February 8 – What happened today?

Births

Crawford Goldsby

1876Crawford Goldsby – also known by the alias Cherokee Bill, was an American outlaw born on February 8, 1876, in San Angelo, Texas. He was responsible for the murders of eight men, including his brother-in-law, and along with his gang, he terrorized the Indian Territory for over two years.  Goldsby’s father, George Goldsby, was a sergeant of the Tenth United States Cavalry, and a Buffalo Soldier from Perry County, Alabama. His mother, Ellen Beck Goldsby Lynch, was a Cherokee freedwoman of mixed African, Native, and white ancestry. She was a citizen of the Cherokee Nation born in the Delaware District and had Cherokee heritage through her father’s side. Crawford Goldsby had one sister, Georgia, and two brothers, Luther and Clarence.  Goldsby was born to Sgt. George and Ellen (née Beck) Goldsby at Fort Concho in San Angelo, Texas. During 1878, when Crawford Goldsby was two years old, serious trouble began to occur in San Angela (San Angelo), Texas, between the black soldiers and cowboys and hunters.  Crawford Goldsby died on March 17, 1896, at the age of 20 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The cause of his death was execution by hanging.

1928Burton Abbott – He was an accounting student at the University of California at Berkeley and lived in Alameda, California. Abbott was married to Georgia Abbott and they had a son.  In November 1955, Abbott was convicted of the rape and murder of 14-year-old Stephanie Bryan. The evidence against him was discovered in the basement of his home by his wife, Georgia. Stephanie’s body was found buried near the Abbott family’s cabin.  Despite the evidence being purely circumstantial and Abbott’s insistence that he was framed, he was sentenced to death in California’s gas chamber. His execution took place on March 15, 1957. The case is sometimes cited when discussing the appropriateness of condemning a person based on circumstantial evidence alone. Before his execution, Abbott spoke to the doctor at San Quentin. The doctor said that when he asked Abbott about the crime, he said “I can’t admit it, doc. Think of what it would do to my mother; she couldn’t take it.”

1948Lynda Lyon Block – She had a sister named Denyce. Her father died of heart failure when she was 10 years old.  Block was married to an 80-year-old man named Karl Block, a military veteran who had lost his son in a car crash. They divorced in December 1991. Her second husband was George Sibley. Block was known for her charity work. While living in Key West, she served as Secretary of the Humane Society, and also as an animal abuse investigator. She was also active in civic work besides her service to the Humane Society: for two years she served as president of the Friends of the Library in Key West and served as publicity director for a mayoral candidate. Before the crime that led to her conviction and transfer to Alabama’s death row, Block published Liberatis, a political magazine.  In August 1992, Lynda Block and Sibley broke into Karl’s apartment, forced him to a chair, gagged him, and demanded he stop his efforts to claim their house for himself. She stabbed him once in the chest and left him behind. Neighbors found Karl and the two attackers were charged with aggravated battery on someone older than 65. Block and Sibley pleaded no contest and a sentencing date was scheduled, but they never showed up.  On October 4, 1993, Block’s common-law husband George Sibley, and Block’s nine-year-old son were in a parked car in the parking lot of a Walmart store in Opelika, Alabama. A passer-by expressed concern for Block’s son to Opelika Police Sergeant Roger Motley, saying it appeared to her as if the boy wanted help. She also believed the family could be living in the vehicle. At that time, Sibley and Block were on the run from the law in Florida after failing to appear for sentencing on an assault charge against Block’s ex-husband Karl. Motley found Sibley’s car, parked behind approached it, and asked for Sibley’s license. By Sibley’s own account, he was explaining to Motley his personal theory that he was not required to have one when he observed Motley placing his hand on his gun.  Block was convicted of the murder of Sgt. Roger Lamar Motley Jr. and was executed by electrocution on May 10, 2002, at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama.

1957James B Clark Jr – He was adopted by Elizabeth and James B. Clark Sr. Clark had a troubled childhood and was known for frequently attacking other children. He was expelled from two pre-kindergarten programs due to his behavior and began receiving psychotherapy and medication when he was 5.  In 1973, at the age of 16, Clark abducted a three-year-old girl from her backyard. He took her into the woods, where he beat and choked her. Clark was convicted of kidnapping and assault with intent to commit murder, but that conviction was reversed. He then pleaded no contest to abducting a child under the age of 12 and assault with intent to commit murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.  On May 22, 1994, one month after he had been released on parole for an earlier conviction, Clark murdered his adoptive parents. He confessed to the crime, which was motivated by a desire for the couple’s life insurance. His case inspired public outrage and proposed legislation to curtail unwarranted early release.  On September 9, 1994, Clark pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to death. After waiving his appeals, Clark was executed by lethal injection on April 19, 1996. His life and crimes have been a subject of discussion regarding the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs and the appropriateness of early release for inmates.

1969Ricky R Chase – was a Mississippi death row inmate. He and Robert Washington entered the home of Elmer and Doris Hart while Elmer was away, bound Doris, and ransacked the home. When Elmer Hart came home and attempted to free his wife, Chase fatally shot him in the head. Chase was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for that murder. His conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Mississippi Supreme Court on direct appeal, and the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari. Thereafter, the Mississippi Supreme Court denied Chase’s application for state habeas corpus relief. Chase next filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, asserting 32 claims of error in connection with his trial and sentencing. That court denied the petition but granted a Certificate of Appealability on one issue, viz., whether Chase’s trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to have Chase properly evaluated for mental retardation. Chase’s mental status was a significant point of contention during his trial and subsequent appeals.

