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Mug Shot Monday! Serial Killer James Turner

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! Serial Killer James Turner

 

James-Turner

Serial Killer James Turner

James Turner is a previously unrecognized serial killer linked to the murders and accidental deaths of ten friends, coworkers, and family members in which he was the beneficiary of their life insurance policies. He was active for a twenty-one year period between 1954 and 1975, when he was arrested on January 22 for the machete murder of his twenty-year-old brother-in-law, Dwight Dees, near Rochester, New York. He was indicted on February 27 in Monroe County Court and pleaded not guilty on March 3.

After he pleaded not guilty, the James Turner story disappears from the newspapers. After March 3, 1975, it just stops. A search of Google Books and several crime encyclopedias also turned up nothing.

It is possible, and this is conjecture, that he accepted a plea deal to avoid taking his chances with a trial. Or, he committed suicide while in custody. I am only presenting possibilities and not asserting anything as factual.

The surprising aspect to me is that James Turner appears to be a serial killer who has slipped through the cracks of contemporary writers who specialize and compile information about serial killers. However, I haven’t read every serial killer book. There is a serial killer database for academic types, but it is off limits to non-members. I only found out about him while reading a 1975 crime magazine, which also did not provide any information past his March 1975 arraignment.

Victims

Sometime in June 1964, a coworker of Turner’s from the Nabisco plant in Rochester disappeared and was never found. John Louis Brown’s $5,000 life insurance policy named Turner as the beneficiary. It is unclear if Turner collected on this policy since Brown’s body was never found.

On November 19, 1968, Frank Scialdone, eighteen-year-old coworker of Turner’s at the General Motors plant in Rochester, was found murdered. The boy’s family members reported that James Turner was going to co-sign a car loan for Scialdone, who was set to buy a life insurance policy to cover the loan in case he died. However, Scialdone was found with a bullet hole in the back of his head before he could take out the policy. On the day he was killed, relatives say he had $400 on him which he was going to use towards the purchase of the car.

In May 1969, the partially decapitated body of William Bradwell was found bobbing in the Genesse River. Shortly before his death, the twenty-three-year-old GM employee named Turner as the beneficiary of his $5,000 life insurance policy. In that case, it was confirmed that Turner actually collected on the policy.

On December 2, 1969, Lewis McDowell, 29, was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage. He was listed as a suicide. Shortly before his death, he changed the beneficiary on a company life insurance to coworker, Jim Turner.

In July of 1971, GM employee Horace Everett changed the beneficiary on his $9,000 life insurance policy from his wife’s name to James Turner. Mrs. Everett would later tell newspaper reporters that during those summer months, her husband and Turner held many secret meetings at their home. She didn’t know what he was up to, but realized it must be bad and begged her husband to back of whatever plan he and Turner had concocted.

“I told Horace that whatever they were up to, it was wrong,” his wife said. “I told him it was wrong because of the children. But he said that’s why he was in it, whatever it was. He said he loved the children and wanted to make life easier for them.”

Everett refused to back down and told his wife that he would be meeting with Turner the following day and they would soon be rich. He never came home that night and his body was found the next day behind an abandoned factory.

“A terrycloth towel was wrapped around his head, and, when it was removed, police discovered that the right half of his skull had been blown apart with a shotgun,” wrote Joseph Koenig in a June 1975 issue of Inside Detective. He left behind three small children and a fourth who was born two months after he died.

With their suspicions raised, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company refused to pay James Turner after their investigation revealed that the change in beneficiary was “improperly and fraudulently procured.” Everett’s wife received $6,750 as the co-beneficiary as well as an additional $4,500 from an accidental death clause.

Although insurance investigators and police looked upon him with suspicion, Turner had the audacity to sue the life insurance company and fight with Everett’s widow in court. However, by 1973, he dropped the lawsuit when too many uncomfortable questions were being raised about the death of Horace Everett and his possible motive and connection in the case.

One month before Everett’s murder, Turner moved his family into a two-story, three bedroom Colonial house that was built to his specifications in a new subdivision. He and his wife decorated the $40,000 home ($233,000 in 2014) with new furniture.

