Monday, April 25, 2016

Lincoln Assassin John Wilkes Booth was Killed (April 26, 1865)

This week (April 25 - May 1) in crime history – John Wilkes Booth was killed (April 26, 1865); Andrew Cunanan began cross country killing spree (April 27, 1997); Jaycee Dugard’s kidnappers plead guilty (April 28, 2011); Mutiny on the HMS Bounty (April 28, 1789); Martin Bryant began killing spree in Australia (April 28, 1996); Deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was executed (April 28, 1945); Police officers in the Rodney King beating trial were found innocent (April 29, 1992); First Federal prison for women opened in West Virginia (April 30. 1927); Tennis star Monica Seles was stabbed during match in Germany (April 30, 1993); Former NBA star Jayson Williams was indicted for the shooting death of Costas Christofi (May 1, 2002)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week –

On April 26, 1865, John Wilkes Booth was killed when Union soldiers track him down to a Virginia farm 12 days after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Twenty-six-year-old Booth was one of the most famous actors in the country when he shot Lincoln during a performance at Ford's Theater in Washington D.C., on the night of April 14. Booth was a strong supporter of the Confederacy. As the war entered its final stages, Booth hatched a conspiracy to kidnap the president. He enlisted the aid of several associates, but the opportunity never presented itself. After the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House on April 9, Booth changed the plan to a simultaneous assassination of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward. Only Lincoln was actually killed, however. Seward was stabbed by Lewis Paine but survived, while the man assigned to kill Johnson did not carry out his assignment.

After shooting Lincoln, Booth jumped to the stage below Lincoln's box seat. He landed hard, breaking his leg, before escaping to a waiting horse behind the theater. Booth and his accomplice, David Herold, made their way across the Anacostia River and headed toward southern Maryland. The pair stopped at Dr. Samuel Mudd's home, and Mudd treated Booth's leg. This earned Mudd a life sentence in prison when he was implicated as part of the conspiracy, but the sentence was later commuted. Booth found refuge for several days at the home of Thomas A. Jones, a Confederate agent, before securing a boat to row across the Potomac to Virginia.

After receiving aid from several Confederate sympathizers, Booth's luck finally ran out. The countryside was swarming with military units looking for Booth, although few shared information since there was a $20,000 reward. While staying at the farm of Richard Garrett, Federal troops arrived on their search but soon rode on. The unsuspecting Garrett allowed his suspicious guests to sleep in his barn, but he instructed his son to lock the barn from the outside to prevent the strangers from stealing his horses. A tip led the Union soldiers back to the Garrett farm, where they discovered Booth and Herold in the barn. Herold came out, but Booth refused. The building was set on fire to flush Booth out, but he was shot while still inside. He lived for three hours before gazing at his hands, muttering "Useless, useless," as he died. 

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of seven nonfiction books that includes the recently published In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Monday, April 4, 2016

Old West Outlaw Billy the Kid was Convicted of Murder (April 9, 1881)

This week (April 4-10) in Crime history – Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated (April 4, 1968); Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were sentenced to death for spying (April 5, 1951); Convicted murderer Sam Sheppard died (April 6, 1970: The Rwandan Genocide began (April 7, 1994); Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph agreed to plead guilty (April 8, 2005); Old West outlaw Billy the Kid was convicted of murder (April 9, 1881); Mexican Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata was assassinated (April 10, 1919)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -



On April 9, 1881, after a one-day trial, Billy the Kid was found guilty of murdering the Lincoln County, New Mexico, sheriff and is sentenced to hang. There is no doubt that Billy the Kid shot the sheriff, although he did it in the context of the bloody Lincoln County War, a battle between two powerful groups of ranchers and businessmen fighting for economic control of Lincoln County. When his boss, rancher John Tunstall, was murdered in February 1878, the hotheaded Billy swore vengeance. Unfortunately, the leader of the men who murdered Tunstall was the sheriff of Lincoln County, William Brady. When Billy and his partners murdered the sheriff several months later, they became outlaws, regardless of how corrupt Brady may have been.

