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MURDERS IN THE UNITED STATES

Crimes, Killers, and Victims of the Twentieth Century


By R. Barri Flowers



MURDERS IN THE UNITED STATES

Crimes, Killers, and Victims of the Twentieth Century


Copyright 2001 by R. Barri Flowers

Previously published by McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers

All rights reserved.


Cover Image Copyright Fhl-Frb, 2018

Used with permission by Fhl-Frb


To my family, friends, and colleagues.


And in memory of all the victims of homicide in the 20th century.


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OTHER TRUE CRIME TITLES BY R. BARRI FLOWERS


Dead at the Saddleworth Moor

Kids Who Commit Adult Crimes

Killer of Her Husband’s Secretary

Killers of the Lonely Hearts

Mass Murder in the Sky

Masters of True Crime

Missing or Murdered

Murder at the Pencil Factory

Murder During the Chicago World’s Fair

Murder of a Star Quarterback

Murder of the Banker’s Daughter

Murder of the Doctor’s Wife

Murder of the Horse Trainer’s Rival

Murder of the U.S. Attorney

Murdered by the King of Western Swing

Murderess on the Loose

Serial Killer Couples

The Amityville Massacre

The Dreadful Acts of Jack the Ripper

The Gold Special Train Robbery

The Pickaxe Killers

The Sex Slave Murders

The Sex Slave Murders 2

The Sex Slave Murders 3


MYSTERY & THRILLER FICTION TITLES BY R. BARRI FLOWERS

Before He Kills Again: A Veronica Vasquez Thriller

Dark Streets of Whitechapel: A Jack the Ripper Mystery

Dead in Pukalani: An Eddie Naku Maui Mystery (Book 1)

Dead in Kihei: An Eddie Naku Maui Mystery (Book 2)

Deadly Defense: A Grace Gaynor Christian Mystery

Justice Served: A Barkley & Parker Mystery

Killer in The Woods

Murder in Maui: A Leila Kahana Mystery (Book 1)

Murder on Kaanapali Beach: A Leila Kahana Mystery (Book 2)

Murder of the Hula Dancers: A Leila Kahana Mystery (Book 3)

Persuasive Evidence: A Jordan La Fontaine Legal Thriller

State’s Evidence: A Beverly Mendoza Legal Thriller


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PRAISE FOR TRUE CRIME BOOKS BY R. BARRI FLOWERS


“Will appeal to public library true-crime buffs...and is suitable for academic study in disciplines such as criminal justice and criminology.” — Booklist on Murders in the United States


“Selected as one of Suspense Magazine’s Best books.” — John Raab, CEO/Publisher on The Sex Slave Murders


“A gripping account of the murders committed by husband-and-wife serial killers Gerald and Charlene Gallego.” — Gary C. King, true crime author on The Sex Slave Murders


“R. Barri Flowers always relates an engrossing story.” — Robert Scott, true crime author on The Sex Slave Murders


“A model of exposition not to be missed by anyone interested in the annals of American criminal behavior.” — Jim Ingraham, Ph.D., professor emeritus of American Studies at Bryant University on The Pickaxe Killers


“Striking, well-written tales sparkle in this ocean of murder.” — Diane Fanning, true crime author on Masters of True Crime


“This book should be a mandatory purchase and read for any true-crime buff.” — Steven A. Egger, Ph.D., associate professor on Masters of True Crime


“Incredible cases, psychopathic killers, unwitting victims, along with the very best writers, make for an exciting, no-holds-barred, soon-to-be true-crime classic.” — Dan Zupansky, host of True Murder on Masters of True Crime


“Vivid case studies of murder to complement this well researched criminology text.” — Scott Bonn, Ph.D., criminology professor on The Dynamics of Murder


“An indispensable sourcebook for anyone interested in American homicide, from law-enforcement professionals to armchair criminologists.” — Harold Schechter, true crime historian on The Dynamics of Murder


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TABLE OF CONTENTS


PREFACE

INTRODUCTION

PART I – A CENTURY OF UNFORGETTABLE MURDERS

The 1900s: The First Decade

The 1910s

The 1920s

The 1930s

The 1940s

The 1950s

The 1960s

The 1970s

The 1980s

The 1990s

PART II – A CENTURY OF MURDERERS

SECTION 1 – MEN KILLERS

Bandits, Outlaws, and Organized Crime Killers - Men

Celebrity Killers - Men

Child Killers - Men

Familial Killers - Men

Intimate Killers - Men

Mass Murderers - Men

Politically Motivated Killers - Men

Serial Killers – Men

Terrorist Killers - Men

Other Killers - Men

SECTION 2 – WOMEN KILLERS

Black Widow Killers - Women

Caretaker Killers - Women

Celebrity Killers - Women

Child Killers - Women

Familial Killers - Women

Intimate Killers - Women

Mass Murderers - Women

Serial Killers - Women

Other Killers - Women

SECTION 3 – JUVENILE KILLERS

Family Killers - Juvenile

Mass Murderers - Juvenile

Sexual Killers - Juvenile

Other Killers - Juvenile

SECTION 4 – PAIR AND GROUP KILLERS

SECTION 5 – HATE CRIME KILLERS

SECTION 6 – SCHOOL KILLINGS

PART III – A CENTURY OF VICTIMS

Adult Victims

Child Victims

PART IV – A CENTURY OF MURDERERS AND MURDERS OUTSIDE OF THE U.S.

Black Widows

Mass Murderers

Serial Killers

Terrorist Attacks

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

REFERENCES

About the Author


PREFACE


According to recent FBI figures, the number of murders being committed in the United States is on the decline. This is good news in the early part of the 21st century. Indeed, with recent crime legislation, stiffer penalties for offenders, and more law enforcement personnel on the streets, most forms of violence appear to be lessening in their incidence and impact on society. However, there are still tens of thousands of people murdered each year in this country, with such horrific examples as the September 11, 2011, terrorist attack and recent cases of mass murder at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut; a nightclub in Orlando, Florida; and a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. Killers and homicide victims range from spouses or lovers, to children and young adults, to serial killers and mass murderers or organized crime killers, to hate crime killers and sex-related or politically motivated murderers, to gangland killers, to insane and random murderers. What this tells us is that society is heterogeneous when it comes to murder and those involved. It also tells us that history is our best teacher in recording and understanding the when’s, why’s, motives, methods, and madness in this decisive type of violence and how we might reduce it further, if not prevent it altogether for future generations.

