I'm totally sorry I'm killed him. I'm all torn up about it. Absolutely devastated. Seriously.
The above photo made today in 1952 shows Barbara Joy Plymire, who had shot her estranged husband Leslie Plymire earlier in the month and was appearing in Los Angeles County Court for a preliminary hearing. The case was pretty much open and shut. She had attended a birthday party for her hubby at which she hoped to win him back. She made her pitch and when he indicated a reconciliation was unlikely she ventilated him. The money quote: “I've shot him and I'm glad." Below you see detectives checking out his body the night of the murder and agreeing, “Yep, that poor fucker's dead as hell.”
Bailiff, can you please hand me Exhibit A so I can use it to get these people the hell out of my face?
In this photo made today in 1958 Hollywood super attorney Jerry Giesler sits next to Lana Turner at a coroner's inquest into the killing of Turner's boyfriend, alleged mob enforcer Johnny Stompanato. Turner's daughter, fourteen-year-old Cheryl Crane, had stabbed Stompanato in the abdomen with a knife during a confrontation in her and Turner's home. Among the throng seen around Giesler and Turner are Crane's father Stephen, assistant attorney Art Crowley, and various members of the press, who back then were given what today would be considered intrusive access to court proceedings.
As all Hollywood hung on Turner's words, the famed femme fatale, looking every bit the superstar she was, described to the court how an escalating argument between her and Stompanato led to him threatening to kill her. She related the fatal moment this way: “I was walking toward the bedroom door and he was right behind me, and I opened it and my daughter came in. I swear it was so fast I … I truthfully thought she had hit him in the stomach. The best I can remember they came together and they parted. I still never saw a blade.”
In most accounts the knife Crane used is described as a butcher knife, but it was actually a thin-bladed filleting knife. In any case it did the job nicely. And despite taking on a feared thug Crane came away physically unharmed. In the seconds after the stabbing Stompanato either chose not to retaliate, or more likely—because the knife had penetrated his liver, portal vein, and aorta—went into shock immediately and was unable either to strike back or go for aid. Police found him peacefully supine on the bedroom carpet. He had bled very little—at least on the outside.
Giesler got Crane off on the grounds of justifiable homicide, but conspiracy theories about the killing became rampant. Some said Crane killed Stompanato out of jealous desire; others claimed Turner did the deed and got her daughter to take the blame because she knew the court wouldn't imprison a minor. But in 1988 Crane, who never testified in 1958, gave her version of events. She said the attack was exactly as described, but that she also hated Stompanato because he was sexually abusing her. Many didn't believe her in 1988 but her words certainly have the ring of truth today.
The laws of physics are constant. The reflexes of humans—not so much.
Above and below is another set of accident scene photos from the Los Angeles area circa ’40s and ’50s. As we explained before, these photos exist because newspapers back then printed the occasional calamity if space needed to be filled. Which meant roving photographers showed up at accident scenes and caught people during the worst moments of their lives. Today's collection is a bit different because we've included plane and train mishaps. There were apparently a large number of both, based on the material we reviewed. Let these remind you in general to never be in too much of a hurry, but also to be extra careful at train crossings, and maybe cast an occasional glance skyward, just to cover all the bases. Of course, while you're looking skyward you'll probably get rear ended, because that's irony. Fifteen shots below, and the previous group here. And in case you're wondering, we cannot offer reassurances that everyone seen here survived, because several didn't.
Book on Elizabeth Short murder points at new suspect.
The cultural fetish with cold cases continues with the publication of an article on the Rolling Stone website several days ago about the most famous cold case victim of all—the Black Dahlia, aka Elizabeth Short. The piece talks about a recent book by British author Piu Eatwell that promises new insights into the unsolved murder.
This latest new look at the crime suggests that Leslie Dillon, a bellhop and aspiring writer, was the murderer. Apparently Dillon, in addition to being in Los Angeles during the crucial time frame, moved to Florida soon after the murder and began writing to an LAPD psychiatrist requesting information about the case. He said he was researching a book about sexual psychopaths, and when his interest led to him being arrested police let him go because they were engaged in a cover-up of the entire case.
