January 26 – What happened today?


John Linley Frazier

1891Frank Costello – born Francesco Castiglia on January 26, 1891, in Lauropoli, a frazione of the town of Cassano allo Ionio in the province of Cosenza in the Calabria region, Italy, was an Italian-American crime boss of the Luciano crime family. He immigrated to the United States in 1895 with his mother and brother to join their father, who had moved to New York City’s East Harlem several years earlier and opened a small neighborhood Italian grocery store.  While still a boy, Costello was introduced to gang activities by his brother. By the age of 13, he had become a member of a local gang and started using the name Frankie. He committed petty crimes and went to jail for assault and robbery in 1908, 1912, and 1917. In 1918, he married Lauretta Geigerman, a Jewish woman who was the sister of a close friend. That same year, Costello served ten months in jail for carrying a concealed weapon.  While working for the Morello gang, Costello met Charlie “Lucky” Luciano, the Sicilian leader of Manhattan’s Lower East Side gang. The two Italians immediately became friends and partners. Along with Italian-American associates Vito Genovese and Tommy “Three-Finger Brown” Lucchese, and Jewish associates Meyer Lansky and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, the gang became involved in robbery, theft, extortion, gambling, and narcotics. The Luciano-Costello-Lansky-Siegel alliance prospered even further with the passage of Prohibition in 1920. The gang went into bootlegging, backed by criminal financier Arnold “the Brain” Rothstein.  In 1957, Costello survived an assassination attempt ordered by Vito Genovese and carried out by Vincent Gigante. However, the altercation persuaded Costello to relinquish power to Genovese and retire. Costello died on February 18, 1973.

1893Giuseppe Genco Russo – also known as “Zi Peppi Jencu”, was an Italian mafioso and the boss of Mussomeli in the Province of Caltanissetta, Sicily. He was born on January 26, 1893, in Mussomeli, Sicily, of very humble origin. His father was a simple peasant. At one time he was just a beggar, a fellow villager said about him. In his youth, he was forced to work as a goatherd on the large Polizzello estate owned by the noble Lanza Branciforti family. He started his criminal career as a juvenile highway robber, rustling cattle and sheep. Through a career of violence stretching from the 1920s to the 1940s, he established his position as a mafioso, a so-called “man of honor.”  From 1918–1922 Genco Russo served in the military, leaving a record of “rebellious behavior and impatience to discipline.” In a 1927 report by the police chief of Caltanissetta, he was described as “a mafioso that acquired a respectable financial position out of nothing” and in the countryside, people feared him. In 1929 he married a local girl and four years later his first son Vincenzo was born. The best man at the baptism was fellow mafioso Calogero Vizzini who would also be the witness at the marriage of Vincenzo in 1950 together with Rosario Lanza, the president of the Sicilian regional assembly.  Genco Russo was an uncouth, sly, semi-literate thug with excellent political connections. A vulgar man – he used to spit on the floor no matter who was present – he was often photographed with bishops, bankers, civil servants, and politicians. As such he was considered to be the arbiter of Mafia politics, and was regarded as the successor of Calogero Vizzini, who had died in 1954. Although by then a wealthy landowner and politician (as a member of Democrazia Cristiana) he still kept his mule in the house and the toilet outside, which was little more than a hole in the ground with a stone for a seat and no walls or door, according to Mafia turncoat Tommaso Buscetta.  Traditional mafiosi, like Genco Russo and Calogero Vizzini, Mafia bosses in the years between the two world wars until the 1950s and 1960s, were the archetypes of the “man of honor” of a bygone age, as a social intermediary and a man standing for order and peace. Although they used violence to establish their position in the first phase of their careers, in the second stage they limited recourse to violence, turned to primarily legal sources of gain, exercised their power in an open and legitimate fashion, and became “men of order”.  Genco Russo died on March 18, 1976, in Mussomeli, Italy.