During his court battle with the insurance company, Turner’s brother-in-law, Dwight Dees, moved into the home and attended community college. During the fall of 1974, Dwight mysteriously resumed the premium payments on a $50,000 life insurance policy he had previously dropped when his education expenses became too great.

On January 21, 1975, a borrowed car Dwight was driving that night was found nose-down at the bottom of a twenty-foot embankment. Inside, lawmen found Dwight’s body with his head nearly decapitated. While searching the area, investigators located a blood trail which led to several large pools of blood behind an old barn several hundred feet away. It was obvious to them that someone nearly cut off the boy’s head behind the barn and then dragged the body back to the car in order to make it look like an accident.

The investigation quickly led police to James Turner who was arrested on suspicion of murder the following day. Following his arrest, an insurance agent saw the news on television and called police to report that their suspect had 50,000 reasons to kill his wife’s youngest brother. A few days later, police located a machete which Turner had used to hack away at the young man’s neck.

An all-out investigation by police soon uncovered the insurance connections between Turner and the deaths of Brown, Scialdone, Bradwell, and McDowell. When it came to Horace Everett, Turner was already the number one suspect, although police couldn’t prove it.

When authorities dug a little deeper, they learned that Turner collected $2,500 on two life insurance policies after his sister suffocated to death during a tragic fire in her apartment on April 14, 1963. At the time, her brother James lived with her, but was not at home when the fire started. He filed to collect her benefits the day after she died. The files from that death showed Turner had called the insurance agent several days before the fire to cancel his own polices, and to double check that his sister’s policies were still active. Also, at that time, Turner worked in a hospital where police speculated he may have stolen pills that he used to drug his sister before he set the fire and left.

Turner and his family were originally from Florida and when police looked into his time there, they learned from family members that another sister of his was murdered near Plant City in 1954. When Rochester investigators asked Florida police to check their records, however, they could no files on the twenty-year-old murder.

Family members also told police about two other Florida relatives who died in what were then believed to be accidents. But now, they weren’t so sure.

When police interviewed neighbors and coworkers, they learned Jim Turner was an extremely hard working man who was friendly and considerate with everyone who lived on his street. He would use his snow blower to clear the sidewalks for neighbors, who were unable to clear it themselves. They also recalled he was a strict father who cared deeply about the welfare of his children and never drank heavily or chased other women. He usually went to bed early so he could wake up early to work long hours.

After Turner pleaded not guilty, the judge ordered him held without bail. No further information on his case exists. I imagine more could be found by searching the microfilm of local newspapers at the Rochester Public Library, but with no dates to search under, it would be a tedious process that would require the researcher to read every single newspaper for the remainder of 1975. Further information might be obtained from police or prison records, and possibly, FBI records.

Here is a link to one of the few articles available about James Turner.

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Book Review for Famous Crimes the World Forgot

Home | Uncategorized | Book Review for Famous Crimes the World Forgot

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Here is a really nice review from author Blaine Pardoe, a long-time friend of HCD, about my last book, Famous Crimes the World Forgot.

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/review-famous-crimes-the-world-forgot-volume-i/

Blaine recently (last year or so) published two great true crime books himself via History Press. You can find them on their website or on Amazon. The Murder of Maggie Hume: Cold Case in Battle Creek, and, Murder in Battle Creek: The Mysterious Death of Daisy Zick

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Dr. Richard Brumfield, 1921

Home | Short Feature Story | Dr. Richard Brumfield, 1921

 

Murderer Dr Richard Brumfield,

Dr. Richard Brumfield

In 1921, Dr. Richard Brumfield was a dentist with a respectable practice in the small town of Roseburg, Oregon. He had moved there several years before from Chicago where he attended dental school. Prior to his becoming a dentist, he was a school principal in Indiana. With his many years of education and refined way of speaking, Dr. Brumfield stood out in the small community with an agrarian economy.

