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1928 Jan 12
Ruth Snyder (b.1895) became the first woman to die in the electric chair. She was electrocuted by “state electrician” Robert G. Elliott at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York, along with Judd Gray, her lover and co-conspirator, for the murder of her husband, Albert on March 20, 1927. This was billed in the press as “The Dumb-Bell Murder.”
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1930 Aug 6
In NYC state Supreme Court Judge Joseph Force Crater (b.1889) dined at a West 45th Street steakhouse with a group of friends that included a showgirl. Crater had earlier withdrawn $5,150 from a pair of bank accounts. He was last seen at 9:15 p.m., climbing into the cab. Crater had been recently appointed by Gov. Franklin Roosevelt to the NY Supreme Court. In 2004 Richard J. Tofel authored “Vanishing Point,” an account of Tammany Hall and Crater’s disappearance. The 1947 film “The Judge Steps Out,” starring Alexander Knox, was inspired by the case. Evidence in 2005 suggested that several men killed the judge and buried him under the Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn. [see Sep 1]
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1930 Aug 7
In Marion, Indiana, a mob broke into a jail and beat to death 2 young black men and hung them from a tree in the courthouse square. Tommy Shipp and Abe Smith and a 3rd teenager had just been arrested for a botched robbery that left Claude Deeter, a white man, dead. James Cameron (16) was saved from hanging, even as a noose was on his neck. In 2006 Cynthia Carr authored “Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town and the Hidden History of White America.”
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1930 Dec 8
In San Francisco Rosetta Baker, a wealthy widow with a taste for younger men, was found strangled in her California St. apartment. Liu Fook, her butler (63) and a secret opium addict, was suspected but found innocent at trial.
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1931 Jan 7
The SF Police Homicide Squad reported that 27 murders in SF for 1930.
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1933 Oct 19
Dallas Egan, condemned slayer, was executed after California Gov. James Rolph agreed to allow him 8 ounces of good Kentucky bourbon whiskey.
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1933 Nov 9
Brooke Hart (22) was abducted from the parking lot of the family-owned department store in San Jose, Ca. The 1943 novel “Against a Darkening Sky” by Janet Lewis was based on the lynching of his accused abductors. The abductors, who killed Hart, were later captured after police traced their calls arranging a $40,000 ransom. [see Nov 26]
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1933 Nov 26
In California a mob attacked the Santa Clara County Jail and dragged out John M. Holmes and Thomas H. Thurmond for the kidnapping and murder of Brooke Hart (22), heir to a San Jose department store fortune. The 2 men were hung and stripped from 2 sycamores at St. James Park, one of which Pres. McKinley had stood under in 1901 to deliver a speech on American liberties and the US Constitution. Gov. Rolph said that if anyone was arrested for the lynching, he would pardon them. [see Nov 9]
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1934 Mar
In SF Michael R. Catalano, underworld figure, was murdered.
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1934 Apr 1
Two Texas Highway Patrol officers, E.B. Wheeler (26) and H.D. Murphy (24), were killed by Henry Methvin, a gang member of Bonnie and Clyde, as they approached the gang’s car near Grapevine, Texas.
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1934 Sep 29
In Vallejo, Ca., the body of Joe Soon (40), a member of the Hop Sing tong, was found dead in the Vallejo business district with a hatchet wound between the eyes and 4 bullets in his torso. The murderers were believed to be hatchetmen from San Francisco’s Chinatown.
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1935 Sep 8
Sen. Huey P. Long, "The Kingfish" of Louisiana politics, was shot and mortally wounded in Baton Rouge allegedly by Dr. Carl Austin Weiss, Jr.; he died two days later ending what might have been a prominent national career. It was suspected that Dr. Weiss was acting in revenge against Long's public slandering of his father. The 1996 documentary film "Huey Long" by Ken Burns was about the Louisiana politician who wanted to redistribute wealth and make every man a king.
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1937
In China Pamela Werner (19), the adopted daughter of Edward Theodore Chalmers Werner, was brutally murdered in Peking. The formal investigation was buried, first by the perpetrators, then by the Chinese and British authorities. In 2011 Paul French authored “Midnight in Peking,” in which he describes and solves the crime.
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1941 Jan 24
Josslyn Victor Hay, the 22nd Earl of Erroll, was shot to death in Kenya. He was having an affair with Diana Delves Broughton. The story was covered in a 1982 book “White Mischief” by James Fox, which was made into a 1988 movie. The BBC television drama The Happy Valley, first transmitted on 6 September 1987, told the story of Erroll's murder, as seen through the eyes of 15 year-old the Hon. Juanita Carbery, daughter of Lord Carbery, to whom John Delves Broughton confessed his guilt even before he was arrested. Alice de Janze committed suicide not long after the acquittal Broughton. In 2010 Paul Spicer authored “The Temptress: The Scandalous Life of Alice de Janze and the Mysterious Death of Lord Erroll.
