Monday, February 9, 2015

Actor Sal Mineo was Murdered - February 12, 1976

This week (February 9-15) in crime history – Adolph Coors III, grandson of the Coor’s founder was kidnapped and murdered (February 9, 1960); Former Boxing Champion Mike Tyson was convicted of rape (February 10, 1992); Nelson Mandela was released from prison (February 11, 1990); Radical Emma Goldman was arrested for distributing birth control information (February 11, 1916); Actor Sal Mineo was murdered (February 12, 1976); War crimes trial of former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic began (February 12, 2002); Serial Killer Tom Luther attacked first known victim (February 13, 1982); The St. Valentin’s Day Massacre (February 14, 1929); President-elect Franklin Roosevelt narrowly escaped assassination in Miami (February 15, 1933)
Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -
On February 12, 1976, actor Sal Mineo was stabbed to death in West Hollywood, California. Mineo was parking his car behind his apartment when neighbors heard his cries for help. Witnesses described seeing a white man with long brown hair fleeing the scene. Sal Mineo was a famous teen actor in the 1950s and co-starred with James Dean in Rebel without a Cause and Giant. His transition to adult roles was not easy, but he later appeared in films such as The Longest Day and Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and was a regular guest actor on television series. On the night of his murder, Mineo was returning from a play rehearsal.
For two years, Los Angeles police detectives 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 a dangerous ex-con. 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 everyone that he had killed Mineo. Although he later retracted his stories, at about the same time, Williams’ his wife back in Los Angeles told police that he had come home the night of the murder drenched in blood. However, there was one major discrepancy in the case, 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 eventually convicted and given a sentence of life in prison. He was paroled in the early 1990s but rearrested after committing other crimes. Today, Williams whereabouts is unknown.
Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

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