Robert Stroud – The Birdman of Alcatraz
1828 – Boone Helm – known as the Kentucky Cannibal, was born on January 28, 1828, in Lincoln County, Kentucky, U.S. He was an American mountain man, Old West gunfighter, and serial killer. Helm gained his nickname for his opportunistic and unrepentant proclivity for consuming human flesh, usually in survival situations, though instances of killing people for their meat unprovoked were also documented. Boone Helm was born into what was considered an honest, hard-working, and respected family, who moved to Jackson Township, Monroe County, Missouri when he was still a boy. Helm delighted in demonstrating feats of strength and agility, such as throwing his Bowie knife into the ground and retrieving it from a horse at full gallop. In 1851, Helm married 17-year-old Lucinda Frances Browning in Monroe County Missouri, and fathered a daughter, Lucy. He became known for his heavy drinking, riding his horse into the house, and beating his wife. The domestic violence grew to such an extent that Lucinda petitioned for divorce. Helm’s father paid for the costs. Having bankrupted his father and ruined his family’s reputation, Helm decided to move to California in search of gold. For the journey to California, Helm asked his cousin, Littlebury Shoot, to accompany him. Shoot initially agreed, but when he attempted to back out of the trip, an angered Helm murdered him by stabbing him in the chest and headed west alone. He was pursued and captured by Littlebury’s brother and friends and convicted of murder, but his antics in captivity quickly landed him in a mental asylum. Upon entering the asylum, Helm became taciturn and convinced his guard to take him on walks through the woods. After these walks became routine, Helm was able to escape. Helm died on January 14, 1864, in Virginia City, Montana, U.S., at the age of 35. The cause of his death was execution by hanging.
1890 – Robert Stroud – known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz,” was born on January 28, 1890, in Seattle, Washington. Raised by an abusive father, he stopped attending school after reaching the third grade. At age 13, he ran away from home. At 18, Stroud made his way to Alaska territory to work on a railroad construction gang. Stroud committed his first murder in 1909 when he was working as a railroad construction worker in Alaska. He spent 54 years of his life in prison, 42 of them in solitary confinement. He raised and studied over 300 birds in his cell, writing two books and many articles on bird diseases and care. However, he was never allowed to see his birds after being transferred to Alcatraz in 1942, where he spent 17 years. In his obituary, the New York Times called Robert Franklin Stroud “probably America’s most famous convict.” He made important contributions to avian pathology, most notably a cure for the hemorrhagic septicemia family of diseases, gaining much respect and some level of sympathy among ornithologists and farmers. Stroud died in 1963 at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.
1935 – Erzsebet Papp – also known as “The Nicotine Killer” or “Mrs. János Holhos,” was born on January 28, 1935, in Penészlek, Hungary. She was one of two daughters born to farmers János and Julianna Papp, who also had two sons. Erzsébet was considered an intelligent woman compared to her peers, but she was also considered to have a warped sense of morals. Papp was a Hungarian serial killer who poisoned four people with nicotine between 1957 and 1958. All of Papp’s killings were carried out using a formula mixing nicotine in tobacco leaves provided by her unsuspecting brother, a fruit grower, and using the concoction on her unsuspecting victims, who were all killed for menial reasons. Her victims included a 5-year-old girl named Ilona Tarnóczi, her best friend Mrs. József Fürtös, and her husband István Rostár, an alcoholic who often verbally abused her when he was drunk. After the murder of her husband, Papp began living with a Romani man, but their relationship was poorly received by her family and friends, who disowned Papp and made her sister, Mrs. Ferenc Juhos, the family heir. Papp was arrested and charged with fourfold murder, but then released, as the authorities had insufficient evidence to detain her. This changed during the course of the investigation, as they gathered witness testimony that increasingly weighed in favor of her guilt. Papp was then rearrested and charged anew, and despite initially protesting her innocence, she eventually broke down and confessed to all four murders. At trial, Papp was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, but upon appeal to the Curia, she was resentenced to death. On January 23, 1962, she was executed in Miskolc, Hungary.
