January 19 – What happened today?

Births

Waxey Gordon

1809Edgar Allan Poe – was an American writer, poet, author, editor, and literary critic who is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism and Gothic fiction in the United States, and of American literature.  Poe was born in Boston, the second child of actors David and Elizabeth “Eliza” Poe. His father abandoned the family in 1810, and when his mother died the following year, Poe was taken in by John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia. They never formally adopted him, but he was with them well into young adulthood. He attended the University of Virginia but left after a year due to a lack of money. He quarreled with John Allan over the funds for his education, and his gambling debts.  In 1827, having enlisted in the United States Army under an assumed name, he published his first collection, Tamerlane and Other Poems, credited only to “a Bostonian”. Poe and Allan reached a temporary rapprochement after the death of Allan’s wife in 1829. Poe later failed as an officer cadet at West Point, declared a firm wish to be a poet and writer, and parted ways with Allan.  Poe switched his focus to prose and spent the next several years working for literary journals and periodicals, becoming known for his own style of literary criticism. His work forced him to move between several cities, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City. In 1836, he married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm, but she died of tuberculosis in 1847. In January 1845, he published his poem “The Raven” to instant success. He planned for years to produce his own journal The Penn, later renamed The Stylus. But before it began publishing, Poe died in Baltimore in 1849, aged 40, under mysterious circumstances. The cause of his death remains unknown and has been variously attributed to many causes including disease, alcoholism, substance abuse, and suicide.

1888Waxey Gordon – born Irving Wexler on January 19, 1888, was an American gangster who specialized in bootlegging and illegal gambling. He was an associate of Arnold Rothstein during prohibition and was caught up in a power struggle following Rothstein’s death.  Gordon was born to Polish Jewish immigrant parents in New York’s Lower East Side. He became known as a pickpocket and sneak thief as a child, earning the nickname “Waxey” for his skill in picking pockets as if the victims’ wallets were lined with wax. In 1914, he participated in a gang fight that resulted in the death of a court clerk named Samuel Straus. Wexler was put on trial for the crime but acquitted by a jury in February 1917.  Joining “Dopey” Benny Fein’s labor sluggers in the early 1910s, Gordon helped organize Fein’s operations before being noticed by Arnold Rothstein, who hired him away from Fein and put him to work as a rum runner during the first years of Prohibition. Gordon’s success later led him to run all of Rothstein’s bootlegging on most of the East Coast, specifically New York and New Jersey, importing large amounts of Canadian whisky over the Canada–United States border.  Gordon, now earning an estimated $2 million a year, began buying numerous breweries and distilleries as well as owning several speakeasies. Gordon began to be known to live extravagantly, traveling in limousines and living in prominent Manhattan hotel suites, as well as owning mansions built for him in New York and Philadelphia. Rothstein died in 1928 and Gordon’s position began to decline.  He made an alliance with future National Crime Syndicate founders Charles Luciano, Louis Buchalter, and Meyer Lansky. Gordon, however, constantly fought with Lansky over bootlegging and gambling interests and soon a gang war began between the two; several associates on each side were killed. Lansky, with Luciano, supplied interim United States Attorney Thomas E. Dewey with information leading to Gordon’s conviction on charges of tax evasion in 1933. Gordon had a large million-dollar operation that included many trucks, buildings, processing plants, and associated employees and his business front could not account for this ownership and cash flow and he paid no taxes on it. Gordon was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.  Gordon died on June 24, 1952, at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in San Francisco, California.

