September 11 attacks – The September 11 attacks (also referred to as 9/11) were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda on the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Four passenger airliners operated by two major U.S. passenger air carriers (United Airlines and American Airlines)—all of which departed from airports in the northeastern United States bound for California—were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists. Two of the planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were crashed into the North and South towers, respectively, of the World Trade Center complex in New York City. Within an hour and 42 minutes, both 110-story towers collapsed, with debris and the resulting fires causing partial or complete collapse of all other buildings in the World Trade Center complex, including the 47-story 7 World Trade Center tower, as well as significant damage to ten other large surrounding structures. A third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, was crashed into the Pentagon (the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense) in Arlington County, Virginia, leading to a partial collapse of the building’s western side. The fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, initially was steered toward Washington, D.C., but crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after its passengers tried to overcome the hijackers. 9/11 was the single deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in the history of the United States, with 343 and 72 killed respectively.
JFK Assassination – John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963 at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time in Dallas, Texas while riding in a motorcade in Dealey Plaza. Kennedy was fatally shot by a former U.S Marine, Lee Harvey Oswald, while he was riding with his wife, Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and Connally’s wife, Nellie, in a presidential motorcade. A ten-month investigation by the Warren Commission from November 1963 to September 1964 concluded that Oswald acted alone in shooting Kennedy, and that Jack Ruby also acted alone when he killed Oswald before he could stand trial. Kennedy’s death marked the fourth (following Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and most recent assassination of an American President. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson became President upon Kennedy’s death.
Jack the Ripper – Jack the Ripper is the best-known name given to an unidentified serial killer generally believed to have been active in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The name “Jack the Ripper” originated in a letter written by someone claiming to be the murderer that was disseminated in the media. The letter is widely believed to have been a hoax and may have been written by journalists in an attempt to heighten interest in the story and increase their newspapers’ circulation. The killer was called “the Whitechapel Murderer” as well as “Leather Apron” within the crime case files, as well as in contemporary journalistic accounts.
Murders of Ted Bundy – Theodore Robert Bundy (born Theodore Robert Cowell; November 24, 1946 – January 24, 1989) was an American serial killer, kidnapper, rapist, burglar, and necrophile who assaulted and murdered numerous young women and girls during the 1970s, and possibly earlier. Shortly before his execution—after more than a decade of denials—he confessed to 30 homicides committed in seven states between 1974 and 1978. The true victim count remains unknown, and could be much higher.
1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman – The O. J. Simpson murder case (officially titled People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, or People v. O. J. Simpson) was a criminal trial held at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, in which former National Football League (NFL) player and actor O. J. Simpson was tried on two counts of murder for the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend and restaurant waiter Ron Goldman on June 12, 1994. The trial spanned eleven months, from the jury’s swearing-in on November 9, 1994. Opening statements were made on January 24, 1995, and the verdict was announced on October 3, 1995, when Simpson was found not guilty of murder on both counts. According to the USA Today, the case has been described as the “most publicized” criminal trial in history.
The Zodiac Killings – The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who operated in northern California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The killer’s identity remains unknown. The Zodiac murdered victims in Benicia, Vallejo, Lake Berryessa, and San Francisco between December 1968 and October 1969. Four men and three women between the ages of 16 and 29 were targeted. The killer originated the name “Zodiac” in a series of taunting letters sent to the local Bay Area press. These letters included four cryptograms (or ciphers). Of the four cryptograms sent, only one has been definitively solved. Suspects have been named by law enforcement and amateur investigators, but no conclusive evidence has surfaced. The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) marked the case “inactive” in April 2004, but re-opened it at some point prior to March 2007. The case also remains open in the city of Vallejo, as well as in Napa County and Solano County. The California Department of Justice has maintained an open case file on the Zodiac murders since 1969.
Lindbergh Kidnapping – On March 1, 1932, Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., 20-month old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was abducted from his home in Highfields, New Jersey. On May 12, his body was discovered nearby. In September 1934, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested and, after a trial lasting from January 2 to February 13, 1935, found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death. He was executed by electric chair at the New Jersey State Prison on April 3, 1936. He professed his innocence to the end. Newspaper writer H. L. Mencken called the kidnapping and trial “the biggest story since the Resurrection.” Legal scholars have referred to the trial as one of the “trials of the century”. The crime spurred Congress to pass the Federal Kidnapping Act, commonly called the “Lindbergh Law,” which made transporting a kidnapping victim across state lines a federal crime.
