January 30 – What happened today?


Mary Kay Letourneau


1930Samuel J Byck –  was an American hijacker and attempted assassin. He was born to poor Jewish parents in South Philadelphia and dropped out of high school in the ninth grade to support his impoverished family. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1954 and was honorably discharged in 1956. He married shortly thereafter and fathered four children.  In 1972, Byck began to suffer from severe bouts of depression after his wife divorced him and he experienced several job-related financial failures. He admitted himself to a psychiatric ward for a two-month stay. Byck began to harbor the belief that the Nixon administration was conspiring to oppress the poor. He came to the notice of the Secret Service in 1972 when he threatened President Nixon, whom he had resented since the Small Business Administration had turned down his loan application.  In early 1974, Byck made his decision to assassinate Nixon. He planned to do so by hijacking an airliner and crashing it into the White House on a day when Nixon would be there. Since Byck was already known to the Secret Service, and because legal attempts to purchase a firearm might have resulted in increased scrutiny, Byck stole a .22 caliber revolver from a friend to use in the hijacking.  On February 22, 1974, Byck drove to the Baltimore/Washington International Airport. He shot and killed Maryland Aviation Administration Police Officer George Neal Ramsburg before storming aboard a DC-9, Delta Air Lines Flight 523 to Atlanta, which he chose because it was the closest flight that was ready to take off. During the incident, Byck killed a policeman and a pilot but was shot and wounded by another policeman before committing suicide.

1962Mary Kay Letourneau –  Mary Katherine “Mary Kay” Fualaau (née Schmitz, formerly Letourneau;), was an American teacher who pleaded guilty in 1997 to two counts of felony second-degree rape of a child. The child, Vili Fualaau, was 12 years old when sexual relations first occurred. He had been her sixth-grade student at an elementary school in Burien, Washington.  While awaiting sentencing, she gave birth to Fualaau’s daughter. With the state seeking a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence, she reached a plea agreement calling for six months in jail, with three months suspended, and no contact with Fualaau for life, among other terms. The case received national attention. Shortly after Letourneau had completed three months in jail, the police caught her in a car with Fualaau. A judge revoked her plea agreement and reinstated the prison sentence for the maximum allowed by law of seven and a half years. Eight months after returning to prison, she gave birth to Fualaau’s second child, another daughter. She was imprisoned from 1998 to 2004. Letourneau and Fualaau were married in May 2005, and the marriage lasted 14 years until their separation in 2019.  Mary Katherine Schmitz was born in 1962 in Tustin, California, to Mary E. (née Suehr), a former chemist, and John G. Schmitz (1930–2001), a community college instructor and politician. She was known as Mary Kay to her family. Letourneau was the fourth of seven children, raised in a “strict Catholic household.” When she was two years old, her father began a political career and successfully ran as a Republican for a seat in the state legislature. He held positions as a California state senator and U.S. Congressman, winning a special election for an unexpired term in 1970, and the general election later that year. After a primary defeat in 1972, he changed parties and ran for president as an American Party candidate in the 1972 U.S. presidential election. In 1973, Letourneau’s three-year-old brother drowned in the family pool at their home in the Spyglass Hill section of Corona del Mar, California, while she was playing with another brother in the shallow end. Letourneau attended Cornelia Connelly High School, an all-girls Catholic school in Anaheim, California, where she was a member of the cheerleading squad for Servite High School.

1983Min Chen – is a Chinese visa student who was convicted of first-degree murder in Canada. The case involved the death of Cecilia Zhang, also known as Dong-Yue Zhang, who was originally missing for months. The incident occurred on October 20, 2003.  Chen, a Shanghai native, had been living in Canada on a visa since 2001. He allegedly entered Zhang’s home through a kitchen window and removed her from her home between 3:00 AM and 4:00 AM, leaving by a side door. According to Police, Min Chen knew a female boarder who lived at the Zhang home between September 2002, and March 2003 and had visited the Zhang home at least four times. Police said that Cecilia would have been comfortable in Chen’s company under normal social circumstances.  At the time of Chen’s kidnapping of Cecilia Zhang, Chen had already stopped his English studies at a Seneca College campus located very close to Cecilia’s home in North York, Ontario. Neither did Chen complete his Grade 12 level courses at a local private academy. Chen, whose father is an airline executive and whose mother is a Shanghai police officer, had been receiving money from his parents back in China.  Min Chen pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on May 9, 2006. According to an agreed statement of facts read out in a Brampton, Ontario courthouse, Chen was failing in his college studies and feared deportation back to his native China. Being a visa student who was broke, he desperately needed $25,000 to enter into a marriage of convenience as a means of obtaining the right of permanent residence in Canada. Cecilia’s death was the result of Chen botching up his poorly planned kidnapping during the early hours of October 20, 2003, at Cecilia’s home. When Cecilia tried to scream, Chen covered her face with a towel and held his hand over her mouth. Cecilia had stopped struggling by the time Chen placed her inside the trunk of his car. When Chen checked on Cecilia later on, he discovered that she had stopped breathing. Chen was represented by well-known criminal lawyer John Rosen, who had defended killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo.



Ricky Lee Sanderson

1998Ricky Lee Sanderson –  was a convicted murderer who was executed in 1998. He was found guilty of the 1985 abduction and murder of Sue Ellen “Suzi” Holliman, a 16-year-old girl from Lexington. Sanderson had pleaded guilty to the crime.  Born in 1959, Sanderson was a former drug addict and came from an abusive family. After arriving in Central Prison for two rapes and an attempted murder, he embraced evangelical Christianity. The murder of Holliman was particularly gruesome, with her body found in a shallow grave, her pants down around her knees, and three stab wounds in her chest.  Sanderson’s execution on January 30, 1998, inadvertently marked the end of the gas chamber era at Central Prison in Raleigh. Many states had already replaced gas with the more clinical method of lethal injection, but North Carolina made the change out of concern for workplace safety following an accident during Sanderson’s execution. Two prison guards had strapped on air tanks and entered the chamber to remove Sanderson’s body when one tripped, knocking loose for a moment the other’s tank.  In his last moments, Sanderson chose a honey bun as his last meal. His execution and the circumstances surrounding it have been the subject of much discussion and debate.



Henri Desire Landru

1835 – Richard Lawrence misfires at President Andrew Jackson in Washington DC in the first attempted assassination of a US President

1921 – French rapist & serial killer Henri Desire Landru is sentenced to death

1948 – Indian lawyer & anti-colonial nationalist Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated by Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse

1973 – A jury finds the Watergate defendants Liddy & McCord guilty on all counts of conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping

1989 – Disbarred criminal defense attorney Joel Steinberg is found guilty of 1st-degree manslaughter of his daughter, Lisa

1989 – Olympic diver Bruce Kimball is sentenced to 17 years in prison for killing 2 teenagers in a drunk driving accident

1996 – Gino Gallagher, the suspected leader of the Irish National Liberation Army, is killed whilst waiting in line for his unemployment benefit

2003 – British terrorist Richard Reid is sentenced to life in prison for attempting to bomb an American Airlines flight with 197 on board

2006 – Former US Postal Service worker Jennifer San Marco shoots and kills 6 people before taking her own life

2019 – Russian senator Rauf Arashukov is arrested in Parliament on two murder charges

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