1921William “Billy Batts” Bentvena – also known as William Devino, was born on January 19, 1921, in New York City. He was an Italian-American mobster affiliated with the Gambino crime family and was a longtime friend of John Gotti in the 1960s.  Bentvena grew up in Brooklyn, in the same neighborhood as Tommy DeVito and Henry Hill. In 1959, he became an associate with the Gambino crime family and by 1961, he had become a full member, or a “made man”. He was a protégé street soldier for Carmine Fatico and was a respected and feared soldier in the Gambino crime family.  In May 1958, Bentvena became a member of what would become known as the Ormento Group, a heroin smuggling ring. On February 14, 1959, Bentvena went to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to complete a drug deal. However, upon his arrival in Bridgeport, undercover police arrested Bentvena and charged him with possession and exchange of narcotics. He was later convicted of heroin smuggling in June 1962 and sentenced to 15 years in the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut.  After his release from an eight-year prison sentence in 1970, a “welcome home” party was thrown for Bentvena at Robert’s Lounge, a nightclub owned by James Burke. During this party, Bentvena jokingly asked Tommy DeSimone “if he still shined shoes”, which DeSimone perceived as an insult. Two weeks later, on June 11, 1970, Bentvena was at The Suite, Hill’s nightclub in Jamaica, Queens. With the club nearly empty, DeSimone pistol-whipped Bentvena, yelling, “Shine these fucking shoes!” before beating him bloody. After Bentvena was severely beaten and presumed dead, DeSimone, Burke, and Hill placed his body in the trunk of Hill’s car. Hearing sounds from the trunk, they realized that Bentvena was still alive, so DeSimone and Burke beat him to death with a shovel and a tire iron. Bentvena was buried in Upstate New York. At the time of his murder in 1970, Bentvena was 49 years old.

1944Vaughn Greenwood – known in the press as the Skid Row Slasher, was an American serial killer born on January 19, 1944, in Pennsylvania. His criminal activities spanned from 1964 to 1975, during which he was responsible for the murder of 11 individuals and one survivor.  Greenwood’s first attacks occurred in November 1964 when he killed two transients. However, a ten-year gap in his murder spree occurred due to Greenwood being convicted and sentenced for a knifing assault in Chicago in 1966. He spent five and a half years in jail for this conviction before returning to California.  Greenwood resumed his murder spree in December 1974 and killed nine victims between December 1974 and February 1975. The victims, often referred to as the “Skid Row Slasher” victims, had their throats cut from ear to ear. There was evidence that the killer drank the blood of the victims. Greenwood also left cups of blood and rings of salt around the corpses, leading some to believe the murders were linked to Satanism.  On February 3, 1975, Greenwood was apprehended. He was later convicted of nine counts of murder, including eight of the “Skid Row Slasher” killings in Southern California. On January 19, 1977, Greenwood was sentenced to life imprisonment. He passed away on December 18, 2020, at the age of 76 in the California Men’s Colony, San Luis Obispo, California.

1948Kenneth Lee Boyd – was a convicted murderer who was executed in the United States. He was born on January 19, 1944, and was a veteran of the United States Army. After divorcing his first wife, Boyd married Julie Curry and the couple had three children. They lived in a mobile home, not far from Julie’s parents’ house. Their marriage lasted for 13 years, but it was marked by increasing turmoil.  Boyd was convicted for the murders of his estranged wife, Julie Curry Boyd, and her father, Thomas Dillard Curry. The crimes took place in 1988 and Boyd never denied his actions. His case drew significant attention as he became the 1,000th person to be executed in the United States since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.  Boyd was executed on December 2, 2005, by lethal injection. His execution took place at Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina. Before his death, Boyd expressed discomfort with the dubious distinction of being the 1,000th person to be executed, stating, “I’d hate to be remembered as that. I don’t like the idea of being picked as a number.” His final words were “God bless everybody in here”.

1952Carlos Robledo Puch – is an Argentine serial killer also known as “The Angel of Death” and “The Black Angel”. He was convicted of at least eleven murders (including the killing of at least one accomplice), one attempted murder, seventeen robberies, involvement in one rape and one attempted rape, one count of sexual abuse, two kidnappings, and two thefts. Most of the offenses occurred in the northern area of Greater Buenos Aires.  Robledo Puch was born to Víctor Robledo Puch, a former technician for General Motors, and Josefa Aída Habendak, a housewife who had emigrated from Germany shortly after World War II. His family is descendants of Dionisio Puch, a soldier who was governor of the Salta Province, and Martín Miguel de Güemes, a military leader who defended the nation during the War of Independence.  In 1956, when Robledo Puch was four years old, his parents moved the family to Borges Street, Olivos, Buenos Aires Province, where they rented a first-floor apartment above a hardware store. Coming from a hard-working, middle-class family, Puch was known to be shy and quiet like his mother, who took great care of him. Robledo Puch is a football supporter of River Plate. Puch studied piano and learned German during his childhood. He had troubled school years, where he usually stole items from his classmates. In 1967, Puch was caught stealing money from the secretary’s office and was expelled from school.  In December 1968, Puch had the first legal encounter, when he entered the workshop of a man who worked with bicycles and robbed a motorcycle. After being arrested for this robbery, Puch confessed to more than 14 thefts. He was sent to a reformatory, where he spent twenty days under the order of a judge of minors.  Robledo Puch is now 70 and has spent 50 years in prison, which makes him the longest-serving prisoner in South America. The Argentinian serial killer remains one of the most hated individuals in the country since he never showed any remorse for his crimes.