On July 13 of that year, Dr. Brumfield hired laborer Dennis Russell to dynamite some tree stumps on his farm. He then drove his car to Russell’s shack, picked him up, drove out of town, and murdered the poor man by shooting him three times. With the body still in the car, he drove a few miles further west to a steep hill near Melrose, Oregon, and staged a car accident in which the body of Dennis Russell and Brumfield’s car were set on fire. Dr. Brumfield then fled to Alberta, Canada, leaving his wife behind to collect on his $30,000 life insurance.

Insurance scams were apparently Brumfield’s favorite method of making a big score. Twice, already, his house had burned down and he collected on the insurance in both cases. But when county investigators looked at the supposed body of Dr. Brumfield, there were some identifying features which seemed to match Dennis Russell who had recently disappeared.

“Russell didn’t amount to much. He was a bachelor and lived alone in a shack. He tended a few sheep and far as anybody knew, he had no kin. He was shiftless, sullen and sickly. Society would not miss him if he died,” wrote one observer in 1921.

It took authorities nearly one full week of examination and questioning witnesses to declare the body was that of Dennis Russell, and not Dr. Brumfield. Among the different methods used to distinguish between the two was the fact that the corpse was not wearing underwear when discovered. Brumfield always wore underwear, Russell did not.

Brumfield was tracked down to Canada a month later and hauled back to Oregon for trial. The murder, and his scheme to collect on his own life insurance, was declared the most sensational crime in Pacific Coast history at that time.

The dentist never confessed and said he could not remember his crime, and did not believe that he could have ever done such a thing. He was tried, convicted, and sentence to hang. After he lost his appeal, he tried to commit suicide by cutting himself with a dental plate. Later, on September 13, 1922, he was found dead in his prison cell where he had used the bed sheet to hang himself from his bunk.

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Mug Shot Monday! Anton Wood, 1892

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! Anton Wood, 1892

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Anton-Wood

Anton Wood, 11 year-old psychopath almost hanged for murder, age in photo estimated 17-20.

In November of 1892, young Joseph Smith was hunting with Anton Wood, 11, on the Wood family ranch near Denver when he was shot in the back and killed by Wood. When Anton was arrested, he immediately confessed and told authorities he shot Smith because he envied the boy’s gold watch and chain.

Wood’s first trial ended in a hung jury when the jury couldn’t come to a unanimous decision on the boy’s sanity.

During his second trial, however, he was found guilty of second-degree murder on March 24, 1893 and sentenced to life in prison. His insanity defense was supported by testimony from a doctor who concluded that because Anton drank coffee, as a boy, it likely lowered his “mental constitution,” leading to his insanity.

The following article details Anton Wood’s reaction over hearing the guilty verdict.

DENVER, COLO, special: Anton Wood, the 11-year-old murderer of Joseph Smith, was convicted of murder in the second degree. The Jury was out sixteen hours and little Anton came near being sent to the gallows. The stubbornness of one juryman saved him. When the verdict was read in court, Anton wept. He thought the verdict mean hanging for him, and he expressed his regret for not murdering Smith’s two companions that were with him on the day that Smith was killed.

Little Anton looked viciously at Alexander Pecker, the principal witness against him, and said: “If I had plugged that [obscenity] nobody would knew nothing about the thing at all.” The lad was then taken to the sheriff’s office, and the first thing that attracted his attention was the rogues’ gallery. He called the sheriff over, and, pointing to the photographs of the dead body of a desperado dangling from a telegraph pole, said: “I suppose that’s what you going to do with me? Well, I’ll fool you.”

The sheriff assured the lad that he would be only confined in jail. This satisfied him. The idea of getting enough to eat and having no work to do tickled him.

“In the West,” The Farmer’s Leader, Canton, South Dakota, March 31, 1893, page two.

He may have been wrong about having no work to do. Another source reported that Wood was sentenced to 25 years of hard labor.

On January 23, 1900, Wood and three other convicts escaped from the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City after one of the men, Thomas Reynolds, stabbed to death a captain of the guards. The four men split up into two groups, and Wood and his accomplice, Kid Wallace, were captured two days later. Reynolds was captured one day after Wallace and Wood. When a posse was leading Reynolds back to the prison, an angry mob followed and snatched Reynolds when he was just outside prison walls.

