January 6 – What happened today?

Births

Francesco Schiavone

1854Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character created by British author Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes is known for his proficiency with observation, deduction, forensic science, and logical reasoning that borders on the fantastic, which he employs when investigating cases for a wide variety of clients, including Scotland Yard.  The character Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print in 1887’s “A Study in Scarlet”. His popularity became widespread with the first series of short stories in The Strand Magazine, beginning with “A Scandal in Bohemia” in 1891. Additional tales appeared from then until 1927, eventually totaling four novels and 56 short stories. Most of these stories are set in the Victorian or Edwardian eras, between about 1880 and 1914.  Most of the stories are narrated by the character of Holmes’s friend and biographer Dr. John H. Watson, who usually accompanies Holmes during his investigations and often shares quarters with him at the address of 221B Baker Street, London, where many of the stories begin.  Holmes has an obsessive personality. He works compulsively on all his cases and his deductive powers are phenomenal. He can get engulfed in periods of depression between cases and is known to take cocaine when he cannot stand the lack of activity. He has an in-depth knowledge of music and plays on a Stradivarius that he bought for a song in Tottenham. He is also known to run chemistry experiments in his spare time to the dismay of both Dr. Watson and his landlady Mrs. Hudson.  Though not the first fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes is arguably the best-known. By the 1990s, there were already over 25,000 stage adaptations, films, television productions, and publications featuring the detective. Holmes’s popularity and fame are such that many have believed him to be not a fictional character but a real individual; numerous literary and fan societies have been founded on this pretense.

1857Stephen A Douglas Puterwas a criminal and author from the U.S. state of Oregon. He moved with his family to Humboldt County, California, two years after his birth. As a young man, he worked as a surveyor and a logger. He left California in 1888 and moved to Portland, Oregon.  Early in the 20th century, Puter was instrumental in carrying out the Oregon land fraud scandal, which transferred tens of thousands of acres of federal lands given to the Oregon and California Railroad to private hands, ultimately benefiting large timber companies and some Oregon politicians. Puter was considered the kingpin of the scandal.  In 1902, he took his family to Berkeley, California. He was indicted early in 1905; allegations besides the land schemes included bribing then-Senator Mitchell $2,000. Puter fled Oregon before being sentenced as had two of the other defendants. Oregon authorities declared their intention to apprehend him and his partner Horace G. McKinley anywhere in the world.  Puter escaped capture by U.S. Secret Service officers in an armed confrontation in Boston, Massachusetts, in March and was subsequently a fugitive for several months before being captured in late May 1906. The Alameda, California, police who apprehended him also discovered weapons in his rented room.  After his capture and return to Oregon he served two years in the Multnomah County Jail. Puter objected to the fact that Mitchell had received a lighter sentence than himself since Mitchell had participated in making the laws the two had broken.  In 1906, while incarcerated, Puter co-wrote the book “Looters of the Public Domain” with Horace Stevens, a former land office clerk. In this detailed tell-all book, Puter both confessed to and accused others of their role in the scandal.  Puter passed away on May 10, 1931.

1947James Harvey Callahan was an American criminal who was executed for the 1982 kidnapping, rape, and murder of Rebecca Suzanne Howell, a 26-year-old student at Jacksonville State University. On the night of February 3, 1982, Callahan abducted Howell from a self-service laundry in Jacksonville. He then raped and suffocated her. Her body was found a few weeks later in a creek, about seven miles from a trailer where Callahan lived.  Callahan was sentenced to death for his crimes and spent nearly 26 years on death row. He was executed by lethal injection at Holman Prison. In his final moments, Callahan expressed remorse to his son and asked him to take care of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. However, he did not express regret for his crime to the victim’s family members who were present during his execution.  It’s important to note that this information is based on historical records and may not fully capture the complexity and impact of these events on all individuals involved.

1957Louis Craine was an infamous American serial killer. His criminal activities spanned between 1985 and 1987 in South Los Angeles, where he committed at least four rape-murders. In 1989, he was convicted for these heinous crimes and sentenced to death.  Craine was the third child in a family of four. Early signs of intellectual disability were evident during his school years. After completing the 4th grade, he left school and had a falling out with his family. In the early 1970s, he left his parents’ home and lived as a vagrant.  On May 29, 1987, Craine was arrested for the murder of a 29-year-old prostitute named Carolyn Barney. She had been raped and sodomized before being strangled. Her body was found in an empty house, not far from where her parents and Craine’s brother lived.  Following his conviction, Craine was transferred to San Quentin State Prison. However, due to health issues, he was moved to a prison hospital near San Rafael. On November 3, 1989, Craine passed away from complications related to AIDS.

