Monday, June 20, 2016
Serial Killer Melvin Rees Claimed his First Victim (June 26, 1957)
This week (June 20-26) in crime history – Mobster Bugsy Siegel was gunned down in Los Angeles (June 20, 1947); Would-be assassin John Hinckley, Jr. was found not guilty by reason of insanity (June 21, 1982); Mobster Whitey Bulger was arrested in Los Angeles (June 22, 2011); Mob boss John Gotti was sentenced to life in prison for racketeering and murder (June 23, 1992); The Unabomber send bomb to Yale professor (June 24, 1993); Serial Killer Melvin Rees claimed first victim (June 26, 1957)
Highlighted crime story of the week -
On June 26, 1957, Margaret Harold was shot and killed while out for a drive with her boyfriend near Annapolis, Maryland. Her killer swerved in front of the couple’s car, approached with a .38 revolver, and shot Harold in the side of the face, while her boyfriend managed to escape. Investigating police found an abandoned building nearby, filled with pornographic pictures, but its full significance would not be revealed until nearly two years later.
Early in 1959, the Jackson family was driving along a dirt road in Virginia, returning home, when they were forced to stop and abducted at gunpoint. Two months later, two men came across the bodies of Carroll Jackson and his one year-old daughter Janet, dumped in a remote area of Fredericksburg, Virginia. A short time later, Mildred Jackson and her five-year-old daughter Susan were found buried in a shallow grave, just outside the abandoned building that police had discovered when investigating Harold’s murder.
Mildred had been brutally raped in the same room where the pornographic pictures had been found two years earlier. Since investigators were reasonably certain that the same killer had committed the murders, the media jumped on the story. Tips began to pour in, and although most of them were worthless, one pointed authorities towards Melvin Rees.
Rees was eventually found in West Memphis, working as a piano salesman. Margaret Harold’s boyfriend picked him out of a lineup and a search of his home turned up a .38 pistol. The most damning evidence, however, was a note paper clipped to a newspaper article about Mildred Jackson in which Rees described his horrific crimes in detail.
Detectives found evidence that linked Rees to the slayings of four other young women in the Maryland area as well. Rees was tried in February 1961 for the murder of Margaret Harold and in September 1961 for the murders of the Jackson family. He was convicted of both and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1972, and he died in prison from heart failure in 1995.
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Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and 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: