Welcome to HistoricalCrimeDetective.com where you will discover forgotten crimes and forgotten criminals lost to history. You will not find high profile cases that have been rehashed and retold ad infinitum to ad nauseam. If you like history, true crime, interesting stories about people from the past, and research, you've come to the right place.

There are two kinds of posts on this website: INTERESTING DISCOVERIES (newspaper clippings, photos, reports, etc.) and full length FEATURE STORIES that I research and write. Please follow us on Facebook, or subscribe to our Email Alerts for new story updates and receive SEVEN true crime ebooks for FREE! If you want to send me a comment, old crime tip, submit a story, or exchange links with a related website, please Contact Me Here.

To Date, There are 65 True Crime Stories Posted on this blog.

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The Torture House, 1924

Home | Feature Stories | The Torture House, 1924

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Originally Published: “Torture House,” by Detective Lieutenant William Oeltjen, as told to Frederic Lord, True Detective Mysteries, Feb., 1930.

 

The Torture House of Louisville

The Torture House of Louisville

Recently, while in my office in Louisville I was pondering on the dullness of life–in particular, of a detective’s life—when’ a question was put to me by a friend who had dropped in for a chat.

“Lieutenant, do you remember the Gates-Heaton case, here in Louisville?”

“Do I remember the Gates-Heaton case?” I replied. “I don’t suppose anyone who had anything to do with it will ever forget it!”

My friend’s query brought back the memory of that strange case—one of the weirdest I have ever known in all my years of police work. And, after a few remarks had been passed, I consented to tell him the story:

It was about 6:30 P.M. on a Saturday night, six years ago—March 8th, 1924, was the date, if I remember rightly—that we received the call at the Louisville Police Department Headquarters.

“A man has been shot!” the voice over the telephone shouted. “You’ll find him at Six-Thirty-Seven South Thirty-Fourth Street!”

Accompanied by several of my men I reached the scene in record time. We found the body on the second floor, in the bedroom. It was lying near a mattress—a circumstance odd in itself, because that mattress was lying on the floor. Surrounding the mattress were four steel staples driven into the floor. No one missed the picture it created, together with a number of surgical instruments that were in the room also.

Not much more than a glance showed us that the man was dead. There was a gaping hole in his neck, another near his heart. Several persons were in the room and, as is usually the case, they were incoherently babbling words about the killer. He had raced from the house, they said, when he made sure, on a doctor’s word in fact, that his victim was dead. On the killer’s wrists were handcuffs, his body was trembling, his face pallid.

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Mug Shot Monday! Shoplifter Bertha, 68

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! Shoplifter Bertha, 68

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Bertha, 68 year-old shoplifter, circa 1897, Chicago

Bertha, 68 year-old shoplifter, circa 1897, Chicago

The following case has been a “repeater” for many years and is now in the penitentiary. She is sixty-eight years of age and has served sentences in the penitentiaries of Blackwell’s Island, Sing Sing, Joliet, and probably elsewhere. This is her third term in Joliet. She has also served several sentences in the Cook county jail. She is one of a gang of fourteen or more habitual thieves, some of whom own considerable real estate in Chicago, supposed to have been acquired from the profits of robberies. I first met Bertha while she was serving a jail sentence now more than a year ago.

When she was asked what brought her there she broke into tears and declared she couldn’t help it.” Six or eight months later she was under arrest again at the Harrison St. police station (Chicago) for her usual crime, shoplifting, and at which time I had a long talk with her in private.

“Bertha” came to America from a German village when she was sixteen years old, and on board the ocean ship she met a man whom three months later she married. He was a tinsmith by trade and only a few years older than herself. They lived sixteen years together when they separated, and he was later killed by a fall from the roof of a house he was working on.

She recalls as her first theft the stealing of a pocketful chestnuts when a young girl in her native village. It seems that a few minutes after the theft she was “conscience smitten” on passing one of the public statues of Christ, which she says are quite numerous in that part of the country. On looking at the statue’s face she felt its eyes pierce her with condemnation of her act, whereupon she threw away the nuts.

Excepting this act, she says she was a good girl while in Germany. The village she lived in in Germany was Roman Catholic, and here and there, at short intervals, were statues of Christ in the little public squares or open places.

Her mother died two years before she left Germany and her father was assassinated. She is one of a family of six sisters and three brothers.

She claims she was first introduced to systematic thieving by a female acquaintance in New York who had lots of nice things and seemed to have a “good time” by thieving in stores. Says she knows perfectly well that it is wrong to steal from anybody, but that if she didn’t “go down with the dogs she wouldn’t come in with the police,” or, in other words, the need of money and the influence of association.

She declares that she prays every night but hasn’t been to a church since her last time in the penitentiary. Says a church would fall on her because of her wickedness if she should enter one. She seemed greatly impressed with a priest who visits the jail because of his expression of sadness at seeing her return to jail. Says “his words pierced her like lightning.” She told the judge when he sentenced her that he could hang her if he chose. I have not the slightest doubt of her sincerity.

During my interview with her she frequently heaved a deep sigh and once exclaimed to herself, oh dear ! oh dear! She is a keen, robust and vigorous woman for her age, and evidently of a passionate disposition. She admits drinking freely at times, but denies having other vices.

She says that if she had her liberty and her choice she would return to her native village, where they have free homes for old people. The gang she has been operating with, range in their ages from eighteen to forty-five years, two sons of one of her sisters being engaged in selling the goods stolen. Claims she never stole from poor people. She is now in the Joliet penitentiary, and several of the other leaders of her gang have also recently been taken to the same place.

Source: Crime and Criminals, by John Sanderson Christison, Chicago Medical Book Co. 1898.

The Warden’s Wife: Kate Soffel & The Biddle Brothers, 1902

Home | Short Feature Story | The Warden’s Wife: Kate Soffel & The Biddle Brothers, 1902

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The following story was made into a movie in 1984 entitled, Mrs. Soffel, 
and starred Diane Keaton and Mel Gibson.

Kate Soffel & the Biddle Brothers, Ed & Jack.

Kate Soffel & the Biddle Brothers, Ed & Jack.

During the early months of 1901, twenty-seven burglaries were committed in Pittsburg, and the modus operandi of these bold thieves convinced the authorities that the crimes were all committed by the same persons.

In the early morning of April 12 an effort was made to burglarize the grocery-store conducted by Thomas Kahney, who discovered them in the act and was shot dead by one of the thieves.

On the same morning Inspector of Police Robert Gray and Detective Patrick Fitzgerald received information that the movements of a gang of men and women living at 34 Fulton Street should be investigated.

The officers proceeded to the house, and upon being refused admission they began to force an entry. As they did so, a shot was fired which killed Fitzgerald.

A posse then surrounded the house and two brothers, named Ed and Jack Biddle, Frank Dorman and two women, known as Jennie Wilcox and Jessie Wright, were arrested.

It was then learned that the men of this gang committed many and probably all of the twenty-seven burglaries above referred to and also the murder of Kahney, the grocer.

The entire gang was charged with murder, the two brothers being convicted and sentenced to be hanged on December 12, 1901.

Dorman was sentenced to life imprisonment and the two women were acquitted.

The Governor granted the Biddle brothers a respite of sixty days, during which time they were confined in the Alleghany County Jail in Pittsburg.

At 4 a. m. January 30, 1902, Ed Biddle called from his cell to Guard James McGeary and announced that his brother had been taken suddenly ill and requested that the guard procure some cramp medicine immediately.

McGeary hastened to comply with the request, and when he returned with the medicine the Biddles broke through the bars which they had sawed almost in two. They then grappled with McGeary and threw him over a railing down to a cement floor sixteen feet below. The guard struck on his head and for some time it was believed he would die.

The desperate men then produced revolvers which had been smuggled in to them and they shot another guard named Reynolds, inflicting a serious but not fatal wound.

As only one other guard was present, they covered him with a revolver and threw him into the dungeon where his outcries could not be heard.

As these two men then became complete masters of the prison, they took the keys from McGeary’s person and walked out of the prison into Ross Street.

When Warden Peter Soffel was informed of what had transpired he almost collapsed, but when he recovered himself he stated that his wife, the mother of his four children, had disappeared and that circumstances convinced him that her infatuation for Ed Biddle, who was a handsome fellow, caused her to surreptitiously supply the brothers with the saws and weapons and that she had probably accompanied them in their flight.

At this time the ground was completely covered with snow and a posse, consisting of three Pittsburg detectives and five other officers, started in pursuit in sleighs.

On the next day, January 31st, the officers learned that the Biddle brothers and Mrs. Soffel had dinner at J. J. Stevens’ home at Mount Chestnut, five miles east of Butler, Pa.

The officers started in pursuit, and upon nearing Mc-Clure’s barn, two miles from Mount Prospect, they saw the two brothers and Mrs. Soffel attempting to escape in a sleigh. When the officers got within sixty yards of the trio they commanded them to halt, but as the order was ignored the officers opened fire with their rifles.