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1942 Jun 10
German Gestapo massacred 173 male residents of Lidice, Czechoslovakia, in retaliation for the killing of SS Gen Reinhard Heydrich. All together, 340 people died in the Nazi reprisal (192 men, 60 women and 88 children). The death toll resulting from the effort to avenge the death of Heydrich is estimated at 1,300. This count includes relatives of the partisans, their supporters, Czech elites suspected of disloyalty and random victims like those from Lidice.
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1944 Jun 10
German troops of the armored SS Division "Das Reich", as they headed toward Normandy to combat D-Day invasion forces, slaughtered 642 men, women and children in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane. In 1983 a court in East Berlin convicted Heinz Barth (1921-2007), a former SS officer, and sentenced him to life in prison. In addition to involvement in the massacre, East German judges also found that Barth volunteered to participate in an execution of 92 Czech civilians in 1942. In 1997 his sentence was commuted to probation.
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1944 Jul 14
SS men Heinrich Boere and Jacobus Petrus Besteman shot and killed Dutch pharmacist Fritz Hubert Ernst Bicknese at his home in Breda for suspected activity in Nazi resistance. Boere was sentenced to death in absentia by a Dutch court in 1949. This was later commuted to life imprisonment. In 2009 Boere (88) was slated to stand trial for murder in Germany for the execution-style killings of three Dutch civilians during World War II. In 2010 a German court convicted Boere (88) of murdering the three Dutch civilians. He was given the maximum sentence of life in prison for the killings.
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1944 Aug 13
In NYC Lucien Carr stabbed to death David Kammerer following sexual advances by Kammerer, who had been Carr's Boyscout Scoutmaster during his youth. Carr turned himself in and was later sentenced to 20 years, but served only 2 years in prison at Elmira Correctional Facility in upstate, NY. Lucien Carr later introduced Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs to each other.
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1944 Aug 28
1944 Sep 9
In Italy 10 citizens from Forli were killed "without need and without any justified motive" by a platoon led by German officer Heinrich Nordhorn. In 2006 an Italian military tribunal convicted Nordhorn (86) in absentia in the killings of the 10 civilians.
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1944 Sep
SS men Heinrich Boere and an accomplice named Hendrik Kromhout shot Dutch bicycle-shop owner Teun de Groot when he answered the doorbell at his home in the town of Voorschoten. They then continued to the apartment of F.W. Kusters, and forced him into their car. They drove him to another town, stopped on the pretense of having a flat tire and shot him.
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1946 May 25
Marcel Petiot (b.1897), a French doctor, was beheaded for offering Jews an escape to Argentina, then killing them and getting rid of their bodies, many by incineration. The remains of 26 people were found in his home, but he was suspected of killing more than 60 people. In 1980 Thomas Maeder authored “The Unspeakable Crimes of Dr. Petiot.” In 2011 David King chronicled the hunt for Petiot in "Death in the City of Light."
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1946 Sep 8
In San Francisco four boys playing near the Paramount Theater found a package containing body parts of Ramon Lopez (52), a flower dealer from San Leandro. Police found 14 pairs of nylons at his room in the Mint Hotel. His skull was found 18 years later at Hunters Point.
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1949 Sep 6
Howard Unruh (28) killed 13 neighbors in 12 minutes in Camden, New Jersey. The dead included 5 men, 5 women and 3 children. Unruh (1921-2009) was eventually pronounced insane and spent the rest of his life in a state psychiatric hospital.
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1949
Heinrich Boere (b.1922), part of a Waffen SS death squad of mostly Dutch volunteers, was sentenced to death in the Netherlands. The squad had been tasked with killing fellow countrymen in reprisal for attacks by the anti-Nazi resistance. His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment and Boere managed to escape to Germany. A German court has refused to extradite him because he might have German nationality as well as Dutch. In 2008 Dortmund prosecutor Ulrich Maass charged Heinrich Boere (86) with the 1944 murders of three men as a member of the Waffen SS death squad code-named Silbertanne, or Silver Pine.
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1950 Aug
In Belgium as Prince Baudouin took the oath to succeed his father after years of tumult over the monarchy, Communist leader Julien Lahaut shouted from the crowd: "Long Live the Republic!" A week later two men turned up at Lahaut's door and shot him four times with a Colt 45 revolver at point blank range. The case was officially shelved in 1972. In 2012 the government has approved fresh funds to solve the crime.