1953Michael del Marco Lupo – was a serial killer who was active in the United Kingdom. He was known for operating from the Yves Saint Laurent boutique in Brompton Road, London during the 1980s.  Lupo’s criminal activities came to light when the body of a 37-year-old murder victim named James Burns, a railway worker originally from Edinburgh, was found in a derelict flat in Kensington, London in March 1986. The investigation initially made little progress due to the lack of an obvious link between a perpetrator and the victim. However, in April of that year, the corpse of Anthony Connolly, 24, was found on a railway embankment in Brixton. He had been strangled with his own scarf.  Six weeks later, on May 18, Michele del Marco Lupo was arrested and charged with the murders of Connolly and Burns. Lupo, who ran a flower shop in Chelsea, was originally from Italy and a former soldier. He apparently called himself “The Wolf Man” (“lupo” means “wolf” in Italian) and boasted of having had 4,000 lovers. On May 21, Lupo was charged with two other recent killings, those of a young hospital worker named Damien McCloskey, who had been strangled in West London, and an unidentified man, who was murdered near Hungerford Bridge over the Thames. In addition to these four murders, Lupo was charged with two attempted murders.  In July 1987, at the Old Bailey, Lupo was sentenced to four life sentences, plus 14 years. Lupo had pleaded guilty to all charges. There were investigations in cities Lupo had visited in the early 1980s, such as New York City, Berlin, and Los Angeles, to see if he was responsible for unsolved homicides in those locations, although no evidence of any further crimes committed by Lupo came to light.  In February 1995, Lupo died in Frankland Prison, County Durham from an AIDS-related illness. He had contracted the disease shortly before murdering his first victim and told the police that discovering his medical condition had led to a loathing of fellow homosexuals with him developing a “callous rationale” and an “urge to kill”. He spent the last years of his life in a prison hospital.

1958Altemio Sanchez – was a Puerto Rican serial killer known for his crimes in and around Buffalo, New York. His criminal activities spanned a 31-year period from 1975, possibly earlier, to 2006. Sanchez was also known by the monikers “Bike Path Rapist” and “Bike Path Killer”.  Sanchez was a machinist and factory worker who worked afternoon and night shifts at the former American Brass Company plant on Military Road in the Kenmore/Buffalo area. He lived in the Cleveland Hill neighborhood of Cheektowaga, New York. His family moved to the continental United States when he was 2 years old. His father died when he was young, and his mother remarried. Sanchez lived in Florida before moving to the Buffalo area. He had one brother and two sisters and was described by an aunt as being a serious, quiet, and nice kid.  Sanchez was married to Kathleen, and they had two adult sons. He was the basketball coach of his son’s team at their school in Cheektowaga and was the boys’ Little League Baseball coach. He played golf, enjoyed gardening, and is said to have lived a “regular” life. Sanchez had also registered to run in one of the annual Linda Yalem Safety Run (formerly called the Linda Yalem Memorial Run) at the University at Buffalo, a run dedicated to the memory of one of his murder victims. Sanchez was involved in the community and was well-liked by his neighbors, some of whom called him “Uncle Al” due to his charisma and interactions with them.  Sanchez is known to have raped and murdered at least three women, and raped at least 9 to 15 girls and women. When Sanchez initially began to strangle and kill his victims, it is believed that he used a rope or cord. He also beat and/or raped his victims during the attacks, and several of them are thought to have fought hard against him. In later years of Sanchez’s crimes, he used a ligature, wire, or garrote, to strangle and suffocate his victims.  Sanchez was arrested on January 15, 2007, and later convicted of second-degree murder (3 counts), rape, and solicitation. He was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison. Sanchez died on September 22, 2023, at the age of 65.