The brothers responded, and during the fusillade they received fatal wounds and rolled off the sleigh on to the snow. Mrs. Soffel was also wounded in the breast and fell on to the snow, but by a miracle none of the officers was injured.

The three injured persons were taken to the hospital at Butler, Pa., where Ed Biddle admitted that Mrs. Soffel had rendered the only assistance they had received.

He stated that her reason for so doing was because she believed they were innocent men about to be hanged.

John Biddle died at the Butler hospital at 7:35 p. m. on February 1 and Ed died three hours later.

Mrs. Soffel was seriously but not fatally wounded. When she realized what she had done she expressed the wish that she would also die. She added that the brothers were forced to leave the jail earlier than intended, as she had learned that the cells were to be inspected in a few days and she feared that the officials would discover where the bars had been sawed.

When Mrs. Soffel fell from the sleigh she dropped a long letter written by Ed Biddle to her, which showed that she fell in love with the desperado in November, 1901, and on December 2 she began preparations to liberate him.

It was she who purchased the saws and weapons and smuggled them in to the prisoners.

Mrs. Soffel was prosecuted for her part in the jail break and sent to State Prison for two years. After her release she tried the theatrical business, but the performance was stopped by the authorities. She then went into seclusion, changed her name and earned her living as a dressmaker, fully repentant for her mad infatuation for Biddle.

On August 30, 1909, she died at the West Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburg from a complication of diseases.

Source: Celebrated Criminal Cases of America, Thomas A. Duke, 1910.

More Reading:

May Be The Biddles” The Washington Star, Jan. 31, 1902.

Warden Was Warned His Wife Was Infatuated,” The Salt Lake Herald, Feb. 4, 1902

 

Mug Shot Monday! A Jealous Husband

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! A Jealous Husband

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Matt Rollinger is a Luxemberger, thirty-four years of age, married, three children, and a cabinet-maker by occupation. Boarding at his house was a man whose intimacy with Mrs. Rollinger gave rise to rumors which reached his ears, and finally he became convinced of their truth.

Matt-Rollinger

Matt Rollinger, circa 1897

One morning after witnessing more than he could withstand, he sallied forth in the early twilight, partly attired in female garb, and with, pistol in hand lay in wait for the exit of his enemy. While the light was still dim he saw a form approaching which he thought was the man he wanted. He fired and the man fell dead. He had killed his friend and neighbor and not the object of his fury.

He was arrested for murder and at his trial it was shown he was in a bewildered and frenzied state of mind when found on the spot the next moment.

He is a stolid and childish creature with a harmless disposition except under great provocation. His mistake and confinement seemed to add a melancholic and demented condition. But he had the reputation of being a peaceable, industrious and skilled mechanic.

On good authority I am told that some of the jurymen remarked that if he had killed the man he intended to, he would have been acquitted. It seems they do not feel it would be safe to free him at once, and they saw no other course open but to sentence him to return the verdict of 14 years in the penitentiary.

Source: Crime and Criminals, by John Sanderson Christison, Chicago Medical Book Co. 1898.

First HCD Crime Book Lottery has Ended!

Home | Crime Book Lottery | First HCD Crime Book Lottery has Ended!

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The first ever HCD Crime Book Lottery has ended and I would like to congratulate Shima Sharifi who guessed 200. Random dot org selected 204. Shima was the closest without going over.

I am posting a screen shot of randomdotorg selection to confirm the winner

I would like to thank you all for playing! I promise there will be many more Crime Book Lotteries in the future so keep up with us here on FB and on the blog.

Thank you all for being the best fans! Take care and have a great weekend!

Jason Morrow
HCD

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This Friday is Free Book Friday! 04/04/2014

Home | Uncategorized | This Friday is Free Book Friday! 04/04/2014

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Do you know what this Friday is?

IT’S FREE BOOK FRIDAY!

That’s right, this week I will be giving away a copy of the book below to one of HCD’s email subscribers in a simple number guessing contest.

Only email subscribers to HCD Story Updates are eligible. On Friday morning at 0900 Central Time, I will send an email out to all subscribers with the Subject Line: “Tragedy in the North Woods”

Email subscribers will guess a number between 1 and 210 (that’s about how many subscribers we have), hit reply to that email, and put that number in the Subject Line of the email they received that morning.

The closest number without going over wins. The number will be chosen by the website random .org. and I will take a screen shot of the number and post it at 9 pm central time Friday on Facebook and announce the winner.

If you are not yet an email subscriber, you have until Thursday, 11:59 pm. It is a proven scientific fact that people who DO NOT subscriber to HCD are 20x more likely to end up in prison. So, it’s probably a good idea to subscribe. Plus, each subscriber gets 7 free true crime books just for signing up for HCD story updates.

tragedy in the north woodsPlus, I’m going to be giving away more hard copy books in the future.