Murders in the United States: Crimes, Killers, and Victims of the Twentieth Century takes a unique look at the crime of murder from 1900 to 1999 in America, providing a summary of events, killers, and victims. It will include homicides that were headliners, heinous, shocking, familial, serial, sexual, singular, mass, unbelievable, or otherwise unforgettable or of historical significance or interest as part of our country’s shameful past century. Among the murders profiled are those driven by greed, jealousy, sex, love triangles, hatred, politics, profit, racism, vendettas, perversions, insanity, and other causes or motivations.

The book is divided into four parts. Part I recounts many of the more unforgettable and significant murder cases of the 20th century. Part II focuses on murderers in the 1900s, subdivided into men, women, and juvenile killers; pair and group killers; hate crime killers; and school killings.

Part III looks at notable victims of murder in 20th century America. Part IV contains noteworthy murderers and murders in other countries in the last century. A glossary is provided for understanding terms. Finally, a comprehensive reference section can be found at the end of the book for more detailed study of specific murder crimes, killers, and victims in the 1900s.

The book is an excellent reference tool for historians, true crime buffs, researchers, writers, scholars, students, criminal justice professionals, laypersons, and others with an interest in the crime of murder and its varied participants in the 20th century.


INTRODUCTION


The specter of murder at the dawn of the 1900s may be most memorable for some shocking murders and murderers near the turn of the century. These would, in many respects, set the tone for homicides that would occur throughout the 20th century. Perhaps the most unsettling crime of murder in the late 19th century occurred in Massachusetts on August 4, 1892, when banker Andrew Borden, sixty-nine, and his second wife, Abby, sixty-four, were bludgeoned to death with an axe in their home. Suspected of the brutal slayings was Andrew’s youngest daughter, thirty-two-year-old Lizzie Borden. She was put on trial and acquitted of the heinous crime of parricide, but suspicions of guilt and insanity dogged Borden until her death in 1927.

Another vicious axe and gun crime of murder occurred on May 26, 1896, in the Santa Clara Valley of California, when James C. Durham went berserk and killed four members of his family and two employees. The mass murderer used an axe, a .45-caliber pistol, and a .38-caliber revolver to kill his twenty-five-year-old wife, Hattie, her mother and stepfather, brother, and the two hired helpers for the family. The only one spared was Durham’s infant son. Speculation was that the murders were caused by parental interference in their lives and the resultant family friction. Durham escaped on his brother-in-law’s horse. In spite of being hunted by a posse and reportedly spotted in various places over the years, he was never apprehended.

Other turn of the century murders in America that gained attention for their brutality, familial, or intimate nature included one in Chicago in 1897 when Adolph Luetgert murdered his wife. The sausage maker dissolved her body with potash found at his factory. Teeth and bone fragments of the victim were discovered some weeks later. Luetgert was convicted of killing his wife and sentenced to life imprisonment.

One year later in 1898, San Franciscan Cordelia Botkin—who had been having an affair with a married man, John Dunning—became jealous. She poisoned to death his wife and his sister-in-law by lacing chocolate bonbons with the poison, which the victims ate. Botkin was convicted of first-degree murder and given a life sentence in prison. Though insisting on her innocence, she spent the rest of her life behind bars.

In spite of the heinous nature of these killings, the latter part of the 19th century also produced one of America’s worst mass and serial murderers. Herman Webster Mudgett, also known as Harry Howard Holmes, was born in 1860 in New Hampshire. By the early 1890s, Mudgett had honed his skills as a swindler, cheating husband, and sexual murderer, and moved to Chicago where he managed a boarding house referred to as “Holmes Castle,” “Murder Castle,” and “Nightmare House.” The names were apt in describing a death house where it is believed that Mudgett drugged, tortured, and murdered at least twenty-seven guests, including an untold number who disappeared during the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. He was finally apprehended after a vengeful-minded insurance accomplice reported a murder plot. He was sentenced to death in November 1895 and executed on May 27, 1896.

It is worth noting that murder was also making news and terrorizing citizens on the other side of the Atlantic in the 19th century. For example, in 1811, John Williams, a sailor, was convicted of the Ratcliffe Highway murders in which two families in London, England’s East End were stabbed and bludgeoned to death. Robbery was thought to be the motive. The violent nature of the murders was a prelude of murders to come.

Perhaps the most infamous murderer of all time was Jack the Ripper. The mutilating sexual serial killer hunted down prostitutes in London in the fall of 1888, stabbing and disemboweling five streetwalkers, before vanishing without a trace. A bit earlier, in 1867, Frederick Baker, a Hampshire clerk, kidnapped and murdered seven-year-old Fanny Adams and then dismembered her body. He was convicted and executed that year. In Paris, France, in 1880, twenty-year-old Louis Menesclou abducted, strangled, and dismembered a four-year-old girl. The literature is replete with other examples of various types of homicides in other countries near the turn of the century.

Murder in the 20th century proved to be equally horrific—both in America and abroad—producing sexual killers, serial killers, mass murderers, black widows, intimate killers, juvenile killers, and other combinations of murderers and victims.



PART I

A CENTURY OF UNFORGETTABLE MURDERS


The 1900s: The First Decade


The first decade of the 20th century was marked, most notably, by the assassination of President William McKinley, the shocking kidnap and murder of seven-year-old Walter Lamana, the murder of famed architect Stanford White, and the murder-for-profit killings of serial murderers Johann Hoch and Belle Gunness.


The Assassination of President William McKinley


On the afternoon of September 6, 1901, President William McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo, New York, in what many called the “Queen City’s Darkest Moment in History.” McKinley, the 25th President of the United States, was attending a reception just after four p.m. in the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition. While extending his hand to shake that of his would-be assassin, he was shot twice. The first bullet struck the President’s breast, the second entered his abdomen, tearing into his stomach. He died eight days later.

The shooter was quickly apprehended by secret service agents and taken into custody. The killer was identified as Leon Czolgosz, a twenty-eight-year-old blacksmith from Cleveland, Ohio. Czolgosz described himself as a disciple of anarchist Emma Goldberg, whose doctrines rejected this type of government. He had come to Buffalo three days earlier for the express purpose of killing the President. He succeeded in his objective when he pulled the gun from under a handkerchief and fatally wounded McKinley as he greeted him.

Czolgosz was beaten severely by an angry mob en route to Buffalo Police Headquarters but survived to stand trial on September 23, 1901, for the assassination of President William McKinley. A jury found him guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to death. On October 29, 1901, Leon Czolgosz was strapped into the electric chair at Auburn Prison where his sentence was carried out. See also Adult Victims, McKinley, William; Politically Motivated Killers – Men, Czolgosz, Leon.


