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6 Terrible People and How They Were Captured

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Recent events have provided an interesting look at how law enforcement officials identify and hunt down very terrible people. Here are a few infamous killers, and how they were captured.

1. James Earl Ray

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After murdering Martin Luther King, James Earl Ray beat his feet to Canada, where he holed up under the name “Ramon George Sneyd.” Two months later, he tried to abscond to London, but was detained at Heathrow for having a fake Canadian passport. It didn’t help that he was found to be carrying his actual American passport as well. (Passports are not Pokemon cards, and Customs does not like it when you try to collect ‘em all.) He was extradited and spent the next 29 years rotting in prison. 

2. Eric Rudolph

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Though the 1996 Olympic Park Bombing is his most infamous attack, Eric Rudolph whiled away the years that followed by sending bombs to abortion clinics and a lesbian bar. He spent five years on the FBI Ten Most Wanted list, and roamed the Appalachian Mountains. He was accidentally captured in 2003, when a rookie cop thought he was robbing a convenience store.

3. Ted Kaczynski

The Smoking Gun

The Unabomber, as Ted Kaczynski was better known, spent 17 years sending bombs to schools, airlines, and businesses. The best way to summarize Kaczynski is to say he was really crazy and really smart. He was accepted to Harvard at the age of 16, earned his PhD from the University of Michigan, and at age 25 was made a professor of mathematics at Berkeley—the youngest in the university’s history. Then he built a cabin in Montana and created his own little Walden in Hell. Basically, his motivation for becoming a terrorist was a seething hatred for civilization. Also, he loved trees. He was captured when David Kaczynski noticed that the Unabomber Manifesto basically plagiarized the unhinged writings of his brother. For what it’s worth, David was a little leery of just calling of the FBI, fearing a repeat of Ruby Ridge. At any rate, if the search warrant is any indication, the FBI wasn’t all that convinced that it had the right guy. This changed when they raided the little cabin and found a bunch of bomb parts and tens of thousands of handwritten pages of insanity.

You might be wondering how he got a cool name like Unabomber. The FBI task force investigating him was called UNABOM, for “University and Airline bomber.” Today he is an active member of the Harvard Alumni Association. 

4. John Wilkes Booth

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Originally, John Wilkes Booth planned to kidnap Lincoln, but later thought it might be a good idea to kill him, the vice president, and the secretary of state. After he shot Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre, he dashed for the stage door, on the other side of which was a horse. (His accomplice: Joseph “Peanuts” Burroughs.) Booth saddled up and bolted for Confederate territory. It was a surprisingly well-thought-out plan. His path south had a minimum of railroads or telegraphs, and was dotted with sympathizers. Two weeks later, he had taken refuge in a tobacco farmer’s barn. (The farmer didn’t know Lincoln had been assassinated, as mail delivery had ceased with the collapse of the Confederacy. At any rate, Booth was hiding under the name “James Boyd.”) When federal agents, ever on his path, finally tracked down Booth, they ordered him out of the barn. Booth refused, and so they set the barn on fire, and shot Booth just to be sure.

5. Lee Harvey Oswald

The Smoking Gun

Forty-five minutes after Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger that killed John F. Kennedy, a policeman spotted him on the street. Oswald shot the cop four times. He then slipped into the back entrance of a movie theater without paying. A nearby shopkeeper noticed him doing this, and told a clerk in the box office, who called the police. When the 5-0 arrived, the movie was stopped and the lights were brought up. Oswald tried to kill his second cop of the day, but his pistol misfired, and he was apprehended. (All of this presupposes that the actual assassin wasn’t the Cigarette Smoking Man.) 