Murders of Jeffrey Dahmer – Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1960, Jeffrey Dahmer displayed troubling behavior following childhood surgery. He committed his first murder in 1978, and was arrested multiple times before claiming his second victim, in 1987. In addition to killing the men and teenagers he lured home, he mutilated, photographed and performed sexual acts on the victims’ corpses, keeping body parts as mementos. Dahmer was captured in 1991 and sentenced to 16 life terms. He was killed by fellow prison inmate Christopher Scarver in 1994.
The Boston Strangler – Between June 14, 1962 and January 4, 1964, 13 single women between the ages of 19 and 85 were murdered in the Boston area. Most were sexually assaulted and strangled in their apartments by what was assumed to be one man. With no sign of forced entry into their homes, the women were assumed to have let their assailant in, either because they knew him or because they believed him to be an apartment maintenance man, delivery man, or other service man. The attacks continued despite the enormous media publicity after the first few murders that presumably discouraged women from admitting strangers into their homes. Many residents purchased tear gas and new locks and deadbolts for their doors. Some women left the area altogether.
Crimes of John Wayne Gacy – Born on March 17, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois, John Wayne Gacy faced an abusive childhood and conflict over his sexuality. After being convicted of sexual assault in 1968, it was discovered that he had gone on to kill 33 young males, burying most under his home. He was found guilty in 1980 and given multiple death penalty and life sentences. He was executed by lethal injection on May 10, 1994.
Atlanta Child Murders – The Atlanta murders of 1979–1981, sometimes called the Atlanta Child Murders (although several of the purported victims were adults), were a series of murders committed in the American city of Atlanta, Georgia, from the middle of 1979 until May 1981. Over the two-year period, at least 28 African-American children, adolescents and adults were killed. Wayne Williams, an Atlanta native who was 23 years old at the time of the last murder, was arrested for and convicted of two of the adult murders, and sentenced to two consecutive life terms. Police subsequently have attributed a number of the child murders to Williams and closed the cases, although he has not been tried or convicted in any of those cases.
Yorkshire Ripper – Peter Coonan (born Peter William Sutcliffe, 2 June 1946) is an English serial killer who was dubbed the “Yorkshire Ripper” by the press. In 1981, Sutcliffe was convicted of murdering thirteen women and attempting to murder seven others. Sutcliffe had regularly used the services of prostitutes in Leeds and Bradford. His outbreak of violence towards them seems to have occurred because he was swindled out of money by a prostitute and her pimp. When interviewed by authorities, however, he claimed that the voice of God had sent him on a mission to kill prostitutes. Sutcliffe carried out his murder spree over five years, during which the public were especially shocked by the murders of women who were not prostitutes. After his arrest for driving with false number plates in January 1981, the police questioned him about the killings and he confessed that he was the perpetrator. At his trial, he pleaded not guilty to murder on grounds of diminished responsibility, owing to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia; but the defence was rejected by a majority of the jury. He is serving 20 concurrent sentences of life imprisonment. Following his conviction, Sutcliffe began using his mother’s maiden name and became known as Peter William Coonan. West Yorkshire Police were criticised for the time they took in apprehending Sutcliffe, despite interviewing him nine times during the murder hunt. Owing to the sensational nature of the case, they had to handle an exceptional volume of information, some of it misleading, including a hoax recorded message and letters purporting to be from the “Ripper”. Nevertheless, the 2006 Byford Report of the official enquiry confirmed the validity of the criticism. The High Court dismissed an appeal by Sutcliffe in 2010, confirming that he would serve a whole life order and never be released from custody. On 11 August 2016, it was ruled that Sutcliffe is mentally fit to be returned to prison. On 24 August 2016 he was moved to HM Prison Frankland in Durham.