The Death of Marie Walcker


On January 12, 1905, Marie Walcker, a Chicago sweet shop owner, became one of six wives who would be poisoned by serial murderer Johann Hoch in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Hoch was born as Johann Schmidt in Germany in 1860. He abandoned his wife and children and made his way by boat to the United States in 1887. By 1905, Hoch had married at least a dozen women—murdering half of them, usually for their money or other assets. Shortly after the mysterious death of Marie Walcker, Hoch married her sister, Julia. She too might have become another victim or an abandoned and swindled wife had her suspicions about Johann Hoch not frightened him off while she alerted authorities.

Marie Walcker’s body was exhumed—her cause of death had been misdiagnosed as due to nephritis—and a post-mortem detected an unusual amount of arsenic in her stomach and liver. The case drew national attention. Hoch, who had fled to New York under another assumed name, was identified by his photograph, arrested, and returned to Chicago to stand trial for the murder of Marie Walcker. He was convicted and sentenced to death. After an appeal was rejected, Johann Hoch was put to death by hanging on February 23, 1906.

Some speculate that murder-for-profit killer Hoch may have murdered more wives than believed during his time in America, as his first known victim came after he had already been in the country for nearly a decade.


The Murder Case of Harry Thaw


On June 25, 1906, celebrated architect Stanford White was watching a rooftop musical performance at the first Madison Square Garden in New York City when millionaire Harry K. Thaw shot him to death. The thirty-five-year-old Thaw had stormed over to the table and accused White of ruining his wife, ex-showgirl Evelyn Nesbit, before shooting the fifty-two-year-old twice in the head, killing him instantly. Thaw was quickly apprehended and charged with murder.

During two highly publicized trials, it was revealed that both men had an unnatural sexual attraction to young females. Evelyn Nesbit was sixteen when she became White’s mistress in the early 1900s, seen as a step toward achieving stardom in the theater. Thaw, who inherited his wealth, was taken with the seventeen-year-old Nesbit in 1901, pressuring her to dump White in favor of him. She succumbed to his advances and married Thaw in 1905. Only then did she learn how insecure, jealous, and violent he was, frequently being battered by her husband at his irrational whim.

Thaw’s first trial ended in a hung jury, and he was acquitted by reason of temporary insanity in the second trial. He was committed to the New York Asylum for the Criminally Insane. After fleeing to Canada in 1913, Thaw divorced Nesbit and was eventually re-institutionalized for other violent behavior and released once more in 1922. Harry Thaw continued his life as a playboy and litigant in lawsuits involving other showgirls and actresses until his death in 1947.


The Kidnapping and Murder of Walter Lamana


In June 1907, seven-year-old Walter Lamana became a murder victim of the Mafia or “Black Hand,” when he was kidnapped in New Orleans’ Italian district. Shortly thereafter, a ransom demand of $6,000 was made to his father. The abduction was apparently meant to further secure the Mafia’s grip on power in that section of New Orleans, where many Italians had been forced for years to pay “protection money” to the Black Hand.

An investigation led to the capture of Black Hand members Frank Gendusa and Ignazio Campisciano, the latter by a posse. Campisciano led authorities to a swamp where the corpse of Walter Lamana was discovered in a blanket. He had been bludgeoned to death with a hatchet.

Four of Lamana’s kidnappers were tried, including the man who had abducted the boy, Tony Costa. All were found guilty but avoided the death penalty. Two other participants in the crime—siblings Leonardo Gebbia and Nicolina Gebbia—went to trial several months later because of public outrage. Both were convicted. Leonardo was hanged and Nicolina received a sentence of life in prison. The actual killer of Walter Lamana was never brought to justice. However, the Black Hand’s grip on power in New Orleans was destroyed.


The Gunness Farmhouse Fire


On April 27, 1908, a roaring fire destroyed a farmhouse in a rural area in Indiana near the town of La Porte. The farm belonged to Belle Gunness, one of America’s most infamous female serial murderers and Black Widows. Nicknamed Lady Bluebeard due to her penchant for murdering for profit, Gunness was born in 1859 as Brynhild Paulsdatter Størseth. She is estimated to have taken as many as forty-nine lives between 1896 and 1908. Victims died most often by poisoning and included two husbands and a number of her children.

Belle Gunness herself may have become a victim of murder on that night in April. The charred bodies of three young children and a headless woman were uncovered beneath the rubble. Though the head was never found, it was assumed that the woman was Gunness when her dental bridge was uncovered amongst the debris. Arrested and charged with multiple murders and arson was Ray Lamphere, ex-handyman and lover of Gunness. That very day, Belle Gunness had reportedly accused a vengeful Lamphere of intending to burn her farmhouse down.

However, suspicions abound about Gunness when authorities discovered that her property was littered with the skeletal remains of various suitors and hired hands. Many had been dismembered or found in the hog pen. It turned out that Belle Gunness had been the beneficiary of life insurance or otherwise robbed many of the victims of their assets.

In spite of these revelations, Ray Lamphere went to trial for four murders and arson. A doctor testified that poison was found in the bodies of all four victims, suggesting murder and possibly suicide before the fire. On November 26, 1908, Lamphere was found guilty of arson and not guilty on four counts of murder. He was sentenced to twenty years in prison, where he died shortly thereafter of consumption.

Many believe that Belle Gunness actually faked her own death and lived to a ripe old age, continuing as Lady Bluebeard well after the farmhouse fire. See also Black Widow Killers – Women, Gunness, Belle.


The 1910s


The 1910s were characterized by the murder of thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan and the subsequent hanging of her alleged killer, Leo Frank; a serial killer in New Orleans dubbed the “Mad Axeman”; and a poisonous black widow killer named Lydia Trueblood.


The Murder of Mary Phagan


On the Saturday morning of April 26, 1913, thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan went to pick up her paycheck at the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta, Georgia, where she worked putting erasers into the metal casing atop pencils. It was the last time she was seen alive. The following morning, a night watchman found her body in the basement of the pencil factory, beaten and strangled to death. There were indications that she may also have been sexually assaulted.

A number of suspects surfaced. Given the racial climate of the day—fresh off the Jim Crow era of discrimination and segregation in the South—not too surprisingly the perpetrator was suspected of being black. This belief was, no doubt, aided by the discovery of two scrambled notes near Phagan’s body that suggested her killer was a black man. Among the chief suspects were the night watchman who discovered the body, Newt Lee, and James Conley, a factory sweeper and career criminal. Under interrogation, Conley confessed to writing the two notes but claimed someone else had ordered him to.

