January 11 – What happened today?


Doc Scurlock

1849Josiah Gordon “Doc” Scurlock was an American Old West figure, cowboy, and gunfighter. He was a founding member of the Regulators during the Lincoln County War in New Mexico and rode alongside such men as Billy the Kid.  Born in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, he was the sixth of eleven children. He studied medicine in New Orleans, earning him the nickname “Doc”. Around 1870, he traveled to Mexico where he was involved in a gunfight that resulted in him being shot through the mouth and neck, knocking out his front teeth. Despite this, he managed to return fire and kill his opponent.  In 1871, Scurlock returned to the United States and began working for John Chisum as a line rider. He defended Chisum’s cattle holdings from rustlers and had several encounters with Native Americans. After his riding partner, Newt Higgins was killed by Native Americans, Scurlock decided to quit. However, Chisum refused to pay him, leading Scurlock to steal three horses, two saddles, and a rifle before leaving for Arizona.  In Arizona, he met Charlie Bowdre and the two opened a cheese factory on the Gila River. It is said that one of their first employees was Billy the Kid. After closing the cheese factory in the spring of 1876, Scurlock and Bowdre returned to Lincoln County, New Mexico, where they bought a ranch on public domain land on the Rio Ruidoso from L. G. Murphy on credit. This made them victims of the L. G. Murphy & Co. monopoly.  Scurlock, Bowdre, Frank Coe, George Coe, and Ab Saunders stormed the Lincoln jail on July 18, 1876, freeing cattle rustler Jesus Largo from the custody of Sheriff Saturnino Baca. Scurlock passed away on July 25, 1929.

1872George Joseph Smithwas an English serial killer and bigamist. He was born in Bethnal Green, London, the son of an insurance agent. At the age of nine, Smith was sent to a reformatory at Gravesend, Kent, and later served time for fraud and theft. In 1896, he was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment for persuading a woman to steal from her employers.  Smith was convicted and subsequently hanged for the murders of three women in 1915, a case that became known as the “Brides in the Bath Murders”. The victims were Beatrice Constance Annie Mundy, Alice Burnham, and Margaret Elizabeth Lofty. Smith drowned them all in baths and the case became known as ‘The Brides in the Bath Murders’. He was caught after the landlady of his second victim in Blackpool became suspicious and informed the police when she read of the death of his third victim in very similar circumstances in Highgate.  The police were unaware of the pattern at the time and had no reason to suspect either foul play or George Smith having committed murder. However, after they carried out certain investigations they developed evidence of a clear pattern and arrested George Smith, at first on fraud after he made a false entry in a marriage register. However, he was later charged with the three murders and tried at the Old Bailey where he was convicted.  The trial was noteworthy for the use of the method of ‘system’ in which George Smith was not tried for all three murders, but rather the jury was asked whether they agreed that there had been a pattern in the deaths, that being that all women were drowned in baths and that upon agreeing that, if they felt that George Smith was responsible for one murder, that of Beatrice Mundy, and that there was a pattern that he was therefore guilty of all three murders.  Smith was executed at Maidstone Prison on August 13, 1915.

1906Harold Jones was a British child murderer who killed two preadolescent girls in Monmouthshire, Wales, in 1921, when he was aged 15.  Jones was born in the Welsh colliery town of Abertillery, Monmouthshire, in January 1906, the eldest of four children born into a poor family. His father, Phillip, worked as a coal miner and his mother was a housewife. Jones and his siblings attended a local council school where he was regarded as a popular and exemplary pupil, showing a particular flair for sports, and holding aspirations to become a professional boxer. He is also known to have spent much of his free time reading and to have occasionally played the organ at local church services. Jones left school at age 14 to obtain employment—largely as a means of supplementing his family’s income. He found employment at a local oil and seed merchant named Mortimer’s Stores. Here, he was known to be a punctual and trustworthy employee who was both capable of managing the shop without help and popular with customers.  Jones was acquitted of the murder of his first victim, eight-year-old Freda Burnell, at Monmouthshire Assizes on June 21, 1921. Seventeen days later, he murdered an 11-year-old neighbor named Florence Little. Jones pleaded guilty to Little’s murder and also confessed to having murdered Burnell at his second trial. Owing to his being under 16 at the time he committed the murders, Jones escaped execution for his crimes; instead being sentenced to be detained at His Majesty’s pleasure on November 1, 1921. He was released from prison in 1941, later marrying and fathering a child. Jones died of bone cancer in 1971 at the age of 64.