This is always the way it goes with cold cases, isn't it? The perpetrator was in custody but through incompetence/malice/luck slipped away. Does the author have conclusive proof Dillon did the deed? Apparently not—which means her book Black Dahlia, Red Rose joins the heap of others speculating about the slaying. But we may check it out. Its publication during the autumn flew way wide of our radar screen, so it's good Rolling Stone—also Smithsonian, just yesterday—did a piece on the book. You can read more about the Dahlia, the book, and Piu Eatwell here.
His looks might have been ruined but his reputation was assured.
These mugshots show mobster Al Capone the day he entered Terminal Island Prison in California today in 1939, having been sent up for eleven months for tax evasion. The photos caught our eye because Capone generally tried to hide his scars, but in the second shot you see them clearly, three parallel slashes along his cheek, jaw, and neck. Capone told various stories about how he acquired these marks, but in truth he got them by being a little too familiar with fellow thug Frank Galluccio's kid sister Lena. It happened in 1917 in Frankie Yale’s Harvard Inn, a bar and brothel in Coney Island, New York. After numerous insinuating comments to young Lena, Capone finally told her, “You got a nice ass, honey, and I mean that as a compliment. Believe me.” At as result of that overture Frank Galluccio went at Capone with a knife—aiming for a fatal wound to the jugular but missing three times.
Capone had a notoriously short temper accompanied by a long memory, but even though he'd been disfigured for life during this incident he never sought revenge, even after he became basically the most powerful mobster in the U.S. Again, there are different stories about this, but the consensus seems to be that Capone had violated mob rules by messing with Galluccio's sister, and seeking revenge over what had been his own breach of ethics would have caused him no end of trouble. Galluccio worried about possible revenge, but never regretted what he'd done, saying in an interview many years later, “Fuck him He deserved it.” Ultimately, maybe Capone should have thanked Galluccio for both his gruesome appearance that made many a rival wither, and his nickname that was fearfully whispered coast to coast—Scarface.
New murder magazine puts a fright into British readers.
Who is this odd character on the cover of the UK weekly Crimes & Punishment? That would be John Linley Frazier, an Ohio born religious fanatic who this month in 1970 murdered five people at the behest—he claimed—of God. His victims were a wealthy Santa Cruz, California ophthalmologist named Victor Ohta, his wife Virginia Ohta, their two children Taggart and Derrick, and the ophthalmologist's secretary Dorothy Cadwallader. Frazier bound them all with scarves, shot them with a .38 or a .22, depending on the victim, and dumped their bodies a large pool behind the house. He did the same to the family cat. Then he burned the house down.
Frazier left a note on one of Ohta's cars. It read: "Halloween... 1970. Today world war 3 will begin as brought to you by the people of free universe. From this day forward, any one ?/or company of persons who misuses the natural environment or destroys same will suffer the penalty of death by the people of the free universe. I and my comrades from this day forth will fight until death or freedom against any single anyone who does not support natural life on this planet, materialism must die or mankind will.” He signed the note four times—as the Knight of Wands, the Knight of Cups, the Knight of Penticles [sic], and the Knight of Swords, all identities from standard tarot decks.
Frazier's similarity to Charles Manson is impossible not to notice. Both had grandiose ideas about reshaping the world and believed in a coming war; one claimed to talk to God while the other was strongly influenced by the Book of Revelation; both were part of the California hippie scene, and both were of tiny stature and compulsively needed to influence others. In the end it was Frazier's constant talking about the evils of materialism and consumerism that did him in, since people tended to remember his lectures. In particular, he had railed against Ohta's ostentatious lifestyle and the trees he had uprooted on his ten acre property to build his house. Tips from acquaintances, as well as Frazier's estranged wife, helped police zero in.
Frazier was arrested at his shack not far from the Ohta mansion four days after the murders and he went to trial a year later in October 1971, with the first proceedings designed to establish guilt, the second to determine sanity, and the third to decide upon a sentence. In the photo above he's being led to court during the sanity phase, and he's shaved half his head, half his beard, and one eyebrow as a representation of the two sides of a hippie. If the haircut was an attempt to look crazy to the jury it didn't work—they sentenced him to death, a penalty that was commuted to life in prison when California later banned capital punishment.