6. Carlos the Jackal

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Ilich Ramírez Sánchez is better known as Carlos the Jackal. He tried to blow up the Bank Hapoalim in London, but when he threw the first bomb in the building it bounced against the door and caused only cosmetic damage. The second bomb didn’t detonate, merely breaking a window. He launched car bombs against newspapers, threw grenades into restaurants, and tried to blow up a couple of airliners. He murdered two French investigators and an informant. He held attendees of an OPEC meeting hostage, threatening to “kill one every fifteen minutes” until his demands were met. (Three people had already been killed in the attack.) Carlos didn’t follow through with his threat, sparing an Iranian finance minister and a Saudi oil minister. Because of this, the terrorist organization to which he belonged fired him for not being evil enough.

He eventually linked up with the East German Stasi, and went on a European bombing spree. In 1991, he moved to Sudan, where he was granted asylum for being just the right amount of evil. Three years later, however, Carlos the Jackal had minor surgery on his testicles, and Sudanese agents tranquilized him and handed him off to the French. These days, he alternates between boasting of his wicked deeds, and then claiming innocence of the ones keeping him in jail.

Why is Ilich Ramírez Sánchez called Carlos the Jackal, you ask? When he joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, his recruiter nicknamed him “Carlos” because he (i.e. Ramírez Sánchez) was born in South America, and political correctness just wasn’t a big thing at Terrorist H.Q. The Guardian newspaper affixed “the Jackal” after a copy of the novel The Day of the Jackal was found with some of his belongings. If only Ramírez Sánchez had picked up a copy of William Blatty’s novel from the same year, we might today speak of Carlos the Exorcist.

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The Terrible Crime at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin 
Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright
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Some of the most horrific murders in Wisconsin history involved none other than famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Wright was in the middle of building a home, which he named Taliesin, for himself and his mistress in Spring Green, Wisconsin. He had recently left his wife and six children for Martha "Mamah" Borthwick, whose husband Edwin Cheney had commissioned Wright to build a house in Oak Park, Illinois. Cheney may have a gained a Frank Lloyd Wright house, but he lost his wife—Mamah and Wright became close, even traveling to Europe together, sans spouses, in 1909. The Cheneys divorced in 1911; Wright’s divorce would take more than another decade to be finalized.

On August 15, 1914, Wright was away attending to the construction of Midway Gardens in Chicago when he got a terrible message. “Taliesin destroyed by fire,” it read, and that was all. For the time being, at least, Wright was spared the details: Their servant, Julian Carlton, had attacked Mamah, her children, and Taliesin workmen, pouring gasoline under the door and setting the home ablaze. When some of the victims broke windows and tried to escape, Carlton hacked at them from outside of the house with a hatchet.

The Ogden Standard, September 5, 1914
A news account of the tragedy, September 5, 1914
Library of Congress // Public Domain

While precise accounts of the crime vary, according to biographer William Drennan, Carlton first killed Mamah and her two children, 8-year-old Martha and 12-year-old John, while they were eating lunch on a porch, bludgeoning them with a hatchet. Once Carlton had taken care of them, he went to a dining room where the workmen were eating, locked them in, and set fire to the place.

In the end, eight people died—seven victims and the murderer himself. The victims included Mamah and her children, draftsman Emil Brodelle, gardener David Lindblom, handyman Tom Brunker, and Ernest Weston, the son of carpenter William Weston.

The murderer didn’t die right away, though. He swallowed hydrochloric acid soon after the attack, and died of starvation about seven weeks later. Despite being questioned, Carlton never did give a motive for his killing spree. There’s some evidence to suggest a series of disputes with the workers, however, and that Carlton had recently been told he was being terminated.

Taliesin as it looks today
edward stojakovic, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

As for the absolutely devastated Frank Lloyd Wright, he rebuilt Taliesin in Mamah’s honor. The land may have been cursed, however, because this second reincarnation of the house was also destroyed by fire. In 1925, a lightning storm apparently ignited the wiring, sparking a conflagration that eventually burned the house down. Not one to be deterred, Wright built Taliesin III on the same spot. Today, the home is open for tours and events.

A version of this story originally ran in 2011.

