I saw this video the other day and it left me shaking my head. The lessons from this incident seem obvious. Keep your gun concealed. Use a proper holster. The waistband of your yoga pants don’t count. And maintain awareness at all times. This woman managed to failed in all three of those tasks. I guess she was out sick when they taught that stuff at the police academy.
On this date in 1906, prominent architect Stanford White was shot and killed at the rooftop theater of Madison Square Garden. The shooter was Harry Kendall Thaw, of Pittsburgh. Thaw, the heir to a multimillion dollar fortune, held a grudge against White, whom he blamed for thwarting his efforts to achieve the respect of high society. White was also the former lover of Thaw’s wife, Evelyn Nesbit. Nesbit had been a popular model and chorus girl and was the inspiration for the movie The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing.
At trial, Thaw went with a temporary insanity defense (“temporary” probably being the only part that was exaggerated). The jury wound up deadlocked. At the second trial, Evelyn Nesbit took the stand and testified that Stanford White had abused her and that Thaw was just acting in her defense. She performed this task in exchange for the promise of a divorce and a million dollars from Thaw. The jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity. Thaw received a sentence to the state mental hospital at Matteawan. Nesbit received her divorce, but not the money.
Thaw escaped from Matteawan in 1913 and fled to Canada. He was eventually apprehended and extradited to New York. After receiving a new trial, he was found sane and not guilty of murder. He was released from state custody in 1915.
Thaw was arrested again in 1916, this time for the abduction and sexual assault of 19 year old Frederick Gump (no relation to Forrest). He was found not guilty by reason of insanity (it’s like déjà vu all over again). In 1924, Thaw was judged sane and released from the asylum where he had been incarcerated.
Harry Thaw died of a heart attack in Florida in 1947. In his will, he left Evelyn Nesbit ten thousand dollars, about one percent of his estimated net worth.
Murderpedia – Harry Thaw
Wikipedia – Harry Kendall Thaw
On this date in 1968, writer Valerie Solanas, author of the SCUM Manifesto, began her 15 minutes of fame by shooting artist Andy Warhol in his New York City studio. Solanas also shot art critic Mario Amaya, and tried to shoot Warhol’s manager Fred Hughes, but was unable to do so due to a gun malfunction.
After the shooting, Solanas turned herself in to police and confessed to the shooting. Warhol and Amaya survived the shooting, and Solanas was charged with felony assault. After extensive evaluation in a psychiatric ward, Solanas was found fit to stand trial. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison, with credit for time served. She was released from prison in 1971.
After her release, Solanas periodically harassed Warhol by telephone. She was institutionalized several more times and died of pneumonia in 1988.
Wikipedia – Valerie Solanas
On this date in 1977, police in New York City arrested George “The Human Fly” Willig on the 110th floor of the World Trade Center. His crime? He climbed the South Tower from the outside. He accomplished this feat, which took him 3 1/2 hours, using clamps he had fashioned to fit into the channel that ran the entire height of the tower for window-washing equipment.
The City, sensing they had a new folk hero on their hands, decided against a hefty fine for Willig. Instead, he was fined $1.10 — one cent for every floor floor of the tower.
New York Press – “WTC Climber George Willig Would Do It All Again”
Gothamist – George Willig’s 1977 WTC Climb
Wikipedia – George Willig
On this date in 1977, mob boss Michael “Mickey” Spillane (not to be confused with the guy who created fictional P.I. Mike Hammer) had a run of very bad luck on Friday the 13th; he was shot and killed outside his apartment in Queens, NY. Spillane, who headed the Westies gang, had moved to Queens from Hell’s Kitchen out of fear for his safety. The previous year, his three top lieutenants had been taken out on orders from Genovese crime family boss Fat Tony Salerno. Salerno coveted control of construction contracts for the Jacob Javits Civic Center, which was being built in Spillane’s territory. Spillane’s killing was rumored to have been carried out by Gambino crime family associates Roy DeMeo and Danny Grillo. After Spillane’s demise, mobster Jimmy Coonan took over as head of the Westies. Coonan had previously challenged Spillane for control of the group. After he took control, Coonan formed an alliance with the Gambino family, in a deal brokered by the newly-“made” Roy DeMeo. Coincidence? Um… probably not.
The Westies, by T.J. English
The Serial Killer Calender – Roy DeMeo
Wikipedia – Mickey Spillane (gangster)
On this day in 1990, an argument turned into a mass murder at the Happy Land Social Club in the Bronx, NY.
Earlier in the evening, Cuban immigrant Julio Gonzalez was ejected from the club after arguing with his ex-girlfriend, who worked there as a coat check girl. Gonzalez, who had recently lost his job, was enraged. He screamed threats at the bouncers as they ejected him from the club.
Gonzalez returned to the club armed with a container of gasoline and some matches. He poured the gas on the stairs to the club and ignited it. The fire spread quickly. Due to a lack of working fire exits (they were blocked to prevent people from entering the club without paying), the people inside were trapped. Several managed to escape by breaking through a barrier that blocked one of the fire doors. Eighty-seven people died in the fire.
