this day in crime history: july 27, 1996

rudolphwanted

On this day in 1996, a bomb was detonated at the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, GA during the 1996 Summer Olympics. One person was killed by the blast. Another died of a heart attack at the scene.

The bomb, actually three pipe bombs in a military-style pack, was discovered by security guard Richard Jewell. Jewell managed to clear most of the spectators away from the area before the detonation. In addition to the two fatalities, 111 people were injured.

Jewell was hailed as a hero. At first. Within three days of the bombing, the FBI leaked to several media outlets that Jewell was a “person of interest” in the investigation. Jewell was painted in the media as a failed wannabe cop who planted the bomb in order to play hero. NBC talking head Tom Brokaw said, “The speculation is that the FBI is close to making the case. They probably have enough to arrest him right now, probably enough to prosecute him, but you always want to have enough to convict him as well. There are still some holes in this case.” As it turns out, there were more holes than there was case.

By October, the FBI had given up on Jewell for lack of evidence. The US Attorney went so far as to send Jewell a letter informing him that he had been cleared of any wrongdoing related to the bombing.

Jewell sued the media outlets that had libeled him. He reached settlements with NBC, CNN, the New York Post, and his former employer, Piedmont College. A lawsuit against the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was dismissed in 2007 after Jewell died at the age of 44.

After clearing Jewell, the investigation into the bombing stalled out until early 1997, when two more bombings occurred in the Atlanta area. While investigating the bombings of an abortion clinic and a lesbian nightclub, investigators noted similarities between those bombs and the one detonated at the Olympics. Evidence from the 1997 bombings led the feds to a new suspect: Eric Robert Rudolph.

In May 1998, Rudolph was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. He was believed to be hiding somewhere in the Appalachians. Multiple searches were unable to locate him. He was finally arrested in May 2003 in Murphy, NC. Officer Jeffery Postell spotted him behind a Save-a-lot store at four in the morning. Suspecting a burglary in progress, Postell arrested Rudolph, who was unarmed.

In exchange for not receiving a death sentence, and for revealing the location of a large cache of dynamite, Eric Rudolph pleaded guilty to all charges. He is currently incarcerated at the federal supermax prison in Florence, CO. He will never be eligible for parole.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Centennial Olympic Park Bombing

Wikipedia – Eric Rudolph

Wikipedia – Richard Jewell

Washington Post – Richard A. Jewell; Wrongly Linked to Olympic Bombing

this day in crime history: july 21, 1873

RIandP

On this date in 1873, a group of western bank robbers known as the James-Younger gang tried their hand at train robbery.  The gang sabotaged the track just outside Adair, IA and waited for the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific train’s approach.  Around 7:00 PM, the locomotive derailed, killing the engineer.

Some of the robbers hit the express car while the rest guarded the train’s passengers and crew.  The gang believed that the train would be carrying tens of thousands of dollars in gold.  As it turns out, they were mistaken.  They left the scene about ten minutes later with a few thousand in cash.

Some have referred to the 1873 Rock Island &Pacific robbery as the first peace-time train robbery in US history, but this is incorrect.  The Reno gang beat the James-Youngers to it, robbing an Ohio and Mississippi train in Seymour, IN in 1866.

Further reading:

NY Times – “Daring Railway Robbery”

Old West Legends: The James-Younger Gang – Terror in the Heartland

Wikipedia – James-Younger Gang

this day in crime history: july 15, 1997

Cunanan

On this day in 1997, fashion designer Gianni Versace was shot and killed outside his home in Miami Beach, FL. Versace’s killer, Andrew Cunanan, had gone on a killing spree that started three months earlier in Minneapolis. Versace was Cunanan’s fifth and final (known) victim. Cunanan committed suicide on July 24th on a houseboat in Miami. His motive for the killings remains unknown.

Further reading:

FBI: Serial Killers – Andrew Cunanan Murders a Fashion Icon

Crime Museum – Versace Murder

Wikipedia – Andrew Cunanan

this day in crime history: july 12, 1979

On this date in 1979, acting Bonanno crime family boss Carmine “The Cigar” Galante was murdered at a restaurant in Brooklyn. Galante, whose tenure as boss caused friction with the other New York crime families, had engineered the assassination of several Gambino family members in order to take over their narcotics trafficking business.

By the middle of 1979, the bosses of the other families agreed to have Galante killed. On July 12th, he was having lunch at a restaurant with Bonanno family members Leonard Coppola and Giuseppe Turano. Two Sicilian bodyguards stood watch as the men dined. As they finished lunch, three masked men walked up and opened fire with pistols and shotguns. Galante and his two companions were killed. The bodyguards, who took no action to protect Galante, were unharmed.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Carmine Galante

FBI Records – Carmine Galante

this day in crime history: july 8, 1898

On this date in 1898, con-man and gangster Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith uttered his last words: “My God, don’t shoot!” What do you think happened next? If your guess was “He was shot,” give yourself 10 points. Soapy was killed in a dispute over a game of three-card monte, among other things.

Further reading:

Alias Soapy Smith: King of the Frontier Con Men

Leadville & Twin Lakes, Colorado History: The Story of Jefferson Randolph (Soapy) Smith

Legends of America: Soapy Smith – Bunko Man of the Old West

Soapy Smith’s Soapbox

this day in crime history: june 30, 1882

On this date in 1882, Charles J. Guiteau was hanged in the District of Columbia for the assassination of President James A. Garfield. Guiteau had shot Garfield on July 2nd of the previous year. Garfield lingered for two months, finally dying on September 19, 1881. The motive for the shooting: Guiteau was angry at the president for failing to offer him an ambassadorship as a reward for a pro-Garfield speech Guiteau wrote which almost no one heard or read. In short, the guy was a nut.

If Guiteau’s motive for the assassination isn’t proof enough of his nuttiness, his conduct at the trial was sure to seal the deal. He gave testimony in the form of epic poetry. He passed notes with spectators, often asking them for legal advice. He even publicly bad-mouthed his defense team during the trial (Hint: you should really wait until after you’ve been convicted before you start tossing brickbats at the people who are trying to save your skin). Guiteau was convicted on January 25, 1882 and sentenced to die.

Further reading:

The Assassination of James A. Garfield, By Robert Kingsbury

Wikipedia – Assassination of James A. Garfield

UMKC Law School – Last Words of Assassin Charles Guiteau

this day in crime history: june 29, 1978

Hogan

On this date in 1978, actor Bob Crane (Hogan’s Heroes) was found murdered in a hotel room in Scottsdale, AZ. His head had been bashed in and a VCR cord was tied around his neck. Cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head. Police suspected Crane’s friend John Carpenter (no relation to the film director). He was finally arrested and tried for Crane’s murder in 1992. The jury found him not guilty. He died of a heart attack in 1998, so whatever secrets Carpenter knew about the murder went to the grave with him.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Bob Crane

findadeath.com – Bob’s Cranium