Reynolds, who knew what was coming, told his captors: “If they start to make trouble for me up there, just put a bullet through me. I don’t want to be hanged.”

Nobody put a bullet through him and the mob lynched him instead. The fourth man in the escape, Bill Wagoner, was rumored to have been lynched but this went unconfirmed by newspapers from that era.

 

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Mug Shot Monday: Nathan Jerry Ellis, 1956-1986

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday: Nathan Jerry Ellis, 1956-1986

 

Nathan-Jerry-Ellis

This unfortunate face belongs to Nathan Jerry Ellis, killer and rapist.

In 1956, Ellis and another man were convicted for the murder of Victor Quick in Custer County, Oklahoma. He was sentenced to life in prison for first degree murder. He appealed, received a new trial, and was re-sentenced to serve sixty-years for manslaughter. In a time of long prison sentenced and early paroles, sixty years in his case actually meant eleven years. He was paroled in 1967 but was back in prison two months later for violating the terms of his release. While he was out, he had racked up several minor alcohol offenses and then tried to molest a fifteen-year-old girl.

He was given a second chance for parole in March 1974. This time, he was able to stay out of prison for two years but was returned again for parole violation after he was convicted of a simple assault charge and other minor offenses.

Ellis got another chance for parole in 1979. During his parole hearing, which was called to consider Ellis’s request to attend to his ailing mother, the forty-nine-year-old was cautioned about drinking. Ellis responded with a promise that this was the last time they would ever see him and stated: “I feel 21 years is sufficient time to do on this crime.”

The parole board agreed and he was released.

On July 12, 1985, Ellis broke his promise to the parole board when he was arrested for driving under the influence. He was not sent back to prison and instead, the fifty-six-year-old was arrested the following May for first-degree rape. In that case, he duped a mentally-incompetent woman into going to a motel with him where he raped her with a sexual-aid device. A jury found him guilty and recommended a sentence of 300 years.

The photo above appears to be from his 1958 retrial.

Photo Credit: [Photograph 2012.201.B0357.0256], Photograph, March 24, 1971; (http://gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc215226/ : accessed January 05, 2015), Oklahoma Historical Society, The Gateway to Oklahoma History, http://gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

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Mug Shot Monday! Arthur Eggers, 1946

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! Arthur Eggers, 1946

 

Arthur Eggers, Courtesy of California State Archives

Arthur Eggers, Courtesy of California State Archives

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I want to again apologize for the lack of posts lately. On top of the IVF treatment, which was successful and my wife is now pregnant [and thank you all for your kind replies], I’ve been working hard to put the finishing touches on my new 285 page book, “Famous Crimes the World Forgot,” which is due out next week.

As a Christmas present to each FB fan of HCD, I am giving away 12,744 ebook copies to every single one of you. I will have more information on that next week.

Today’s mug shot is taken from “Famous Crimes the World Forgot.” This is Arthur Eggers. In 1946, he was a cuckold who got tired of his younger, dominant wife running around on him. He was coming home late one night when he caught sight of his wife’s lover leaving the house. When he went inside, he found her naked in bed enjoying the afterglow – or whatever you call it. Arthur then grabbed his gun and was going to chase after the man but his wife got in the way and the two fought. During the struggle, the gun “accidentally” went off. He then cut off his wife’s head and hands and dumped her body out in the San Bernardino Mountains near Los Angeles. Although they found the torso, her head has never been found and no one is really sure what happened to it.

The complete story of how he did it, how he tried to get away with it, his wacky behavior, the trial, and his final outcome, are all in the ebook of which you will receive a free copy.

If you are inclined to look at gruesome pictures, a photo of his wife’s torso can be found on Google Image Search: Keywords = “Dorothy Eggers.” It’s not a pretty sight and this is my caution/warning.

