this day in crime history: may 29, 1979

On this date in 1979, federal Judge John H. Wood, Jr. was assassinated outside his home in San Antonio, TX. Wood, who was nicknamed “Maximum John” due to the harsh sentences he handed out for drug offenses, was the first federal judge assassinated in the 20th century. An anonymous tip led police to ex-convict Charles Harrelson, father of actor Woody Harrelson. Harrelson had been hired to kill Wood by drug dealer Jamiel Chagra, who was due to be appear before Judge Wood in a narcotics case. At trial, Harrelson claimed he hadn’t killed Judge Wood, but had taken credit for it in order to collect money from Chagra. The jury didn’t buy it, and Harrelson was convicted of murder. He was sentenced to two life terms and died of a heart attack in the federal supermax prison in Colorado in 2007. Chagra’s brother Joe received a 10 year sentence for his role in arranging the hit. Chagra’s wife also received a prison sentence for her role delivering the payout money. Jamiel Chagra, who was represented by attorney Oscar Goodman (who from 1999 to 2011, served as mayor of Las Vegas), was acquitted when his brother refused to testify against him. Chagra would later stipulate to his role in the murder in a plea bargain designed to get his wife, who was suffering from ovarian cancer, an early release from prison. His wife passed away before she could be released. Jamiel Chagra himself would eventually wind up in federal witness protection. He died of cancer in 2008, at the age of 63.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Charles Harrelson

Wikipedia – Jamiel Chagra

Denver PostHarrelson wrote of life at Supermax 

this day in crime history: december 13, 2000

Texas7

On this date in 2000, seven inmates escaped from the John B. Connally Unit, a maximum security prison near Kenedy, TX. The inmates, who came to be known as the Texas Seven, overpowered corrections officers and civilian employees in the prison maintenance shop. They stole clothes, guns and a vehicle that they used to make their getaway.

After switching cars, the gang went to Pearland, TX, where they robbed a Radio Shack on December 14th. Five days later, they robbed a sporting goods store in Irving, TX. Their haul included cash, guns and ammunition. Before making their getaway, the gang was confronted by Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins. Hawkins was ambushed by the gang, who shot him eleven times, then ran him over as they fled the scene of the crime. Hawkins later died of his injuries.

The gang made their way to Colorado, where they purchased a motor home and set up house at a trailer park in Woodland, CO. On January 21, 2001, the owner of the trailer park, tipped off by a friend who saw the group profiled on America’s Most Wanted, called police and reported the whereabouts of the fugitives.

A police SWAT team was deployed to the park. Officers cornered five of the men. Four of them eventually surrendered after a brief standoff. The fifth committed suicide rather than going back to prison.

Two days later, police tracked the two remaining fugitives to a hotel in Colorado Springs. After a short standoff, during which the escaped convicts gave a telephone interview to the news media, the men surrendered.

All six of the surviving escapees were tried and convicted of capital murder. Three of them have been executed. The remaining three are currently on death row at the Polunsky Unit prison in West Livingston, TX.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Texas Seven

The Dallas Morning News‘Texas 7’ escapee executed for killing Irving police officer

Irving Police – Officer Aubrey Wright Hawkins #830

this day in crime history: august 19, 1895

JWH-DOA

On this date in 1895, notorious gunman John Wesley Hardin, was shot and killed in El Paso, TX. Hardin was shot in the back of the head while playing dice. The shooter, John Selman, Sr, was a local constable.  The shooting was believed to have been motivated by an argument the two had earlier regarding the arrest of one of Hardin’s friends by Selman’s son.

Selman was arrested and charged with murder. The trial resulted in a hung jury. The matter was scheduled for retrial, but Selman died before that could happen. He was shot and killed during a dispute over a card game.

Further reading:

Murderpedia – John Wesley Hardin

Find a Grave – John Wesley Hardin

Wikipedia – John Wesley Hardin

this day in crime history: may 29, 1979

On this date in 1979, federal Judge John H. Wood, Jr. was assassinated outside his home in San Antonio, TX. Wood, who was nicknamed “Maximum John” due to the harsh sentences he handed out for drug offenses, was the first federal judge assassinated in the 20th century. An anonymous tip led police to ex-convict Charles Harrelson, father of actor Woody Harrelson. Harrelson had been hired to kill Wood by drug dealer Jamiel Chagra, who was due to be appear before Judge Wood in a narcotics case. At trial, Harrelson claimed he hadn’t killed Judge Wood, but had taken credit for it in order to collect money from Chagra. The jury didn’t buy it, and Harrelson was convicted of murder. He was sentenced to two life terms and died of a heart attack in the federal supermax prison in Colorado in 2007. Chagra’s brother Joe received a 10 year sentence for his role in arranging the hit. Chagra’s wife also received a prison sentence for her role delivering the payout money. Jamiel Chagra, who was represented by attorney Oscar Goodman (who from 1999 to 2011, served as mayor of Las Vegas), was acquitted when his brother refused to testify against him. Chagra would later stipulate to his role in the murder in a plea bargain designed to get his wife, who was suffering from ovarian cancer, an early release from prison. His wife passed away before she could be released. Jamiel Chagra himself would eventually wind up in federal witness protection. He died of cancer in 2008, at the age of 63.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Charles Harrelson

Wikipedia – Jamiel Chagra

Denver PostHarrelson wrote of life at Supermax 

this day in crime history: december 13, 2000

Texas7

On this date in 2000, seven inmates escaped from the John B. Connally Unit, a maximum security prison near Kenedy, TX. The inmates, who came to be known as the Texas Seven, overpowered corrections officers and civilian employees in the prison maintenance shop. They stole clothes, guns and a vehicle that they used to make their getaway.

After switching cars, the gang went to Pearland, TX, where they robbed a Radio Shack on December 14th. Five days later, they robbed a sporting goods store in Irving, TX. Their haul included cash, guns and ammunition. Before making their getaway, the gang was confronted by Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins. Hawkins was ambushed by the gang, who shot him eleven times, then ran him over as they fled the scene of the crime. Hawkins later died of his injuries.

The gang made their way to Colorado, where they purchased a motor home and set up house at a trailer park in Woodland, CO. On January 21, 2001, the owner of the trailer park, tipped off by a friend who saw the group profiled on America’s Most Wanted, called police and reported the whereabouts of the fugitives.

A police SWAT team was deployed to the park. Officers cornered five of the men. Four of them eventually surrendered after a brief standoff. The fifth committed suicide rather than going back to prison.

Two days later, police tracked the two remaining fugitives to a hotel in Colorado Springs. After a short standoff, during which the escaped convicts gave a telephone interview to the news media, the men surrendered.

All six of the surviving escapees were tried and convicted of capital murder. Three of them have been executed. The remaining three are currently on death row at the Polunsky Unit prison in West Livingston, TX.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Texas Seven

The Dallas Morning News‘Texas 7’ escapee executed for killing Irving police officer

Irving Police – Officer Aubrey Wright Hawkins #830

this day in crime history: august 19, 1895

JWH-DOA

On this date in 1895, notorious gunman John Wesley Hardin, was shot and killed in El Paso, TX. Hardin was shot in the back of the head while playing dice. The shooter, John Selman, Sr, was a local constable.  The shooting was believed to have been motivated by an argument the two had earlier regarding the arrest of one of Hardin’s friends by Selman’s son.

Selman was arrested and charged with murder. The trial resulted in a hung jury. The matter was scheduled for retrial, but Selman died before that could happen. He was shot and killed during a dispute over a card game.

Further reading:

Murderpedia – John Wesley Hardin

Find a Grave – John Wesley Hardin

Wikipedia – John Wesley Hardin

this day in crime history: may 29, 1979

On this date in 1979, federal Judge John H. Wood, Jr. was assassinated outside his home in San Antonio, TX. Wood, who was nicknamed “Maximum John” due to the harsh sentences he handed out for drug offenses, was the first federal judge assassinated in the 20th century. An anonymous tip led police to ex-convict Charles Harrelson, father of actor Woody Harrelson. Harrelson had been hired to kill Wood by drug dealer Jamiel Chagra, who was due to be appear before Judge Wood in a narcotics case. At trial, Harrelson claimed he hadn’t killed Judge Wood, but had taken credit for it in order to collect money from Chagra. The jury didn’t buy it, and Harrelson was convicted of murder. He was sentenced to two life terms and died of a heart attack in the federal supermax prison in Colorado in 2007. Chagra’s brother Joe received a 10 year sentence for his role in arranging the hit. Chagra’s wife also received a prison sentence for her role delivering the payout money. Jamiel Chagra, who was represented by attorney Oscar Goodman (who from 1999 to 2011, served as mayor of Las Vegas), was acquitted when his brother refused to testify against him. Chagra would later stipulate to his role in the murder in a plea bargain designed to get his wife, who was suffering from ovarian cancer, an early release from prison. His wife passed away before she could be released. Jamiel Chagra himself would eventually wind up in federal witness protection. He died of cancer in 2008, at the age of 63.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Charles Harrelson

Wikipedia – Jamiel Chagra

Denver PostHarrelson wrote of life at Supermax