1971Billy Don Alverson – He was involved in a crime that led to his conviction in the February 1995 killing of 30-year-old Richard Yost, who was the night manager of a convenience store in Tulsa. Alverson was among four men convicted for this crime. He was executed by lethal injection on January 6, 2011, at the age of 39, making him the first person to be executed in the U.S. in 2011

 

Deaths

Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll

1804Wiley “Little” Harpe – born William Harper before 1770, was an American criminal who, along with his brother Micajah “Big” Harpe, became infamous as murderers, highwaymen, and river pirates in the late 18th century. They operated in Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Mississippi. The Harpe brothers are often considered the earliest documented serial killers in United States history.  Born to Scottish parents in what is now Orange County, North Carolina, Little Harpe and his brother were loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution. After the war, they became outlaws and began robbing and killing settlers in the remote frontier west of the Appalachian Mountains. They are believed to have killed between 39 and 50 people.  Little Harpe married Sarah “Sally” Rice in 1797. He was executed by hanging on February 8, 1804. His crimes appear to have been motivated more by blood lust than financial gain. 

1924Gee Jon – was a Chinese national who was the first person in the United States to be executed by lethal gas. Born of Cantonese descent in Canton around 1895, he immigrated to the United States between 1907 and 1908 and spent most of his life in San Francisco’s Chinatown in California. Gee became a member of the Hip Sing Tong society, which dealt in narcotics and liquor. In 1922, territorial disputes with the rival Bing Kong Tong society led to the outbreak of hostilities.  Gee Jon killed Tom Quong Kee in Mina, Nevada. Tom Quong Kee was a 74-year-old laundry proprietor who was a member of the Bing Kong Tong. During the night of August 27, 1921, Gee knocked on the door of Kee’s residence while armed with a Colt .38 revolver. Gee fatally shot Kee, who answered the door in his pajamas. Unlike many other Tong killings, Gee and his accomplice Hughie Sing were apprehended.  Gee and Sing were both convicted and sentenced to death in the District Court of Mineral County, Nevada. Sing’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment because he was only nineteen years old and Gee had committed the shooting himself. A bill authorizing the use of lethal gas passed the Nevada State Legislature in 1921, making Gee eligible to become the first person to be executed by this method. His sentence was carried out at the Nevada State Prison on February 8, 1924.

1932Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll – born Uinseann Ó Colla on July 20, 1908, was an Irish-American mob hitman active in the 1920s and early 1930s in New York City. He was born in Gweedore, an Irish-speaking district in County Donegal, Ulster, Ireland. His family emigrated to the U.S. when he was just eight months old.  Coll was known for his reckless audacity, cold-blooded and fearless disregard for life, including his own. He gained notoriety for the allegedly accidental killing of a young child during a mob kidnap attempt. This earned him the nickname “Mad Dog”.  In his early years, Coll was involved in petty theft and vandalism as part of boy gangs. By the age of 23, he had been arrested a dozen times. In the late 1920s, he started working as an armed guard for the illegal beer delivery trucks of Dutch Schultz’s mob.  However, chafing under Schultz’s authority and resentful of his comparatively low wages, Coll recruited his own gang from within Schultz’s operation. This led to a conflict that erupted into open and deadly gangland warfare, claiming some twenty lives.  Coll met his end on February 8, 1932, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most notorious figures in the history of the American mob.

2021Anthony Sowell – also known as The Cleveland Strangler or The Imperial Avenue Murderer, was an American serial killer and rapist. He was born on August 19, 1959, and raised in an abusive home in East Cleveland. Disturbingly, he began raping his 10-year-old niece when he was just 11 years old.  Sowell served in the U.S. Marine Corps for seven years and was honorably discharged in 1985. His military service included training as an electrician and overseas deployment with the 3rd Force Service Support Group. He received several commendations during his service, including a Good Conduct Medal with one service star, a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, a Certificate of Commendation, a Meritorious Mast, and two Letters of Appreciation.  In 1989, Sowell was convicted of raping a 21-year-old pregnant woman in his home. He spent 15 years in prison for this crime and was released in 2005. However, his criminal activities escalated after his release.  Between 2007 and 2009, Sowell raped and murdered 11 women, hiding their remains in his home and backyard in Cleveland, Ohio. The decomposing bodies created a foul odor that pervaded the entire neighborhood, leading to his discovery and arrest in October 2009.  Sowell was convicted in 2011 for these horrific crimes. After being sentenced to death, he died in prison from a terminal illness on February 8, 2021. His crimes left a chilling legacy and he is remembered as one of the most notorious figures in American criminal history.

 

Events

Tommy Lee

1924 – The first execution via the gas chamber is carried out in the United States

1925 – Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey enters Federal prison in Atlanta

1949 – Hungarian cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty is sentenced to life in prison for opposing communism

1968 – Orangeburg massacre: Highway patrol officers kill 3 students and injure 27 others demonstrating at South Carolina State University, it became the first student killing by law enforcement in the United States

1977 – Hustler publisher Larry Flynt sentenced on obscenity charges

1983 – Prize stallion & Derby winner Shergar is kidnapped in Ireland never to be found and causing Lloyds of London to pay out $10.6 million insurance

1994 – Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee is charged with possession of a loaded firearm

2008 – The state of Nebraska bans the electric chair as the sole execution method

2020 – A gunman shoots and kills 29 people in a shopping center in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand known locally as Korat with 57 injured, the shooter is shot & killed by security forces a day later

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