1905 – Yoshio Kodaira – was a Japanese serial killer, serial rapist, and war criminal. He murdered at least 8 people in the Tokyo and Tochigi Prefecture areas between 1932 and 1946. Kodaira suffered from stuttering during his childhood. In 1923, at the age of 18, he joined the Imperial Japanese Navy and was assigned to a marine regiment stationed in Yokosuka. In 1928, Kodaira was stationed in China and participated in the Jinan incident, where he personally killed six Chinese soldiers. Reportedly, Kodaira raped many women in China and, in one instance at the Taku Forts, stuck a sword into the belly of a pregnant woman. In 1932, Kodaira retired from the military with the rank of sergeant and married shortly after he returned to Japan. However, his wife eventually left him because he had a child with another woman. On July 2, 1932, Kodaira attacked his wife’s family in a rage, killing his father-in-law and injuring six others with an iron rod. Kodaira was arrested and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment but was released on parole in 1940. Between May 25, 1945, and August 6, 1946, Kodaira is believed to have raped and murdered ten women in Tochigi and Tokyo. At the fifth murder, he raped a dead woman. On August 20, 1946, he was arrested. He denied three murders in the court, and the district court admitted seven of ten murders on June 18, 1947. One of the unproved three victims was unidentified. The Supreme Court sentenced him to death on November 16, 1948, and he was executed on October 5, 1949. Before he was executed, he smoked a cigarette and was calm. The exact number of his victims in China is unknown.
1980 – Jesse James Hollywood – As a child, he was involved in a junior baseball league and attended El Camino Real High School where he played baseball. During his adolescent years, he started powerlifting and ingesting muscle supplements to help build up his muscle mass. His coach would later describe him as an “emotional kid” who was later expelled for erupting into a violent fit of rage at one of his teachers near the end of his sophomore year. He transferred to Calabasas High School where he played on the varsity baseball team until he injured his back and leg, forcing him to give up the sport. Investigators believe that he started selling illegal drugs a year before he ordered the murder of Nicholas Markowitz. He recruited his former high school friends William Skidmore, Brian Affronti, Benjamin Markowitz, and Jesse Rugge to dispense narcotics for him and build up a profitable illicit drug operation. He had been a close friend of Benjamin Markowitz, playing in the same junior baseball league, and would visit the same Malibu, California gymnasium to exercise together. On August 6, 2000, Hollywood and some of his crew, including Jesse Rugge and William Skidmore, kidnapped Nicholas Markowitz. Nicholas was half-brother to Ben Markowitz, who owed Hollywood $1,200 in drug debt. The intention was to use Nicholas as leverage in order to get Ben Markowitz to pay the debt. Hollywood was arrested in 2005 and is serving life without parole at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California for kidnapping and ordering the murder of Nicholas Markowitz.
1985 – Raymond John Clark III – is known for his involvement in the murder of Annie Le, a 24-year-old doctoral student at the Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology. The incident occurred on September 8, 2009, while Le was working on the New Haven, Connecticut campus of Yale University. She was last seen in a research building on the New Haven campus on September 8. On September 13, the day that she was to be married, she was found dead inside the building. Clark, a Yale laboratory technician who worked in the same building, was arrested on September 17, 2009. He pleaded guilty to the murder on March 17, 2011 and was sentenced to 44 years imprisonment on June 3. The case generated significant media coverage. Before the incident, Clark worked as an animal tech in the Animal Research Center at Yale. He was found with scratches on his body, which he claimed were from the animals he worked with. Based on 700 hours of surveillance footage, police named him a “Person of Interest.” They executed a search warrant on his apartment, took DNA from him, and released him. He was later charged and convicted for the murder of Annie Le. His motive for the murder remains unknown.
1829 – William Burke – was an Irish navvy who came to Scotland to work on the Union Canal in the 1820s. He was a serial killer who was hanged in 1829 for his part in the West Port murders. Burke was born in Urney, County Tyrone, Ireland, and had a comfortable upbringing. He joined the British Army as a teenager and served in the Donegal militia until he met and married a woman from County Mayo. Burke and his accomplice, William Hare, were infamous murderers for profit who killed their victims and sold the corpses to an anatomist for purposes of scientific dissection. The pair murdered at least 16 people during the period 1827-1828, selling the cadavers to Dr Robert Knox’s anatomy school. When the work was finished, he moved into a lodging house near the Grassmarket owned by the wife of William Hare. Despite all this, the case against Burke and Hare was not watertight, so Hare was offered immunity from prosecution if he confessed and agreed to testify against Burke (who had, according to Hare, committed the actual murders). His testimony led to Burke’s execution on 28 January 1829. In his confession, Burke exonerated Knox of all knowledge of the crimes, but some years passed before Knox lived down the condemnations of the public and the press.
