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

this day in crime history: june 20, 1947

On this date in 1947, Bugsy Siegel got whacked. Iced. Taken out. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel — who hated that nickname, by the way — was shot while sitting next to a window in the Beverly Hills house he shared with girlfriend Virginia Hill. According to his death certificate, the cause of death was “cerebral hemmorage” (apparently spelling was not a high priority at the L.A. County Registrar’s Office) due to “gunshots of the head” (neither was grammar, I guess). One shot hit Siegel right near his eye. If he saw it coming, he didn’t see it for long.

The murder was never solved, but theories abound. Who was behind it? Was it Meyer Lansky? Lucky Luciano? Some investors who were less than happy about the profitability of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino? Author Warren Hull has a theory about the identity of the trigger man. Check out this interview with Hull.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – Bugsy Siegel

Wikipedia – Bugsy Siegel

Family Secret, by Warren Robert Hull

this day in crime history: june 19, 1975

On this day in 1975, Chicago mob boss Salvatore Giancana, aka “Momo,” aka “Mooney,” aka “Sam the Cigar,” aka “Sam Flood” and aka “Sam Gold,” was killed in the basement of his Oak Park, IL home. Giancana was due to testify before a Senate panel later that month. He was shot several times, once in the back of the head, and several times in the face.

Further reading:

Gangsters Incorporated: 1975:Murder of Sam Giancana

Find-a-Grave: Sam Giancana (1908-1975)

American Mafia: Sam Giancana

Wikipedia: Sam Giancana

this day in crime history: june 12, 1962

On this date in 1962, prison officials at Alcatraz discovered that inmates Frank Morris, and brothers John and Clarence Anglin had apparently escaped from the federal prison. The escape took over two years to plan and execute. The escapees used stolen materials to make a raft to escape on and dummies to place in their bunks. They tunneled from their cells into the prison ventilation shaft, through which they climbed up to the roof of the prison. They climbed down from the roof, made it to the water, and paddled away on their homemade raft. The men were never found and were presumed drowned in San Francisco Bay.

Further reading:

“The Great Escape from Alcatraz”

FBI Files: Alcatraz Escape

IMDb: Escape from Alcatraz

this day in crime history: june 2, 1919


On this date in 1919, eight bombs exploded in seven different US cities. The bombs, thought to have been the work of followers of Italian anarchist Luigi Galleani, were targeted at people perceived as outspoken critics of the anarchists. The targets, which included the home of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer (pictured above) were located in New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Patterson, NJ. None of the intended targets was killed, but two innocent people died in the explosions.

The June 2nd attacks were part of a campaign of violence that began two months earlier. The Bureau of Investigation (precursor to the FBI) conducted an exhaustive investigation, but were unable to solve the crimes. Later that year, the Justice Department conducted a series of raids and deportations of immigrants believed to be a threat to national security.

Further reading:

FBI Famous Cases: 1919 Bombings

Wikipedia – 1919 United States anarchist bombings

this day in crime history: march 18, 1990

On this date in 1990, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA was robbed. It was just after midnight when two men dressed as police officers appeared at the museum’s door, claiming they had received a report about a disturbance at the museum. One of the two guards on duty that night let them in. Minutes later the guards were overpowered, bound with duct tape, and stashed in separate parts of the museum’s basement. The two bogus cops went to work stealing various items, including works by Rembrandt, Degas, and Manet. The estimated value of their haul: over $300 million. It was the largest art heist in US history. To date, the case remains unsolved, and none of the stolen works of art have been recovered.

Further reading:

FBI – Art Theft program

Boston.com – Secrets behind the largest art theft in history

this day in crime history: february 15, 1936

gutterball

On this date in 1936, former Chicago Outfit trigger man “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn was gunned down in a Chicago bowling alley.

McGurn was born Vincenzo Antonio Gibaldi in 1902 in Sicily. He changed his name as a teenager while trying to make it as a boxer. McGurn would later go to work for Chicago mob boss Al Capone. He was believed to be the mastermind of the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, but the cops were unable to pin it on him when Louise Rolfe – dubbed “The Blonde Alibi” by the press – claimed that she and McGurn had spent the entire day together.

By 1936, McGurn had been cut loose by the Outfit. His notoriety had made him too hot for the low profile the Outfit was looking to maintain.

A day after the seventh anniversary of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, McGurn entered a bowling alley with two men. Another man later joined the trio. After his arrival, a commotion ensued that resulted in Jack being shot dead and the three men leaving the bowling alley together. A Valentine card was left behind bearing the following poem:

You’ve lost your job, you’ve lost your dough;
Your jewels and cars and handsome houses!
But things could still be worse you know…
At least you haven’t lost your trousers!

The murder was never solved. Was it payback from Bugs Moran, whose men were killed seven years earlier? Was it revenge by a relative of one of Jack’s victims? Or was it the Outfit, fearful that Jack’s increasingly loose lips might sink their ship?

Further reading:

My Al Capone Museum – Machine Gun Jack McGurn

Deadly Valentines, by Jeffrey Gusfield

Wikipedia – Jack McGurn

Mafia Wiki – Jack McGurn

Find a Grave – Jack “Machine Gun Jack” McGurn