Among those who survived was Gonzalez’s ex-girlfriend. She told police about the argument and Gonzalez’s threats. They tracked him down and arrested him the following afternoon. Shortly after being arrested, Gonzalez confessed to the crime. He was tried and convicted on 87 counts of arson and 87 counts of murder. He was sentenced to 25 years to life on each count. Since the crimes occurred in a single incident, New York State law required that the sentences be served concurrently, rather than consecutively. Gonzalez is currently incarcerated at Clinton Correction Facility. He is scheduled for a parole hearing in November 2016.
The owners of the building were sued by the victims and the families of the deceased. The case was settled for $15.8 million, divided between the plaintiffs.
New York Times – Refugee Found Guilty of Killing 87 in Bronx Happy Land Fire
Murderpedia – Julio Gonzalez
Wikipedia – Happy Land Fire
On this date in 1964, 28 year old Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was murdered outside her apartment building in Queens, NY. Her killer, 29 year old Winston Moseley, stabbed her twice, but fled the scene when he thought he had been seen by one of Genovese’s neighbors. He returned a short while later to find Genovese on the ground at the back of her building. He then raped her, stabbed her several more times, and robbed her of $49.
Two weeks later, an article in the New York Times told the story of how as many as thirty-eight of Genovese’s neighbors had heard her scream, but had made no effort to assist her or call the police. The story ignited a national controversy about the apparent callousness of people living in large cities. The details of the Times report are still disputed to this day. Many of the people living in the neighborhood at the time stated that they could not hear the attack, and those that did hear something weren’t certain what was actually happening.
Winston Moseley was arrested six days after the murder. He was tried and convicted of the crime. He was originally sentenced to death, but the NY Court of Appeals overturned the sentence and reduced it to 20 years to life. Moseley died while incarcerated at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY. He was 81 years old.
“Thirty-Eight Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police” (Original New York Times Article)
Wikipedia – Murder of Kitty Genovese
New York Times – “Reviving Kitty Genovese Case, and Its Passions”
On this date in 1980, Dr. Herman Tarnower, creator of the Scarsdale Diet, was shot and killed in his home in Purchase, NY. Tarnower’s killer was Jean Harris, headmistress of the prestigious Madeira School in McLean, VA. Harris had been in a romantic relationship with Tarnower since 1966. Harris was upset with Tarnower when she discovered he was also having an affair with a secretary in his office.
At trial, Harris claimed she had gone to Tarnower’s house to commit suicide, and that Tarnower was accidentally shot while trying to take the gun from her. The jury didn’t buy it. She was convicted of 2nd degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. Her sentence was commuted by Governor Mario Cuomo. She was released in 1993. She died in December 2012 at the age of 89.
Wikipedia – Herman Tarnower
On this date in 1952, clothing salesman Arnold Schuster was shot and killed outside his home in Brooklyn, NY. A month earlier, Schuster had been riding the subway home from work when he recognized a fellow rider as wanted bank robber Willie “The Actor” Sutton. Schuster followed Sutton from the subway to a nearby garage, where Sutton went to work changing the battery on his car. Schuster then tipped off the police who arrested Sutton.
Schuster’s murder was never solved. Years later, mob turncoat Joe Valachi testified that mob boss Albert Anastasia ordered the murder after seeing Schuster on the TV show I’ve Got a Secret.* Anastasia had no connection to Sutton, he just hated “squealers”. Five years later, Anastasia would find himself on the receiving end of a “hit”, orchestrated by rival boss Vito Genovese, and Anastasia’s underboss Carlo Gambino.
*While researching the 1947 Holmesburg Prison escape, I recently found something that pokes a major hole in Valachi’s story: I’ve Got a Secret premiered in June 1952, four months after Schuster’s murder. If Anastasia saw Schuster on TV, it couldn’t have been on that show.
For more on Sutton’s escape and the murder of Arnold Schuster, check out my true crime short, Over the Wall: The True Story of the 1947 Escape from Holmesburg Prison.
Find a Grave – Arnold Schuster
Wikipedia – Arnold Schuster
On this date in 1970, members of the Weather Underground accidentally detonated a bomb they were constructing in a Greenwich Village, NY townhouse. Three members of the group, Terry Robbins, Theodore Gold and Diana Oughton, were killed in the blast. Two more, Cathy Wilkerson and Kathy Boudin, were injured. Both survivors went on the run. Wilkerson surrendered to police in 1980. She served less than a year in prison. Boudin was later arrested in connection with the 1981 robbery of a Brinks armored truck in which two police officers and a Brinks guard were killed. She was convicted and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. In 2003, she was granted parole.
Wikipedia – Greenwich Village townhouse explosion
New York Times – “An Infamous Explosion and the Smoldering Memory of radicalism”
New York Observer – The Weathermen Townhouse