1934Peter Kovacs – born on January 11, 1934, and deceased on December 1, 1968, gained notoriety as “The Martfű Monster,” a Hungarian serial killer and rapist who terrorized the southern settlements of Szolnok. The controversy surrounding his murder series is notable, involving the initial wrongful accusation of an innocent man for his crimes.

1955Ronald Curtis Chamberswas a man from Texas, USA, who was convicted of a murder committed during a robbery in 1975. He was first sentenced to death in 1976 for the murder of Mike McMahan. However, this sentence was overturned in 1984 because Chambers had been interviewed by the state’s psychologist without being informed that what he said could be used to support a death sentence. He was condemned to death at a second trial in 1985. This was reversed due to discriminatory jury selection by the state. He was tried for a third time in 1992 and again sentenced to death.  On the night of the crime, two college students, Mike McMahan and Deia Sutton, were robbed and shot in Dallas. Mike McMahan died, while Deia Sutton survived. Chambers and his accomplice, Clarence Williams, were arrested within a few days and charged with the crime. Williams reached a plea arrangement under which he received two life sentences.  Chambers was scheduled to be executed on January 25, 2007. However, on January 22, 2007, the United States Supreme Court granted an indefinite stay of execution. Chambers, who had been on death row longer than anyone in state history, received another sentencing trial – his fourth – under an order issued by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court had previously ordered the lower court to review the case because the jury in Mr. Chamber’s third death penalty trial may have received faulty instructions before rendering the sentence.  Chambers was 20 years old at the time of the crime, without a history of violence. His lawyers presented mitigating evidence of his difficult childhood growing up in the rough neighborhood of West Dallas where crime and drugs were rife. They presented evidence of his good character, his remorse about the crime, and his continuing positive relationships with family members including his daughter. Despite this, he spent almost 32 years on death row.


Edgar Ray Killen

1794Robert Forsythwas the first Marshal of Georgia and the first federal law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty. He was born in Scotland in 1754 and moved to the United States as a teenager with his family. They first settled in New England before moving to Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1774.  At the age of 22, Forsyth enlisted in the Continental Army after the start of the Revolutionary War. Three years later, on January 10, 1779, he received a commission as Captain in the Corps of Partisan Light Dragoons (Lee’s Legion) under Major “Lighthorse Harry” Lee. Within the year, Forsyth resigned from Lee’s Legion to accept another post. His transfer prompted a letter from General Washington expressing regret that he was leaving Lee’s command, but relief that Forsyth would be “in another line of the Army.”  Working as aide-de-camp to General Avery, Forsyth’s new responsibility was to provision the Southern Army. For this work, which he performed quite well despite almost insurmountable hardships, Forsyth earned a promotion to Major of the First Virginia Legion on March 21, 1781.  After the war, Forsyth returned to Fredericksburg, but moved to Augusta, Georgia, in 1785. He soon established himself in the new community, becoming a member of the Board of Commissions, where he worked successfully to acquire a new jail for the county. He also worked as a tax assessor, justice of the peace, and trustee of the Richmond Academy. By 1792, he also owned 6,000 acres of land. In addition, Forsyth was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati and the Masons. He became Master of the Lodge Columbia and Deputy Grand Master for the state of Georgia.  Washington appointed him Marshal on September 26, 1789. Forsyth was 35 years old. On January 11, 1794, Marshal Forsyth, accompanied by two of his deputies, went to the house of Mrs. Dixon to serve a civil court process on two brothers, Beverly and William Allen. Beverly Allen, a former Methodist minister from South Carolina, saw the Marshal approaching, so he hid in a room on the second floor of the house. When Forsyth knocked on the door of the room, Allen fired his pistol in the direction of the knocking. The ball hit Forsyth in the head, killing him instantly. He was the first of over 200 Marshals and Deputies killed in the line of duty. Although Forsyth’s Deputies arrested the killer, Allen later managed to escape. He was never recaptured.  Forsyth, 40 years old at the time of his murder, left a widow and two sons. One of the boys, John, became governor of Georgia and, later, the US. Minister to Spain. While at the latter post, he negotiated the treaty acceding Florida to the United States. John Forsyth also served as Secretary of State under Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren.