8 Animals That Have Been Imprisoned or Arrested

It might seem like a case of animals just being animals, but when eight donkeys in northern India recently ate nearly $1000 worth of greenery in their small town, they did four days in the big house. (Perhaps part of the problem? They ate expensive saplings that were planted right near the jail. Rookie mistake.) But whether they harmed property or people, were in cahoots with human outlaws, or were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, these eight other critters are proof that "crime" can sometimes be cuddly.


In 2015, officials in India arrested a pigeon they suspected was a spy. The bird’s body was stamped with a message written partly in Urdu—Pakistan’s official language—and what appeared to be a Pakistani phone number. It had landed in a village close to the country’s shared border with Pakistan, near the Kashmir region that’s claimed by both countries and has been the subject of multiple wars between India and Pakistan beginning in 1947. Though there was a ceasefire in 1972 (the current situation is that India controls 45 percent of Kashmir, Pakistan 35 percent, and China 20 percent), because both countries believe they have rights to the area, it's frequently the site of military clashes and infiltration.

So when a 14-year-old boy found the suspicious-looking pigeon so close to Kashmir, he turned it over to authorities. The officials took it to a veterinary hospital for x-rays, and though they couldn’t find any concrete evidence of foreign fowl play, they kept the bird in custody, recording it as a “suspected spy” in their police diary.

That said, not everyone took the news as seriously as the Indian police did: In the days following the bird’s arrest, Pakistani social media was flooded with memes depicting the feathered detainee as a slick 007 type, and amused internet users coined hashtags like #PigeonVsIndia and #IfIWereAPigeon.


In December 2016, a wild beaver must have decided that forest trees weren’t festive enough, because it wandered into a dollar store in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, to browse Christmas trees and decorations. Workers noticed the animal knocking items onto the floor, and called the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office.

Captain Yingling of the sheriff's office arrived on scene to prevent the "shopping" beaver from ruining the store. “The suspect attempted to flee the area but was apprehended by Animal Control,” the sheriff's department joked on their Facebook page.

Instead of allowing the beaver to finish up its holiday shopping, the St. Mary's County Sheriff handed the critter over to a wildlife rehab center. As for the police, they said the quirky incident just marked another day on the job: “As a law enforcement officer, you just never know what your next call may be...” they mused on Facebook.


In 2015, police in the Indian state of Maharashtra taught a foul-mouthed parrot named Hariyal a lesson in politeness after they “arrested” it for swearing at an elderly woman named Janabai. According to locals, the pet bird had picked up the rude habit from Janabi’s stepson, Suresh Sakharkar. The two were embroiled in an ugly property dispute, and the latter had reportedly spent the prior two years training Hariyal to spout epithets whenever the estranged relation walked past his house.

The situation escalated, and Janabi, Suresh, and his bird were eventually called to the police station. “Police should investigate and seize the parrot,” the embittered stepmother told Indian news channel Zee News. That said, Hariyal must have known he was in hot water, because he kept his beak shut. “We watched the parrot carefully but it did not utter a word at the police station after being confronted by the complainant,” a police inspector told reporters.

Instead of locking Hariyal up, officials gave the parrot over to Maharashtra’s forestry department, where he can presumably fly—and curse—freely for the remainder of his life.


While walking down the street in the West German city of Bottrop in 2015, a woman realized that she had attracted a furry stalker: a tiny red squirrel. The animal was chasing her and acting aggressively. Frightened and unable to flee the rodent, the woman called the police for help. Authorities captured the squirrel, “arrested” it, and brought it back to the station. There, they discovered that the critter was suffering from exhaustion.

Police helped nurse the squirrel back to health by feeding it honey, and a spokesman said the squirrel would be sent to a rescue center instead of languishing away in a cell for its stalkerish habits.



