This Is The Crime That Everyone Was Talking About The Year You Were Born

Long before the internet came along, newspapers, TV networks and radio stations were the means by which a story went viral. Indeed, you didn’t need social media to get everyone talking about a specific event. And that’s especially true when said event was the biggest crime of the year. From serial murders to mysterious disappearances, these are the eye-opening tales on everyone’s lips the year you were born.

1960 – Nussbaum and Wilcoxson’s first bank robbery

When Bobby Wilcoxson and Albert Nussbaum arrived on the scene in 1960, the “golden age” of bank robberies was long over. But this brains-and-brawn duo still inked their names alongside “Baby Face” Nelson and John Dillinger, as they proceeded to rob eight banks in two years. They eventually parted acrimoniously, leading Nussbaum to contact his estranged wife. With some reluctance, she turned him over to the FBI, and authorities soon caught up with both parties. They were handed life sentences in 1964.

1961 – Herbert Lee is murdered

American activist Herbert Lee was one of the earliest losses in the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century. A charter member of the Amite County, Mississippi chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, he was heavily involved in organizing voter registration. As tensions escalated, E. H. Hurst – the state representative – gunned Lee down on September 25, 1961. Hurst claimed he acted in self-defense, however, and the all-white jury returned a verdict of justifiable homicide.

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1962 – Eddie Lee Mays is convicted

On March 23, 1961 Eddie Mays – along with a pair of accomplices – robbed the Friendly Tavern in Harlem, New York City. During the ordeal, Mays shot and killed Maria Marini, a 31-year-old woman. That murder earned him a death sentence at his trial in 1962. As a result, in 1963, he became the final person New York state executed, as the death penalty was mostly repealed in 1965.

1963 – John F. Kennedy is assassinated

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Few crimes have hatched mass conspiracy theories like the assassination of America’s 35th president. Indeed, the majority of Americans still believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was not acting alone when he shot John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. And that skepticism was present even back then, according to a poll by Gallup, with 52 percent of the country believing that “others were involved.” Regardless, a huge investigation by the Warren Commission controversially concluded that Oswald was solely responsible for Kennedy’s death.

1964 – The Freedom Summer murders

In the summer of 1964, civil rights organizations united to mass-register African-American voters in Mississippi. However, many white residents resisted, often violently, culminating in the murder of a trio of civil rights workers. Eighteen men were charged with conspiracy to kill Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney and Michael Henry Schwerner as part of a plot involving the Ku Klux Klan. Ultimately, seven were convicted in the 1965 trial – including chief deputy sheriff Cecil Price, who served a four-year prison term.

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1965 – Malcolm X is assassinated

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Malcolm X, a U.S. Muslim minister, spent years as the Nation of Islam’s (NOI) public face during the civil rights movement. However, he became disillusioned with the controversial group – which rejected racial integration – in the 1960s, and voiced his regret over aligning with its supporters. Instead, he turned to Sunni Islam and backed multiculturalism, much to the chagrin of the NOI. The influential activist then found himself at escalating odds with the group. As a result, he was assassinated by three NOI members on February 21, 1965.

1966 – Charles Schmid is convicted

Serial killer Charles Schmid, unable to keep quiet about his crimes, repeatedly confided to his friends that he’d committed murder. When one of them began to fear for his girlfriend’s life, however, he turned Schmid in. The trial that followed put the “Pied Piper of Tuscon,” as he came to be known, in the national spotlight, as Playboy, Life and Time magazines all covered the case. The convicted criminal was sentenced to death, but the state of Arizona repealed the death penalty five years later. He was ultimately murdered in prison in 1975.

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1967 – The Air France robbery

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In April 1967 Robert McMahon, a member of the mob family known as the Luccheses, received a tip that hundreds of thousands of dollars were set to arrive at JFK airport’s Air France cargo terminal. He sent gangsters Henry Hill and Tommy DeSimone to intercept the cash while the guard was on a break. And they did just that, strolling out with a whopping $420,000 – more than $3 million in today’s money. The infamous robbery, which, in part, inspired Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, wasn’t discovered until three days later.