1958Charles E Barker – He is known for a tragic event that took place on August 3, 1993. Barker’s former girlfriend, Candice Benefiel, was staying with her grandparents, Francis and Helen Benefiel, in their home. Barker watched the home one night for several hours, then broke in and struggled with Candice. Francis came to her aid and jumped on Barker, who shrugged him aside and shot him through the heart. Barker then broke down a bathroom door and found Helen and the one-year-old child of Barker and Candice, hiding in the closet. Barker shot Helen in the head and took the child. He then forced Candice to leave with him, first to the home of his former wife, Deanna Barker, then to Tennessee, where he was later arrested. At trial, Barker claimed he just wanted to see his daughter, he shot Francis in self-defense and shot Helen accidentally. He was convicted of two counts of murder, kidnapping, confinement, and burglary. Barker was sentenced to death on December 30, 1996, but this was later changed to life without parole on December 21, 2005. Barker’s case was notable for the legal challenges it raised regarding the constitutionality of the Indiana death penalty statute.

1962Cynthia Coffman – After her father left her family, she was raised by her mother. Coffman’s mother attempted to give her and her brothers away at one point. By age 18, Coffman married and became a mother, but the marriage did not last long. She moved to Arizona with a friend and met James Marlow shortly after he was released from jail. They began to use methamphetamine together, got married, and began to commit violent crimes.  Coffman and Marlow were accused of kidnapping and killing four women in October and November 1986. The victims were Sandra Neary (32) on Oct. 11, 1986, from Costa Mesa, California; Pamela Simmons (35) on Oct. 28, 1986, from Bullhead City, Arizona; Corinna Novis (20) on Nov. 7, 1986, from Redlands, California; Lynel Murray (19) on Nov. 12, 1986, from Huntington Beach, California. They were arrested on November 14, 1986, following which Coffman confessed to the murders.  Coffman’s attorneys say that she loved Marlow but that he battered, brainwashed, and starved her, so she did not run from Marlow when the crime spree began. They were put on trial in July 1989 and in 1990 sentenced to death. Coffman was the first woman to receive a death sentence in California since the reinstatement of the death penalty in that state in 1977. A further trial in 1992 convicted her for another murder, for which she received a sentence of life imprisonment. She was still on death row as of 2023.

1977Darwin Demond Brown – He is known for a tragic event that took place on February 26, 1995. Brown, along with three other men, was convicted of killing Richard Yost during the robbery of a QuikTrip store in Tulsa. Yost, the store clerk, was beaten to death with a baseball bat. His bound and battered body was discovered by a customer in the store’s walk-in refrigerator.  Brown was sentenced to death for his role in the murder. After exhausting all of his appeals and being denied clemency, Brown was executed by lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma, on January 22, 2009. He was 32 years old at the time of his execution.

1986Nathaniel Jamal Abraham – was born in the United States and is known for a tragic event that took place on October 27, 1997. On that day, eleven-year-old Abraham, who was argued by his defense attorney to have the mental capacity of a six-year-old, shot and killed Ronnie Greene Jr. with a .22 caliber rifle. The incident took place in a forested area of Pontiac, Michigan. There was no legitimate intent or purpose of murder ever claimed, and the cause of the murder was labeled as “Random gunplay by a child”.  Abraham was under five feet tall and just sixty-five pounds at the time he shot eighteen-year-old Greene. He was charged under a controversial Michigan law known as the Juvenile Waiver Law. This law, adopted by the Michigan legislature in 1997, allowed juveniles accused of violent crimes to be tried and sentenced as adults.  In 1999, Abraham, one of the youngest murder defendants in U.S. history, stood trial for the shooting death of Ronnie Greene Jr. He was convicted and sentenced to juvenile detention. His case was notable for the legal challenges it raised regarding the constitutionality of the Michigan Juvenile Waiver Law.