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1954 Mar
Dorothy Gay Howard (18) of Phoenix, Arizona, was reported missing. Her nude and battered body was found on April 8 along a creek in Boulder, Colorado. She was buried as Jane Doe until her identity was established by DNA testing in 2009.
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1955 Aug 28
Emmett Till (14), a black teenager from Chicago, was abducted from his uncle's home in Money, Miss., by white men after he had supposedly whistled at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman. Till’s beaten body was found three days later. His left eye and an ear were missing, as were most of his teeth. His nose was rushed and there was a hole in his right temple. Eyewitnesses linked Carolyn’s husband Roy Bryant and half-brother J.W. Milam to the murder. Bryant and Milam were indicted Sep 10 for a trial on Sep 19. Both were acquitted by an all-white jury. Bryant and Milan later confessed to the killing in a magazine interview. The area was a cotton-trading center where the white Citizens Councils maintained their regional headquarters. In 2004 the US Justice Dept. opened a criminal investigation into the case. In 2005 the US Senate acknowledged a share in the boy’s death.
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1955 Oct 31
William "Billy" Woodward, Jr. (b.1920), heir to the Hanover National Bank fortune (later Manufacturer's Hanover), the Belair Estate and stud farm and legacy, and a leading figure in racing circles, was shot to death by his wife, Ann. In 1985 Dominick Dunne (1925-2009) authored “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles,” based on the Woodward murder case. The book was turned into a television movie in 1987.
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1956
In Edmonton, Canada, John Etter Clark, a provincial politician who served as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for four years, killed his wife, son, three daughters and an employee of their family farm before taking his own life.
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1957 Dec 3
Maria Ridulph (7) disappeared while playing in Sycamore, Illinois. In April, 1958, two people foraging for mushrooms found her remains. In 2011 prosecutors in Sycamore charged Jack Daniel McCullough (71), a former police officer, in the abduction of Ridulph after an ex-girlfriend's discovery of an unused train ticket blew a hole in his alibi. At the time, McCullough's name was John Tessier. On Sep 14, 2012, McCullough was convicted of the murder. On Dec 9 McCullough was sentenced to life in prison.
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1959 Nov 15
Richard Hickok and Perry Smith savagely murdered the Clutter Family in Holcomb, Kansas. The murders inspired Truman Capote’s book “In Cold Blood” (1966). Hickok and Smith reportedly fled to Florida. Investigators later linked them to the Dec 18, 1959, murders of Cliff Walker, his wife and two children.
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1959 Dec 18
In Florida Cliff Walker, his wife and two children were murdered on a ranch in Osprey. Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, the killers of a family in Kansas on Nov 15, were later linked to the murder of the Walker family. In 2013 sheriff’s deputies failed to make a DNA link between the family, Hickock and Smith.
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1960 Apr 16
In Texas teacher and ex-beauty queen Irene Garza (25) was killed following her confession at a Roman Catholic church in McAllen. On April 21 police found Garza's body face down in a McAllen canal, along with a candelabra from Sacred Heart and a Kodak slide photograph viewer that police said belongs to priest John Bernard Feit. An autopsy revealed that she had been raped. In 2016 pleaded guilty to her murder. On Dec. 8, 2017, a jury sentenced Feit (85) to life in prison.
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1960 Oct 1
California Coast Guardsmen boarded the Coho II at the entrance of SF Bay. The engine was running and the fishing boat was on automatic pilot, but skipper Ted Bean (45) was missing. Days earlier E.A. Davison, skipper of the albacore boat Steelhead, had radioed in panic from the Monterey fishing grounds saying “The Coho Second me just shot me.”
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1960
In Finland 3 teenage camping companions were found stabbed to death inside a tent by Lake Bodom. A 4th survived with multiple stab wounds. In 2005 Nils Gustafsson (63), the survivor, was charged with murdering his 3 companions.
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1961 Feb 16
Wilbert Ridieu (19) robbed the Lake Charles, La., Gulf National Bank. He walked out with $14,000 and 3 hostages, 2 of whom he shot and left for dead. Rideau stabbed to death Julia Ferguson on a rural Louisiana road following the bank robbery. He confessed and was sentenced to death 3 times. Rideau escaped death in the 1970s when the death penalty was outlawed. In 2003 his case was still in court. While in prison Rideau became a self-educated writer and elevated the prison magazine, the Angolite, to national acclaim. In 2005 Rideau was set free for time served after a racially mixed jury found him guilty of manslaughter.