1968 – Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated

For 13 years, Martin Luther King Jr. spearheaded the nonviolent arm of the civil rights movement in the U.S. The Christian minister, however, was all too aware of the position it put him in. He even told his wife in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, “This is what is going to happen to me also. I keep telling you, this is a sick society.” And in April 1968, his premonition came true. The activist was fatally shot on his motel balcony while supporting striking sanitation workers in Tennessee. He was 39.

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1969 – The Manson Family murders

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Charles Manson’s cult gained notoriety in 1969 after several of his followers committed a series of brutal murders in California. Among the victims were actress Sharon Tate and coffee heiress Abigail Folger. The crimes shook America to its core, shattering perceptions of personal safety and security. In the years since, pop culture has become eerily fascinated with the Manson Family; they even make an appearance in the Quentin Tarantino movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

1970 – Sean Flynn disappears

Hollywood superstar Errol Flynn’s only child, Sean Flynn, initially followed in his father’s footsteps in the entertainment industry. However, he soon began exploring other interests, including photojournalism. This endeavor placed him in a series of high-risk situations throughout the mid-to-late 1960s, as he traveled through Vietnam and Israel. On April 6, 1970 Flynn and another journalist, CBS’s Dana Stone, set out to photograph the Viet Cong at a highway checkpoint. They were never seen again and Flynn was declared dead in absentia in 1984.

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1971 – D.B. Cooper hijacks an airplane

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An air of mystery always helps a crime permeate the public consciousness, and that’s exactly what the enigmatic D.B. Cooper conjured up in 1971. The man, who remains unidentified to this day, hijacked a passenger plane flying between Oregon and Washington on November 24. He then claimed the $200,000 ransom (more than $1.2 million in today’s money) and parachuted away. The FBI subsequently conducted an extensive search for the criminal, but came up with nothing. In fact, it’s the only piracy case in the history of commercial aviation to remain unsolved.

1972 – The Watergate scandal

In June 1972 five burglars were apprehended in the offices of the Democratic National Committee in Washington D.C.’s Watergate building. They’d been trying to bug the complex with listening devices, under the bidding of President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign committee. The investigation that followed uncovered a wealth of illegal wrongdoing on Nixon’s behalf, including his attempts to cover up the scandal. In 1974 the House of Representatives initiated impeachment proceedings, but Nixon resigned from office before their completion.

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1973 – The alphabet murders

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From 1971 to 1973, three young women – all with alliterative initials – were murdered in Rochester, New York. What’s more, each girl’s body was discovered in a town with the same letter as her initials, such as Carmen Colon, who was found in Churchville. Sadly, the perpetrator was never caught. But, the police have a theory. They believe the alphabet murders may be connected to a similar string of killings in California, committed during the late ‘70s and early ‘90s.

1974 – Arlis Perry is murdered

It took 44 years for police to definitively solve Arlis Perry’s murder, and when they did, her killer immediately committed suicide. In October 1974, Steve Crawford, a security guard, found Perry’s mutilated body in Stanford Memorial Church at Stanford University. Such was the nature of the 19-year-old receptionist’s death that police believed it may have been a ritualistic, or even satanic killing. But in 2018, new DNA evidence conclusively proved Crawford was the murderer. Police headed to his apartment with a search warrant, but he shot himself before they could arrest him.

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1975 – The Lyon sisters disappear

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Washington, D.C. was rocked in 1975 when Katherine and Sheila Lyon, the daughters of a popular radio presenter, vanished from a Maryland shopping mall. Their disappearance remained one of the region’s most famous cold cases. That is, until investigator Chris Homrock made a breakthrough in 2013. Using original transcripts, police sketches and mug shots, Homrock pieced together that Lloyd Welch, a now-convicted pedophile, was somehow involved. Following a lengthy interrogation, Welch implicated himself, and eventually pleaded guilty to killing the sisters.