 

Deaths

Jean-Baptiste Troppmann

1870Jean-Baptiste Troppmann – was a French spree killer who, between August 24 and September 19, 1869, murdered eight members of the Kinck family, including six children aged between 2 and 16 years old, in order to gain access to their money. He was caught at the port of Le Havre at the end of September 1869 while attempting to flee the country. Convicted after a three-day trial on December 30, 1869, Troppmann was executed publicly by guillotine outside the gates of La Roquette Prisons on January 19, 1870. His murders, trial, and execution were extensively reported in the French press, and this reporting was a major milestone in the development of the French tabloid press. The Attorney General at Paris, Théodore Grandperret, gained much attention for his indictment of Troppmann. His execution was witnessed and written about by Ivan Turgenev. A reference is made to Troppman in Rimbaud’s sonnet “Paris” written in 1871, and also in Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar.

1982Alvin Lee King III – was a former high school teacher and farmer who committed mass murder at the First Baptist Church in Daingerfield, Texas, United States on June 22, 1980. He was 45 years old at the time of the attack. Armed with an M1 carbine, two revolvers, and a scoped, semi-automatic AR-15-type derivative, King killed five people and wounded ten others. The victims included members of the church who had declined his request to appear as character witnesses in a trial in which he was charged with raping his daughter.  King was arrested after shooting himself and was charged with five counts of murder and ten counts of attempted murder. However, he committed suicide in his prison cell on January 19, 1982, before he could be tried. His actions and subsequent trial were widely reported in the media, contributing to discussions about gun control and mental health.

1993Charles Sylvester Stamper – was a convicted murderer who gained notoriety for being the first disabled prisoner to be executed in the United States since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976. He was put to death on January 19, 1993, at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarrett, Virginia.  Stamper was convicted for the murder of three workers during a robbery at a Shoney’s restaurant in a Richmond suburb in March 1978. He had been on Virginia’s death row longer than any other inmate at the time of his execution.  In September 1988, Stamper was partially paralyzed in a prison fight, which left him unable to walk without the aid of leg braces and a walker. His case drew national attention and sparked debate about the ethics of executing disabled prisoners. Despite his condition, he was carried to the electric chair by two prison guards, his feet dragging on the floor. His execution was seen by some as a gruesome spectacle and rekindled the debate on capital punishment.  Stamper’s case forced people to examine the underlying philosophies behind executions, including retribution for terrible crimes, the elimination of potential future danger, and deterrence of crime in the community. His execution was seen by some as purely retributive, given that his disability posed little future threat. However, others argued that his medical condition was irrelevant, especially in light of the circumstances surrounding his injury.

2007Liang Jiqian – was a man from Qinzhou, in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. He was born in 1954 and lived a relatively quiet life until a tragic event on April 28, 2006. On that day, Liang Jiqian committed a heinous crime, hacking four children and one woman to death with a sword. The victims were his neighbors, and the motive behind the attack was revenge.  Liang Jiqian suspected that his neighbors were mocking him, which led to the violent outburst. After the attack, he was captured within hours. The court found him guilty and sentenced him to death. He was also ordered to pay compensation to one of the victims’ families. Liang Jiqian was executed on January 19, 2007.  Before the incident, Liang Jiqian’s wife had passed away from an illness, leaving him to care for their 10-year-old disabled son. He claimed that villagers often bullied his handicapped son, which might have contributed to his state of mind leading up to the attack. Despite these circumstances, the severity of his actions led to his ultimate punishment. His story serves as a grim reminder of the consequences of unchecked anger and revenge.

 

Events

Charles Milles Manson

1661 – Cooper & Rebel Thomas Venner is hung, drawn & quartered

1971 – The Beatles’ song “Helter Skelter” is played at Charles Manson’s trial

2001 – Drug lord El Chapo escapes from prison by hiding in a laundry cart

2010 – Christopher Speight kills 8 people, allegedly because an Egyptian goddess told him to

2017 – Joaquin ‘El Chapo” Guzman is extradited to the US to face trial for his leadership of the Sinaloa cartel

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