January 21 – What happened today?


Auto Shankar

1842Alfred Packer – also known as the “Colorado Cannibal”, was one of three children born to James Packer and his wife, Esther Griner. By the early 1850s, Packer’s father had moved his family to LaGrange County, Indiana, where he worked as a cabinetmaker.  Packer served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He enlisted on April 22, 1862, in Winona, Minnesota, and was assigned to Company F of the 16th Infantry Regiment. Eight months later he was honorably discharged due to epilepsy, which had triggered seizures. On June 25, 1863, Packer enlisted in the 8th Iowa Cavalry Regiment at Ottumwa, Iowa, only for his epilepsy to result in a second discharge on April 22, 1864.  Packer then traveled west and worked at numerous jobs over the next nine years. These professions included being a hunter, wagon teamster, ranch hand, and field worker, but his seizures and overall attitude ensured that he never kept a job for long. Packer also worked for a couple of months as a guide, but those who knew him at this time later stated that he was ill-suited to the role and was prone to lose his way.  Packer became infamous for confessing to cannibalism during the winter of 1874. After emerging as the sole survivor of a six-man party who had attempted to travel through the San Juan Mountains of the Colorado Territory, he eventually confessed to having lived off the flesh of his companions, giving more than one version of his account as to the circumstances. After his story was called into question, Packer escaped jail and hid from justice for nine years. He was eventually tried, convicted of premeditated murder, and sentenced to death. Packer won a retrial and was eventually sentenced to 40 years in prison on five counts of voluntary manslaughter. He died on April 23, 1907, in Jefferson County, Colorado.

1899Dr. John Bodkin Adams – was a British general practitioner. His father, Samuel Adams, was a watchmaker and a preacher. After graduating, Adams worked as an assistant houseman at the Bristol Royal Infirmary for a year.  Adams became infamous when, between 1946 and 1956, 163 of his patients died while in comas, which was deemed to be worthy of investigation. In addition, 132 out of 310 patients had left Adams money or items in their wills. Adams was tried and acquitted for the murder of one patient in 1957, while another count of murder was withdrawn by the prosecution in what was later described as “an abuse of process” by the presiding judge Patrick Devlin, Baron Devlin, causing questions to be asked in Parliament about the prosecution’s handling of events.  Adams was found guilty in a subsequent trial of thirteen offenses of prescription fraud, lying on forms, obstruction of justice during a police search, and failing to keep a dangerous drug register. He was struck off by the General Medical Council in 1957 and reinstated in 1961 after two failed applications. Adams’ first trial was described as “one of the greatest murder trials of all time” and dubbed the “murder trial of the century.”  Adams died on July 4, 1983.

1934Emile Louis – He was a French bus driver who became infamous as the prime suspect in the disappearance of seven young women in the Yonne department, Burgundy, in the late 1970s.  Louis confessed to their murders in 2000 but retracted this confession one month later. Despite his retraction, he was sentenced to life in prison by the cour d’assises of Yonne in 2004. This sentence was upheld on appeal in 2006 and confirmed by the Court of Cassation in 2007.  The disappearances initially did not attract much attention, as the girls had no close relatives and lived in homes for the disabled; it was assumed that they had simply run away. However, a local detective, Christian Jambert, looked into the possible crimes as early as 1981. His reports were ignored, and he committed suicide by gunshot in 1997 after a long depression following this episode.  In 2000, Louis confessed to two of the murders and gave information as to where the bodies could be found, which police were able to use to recover the bodies from shallow graves. He later retracted his confession but was convicted of the seven murders in November 2004, and sentenced to life in prison. Louis died in a secure hospital at the age of 79.

1935Eddie Richardson – was a prominent figure in the South London underworld during the 1960s. He, along with his brother Charlie Richardson, led the infamous Richardson Gang, also known as the “Torture Gang”. They were known for their brutal and sadistic methods, which allegedly included pulling teeth out using pliers and nailing victims to floors.  Eddie Richardson was born on January 21, 1936, in Camberwell, South London. He and his brother Charlie turned to a life of crime after their father deserted the family. Their criminal activities spanned a wide range, including racketeering, narcotics, extortion, money laundering, loan sharking, bribery, illegal gambling, counterfeiting, hijacking, smuggling, labor racketeering, gun-running, torture, prostitution, robbery, and assault.  In 1967, Eddie was sentenced to 15 years in prison by Sir Frederick Lawton, QC in the infamous “Torture trial”. He served 11 years of this sentence. Eddie has always insisted that the trial was a setup. Later, in 1990, he was sentenced to 35 years after being convicted of involvement in a £70 million cocaine and cannabis heist. He served 12 years of this sentence, bringing his total number of years served to 23.  Despite his criminal past, Eddie Richardson was also a businessman. However, the details of his legitimate business ventures are not widely known or documented. He remains a notorious figure in the history of British organized crime.