This is the debut issue of Crimes & Punishment, dating from 1973. We don't think it published past that year, but as a weekly at least a couple of dozen issues were produced. We may try to track down others, because this one was very involving. Inside you get profiles on Leopold & Loeb, Ma Barker, Gaston Dominici, Charles Manson, the Zodiac, and even Adolf Hitler. Nearly all the crimes took place in the U.S., which we imagine the magazine's British readership found curious and disturbing. We know because we live overseas and whenever another U.S. mass killer hits the news our friends are curious and disturbed. For that matter so are we. We have quite a few scans below to put a fright into you as Halloween approaches, and we'll share more true crime magazines a bit later.
Warning signs only work for those willing to read them.
In the above photo from today in 1951 Margaret Kristy and her teen daughter Helen appear in Los Angeles County Court to testify in the trial of Frank Kristy, who months earlier had shot and killed Betty Jean Hansen, his stepdaughter and Margaret's biolgoical daughter. Betty was twenty at the time, but Frank had been obsessed with her for years and at some point had commenced a sexual relationship with her—described as an affair in contemporaneous accounts, but rape by any sane standard. Margaret discovered what was happening when Frank taunted during an argument, “Well, I'll tell you now, I have screwed her and I intend to keep screwing her as long as she is in the house.” Margaret was stunned but not fully sure it was true. But her daughter confirmed it. During the ensuing argument Betty made her feelings about the situation clear when she declared: “You won't, Daddy. You are not touching me another time."
Margaret and Betty decided to move out. Frank seemed to agree until he realized they intended to take Helen, who was his and Margaret's daughter. Undoubtedly, his consent was a bluff in the first place. Frank's attitude going forward was succinct: “If Betty leaves this house I'll kill her.”
Some sort of detente was reached and the family stayed together, but it was a mistake. After weeks of threats against both Margaret and Betty, Frank finally kidnapped his stepdaughter at gunpoint and drove the two of them away in her car. Margaret, still refusing to believe the situtation was hopeless, thought Frank would cool down, so she didn't call the police—for two days. When she finally did phone the cops a search commenced. Eight days after the kidnapping Betty was found in a ditch, shot through the left temple and in a state of decomposition. Frank was picked up by police in Colorado after someone recognized him from a wanted poster.
Some crimes have no warning signs, but the murder of Betty Hansen seemed inevitable. Not only had Frank raped her and given no hint that he thought it was wrong, but he had even gotten her name tattooed on his shoulder—a strong indication of a man living in a twisted alternate reality if ever there was one. He was also paranoid, verbally abusive, and had specifically talked about buying a gun. The day before the murder Margaret discovered the phone lines to the house had been cut. Still she did not take her daughter and flee. While justice was eventually served when Frank Kristy was sent to prison for life, reading about the murder is like witnessing an avoidable accident, like watching a slasher film where a killer looms but the impending victim thinks the strange noise she hears is the wind. In a horror movie it's never the wind, and in real life a husband's death threat is never empty, or at least should never be treated as such. That's not victim blaming—it's good advice.
If I can't live with you, you can't live without me.
Seventy-three-year old Dan E. Fabun lies dead on the front seat of his car near Cardiff Avenue in San Bernadino, California. Fabun had separated from his sixty-six-year old wife Lula Fabun, but was at the house they once shared discussing its sale. But he had no intention of selling the house. Instead, he pulled a .32 caliber automatic pistol from his pocket and fired a volley of shots. One missed. One hit Lula in the torso, and another entered her right cheek and exited her left ear. Lula's unlucky brother-in-law was there too, and he was felled by a fourth bullet in the stomach. While lying wounded in the street, he saw Dan Fabun put the gun to his own head and pull the trigger, with a click resulting. Fabun then leaped into his car and drove off. Not more than a mile away he veered off the road, through a wire fence, and into a field, where police later found him in the condition you see above. He had drunk a deadly poison, andsuccumbed almost immediately. He carried two notes—one explaining his funeral arrangements, and the other explaining his reasoning for what he did. “I'm too old to live alone,” he wrote. And apparently, too unwilling to die alone. Today, 1951.