1944Jerry Sandusky –  Gerald Arthur Sandusky, known as Jerry Sandusky, was born on January 26, 1944, in Washington, Pennsylvania. He is an American convicted serial child molester and retired college football coach. Sandusky served as an assistant coach for his entire career, mostly at Pennsylvania State University under Joe Paterno, from 1969 to 1999, the last 22 years as defensive coordinator. He received “Assistant Coach of the Year” awards in 1986 and 1999.  In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a non-profit charity serving Pennsylvania’s underprivileged and at-risk youth. Following his 1999 retirement from Penn State, he continued working with The Second Mile at Penn State and maintained an office at the university until 2011.  In 2011, following a two-year grand jury investigation, Sandusky was arrested and charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15-year period from 1994 to 2009. He met his molestation victims through The Second Mile; they were participating in the organization. Several of them testified against Sandusky in his sexual abuse trial. Four of the charges were subsequently dropped. On June 22, 2012, Sandusky was found guilty of 45 of the 48 remaining charges. Sandusky was sentenced on October 9, 2012, to 30 to 60 years in prison. He has been incarcerated in the Pennsylvania prison system since October 31, 2012.

1946John Linley Frazier – also known as “The Killer Prophet,” was an American mass murderer born on January 26, 1946, in Hayward, California. He was the first of three men who would go on killing sprees in Santa Cruz County, California, in the 1970s, the others being Herbert Mullin and Edmund Kemper.  Frazier was born to Patricia Irene (née Adams) and William B. Frazier. After his mother remarried, Santa Cruz resident Pierre Pascal, Frazier attended elementary and middle school in Capitola, followed by Santa Cruz High School, where he dropped out in 1961 as a freshman. Frazier’s “first brush” with the juvenile justice system was at age 15, and he was held in police custody again some years later.  Following a car accident in the late 1960s, he had become a religious fanatic who obsessively studied the Bible. He believed the voice of God was telling him to commit homicides in order to prevent the environment from being destroyed by rich men like Victor Ohta. God, Frazier told friends, had chosen him to save the environment.  On October 19, 1970, Frazier entered the home of wealthy ophthalmologist Victor Ohta in the oceanfront resort area of Soquel, a few miles south of Santa Cruz. Frazier proceeded to murder Ohta, his wife, their two sons, and Ohta’s medical secretary. He shot the five of them with a .38 caliber revolver and pushed their bodies into the home’s swimming pool. After the killings, Frazier typed a note on a typewriter owned by Ohta, which he left on the window of Ohta’s Rolls-Royce.  Frazier died on August 13, 2009, in Mule Creek State Prison, Ione, California, U.S. His cause of death was suicide by hanging.

1950Edward Castro – was an American serial killer. An unemployed drifter from California, Castro fatally stabbed three men across Florida between late 1986 and early 1987. He was tried for two of the murders, given a life sentence for one of them, and sentenced to death for the other. He waived all of his appeals and dropped his defense team, telling the courts he wanted to be executed. Castro was executed at Florida State Prison by lethal injection in 2000.  The exact details of his childhood are not clear; it would come out in later years that when Castro was a child, he was a victim of sexual abuse, but distinct details of the events are not known. He was also diagnosed with a brain disorder. Upon becoming an adult, Castro moved to Florida. As an adult, he struggled with alcohol abuse.  His victims included Claude J. Henderson, a 46-year-old who moved into a mobile home in Auburndale, Florida. Castro entered Henderson’s trailer, tied Henderson’s hand behind his back, tied his feet together, and beat him to death. He left his body face up on his bed. Castro then stole the keys to Henderson’s 1973 Chevrolet van and took off with it. His second known victim was George Larry Hill, an interior designer. Castro entered the kitchen found a kitchen knife and held Hill at knifepoint. He then tied Hill up and viciously stabbed him four times in the heart area, killing him. Afterward, Castro scribbled homophobic messages on the walls and then left the home.