Leo Frank, the plant superintendent and part owner, emerged as a suspect. The twenty-nine-year-old Frank was born in Brooklyn, New York, and Jewish. He had seen Mary Phagan the day the murder occurred to give her her paycheck. Some other female employees had told police of Frank’s offensive attempts at romancing them. The frail, thin Frank was arrested and charged with Phagan’s murder.

With Conley as the prosecution’s chief witness, Leo Frank was found guilty of murder on August 25, 1913, and sentenced to death by hanging. However, Frank’s supporters believed he had been unjustly convicted and questioned the verdict enough to cause the governor to commute his sentence to life imprisonment on June 21, 1915.

There was equally strong support for Frank’s guilt and death sentence, with anti-Semitism running high in the South. On August 17, 1915, a lynch mob of some twenty-five men calling themselves the Knights of Mary Phagan overpowered guards at the Milledgeville state prison where Frank was being held. They abducted Frank and drove him to Mary Phagan’s hometown of Marietta, Georgia, where he was blindfolded and hung from an oak tree. Leo Frank’s killers were never apprehended, but his death ignited further violence by such hate groups as the Ku Klux Klan. See also Child Killers – Men, Frank, Leo; Child Victims, Phagan, Mary.


The Mad Axeman of New Orleans


On May 23, 1918, Italian grocer Jake Maggio of New Orleans awoke to gurgling sounds coming from the next room where his brother Joe and his wife were sleeping. Maggio was horrified to find that the two had been viciously attacked with an axe that was found near the bodies, and their throats cut with a razor. Mrs. Maggio’s head had nearly been severed from the horrific attack. Both Maggios died.

Seven years earlier, three similar axe killings of Italian grocers and their spouses occurred, including the Rosettis, the Curtises, and the Schiambras. At the time, these were believed to be the work of the Black Hand organized crime syndicate in New Orleans. Now it appeared as though an independent serial murderer was on the loose, targeting Italians. The killer became known as the “Mad Axeman.”

As the attacks continued, hysteria hit New Orleans. Finger-pointing led to various people being arrested for the attacks that were said to have been committed by a large, menacing white man brandishing an axe. Included among the suspects were Italian grocer Frank Jordano and his father Iorlando. In March 1919, the two were accused of killing the baby of and attempting to kill grocer Charles Cortimiglia and his wife, Rosie, who made the accusation. The Jordanos were tried in May 1919 and convicted. Frank was given a death sentence and Iorlando life behind bars.

Only the attacks continued after their imprisonment. On December 7, 1920, Rosie Cortimiglia admitted to authorities that she lied about the Jorandos attacking them as part of a vendetta, and they were released.

As for the real Mad Axeman of New Orleans, one possibility is career criminal and New Orleans resident Joseph Mumfire. He was shot and killed in Los Angeles on December 2, 1920. His killer was identified as Mrs. Mike Pepitone, whose husband was the Mad Axeman’s last known victim on October 27, 1919. Pepitone claimed she had seen Mumfire running from the scene of the crime. She went to trial in April 1921 and pleaded guilty. Mrs. Pepitone received a sentence of ten years. Whether or not Joseph Mumfire was the Mad Axeman will never be known for sure.


Black Widow Murderess Lydia Trueblood


On September 7, 1919, Edward Meyer of Idaho died of mysterious circumstances while hospitalized. The woman he had recently married, Lydia Trueblood, came under suspicion after a postmortem of Meyer indicated that he had died of arsenic poisoning. She had attempted to take out an insurance policy on her new husband, but the insurance company had rejected it.

It turned out that Lydia Trueblood was on her fourth husband—all who had died, along with a brother-in-law and one of her children, for insurance policy payoffs. Trueblood was a classic example of a Black Widow, marrying and murdering for money. Similar to another American Black Widow, Amy Archer-Gilligan—who murdered five husbands between 1901 and 1914 to profit from their life insurance—Missouri born Lydia Trueblood was cold, calculating, and vicious. From 1915 to 1919, she set up her victims and then murdered them by poisonous means.

Yet Trueblood managed to evade the law until the murder of her unsuspecting husband, Edward Meyer. Before the police could close in on her, she fled Idaho for California. In 1920, feeling safe from prosecution, Trueblood wed her fifth husband, a seaman. However, before she could take out an insurance policy on his life, the authorities managed to track her down. She was arrested and returned to Idaho to face charges in the murder of Meyer.

In 1921, Lydia Trueblood went to trial and was convicted of Edward Meyer’s death. She was sentenced to life in prison where she eventually died of natural causes. See also Black Widow Killers – Women, Trueblood, Lydia.


The 1920s


The roaring 1920s saw a number of notable murder crimes over the decade, including the murder of well-known director William Desmond Taylor, the killings of Reverend Edward Hall and choir singer Eleanor Mills, the Southern Pacific train robbery-murder, the deaths of fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks and twelve-year-old Marion Parker, and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.


The Murder of William Desmond Taylor


On the evening of February 1, 1922, silent film director William Desmond Taylor was shot and killed in his apartment in Los Angeles, California. The forty-five-year-old Taylor, who was considered a ladies’ man, was the victim of two .38-caliber bullets in his chest. His servant, Henry Peavey, discovered his body. Before the authorities arrived, various associates of the dead director came to the apartment upon hearing of his death, compromising evidence of the crime. Visitors included a couple of young actresses, Mabel Normand and Edna Purviance, along with executives from Paramount Studio—all seeking to remove incriminating materials from the premises, such as love letters or bootleg whiskey.

The police investigation and allegations gained national press coverage in the tabloids. Taylor was discovered to have changed his name from William Deane Tanner and had abandoned a wife and daughter years earlier. The director of such films as “The Top of New York” and “Diamond From the Sky” became the president of the Screen Directors Guild and was rumored to have had numerous relationships with female stars.

Among the suspects in Taylor’s death was his secretary, Edward Sands, who had vanished in 1921 after stealing from Taylor and forging checks in his name. Another suspect was Charlotte Shelby, whose seventeen-year-old daughter, actress Mary Miles Minter, was having an affair with Taylor. Shelby, who had a .38 revolver and was jealous of her daughter, was rumored to have been involved with the director herself. Authorities also considered that Taylor might have been the victim of a hired killer due to his lifestyle. William Desmond Taylor’s killer was never caught.


The Murders of Reverend Edward Wheeler Hall and Choir Singer Eleanor Mills


On September 16, 1922, a shocking discovery on a New Brunswick, New Jersey, “lover’s lane” led to the bodies of Reverend Edward Wheeler Hall and choir singer Eleanor Mills. The forty-one-year-old married pastor and the thirty-four-year-old attractive singer, who was married to the sexton of the church, were brutally murdered. Hall was shot once in the head and Mills was shot three times in the forehead and her throat was slashed and tongue severed. Steamy love letters were scattered about the bodies.

