January 4 – What happened today?

Births

Victor Lustig

1890Victor Lustig born on January 4, 1890, in Hostinné, Austria-Hungary (now the Czech Republic), was a highly skilled con artist who conducted scams across Europe and the United States during the early 20th century. His parents were peasants, and he began stealing in order to survive. He claimed to do so in Robin Hood-style, only stealing from the greedy/dishonest. Fluent in multiple languages, Lustig established himself by working scams on the ocean liners steaming between Paris and New York City. Lustig is widely regarded as one of the most notorious con artists of his time and is infamous for being “the man who sold the Eiffel Tower twice” and for conducting the “Rumanian Box” scam. His story is a cautionary tale of the dangers of unchecked ambition and the allure of easy money. His legacy lives on as a reminder to remain vigilant and skeptical in the face of too-good-to-be-true opportunities and to always be wary of those who seem too charming and confident for their own good. In March of 1947, Lustig contracted pneumonia and was pronounced dead two days later at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.

1943Lowell Edwin Amos was born on January 4, 1943, in Anderson, Indiana, United States. He was a former Detroit businessman whose life took a dark turn when his mother and three wives all died under suspicious circumstances.  Amos was convicted in 1996 for the murder of his third wife, Roberta Mowery Amos. The case garnered significant media attention and was the subject of a 2006 Lifetime Network made-for-TV movie called “Black Widower”.  In December 1994, Lowell and Roberta Amos attended a company executive party at the Atheneum Hotel in Detroit. The couple returned to their suite at 4:30 am. Four hours later, Lowell called another executive from the party in a panic. He claimed that Roberta had died in an accident and that he needed to clean up before calling the police.  Lowell told police that he and Roberta had engaged in sexual acts involving cocaine, and claimed she was still taking the cocaine when he fell asleep. He said that when he woke up, she was dead. There was cocaine on the bed linen, including the part that was tucked under the mattress. Roberta’s body contained over fifteen times the lethal dose of the drug.  Investigations into his past revealed that his first wife, Saundra, had died under suspicious circumstances in 1979. At the time, Lowell had informed the police that she’d mixed alcohol with drugs and hit her head. He received a $350,000 insurance payout on her death. A second wife, Carolyn, also died in mysterious circumstances; she was found supposedly electrocuted in the bath. This time Lowell pocketed $800,000 from a life insurance policy.  While Lowell was living with his mother in 1988, she became ill from an indeterminate illness and died a short time later. Her death, at 76 years old, was ruled to be from natural causes. Lowell Edwin Amos passed away on January 5, 2022.

1970Darlie Lynn Peck Routier, born on January 4, 1970, in Altoona, Pennsylvania, is an American woman from Rowlett, Texas. She was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of her five-year-old son Damon in 1996. She has also been charged with capital murder in the death of her six-year-old son, Devon, who was murdered at the same time as Damon. However, to date, Routier has not been tried for Devon’s murder. On June 6, 1996, Routier called 911 and reported that an unidentified intruder had stabbed her children and cut her throat. The police arrived within three minutes of the call and discovered a window screen in the garage had been cut, indicating a possible entry point for an intruder. However, a search of the house and grounds did not locate an intruder. During the trial, the prosecution argued that Routier’s injuries were self-inflicted, that the crime scene had been staged, and that she murdered her sons because of the family’s financial difficulties. The defense argued that there was no reason Routier would have killed her children and that the case did not have a motive, a confession, or any witnesses. In February 1997, the jury found Routier guilty of the murder of Damon and sentenced her to death by lethal injection. Two appeals filed by Routier based on allegations of irregularities during the trial were denied. Since at least 2018, DNA tests have been ordered multiple times after technology has advanced. As of 2022, the results of these tests are still pending. Routier’s case has been the subject of multiple books and television shows. Her ex-husband believes that she is innocent.

Deaths

Theodore Schurch

1946Theodore Schurch was born on May 5, 1918, in Hammersmith, London, England. He was of Anglo-Swiss parentage. During his late teens, Schurch was a member of the British Union of Fascists. In 1936, he enlisted in the British Army as a Royal Army Service Corps driver. During the Second World War, Schurch was stationed in North Africa and was captured by Axis forces at Tobruk during the North African campaign in June 1942. After his capture, he began working for both Italian and German intelligence. He often posed as a prisoner of war to gain the trust of Allied prisoners. Schurch was arrested in Rome in March 1945 and charged with nine counts of treachery and one count of desertion. He was tried by court-martial at the Duke of York’s Headquarters in Chelsea, London, in September 1945. Despite his defense and appeals, Schurch was found guilty of all counts and received the death sentence mandated under law. On January 4, 1946, at the age of 27, Schurch was executed under the Treachery Act 1940 at HM Prison Pentonville. His execution was carried out by Albert Pierrepoint. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the cemetery at Pentonville. Schurch holds the unfortunate distinction of being the last person to be executed in Britain for an offense other than murder. His case serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of treachery during times of war.

Events

1846 – Samuel Colt sells his first revolver pistol to the U.S. Government

1964 – The Boston Strangler murders his last victim, Mary Sullivan

1971 – Ohio agrees to pay $675,000 to relatives of the Kent State Victims

1972 – Rose Heilbron becomes the first female judge to sit at the Old Bailey in London

1974 – Nixon refuses to hand over tapes subpoenaed by the Watergate committee

1974 – Joni Lenz is raped but survives an attack by Ted Bundy

1981 – After two days of intense questioning Peter Sutcliffe confessed to being the serial killer “The Yorkshire Ripper”

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