1936 – Richard Loeb – was a wealthy student at the University of Chicago who, along with his accomplice Nathan Freudenthal Leopold Jr., became infamous for a crime that shocked the nation. The pair kidnapped and murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks in Chicago, Illinois, on May 21, 1924. The crime was committed with the intention of demonstrating their superior intellect, which they believed entitled them to carry out a “perfect crime” without consequences. After their arrest, Loeb’s family retained Clarence Darrow as lead counsel for their defense. Darrow’s twelve-hour summation at their sentencing hearing is noted for its influential criticism of capital punishment as retributive rather than transformative justice. Both young men were sentenced to life imprisonment plus 99 years. Loeb was murdered by a fellow prisoner in 1936. The case has since served as the inspiration for several dramatic works. Despite the heinous nature of their crime, the case raised significant questions about capital punishment and the nature of justice.
1953 – Derek Bentley – was a British man who was hanged for the murder of a policeman during a burglary attempt. Bentley was convicted as a party to the crime under the English law principle of “joint enterprise”, as the burglary had been committed in mutual understanding and bringing deadly weapons. The outcome of the trial, and Home Secretary David Maxwell Fyfe’s failure to grant clemency to Bentley, were highly controversial. The case rested largely on the interpretation of Bentley’s alleged exhortation to his accomplice, Christopher Craig, “Let him have it”. Prosecutors argued that this was an order to shoot, while the defense contended it was an order to surrender. Despite a recommendation for mercy by the jury, Bentley was sentenced to be hanged. The Bentley case became a cause célèbre and led to a 40-year-long campaign to win Bentley a posthumous pardon, which was granted in 1993, and then a further campaign for the quashing of his murder conviction, which occurred in 1998. Bentley’s case is thus considered a case of miscarriage of justice and pivotal in the successful campaign to abolish capital punishment in the United Kingdom.
1995 – Jim Gilbert – Drug Smuggler, Robber & Artist – Apart from a little about Gilbert going to prison and learning to paint there really isn’t much out there about him.
2005 – Ronnie Paris – was born on December 9, 2001, in the United States. He was a three-year-old boy from Tampa, Florida, who tragically lost his life in 2005. Ronnie was subjected to severe physical abuse by his father, Ronnie Paris Sr., who was convinced that his son was homosexual despite his young age. The young boy was forced to participate in boxing matches repeatedly, which eventually led to him entering a coma and dying from brain injuries. His death brought attention to the Florida Department of Children & Families for failing to identify child abuse and neglect. Controversy arose over Ronnie being removed from his home and placed into foster care, only to be returned, and die within six weeks from continued abuse. Ronnie Paris Sr. was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 30 years in prison. This tragic story serves as a reminder of the importance of child protection services and the devastating consequences of their failure.
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart
1896 – Walter Arnold of East Peckham, Kent becomes the first person to be convicted of speeding. He was fined 1 shilling, plus costs, for speeding at 8MPH (13KM/H) thus exceeding the contemporary speed limit of 2MPH (3.2 KM/H)
1953 – 19-year-old Derek Bentley is hanged in Wandsworth prison, London. He had been controversially convicted of the murder of a policeman. He was granted a full pardon on 30th July 1998
1987 – WWE Hall of Famer, Jim ‘The Anvil” Neidhart was indicted for assaulting a flight attendant
1988 – In R v Morgentaler, the Supreme Court of Canada strikes down all anti-abortion laws, effectively allowing abortions in Canada in all 9 months of pregnancy
1994 – Alyssa Bustamante kills her 9-year-old neighbor just to watch her die
2010 – Five murderers of President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh are hanged
2019 – US Justice Department charges Chinese technology firm Huawei with bank & wire fraud