After three years on the run and several other murders, Pat Garrett finally arrested Billy in early 1881. Garrett, a one-time friend, was the new sheriff of Lincoln County. On this day in 1881, a court took only one day to convict Billy of the murder of Sheriff Brady. Sentenced to hang, Billy was imprisoned in Lincoln’s county jail while Sheriff Garrett gathered the technical information and supplies needed to build an effective gallows.

On April 28, while Garrett was out of town, Billy managed to escape. While one of the jail’s two guards was escorting a group of prisoners across the street to dinner, Billy asked the remaining guard to take him to the jail outhouse. As the guard escorted him back to his cell, Billy somehow managed to slip a wrist through his handcuffs. He slugged the guard and shot him with a pistol either that he took from the guard or that a friend had hidden in the outhouse for him. Hearing the shot, the second guard ran back to the jail, and Billy killed him with a blast from a shotgun he found in Garrett’s office. Reportedly, Billy then smashed the gun and threw it down on the dead guard, yelling, “You won’t follow me anymore with that gun!”

After murdering the guards, Billy seemed in no hurry to flee. He armed himself with two pistols and, according to one account, “danced about the balcony, laughed and shouted as though he had not a care on earth.” Apparently, the people of Lincoln were either too fearful or too admiring of the young outlaw to act. After nearly an hour, Billy rode off. He was not able to ride far enough. Upon his return to Lincoln, Garrett immediately formed a posse and set off to recapture the outlaw. On July 14, 1881, Garrett surprised Billy in a darkened room not far from Lincoln and shot him dead.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:


Monday, March 14, 2016

The Yosemite Murders (March 18, 1999)

This week (March 14-20) in crime history – The FBI debuted the 10 most wanted list (march 14, 1950); Jack Ruby was sentenced to death (March 14, 1964); The Birmingham Six were released (March 14, 1991); Julius Caesar was assassinated (March 15, 44BC); Lastania Abarta shots her lover on the streets of Los Angeles (march 16, 1881); Judge Rot Bean died (March 16, 1903); American journalist Terry Anderson was kidnapped in Lebanon (March 6, 1985); Raymond Clark III pleaded guilty to killing Yale Grad student (March 17, 2011); The Yosemite Killings (March 18, 1999); The Tokyo subway s were attacked with sarin gas (March 20, 1995)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -



On March 18, 1999, the bodies of Carole Sund and Silvina Pelosso are found in a charred rental car in a remote wooded area of Long Barn, California. The women, along with Sund’s daughter Juli, had been missing since February when they were last seen alive at the Cedar Lodge near Yosemite National Park. Juli Sund’s body was found thirty miles away a week after the car was found.

The mysterious disappearance of the three women had drawn national attention and landed them on the cover of People magazine. Compounding the mystery, Carole Sund’s wallet had been found on a street in downtown Modesto, California, three days after they had disappeared.

Police and the FBI initially focused their investigation on a group of methamphetamine users in Northern California. This changed in July when Joie Ruth Armstrong, a twenty-six-year-old Yosemite Park worker, was brutally killed and decapitated near her cabin in the park.

The discovery of her body led investigators to Cary Stayner, a thirty-seven-year-old man who worked at the Cedar Lodge motel, where the Sund’s were last seen. Stayner was tracked down and caught at a nudist colony in Northern California. Stayner confessed to the murder of Armstrong and then surprised the detectives by admitting that he was also responsible for the murders of the Sund’s and Pelosso.

Stayner had been on the other end of another high-profile crime years earlier. His younger brother, Steven, was abducted in Merced when Cary was eleven years old. Steven Stayner was held for more than seven years by a sexual abuser, Kenneth Parnell. Following his escape, a television movie, I Know My First Name is Steven, dramatized the incident. Steven Stayner died in a tragic motorcycle accident when he was twenty-four. The family saw further tragedy when Jesse Stayner, Cary and Steven’s uncle, was shot to death in 1990 during a bungled robbery attempt. Stayner pleaded guilty to the Armstrong murder in 2001. He was convicted of the other three counts of murder in 2002 and sentenced to death.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980 and Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:




Monday, March 7, 2016

Rapper Notorious BIG was Shot to Death (March 9, 1997)

