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4 More Terrible People and How They Were Captured

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Last week, we looked at a few very terrible people, and how law enforcement officials identified them and hunted them down. Here are a few more infamous killers, and how they were captured.

1. Whitey Bulger

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Whitey Bulger spent twelve years on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List, and his bounty (a handsome $2 million) was surpassed only by that of Osama bin Laden ($25 million). In the early days of his career in crime, Bulger was an armed robber, though he wasn’t a very good robber, and ended up at Alcatraz in 1959. When he got out, he spent some time as a bookie for the mob, and during a war between crime families, killed a rival mobster. Only he wasn’t much better as a killer than he was as a robber, and he killed the wrong guy. This didn’t help relations among the rival families, so Bulger did the only thing he could think of to save his own neck: He (allegedly) killed the leaders of his own crime family.

He would eventually find fame as a shakedown artist who targeted criminals, ordering the deaths of those who “stepped out of line.” This earned him a fairly good reputation as far as people with bad reputations go—he was kind of a gun-toting criminal Batman who didn’t wear a costume. Eventually, the FBI even recruited him as an informant. Accordingly, people all around Bulger started going to jail for doing really bad things, and Bulger, who was also doing really bad things, avoided arrest. In the absence of criminal competition, Bulger consolidated power in Boston, and used his sway with his FBI minders to have the competition locked up. Also, he had a bunch of guys killed. Here’s where things get thorny. Bulger was an FBI informant, but he wasn’t the only informant, and those other informants were informing on Bulger. And then an FBI agent started informing Bulger of the other informants. Did Bulger forgive the mobsters who were ratting against him? No, he did not. Suddenly people started developing extra holes in their heads.

Whitey Bulger soon got into the drug business, and won the lottery. (No, really, he won the lottery.) The ticket had been purchased from a store that he owned, and the guy who bought it claimed that Bulger was his partner. The purse was $14 million.

Eventually, law enforcement agencies that were not the FBI decided to nab Bulger under the RICO Act (that thing Harvey Dent did at the beginning of The Dark Knight) and once again, an FBI agent tipped off Bulger. On the lam he went. The list of places Bulger visited reads like it came from a Nabokov novel. In short, Bulger was everywhere but inside of a prison.

By 1999, the FBI had pulled itself together and placed Bulger on the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list (more on that below). He appeared on America’s Most Wanted practically as often as John Walsh. Over the years, these media efforts paid off for investigators, and he was finally nabbed in Santa Monica, California at the age of 81. Bulger claims to have killed 40 people, though he’s also pleaded not guilty to everything, so go figure.

(The Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, one of J. Edgar Hoover’s many innovations as director of the FBI, is a perfect representation of his uncanny skills at public relations. In short, one of Hoover’s first orders of business after taking the helm of the newly minted FBI was to build an impenetrable shield of public support. He knew that such support would be essential to surviving the hostile political waters of Washington. His efforts went far beyond a few press releases—he encouraged the creation of pulp magazines, bubble gum cards, and comics. Likewise, he worked with Hollywood to produce such “G-Men” films as Public Enemy’s Wife, Show Them No Mercy, and The FBI Story. One film—Public Enemy Number One—even put Hoover in its advertisement campaign. The common image we have today of FBI special agents—of dark suits and neckties—is a direct result of these efforts, and has endured for 80 years. The Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list was an accidental success that Hoover capitalized on. He and the editor-in-chief of the International News Service collaborated to find ways to promote the Bureau’s prowess at hunting down fugitives. The resulting news story was so popular that the FBI created an official list, and has maintained it since 1950. The upshot to all of this is that Hoover and his Bureau were made invincible early on and successfully weathered some pretty awful events, including Ruby Ridge, Waco, the Whitey Bulger affair, COINTELPRO operations, and so on. J. Edgar Hoover went on to serve as FBI director for an astonishing 48 years. For comparison, a seat on the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment, and even then, the longest-service justice only lasted 36 years. Hoover’s story, and how the whole of the intelligence community attempted to emulate his press savvy, are recounted at length in my new book.)

2. Saddam Hussein

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So after Shock and Awe, Saddam Hussein got the impression that the United States didn’t like him much, and he bolted from Baghdad. The name of the mission that caught him was Operation RED DAWN, and the places it searched were called Wolverine 1 and Wolverine 2. Really. Here’s how it all went down: U.S. intelligence and the Joint Special Operations Command had been hunting Saddam pretty relentlessly since the invasion, eventually narrowing his location to somewhere in the vicinity of Ad-Dawr, Iraq. A 600 soldier force descended upon the Wolverine sites, and combed the desert in Spaceballs fashion. They turned up little. Soldiers from 4th Infantry Division then spread out and formed a cordon, and Delta Force went after a suspicious little farm nearby with a suspicious little hut and a suspicious little trap door covered in dirt. (They deduced that something suspicious was going on.) Beneath the trap door was an eight-foot-hole. At the bottom was Saddam Hussein, a pistol, a couple of AK-47s, and 750 dollars Americano. Said Saddam: “I am Saddam Hussein, President of Iraq, and I want to negotiate,” and everyone laughed. After a trial, Hussein was executed by hanging.

3. John Allen Muhammad

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You probably know this guy as the D.C. Sniper. He was born in Baton Rouge, trained in the Louisiana Army National Guard, and served in the Gulf War. At some point, he became a big fan of al-Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden in particular. Muhammed was a big supporter of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and a year later, he went on a determined killing spree of his own in Washington, D.C. (His previous murders in Louisiana and Georgia were leisurely by comparison.) He used his Chevrolet Caprice as a mobile sniper nest. With an accomplice driving, Muhammed could climb into the trunk from the back seat, and fire his rifle from the prone position through a small hole near the license plate. In October 2002, he randomly killed or wounded 13 people. He would have been captured earlier—he had, in fact, been stopped multiple times by police officers on various occasions over the course of his killing spree—but everyone was focused on a mysterious white van. Eventually, witness accounts helped determined that a blue Caprice was a vehicle of interest. On October 24, a witness spotted the vehicle at a rest stop, Muhammed and his accomplice asleep inside. Police closed off the rest stop, and arrested him. In 2009, he was killed by lethal injection.

4. Adolf Eichmann

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When it comes to evil, you’re going to have a hard time finding someone worse than Adolf Eichmann. With his logistical prowess and German work ethic, he helped exterminate six million Jews. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that he didn’t just surrender when things went bad for the Nazis. You probably will be surprised to learn that the Army caught him right away, but nobody worried too much about him because he said his name was Otto. He eventually slipped away from custody and spent a couple of years hiding in Germany, and later Italy (here he called himself Ricardo, because why not?). In 1950, he found a home in Argentina, where he managed a rabbit farm, among other jobs.

The Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, doesn’t care for Nazi war criminals, and immediately set about hunting them down. Evidence later narrowed Eichmann’s location to Argentina, where his son undid him. It seems the junior Eichmann had a girlfriend, and liked to brag to her about his father’s talents in genocide. The girlfriend’s father went to the district attorney, who then approached the Mossad. After an investigation and round-the-clock surveillance, the Mossad and Shin Bet snatched up Eichmann at a bus stop outside of Buenos Aires. They dressed him as a flight attendant to smuggle him on a plane, and pumped him full of drugs so that he looked drunk, and so that no one would ask questions. They brought him to Israel to stand trial. Said Eichmann years before: "I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction." He was found guilty of committing crimes against humanity (among other things), and was committed to death by hanging.

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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
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.

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8 Animals That Have Been Imprisoned or Arrested
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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.

1. THE PIGEON THAT WAS ARRESTED ON SUSPICION OF ESPIONAGE.

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.

2. THE BEAVER THAT WAS APPREHENDED FOR A DESTRUCTIVE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SESSION.

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.

3. THE FOUL-MOUTHED PARROT IN INDIA THAT WAS ARRESTED FOR REPEATEDLY INSULTING HIS OWNER'S STEPMOTHER.

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.

4. THE SQUIRREL THAT WAS ARRESTED FOR "STALKING" A GERMAN WOMAN.

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.

5. THE BAD MONKEYS IN INDIA THAT WERE IMPRISONED IN "MONKEY JAIL."

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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.

6. THE CAT WHO WAS DETAINED FOR HELPING OUT WITH A PRISON BREAK.

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.

7. THE TOUGH PRISON PET THAT WAS ACTUALLY A VERY GOOD BOY.

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.

8. THE FEISTY DONKEY IN MEXICO THAT WAS LOCKED UP TO SETTLE A SCORE.

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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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