In 2004, a rogue monkey became infamous for terrorizing residents of the city of Patiala, in India’s northern Punjab region. The monkey was guilty of multiple crimes: It stole food from homes, ripped the buttons off people's shirts, threatened kids with bricks, and once even swiped someone’s math textbooks and calculator. To keep the marauding jungle creature off the streets, officials sentenced it to “monkey jail”—a now-defunct detainment center in Patiala that was reserved for ill-behaving primates.

The “monkey jail"—which appears to have operated from 1996 until the mid-2000s—was located in the corner of a local zoo. The 15-foot-wide barred cell was secured with chain-link fencing and wire mesh, and had a sign that read: "These monkeys have been caught from various cities of Punjab. They are notorious. Going near them is dangerous."

Punjab is filled with countless wild Rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) monkeys. Some of the animals have moved into cities and towns in search of food, as humans continue to destroy their natural jungle habitat. Others were once used as animal guards, or trained as performing monkeys, and were set loose by their owners once they turned violent. Particularly ill-treated or mischievous primates have been known to destroy property and pester—or even attack—humans. But since Hindus revere Hanuman, the monkey god, killing the creatures is verboten.

Wildlife officers in Punjab took matters into their own hands by opening the monkey jail. They responded to public complaints by capturing the creatures with trapping cages and tranquilizer guns. Once the monkeys were locked up, there was little to no chance of "parole."

As of 2004, there were 13 jailed monkeys, all imprisoned for harassing people or committing petty crimes. Patiala’s primate penitentiary was eventually closed, and authorities announced it was going to be replaced by “reform school" that's intended to train the monkeys to be less aggressive.


On New Year’s Day 2013, a cat took the heat for scheming Brazilian inmates who were likely either planning a jailbreak or attempting to communicate with outlaws on the outside. The white feline was slinking around the main gates of a medium-security prison in Arapiraca—a city in northeast Brazil—when guards noticed that its body was wrapped in tape. They apprehended the kitty, and discovered that it was carrying items including several saws and drills, an earphone, a memory card, batteries, and a phone charger.

Prison officer Luiz de Oliveira Souza told reporters that the cat had been seen entering and exiting the jail before. It had been raised by inmates, and was often in the custody of one of their families. However, officials couldn’t figure out which of the jail’s 263 prisoners had tried to use the feline for their own nefarious purposes: “It’s tough to find out who’s responsible for the action as the cat doesn’t speak,” a prison spokesperson told local newspaper Estado de S.Paulo.

Following the cat’s “arrest” and brief imprisonment, it was taken to a local animal shelter to receive medical treatment.


Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary

Unlike some animals on this list, Pep the dog was a very good boy. But in 1924, Pennsylvania governor Gifford Pinchot allegedly sentenced the dark-haired Labrador to a life sentence without parole. Pep was taken to Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, where officials jokingly gave him his own inmate number and mug shot. Reporters nicknamed the canine "Pep The Cat-Murdering Dog," as he was said to have killed the governor’s wife’s cat.

Thanks to all the media hype, Pep had quite the tough reputation. But a few years after the canine’s imprisonment, the governor’s wife, Cornelia Pinchot, set the story straight in an interview with The New York Times. Turns out, Pep had never murdered her pet feline; her family simply bred Labradors, and owned too many dogs. Pep, she said, was a gift to the prisoners to lift their spirits.

Today, researchers say that partisan journalists twisted the facts around, and that Pep was actually a beloved prison pet that freely wandered the hallways and was adored by all. As for the "life sentence without parole" part, the Lab was eventually moved to a newer prison; when he died, he was buried on its grounds.



In 2008, police in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas arrested a feisty donkey named Blacky after it bit a man in the chest, and kicked a second man trying to rescue him. Police apprehended the burro and locked it in the jail’s drunk tank. “Around here, if someone commits a crime they are jailed, no matter who they are,” said Officer Sinar Gomez.

Police said that the donkey would remain behind bars until its owner, Mauro Gutierrez, paid the injured parties’ medical bills and salary for the days they missed work. The boisterous burro served three days in jail, and Gutierrez settled the score by paying Blacky's victims.


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