This week (March 7-13) in crime history – Defense attorney’s rested in the Andrea Yates murder trial (March 7, 2002); The Lonely Hearts Kills, Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez were executed (March 8, 1951); Old West outlaw Emmet Dalton goes to prison (March 8, 1893); Rapper Notorious B.I.G was shot to death (March 9, 1997); David Gunn was murdered by anti-abortion activist (March 10, 1993); James Earl Ray plead guilty to assassinating Martin Luther King Jr. (march 11, 1969); COPS TV series debuted on FOX (March 12, 1989); Terrorists bombed trains in Madrid (march 12, 2004); Elizabeth Smart was rescued from her captures (March 13, 2003)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -


On March 9, 1997, Christopher Wallace, a.k.a Biggie Smalls, a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G., was shot to death at a stoplight in Los Angeles. The murder was thought to be the culmination of an ongoing feud between rap music artists from the East and West coasts. Just six months earlier, rapper Tupac Shakur was shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. Ironically, Wallace’s death came only weeks before his new album, entitled Life After Death, was scheduled to be released.

Wallace was the most prominent East Coast practitioner of “gangster rap,” peppering his song with profane, violent and misogynistic lyrics. His 1994 record Ready to Die sold millions. That same year, Shakur, the West Coast’s leading rapper, was shot several times in a robbery at a recording studio in New York. Shakur claimed that Wallace was partially responsible and later taunted Wallace on one of his songs. He claimed to have slept with Wallace’s ex-wife, singer Faith Evans, and insulted the overweight rapper for his ample girth.

Wallace’s raps about violent street life were not completely fiction. He grew up in a poor section of Brooklyn and had many run-ins with the law growing up. Even after he reached stardom in the music world, his legal woes continued. In the summer of 1996 he was arrested when police found marijuana and firearms at his New Jersey home. He also gave a new meaning to fan appreciation when he assaulted a pair of admirers with a baseball bat. The murder of Wallace has never been solved, though it has been suggested that either Marion “Suge” Knight, the former head of Death Row Records, Shakur’s label, or the Crips gang may be have been responsible. Knight was also shot (but not wounded seriously) in the fatal Las Vegas attack on Shakur and is rumored to have engineered a retaliatory strike against Wallace, whom he held responsible for the Las Vegas shooting. Since Wallace’s death, Knight had been in and out of court and prison on a variety of charges. Wallace’s murder remains open and unsolved.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of seven nonfiction books that includes the soon to be released In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980 and the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:



Monday, February 29, 2016

The Rodney King Beating (March 3, 1991)

This week (February 29 - March 6) in crime history – Malik Nettles opened fire on school bus in St. Louis killing two (February 29, 1996); The Lindbergh baby kidnapping (March 1, 1932); The Salem Witch trial began (March 1, 1692); Grave robbers steal the body of Charlie Chaplin (March 2, 1978); The Rodney king beating (March 3, 1991); Martha Stewart was released from prison (March 4, 2005); Louis Buchalter, head of Murder, Inc. was executed (march 4, 1944); Jim Morrison was charged with lewd behavior in Florida (march 5, 1969); Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg began (March 6, 1951)


Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -


On March 3, 1992, at 12:45 a.m. robbery parolee Rodney King stops his car after leading police on a nearly 8-mile pursuit through the streets of Los Angeles, California. The chase began after King, who was intoxicated, was caught speeding on a freeway by a California Highway Patrol cruiser but refused to pull over. Los Angeles Police cruisers and a police helicopter joined the pursuit, and when King was finally stopped by Hansen Dam Park, several police cars descended on his white Hyundai.

A group of LAPD officers led by Sergeant Stacey Koon ordered King and the other two occupants of the car to exit the vehicle and lie flat on the ground. King’s two friends complied, but King himself was slower to respond, getting on his hands and knees rather than lying flat. Officers Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Ted Briseno, and Roland Solano tried to force King down, but he resisted, and the officers stepped back and shot King twice with an electric stun gun known as a Taser, which fires darts carrying a charge of 50,000 volts.

At this moment, civilian George Holliday, standing on a balcony in an apartment complex across the street, focused the lens of his new video camera on the commotion unfolding by Hansen Dam Park. In the first few seconds of what would become a very famous 89-second video, King is seen rising after the Taser shots and running in the direction of Officer Powell. All the arresting officers were white, along with all but one of the other two dozen or so law enforcement officers present at the scene. With the roar of a helicopter above, very few commands or remarks are audible in the video.