 

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Mug Shot Monday! Ruth Eisemann-Schier, 1968

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! Ruth Eisemann-Schier, 1968

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RuthEismannSchier

On December 28, 1968, Ruth Eisemann-Schier became the first woman to claim a spot on the notorious FBI Most Wanted list when she and her then boyfriend, Gary Stephen Krist, kidnapped the daughter of a millionaire and demanded a $500,000 ransom. The 26-year-old and her boyfriend buried Barbara Mackle outside of Atlanta in a coffin with ventilation tubes and a little food. Mackle was found buried in the shallow grave 80 hours later, unharmed. Krist was arrested on December 20, 1968 for the Mackle kidnapping, while Schier, who had separated from Krist after a botched initial attempt to collect the ransom, escaped. She was later apprehended in Norman, Oklahoma, on March 5, 1969, 79 days after the kidnapping, where she was pretending to be a 19 year-old college student at the University of Oklahoma.

Barbara-Mackle

Barbara Mackle “proof of life” photo taken when she was kidnapped.

She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Schier served four years of her sentence and was paroled on condition of deportation to her native Honduras.

While Schier was in prison, Gene Miller, in collaboration with Mackle, wrote about the crime in their book 83 Hours Till Dawn, which later became a movie by the same name. Schier’s case was one of many covered in the 2002 book Mistresses of Mayhem: the Book of Women Criminals.

Ruth till lives in Honduras. She has a Facebook page which was last updated on May 14, 2013.

Gary Krist served ten years, received a pardon so he could become a doctor, lost his license, and was arrested in 2006 for trying smuggle aliens and cocaine into the country on a private boat he had chartered. You can read a thorough biography about Krist here. He was/is a malignant narcissist and his story makes for some pretty interesting reading.

 

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Serial Killer ‘Texas Jim’ Baker, Part Two

Home | Feature Stories | Serial Killer ‘Texas Jim’ Baker, Part Two

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Click Here to Read Part OneOr Click Here to Read All in One with Bibliography

The Investigation

After Baker left, the two men loosened their ropes and discovered Gaw’s body while searching for a telephone to call police. Detectives and lab supervisors were able to piece together that Gaw’s killer must be a former employee because he knew where to find the cash box and where the poison was secured. For some reason, the killer did not take Gaw’s money, nor did he remove the valuable platinum bars the lab stored which were worth thousands of dollars. They were also able to quickly deduce that Gaw was killed with poison, which was odd since Mayhew and McCauley said the killer had a gun. Detectives wondered why did he use poison instead of a gun.

After the two drivers described the man that robbed him, lab supervisors were able to narrow that down to three men, one of whom was Jim Baker. An employee photograph of Baker was used to make a positive identification with the truck drivers.

When police searched Jim Baker’s room that morning, they were horrified to learn what kind of man they were dealing with.

“Convinced by their discoveries in Baker’s room that they are dealing with a psychopathic case—the police began the nationwide distribution of circulars containing Baker’s photograph and description, as well as a warning that he is a dangerous man known to be armed with a dirk and a pistol,” the New York Times reported the day after the murder. Like most newspapers during for that era, the Times maintained a certain decorum for their readers. Some of the more delicate topics of humanity were off-limits, and if they couldn’t be avoided, they used code-words the general public understood. What the Times didn’t tell their readers was that in addition to being a psychopath, Jim Baker was a sexual sadist. A 1937 detective magazine had no such problems reporting on what police found in his apartment.

“Vials of deadly acids stood in rows on a shelf. A large bottle, falsely labeled, contained cyanide of potassium. There were ingredients for manufacturing prussic acid, one of the most virulent of poisons. Several notebooks in Baker’s handwriting gave details about the effects of various toxins. Other jottings dealt with abnormal sex psychology, the emphasis being on sadism and flagellation rather than on homosexuality. Indeed, the youth’s passion for women manifestly was second only to interest in poisons. Prints of nude girls lined the walls, and a sketch book was filled with obscene drawings by himself. He had hoarded scores of letters from women, with many lascivious passages being underlined in red.”