1966William Glenn Boyd was an American individual who was convicted of a double murder. The crime occurred on March 26, 1986, when Boyd, along with another man, broke into the home of Fred and Evelyn Blackmon in Anniston, Alabama, with the intent to rob it. They demanded ransom for Evelyn Blackmon’s daughter, whom Boyd had previously dated and claimed to have abducted. After forcing Fred Blackmon to cash a $5,000 check, the men bound and gagged the couple and drove them into the woods. There, the couple was beaten and shot to death. The bodies were later discovered in a gruesome state; Evelyn Blackmon’s body was found in a metal drum that had been dumped into the Coosa River, and Fred Blackmon’s body was found in the trunk of his car, also submerged in the river.  Boyd was subsequently arrested and convicted for his role in the crime. Despite his claims that his partner-in-crime, Robert Denton Milstead, was the one who actually murdered the victims, Boyd was sentenced to death. The jury in Boyd’s case recommended a sentence of life in prison without parole. However, citing the heinous nature of the crime, the trial judge overrode the jury’s recommendation and ordered the death penalty.  Boyd’s execution was scheduled for March 31, 2011. Despite last-minute appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court and requests for clemency from the governor, all appeals failed. Boyd was executed by lethal injection at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama at 6:23 p.m. local time. His execution marked the second one carried out in Alabama that year.

1969Vincent Johnson is an American serial killer who is popularly known as “The Brooklyn Strangler”. He was previously a marketing photographer for an ad firm, Gannett Transit, in the early 1990s.  Between the summers of 1999 and 2000, a series of murders of prostitutes in the Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods of Brooklyn led police to arrest Johnson. He was one of roughly 30 known associates of prostitutes in the area detained for questioning on suspicion of the murders. However, DNA testing definitively excluded another man as the killer. After he was cleared as a suspect, this man befriended the officers of the Brooklyn North Homicide Task Force who were working the Brooklyn Strangler case. He told them of another homeless man in the area, with whom he frequently used crack cocaine, who seemed fixated on sadomasochistic sex. The man was subsequently able to identify this suspect as Vincent Johnson.  Johnson initially refused to provide a DNA sample to police and denied knowing any of the women. However, one of the detectives had observed him spitting on the street, and Johnson’s saliva was retrieved and given to the medical examiner for testing. Johnson’s DNA matched that which was found on four of the victims. Johnson later confessed to the murders of five women: Patricia Sullivan, Rhonda Tucker, Joanne Feliciano, Vivian Caraballo, and Laura Nusser, all of whom had arrest records for prostitution and drug offenses, and were themselves, addicts. He remained a suspect in the murder of Katrina Niles, although he continues to deny involvement in her death.  Johnson reportedly claimed he was acting out a hatred of his mother. Three of the victims — Caraballo, Feliciano, and Sullivan — were killed on Thursdays, and Rhonda Tucker probably was as well. According to Johnson, this deliberate fixation came about due to his loathing of his mother’s one day off from work, always a Thursday. Johnson admitted little if any feelings of guilt.  Each of the victims was strangled, apparently with whatever ligature was at hand: two with their own shoelaces, one with a drawstring from a pair of sweatpants, two with electrical wire, and one with what was probably a discarded piece of cloth.  Johnson is currently serving life imprisonment without parole at Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York.

 

Deaths

Ynobe Matthews

1934Wilbur Underhill Jr – was an American criminal, burglar, bank robber, and Depression-era outlaw. He was born on March 16, 1901 in Joplin, Missouri. Underhill was one of the most wanted bandits in Oklahoma during the 1920s and 1930s and co-led a gang with Harvey Bailey that included many fellow Cookson Hills outlaws including Jim Clark, Ed Davis, and Robert “Big Bob” Brady. He was often called “Mad Dog” or the “Tri-State Terror”. Underhill committed his first criminal offense by stealing silverware from a neighbor’s home. He was convicted of burglary in 1918 and spent four years in prison. After his release, he became locally known as the “Lovers Lane Bandit”. In 1927, he was convicted of rape and murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He escaped from prison twice, once in 1931 and again in 1933. He was killed by police on January 6, 1934 in Shawnee, Oklahoma at the age of 32 

1950Daniel Raven – was a convicted murderer who was executed by hanging on January 6, 1950. He was found guilty of murdering his father-in-law, Leopold Goodman, and his wife, Esther Goodman, on October 10, 1949 in Edgware, London. Raven was 23 years old at the time of his execution.  The motive behind the murders is still unknown. According to Jeff Grout, the son of the original detective on the case, Raven had a history of mental health issues and may have had a defense of insanity during the trial, but it was never used.  Raven’s execution was carried out at Pentonville Prison in London.

1989George C. Mercer – was an American criminal who was convicted for the rape and murder of 22-year-old Karen Keeton in Belton, Missouri, on August 31, 1978. He was born on August 31, 1944 in Missouri. At the time of the murder, Mercer had a charge pending against him of raping a 17-year-old girl. He was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death by lethal injection. Mercer was executed on January 6, 1989, at the age of 44 at the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri.  Mercer was also known as “Tiny” Mercer. He was a member of a motorcycle gang and had a history of criminal offenses.

