Murders and Mysterious Deaths in America

Chalk outline

Chalk outline

The number of homicides in 2021 in the United States was 26,031. This is 7.8 deaths per 100,000 population. The highest number of deaths occurred in Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, and Georgia, while the lowest numbers came from Hawaii, Vermont, and North Dakota. In 2021, only 51% of homicides were solved, according to FBI statistics. The country is seeing a continued decline in cleared cases compared to previous decades when the rate was closer to 70%.


Elizabeth Short - Black Dahlia

Elizabeth Short – Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia Murder (1947) – The gruesome discovery of the body of a young woman sliced in half at the waist became a national obsession, as both the Los Angeles, California police and the FBI interviewed dozens of suspects across the country to find the killer or killers of Elizabeth Short. Nicknamed the Black Dahlia by the Los Angeles press, Short was a 22-year-old aspiring actress when she was brutally slain. Her murder remains unsolved.

Lizzie Borden – Killer of Fall River, Massachusetts? – Lizzie Borden, the only suspect in the ax murders of Andrew and Abby Borden in 1892, was arrested, tried, and acquitted in Fall River, Massachusetts.

William B. “Curly Bill” Brocious (1845-1882) – An outlaw leader of the Clanton Gang of Arizona, Curly Bill was a vicious, drunken gunman, cattle rustler, and murderer. After the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Brocious attempted to kill Virgil Earp and succeeded in assassinating Morgan Earp. Wyatt soon caught up with him and killed him on March 24, 1882.

Ephraim Brown – Murdered on the Oregon Trail – In 1857, Ephraim Brown organized a wagon train from St. Joseph, Missouri. On August 2, the company was camped on the Sweetwater River east of the Continental Divide at South Pass, Wyoming. Here, Ephraim Brown was shot and killed by a man in a quarrel.

Clutter Family Murders – In Cold Blood (1959) – The brutal murders of four members of the Clutter family in the small farming community of HolcombKansas, shocked the nation when the story hit the news. Murder of this magnitude just didn’t happen to farm families in the heartland of America.

Mining and Murder in Ruby, Arizona (1921) – In August 1921, seven Mexican vaqueros robbed and brutally murdered the store owners, Mr. and Mrs. Pearson. When authorities arrived at the scene, the crime-hardened authorities were appalled by the brutality. By the time authorities arrived at the scene, it was evening. They found Pearson behind the counter with two bullets in his back. His wife had a fractured skull, a shot through her neck, a bullet hole through her head, a broken jaw, and missing teeth. Even the crime-hardened authorities were appalled by the brutality.

Death of a Sheriff – Murder and Conspiracy in the Old West (1893) – John Doherty was in his home office when an assassin shot and killed him by firing through a window. For some time, the case was cold, with no suspects. However, by October 1894, it was found that the current sheriff, Agapito Abeytia, had been running an outfit associated with the Vincente Silva’s Whitecaps Gang. They had killed Doherty, fearing that he was collecting evidence against the group. Abeytia and others were convicted of the killing, and Doherty’s brother Joe became the new sheriff.

The Fatal Flight of United Airlines 629 – On November 1, 1955, a routine two-hour flight from Denver, Colorado to Portland, Oregon, would take off as usual only to mysteriously crash 11 minutes later, killing all 39 passengers and five crew members. The mass murderer used a dynamite time bomb planted in his mother’s suitcase in an apparent move to murder her and claim $37,500 worth of life insurance money from policies he purchased in the airport terminal just before the flight departure. He was sentenced to death and was executed by the state of Colorado in January 1957. On January 11, 1957, Jack Graham was put to death in a gas chamber

Villisca, Iowa, and the Axe-Murder Man (1912) – On a quiet residential street in the small town of Villisca, Iowa, a horrible tragedy that continues to affect this small town occurred a century ago. The walls of this pristine home still protect the identity of a murderer who bludgeoned the entire family of Josiah Moore and two overnight guests on June 10, 1912.

Meriwether Lewis

Meriwether Lewis

The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis (1809) – Captain Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was only 35 when he died of gunshot wounds sustained along a perilous Tennessee trail called Natchez Trace. Two hundred years later, debate continues over whether the famous explorer committed suicide or was murdered.

The Disappearance of Joseph Force Crater (1939) – An allegedly corrupt New York State Supreme Court judge, Crater vanished soon after then-Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt named him to the bench. After hailing a cab, he was never seen again.

The Hi-Fi Murders (1974) – The Hi-Fi Murders Dale Selby, William Andrews, and Keith Roberts entered the Hi-Fi Shop in Ogden, Utah, just before closing time, where they held five people hostage. What happened next is unimaginable and involved the hostages being forced to drink a corrosive liquid that caused their lips, tongues, and throats to burn and the flesh to peel away from their skin. The hours of torture also included the use of a ballpoint pen as a weapon, and three of the hostages were shot dead. Two surviving victims sustained permanent life-changing injuries. Two of the twisted killers were executed by lethal injection, while the other was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Albert Jennings Fountain – Missing in the Desert (1896) – Soldier, lawyer, and politician, the mystery surrounding Albert Jennings Fountain’s disappearance in the deserts of southern New Mexico has puzzled lawmen and historians for more than a century. Also See: The Fountain Murders: Sites Today

Mary Pinchot Meyer – Assassinated By CIA? (1964) – A socialite, painter, former wife of Central Intelligence Agency official Cord Meyer, and, by some accounts, the mistress of John F. Kennedy, Meyer was shot execution-style in broad daylight.

The Last Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe – The death of Edgar Allan Poe on October 7, 1849, has remained mysterious, with the circumstances leading up to it uncertain, and the cause of death is disputed.

Jesse Pomeroy (1874) – Nicknamed the “Boy Fiend,” Pomeroy viciously stabbed two children to death in Boston, Massachusetts, when he was 14. At the time, he was one of the youngest people in the history of the state to be convicted of murder.

Richard Speck (1966) – During the early hours of July 14, 1966, an inebriated Richard Speck broke into a townhouse in Chicago, Illinois, and systematically murdered eight nursing students. The mass murderer killed the women by stabbing, strangling, slashing their throats, or a combination of the three. One victim was also raped before she was murdered. A ninth potential victim survived by hiding beneath a bed. Convicted of all eight murders on April 15, 1967, Speck was sentenced to death, which was later reduced to 100-300 years. Speck died of a heart attack while incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center on the eve of his 50th birthday.

© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, October 2023.

Also See:

American History

Mysteries in American History

True Crime in America

Who’s Who in American History