1976 – Patty Hearst’s trial

In 1974 the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), an American left-wing terrorist organization, kidnapped Patty Hearst, granddaughter of media mogul William Randolph Hearst. Less than two months later, Hearst announced she had chosen to join the SLA. She was arrested in September 1975 following her involvement in several crimes, including armed robbery. During her 1976 trial, the prosecution and defense clashed over whether she had been coerced into joining the organization. Ultimately, she was given seven years in prison, but only served 22 months before president Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence.

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1977 – Tony Kiritsis kidnaps his mortgage broker

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It seems incredible to think that anyone could go on live television while pointing a gun at someone’s head. But that’s exactly what happened in February 1977, after Indiana resident Tony Kiritsis kidnapped his mortgage broker, Richard Hall. The former was convinced the latter was trying to steal his property as he was in arrears with his mortgage. During an emotional live broadcast, the gun-wielding hostage-taker said that he was “a Goddamned national hero.” In the end, though, Kiritsis released Hall and was subsequently arrested. He only avoided jail because a jury declared him insane.

1978 – The Golden State Killer murders his first victim

Over 12 long years, the Golden State Killer terrorized California, committing more than 100 burglaries, over 50 rapes and at least 13 murders – the first of which happened in 1978. The perpetrator’s crime waves came in three bursts, earning him several nicknames in the media. But it wasn’t until years later that police connected the dots. Indeed, the Golden State Killer evaded capture altogether until April 2018. But using new-found DNA evidence, investigators determined the man responsible was ex-police officer and U.S. Navy veteran Joseph James DeAngelo.

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1979 – Ted Bundy’s televised trial

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Notorious serial killer Ted Bundy’s weeks-long trial in 1979 was among the first to be broadcast to the nation. And to say it was eventful is an understatement. For instance, Bundy actually got married partway through, exploiting a legal loophole to wed Carol Anne Boone in the courtroom. And he played a large part in his own defense, utilizing the natural charisma that helped lure at least 30 people to their deaths. But he was still handed three separate death sentences, the third of which was carried out in 1989.

1980 – John Lennon is murdered

In March 1966 John Lennon told the Evening Standard newspaper that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” Fourteen years later, born-again Christian Mark David Chapman – angered by Lennon’s remark – fatally shot the musician outside his Manhattan apartment. The global reaction to the murder was unprecedented. Thousands gathered at candlelight vigils, and hundreds crowded the Lincoln Memorial for a “silent tribute.” Tragically, at least two people committed suicide, citing the musician’s death as the cause of their depression.

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1981 – The Wonderland murders

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During the 1970s, the Wonderland Gang dominated the market in cocaine distribution in Los Angeles. But in 1981, unknown assailants ambushed the gang’s headquarters, brutally beating four of its five inhabitants to death. Police even compared the gruesome crime scene to those of the Manson Family murders. That helped the case – a volatile combination of organized crime, sex and drugs – remain in the public spotlight for years, not least because it’s still unsolved.

1982 – Theresa Saldana is stabbed

Theresa Saldana’s roles in 1980’s Raging Bull and Defiance may have boosted her early Hollywood career. But they also gained her an obsessive fan. In 1982 Scottish drifter Arthur Jackson obtained Saldana’s home address by posing as an assistant to Martin Scorsese. He then attacked the actor in broad daylight with a knife, leaving her on the brink of death. Jackson spent 14 years in jail before being extradited to a British psychiatric hospital. The star, meanwhile, became a figurehead for raising awareness of stalkers.

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1983 – The Benton fireworks disaster

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It’s fair to say that an unlicensed fireworks factory sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. And Dan Webb’s operation proved no exception. In May 1983, a powerful explosion at the factory rocked the town of Benton, Tennessee. In fact, the blast was so strong that it could be felt 20 miles away – and claimed the lives of 11 people, including Webb’s mother and brother. The incident drew attention from the national press, and eventually resulted in the conviction of Webb and several co-conspirators.

