CLOSE

Woody Harrelson's Hitman Father

Over the course of his 20-plus year career, Woody Harrelson has played good cops and bad cops, pornographers, and cold-blooded killers. But even his darkest roles can't compare to the drama he's dealt with behind the scenes. His father, Charles Harrelson, was a hitman convicted of killing two, and suspected of more.

The elder Harrelson wasn’t around for much of Woody's childhood. He left his family in 1968 when his son was just seven. Years later, Woody was listening to the radio and heard news anchors discussing the murder trial of Charles V. Harrelson. Figuring that there couldn't possibly be that many Charles V. Harrelsons out there, Woody questioned his mother about his father’s whereabouts. That’s when he learned where his dad had been.

Charles Harrelson had already served five years in prison for the murder of a Texas grain dealer. He had been sentenced to 15, but let off early for good behavior in 1978. His brief stint as a free man didn't last long. Harrelson was convicted of the murder of U.S. District Court Judge John H. Wood, Jr., after Texas drug lord Jamiel Chagra testified that he had hired Harrelson to kill the judge for $250,000. Chagra was facing a life sentence for smuggling drugs, and hoped that his case would get transferred to a more lenient judge after Wood’s demise. Harrelson received two life sentences.

The hitman also confessed to killing John F. Kennedy, an admission he later recanted:

In 1988, Woody Harrelson told People magazine that he was working on his relationship with his father. “This might sound odd to say about a convicted felon, but my father is one of the most articulate, well-read, charming people I've ever known," the actor, now 54, explained. "Still, I'm just now gauging whether he merits my loyalty or friendship. I look at him as someone who could be a friend more than someone who was a father."

Woody tried to get his father a retrial, though he wasn’t convinced he was deserving of it. "I don't know [that] he did deserve a new trial … just being a son trying to help his dad. Then I spent a couple of million beating my head against the wall,” he told the Guardian in 2012. His efforts were indeed for naught: The elder Harrelson had a heart attack and died in prison in 2007.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons // Nigel Parry, USA Network
arrow
crime
Meghan Markle Is Related to H.H. Holmes, America’s First Serial Killer, According to New Documentary
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons // Nigel Parry, USA Network
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons // Nigel Parry, USA Network

Between staging paparazzi photos and writing open letters to Prince Harry advising him to call off his wedding, Meghan Markle’s family has been keeping the media pretty busy lately. But it turns out that her bloodline's talent for grabbing headlines dates back much further than the announcement that Markle and Prince Harry were getting hitched—and for much more sinister reasons. According to Meet the Markles, a new television documentary produced for England’s Channel Four, the former Suits star has a distant relation to H.H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer.

The claim comes from Holmes’s great-great-grandson, American lawyer Jeff Mudgett, who recently discovered that he and Markle are eighth cousins. If that connection is correct, then it would mean that Markle, too, is related to Holmes.

While finding out that you’re related—however distantly—to a man believed to have murdered 27 people isn’t something you’d probably want to share with Queen Elizabeth II when asking her to pass the Yorkshire pudding over Christmas dinner, what makes the story even more interesting is that Mudgett believes that his great-great-grandpa was also Jack the Ripper!

Mudgett came to this conclusion based on Holmes’s personal diaries, which he inherited. In 2017, American Ripper—an eight-part History Channel series—investigated Mudgett’s belief that Holmes and Jack were indeed one in the same.

When asked about his connection to Markle, and their shared connection to Holmes—and, possibly, Jack the Ripper—Mudgett replied:

“We did a study with the FBI and CIA and Scotland Yard regarding handwriting analysis. It turns out [H. H. Holmes] was Jack the Ripper. This means Meghan is related to Jack the Ripper. I don’t think the Queen knows. I am not proud he is my ancestor. Meghan won’t be either.”

Shortly thereafter he clarified his comments via his personal Facebook page:

In the 130 years since Jack the Ripper terrorized London’s Whitechapel neighborhood, hundreds of names have been put forth as possible suspects, but authorities have never been able to definitively conclude who committed the infamous murders. So if Alice's Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll could have done it, why not the distant relative of the royal family's newest member?

[h/t: ID CrimeFeed]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
FBI
arrow
crime
A New D.B. Cooper Suspect Has Emerged
FBI
FBI

The identity of skyjacker D.B. Cooper—a well-mannered passenger on Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 who parachuted out of the skyjacked plane heading to Seattle in November 1971 with $200,000 in cash—has long intrigued both law enforcement and amateur sleuths. One theory posited that Cooper may have even been a woman in disguise.

In July 2017, the FBI officially closed the case. This week, they might take another look at their archival material. An 84-year-old pet sitter from DeLand, Florida named Carl Laurin has made a public proclamation that a deceased friend of his, Walter R. Reca, once admitted he was the country’s most notorious airborne thief.

The announcement is tied to the publication of Laurin’s book, D.B. Cooper & Me: A Criminal, a Spy, and a Best Friend. And while some may discount the admission as an attempt to sell books, the book's publisher—Principia Media—claims it vetted Laurin’s claims via a third-party investigator.

According to Laurin, he and Reca met while both were skydivers in the 1950s and kept in touch over the years. Reca was a military paratrooper and received an Honorable Discharge from the Air Force in 1965. Laurin suspected his friend immediately following the skyjacking since he had previously broken the law, including an attempted robbery at a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant as well as several banks. But Reca didn’t admit guilt until shortly before his death in 2014, when he handed over audiotapes of his confession and made Laurin promise not to reveal them until after he had passed away.

Principia Media publisher/CEO Vern Jones says he expects skeptics to challenge the book’s claims, but says that the evidence provided by Laurin was “overwhelming.” The FBI has yet to comment on any of the specifics of Laurin’s story, but an agency spokesperson told The Washington Post that “plausible theories” have yet to convey “necessary proof of culpability.” Nonetheless, someone at the Bureau probably has a weekend of reading ahead of them.

[h/t MSN]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios