Murderous juvenile says he did it just to see what it was like.
Seventeen-year-old Walter Tjunin, sometimes referred to in historical accounts as Vladimir Walter Tjunin or Walter Tunin, sits in the rear of a police car after his arrest today in 1962 for the murder of fourteen-year-old Suzanne Grskovic. Tjunin strangled the girl to death in Queens, New York, after walking her back from a dance. Asked why he did it, Tjunin said, “I just wanted to feel what it was like to kill someone.” Newspapers of the time focused on this macabre utterance, but there was much more to the crime than that.
Tjunin and Grskovic were sweethearts—an old-fashioned term, but one that surely fits considering the girl wore a charm necklace bearing the inscription “Sue and Walter.” The young couple left the dance together that night, witnesses recalled. About five blocks from her home Tjunin steered Grskovic into a weedy lot, ripped off her dress and raped her, then strangled her with her bra and carved an “S” and “X” on her abdomen with a beer can opener.
The murder, then, seems to have been committed not out of mere curiosity, but as a clumsy attempt to cover up the rape by disposing of the only witness. This thought process may well have come easily to Tjunin, since he had been in trouble since age twelve, and was actually on probation from reform school at the time of the crime. He eventually stood for second degree murder. After the shortest murder trial in Queens history—one and a half days—an all male jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to serve twenty years to life.
That centerfielder can really run! Look at her go! It’s almost like she hasn’t noticed the game is over.
Robert Baker and Trudy Jo Baker had just been married, aged twenty-six and seventeen, and were driving across the U.S.'s rolling midwestern states. They were embarked on their honeymoon, but when they saw a soldier named Larry Kirk hitchhiking outside St. Louis, trying to get home for Christmas, they gave him a ride. They later shot him in the back while he was sleeping in the car, robbed him of $12 and his watch, then dumped his body in a weed-choked field near Xenia, Illinois. When the couple was finally caught and tried, Robert Baker was sentenced to 99 years in prison, and Trudy Jo got 30 years at the Illinois Reformatory for Women.
That’s the backstory. This cover of Inside Detective published this month in 1957 uses a model to reenact Trudy Jo’s subsequent escape from prison. As center fielder of the prison softball team, she quickly realized the seven-foot outfield fence would be easy to scale. She soon did exactly that, made her way to Chicago, but realized she had no way to survive except through prostitution. Though new to the practice, she took to it like a duck to water and procured customers, mostly men in town for conventions, via the aid of local cab drivers, as well as what would grow into a collection of seven bellhops at a few of the city’s best hotels.
Living this way, she managed to evade capture for four months, and earned $6,000—more than $50,000 in today's money—all but $60 of which she spent on caviar, wine, expensive shoes, and a mink stole. She was finally recognized by a beat cop and captured, and the cabbies and bellhops that helped her were later charged with various crimes thanks to Trudy Jo turning state’s evidence against them. Thus the wheels of justice turn.
When asked how her time on the lam went, Trudy Jo, who you see at right during one of her many court appearances, replied, “I like wine and caviar and horses. In fact, I like anything that’s a gamble. I’ve been in all the best hotels and in the finest nightclubs. I've had the time of my life.” Her one regret? The prison permanently revoked her softball privileges.
, St. Louis
, Illinois Reformatory for Women
, Inside Detective
, Robert Baker
, Trudy Jo Baker
, Larry Kirk
, true crime magazine
Light and darkness in New York City.
Alfred Statler honed his camera skills in Europe documenting the chaos of World War II and brought his gritty sensibilities to bear on his fine art photography once he returned to the visual utopia he called home—New York City. This shot is from the mid-fifties and captures a nighttime scene in Manhattan, with its neon signs and sky aglow with metropolitan lightbleed. We love this.
Yeah, I'm drunk. And I'm just old enough not to give a fuck.
You plan to weave your car quietly home from the bar and not only do you get stopped and arrested, but immortalized by the press. This image, another from the University of Southern California archive, was shot by a Los Angeles Herald photographer and shows motorist Edna Benton failing a field sobriety test administered by highway patrolman M.G. Gaskell. Herald photographers were often on the scene after murders and suicides, but this image shows just how quickly they could be on the scene to shame even the most unimportant of people. We're curious when this type of photo-journalism went out of style. In this case the shame aspect didn't work, as Benton's smile in image two shows. These date from today in 1951.
Don't worry, baby. What we have'll last forever.
The above image from the University of Southern California collection of Los Angeles Herald photos dates from 1952 and shows sixteen-year-old Marlene Eason visiting her jailbird boyfriend, nineteen-year-old Eddie Christianelli, who was under arrest for robbery. In response to Christianelli's marriage proposal Eason agreed to wed him in jail. At that moment somewhere across town Eason's father swooned, and when his wife asked what was wrong he said, “I felt a great disturbance in the force, as if all our daughter's hopes and dreams were suddenly ruined.” Young love. Whaddaya gonna do?
The seat belt is optional, you say? I guess I’ll pass.
Two angles on the same auto accident give a graphic example of bodily risk on the roads during the midcentury period. This happened in Los Angeles, on the Cahuenga Pass, in 1951. Notice how, due to a hard impact with a poured concrete barrier, the stricken car's steering column was bent up by the force of the driver's torso being thrown forward. The steering wheel shattered the windshield, and the driver's head may have impacted there as well, or perhaps hit the even harder metal roofline of the car where it meets the glass. He lies ejected from the vehicle with cranial blood draining onto the pavement, and you'll notice the car has no latch on the left side of the driver's seat. This was before the days of mandatory lap restraints, but they were offered as options on some cars. Possibly not this one, though.
Embarrassing family scandal ends in murder.
The above crime scene drawing shows murder victim Ned Doheny, Jr. in the bedroom of his Los Angeles mansion after being killed by a gunshot to the head, along with a superimposition of where police imagine he was just before he was shot. From the above angle the event looks clinical, but a reverse view reveals an unholy mess, with Doheny's face and robe drenched in blood, and a dark pool spread across the carpet. Out of sight in the hall leading to the bedroom is the body of Hugh Plunkett, Doheny's presumed murderer, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. For a time this was the most famous crime in L.A. history. Doheny was the son of oil tycoon E.L Doheny, who was in trouble for passing bribes to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall. The investigation and legal circus, known as the Teapot Dome scandal, had ensnared not just the senior Doheny but Doheny Jr. and Plunkett. They had both been indicted for conveying the dirty money from Doheny Sr. to Secretary Fall. Realistically speaking, there was no serious threat of the Dohenys going to jail. But working class Hugh Plunkett was not a tycoon nor a tycoon's son, which meant for him the possibility of incarceration was real. When Jr. was offered immunity and Plunkett was not, their close friendship began to fray. Plunkett's growing instability spawned attempts to get him into a mental facility—whether to save his mind or save him from testifying remains a subject of debate—but it never happend. Today in 1929 hevisited the Doheny mansion to talk with his pal Ned and hours later the result is what you see in the crime scene photos. There's much more to the case—rumors of a sexual relationship between Doheny Jr. and Plunkett, rumors that Doheny Sr. pulled the trigger on both men, etc.—but we'll leave all that aside. The truly interested can find at least a dozen websites that dig into every aspect of the case. We just wanted to show you the photo-illustration, which is yet another police photo from the University of Southern California digital archive.
Sensational crimes with a side order of sex.
This issue of Best True Fact Detective which hit newsstands this month in 1950 came from Newsbook Publishing Corp. out of New York City. The magazine had some fantastic covers, but most were uncredited. Some of the artists that worked for the magazine around 1950 include greats like George Gross and Fred Rodewald, but this is the work of Howell Dodd, a fact we discovered with a bit of research. This is great work from him, and you can see more of his output here and here.
Inside the magazine you get various procedural stories sexualized by the editors with blurbs like, "Sex-Starved Women are Coffin-Bait!" and photo captions like, "Officers saw the body of a young girl who in life had been a raving, desirable beauty!" Beyond morbid, if you ask us, but the actual stories are professionally written and informative, with art consisting of photo-illustrations posed by professional models. Has anybody written anything substantive about this bizarre subset of the modeling industry? If not they should, because it's fascinating.
But a good photo for Ferdie.
A police lieutenant named R.W. Lauritzen and a cop named Reggie Floyd eye L.L. Hardwick, found murdered in a littered vacant lot in Los Angeles. Hardwicke's car sits in the background, with its passenger door open. Note also the bystanders behind the cop. On the whole it's an unusually interesting candid shot, an instant of time from a day long past, but which remains vivid thanks to the skill of Los Angeles Examiner photographer Ferdie Olmo. That was today in 1960.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1964—Warren Commission Issues Report
The Warren Commission, which had been convened to examine the circumstances of John F. Kennedy's assassination, releases its final report, which concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, killed Kennedy. Today, up to 81% of Americans are troubled
by the official account of the assassination.
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
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