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1961 Aug 2
In San Francisco a shooting at 924 Grant Ave. in Chinatown left George Kwan (56) dead and Peter Kwan (52) wounded. They were both members of the Four Families Association. Lew Fook You (55), also an association member, was taken into custody.
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1962 Nov 23
In New Jersey gas station owner Walter Patterson, a decorated World War II veteran, was shot during a robbery at his business in Wall. George Wright (19) was convicted of the murder and sentenced to 15-30 years in prison. He escaped in 1970.
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1963 Jan 1
In Arizona Betty Smithey (20) murdered Sandy Gerberick, a 15-month-old girl she had been babysitting. Smithey was convicted and sentenced to prison for life without the possibility of parole. In 2012 she was granted parole by the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency.
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1963 Jan 13
Togo’s first president, Sylvanus Olympio, was killed by a military junta led by Gngassigbe Eyadema (29). Eyadama suspended the constitution and instituted direct military rule. Nicholas Grunitzky succeeded Olympio. Gnassingbe went on to become the country's military dictator, ruling for nearly four decades during which time he celebrated the day of Olympio's assassination as a national holiday.
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1963 Mar 6
Jimmy Lee Smith and Gregory Powell (d.2012 at 79) abducted 2 Los Angeles police officers from a Hollywood street, drove them to an onion field in Bakersfield and shot officer Ian Campbell to death. Officer Karl Hettinger managed to escape. Smith served 19 years for his role in the case before he was paroled. In 1973 Joseph Wambaugh authored “The Onion Field,” a novel based on the murder. The novel was turned into a film in 1979.
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1963 Mar 11
Bessie Goldberg was murdered at her home in Belmont, a Boston suburb. Roy Smith, an ex-convict who had been sent to clean the home, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison. In 1976 Gov. Dukakis commuted his sentence. Smith died of cancer 3 days after his parole. In 2006 Sebastian Junger authored “A Death in Belmont” an account of the case.
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1963 Jul
Serial killers Myra Hindley (d.2002) and her boyfriend, Ian Brady (the Moors Murderers), began abducting, molesting and killing children. The pair were caught in Oct, 1965. Between 1963 and 1965 they lured five children and teenagers to their deaths, burying four of them on remote moorland near Manchester.
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1963 Nov 15
Roger Mealman, Clifford Toycen Jr., and Robert Burns Jr. robbed a bank in Sacramento of $45,000 and headed east. They shot and killed HP officer Glenn Carlson along Highway 40. All 3 were soon arrested and sentenced to life in prison. The Highway 267 bypass was later named after CHP officer Carlson.
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1963 Dec 4
In Brazil Sen. Arnon de Mello (1911-1983), the father of future president Fernando Collor, shot and killed Senator Joseph Kairala of Acre in the Senate, but was never tried. The intended victim was Mello’s political enemy Senator Silvestre Pericles.
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1963
In Louisiana Henry Montgomery (17) shot and killed a white police officer. He was soon convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Two years later the state Supreme Court revisited the case and in a new trial he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. In 2012 the US Supreme Court decided Miller v. Alabama, in which the Court held that mandatory sentencing schemes requiring children convicted of homicide to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole violate the Eighth Amendment.
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1964 Jan
Mary Sullivan (19) was raped and strangled in her Boston apartment. In 2001 there was evidence that she was not killed by Albert DeSalvo (d.1973), the suspected Boston Strangler. In 2013 DNA evidence linked DeSalvo to Sullivan’s slaying.
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1964 Mar 13
In a notorious case 38 residents of a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens reportedly failed to respond to the cries of Kitty Genovese (28), a gay woman, as she was being stabbed to death. Winston Mosely was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison. In 2014 Kevin Cook authored “Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime That Changed America.” Here he refutes the story of 38 witnesses and details the what happened.
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1964 May 2
In Mississippi Charles Moore (19) and Henry Dee (19) were beaten and killed by local members of the Ku Klux Klan. Their mutilated bodies were later found in the Mississippi River while federal authorities searched for civil rights workers Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner. Charles Marcus Edwards and James Ford Seale were arrested for the crime, but neither was tried. In 2007 James Ford Seale (71) was arrested and charged with two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping. In 2008 an appeals court ruled that the statue of limitations had expired overturning Seale’s conviction.
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1964 May 7
A disturbed man entered the cockpit of a Pacific Airlines flight and killed pilot Ernie Clark (52). All 44 people aboard the Fairchild F-27A died as the plane crashed in San Ramon, Ca.
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1964 May
Gertrude Kavesh Jones (43) went missing in Mill Valley, Ca. Bruce Jones, her husband (d.1987), reported her missing and soon showed up with a new wife from Tahiti. In 2008 DNA testing identified her bones, found in a shallow grave near her home.