1957Miriam F. Helmick – is a woman who has been convicted of the murder of her second husband, Alan Helmick. In June 2008, Miriam Helmick found her husband, Alan Helmick, dead in their home in what initially appeared to be a burglary gone wrong. However, as the investigation progressed, authorities began to suspect that Miriam knew more than she initially let on.  Alan Helmick was a native of Delta, Colorado, and worked as a mortgage broker before retiring. He had four children from his first marriage to his high school sweetheart, Sharon, who died of a heart attack. A few months after Sharon’s death, Alan met Miriam, his dance instructor, and they started dating and eventually married in June 2006.  On June 10, 2008, Miriam returned home after running errands to find Alan dead on the kitchen floor with a gunshot wound to the back of his head. Although the house appeared to have been ransacked, authorities suspected that it was staged to look like a robbery, with the main motive being murder.  Miriam became a person of interest in the case, and as investigators dug deeper, they found that she had forged at least seven checks in Alan’s name, amounting to about $16,000. Additionally, a substantial amount of money had been taken from Alan’s account to pay for commercial loans.  In December 2009, Miriam was convicted of first-degree murder, attempted murder, and forgery. She received a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the murder, an additional 48 years for attempted murder, and 60 years for forgery. At the time of her arrest in November 2009 in Jacksonville, Florida, police found that she was in possession of credit cards, a driver’s license, and other items in the name of Alan’s first wife, Sharon. It appeared that Miriam was trying to assume Sharon’s identity.  Miriam is also suspected of murdering her first husband, Jack Giles, in 2003. He supposedly killed himself with a gun, but the crime scene raised suspicions as Jack Giles was left-handed, while the gun was found in his right hand.

1963John Wade Adams – is a convicted murderer from the United States. His criminal activities came to light on March 23, 1997, when he was involved in the murder of Donna Duncan Vick, a 52-year-old woman known for her charitable work with the homeless.  Adams and his co-defendant were at Vick’s home in De Soto, Texas, when they held her down and fatally stabbed her in the neck and chest with a kitchen knife taken from her own kitchen. They then proceeded to rob her, taking her TV, VCR, weed eater, and car. The car was later found abandoned in Lancaster.  Adams was sentenced to death on August 12, 1998, for his crimes. However, an appellate court granted Adams a second sentencing trial because the original jury did not have a chance to hear evidence of mitigating circumstances that could have led them to grant him life in prison over the death penalty. After a mistrial was declared, Adams was spared the death penalty and was ready to return to the Texas prison system.  In addition to his conviction for murder, Adams had a prior prison record. He had previously served time for burglary of a habitation and was released on parole. However, he returned as a parole violator and was released on mandatory supervision.  Adams’ case is a stark reminder of the tragic consequences of violent crime and the importance of justice for the victims and their families.

1966Mario Giovanni Centobie – was a former firefighter who later became a convicted murderer. He was known for his role as a rescue diver, where he helped rescue victims of an Amtrak disaster on Bayou Canot in 1993, which killed 47 people. However, his life took a dark turn when he kidnapped his estranged wife and 6-year-old son a year later. He began serving a 40-year sentence in Mississippi in 1996.  In 1998, Centobie and another inmate escaped, overpowering two officers who were taking them to a court appearance. After shooting and wounding a Tuscaloosa police officer, Centobie made it to Moody, near Birmingham’s eastern border, and shot Moody police officer Keith Turner, who had stopped to investigate a suspicious vehicle. Centobie was captured near Biloxi several days after the slaying, but he escaped again with help from a female guard he had charmed. Love letters to the guard, who received prison time for her role, helped authorities recapture him in Atlanta.  Centobie was convicted and sentenced to death for killing Officer Turner. However, an appellate court granted Centobie a second sentencing trial because the original jury did not have a chance to hear evidence of mitigating circumstances that could have led them to grant him life in prison over the death penalty. After a mistrial was declared, Centobie was spared the death penalty and was ready to return to the Texas prison system.  Centobie was executed by injection on April 28, 2005, at the age of 39. His execution was witnessed by his mother and brother, the victim’s friends and family, and eight uniformed police officers. He opposed efforts to block his execution, saying he was sane but preferred death over life in prison.