At left is the cover and below is the synopsis of Tragedy in the North Woods, a contemporary true crime book from HistoryPress.net

“Thoroughly researched and documented, this book constitutes the definitive history of one of Maine’s most ruthless killers.Trudy Irene Scee follows Hicks from the North Woods to West Texas, detailing three decades of evasion, investigation and prosecution. She interviews police officers and victims’ families—and finds Hicks at the state prison in Thomaston, where he remains silent and remorseless as he lives out his days behind bars.”

Mug Shot Monday: Robert Stroud

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday: Robert Stroud
Robert Stroud "Birdman of Alcatraz" 1912.

Robert Stroud “Birdman of Alcatraz” 1912.

Robert Stroud, 1922

Robert Stroud, 1922

These photos clearly show what 10 years in prison will do to a fella during the first quarter of the 20th Century. Yikes.

Robert Franklin Stroud (January 28, 1890 – November 21, 1963), known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz”, was a federal American prisoner, cited as one of the most notorious criminals in American history. During his time at Leavenworth Penitentiary he reared and sold birds and became a respected ornithologist, but despite his nickname, he was not permitted to keep his birds at Alcatraz, where he was incarcerated from 1942.

Born in Seattle, Stroud ran away from his abusive father at the age of 13, and by the time he was 18, he had become a pimp in Alaska. In January 1909, he shot and killed a barman who had attacked one of his prostitutes, Kitty O’Brien. He turned himself in to the authorities. He was found guilty of manslaughter on 23 August 1909, and sentenced to 12 years in the federal penitentiary on Puget Sound’s McNeil Island. Stroud gained a reputation as an extremely dangerous inmate who frequently had confrontations with fellow inmates and staff, and on 26 March 1916, he stabbed guard Andrew F. Turner to death in the cafeteria for stripping Stroud of his visitation privilege to meet his younger brother, whom he had not seen in eight years. Convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to execution by hanging, after several trials, Stroud’s sentence was eventually commuted to life imprisonment. Read More at Wikipedia

The Baby Snatcher, 1924

Home | Feature Stories | The Baby Snatcher, 1924

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Scene of where baby Corinne Modell was kidnapped. Modell’s Upholstery Store at 116 South Sixtieth Street, Philadelphia.

Scene of where baby Corinne Modell was kidnapped. Modell’s Upholstery Store at 116 South Sixtieth Street, Philadelphia.

It was a happy mother who wheeled Baby Corinne Modell’s perambulator (baby carriage) to the front of the Modell’s Upholstery Store at 116 South Sixtieth Street, Philadelphia, the afternoon of May 5th, 1924.

Corinne, ten weeks old had easily won the blue ribbon at a neighborhood baby contest. Admiring neighbors gathered to pay tribute to the chubby little Miss who had been proclaimed queen of her neighborhood’s babyland. They laughed in delight as she gurgled approval of their caresses.

Honors rest lightly upon babies, however, as Corinne soon demonstrated.

For while a few neighbors still lingered, she closed her eye and was soon off to that land of slumber known only to babies.

“Mama,” Corinne’s father said to his wife, Eva, “It is such a nice warm day that I think we should let baby sleep out here. It will do her good. [In other words, they left her unattended in front of the store in the baby carriage.]”

Mr. and Mrs. Modell entered their store. It was then about 1:30 P.M.

A half hour later, Mrs. Modell emerged. She went to the baby carriage and peered under its hood to see if the child was still sleeping.

She gasped in horror at what she beheld. Then, realizing what had occurred, she screamed.

The baby was missing! She had vanished as though some evil spirit, jealous of the honors bestowed upon her, had spirited her away.

In the place where she had been resting lay a lifeless, was doll.

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Mug Shot Monday: Malcolm X

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday: Malcolm X
malcolm-x-mug-shot

Malcolm Little mug shot before he became Malcolm X.

In late 1945, Little returned to Boston, where he and four accomplices committed a series of burglaries targeting wealthy white families. In 1946, he was arrested while picking up a stolen watch he had left at a shop for repairs, and in February began serving an eight-to-ten year sentence at Charlestown State Prison for larceny and breaking and entering. - wikipedia

The Premonition of Sgt. Anton Nolting, 1909

Home | Short Feature Story | The Premonition of Sgt. Anton Nolting, 1909

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Jan. 8, 1909, San Francisco, CA

anton-nolting
Click to open larger image in new window. Photo by The San Francisco Call, 1-9-1909

Anton J. F. Nolting was born in San Francisco on February 9, 1860. He was of a studious disposition and acquired a high education. As a young man he was in comfortable circumstances financially but meeting with reverses, he joined the San Francisco Police Force on December 2, 1895.