1984 – Marvin Gaye is killed

A pioneer of Motown music, Marvin Gaye enjoyed a run of hit records throughout the 1960s and beyond. However, he had a strained relationship with his father, Marvin Gay Sr., and returned from his 1983 tour paranoid and suicidal, according to friends and relatives. On April 1, 1984 he intervened in an argument between his parents, aggressively assaulting his father. In retaliation, the older man fatally shot his son. As the esteemed musician lay dying, he told his brother Frankie, “I got what I wanted.” His death sent shockwaves around the world.

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1985 – Martha Jean Lambert disappears

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Martha Jean Lambert was just 12 years old when she went missing in Florida in 1985. However, the case went cold until 2009, when her older brother David confessed to accidentally killing her during an argument. Despite that account, though, their mother, Margaret Pichon, still believes her daughter was kidnapped. Indeed, police couldn’t find any remains where David had allegedly buried his sister. Moreover, Pichon told the The Florida Times-Union that her son “makes up tales to look like he’s involved,” and the police “want [the case] closed.”

1986 – The Cokeville Elementary School hostage crisis

In May 1986 former Cokeville police officer David Young returned to the Wyoming town. And, along with his wife, Doris, held an entire elementary school hostage. Armed with rifles, handguns and a gasoline bomb, the Youngs passed out their manifesto for a “Brave New World,” a copy of which they’d sent to then-president Ronald Reagan. The pair then demanded an audience with Reagan, plus $2 million ransom for each of their 154 hostages. The siege ended when Doris accidentally triggered the bomb, but somehow, no civilians were killed. Young then shot her before committing suicide.

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1987 – The Billionaire Boys Club trial

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Fronted by the charismatic Joe Hunt, the Billionaire Boys Club involved members driving flashy cars and partying with supermodels. In reality, the investment group was little more than a Ponzi scheme, with clients’ money squandered on maintaining those lavish lifestyles. It all fell apart in the late ‘80s, however, when primary backer Ron Levin disappeared after reportedly swindling the club out of $4 million. In 1987, Hunt was put on trial for Levin’s murder, and ultimately sentenced to life in prison.

1988 – Michaela Garecht disappears

On November 19, 1988, nine-year-old Michaela Garecht was kidnapped in broad daylight outside a market in California’s Hayward. Police then conducted an extensive, high-profile search for the youngster. In the first year of the investigation alone, they chased down 5,000 different leads – but came up with nothing. Indeed, Garecht is still considered missing. And, according to ABC7 News, the local police department is still following up on leads more than three decades later.

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1989 – Rebecca Schaeffer is murdered

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Inspired by Andrew Jackson’s attack on Theresa Saldana seven years earlier, Robert John Bardo employed an investigator to track down My Sister Sam star Rebecca Schaeffer’s home address. On July 18, 1989, he knocked on her door, and she greeted him with a smile. A short while later, he returned and fatally shot the model-turned-actor. Bardo reportedly committed the crime out of jealousy over Jackson’s love scene in the 1989 movie Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills. The murder later prompted California to pass the country’s first anti-stalking legislation.

1990 – The Menendez brothers are arrested

In the seven months between the 1989 deaths of Kitty and Jose Menendez and their sons’ subsequent arrest for murder, the brothers are thought to have spent around $700,000. Their suddenly lavish lifestyle, of course, only heightened suspicions of the pairs’ involvement. But the breakthrough came when Lyle Menendez confessed to his psychiatrist that he and his brother, Erik, had gunned down their parents. In the following trial, their defense focused on the abuse they allegedly endured from their mom and dad. The jury believed, however, that they committed the killings to got hold of their father’s money. Both were eventually sentenced to life in prison.

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1991 – Rodney King is violently beaten

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In March 1991 four police officers brutally beat Rodney King for fleeing a pursuing police car. The incident was filmed by an onlooker, and the footage soon became a global media sensation. Three of the officers were later acquitted of using excessive force in 1992. This verdict outraged the African American community, sparking six days of rioting in Los Angeles. As a result of the unrest, 63 people lost their lives, with 2,373 more injured. The violence, looting and arson only stopped when the United States Army stepped in. A further federal trial then saw two officers sentenced to jail terms.