With King running in his direction, Powell swung his baton, hitting him on the side of the head and knocking him to the ground. This action was captured by the video, but the next 10 seconds were blurry as Holliday shifted the camera. From the 18- to 30-second mark in the video, King attempted to rise, and Powell and Wind attacked him with a torrent of baton blows that prevented him from doing so. From the 35- to 51-second mark, Powell administered repeated baton blows to King’s lower body. At 55 seconds, Powell struck King on the chest, and King rolled over and lay prone. At that point, the officers stepped back and observed King for about 10 seconds. Powell began to reach for his handcuffs.

At 65 seconds on the video, Officer Briseno stepped roughly on King’s upper back or neck, and King’s body writhed in response. Two seconds later, Powell and Wind again began to strike King with a series of baton blows, and Wind kicked him in the neck six times until 86 seconds into the video. At about 89 seconds, King put his hands behind his back and was handcuffed.

Sergeant Koon never made an effort to stop the beating, and only one of the many officers present briefly intervened, raising his left arm in front of a baton-swinging colleague in the opening moments of the videotape, to no discernible effect. An ambulance was called, and King was taken to the hospital. Struck as many as 56 times with the batons, he suffered a fractured leg, multiple facial fractures, and numerous bruises and contusions. Unaware that the arrest was videotaped, the officers downplayed the level of violence used to arrest King and filed official reports in which they claimed he suffered only cuts and bruises “of a minor nature.”

George Holliday sold his video of the beating to the local television station, KTLA, which broadcast the footage and sold it to the national Cable News Network (CNN). The widely broadcast video caused outrage around the country and triggered a national debate on police brutality. Rodney King was released without charges, and on March 15 Sergeant Koon and Officers Powell, Wind, and Briseno were indicted by a Los Angeles grand jury in connection with the beating. All four were charged with assault with a deadly weapon and excessive use of force by a police officer. Though Koon did not actively participate in the beating, as the commanding officer he was charged with aiding and abetting it. Powell and Koon were also charged with filing false reports.

Because of the uproar in Los Angeles surrounding the incident, the judge, Stanley Weisberg, was persuaded to move the trial outside Los Angeles County to Simi Valley in Ventura County. On April 29, 1992, the 12-person jury, which included 10 whites and no African Americans, issued its verdicts: not guilty on all counts, except for one assault charge against Powell that ended in a hung jury. The acquittals touched off rioting and looting in Los Angeles that grew into the most destructive U.S. civil disturbance of the 20th century. In three days of violence, more than 50 people were killed, more than 2,000 were injured, and nearly $1 billion in property was destroyed. On May 1, President George H.W. Bush ordered military troops and riot-trained federal officers to Los Angeles to quell the riot.

Under federal law, the officers could also be prosecuted for violating Rodney King’s constitutional rights, and on April 17, 1993, a federal jury convicted Koon and Powell for violating King’s rights by their unreasonable use of force under color of law. Although Wind and Briseno were acquitted, most civil rights advocates considered the mixed verdict a victory. On August 4, Koon and Powell were sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for the beating of King. King received $3.8 million in a civil suit against the Los Angeles police department.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of seven nonfiction books that includes the soon to be released In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980 and the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:





Monday, February 15, 2016

Malcolm X was Assassinated (February 21, 1965)

This week (February 15-21) in crime history – Chicago Eight defense attorneys were sentenced for contempt of court (February 15, 1970); Old West gunslinger John Wesley Hardin was pardoned (February 16, 1894); Union leaders were arrested in connection with the assassination of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg (February 17, 1906); A South Korean subway train was set ablaze by arsonists (February 18, 2003); The Green River Killer – Gary Leon Ridgway plead guilty to murdering his 49th victim (February 18, 2003); San Francisco vigilantes took justice into their own hands (February 19, 1851); Reg Murphy, the editor of the Atlanta Constitution was kidnapped (February 20, 1974); Malcom X was assassinated (February 21, 1965)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -


On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated by rival Black Muslims while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights. Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, Malcolm was the son of James Earl Little, a Baptist preacher who advocated the Black Nationalist ideals of Marcus Garvey. Threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced the family to move to Lansing, Michigan, where his father continued to preach his controversial sermons despite continuing threats. In 1931, Malcolm’s father was brutally murdered by the white supremacist Black Legion, and Michigan authorities refused to prosecute those responsible. In 1937, Malcolm was taken from his family by welfare caseworkers. By the time he reached high school age, he had dropped out of school and moved to Boston, where he became increasingly involved in criminal activities.