1937Warren James Bland – He experienced a significant loss at the age of 12 when his father died of a heart attack. Bland’s life took a dark turn in 1955 when he married Sue Ellen Sweeney. He was reported to have raped her on their wedding night and continuously throughout their short-lived marriage of 2 months and 10 days. Sue Ellen filed for annulment citing grounds of extreme cruelty and grievous mental suffering.  Later that year, Bland enlisted in the Marine Corps but went AWOL five weeks later. He was found a month later, sent to the brig for 6 months of hard labor, and then brought back for basic training. In 1956, he went AWOL a second time and was classified as a deserter. He was arrested, court-martialed, sentenced to another 6 months of hard labor, and discharged for bad conduct from the Marine Corps. He was released from the U.S. Marines in 1957.  Bland’s criminal activities continued as he was suspected in a murder case of an officer on duty, although he was never charged with the crime. He was arrested for stealing a 1956 Thunderbird during a test drive. He pleaded guilty to grand theft auto and was sentenced to 30 days in county jail and 3 years probation.  In 1958, he took Dorothy Cobb to Las Vegas and married her, after reportedly raping her a few months earlier. Bland’s violent behavior escalated in the following decades. He was arrested in 1981 for molesting a child and was later linked to the kidnap, sex, and torture deaths of two girls who were abducted separately as they walked to school. He was shot and captured while trying to flee from an officer. Bland has a record of violent attacks on women and children that date back to the 1950s. He died on August 30, 2001.

1944Jack Henry Abbott – He spent much of his early life in foster care and juvenile detention centers. By the age of 16, he was sent to a long-term reform institution, the Utah State Industrial School. His experiences there left him maladjusted for life.  In 1965, at the age of 21, Abbott was serving a sentence for forgery in a Utah prison when he stabbed another inmate to death. He was given a sentence of three to 23 years for this offense, and in 1971 his sentence was increased by 19 years after he escaped and committed a bank robbery in Colorado. In prison, he was rebellious and spent much time in solitary confinement.  In 1977, Abbott began writing letters to author Norman Mailer, offering to write about his time in prison to provide a more factual depiction of life in prison. Mailer agreed and helped to publish “In the Belly of the Beast”, a book concerning life in the prison system consisting of Abbott’s letters to Mailer. Mailer endorsed Abbott’s attempts to gain parole.  Abbott was released to parole in June 1981, despite the misgivings of prison officials. Six weeks after being paroled from prison, Abbott stabbed and killed a waiter outside a New York City cafe. He was convicted and sent back to prison, where he died by suicide in 2002. Abbott’s life and experiences were lauded by a number of well-known literary critics, including author Norman Mailer.

1954Auto Shankar – whose real name was Gowri Shankar, was an infamous Indian criminal and serial killer active in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He was born on January 21, 1954, in Kangeyanallur, near Vellore. He was the eldest of five siblings and came from a poor family.  Shankar started his criminal career by peddling cycle rickshaws and later began to operate an auto rickshaw, which earned him his nickname. He initially transported illegal liquor as prohibition was in force at the time. However, he soon realized that prostitution was more profitable and carried lower risks due to its association with politically influential people who could keep the police in check.  Shankar and his gang were involved in a number of criminal activities, including murder, extortion, and robbery. They were found guilty of six murders committed over a period of two years from 1988 to 1989. The victims were Lalitha, Sudalai, Sampath, Mohan, Govindaraj, and Ravi. The bodies of the victims were either burnt or buried inside residential houses.  In late 1988, over a period of approximately six months, nine teenage girls from the Thiruvanmiyur section of Chennai disappeared. Shankar was suspected of abducting and murdering these girls. He was arrested in 1989 and sentenced to death in 1992. Shankar was hanged to death on April 27, 1995, in Salem Central Prison.

1990Cody Alan Legebokoff – is one of Canada’s youngest convicted serial killers. He was convicted in 2014 by the British Columbia Supreme Court of murdering three women and one teenage girl between 2009 and 2010, in or near the city of Prince George, British Columbia.  Legebokoff was raised in Fort St. James, a district municipality in rural British Columbia. He was described by friends and family members as a popular young man who competed in ice hockey and showed no propensity for violence. After graduating from Fort St. James Secondary School, Legebokoff moved to Prince George, British Columbia, where he shared an apartment with three close female friends and worked at a Ford dealership.  In his spare time, Legebokoff frequented the Canadian social networking site Nexopia, using the handle “1CountryBoy”. Despite having a minor criminal record, he was not “on the radar” of local police. However, his life took a dark turn when he was arrested near an old logging road where the body of 15-year-old Loren Dawn Leslie was found. He was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years on four counts of first-degree murder. The victims were Loren Donn Leslie, Jill Stacey Stuchenko, Cynthia Frances Maas, and Natasha Lynn Montgomery, who died in 2009 and 2010.