Police claimed they discovered enough potassium cyanide in his room to kill 100,000 people. It was a discovery that seemed to negate Baker’s claim that he had to return to the laboratory to steal more poison—unless he was planning mass murder on a level that would have been history making. It was just the kind of thing a narcissistic psychopath seeking infamy might plan.

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Mug Shot Monday! HCD Video

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! HCD Video

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Music:  “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” – Blind Willie Johnson, 1897-1945.

I thought this recording, which was done around 1927, would go great with 10 vintage mug shots of prisoners from McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary taken between 1899 to 1911. I put this together over the weekend. The lyrics are posted below.

 

Nobody’s fault but mine,
Nobody’s fault but mine
If I don’t read it my soul be lost

I have a bible in my home,
I have a bible in my home
If I don’t read it my soul be lost

Mmm, father he taught me how to read,
Father he taught me how to read
If I don’t read it my soul be lost, nobody’s fault but mine

Ah, Lord, Lord, nobody’s fault but mine
If I don’t read it my soul be lost

Ah, I have a bible of my own,
I have a bible of my own
If I don’t read it my soul be lost

Oh, mother she taught me how to read,
Mother she taught me how to read
If I don’t read it my soul be lost, nobody’s fault but mine

Ah, Lord, Lord, nobody’s fault but mine
If I don’t read it my soul be lost

And sister she taught me how to read,
Sister she taught me how to read
If I don’t read it my soul be lost, nobody’s fault but mine

Ah, mmm, Lord, Lord, nobody’s fault but mine
If I don’t read it my soul’d be lost, mmm

Blind Willie Johnson on Wikipedia

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Serial Killer “Texas Jim” Baker, Part One

Home | Feature Stories | Serial Killer “Texas Jim” Baker, Part One

 

This is part one of a two part story that is 9,500 words long. Part two will be posted on Friday, November 14.

 

Author’s Note: “Texas Jim” Baker was a serial killer who used poison and pistols to murder nine men around the world between 1924 and 1929. After he was captured in February, 1930, for the murder of a chemical laboratory employee, Baker bragged about these murders “with lip-smacking gusto” during several confessions to investigators and newspaper reporters. He thrived on the attention he received and often embellished his life story and the murders by describing them with overtly gruesome details meant to shock his listeners into thinking he was a special kind of monster. By doing so, Baker also hoped to increase his celebrity criminal status and gain more attention for himself. Several months after he was sentenced for one of his murders, International Features Syndicate paid him to write his autobiography. The story they published was filled with lies, half-truths, self-pity and Baker’s trademark overstated joy he felt while poisoning his victims. Through my research of New York newspapers, and five true crime magazine articles published after his trial, I believe I have separated fact from fiction as well as anyone could. Below, Baker’s “autobiography” is followed by facts gleaned from the investigation and his incarceration as reported by New York newspapers.

Wednesday, February 19, 1930

The Detroit detectives scrutinized the young man in front of them and didn’t know whether to believe him or not. If the story he told them was true, then twenty-four-year-old[1] James Baker was one of the worst mass murderers[2] they’d ever seen. He seemed arrogant, almost as if he was bragging about his confession to poisoning eight men around the world. They were used to liars in their line of work, but if “Texas Jim” Baker was a liar, he was one of the biggest. However, the liars they knew avoided specifics. They lacked details. All the made-up stories prisoners told were meant to get them out of trouble, not sent to the electric chair.

The confession Baker told them was rich in detail.

His claim to killing seven other men was news to them but they were sure they had the right man for the 1928 poison slaying of Henry Gaw, an employee at the Guggenheim Metallurgical Research Laboratory in New York City on the morning of December 28. His photograph, description, and tattoos on his right forearm matched the James Baker that New York City police were hunting the last fourteen months. However, since Texas Jim hadn’t killed anyone in Michigan that they knew about, this homicidal maniac was New York’s problem, not theirs. And as soon as he could be extradited, they would have to deal with him.

 Cropped-Jim-Baker-on-Train

Texas Jim Baker, 1930

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