Murder of JonBenét Ramsey – JonBenét Patricia Ramsey (August 6, 1990 – December 25 or 26, 1996) was an American child beauty pageant queen who was killed in her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado, on the night of December 25–26, 1996, at the age of six. A lengthy ransom note was found in the house, and her father, John Ramsey, found JonBenét’s body in the basement of their house about eight hours after she was reported missing. She sustained a broken skull from a blow to the head and had been strangled; a garrote was found tied around her neck. The autopsy report stated that the official cause of death was “asphyxia by strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma”. Her death was classified as a homicide. The case generated nationwide public and media interest, in part because her mother Patsy Ramsey (herself a former beauty queen) had entered JonBenét in a series of child beauty pageants. The case still remains an open investigation with the Boulder Police Department.
The Black Dahlia – “The Black Dahlia” was a nickname posthumously given to Elizabeth Short (July 29, 1924 – c. January 15, 1947). She was an American woman who was murdered in Los Angeles, California in 1947. Because her corpse was mutilated and cut in half, her case became highly publicized. Newspapers of the period often nicknamed particularly lurid crimes, and they posthumously called her “The Black Dahlia,” a term that may have been from a film noir murder mystery, The Blue Dahlia, released in April 1946. Short’s body was found on January 15, 1947, in the neighborhood of Leimert Park. Her unsolved murder has been the source of widespread speculation, with many potential suspects. Several books and television and film adaptations have been based on this case. Short’s murder is one of the oldest unsolved murder cases in Los Angeles history.
Son of Sam – David Richard Berkowitz (born Richard David Falco; June 1, 1953), known also as the Son of Sam and the .44 Caliber Killer, is an American serial killer who was convicted of eight separate shooting attacks that began in New York City during the summer of 1976. The crimes were perpetrated with a .44 caliber Bulldog revolver. He killed six people and wounded seven others by July 1977. As the number of victims increased, Berkowitz eluded the biggest police manhunt in the history of New York City while leaving letters that mocked the police and promised further crimes, which were highly publicized by the press. The killing spree terrorized New Yorkers and achieved worldwide notoriety. On the evening of August 10, 1977, Berkowitz was taken into custody by New York City police homicide detectives in front of his Yonkers apartment building, and he was subsequently indicted for eight shooting incidents. He confessed to all of them, and claimed to have been obeying the orders of a demon, manifested in the form of a dog “Harvey” who belonged to his neighbour “Sam.” Despite his explanation, Berkowitz was found mentally competent to stand trial. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was incarcerated in state prison. In the course of further police investigation, Berkowitz was also implicated in many unsolved arsons in the city.
Disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa – Hoffa disappeared at, or sometime after, 2:45 p.m. on July 30, 1975, from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant at 6676 Telegraph Road, in Bloomfield Township, an affluent suburb of Detroit. According to what he had told others, he believed he was there to meet with two Mafia leaders: Anthony Giacalone and Anthony Provenzano. Provenzano was also a union leader with the Teamsters in New Jersey and had earlier been quite close to Hoffa. Provenzano was a national vice-president with IBT from 1961, Hoffa’s second term as Teamsters’ president. Hoffa arrived first, at around 2 in the afternoon, but after waiting nearly 30 minutes, neither of the other members arrived. Annoyed, he called his wife and said that he was going to wait a few more minutes before giving up. This was the last time that she ever spoke with her husband. Hoffa was last seen by a truck driver who claimed to have seen Hoffa in a maroon 1975 Mercury Marquis Brougham that pulled out of the restaurant parking lot and almost hit the driver’s truck. The truck driver, who had been making deliveries in the area, pulled up next to the car and immediately recognized Hoffa sitting in the back seat behind the car’s driver. The truck driver also noticed a long object covered with a gray blanket on the seat between Hoffa and another passenger. The truck driver thought it was either a shotgun or a rifle. He did not get a good look at anyone else in the car. When Hoffa did not return home that evening, his wife reported him missing. Police found Hoffa’s dark green 1974 Pontiac Grand Ville, unlocked, at the restaurant, but there was no sign of Hoffa or any indication of what happened to him. Extensive investigations into the disappearance began immediately and continued over the next several years by numerous law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. The investigations did not conclusively determine Hoffa’s fate. For their part, Giacalone and Provenzano were found not to have been near the restaurant that afternoon, and each denied he had scheduled a meeting with Hoffa. Hoffa was declared legally dead, and a death certificate was issued, on July 30, 1982, seven years after his disappearance. His disappearance has given rise to many rumors and theories as to what happened to him.