There were no arrests made in the double murder and the case seemed to be going nowhere for four years until the New York Daily Mirror began publishing stories about the Hall-Mills homicides. The newspaper suggested that Frances Hall, the Reverend’s wife, and her brothers and cousin were behind the horrific murders of Hall and Mills. A secret witness to that effect led to the indictment of Mrs. Hall, her brothers Henry and Willie Stevens, and her cousin Henry Carpender. Carpender would face a separate trial.

The trial of Frances Hall and her brothers in 1926 drew international coverage. Eleanor Mills’ daughter, Charlotte, testified that the love letters belonged to her mother. The prosecution was able to establish that the pastor and singer were engaged in a passionate affair. The prosecutor’s star witness was a woman named Jane Gibson, dubbed the “Pig Woman,” because of her pig farm near the death scene. She identified the defendants as being there and that she had heard arguing and shots fired.

The defense countered by attacking Gibson’s credibility and memory. The jury took only a few hours to find the defendants not guilty. The case against the cousin, Henry Carpender, was dismissed. Frances Hall and her brothers sued the Daily Mirror for libel and the case was settled out of court. In spite of the continuing suspicions of guilt against the accused, the murders of Hall and Mills were never solved.


The Train Robbery-Murder on the Southern Pacific


On October 12, 1923, an Old West type train robbery turned into cold-blooded murder and a sensation of the day. Along the border of California and Oregon, the Southern Pacific train “Gold Special” was en route to San Francisco when three robbers equipped with a shotgun, Colt .45, and box of dynamite approached it. When Edwin Daugherty, the mail clerk, refused to open the bolted car door, one of the robbers tossed the dynamite on the sill and the mail car almost immediately became a blazing inferno. Along with killing Daugherty by the blast, the robbers used their guns to eliminate other witnesses including the engineer, Sidney Bates, the brakeman, and fire fighter before fleeing into the hills.

The railroad authorities employed the services of American criminologist Edward Oscar Heinrich to help solve the case. Heinrich, who lived in Berkeley, California, had often been compared to the fictional British detective Sherlock Holmes, much to his chagrin. Though some of his methods and conclusions were questionable, Heinrich found a registered mail receipt in a pair of overalls left behind by the bandits. It was traced to an Oregon logger by the name of Roy D’Autremont. He and his brothers, Ray and Hugh D’Autremont, became the chief suspects in the botched robbery-murder.

It took four years—along with reward money paid in gold and “Wanted” posters placed in train stations nationwide—before the elusive trio was captured. The D’Autremont brothers were tried and convicted for their murderous crimes in Medford, Oregon, in 1927. Roy D’Autremont was found to be insane after spending twenty years in prison. Hugh D’Autremont, stricken with stomach cancer, was paroled in 1958. Ray D’Autremont was paroled in 1961.


The Kidnap and Murder of Bobby Franks


On May 21, 1924, fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks was kidnapped and brutally murdered in Chicago, Illinois, in one of the most shocking crimes of the 1920s and, indeed, the 20th century. Franks, son of multimillionaire Jacob Franks, was on his way home from school when his killers lured him to a car. They abducted him and bludgeoned him to death.

The murderers, Richard A. Loeb and Nathan F. Leopold Jr., were surprisingly also from two of Chicago’s wealthiest families. Eighteen-year-old Loeb and nineteen-year-old Leopold were both attending graduate school at the University of Chicago. Spoiled by wealth, intelligence, jealousy, and perhaps boredom, they concocted a plan to commit the perfect crime of murder. The two rented a car that fateful afternoon in search of prey. Franks was the random victim of time and opportunity. After crushing his skull with a chisel, the teenage killers drove Franks to marshland on the outskirts of the city. They poured hydrochloric acid over his nude body to make it difficult to identify him. He was then stuffed in a drainage culvert made of concrete.

The killers then tried to collect ransom from the Franks family, demanding $10,000 in unmarked bills. However, before the money could be paid, Bobby Franks’ remains were discovered. It was not long before Leopold and Loeb were arrested and their perfect crime unraveled by mistakes and overconfidence. Loeb was the first to confess to the murder and Leopold followed his lead, though both sought to blame the other for the crime.

An outraged and unforgiving public expected nothing less than both killers to be executed for the murder of Bobby Franks. Famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow was hired by Leopold and Loeb’s families to prevent them from being hanged. Darrow succeeded. The chief justice hearing the case, Judge John R. Caverly, sentenced Leopold and Loeb to life in prison for the murder of Bobby Franks and ninety-nine years for his kidnapping.

On September 11, 1924, the two murderers entered the Illinois State Prison at Stateville before they were eventually transferred to a Joliet, Illinois, penitentiary. In 1936, Richard Loeb was stabbed to death by an inmate. Nathan Leopold was paroled in 1958 and died from heart problems on August 30, 1971. See also Child Victims, Franks, Bobby; PAIR AND GROUP KILLERS, Leopold, Nathan.


The Kidnap and Murder of Marion Parker


In December 1928, twelve-year-old Marion Parker was kidnapped from her school in Los Angeles, California. The kidnapper signed his name as “The Fox” on the ransom note sent to Marion’s father, banker Perry Parker. Wanting only to get his daughter back alive, Parker tried to cooperate with the kidnapper, who sent more notes demanding $1,500 and clearly seemed to take sadistic pleasure in maintaining his advantage in the kidnapping plot.

When Perry Parker was finally able to arrange an exchange of money for his daughter, it turned out to be too late. While “The Fox” took the money, he left Marion Parker dead and mutilated. Her legs had been severed and left in a park not far from her body.

Police investigating the horrific murder of young Marion Parker were able to trace a shirt her legs were wrapped in to a twenty-year-old named Edward Hickman. The suspect confessed quickly enough, claiming to have needed the money to pay for college. He also admitted to holding a grudge against Perry Parker, whom he blamed for time served in prison for forgery.

The publicity of the murder case and trial was a prelude of another kidnapping-murder that was to capture the attention of the American public four years later—the Lindbergh baby abduction and murder. Edward Hickman was found guilty of the kidnapping-murder of Marion Parker and sentenced to death. In 1928, he was hung at San Quentin.


The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre


On February 14, 1929, an organized crime mass murder gained national attention for Al Capone. A group of hit men seeking to murder the competition—gangster George “Bugs” Moran—executed seven bootleggers in a garage in Chicago, Illinois, in what became known as the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. Except Moran—who battled Capone for years for control of the Chicago underworld—was not at the garage, having shown up late for the set-up to assassinate him and his entire gang.

