this day in crime history: november 16, 1957

EdGein

On this day in 1957, hardware store owner Bernice Worden went missing. Worden’s son contacted police and relayed his suspicions that a local man named Ed Gein may have had something to do with it. Gein had been in the store the previous evening and promised to return the following day to purchase some antifreeze. The last receipt made out by Bernice Worden before she had disappeared was for antifreeze.

Police searched Gein’s property, where they found Worden’s decapitated body hung upside down in a shed. One witness described it as “dressed out like a deer.” A search of Gein’s house turned up human noses, human female heads, masks made from human skin, a belt made of female human nipples and various other grisly accessories. They also found the head of Mary Hogan, a tavern owner who had been missing since 1954.

Police arrested Gein. He eventually confessed to killing Hogan and Worden. He claimed the other body parts were obtained through grave robbery. There was evidence at local cemeteries to back up Gein’s claim that he had robbed nine graves. He told police that he specifically targeted recently deceased women who bore a resemblance to his late mother.

Gein’s bizarre behavior apparently began after the death of his domineering mother (sound familiar?) when he decided that he wanted to become a woman. He had used the corpses to create a “woman suit” so he could pretend to be female (that one rings a bell too, doesn’t it?).

At his arraignment, Gein pled not guilty by reason of insanity. He was found not competent to stand trial and was committed to a maximum security hospital for the criminally insane. In 1968, Gein’s doctors declared him competent to stand trial. He was tried and convicted of the murder of Bernice Worden, the only murder for which he was ever convicted. He was returned to a secure mental hospital, where he died in 1984 at the age of 77.

Further reading:

Murderpedia – Edward Gein

ThoughtCo – Ed Gein

Wikipedia – Ed Gein

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this day in crime history: august 31, 1985

Stalker

On this date in 1985, police in Los Angeles, CA broke up a mob that was beating a man they had detained. The man was Richard Ramirez, better known as the Night Stalker. The crowd had recognized him from a mugshot that had recently been shown on TV. The LAPD had identified Ramirez as the prime suspect in over a dozen murders, as well as attempted murders, sexual assaults, and burglaries.

Ramirez was tried and convicted of 13 murders, 5 attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries. He was sentenced to death. Richard Ramirez died of cancer while awaiting execution. He was 53 years old and had been on death row for 23 years.

In a strange twist, Ramirez was captured on the 97th anniversary of the murder of Mary Ann Nichols, the first of the canonical five victim’s of  Jack the Ripper’s.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Richard Ramirez

Crime Museum – Richard Ramirez: The Night Stalker

About.com – The Night Stalker – Richard Ramirez

this day in crime history: july 29, 1976

sonnasam

On this date in 1976, an unidentified man shot two women, 18 year old Donna Lauria and her friend, 19 year old Jody Valenti, while they sat in a car in the Bronx. Lauria died from her wounds, while Valenti survived. These were the first shootings attributed to the “.44 Caliber Killer,” who would later be known as the “Son of Sam.” A year and two days later, postal worker David Berkowitz would be arrested for the crime. Prior to being caught, Berkowitz would go on to kill five more victims and wound another six. Berkowitz was convicted of the crimes and is currently incarcerated at Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, NY. His next parole hearing is scheduled for May 2018.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – David Berkowitz | Son of Sam Killer

About.com – The Son of Sam

Wikipedia – David Berkowitz

this day in crime history: june 26, 1957

perpwalk

On this day in 1957, Margaret Harold was out for a drive near Annapolis, MD with her boyfriend, a US Army Sergeant. The couple was run off the road by a man in a green Chrysler. When the other driver got out of the car, he confronted them and shot Harold in the face. The soldier managed to escape. He ran to a nearby house to call police.

When police arrived, they had little to go on. While the boyfriend was calling police, the killer had removed Harold’s clothing and sexually assaulted her. After searching the area, they discovered an abandoned building that had apparently been broken into. Violent porn and autopsy photos had been left there.

In January 1959, Carroll and Mildred Jackson and their two daughters disappeared in Virginia. Their abandoned car was found on the side of a road, but there was no indication of what may have happened to the family. In early March, the body of Carroll Jackson was found in a ditch near Fredericksburg, VA. He had been shot in the back of the head. The body of one of his daughters was found underneath his.

On March 21, 1959, The bodies of Mildred Jackson and one of her daughters were found near Annapolis, MD. Both bodies showed signs of torture and sexual assault. A search of the area found the abandoned building thought to the the hideout of Margaret Harold’s killer. Inside the building, they found a button from Mildred Jackson’s dress. At that point, police were convinced the two crimes were related.

Police in Fredericksburg received an anonymous letter naming Melvin Rees, a local a salesman, as the killer. But Rees vanished before they could question him. In 1960, police received another anonymous letter, apparently from the author of the first letter, informing them that Rees had surfaced in Arkansas. The letter writer, later identified as Glenn Moser, had previously worked with Rees. Moser had been creeped out by a conversation he had had with Rees the day before the Jackson family disappeared. He also could place Rees near Annapolis on the date of the Harold murder.

Police arrested Rees. When they searched his house, they found a note describing the Jackson family murders. Margaret Harold’s boyfriend later identified Rees as her killer. Melvin Rees was tried and convicted in Maryland. He was sentenced to life in prison. He was then tried and convicted in Virginia, where he was sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to life.

Melvin Rees was suspected in four other murders near the University of Maryland, but police were never able to link him to the crimes. He died in prison in 1995.

Further reading:

Murderpedia – Melvin Rees

Wikipedia – Melvin Rees

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: may 15, 1981


On this date in 1981, Donna Payant became the first female corrections officer in New York State to be killed in the line of duty. Payant, 31, was assigned to the Green Haven Correctional Facility in Dutchess County, NY.

At the end of her scheduled shift, Payant had turned up missing. An exhaustive search was conducted of the prison and the surrounding grounds, but there was no sign of her. Officials expanded their search to a local landfill where trash from the prison had been dumped earlier in the day. They found her mutilated body buried in the trash.

Police and prison officials began an investigation into the murder of Officer Payant. Bite marks had been left, and the medical examiner thought that the pattern looked familiar. As it turns out, he had seen the same pattern on a previous case he had worked: one of the victims of rapist and serial killer Lemuel Smith. Smith was an inmate at Green Haven CF when Officer Payant was murdered.

Once the case was built, Smith was tried for murdering Officer Payant. He was represented by C. Vernon Mason (of Tawana Brawley fame/infamy) and William “Black Rage” Kuntsler. In spite of such big-name legal representation , Smith was convicted of 1st degree murder and given the mandatory death sentence. In 1984, his death sentence was overturned as unconstitutional.

Lemuel Smith is currently incarcerated at Five Points Correctional Facility in central New York. He is eligible for parole in 2029, when he is 87 years old.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Lemuel Smith

The Officer Down Memorial Page – Corrections Officer Donna A. Payant

Find-a-Grave – Donna Payant

this day in crime history: january 24, 1989

TedBundy

On this date in 1989, serial killer Ted Bundy was executed in the electric chair at Florida State Prison. His last words: “I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends.”

Further reading:

Crime Museum: Ted Bundy

FBI: Ted Bundy

Famous Last Words–Ted Bundy

Wikipedia: Ted Bundy