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1964 Jun 21
Three civil rights workers, Andrew Goodman (20), Michael Schwerner (24), and James Chaney (21) disappeared near Meridian, Mississippi. Their car was found burning late in the day. 40 days later their bodies were found buried in an earthen dam near Philadelphia, Miss. 8 Klansman went to prison on federal conspiracy charges but none served more than 6 years, and murder charges were never filed. The event inspired the 1988 film Mississippi Burning. In 2005 Edgar Ray Killen (80) was arrested in Philadelphia, Miss., and convicted of manslaughter in the abduction and killing of the 3 voter-registration volunteers. He was sentenced to three 20-year terms. Billy Wayne Posey (73), a key suspect in the killings, died in 2009. In 2016 federal prosecutors closed their investigation into the killings that remained unsolved.
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1964 Aug 4
The bodies of missing civil rights workers Michael H. Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James E. Chaney were found buried in an earthen dam in Nashoba County, Mississippi. Schwerner and Goodman were Jewish-Americans from Pelham and New York City respectively and Chaney was a Black from Meridian, Mississippi. The three civil rights workers had disappeared from Philadelphia, Mississippi, on June 21, 1964, not long after they had been held for six hours in the Neshoba County, Mississippi jail on charges of speeding. Their burned car was discovered on June 23rd, prompting a search by the FBI for the three young men. Their story became the basis for the movie Mississippi Burning, starring Gene Hackman, Willem Defoe and Frances McDormand in 1988. In 2005, on the forty-first anniversary of the crime, Edgar Ray Killen (80) an ordained Baptist minister, was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter.
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1965 Feb 21
Former Black Muslim leader El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, aka Malcolm X (born as Malcolm Little, 39), was shot to death in front of 400 people in New York by assassins identified as Black Muslims. He was murdered at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan. His wife, Betty Shabazz, was pregnant with twins and sat in the audience along with his 4-year-old daughter Quibilah. Three men, Norman 3X Butler (Abdul Aziz), Khalil Islam, and Thomas Hagan, connected to the Nation of Islam were convicted for the assassination. Aziz was paroled in 1985 and in 1998 was appointed by Louis Farrakhan to head a Harlem mosque. In 1992 James H. Cone authored a book about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. In 2011 Manning Marable authored “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.”
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1965 Mar 25
Viola Liuzzo (b.1925), a white civil rights worker from Detroit, was shot and killed by the Ku Klux Klan on a road near Selma, Ala. The later trial of Collie Leroy Jenkins, one of 3 men charged in the killing, ended in a hung jury. Jenkins was also acquitted at a 2nd trial but was later convicted along with Eugene Thomas of civil rights violations in federal court and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
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1965 Aug
In Kentucky Alberta Jones (34), a civil rights pioneer and Louisville’s first black prosecutor, was brutally beaten and thrown into the Ohio River to drown.
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1966 Aug 12
Harry Roberts (v.1936) and two accomplices were sitting in a van in west London preparing for an armed robbery when they were approached by three unarmed policemen, who they shot dead. In 2014 Roberts (78) was released from prison.
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1966 Oct 30
The Zodiac killer murdered a female college student in Riverside. In 1985 Robert Graysmith authored "Zodiac" in which he identified the killer with the pseudonym of "Robert Starr," and later identified him as Arthur Leigh Allen (d.1992), a convicted child molester from Vallejo. Graysmith authored "Zodiac Unmasked" in 2002. In 2009 Deborah Perez (47) asserted that her father, Santa Ana resident Guy Ward Hendrickson (d.1983), was the Zodiac killer and that she had accompanied him on some of the killings.
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1967 May 6
The body of Keith Lyon (12) of Brighton, England, was found clad in his school uniform on a grass bank near a rural bridle path between the nearby villages of Ovingdean and Woodingdean, about 56 miles south of London. He had left home to buy a geometry set and never returned. Lyon had been stabbed 11 times in the chest, back and abdomen with a serrated kitchen knife. In 2006 2 suspects were arrested.
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1967 Jun 2
In Germany Benno Ohnesorg, a newly wed student of literature, was shot in the back of the head during a protest in West Berlin against the visiting shah of Iran. Police officer Karl-Heinz Kurras, who claimed he was threatened by knife-wielding protesters, was acquitted of manslaughter charges on Nov 23. The led to the formation of the Red Army Faction, also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang. In 2009 Kurras was found to have been a long-time agent of East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi.
Links: Germany, Murder, Espionage     Click to see the source(s) for this event 
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