D.B. Cooper Hijacking – D. B. Cooper is a media epithet popularly used to refer to an unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft in the airspace between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, on November 24, 1971. He extorted $200,000 in ransom (equivalent to $1,180,000 in 2016) and parachuted to an uncertain fate. Despite an extensive manhunt and protracted FBI investigation, the perpetrator has never been located or identified. The case remains the only unsolved air piracy in commercial aviation history.
Oklahoma City bombing – On April 19, 1995, a truck-bomb explosion outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, left 168 people dead and hundreds more injured. The blast was set off by anti-government militant Timothy McVeigh, who in 2001 was executed for his crimes. His co-conspirator Terry Nichols received life in prison. Until September 11, 2001, the Oklahoma City bombing was the worst terrorist attack to take place on U.S. soil.
Jonestown Massacre – The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project , better known by its informal name “Jonestown”, was a remote settlement established by the Peoples Temple, an American communist organization under the leadership of Jim Jones, in northwestern Guyana. It became internationally notorious when, on November 18, 1978, a total of 918 people died in the settlement, at the nearby airstrip in Port Kaituma, and at a Temple-run building in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital city. The name of the settlement became synonymous with the incidents at those locations.
Pan Am 103 bombing – Pan Am Flight 103 was a regularly scheduled Pan Am transatlantic flight from Frankfurt to Detroit via London and New York. On 21 December 1988, N739PA, the aircraft operating the transatlantic leg of the route, was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew, in what became known as the Lockerbie bombing. Large sections of the aircraft crashed onto residential areas of Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 11 more people on the ground.
Unabomber – Theodore John Kaczynski (born May 22, 1942), also known as the Unabomber, is an American mathematician, anarchist and domestic terrorist. A mathematical prodigy, he abandoned a promising academic career in 1969, then between 1978 and 1995 killed 3 people, and injured 23 others, in a nationwide mail bombing campaign that targeted people involved with modern technology. In conjunction with the bombing campaign, he issued a wide-ranging social critique opposing industrialization and modern technology, and advancing a nature-centered form of anarchism. Some anarcho-primitivist authors, such as John Zerzan and John Moore, have come to his defense, while also holding certain reservations about his actions and ideas.
Harold Shipman – Harold Frederick Shipman (14 January 1946 – 13 January 2004) was a British general practitioner and one of the most prolific serial killers in recorded history. On 31 January 2000, a jury found Shipman guilty of fifteen murders. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with the recommendation that he never be released. The Shipman Inquiry, a two-year-long investigation of all deaths certified by Shipman chaired by Dame Janet Smith, identified 218 victims and estimated his total victim count at 250, about 80% of whom were women. His youngest confirmed victim was a 41-year-old man, although “significant suspicion” arose concerning patients as young as 4. Much of Britain’s legal structure concerning health care and medicine was reviewed and modified as a result of Shipman’s crimes. He is the only British physician to have been found guilty of murdering his patients, although other doctors have been acquitted of similar crimes or convicted on lesser charges. Shipman died on 13 January 2004, one day prior to his 58th birthday, by hanging himself in his cell at Wakefield Prison.