Christian Brando

1962Charles “Lucky” Luciano – born Salvatore Lucania on November 24, 1897, in Lercara Friddi, Sicily, Italy, was an Italian-born gangster who operated mainly in the United States. He is considered the father of modern organized crime in the United States for the establishment of the Commission in 1931 after he abolished the boss of bosses title held by Salvatore Maranzano following the Castellammarese War. He was also the first official boss of the modern Genovese crime family.  Luciano started his criminal career in the Five Points Gang and was instrumental in the development of the National Crime Syndicate. In 1936, Luciano was tried and convicted for compulsory prostitution and running a prostitution racket after years of investigation by District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey. He was sentenced to 30 to 50 years in prison, but during World War II an agreement was struck with the Department of the Navy through his Jewish Mob associate Meyer Lansky to provide naval intelligence.  In 1946, for his alleged wartime cooperation, his sentence was commuted on the condition that he be deported to Italy. Luciano died in Italy on January 26, 1962, and his body was permitted to be transported back to the United States for burial. Luciano’s life and criminal activities had a significant impact on the American Mafia and organized crime as a whole.

2008Christian Brando – was born on May 11, 1958, in Los Angeles, California. He was an American actor and the eldest son of the legendary actor Marlon Brando. Christian was the only child Marlon had with his first wife, Anna Kashfi, a former actress. He had a tumultuous childhood, marked by his parents’ hostile relationship and a protracted custody battle. His mother, Anna Kashfi, was reportedly erratic and abusive, which had a significant impact on young Christian.  Christian started his acting career in 1968 and was known for his roles in “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!” (1968), “Unmasked Part 25” (1988), and “La posta in gioco” (1988). Despite his early start in the industry, Christian struggled to find success as an actor.  On May 16, 1990, Christian fatally shot Dag Drollet, the boyfriend of his half-sister Cheyenne, at his father’s residence. The incident and subsequent trial were heavily publicized. Christian pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to prison in 1991. He was released in 1996.  In 2004, during the trial of Robert Blake for the murder of Bonny Lee Bakley, Christian’s relationship with Bakley and his possible involvement in her murder were exposed. In 2005, he pleaded no contest to spousal abuse of his then-wife Deborah and was given probation.  Christian Brando passed away from pneumonia on January 26, 2008, at the age of 49.

2011Mike Debardeleben – was born on March 20, 1940, in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was the second of three children born to James Mitchell DeBardeleben Sr. and Mary Lou DeBardeleben. The DeBardelebens were a military family who moved frequently due to James Sr.’s service in the United States Army.  Mike DeBardeleben was known as the “Mall Passer” due to his practice of passing counterfeit bills in shopping malls bordering interstate highways across the United States. He was an American convicted kidnapper, rapist, counterfeiter, and suspected serial killer.  DeBardeleben’s childhood was marked by instability and chaos. His parents had many extramarital affairs and considered divorce, but ultimately chose to stay married for the sake of the children. His mother was a sexually promiscuous and emotionally unstable alcoholic, whose behavior could become violent at times. She often neglected the children when her husband was away, preferring to spend much of her time at the bars drinking and picking up men. This neglect and his mother’s behavior led DeBardeleben to develop a deep hatred of his mother, which eventually crystallized into a hatred of women in general.  DeBardeleben’s criminal activities began at a young age. He was arrested for several serious crimes, including theft, sodomy, kidnapping, and attempted murder. He was also court-martialed while serving in the Air Force. His criminal activities escalated over time, and he became involved in more serious crimes, including rape and abduction.  After his arrest for counterfeiting, the Secret Service found evidence linking him to much more serious sex crimes. He was sentenced to 375 years in federal prison. Although he was never brought to trial for murder, he was the principal suspect in two homicides and he remains a suspect in several others.  DeBardeleben died of pneumonia at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, on January 26, 2011, at the age of 70.



United States Sentencing Commission

1838 – Tennessee enacts the first prohibition law in the United States

1838 – Myall Creek Massacre: About 50 Wirrayaraay indigenous people were killed by New South Wales mounted police. Seven men would be later executed for the murder of Australian Aborigines

2013 – The US Sentencing Commission is hacked by Anonymous in response to the suicide of Aaron Swartz

2019 – Five people are shot & killed in the Ascension & Livingston parishes of Louisiana, a 21-year-old gunman is arrested a day later

2020 – A shooting at Mac’s Lounge in Hartsville, South Carolina left 3 people injured and 3 dead

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