In 1946, at the age of 21, Malcolm was sent to prison on a burglary conviction. It was there he encountered the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, whose members are popularly known as Black Muslims. The Nation of Islam advocated Black Nationalism and racial separatism and condemned Americans of European descent as immoral. Muhammad’s teachings had a strong effect on Malcolm, who entered into an intense program of self-education and took the last name “X” to symbolize his stolen African identity.

After six years, Malcolm was released from prison and became a loyal and effective minister of the Nation of Islam in Harlem, New York. In contrast with civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X advocated self-defense and the liberation of African Americans by any means necessary. A fiery orator, Malcolm was admired by the African American community in New York and around the country.

In the early 1960s, he began to develop a more outspoken philosophy than that of Elijah Muhammad, whom he felt did not sufficiently support the civil rights movement. In late 1963, Malcolm’s suggestion that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was a matter of the “chickens coming home to roost” provided Elijah Muhammad, who believed that Malcolm had become too powerful, with a convenient opportunity to suspend him from the Nation of Islam.

A few months later, Malcolm formally left the organization and made a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, where he was profoundly affected by the lack of racial discord among orthodox Muslims. He returned to America as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and in June 1964 founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which advocated black identity and held that racism, not the white race, was the greatest foe of the African American. Malcolm’s new movement steadily gained followers, and his more moderate philosophy became increasingly influential in the civil rights movement, especially among the leaders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. On February 21, 1965, one week after his home was firebombed, Malcolm X was shot to death by Nation of Islam members while speaking at a rally of his organization in New York City.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of seven nonfiction books that includes the soon to be released In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980 and the award willing Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:





Monday, February 8, 2016

Actor Sal Mineo was Murdered (February 12, 1976)

This week (February 8-14) in crime history – Nevada carried out first execution by lethal gas (February 8, 1924); Adolph Coors, heir to the Coors Brewery fortune was kidnapped (February 9, 1960); Former Boxing champ Mike Tyson was convicted of rape )February 10, 1992); Former Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milosevic’s war crimes trial began (February 12, 2002); Actor Sal Mineo was murdered (February 12, 1976); Serial killer Tom Luther began raped and beat hi first victim (February 13, 1982); The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (February 14, 1929)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -



On February 12, 1976, actor Sal Mineo was stabbed to death in Hollywood, California. Mineo was walking behind his apartment when neighbors heard his screams for help. Some described a white man with brown hair fleeing the scene. Mineo was a famous teen actor in the 1950s. He co-starred with James Dean in both Rebel without a Cause and Giant. The transition to adult roles did not come easily for Mineo, but he later appeared in small roles in such films as The Longest Day and Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and consistently performed guest spots on television series. On the night he was killed, Mineo was returning from rehearsing for a play.

For two years, the police searched in vain for clues to the killer’s identity. At first, they suspected that Mineo’s work for prison reform had put him in contact with dangerous felons. Then their focus shifted to Mineo’s personal life. Investigators had discovered that his home was filled with pictures of nude men but the homosexual pornography also failed to turn up any leads.

Then, out of the blue, Michigan authorities reported that Lionel Williams, arrested on bad check charges, was bragging to cellmates that he had killed Mineo. Although he later retracted his stories, at about the same time, Williams’ wife in Los Angeles told police that he had come home the night of the murder drenched in blood. However, there was one major discrepancy, Williams was black with an Afro and all of the eyewitnesses had described the perpetrator as a white man with long brown hair.

Fortunately, the police were able to unearth an old photo of Williams in which his hair had been dyed brown and processed so that it was straight and long. In addition, the medical examiner had made a cast of Mineo’s knife wound and police were able to match it to the description of the knife provided by Williams’ wife. Lionel Williams was convicted of murdering Mineo and sentenced to life in prison.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of seven nonfiction books that includes the soon to be released In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime 1950-1980 and the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following links: