1882 – Arnold Rothstein – was an American racketeer, businessman, and gambler who became a kingpin of the Jewish mob in New York City. He was widely reputed to have organized corruption in professional athletics, including conspiring to fix the 1919 World Series. Rothstein was also a mentor of future crime bosses Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, Bugsy Siegel, and numerous others. Rothstein transformed organized crime from a thuggish activity by hoodlums into a big business run like a corporation. He gained notoriety as the person who first realized that Prohibition was a business opportunity, a means to enormous wealth, who understood the truths of early 20th-century capitalism (giving people what they want) and came to dominate them. His notoriety inspired several fictional characters based on his life, portrayed in contemporary and later short stories, novels, musical theater productions, television shows, and films, including the character Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby. Rothstein refused to pay a large debt resulting from a fixed poker game and was murdered on November 6, 1928. His illegal empire was broken up and distributed among a number of other underworld organizations and led in part to the downfall of Tammany Hall and the rise of reformer Fiorello La Guardia. Ten years after his death, his brother declared Rothstein’s estate was insolvent.
1897 – Marcel Petiot – was a French medical doctor and serial killer. Despite showing early signs of mental illness and criminal behavior, Petiot served in the First World War, graduated from an accelerated medical program, and began a dubious medical career that included performing abortions and supplying narcotics. His political career was marked by scandal, theft, and corruption. During the Second World War, Petiot operated a fraudulent escape network, offering safe passage to those wanted by the Germans for a fee, only to murder them, steal their valuables, and dispose of their bodies. He preyed mainly on Jews, partisans, and common criminals, people seeking safe passage. In total, he was suspected of around 60 murders, but only the remains of 23 victims were found in the basement of his Paris home. Captured in 1944, Petiot claimed to be a Resistance hero who only killed enemies of France. He was convicted of 26 counts of murder and was executed by guillotine on May 25, 1946, at La Santé Prison, Paris, France. His life and heinous crimes have been depicted in film and comic books. His crimes were the inspiration for Henri Troyat’s novel “La Tête sur les épaules” (1951; “A Good Head on His Shoulders”) and the film “Docteur Petiot” (1990).
1899 – Al Capone – was a notorious American gangster who rose to infamy during the Prohibition era. His parents were Italian immigrants Gabriele Capone and Teresa Capone. His father was a barber and his mother was a seamstress, both born in Angri, a small comune outside of Naples in the Province of Salerno. Capone dropped out of school in the sixth grade and became involved in various criminal activities. In his early twenties, he moved to Chicago and became a bodyguard and trusted factotum for Johnny Torrio, head of a criminal syndicate that illegally supplied alcohol. This was the forerunner of the Chicago Outfit, a network of bootleggers, smugglers, gamblers, and prostitutes, which Capone would later lead. Capone was known for his violence and ruthlessness, especially against rival gangsters. His reign as a crime boss ended when he was convicted of tax evasion in 1931 and sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was confined in the Atlanta Penitentiary and Alcatraz before being released in 1939. Capone showed signs of neurosyphilis early in his sentence and became increasingly debilitated. He was released after almost eight years of incarceration. On January 25, 1947, he died of cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke. Capone’s life and criminal activities have had a lasting impact on American popular culture.
1925 – Edgar Ray Killen – was an American Ku Klux Klan organizer who played a significant role in the civil rights era. He was the oldest of eight children born to Lonie Ray Killen and Jetta Killen. Killen was a sawmill operator and a part-time Baptist minister. During the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, Killen planned and directed the murders of three civil rights activists: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. These murders, which took place in Philadelphia, Mississippi, were part of a larger pattern of violence against civil rights workers and were instrumental in galvanizing national support for the civil rights movement. Despite the gravity of his crimes, Killen evaded justice for many years due to the state of Mississippi’s reluctance to prosecute the perpetrators. However, the federal government, under President Lyndon B. Johnson and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, conducted a vigorous investigation. In 1967, Killen was among 18 men arrested and charged with conspiracy to violate the victims’ civil rights. The trial ended in a hung jury for Killen, and he was set free. It wasn’t until June 21, 2005, the forty-first anniversary of the crime, that Killen was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter in a state court and sentenced to 60 years in prison. He appealed the verdict, but the sentence was upheld on April 12, 2007, by the Supreme Court of Mississippi. Killen died in prison on January 11, 2018, six days before his 93rd birthday.
1935 – Kiyoshi Okubo – was a notorious Japanese serial killer. He was a quarter Russian, with his mother being half Russian and half Japanese. Ōkubo was doted on by his mother even after he grew up, and he was bullied by other children after the Pacific War began on December 8, 1941. Ōkubo had a history of sexual violence, with records of him raping a woman on July 12, 1955, and attempting to rape another woman on December 26, 1955. He was arrested, put in jail, and then released on December 15, 1959. On April 16, 1960, he attempted to rape another woman but was again unsuccessful. He also threatened a man on June 3, 1965, and raped two women on December 23, 1966, and February 24, 1967. On June 7, 1967, he went to prison and was released on March 3, 1971. Between March 31 and May 10, 1971, Ōkubo committed a series of heinous crimes, raping and murdering eight women aged between 16 and 21. He used a pen name, Tanigawa Ivan, during this period. The victims were Miyako Tsuda (17 years old), Mieko Oikawa (17 years old), Chieko Ida (19 years old), Seiko Kawabata (17 years old), Akemi Sato (16 years old), Kazuyo Kawaho (18 years old), Reiko Takemura (21 years old), and Naoko Takanohashi (21 years old). On May 13, 1971, a 21-year-old woman disappeared, and her brother traced her. He found Ōkubo and the police finally arrested him on May 14, 1971. The district court in Maebashi sentenced Ōkubo to death by hanging on February 22, 1973. He did not appeal and was executed on January 22, 1976. It was reported that he couldn’t stand up on the day of his execution. Ōkubo’s crimes were later dramatized in a TV drama, “The Crime of Kiyoshi Ōkubo”, where Takeshi Kitano played Ōkubo.
1954 – Christopher Robin Worrell – was a notorious serial killer known as the “Truro murderer”. He was involved in a series of murders that took place in Truro, South Australia, between December 1976 and February 1977. Worrell, along with his accomplice James William Miller, a 38-year-old laborer, is believed to have committed the murders. The two met when they were in prison together, Miller for breaking and entering, and Worrell for rape and breaching a two-year suspended sentence for armed robbery. Worrell was described as young, charismatic, and sociopathic, while Miller was described as a drifter and homosexual partner of Worrell. Over a two-month period, they raped and murdered seven women aged between 15 and 26. The victims were Veronica Knight (18 years old), Tania Kenny (15 years old), Juliet Mykyta (16 years old), Sylvia Pittman (16 years old), Vickie Howell (26 years old), Connie Iordanides (16 years old), and Deborah Lamb (20 years old). Most of the victims were strangled, often using a nylon cord, though there was a suspicion that the last of the victims had been buried alive. Worrell’s criminal activities came to an abrupt end when he was killed in a car crash on February 19, 1977, at the age of 23. His accomplice, Miller, was later apprehended and sentenced to life imprisonment on six counts in 1980.
1978 – John Chamberlain – In the autumn of 1998, Amanda Ingman, in her quest to find her occasional drug dealer and pimp, Thomas Thibault, for a cocaine purchase, stirred up a series of events that led to a tragic end. Thibault, after getting in touch with Ingman, ended up in a disagreement with her boyfriend, Bryan Harrison. To resolve the dispute and deliver the drugs, Thibault sought the assistance of John Chamberlain and Jason Dascott on the morning of November 26, 1998. Aware of the potential conflict, Chamberlain, who was driving his father’s car, showed Thibault a .45 caliber handgun he had in the trunk. Once the argument was settled, the group, including Ingman and Harrison, indulged in cocaine. After a trip to procure more drugs, they returned to the house, leaving Chamberlain, Thibault, and Dascott outside to hatch a plan to rob the house of its electronic equipment. With the safe in the living room opened, either by Ingman or Dascott, Thibault brandished the handgun, forcing Harrison and another roommate, Daniel Ketchum, into the bathroom. Chamberlain assisted by hitting Ketchum’s leg with an asp, a type of extendable police baton. While Thibault kept Harrison and Ketchum confined, the others began to remove the electronics from the house. During this time, Ketchum tried to overpower Thibault but was shot and killed in the struggle. Thibault informed the others of Ketchum’s death, leading Chamberlain to suggest eliminating all witnesses to avoid the electric chair. Charlotte Kenyan, another roommate who had been asleep, was awakened by Ingman and Thibault and placed in the bathroom with Harrison. Thibault then fired multiple shots at Harrison and Kenyan, with Chamberlain by his side. When Harrison didn’t die immediately, Thibault and Chamberlain retrieved more bullets, reloaded the gun, and Thibault fired again. After returning to Chamberlain’s parents’ house, Ingman informed Harrison’s father about the murders, leading to the police being alerted to Chamberlain’s involvement.
1977 – Gary Gilmore – born Faye Robert Coffman, was an American criminal who gained international attention for demanding the implementation of his death sentence for two murders he had admitted to committing in Utah. He was born on December 4, 1940, in McCamey, Texas, and was the second of four sons to Frank and Bessie Gilmore. His father, Frank Harry Gilmore, was an alcoholic con man who had other wives and families, none of whom he supported. Gilmore’s life was marked by a series of petty crimes which escalated over time. During his teens, he was sent to reform school and later served his first stretch in prison. His crimes culminated in the murders of Max Jensen and Bennie Bushnell in July 1976, for which he was apprehended on July 21, 1976. After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a new series of death penalty statutes in the 1976 decision Gregg v. Georgia, Gilmore became the first person in almost ten years to be executed in the United States. These new statutes avoided the problems under the 1972 decision in Furman v. Georgia, which had resulted in earlier death penalty statutes being deemed “cruel and unusual” punishment, and therefore unconstitutional. Gilmore was executed by a firing squad in 1977, ending a de facto nationwide moratorium on capital punishment that had lasted nearly 10 years. His life and execution were the subject of the 1979 nonfiction novel The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer, and a 1982 TV film of the novel starring Tommy Lee Jones as Gilmore.
1996 – Amber Hagerman – was born on November 25, 1986, in Arlington, Texas. She was a nine-year-old girl who was abducted while riding her bike near her grandmother’s house in Arlington, Texas, on January 13, 1996. Her younger brother, Ricky, had gone home without her because Amber had wanted to stay in the parking lot for a while. When he returned with his grandfather, they only found her bicycle. Four days later, Amber’s lifeless body was found in a local creek. Despite extensive investigations, her killer has never been found. The impact of her disappearance, however, has resonated for decades as the inspiration behind the AMBER Alert system. The AMBER Alert system is a child abduction emergency alert system that asks the public for help in finding abducted children. The system originated in the United States and AMBER is a backronym standing for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. It was created in reference to Amber Rene Hagerman, who was abducted and later found murdered in 1996. The system has since saved hundreds of children from a similar fate. Amber’s tragic story continues to inspire efforts to protect children and solve her case. Her legacy lives on through the AMBER Alert system, serving as a reminder of the importance of community vigilance in protecting our children.
2006 – Clarence Ray Allen – was born on January 16, 1930, in Blair, Oklahoma. He claimed to be of Choctaw heritage, which meant he laid claim to being a member of the Muskhogean Indian tribe, which included the Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole tribes. He grew up in a poor family and spent his early years picking cotton. However, Allen was ambitious and later moved to Fresno, California, where he got married and started his own security company. His charismatic and hardworking nature led his company to flourish. Despite his success, Allen turned to crime and formed his own gang, the Ray Allen Gang. He attracted young, impressionable, and reckless men who sought an outlet for their dissatisfied lives. Allen gave them direction and turned them into criminals. The gang began a series of carefully planned robberies, hitting both residences and businesses. In 1974, Allen plotted the burglary of Fran’s Market, a Fresno-area supermarket owned by Ray and Fran Schletewitz, whom Allen had known for years. The plot involved his son, Roger Allen, as well as Ed Savala, Carl Mayfield, and Charles Jones. Allen arranged for someone to steal a set of door and alarm keys from the market owner’s son, Bryon Schletewitz, while Schletewitz was swimming in Allen’s pool. The burglary netted $500 in cash and $10,000 in money orders from the store’s safe. Allen’s life took a dark turn when he was convicted of organizing the killing of three more people from prison, including a witness who had testified against him. His lawyers argued that his execution would constitute cruel and unusual punishment and requested that he be granted clemency by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which was refused. Allen was executed on January 17, 2006, at the age of 76 by lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison in California for the murders of three people. At the time, he was the second-oldest inmate to be executed in the United States since 1976.
2021 – Camille Cleroux – was a Canadian serial killer who was born in 1954 and died on January 17, 2021. He was known for murdering two of his wives and a neighbor between 1990 and 2010 in Ottawa, Ontario. After his arrest for killing his neighbor, the disappearances of his former wives were investigated, with him eventually admitting to killing both. Cléroux’s first known victim was his wife, Lise Roy. They were married on July 4, 1987, and had a son together. In April 1990, Roy discovered that Cléroux had been molesting her daughter. During a heated argument in their backyard, Cléroux struck Roy in the head with a rock, killing her. He dismembered her body and buried the remains in their backyard and a nearby park. To cover up her disappearance, Cléroux claimed to the police that Roy had assaulted him and fled to Montreal. His second victim was Jean Rock, whom he met in June 1992. Their common-law marriage was unstable due to Cléroux’s physically and emotionally abusive behavior. In the fall of 2003, Cléroux took Rock for a walk in a wooded area near Walkley Rail Yard, where he beat her to death with a rock and buried her in a shallow grave. To cover up Rock’s murder, Cléroux paid a female acquaintance to write letters in Rock’s name to her family, claiming that she had left him and was now living with a truck driver named Pierre. Cléroux’s third victim was his neighbor, Paula Leclair. He killed her because he wanted her apartment. After leading Leclair to a site where he had already dug her grave, he stabbed her repeatedly in the back before striking her in the head with a rock. Cléroux was arrested on June 2, 2010, and later pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Paula Leclair and the second-degree murders of Jean Rock and Lise Roy. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 25 years.
1920 – The first day of prohibition of alcohol comes into effect in the US, as a result of the 18th amendment to the constitution
1950 – The Great Brinks Robbery – 11 men rob $1.2M cash & $1.5M securities from armored car company Brinks offices in Boston, Massachusetts
1977 – Gary Gilmore is executed by firing squad in the Utah state prison, he had been convicted of murder
1989 – A gunman opens fire at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California; 5 students are killed and 30 more are injured
2017 – US President Barack Obama commutes Wikileaks discloser Chelsea Mannings’ prison sentence from 35 to 7 years
2019 – China executes Cai Dongjia, the country’s “Godfather of Crystal Meth” from Boshe, Guangdong
2019 – Indian spiritual leader Ram Rahim Singh & 2 aides were sentenced to life in prison for murdering a journalist who exposed sexual abuse at The Sect