this day in crime history: june 14, 1962

On this date in 1962, Anna E. Slesers was found dead. She was believed to be the first victim of the notorious serial killer known as the Boston Strangler, who may, or may not, have been Albert DeSalvo (pictured above). In fact, the murders may have been committed by more than one person. DeSalvo’s confession was the only significant piece of evidence that linked him to the crimes. He died in 1973, while serving time in prison on unrelated offenses.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – The Boston Strangler

Wikipedia: Boston Strangler

The Boston Strangler (1968)

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 5, 1968

RFK

On this date in 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, was shot in Los Angeles, CA.

It was just after midnight when Kennedy finished addressing supporters at the Ambassador Hotel’s Embassy Room ballroom. His advisers decided it would be best to leave the hotel through the kitchen, so as to avoid reporters who were pushing for an impromptu press conference.

As the entourage moved through the kitchen, they were confronted by 24 year old Sirhan Sirhan, an immigrant with Jordanian citizenship. A Christian of Palestinian descent, Sirhan was angered by Kennedy’s support of Israel. He  produced a .22 caliber pistol and shot Kennedy repeatedly. Kennedy fell to the floor as his security detail, consisting of former FBI agent William Barry, decathlete Rafer Johnson, and pro-footballer Roosevelt Greer, wrestled Sirhan to the ground and subdued him. The gun discharged several times during the struggle and five people were injured. After being subdued, Sirhan managed to break loose and grab the gun again. He attempted to shoot it, but he had already used up all his ammo.

Senator Kennedy was taken to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan for emergency surgery, but the prognosis was not good. At 2 AM the following morning, a spokesman announced that Kennedy had died.

Sirhan Sirhan was tried by the State of California for murder. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the gas chamber. His sentence was commuted to life by a California court in accordance with the People v. Anderson decision. He is currently incarcerated at California’s Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego and has been denied parole over a dozen times.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – The Murder of Robert Kennedy

About.com – Robert Kennedy Assassination

Wikipedia – Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

this day in crime history: june 4, 1965

bigsprings

On this day in 1965, the Farmers State Bank in Big Springs, NE (pictured above, the building currently serves as the public library) was robbed.

The robber, Duane Earl Pope, had recently graduated from college in Kansas. He got the idea to rob the bank while working near Big Springs while he was in college.

Pope prepared for the heist by renting a car in Salina, KS. He drove to Nebraska armed with a  pistol. He watched the bank and waited for the morning rush of customers to leave. He then went inside, held all four of the bank’s employees at gunpoint and filled a briefcase with about $1600 in cash. Before leaving, he ordered the employees to get face down on the ground, then shot all four of them. Three died, the fourth survived, but was permanently paralyzed.

Pope drove back to Salina, where he returned the rental car. After that, he made a run for the border. Shortly after arriving in Tijuana, he crossed back into the US. He was hiding out in San Diego when he learned that he had been named as the prime suspect in the robbery/homicide back in Nebraska. He celebrated this event by traveling to Las Vegas for some gambling and partying.

Pope was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. The next day after hitting the fugitive’s version of the big leagues, Pope went to Kansas City, MO and turned himself in. He gave police a full written confession. He was extradited from Missouri to Nebraska and was tried in both federal and state courts. Both convicted him of robbery and murder and sentenced him to death. His death sentences were commuted due to the Supreme Court’s Furman v. Georgia decision. He was incarcerated at the federal prison in Leavenworth, KS. until July 1, 2016. On that date he was released into the custody of Nebraska authorities who returned him to the Cornhusker State, where, he still owes three life sentences.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Duane Earl Pope

The McPherson College SpectatorLet Out and Locked Up

FBI – Photo of Duane Earl Pope

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 22, 1962

CA-Flt11
Photo from Wikipedia, taken by 09er

On this date in 1962, Continental Airlines Flight 11, enroute from Chicago to Kansas City, MO, crashed in Unionville, MO, killing all 45 of the Boeing 707’s occupants.

Several eyewitness accounts described an explosion at the rear of the plane while it was over Centerville, IA. Once it became apparent that an explosive device might be involved, the FBI was called in. They discovered that one of the passengers had purchased an inordinate amount of life insurance just prior to the flight. In addition to insurance, Thomas G. Doty also purchased six sticks of dynamite before his trip. The married father of a five year old daughter was facing prison time for an armed robbery.

Investigators believed that the bomb had been hidden in the rear lavatory on the starboard side of the plane. The explosion tore the tail section off the 707, which caused it to crash.

In July 2010, a memorial was erected in Unionville, MO.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Continental Airlines Flight 11

Continental Airlines Flight 11 Facebook Page

Continental Airline Flight 11 Blog

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

University of Minnesota Law Library: Clarence Darrow Collection – Leopold and Loeb Trial