John “Liver Eating” Johnson

1900John “Liver Eating” Johnson – born John Jeremiah Garrison Johnston on July 1, 1824, was a renowned mountain man of the American Old West. He was born in the area of the Hickory Tavern near Pattenburg, New Jersey. During the Mexican–American War, he served aboard a fighting ship. After striking an officer, he deserted, changed his name to John Johnston, and traveled west to try his hand at gold digging in Alder Gulch, Montana Territory. He also became a “woodhawk,” supplying cordwood to steamboats.  In 1847, his wife, a member of the Flathead American Indian tribe, was killed by a young Crow Brave and his fellow hunters. This prompted Johnson to embark on a vendetta against the tribe. He supposedly killed and scalped more than 300 Crow Indians and then devoured their livers to avenge the death of his wife. This led to his being known as “Liver-Eating Johnson”.  One tale ascribed to Johnson is that while on a foray of over five hundred miles in the winter to sell whiskey to his Flathead kin, he was ambushed by a group of Blackfoot warriors. The Blackfoot planned to sell him to the Crow, his mortal enemies. He was stripped to the waist, tied with leather thongs, and put in a teepee with one guard. Johnson managed to break through the straps, knocked out the guard with a kick, took his knife, and scalped him. He escaped into the woods and fled to the cabin of Del Gue, his trapping partner, a journey of about two hundred miles.  Eventually, Johnson made peace with the Crow, who became “his brothers”, and his personal vendetta against them finally ended after 25 years and scores of slain Crow warriors. However, the West was still very violent and territorial, particularly during the Plains Indian Wars of the mid-19th century. Many more Indians of different tribes, especially but not limited to the Sioux and the Blackfoot, would know the wrath of “Dapiek Absaroka” Crow killer and his fellow mountain men.  During the Civil War, Johnson joined Company H, 2nd Colorado Cavalry, of the Union Army in St. Louis in 1864 as a private and was honorably discharged the following year. During the 1880s he was appointed deputy sheriff in Leadville, Colorado, and later as a town marshal in Red Lodge, Montana. He died on January 21, 1900, in Santa Monica, California.

1995Flavio “Negao” Pires Da Conceicao – who was known as one of the most feared leaders of drug gangs in Rio de Janeiro, lost his life in a firefight with the police on Saturday, according to a statement from the police. Eyewitnesses reported that over 50 special forces police officers stormed the expansive Vigario Geral shantytown, making a beeline for Negao’s clandestine hideout. The confrontation resulted in the death of a police sergeant.  Following a presidential order, the Brazilian Army has been deployed in Rio and has since imposed strict controls on several slums, blocking entry points and conducting searches on all inhabitants.  On January 20, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso ratified an agreement with the Rio State government. This agreement allows the Army to continue its efforts to eradicate the drug trade and manage the violence that is jeopardizing the safety of Brazil’s most famous city.

2001Byron De La Beckwith – was an American white supremacist and a member of the Ku Klux Klan from Greenwood, Mississippi. He is infamous for the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963.  Born in Sacramento, California, Beckwith was the only child of Byron De La Beckwith Sr., a postmaster, and Susan Southworth Yerger. His father died of pneumonia when he was 5, and his mother died of lung cancer when he was 12, leaving him orphaned. He was raised by his maternal uncle William Greene Yerger and his wife.  In January 1942, Beckwith enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving as a machine gunner in the Pacific theater of World War II. He fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal and was shot in the waist during the Battle of Tarawa. He was honorably discharged in August 1945.  After serving in the Marine Corps, Beckwith moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where he married Mary Louise Williams. The couple relocated to Mississippi, where they settled in his hometown of Greenwood. They had a son together, Delay De La Beckwith. Beckwith and Williams divorced, and he later married Thelma Lindsay Neff.  Beckwith worked as a salesman for most of his life, selling tobacco, fertilizer, wood stoves, and other goods. In 1954, following the United States Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, he joined his local White Citizens’ Council and was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan.  On June 12, 1963, at age 42, Beckwith murdered NAACP and civil rights leader Medgar Evers shortly after the activist arrived home in Jackson. Beckwith had positioned himself across the street with a rifle, and he shot Evers in the back. Evers died an hour later, aged 37.  Two trials in 1964 on that charge, with all-white male Mississippi juries, resulted in hung juries. In 1994, he was tried by the state in a new trial, which was based on new evidence. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

