Where old crime does new time: A Research Site Dedicated to Forgotten Crimes & Forgotten Criminals
Welcome to HistoricalCrimeDetective.com [Est. 2013], 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. This blog is the official website for true crime writer Jason Lucky Morrow, author of four books including the popular series: Famous Crimes the World Forgot, Volume I and Volume II. If you would like to send me a comment, old crime tip, or exchange links with a related website, Contact Me Here. - Please follow this historical true crime blog on FACEBOOK.
An Italian immigrant who spoke little English and struggled to scrape together a living on her primitive family farm outside Chicago, Sabella Nitti was arrested in 1923 for the murder of her missing husband. Within two months, she was found guilty and became the first woman ever sentenced to hang in Chicago. Journalist Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi leads readers through Sabella’s sensational case, showing how, with no evidence and no witnesses, she was the target of an obsessed deputy sheriff and the victim of a faulty legal system. She was also—to the men who convicted her and the reporters fixated on her—ugly. For that unforgiveable crime, the media painted her as a hideous, dirty, and unpredictable immigrant, almost an animal.
Lucchesi brings to life the sights and sounds of 1920s Chicago—its then-rural outskirts, downtown halls of power, and headline-making crimes and trials, including those of two other women (who would inspire the musical and film Chicago) also accused of killing the men in their lives. But Sabella’s fellow inmates Beulah and Belva were beautiful, charmed the all-male juries, and were quickly acquitted, raising doubts among many Chicagoans about the fairness of the “poor ugly immigrant’s” conviction.
Featuring an ambitious and ruthless journalist who helped demonize Sabella through her reports, and the brilliant, beautiful, twenty-three-year-old lawyer who helped humanize her with a jailhouse makeover, Ugly Prey is not just a page-turning courtroom drama but also a thought-provoking look at the intersection of gender, ethnicity, class, and the American justice system.
“Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi’s riveting and creepy tale of violence, betrayal, and injustice is an uncomfortable yet all-too-familiar story of anxious Americans’ willingness to believe that illiterate, poor immigrants can be guilty of a crime because of who they were, not what they did.” —Kate Clifford Larson, author of The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln
“An elegantly researched and beautifully written example of investigative journalism. Sabella Nitti’s story is a cracking-good mystery. It’s a monument to Jazz-era misogyny, true crime, women’s rights, immigrant prejudice, and the brutal inequities in the system of jurisprudence in 1920s Chicago.”—Jeffrey Gusfield, author of Deadly Valentines: The Story of Capone’s Henchman “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn and Louise Rolfe, His Blonde Alibi
“Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi has told a long-neglected story that needed telling—a story about class, fear of the Other, and justice denied. Her rigorous history is shocking and moving. It has a lot to tell us about both who we were then and who we are today.” —Douglas Perry, author of The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago
“The author’s inclusion of contemporary sensational Chicago trials helps readers place the importance of the case. VERDICT For lovers of historical true crime.” —Library Journal
Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi has contributed to the country’s largest newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times. Her work has also appeared in CountryLiving.com, MarieClaire.com, and GoodHousekeeping.com. She frequently speaks to universities and professional organizations on topics related to women in history, media, and Jazz Age Chicago. She lives in Oak Park, Illinois.
CrimeCon 2017 – http://www.crimecon.com
A friendly reminder that CrimeCon 2017 will take place in Indianapolis June 9-11. Day passes are now available and they have put together quite a line-up of “true crime” stars including Nancy Grace, Josh Mankiewicz, Aphrodite Jones, Kelly Siegler, Carl Marino (the young Lt. Joe Kenda), and over 30 True Crime Podcasters.
Here’s the update I just received from the event organizer.
We announced Oxygen as our presenting sponsor
* We just started selling day tickets last week
* The cutoff to book the hotel is 5/24
* Podcasts- We have over 30 of the top true crime podcasters attending! They are setting up on “podcast row” during Friday and Saturday of the convention. We also have an onsite podcast studio that select shows are doing live recordings from.
* Ken Kratz is hosting a super small and in depth session on the Avery case Friday morning before the convention starts
Schedule details — http://www.crimecon.com
By Mary Ruth Rombalski
Bakersfield, California, February 4, 1955
Originally appeared in Front Page Detective, May 1955
Editor’s Note: In 1954, Mary Ruth Rombalski was a nineteen-year-old girl from Kentucky who, like many young girls from that era, dreamed of moving to Hollywood where she would become a movie star. After leaving her husband in Milwaukee (a marriage that never should have happened in the first place and he was glad to see her go, she says), Mary went from town to town working as a waitress, trying to save enough money to get a bus ticket to Los Angeles. In December, she was working in Brady, Texas where she met local loser and Army reject, Max (Red) Stapleton, also 19, who promised to take her to Los Angeles. Along the way, he robbed a liquor store in El Paso, and shot to death California gas station owner Orville Johnson, 55, during a hold-up. Mary, who was held captive for most of the journey, was able to escape from “Red” before he crossed the border into Mexico. She reported Red’s crimes to Nogales, Arizona police who arrested him on January 7, 1955. She was also arrested, held as an accessory, and both were transported to Kern County California, where Stapleton was indicted for first-degree murder. Her first person account of her life, and what happened during her time with Stapleton, was published in the May 1955 issue of Front Page Detective, which was placed in the public domain on Internet Archive.
Okay, this isn’t crime related, but it is mysterious. And weird. A short news story published in 1890 about a captured mermaid–with a well-developed bosom, apparently. I find all kinds of weird stories when digging around in old newspapers and this is just one example. — JLM