Woman accidentally kills boyfriend in encyclopedia stunt gone wrong.
A Minnesota woman has been charged with second degree manslaughter this week after fatally shooting her boyfriend in the chest with a 50-calibre Desert Eagle handgun. Monalisa Perez and Pedro Ruiz wanted to be YouTube stars, and in a bid to increase viewership of their channel about being teen parents had conceived a stunt where Ruiz would stop a bullet with an encyclopedia held to his chest. Perez had posted on social media earlier in the day that it was her boyfriend's idea, but of course there's nothing in the posting to suggest she had doubts the crazy idea would work. Firing from a foot away, Perez ventilated her boyfriend as their three-year-old child and thirty neighbors watched.
The couple should have read the encyclopedia instead of shooting it. If they had turned to the entry marked “handguns,” they'd have learned that a 50-calibre Desert Eagle is about as powerful as a sidearm gets, and its round will go through a refrigerator. Turn past the handgun part and there's an entry on “hearts,” which explains that because it's one of the body's primary organs and people generally can't live without an intact one, any stunt that puts it at risk is idiotic by definition. And beyond that section there's the entry “hubris,” which would be defined as excessive self confidence, often leading to one looking like an ignoramus. In this instance a dead one. Yes, we know it's not really a joking matter. But we aren't joking—there's real value in reading, and we highly recommend it.
A case of double trouble for wrongly convicted Kansas man.
Speaking of doubles, put this one in the amazing coincidences file. A Kansas man who spent seventeen years in prison was released Monday when a judge admitted that an exact double may have committed the crime for which he was jailed. Richard Jones, the man who was released, appears on the right in both mugshots, while an almost identical man appears on the left. This doppelgangbanger is an ex-convict who lived in Kansas City, Kansas in the vicinity of where several people were robbed at gunpoint in 1999, while Jones lived with his wife and kids across the state line in Kansas City, Missouri. Since Jones was convicted only on eyewitness identification by the victims, and there was no physical, DNA, or fingerprint evidence to link him to the crime, a judge ruled that there was sufficient cause to order his release.
Interestingly, after years of failed legal appeals it was Jones himself who broke the case by finally chatting with inmates in prison, who told him that he bore an uncanny resemblance to an ex-con named Ricky. Just over a year ago Jones contacted the Midwest Innocence Project, and they located a photo of this Ricky character, who it turned out had actually been questioned about the original robbery but had denied involvement. Why his interrogators failed to notice the resemblance to the accused is a mystery that is yet to be unravelled. Maybe Ricky had a perm that day. Anyway, photos were presented to one of the victims of the robbery, two eyewitnesses, and the prosecutor of the case, and none could tell the two men apart. Jones, who maintained his innocence all along, said, “When I saw the picture of my double it all made sense to me.”
The irony is strong with this case. Consider: it was mere proximity to the thief that got Jones sent upstate, but it also turned out to be proximity that led to convicts in the same prison as Jones knowing of Ricky. If Jones had been sentenced to a different prison he'd still be behind bars, which, while he must be thrilled to be breathing the sweet air of freedom, is a thought we imagine keeps him up nights. But that's not the only irony here. Ricky will not be charged with a crime. How can he be? The victims and eyewitnesses can't be relied upon. Absent physical evidence, DNA, or fingerprints there's no way to be sure he was the perpetrator. It could have been Jones, his double. It wasn't. But technically, it could have been. The lesson here is crystal clear—if you hear of someone that looks like you, take the opportunity to commit a heinous crime and you'll get away scot-free.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1986—Otto Preminger Dies
Austro–Hungarian film director Otto Preminger, who directed such eternal classics as Laura, Anatomy of a Murder
, Carmen Jones
, The Man with the Golden Arm
, and Stalag 17
, and for his efforts earned a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, dies in New York City, aged 80, from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
1998—James Earl Ray Dies
The convicted assassin of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., petty criminal James Earl Ray, dies in prison of hepatitis aged 70, protesting his innocence as he had for decades. Members of the King family who supported Ray's fight to clear his name believed the U.S. Government had been involved in Dr. King's killing, but with Ray's death such questions became moot.
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
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