Under Capone’s orders, Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn assembled an assassination squad that included Fred “Killer” Burke, James Ray, John Scalise, Albert Anselmi, Joseph Lolordo, and Harry and Phil Keywell. Wearing stolen police uniforms and trench coats, the assassins entered the garage that was Moran’s headquarters and pretended that they were raiding the place. They ordered the seven bootleggers to line up against the wall and then opened fire, using two machine guns, a .45-caliber gun, and a sawed-off shotgun. All seven men died and the killers escaped in a stolen police car.

The massacre and publicity surrounding it catapulted Al Capone and his crime syndicate to national status of infamy and glamorization. Though Capone and McGurn were believed to have orchestrated the mass murder, proving it was a different story. Capone had been enjoying the good life in Florida at the time and McGurn had a solid alibi in his girlfriend, Louise Rolfe, whom he later married so she couldn’t testify against him. No one was ever convicted for the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. See also Bandits, Outlaws, and Organized Crime Killers - Men, Capone, Alphonse.


The 1930s


The 1930s were identified by the kidnapping and murder of baby Charles Augustus Lindbergh, the Kansas City Massacre, and the outlaw and gangster killings and deaths of Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Bonnie and Clyde, and John Dillinger.


The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping and Murder


On the night of March 1, 1932, twenty-month-old Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., son of the famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, was abducted from the family home near Hopewell, New Jersey. A ransom note demanding $50,000 was found on the windowsill in the nursery where the child had been sleeping. A few days later, the ransom went up to $70,000. A series of ransom related notes would follow.

On April 2, 1932, retired school principal Dr. John F. Condon, acting as a go-between, delivered $50,000 to the alleged kidnapper who was using the name “John,” and received instructions as to where the Lindbergh baby could be found. The search proved unsuccessful with no sign of the missing baby.

On May 12, 1932, the badly decomposed corpse of an infant was discovered partially buried a few miles from the Lindbergh home in Mercer County. It was positively identified as the kidnapped Lindbergh baby. His head had been crushed and some body parts were missing.

The New Jersey State Police was in charge of the investigation into the kidnapping-murder, led by Superintendent Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf. However within weeks, the FBI began to play a major role in the investigation. On October 19, 1933, an official announcement was made giving the FBI exclusive federal jurisdiction of the case, which had included work done by the IRS Intelligence Unit.

Leads about the kidnapper came in from across the United States and various suspects were investigated. Two men—Gaston B. Means, a con artist, and Norman T. Whitaker, a disbarred lawyer—were arrested and convicted of conspiracy to defraud charges in relation to the kidnapping, though they were unconnected with it per se.

Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a German carpenter who had lived in the United States for more than a decade, became the chief suspect in the Lindbergh kidnap-murder when gold ransom certificates were traced to him. He was further identified by Condon as “John” and through handwriting analysis of the ransom notes. The thirty-five-year-old Hauptmann was indicted for murder on October 8, 1934.

His trial began on January 3, 1935, and lasted five weeks. A jury found Hauptmann guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to death. After various federal appeals, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was electrocuted on April 3, 1936. See also Child Killers – Men, Hauptmann, Bruno; Child Victims, Lindbergh, Charles Augustus Jr.


The Deadly Saga of Bonnie and Clyde


On October 11, 1932, Howard Hall was murdered during the holdup of a grocery store in Sherman, Texas. His killers were Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Few outlaws, past or present, have gained the notoriety and fascination of the public as the girl-boy bandits known as Bonnie and Clyde. The two are believed to have killed thirteen people in a bloody career of bank, grocery store, and gas station robberies during the early 1930s. Other well-known criminals of the day, such as John Dillinger, viewed Bonnie and Clyde as strictly amateurs in their small-time killings and robberies across the Midwest.

Barrow, born in 1909, and Parker, born in 1910, met in January 1930 in Texas. At the time, the nineteen-year-old Bonnie was married to a convicted killer in prison. She and the twenty-one-year-old Clyde Barrow hit it off immediately and began a life of crime together—often as part of a Barrow gang that included Clyde’s older brother, Marvin Ivan “Buck” Barrow and his wife, Blanche, along with Raymond Hamilton. Bonnie and Clyde became famous for their daring robberies, breaking into prison, shootouts with police, and their ability to evade capture. They were usually heavily armed with Barrow typically relying on a Browning automatic rifle in their robberies or to outgun pursuers. The couple often escaped the law in their trademark V-8 Ford automobiles.

The spectacular end for Bonnie and Clyde came on May 23, 1934, when they were ambushed on a highway between Gibsland and Sailes, Louisiana. A posse, led by Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, opened fire on the notorious pair’s automobile with high-powered rifles, riddling the car and its occupants with 167 bullets. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were killed, though their legend lives on. See also PAIR AND GROUP KILLERS, Barrow, Clyde.


The Kansas City Massacre


On June 17, 1933, a mass killing occurred at the Union Railway Station in Kansas City, Missouri, taking the lives of four law officers and their prisoner in what later became known as the Kansas City Massacre. The deadly ambush was designed to assist federal prisoner, Frank Nash. The career criminal and prison escapee had been recaptured on June 16, 1933, in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and was being transported by authorities aboard a Missouri Pacific train to Kansas City. A plot to free Nash was orchestrated by a group of outlaw associates including Richard Tallman Galatas, “Doc” Louis Stacci, Herbert Farmer, and Frank B. Mulloy. The actual task of helping Nash escape was to be carried out by Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Vernon Miller, and Adam Richetti.

After arriving at Union Station, as Frank Nash entered a car surrounded by FBI agents and other law enforcement personnel, the three gunmen appeared with machine guns and opened fire. When the carnage was over, Frank Nash had been killed by his would-be captors. Also murdered was FBI agent R. J. Caffrey; McAlester, Oklahoma Police Chief Otto Reed; and two police officers from the Kansas City Police Department, W. J. Grooms and Frank Hermanson.

The killers got away and the search was on to find them. Vernon Miller, thirty-seven, who led the mass murder, was found dead near Detroit, Michigan, on November 29, 1933—the apparent victim of an underworld killing. It would be nearly a year before the other killers were cornered.

On October 20, 1934, Adam Richetti survived a shootout in Wellesville, Ohio, to be captured. Two days later, a wounded Charles Floyd gave up on a farm near Clarkson, Ohio, before dying from his injuries. On March 1, 1935, Richetti was indicted in Kansas City on four counts of first-degree murder. On June 17, 1935, two years after the massacre, a jury found the twenty-five-year-old guilty in the murder of police officer Frank Hermanson and gave him the death penalty. After his appeal failed, Adam Richetti was put to death in the Missouri State Penitentiary gas chamber on October 7, 1938.

