this day in crime history: january 21, 1959


On this date in 1959, Carl Switzer, best known for playing Alfalfa in the Our Gang series, was shot and killed by a friend. Switzer, who was drunk at the time, got into an argument with the man over $50 that Switzer thought he was owed. The man shot Switzer after being assaulted and threatened with a knife. He was arrested and charged with murder, but the jury acquitted him.

Further reading:

The Death of Carl Alfalfa Switzer

Wikipedia – Carl Switzer

Here’s a video of Alfalfa demonstrating his considerable musical talent:

true crime stocking stuffer

HollywoodontheSpot

Looking for last-minute gifts for that true crime fan on your Christmas list? Here’s an idea, check out Patrick Downey’s Hollywood on the Spot: Crimes Against the Early Movie Stars.

The lives of Hollywood’s early movie stars have become the stuff of legend; the glitz and the glamour, the conspicuous consumption, the never ending carousel of parties and premieres. Rarely discussed is the dark side of their stardom; the constant fear that at any time they could become victims of gunmen, kidnappers, or extortionists. In these pages are the stories that normally get left out of the Hollywood history books: the armed robberies, home invasions and the threats of abduction, maiming, and murder that plagued Tinseltown throughout the early years. Whether it was “America’s Sweetheart” Mary Pickford or sex siren Mae West – no star was immune. Hollywood on the Spot brings to light the nightmares inside the Dream Factory.

Hollywood on the Spot is available as a trade paperback from Amazon.

this day in crime history: february 12, 1976

Mineo

On this date in 1976, actor Sal Mineo was stabbed to death after parking his car in Los Angeles. Mineo, 37, had been nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor. He had just returned home from rehearsing a play when he was attacked.

Police had little to go on, other than a vague description of the attacker given by witnesses who saw the man fleeing the seen. After two years of dead ends, detectives received a call from Michigan police about a man named Lionel Williams. Williams, who had been arrested on bad check charges, was heard bragging that he was the one who killed Mineo. An interview with Williams’s wife revealed that he came home covered in blood on the night of the murder. She also provided police with a description of a knife that belonged to Williams. Her description matched the cast of Mineo’s knife wound that was made by the coroner.

Lionel Williams was tried and convicted of murder in 1979. He received a prison sentence and was paroled in 1990.

Further reading:

Crime Library – The Switchblade Kid: The Life and Death of Sal Mineo

Wikipedia – Sal Mineo

History.com – Feb 12, 1976: Actor Sal Mineo is killed in Hollywood

this day in crime history: february 2, 1922

On this date in 1922, film director William Desmond Taylor was found dead in his bungalow in Los Angeles. He was originally thought to have died of natural causes, but when the body was rolled over, a single bullet wound was found in his back.

Cash and valuables were found on Taylor’s person, ruling out robbery as a motive. More than a dozen suspects emerged, including Taylor’s valet, his former valet, a studio executive, and several actresses. Police were never able to make a case against any of the suspects. Poor case management led to the loss of much of the physical evidence.

Newspapers of the day featured sensationalized stories and rampant speculation about the identity of the killer and the motive for Taylor’s murder. The murder occurred less than six months after the Fatty Arbuckle scandal and helped shape the public’s view of Hollywood as a hotbed of decadence.

In 1999, it was revealed that Margaret Gibson, an actress who had worked with Taylor, had confessed on her deathbed in 1964 to having killed Taylor. The confession has never been confirmed.

Further reading:

Taylorology – An archive of information about the case

William Desmond Taylor: The Unsolved Murder

Crime Library – Drugs, Sex, and Murder in 1920s Tinseltown

Wikipedia – William Desmond Taylor

this day in crime history: january 21, 1959


On this date in 1959, Carl Switzer, best known for playing Alfalfa in the Our Gang series, was shot and killed by a friend. Switzer, who was drunk at the time, got into an argument with the man over $50 that Switzer thought he was owed. The man shot Switzer after being assaulted and threatened with a knife. He was arrested and charged with murder, but the jury acquitted him.

Further reading:

The Death of Carl Alfalfa Switzer

Wikipedia – Carl Switzer

Here’s a video of Alfalfa demonstrating his considerable musical talent:

r.i.p., rod taylor

It came to my attention over the weekend that actor Rod Taylor died last week. Taylor is best known for his role’s in George Pal’s The Time Machine and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Here’s the trailer for The Time Machine, a movie I need to watch again.

More recently, Taylor made a cameo appearance as Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Here’s his scene from that movie.

this day in crime history: february 12, 1976

Mineo

On this date in 1976, actor Sal Mineo was stabbed to death after parking his car in Los Angeles. Mineo, 37, had been nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor. He had just returned home from rehearsing a play when he was attacked.

Police had little to go on, other than a vague description of the attacker given by witnesses who saw the man fleeing the seen. After two years of dead ends, detectives received a call from Michigan police about a man named Lionel Williams. Williams, who had been arrested on bad check charges, was heard bragging that he was the one who killed Mineo. An interview with Williams’s wife revealed that he came home covered in blood on the night of the murder. She also provided police with a description of a knife that belonged to Williams. Her description matched the cast of Mineo’s knife wound that was made by the coroner.

Lionel Williams was tried and convicted of murder in 1979. He received a prison sentence and was paroled in 1990.

Further reading:

Crime Library – The Switchblade Kid: The Life and Death of Sal Mineo

Wikipedia – Sal Mineo

History.com – Feb 12, 1976: Actor Sal Mineo is killed in Hollywood