this day in crime history: october 1, 1910

On this date in 1910, a bomb was detonated in an alley next to the Los Angeles Times building in Los Angeles, CA.  The bomb, which was planted by labor union activists who were angry at the paper’s anti-union editorial policies, was set to go off when the building was empty.  A faulty timer resulted in an early detonation.  A faulty placement of the device–right over a gas line–resulted in a fire that ultimately destroyed the entire building, and the building next door.  In all, 21 people were killed.

The police investigation of the bombing quickly hit a dead, leading city officials to hire private investigator William J. Burns to track down the guilty parties.  Burns, who was already investigating other bombings believed to be union-related, incorporated the case into his ongoing investigation.  Based on information from spies that Burns had planted in the unions, as well as eyewitness testimony, Burns identified the guilty parties as brothers J.B. and J.J. McNamara, and Ortie McManigal, who were all labor union officials.  In April 1911, McManigal and J.B. McNamara were arrested in a hotel in Detroit.  They were found in possession of suitcases that contained blasting caps, dynamite, and alarm clocks.  After a grueling (and probably unconstitutional) interrogation, Burns got McManigal to agree to turn state’s evidence.  A warrant was obtained for the arrest of J.J. McNamara.  He was arrested several days later at an executive board meeting of the Iron Workers Union.

National labor leaders condemned the arrests as a frame job.  The union tried to hire famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow to defend the men.  Darrow initially declined due to his failing health, but was eventually convinced to take the case by labor organizer Samuel Gompers.

Darrow quickly realized that the police had a fair amount of evidence against the McNamaras, including the testimony of McManigal, who was not being charged in the case.  He eventually convinced the brothers to plead guilty in order to avoid death sentences.  J.B. McNamara was sentenced to life in prison.  J.J. McNamara got 15 years.  J.B. died in prison in March 1941.  Upon his release, J.J. went back to work for the Iron Workers Union as an organizer.  He died in Butte, MT, two months after his brother’s death.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Los Angeles Times bombing

Wikipedia – William J. Burns

Advertisements

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: september 28, 1973

On this date in 1973, a bomb was detonated at the IT&T building in New York.  The device was placed in the company’s Latin American section.  It caused extensive damage to several offices, but no one was killed or injured.  Another bomb was detonated that day at IT&T’s Rome headquarters.  The Weather Undergound took responsibility for the bombings, which they claimed were in retaliation for the company’s role in the coup that took place in Chile earlier that month.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – List of Weatherman actions

this day in crime history: september 26, 1933

This one’s a two-fer. September 26, 1933 was a big day for crime stories.

MGKelly

On this date in 1933, George “Machine Gun Kelly” Barnes was arrested by FBI agents in Memphis, TN. Kelly, who was asleep when agents burst in on him, surrendered without incident.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Machine Gun Kelly

Amsterdam Evening Recorder – “Machine Gun” Kelly, Notorious Desperado, Captured in Memphis

ISP

Also on this date in 1933, ten inmates escaped from the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. The inmates took hostages using three pistols that had been smuggled into the prison. The escapees included Dillinger associates Harry Pierpont, Charles Makley, Russell Clark, and John Hamilton.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Harry Pierpont

JohnDillinger.com – September 1933

this day in crime history: september 25, 1959

On this date in 1959, Anthony “Little Augie Pisano” Carfano got rubbed out. Carfano, a Capo in the Genevose (formerly Luciano) crime family, had made the mistake of getting on the bad side of boss Vito Genevose. As if one fatal mistake wasn’t enough, rumor has it that Carfano was making a play for Meyer Lansky’s gambling action in Cuba.

Carfano was found dead in his car in Queens, shot twice. Also killed was Janice Drake, a former Miss New Jersey and the wife of comedian Alan Drake. She had made her own fatal mistake: going to dinner with the man who had pissed off two of the country’s most dangerous mobsters.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: Anthony Carfano

Rick Porello’s AmericanMafia.com: Colletti & Drake: Women In the Wrong Place At the Wrong Time

Find a Grave: Janice Drake

this day in crime history: september 22, 1975

SJMoore

On this date in 1975, 45 year old Sara Jane Moore attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in San Francisco, CA.  The attempt–which came seventeen days after Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme tried to kill the President–was foiled by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.  Sipple, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, grabbed the gun as Moore pointed it at President Ford.  The gun discharged, but the bullet missed the President.

Moore had previously been investigated by the Secret Service, but they concluded she was not a threat.  Well, nobody’s perfect, not even the feds.  She was arrested on an illegal weapons charge the day before the assassination attempt, but was released by the police.  I guess the local cops aren’t perfect either.

Sara Jane Moore was convicted of attempted assassination and sentenced to life in prison.  She was paroled on December 31, 2007 at the age of 77.

Further reading:

Time – “The Assailant: The Making of a Misfit”

Wikipedia – Sara Jane Moore

this day in crime history: september 16, 1920

On this date in 1920, an unidentified man stopped his horse-drawn cart in front of the J. P. Morgan building on Wall Street. He got down from the cart and disappeared into the noontime crowd. A short while later, a bomb consisting of dynamite and cast iron slugs detonated on the busy street. Thirty-eight people were killed and over four hundred were injured. Police conducted an exhaustive investigation that lasted over three years, but the case was never solved.

Further reading:

The Street.com: “Previous Terror on Wall Street — A Look at a 1920 Bombing”

FBI: Terror on Wall Street

Wikipedia: “Wall Street bombing”