The four men that conceived the plan to free Frank Nash—Galatas, Stacci, Farmer, and Mulloy—were indicted by a federal grand jury on conspiracy charges. Each was found guilty on January 4, 1935, and given prison sentences.


The Life and Death of Public Enemy Number One, John Dillinger


On January 15, 1934, Patrolman William O’Malley was killed during a robbery of the First National Bank in East Chicago, Indiana. The murderer was believed to be John Herbert Dillinger, who committed the robbery along with two other men. This was to be the only homicide blamed directly on Dillinger, who captured the imagination of the public and the ire of the FBI and other law enforcement officials during a colorful career as a bank robber during the 1930s.

Born in Indiana in June 1903, Dillinger’s exploits as a cunning and elusive criminal—who associated with other Depression Era outlaws such as George “Baby Face” Nelson and Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd—embarrassed authorities for his ability to evade capture and escape from custody. On March 3, 1934, Dillinger gained infamy and glamorization historically when he used a wooden gun to break out of the Lake County jail at Crown Point, Indiana, where escape was said to be all but impossible. He had been captured by authorities in Tucson, Arizona, on January 25, 1934, in connection with the murder of patrolman O’Malley and the bank robbery.

As part of his attempt to elude the law, Dillinger had plastic surgery done on his face and fingerprints in May 1934. So determined was the FBI to recapture him that John Dillinger became the country’s first Public Enemy Number One on June 22, 1934. In a set-up orchestrated by ex-madam, Anna Sage, Dillinger was shot and killed on July 22, 1934, by federal agents and police as he left the Biograph Theater in Chicago with Sage and his girlfriend, Polly Hamilton. See also Bandits, Outlaws, and Organized Crime Killers – Men, Dillinger, John Herbert.


The 1940s


The decade of the 1940s was marked notably by the William Heirens triple murder case, the sensationalized murder of “The Black Dahlia” Elizabeth Short, the Lonely Hearts Killer tandem of Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, and the mass murder spree of Howard Unruh.


The William Heirens Triple Murder Case


On June 3, 1945, Josephine Alice Ross, a widow, was stabbed to death in her Chicago apartment. Her face and neck had multiple lacerations, as did other parts of her nude body. The murderer used adhesive tape to cover some of the stab wounds on the victim. Several other women were attacked by an unknown assailant in the coming months, before Frances Brown, a secretary, was found viciously stabbed to death in her studio apartment on December 10, 1945, in a manner similar to Josephine Ross. The killer left a message on the wall in the living room using the victim’s red lipstick that read: “For heaven’s sake catch me before I kill more. I cannot control myself.” On January 7, 1946, six-year-old Suzanne Degnan was abducted from her bed, murdered, and dismembered.

In June 1946, police arrested William George Heirens, a seventeen-year-old student at the University of Chicago, after he was caught burglarizing an apartment. Heirens, a habitual burglar, confessed to the murders of Ross, Brown, and Degnan under police interrogation. He claimed that it was his alter ego “George Murman” who had committed the crimes.

With his sanity questionable, prosecutors allowed William Heirens to plead guilty to murder and did not seek the death penalty. He was given three consecutive life sentences behind bars. Heirens eventually recanted his murder confession, claiming it was forced out of him. After spending more than sixty-five years in prison, William Heirens died in March 2012 at the age of eighty-three. He was found dead in his cell at Dixon Correctional Center in Dixon, Illinois.


The Case of the Black Dahlia


On the dreary morning of January 15, 1947, housewife Betty Bersinger and her three-year-old daughter were walking to a shoe repair shop in the Leimert Park area of Los Angeles, California, when they came upon the grisly remains of a young woman in a vacant lot near Norton and 39th Street. The chalky white nude victim’s body had been cut in two, separated at the waist. Her arms were lifted over her shoulders and legs spread-eagle. The dead woman’s face had been horribly disfigured with multiple lacerations and there were rope marks on her neck, wrists and ankles.

The gruesome scene quickly attracted reporters, photographers, curiosity seekers, and the police in this shocking homicide case. In using the Los Angeles Examiner’s new Soundphoto service, the victim’s fingerprints were identified by the FBI as belonging to Elizabeth Short, a twenty-two-year-old aspiring actress. During World War II, Short had worked as a clerk at the Camp Cooke Army Base near Santa Barbara, California, which had required her prints to be taken.

The name “Black Dahlia” was given to Short in Hollywood because of her penchant for wearing all black clothing, her long jet-black hair, pale white skin, and her bright red lipstick and matching nail polish. Born in Massachusetts in 1924, Short left home at sixteen and eventually made her way to California hoping to make it in Hollywood. Elizabeth Short quickly gained a reputation as one who loved the Los Angeles night scene, often innocently flirting with the men she met. However, suggestions that Short was promiscuous appear unlikely after the pathologist who performed the autopsy on her reported that she had an abnormally developed vaginal canal. As such, she was physically incapable of having a normal sex life.

The horrible nature of Short’s death captured the imagination of the public and immortalized the Black Dahlia for her almost ghostly beauty, sexuality, and ultimate victimization. The homicide investigation of what was considered to be a sexual crime, though there was no proof that Short had been raped, produced no solid evidence against anyone. Thus, the case was never officially solved.

The only somewhat credible suspect was a man named Arnold Smith, who claimed in the 1980s that an associate named Al Morrison killed Elizabeth Short before leaving her mutilated body in the lot. Police investigators suspected that Smith and Morrison might have been the same person. Before authorities could interview Smith, he died in a fire apparently caused by a cigarette he was smoking while intoxicated. The death of the Black Dahlia remains a mystery. See also Adult Victims, Short, Elizabeth.


The Lonely Hearts Murders


In December of 1948, sixty-six-year-old Janet Fay was bludgeoned with a hammer and strangled to death in Long Island, New York. This was after she had been bilked of her savings in hopes of marriage. Her unlikely killers were Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck. Between 1947 and 1949, the serial team murderers are believed to have killed as many as twenty women. Dubbed by the press as the “Lonely Hearts Killers,” Fernandez and Beck lured their victims to their deaths through advertising and notices in lonely hearts clubs sections of newspapers and other publications. The motivation was to seduce and con them into parting with their assets.

Raymond Fernandez, born in Hawaii in 1914, had been well into the confidence scheme of taking advantage of lonely women as a gigolo and con artist. In Pensacola, Florida, in 1947, he placed advertisements in lonely hearts clubs personals, seeking new women to victimize. Martha Beck responded. Six years his junior, the lonely nurse weighed almost 300 pounds and was only too happy that the smooth talking, handsome Fernandez seemed to show an interest in her. In fact, what Fernandez saw was the perfect accomplice in his fraudulent schemes.