On March 29, 1905, he was made a Corporal and on July 9, 1907, was advanced to the rank of Sergeant.

Because of his quiet, unassuming and kindly manner, he was one of the most popular men in the department and was also generally admired because of his devotion to his invalid wife.

On October 2, 1907, he was assigned as a Patrol Sergeant to the Central Station.

He reported for duty on the watch beginning at midnight January 8, 1909, and it was noted that he was in an extremely melancholy mood. As a storm was raging, all patrol officers wore regulation rain coats throughout this watch.

About 1 a. m., Sgt. Nolting met Officer William Cavanaugh at Kearny and Bush streets. The Sergeant said that he felt that something terrible had happened or was about to happen.

After some meditation he said: “Perhaps something has happened to my poor wife.”

Nolting complained of dizziness and at Cavanaugh’s suggestion he went into the saloon at the southeast corner of Kearny and California Streets (A) and ordered a bromo-seltzer (similar to an alka-seltzer). The Sergeant then said he did not want to be alone and requested Cavanaugh to accompany him down California to Montgomery Street (B). Upon reaching that corner Nolting thought he saw the Montgomery Street officer at Sacramento Street (C) and proceeded alone in that direction, while Officer Cavanaugh was returning toward Kearny Street. [Subsequent discoveries proved that Nolting had evidently mistaken a civilian, who was also wearing a rain coat, for the officer.]

Anton-Nolting-Final-Patrol

Anton-Nolting-Map2

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About the time Nolting reached Sacramento Street he heard a shot fired on Washington Street near Montgomery.

He proceeded in that direction, but when he reached Clay Street (D) he observed a soldier with a drawn pistol who was in the act of forcing two other soldiers to march ahead of him. Nolting approached the trio and began to expostulate with the soldier with the drawn revolver. At this instant the other two soldiers fled down Clay Street toward the ferry. Seeing that he could accomplish nothing by argument, the Sergeant closed in on the soldier and began grappling for the pistol. Nolting slipped and fell and while his back was partially turned, the soldier fired into his body, inflicting a wound which caused almost instant death. After firing three more shots at the officer, the soldier attempted to escape. He ran into a vacant lot which was almost immediately surrounded by Officers Brady, Teutenberg, Cavanaugh and Sheble, who were attracted to the scene by the shots. These officers closed in on the assassin shortly after he stumbled and fell and they found the empty revolver by his side.

Clay-Street

The corner of Montgomery & Clay Streets. Just up Clay Street seen here, Jordan killed Sgt. Nolting. Click to open larger image in new window.

When taken before Captains Anderson and Duke at the Central Station, he disclaimed all knowledge of the shooting and claimed that his mind was a complete blank regarding his actions during the preceding hour.

He stated that his name was Thomas Jordan and that he belonged to the Coast Artillery stationed at Fort Baker. Shortly afterward, the two other soldiers (who ran away) were apprehended at the water front.

One of the two made a statement substantially as follows:

“My name is Charles Nibarger and my companion’s name is John Kralikouski. We are soldiers stationed at Fort Baker. I had been sent out as a provost guard (Military Police) and was armed with a revolver. I was in the New Western saloon at Kearny and Washington about midnight with Jordan and Kralikouski.

“In some manner Jordan got possession of my gun and pointing it at Kralikouski and me, he ordered us to march ahead of him. When we were going down Washington Street he said we were not moving fast enough and he fired a shot in the air. When we reached Montgomery Street he ordered us to turn toward Clay Street. When we reached the last named street, the police Sergeant approached and asked who fired the shot.

LA-Herald-10-26-1909

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“While he and Jordan were arguing we ran down Clay Street. We had only traveled about forty feet when we heard the shots.”

On Sunday, January 10, Sergeant Nolting’s funeral took place. The Mayor, Police Commissioners and about 300 officers attended. The largest floral piece around the casket was one sent by the soldiers from Fort Baker.

Jordan was held to answer in the Superior Court. The defendant claimed that he was in an “alcoholic trance” when the deed was done. Hiram Johnson was retained as special prosecutor.

On March 12, 1909, Jordan was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

After the death of her husband, Mrs. Antonia Nolting failed rapidly and she was found dead in her bathtub on October 24 of the same year.

Source: Thomas Samuel Duke, “Celebrated Criminal Cases of America,” The James H. Barry Company, 1910.
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