The Patty Hearst Kidnapping – Around 9 o’clock in the evening on February 4, 1974, there was a knock on the door of apartment #4 at 2603 Benvenue Street in Berkeley, California. In burst a group of men and women with their guns drawn. They grabbed a surprised 19-year-old college student named Patty Hearst, beat up her fiancé, threw her in the trunk of their car and drove off. Thus began one of the strangest cases in FBI history. Hearst, it was soon discovered, had been kidnapped by a group of armed radicals that billed themselves as the Symbionese Liberation Army, or SLA. Led by a hardened criminal named Donald DeFreeze, the SLA wanted nothing less than to incite a guerrilla war against the U.S. government and destroy what they called the “capitalist state.” Their ranks included women and men, blacks and whites, and anarchists and extremists from various walks in life. They were, in short, a band of domestic terrorists. And dangerous ones. They’d already shot two Oakland school officials with cyanide-tipped bullets, killing one and seriously wounding the other. Why’d they snatch Hearst? To get the country’s attention, primarily. Hearst was from a wealthy, powerful family; her grandfather was the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The SLA’s plan worked and worked well: the kidnapping stunned the country and made front-page national news. But the SLA had more plans for Patty Hearst. Soon after her disappearance, the SLA began releasing audiotapes demanding millions of dollars in food donations in exchange for her release. At the same time, they apparently began abusing and brainwashing their captive, hoping to turn this young heiress from the highest reaches of society into a poster child for their coming revolution. That, too, seemed to work. On April 3, the SLA released a tape with Hearst saying that she’d joined their fight to free the oppressed and had even taken a new name. A dozen days later, she was spotted on bank surveillance cameras wielding an assault weapon during an SLA bank robbery, barking orders to bystanders and providing cover to her confederates. Her trial was as sensational as the chase. Despite claims of brainwashing, the jury found her guilty, and she was sentenced to seven years in prison. Hearst served two years before President Carter commuted her sentence. She was later pardoned.
Columbine Massacre – The Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting that occurred on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Columbine, an unincorporated area of Jefferson County in the American state of Colorado. In addition to the shootings, the complex and highly planned attack involved a fire bomb to divert firefighters, propane tanks converted to bombs placed in the cafeteria, 99 explosive devices, and carbombs. The perpetrators, senior students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 students and one teacher. They injured 21 additional people, and three more were injured while attempting to escape the school. The pair subsequently died by suicide.Although their precise motives remain unclear, the personal journals of the perpetrators document that they wished their actions to rival the Oklahoma City bombing and other deadly incidents in the United States in the 1990s. The attack has been referred to by USA Today as a “suicidal attack [that was] planned as a grand—if badly implemented—terrorist bombing.” The massacre has been reported as “the deadliest high school shooting in US history.”The massacre sparked debate over gun control laws, high school cliques, subcultures, and bullying. It resulted in an increased emphasis on school security with zero tolerance policies, and a moral panic over goth culture, gun culture, social outcasts (even though the perpetrators were not outcasts), the use of pharmaceutical anti-depressants by teenagers, teenage Internet use, and violence in video games.
The Tate-Labianca Murders – The Manson Family was a quasi-commune that arose in California in the late 1960s, led by Charles Manson. They gained national notoriety after the infamous murder of actress Sharon Tate and four others on August 8, 1969 by Tex Watson and three other members of the Family, acting under the instructions of Manson. Group members were also responsible for a number of other murders and assaults, and the attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford. The Tate murders were the notorious and brutal killings of five people by members of the Manson Family on August 8, 1969. Four members of the family invaded the home of married celebrity couple, actress Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles. They murdered Tate (who was eight months pregnant), along with three friends who were visiting at the time, and an 18-year-old visitor, who was slain as he was departing the home. Polanski was not present on the night of the murders as he was working on a film in Europe. The murders were carried out by Tex Watson under the direction of Charles Manson. Watson drove, with Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel, from Spahn Ranch to the residence on Cielo Drive. Manson, an aspiring musician, had previously attempted to enter into a recording contract with record producer Terry Melcher, who was a previous renter of the house along with his then-girlfriend, actress Candice Bergen. Melcher had snubbed Manson, leaving him disgruntled. Many law enforcement officers have theorized that Manson ordered the attack in retaliation, thinking that Melcher still owned the house, but which had by then been rented to Polanski. The next night of August 10, 1969, six Family members—Leslie Van Houten, Steve “Clem” Grogan, and the four from the previous night—rode out on Manson’s orders. As Watson related it, Manson roused the sleeping Leno LaBianca from the couch at gunpoint and had Watson bind his hands with a leather thong. After Rosemary was brought briefly into the living room from the bedroom, Watson followed Manson’s instructions to cover the couple’s heads with pillowcases. He bound these in place with lamp cords. Manson left, sending Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten into the house with instructions that the couple be killed.