2006Nixzmary Brownwas born on July 18, 1998, in Waterbury, Connecticut. She was a seven-year-old American girl from Brooklyn, New York, whose tragic story led to significant reforms in New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services.  Nixzmary endured severe physical abuse and parental neglect. Her stepfather, César Rodriguez, subjected her to torture, and she was often bound, molested, and beaten. The final incident that led to her death began over a cup of yogurt and a broken printer that Rodriguez claimed was her fault. On the night of January 10, 2006, Rodriguez beat Nixzmary to death with both fists and his thick leather belt. Her mother, Nixzaliz Santiago, ignored Rodriguez as he slammed Nixzmary’s head into a bathtub and doused her with cold water.  Both Santiago and Rodriguez were charged with second-degree murder and child endangerment. Rodriguez was convicted of first-degree manslaughter and other charges and was sentenced to 29 years in prison. Santiago was also convicted and sentenced to up to 43 years in prison. Traces of Nixzmary’s DNA were found on Rodriguez’s belt.  Evidence of previous abuse inflicted on Nixzmary came to light, and the news coverage of her murder case later drew public attention to New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). ACS had received two complaints about Nixzmary’s family. The first, made in 2004, remained unsubstantiated. The second complaint was made on December 1, 2005, when Nixzmary showed up at school with a black eye.  The case led to significant reforms in New York’s child welfare agency and made Nixzmary’s name synonymous with child abuse. The key changes included better communication with school officials regarding absenteeism, a 24-hour hotline, instant-response teams, and new training for police personnel regarding sensitivity to abused children.  Nixzmary Brown’s life was tragically cut short, but her story has had a lasting impact, leading to important changes in child welfare services.

2018Edgar Ray Killenwas born on January 17, 1925, in Philadelphia, Mississippi. He was the oldest of eight children. Killen was a sawmill operator and a part-time Baptist minister. He was also a Kleagle, or Klavern recruiter and organizer, for the Neshoba and Lauderdale County chapters of the Ku Klux Klan.  During the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, Killen planned and directed the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, three civil rights activists. Chaney was a young Black man from Meridian, Mississippi, and Goodman and Schwerner were two Jewish men from New York. Killen, along with Cecil Price, then deputy sheriff of Neshoba County, had gathered a group of men who hunted down and killed the three civil rights workers. The murders galvanized the nation and helped bring about the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  At the time of the killings, the state of Mississippi made little effort to prosecute the perpetrators. The FBI, under the pro-civil rights President Lyndon B. Johnson and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, directed a vigorous investigation. Federal prosecutor John Doar, circumventing dismissals by federal judges, opened a grand jury in December 1964. Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall appeared before the Supreme Court to defend the federal government’s authority in bringing charges in November 1965. Eighteen men, including Killen, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to violate the victims’ civil rights in U.S. v. Cecil Price et. al… The 1967 trial in federal court before an all-white jury convicted seven conspirators and acquitted eight others. For three men, including Killen, the trial ended in a hung jury, after the jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction. The lone holdout said she could never convict a preacher. The prosecution decided not to retry Killen and he was set free. None of the men found guilty served more than six years.  However, Killen was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter on June 21, 2005, the forty-first anniversary of the crime. He appealed the verdict, but his punishment of 3 times 20 years in prison was upheld on January 12, 2007 by the Mississippi Supreme Court. He died in prison on January 11, 2018, six days before his 93rd birthday.

Jack Gilbert Graham

1794 – US Marshall Robert Forsyth dies whilst on duty

1931 – Chicago gangster James Belcastro is shot 5 times

1953 – J. Edgar Hoover declines a 6 figure offer to become President of the International Boxing Club

1957 – Mass murderer Jack Gilbert Graham is executed in the gas chamber at Colorado State Penitentiary

1960 – Confession killer Henry Lee Lucas kills his mother during an argument

1977 – France releases Abu Daoud, a Palestinian suspected of involvement in the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics

1989 – Kindergarten student caught with a loaded handgun in Bronx school

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