was hiding out with Ma. On the 16th, federal agents surrounded the house and ordered the Barkers to surrender. A gunfight followed. Both Ma and Fred were killed in the battle. When they entered the house, agents found a Tommy gun still in Ma’s hands. Or so they claimed.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Ma Barker

Find a Grave – “Ma” Barker

FBI – Barker-Karpis Gang

Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, January 17, 1935 – “Fred Barker and Mother Slain in Florida Hideout”

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 29, 1933


On this date in 1933, the bound and mutilated body of outlaw Verne Miller was found just outside Detroit, MI. Miller, the chief suspect in the Kansas City Massacre, was a decorated World War I veteran and former lawman. After a short stint as sheriff of Beadle County, SD, Miller turned to a life of crime. He started out in bootlegging, then moved on to robbery. Eventually he wound up as a trigger man for organized crime. The list of people with motives to kill him was long, but Miller’s murder was never solved.

Further reading:

Wikipedia: Vernon C. Miller

FBI Famous Cases – Kansas City Massacre /”Pretty Boy” Floyd

Vern Miller—Sheriff, Moonshiner, Hit-man

Lawman to Outlaw: Verne Miller and the Kansas City Massacre, by Brad Smith

Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34, by Bryan Burrough