1992 – Amy Fisher is convicted

Amy Fisher was nicknamed “the Long Island Lolita” after shooting her lover’s wife, Mary Jo Buttafuoco, in 1992. The 17-year-old apparently fell in love with Joey Buttafuoco, but was jealous of his marriage. Mary Jo survived, however, and identified Fisher as the shooter. The teenager was then arrested on the grounds of attempted murder, although she ultimately pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. After serving a seven year jail term, she was paroled and had a brief stint in the adult entertainment industry.

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1993 – The World Trade Center bombing

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Eight years before the twin towers were toppled in the devastating attacks of 9/11, six people lost their lives in a World Trade Center terrorist attack. On February 26, 1993 a group of Islamic fundamentalists detonated a truck bomb beneath the North Tower. Their aim was to bring down both buildings with one device. In the end, neither fell, but more than 1,000 people were injured. The FBI arrested the mastermind behind the attack, Ramzi Yousef, in 1995.

1994 – O.J. Simpson’s murder case

Former NFL player O.J. Simpson’s trial for the murders of his ex-wife and her friend was one of the most high-profile events in U.S. history. Indeed, 95 million people tuned in to watch the June 1994 police chase that ended in Simpson’s arrest. Over the next several months, his guilt or innocence was the subject of lengthy debate, with public opinion largely divided. Eventually, footballer-turned-actor was acquitted at his criminal trial. A subsequent civil case found him ultimately responsible, however, awarding damages totaling $33.5 million to the victims’ families.

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1995 – The Oklahoma City bombing

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Prior to 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing was the most lethal terrorist attack in American history. And to this day, it remains the country’s deadliest domestic terrorist incident. Indeed, 168 people lost their lives in the explosion at a government complex on April 19, 1995. The attack was masterminded by Timothy McVeigh, a Gulf War veteran disillusioned with federal government, along with co-conspirator, Terry Nichols. The pair were summarily tried and convicted, with McVeigh receiving the death penalty. He was executed in June 2001.

1996 – JonBenét Ramsey is murdered

JonBenét Ramsey was a regular on the beauty pageant circuit – until she was murdered in her Boulder, Colorado home at just six years old. At first, police suspected her mother was responsible, but DNA evidence ruled out immediate family. Four years later, investigators found a photo of Ramsey among registered sex offender Gary Oliva’s possessions. Moreover, in January 2019 Oliva allegedly confessed to the crime in a series of letters. However, with a lack of conclusive evidence, the Boulder Police Department apparently still considers the case open.

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1997 – The Notorious B.I.G. is murdered

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The Notorious B.I.G., or Christopher Wallace, is commonly referred to as one of history’s greatest rappers. However, his prominence on the East Coast hip hop scene ultimately led to his untimely demise. During the recording of his second album, rumors spread that Wallace was somehow involved in the drive-by shooting of Tupac Shakur in 1996. His role in the feud between the East and West coast rap stars culminated in his own murder on March 9, 1997. He was just 24.

1998 – Matthew Shepard is murdered

The murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard is recognized as one of America’s most heinous crimes. On October 6, 1998, Shepard struck up conversation with Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney at a bar. The pair then drove the 21-year-old to a remote location, before severely beating him, tying him to a nearby fence and leaving him to his death. Despite rescue, however, the young man succumbed to his injuries just under a week later. The backlash prompted the U.S. to introduce hate crime legislation, and brought international attention to gay rights.

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1999 – The Kingwood robberies

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For three months, Houston, Texas found itself under siege from the self-proclaimed “Queens of Armed Robbery.” The four-strong girl gang robbed a bakery and four markets in 1999, using the cash to buy body piercings and recreational drugs. Their crime spree drew attention after they were caught and revealed to be affluent high school students. Following their arrests, all four were convicted, with ringleader Krystal Maddox sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.

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