2000David Mitchell – was a Bahamian citizen who became infamous for murdering two German tourists in a brutal stabbing attack in 1994. He was executed by hanging in 2000, despite international appeals for clemency and a pending human rights case. His execution was the last one carried out by the Bahamas to date.  Mitchell was born in 1972 and grew up in a poor and violent environment. He had a history of drug abuse and petty crimes. He claimed that he was mentally ill and suffered from hallucinations. He also said that he was influenced by a local cult leader who told him to kill white people.  On 23 April 1994, Mitchell attacked and killed Bernd and Andrea Schilling, a married couple from Germany who were vacationing in the Bahamas. He stabbed them multiple times with a knife and left their bodies on a beach. He was arrested shortly after and confessed to the crime. He was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging, as mandated by the Bahamian law.  Mitchell appealed his sentence on the grounds that the death penalty was unconstitutional and violated his human rights. His appeal was rejected by the Bahamian courts and by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, which acts as the final court of appeal for the Bahamas. He also filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which asked the Bahamas to stay his execution until it could review his case. However, the Bahamas ignored the request and proceeded with the execution.  Mitchell was hanged at the Fox Hill Prison in Nassau on 6 January 2000. He was 27 or 28 years old at the time of his death. His execution sparked controversy and criticism from human rights groups, the European Union, and the victim’s son, who had asked for mercy for Mitchell.

2000Malcolm Rent Johnson – was a Black man who was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by an all-white jury for the rape and murder of an elderly white woman in Oklahoma City in 1982. Johnson’s conviction was based in part on testimony from Joyce Gilchrist, an Oklahoma City police lab chemist who was later found to have committed widespread misconduct. Johnson was executed in January 2000, only a year before Gilchrist’s misconduct came to light. Doubts about Johnson’s guilt still linger today.

2004Ynobe Katron Matthews – was a convicted rapist and murderer who was executed by the state of Texas in 2004. He was born in College Station, Texas, on April 14, 1976, and had a troubled childhood marked by abuse and delinquency. He was accused of several sexual assaults and animal cruelty in his teens and early twenties but avoided serious punishment due to his age and plea deals. He was finally arrested in 2000 for the brutal killing of his neighbor, Carolyn Casey, a 21-year-old college student. He strangled her to death, set her apartment on fire, and ransacked it to make it look like a burglary. DNA evidence also linked him to the kidnapping, rape, and murder of another college student, Jamie Hart, in 1999. He pleaded guilty to Hart’s murder and received a life sentence, while he was sentenced to death for Casey’s murder. He waived his appeals and was executed by lethal injection on January 6, 2004. He did not make any final statement. He is suspected of being a serial killer, as he may have been involved in at least five other sexual assaults that involved strangulation.

2004Charles Laverne Singleton – was an American man who was executed by lethal injection in Arkansas for the murder of a store owner in 1979. He became the center of a legal and ethical controversy over the use of antipsychotic drugs to make him competent for execution.  Singleton was born in Hamburg, Arkansas, and had a troubled childhood. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade and began using drugs and alcohol. He had a history of mental illness and violent behavior and was diagnosed with schizophrenia in prison.  On June 1, 1979, Singleton entered York’s Grocery Store in Hamburg and stabbed 19-year-old Mary Lou York, the owner of the store, in the neck twice. She died from blood loss shortly after identifying him as her attacker to the police and her doctor. Singleton was arrested and confessed to the crime. He was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in October 1979.  While on death row, Singleton exhibited signs of psychosis, such as hearing voices, having delusions, and refusing to eat. He was treated with antipsychotic medication, which improved his mental state and made him aware of his impending execution. However, he also claimed that he was anointed by God and had a special mission.  Singleton’s case raised the question of whether it was constitutional to execute a mentally ill person who was only sane because of medication. His lawyers argued that forcing him to take drugs that would make him eligible for execution violated his right to due process and his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. They also claimed that he was not competent to waive his appeals or to consent to the medication.  The state of Arkansas argued that Singleton was taking the medication voluntarily and that it was in his best interest to do so. They also contended that he was competent to stand trial and to be executed and that his execution would serve the interests of justice and deterrence.  Singleton’s execution was stayed five times by various courts, but his appeals were ultimately denied by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003. He was executed on January 6, 2004, at the age of 44. His last words were written, not spoken, and included many religious references.

2010James Wenneker Von Brunn – was an American white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and Holocaust denier who carried out the shooting at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. on June 10, 2009. He killed security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns and wounded two other guards before being shot and captured. He died in prison while awaiting trial.

Events

Edgar Ray Killen

1933 – Clyde Barrow kills Tarrant County Deputy Sheriff Malcolm Davis after walking into a trap set for another criminal

1982 – William Bonin is convicted of rape & murder

1994 – US figure skating champion Nancy Kerrigan is attacked by Tonya Harding’s bodyguard

2005 – Mississippi civil rights workers murders: Edgar Ray Killen is arrested as a suspect for the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers

2017 – Five people are killed and six others are injured in a mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood International Airport in Broward County, Florida

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