The mismatched couple formed a deadly duo of swindlers and killers, with Beck often posing as Fernandez’s sister in the scams. Victims were disposed of in various ways including poisoning, bludgeoning, strangulation, drowning, and shooting to death.

The Lonely Hearts Killers’ last victims were twenty-eight-year-old Delphine Dowling and her two-year-old daughter, Rainelle. Dowling had invited the pair to move into her Michigan home, which proved to be a lethal mistake. Fernandez and Beck robbed her of everything they could take, before shooting Dowling to death and drowning her young daughter. Suspicious neighbors reported them missing and police soon discovered their remains buried under the basement floor.

Fernandez and Beck were arrested for the homicides and confessed to killing Fay and the Dowlings but denied other murders attributed to them. The killer couple was extradited to New York, where they had the death penalty. They went to trial in July 1949 on multiple murder charges. On August 22, 1949, Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck received the death penalty. After all appeals were exhausted, the two lovers were executed together on January 2, 1951, in Sing Sing prison’s electric chair. See also PAIR AND GROUP KILLERS, Fernandez, Raymond Martinez.


The Mass Killing by Howard Unruh


On the morning of September 5, 1949, World War II veteran, Howard Unruh, went berserk in his hometown of Camden, New Jersey, and committed mass murder. Apparently set off by a prankster who had removed a gate from his garden fence, the twenty-nine-year-old Unruh, described as withdrawn and a “mama’s boy,” left his house with a German Luger pistol and began firing randomly at everyone he came upon. Within minutes, he had killed thirteen people, including a young child, a shoemaker, a barber, and three members of a single family.

The murder spree shocked the town of Camden and distinguished Unruh as the country’s first mass murderer. After barricading himself in his bedroom following the killings, the police finally convinced Unruh to surrender. He was found to be insane and never went to trial for his deadly crimes. Instead, he was committed to the Trenton State Psychiatric Hospital. In 1980, a judge dismissed the thirteen murder indictments against Unruh, but he remained institutionalized.

In 1996, a psychiatrist described Howard Unruh as schizophrenic, but a “problem free” patient. However, in every commitment hearing, it was ruled that Howard Unruh was insane and remained a danger to himself and the community.

After sixty years of confinement, Unruh died in October 2009 at the age of eighty-eight in a nursing home in Trenton, New Jersey. See also Mass Murderers – Men, Unruh, Howard.


The 1950s


The 1950s saw an increase in sex-motivated and serial murders compared to earlier decades. However, the decade was perhaps most memorable for a mass murder in the sky, the shocking murder of Marilyn Sheppard and the Clutter family, and the abduction and murder of an infant boy named Peter Weinberger.


The Murder of Marilyn Sheppard


On the morning of July 4, 1954, Marilyn Reese Sheppard was beaten to death while in bed in her lakefront suburban home in Cleveland, Ohio. The Independence Day brutal murder of the thirty-one-year-old housewife and mother—who was four months pregnant—drew national headlines and has had a rippling effect that has lasted nearly five decades.

Charged with the murder was Marilyn Sheppard’s husband, Dr. Samuel H. Sheppard. The thirty-year-old neurosurgeon claimed that a “bushy-haired intruder” had broken into the house, killed his wife, and knocked him unconscious twice during struggles. Authorities believed otherwise and Sheppard was indicted for murder on August 17, 1954.

The sensational murder trial began on October 28, 1954, and drew massive media coverage. On December 21, 1954, a jury found Sheppard guilty of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. The Sheppard family’s troubles continued. Two weeks later his despondent mother, Ethel Niles Sheppard, committed suicide. Shortly after that, his father, Dr. Richard A. Sheppard, died of stomach cancer.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Sam Sheppard’s conviction in June 1966. After a second trial, he was found not guilty of Marilyn Sheppard’s death on November 16, 1966. In spite of this vindication, the severely depressed Sheppard was a broken man and died of liver disease on April 6, 1970, at the age of forty-six.

Suspected of being the real killer is convicted murderer, Richard Eberling. The interior decorator was once a window washer at the home of the Sheppards. In July 1989, he was found guilty of aggravated homicide in the murder of Ethel May Durkin. Eberling, who died in prison in 1998, denied involvement in Marilyn Sheppard’s murder.

Samuel Reese Sheppard, who was seven years old and sleeping in the next room when his mother was murdered, has tried valiantly in recent years to completely clear his father’s name in his mother’s death. In April 2000, a Cleveland civil jury ruled against Sheppard in a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit that could have resulted in a declaration of innocence for the late Dr. Samuel Sheppard.

The enduring national interest in the unsolved murder mystery was the inspiration for two television series and a motion picture all titled “The Fugitive.” See also Adult Victims, Sheppard, Marilyn.


The Deadly Explosion Aboard Flight 629


On November 1, 1955, at 6:52 p.m., an explosion occurred on United Airlines Flight 629, while in flight, killing all forty-four people aboard. The DC-6B had taken off from Stapleton Airport in Denver, Colorado, eleven minutes earlier en route to Seattle, Washington. Killed instantly were thirty-nine passengers and five crew members in what turned out to be one of the nation’s worst mass murders.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation led the grim task of identifying the victims, while the Civil Aeronautics Board was spearheading the investigation of the tragedy. On November 7, 1955, the Civil Aeronautics Board made an official statement that Flight 629 appeared to have been sabotaged. The FBI began a criminal investigation into the deaths of the forty-four passengers aboard the ill-fated airliner.

Amongst the personal effects recovered from the debris were a number of items that belonged to passenger Daisie E. King. These included newspaper clippings and a receipt for a safety deposit box. Investigators soon learned that Mrs. King’s son, Jack Gilbert Graham, had been charged with forgery by the Denver County District Attorney and put on their “most wanted” list in 1951. Background investigations further revealed that there were three life insurance policies on Daisie King. Jack Graham was the beneficiary of the largest policy, which was in the amount of $37,000.

Graham, born in 1932, was married with two young children. A small time con, he hated his mother and wanted her dead so he could collect the insurance money. He was arrested and charged in the mass killing. On May 5, 1956, a jury found him guilty of murder in the first degree and recommended that he be put to death. The judge concurred, sentencing Graham to die in the gas chamber. On January 11, 1957, Jack Graham was executed in the Colorado State Penitentiary. See also Mass Murderers – Men, Graham Jack Gilbert.


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