2012Jonathan Idema – was an American mercenary and former United States Army reserve non-commissioned officer, known for his vigilante activities during the War in Afghanistan. He was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and was the son of a former US Army officer and a former nurse.  Idema enlisted in the U.S. Army in February 1975 and trained and qualified for the United States Army Special Forces in 1977. However, he never saw combat and left the military in 1984 to form several companies centered around counterterrorism and internal security. Despite his claims of extensive military service and experience in covert operations, official records indicate that Idema’s military career was short and contained several reports of poor performance, with no recorded combat experience.  In September 2004, Idema was found guilty of running an unlawful and unsanctioned private prison in Afghanistan and torturing Afghan citizens. At the time, Idema had been falsely portraying himself as a U.S. government-sponsored special forces operative on a mission to apprehend terrorists. The U.S. government repeatedly denied most of his claims. Idema served three years of a ten-year sentence. He was released early by Afghanistan’s then-president Hamid Karzai in April 2007 and left Afghanistan in early June for Mexico, where he died of AIDS in late January 2012.  Idema was a controversial figure who made numerous unverified claims about his military service and supposed terrorist threats and experienced several lawsuits over various feuds. Despite his controversial history, his father, former Marine and World War II veteran H. John Idema believed that his son was a “dedicated American”.

2016Derrick Todd Lee – also known as The Baton Rouge Serial Killer, was an American serial killer. He was born on November 5, 1968, in St. Francisville, Louisiana, to Samuel Ruth and Florence Lee. His father, who suffered from mental illness, left the family soon after Derrick was born and ended up in a mental institution after being charged with the attempted murder of his ex-wife. Florence later married Coleman Barrow, who raised Derrick and his sisters.  Lee’s IQ was calculated from below 70 to 75, and he was placed in special education classes. By the time he turned 11, he had been caught peeping into the windows of girls in his neighborhood, which he continued to do as an adult. He also liked to torture dogs and cats. At 13, Lee was arrested for simple burglary. He was known to the local police because of his voyeurism, but at age 16, he pulled a knife on a boy during a fight and was charged with attempted second-degree murder. At age 17, Lee was arrested for being a Peeping Tom, but even though he was a high school dropout with multiple complaints and arrests, he was not incarcerated.  In 1988, Lee met and married Jacqueline Denise Sims. They had three children, a boy named after his father, Derrick Todd Lee, Jr., and in 1992 a girl, Dorris Lee, and a son named Dedrick Lee, in 1999. Soon after their marriage, Lee pleaded guilty to unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling. Over the next few years, he worked hard at his construction job and took his family on weekend outings. However, he also cruised local bars, drinking and having extramarital affairs.  Between 1992 and 2003, Lee murdered seven women in the Baton Rouge area. Prior to his murder charges, Lee had been arrested for stalking women and watching them in their homes. Despite this, he was initially overlooked by police, because they incorrectly believed the killer was white. Lee was linked by DNA tests to the deaths of seven women in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas in Louisiana, and in 2004 was convicted, in separate trials, of the murders of Geralyn DeSoto and Charlotte Murray Pace. The Pace trial resulted in a death sentence. Newspapers suggested Lee was responsible for other unsolved murders in the area, but the police lacked DNA evidence to prove these connections.  After Lee’s arrest, it was discovered that another serial killer, Sean Vincent Gillis, was operating in the Baton Rouge area during the same time as Lee. Lee died on January 21, 2016, of heart disease at a hospital in Louisiana, where he was transported for treatment from Louisiana State Penitentiary, where he had been awaiting execution.



Harry Houdini

1903 – Harry Houdini escapes from Halvemaansteeg police station in Amsterdam

1934 – Parisian baker & “Student of medieval life” Henri Littiere appears in court charged with forcing his adulterous wife Juliette to wear a chastity belt. Having committed the same offense in 1932, he was sentenced to 3 months in prison and fined 50 francs for cruelty to his wife

1942 – Bronx magistrate rules that all pinball machines are illegal

1981 – Bernhard Goetz is assaulted for the first time on a New York City subway train

1994 – Lorena Bobbitt is found temporarily insane when she cut off her husband’s penis

1999 – In one of the largest drug busts in American history, the US Coast Guard intercepts a ship carrying 4,300KG of cocaine

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