1. The Lindbergh Baby
The Kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh Jr., the 20-month-old son of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne Morrow, was the most notorious crime of the 1930s. On the 1st of March, 1932, the Lindberghs found a ransom note in their son’s empty room demanding $50,000. The kidnapper used a ladder to enter through the window of the nursery on the second floor, and left muddy footprints in the room. The tragic mystery immediately became a sensation, even Al Capone offered to help from prison. Despite the many resources, and the family eventually delivering the ransom money, the investigation was unsuccessful. The body of Charles Jr. was discovered not far from the Lindbergh family’s mansion.
For two years, it seemed that the crime would remain unsolved, until September 1934 when a gas station attendant had received a marked bill from the ransom as payment. He wrote down the license plate number of the suspicious customer and called the police. The renewed investigation eventually led to Bruno Hauptmann, a German-born carpenter. He was tried, convicted and eventually executed on April 3rd, 1936.
His wife, Anna Hauptmann, spent the rest of her life trying to clear his name and prove he was framed by police officers desperate to solve the case. To this day, Hauptmann’s sentence is under dispute. Was he indeed guilty, or was it a tragic misconception that resulted from the anti-German sentiment of the time and the hero-worship of Lindbergh that influenced the media, the jury, and the entire nation?
2. The Assassination of John F. Kennedy
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy is probably the most well-known and talked about crime story on the list. So who shot Kennedy? The official answer is Lee Harvey Oswald. On November 22, 1963, the president and his wife Jaqueline Kennedy were riding around the streets of Dallas alongside Texas Governor John Connelly and his wife in an open-top convertible. As the car was passing the Texas School Book Depository at 12:30 AM, Oswald allegedly fired six lethal shots wounding President Kennedy fatally. He was arrested hours later and was assassinated himself after two days by Jack Ruby while being escorted to an armored car. The whole event was caught on live network TV. Ruby claimed the grief and rage that Kennedy’s murder ignited in him were the motives for his actions.
Obviously, the assassination of the president was life-altering for millions of people. It changed the course of an entire nation, particularly when it came to the war in Vietnam. In the course of time, it turned John and Jackie Kennedy to almost mythological figures, with countless representations in the media. But more interestingly, the assassination opened a door to one of the biggest conspiracy theories in history.
3. Capturing Pablo Escobar
An entire article would not be enough to contain the entire history of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. On December 2, 1993, the wealthiest drug kingpin the world has ever seen was shot while trying to escape the hideout in his home in Medellin, running across the rooftops of the city. Escobar’s death put an end to a long saga of the cat and mouse chase between him and the authorities.
His Medellin Cartel was responsible for 80% of the cocaine sent to the US during the late 80s and early 90s. Escobar was a unique figure. On the one hand, he was known as “the Robin Hood of Colombia” for using his wealth to help some of the poorest citizens of Medellin and stepping in some of the roughest neighborhoods, where the country couldn’t or wouldn’t intervene. That way, he gained the loyalty and gratitude of many people in the city.
However, when he couldn’t get his way through loyalty, he turned to violence. The Medellin Cartel was known for being ruthless and responsible for the deaths of thousands. Escobar's death marked the end of Colombia’s reign on cocaine trade.
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4. The Trial of OJ Simpson
The trial of OJ Simpson was unprecedented in its extensive media coverage and public interest. When Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman were found stabbed to death outside Nicole’s home in Los Angeles on June 2, 1994, her ex-husband OJ Simpson was immediately a prime suspect. The football hero led the police on an unforgettable low-speed chase around Los Angeles until finally surrendering in his home, pleading "absolutely, 100 percent not guilty”.
All Networks zoomed in and didn’t let up until the end of the trial a year later. Over 150 million people tuned in to hear the verdict given on October 3, 1995, according to Time magazine. That was 57% of the US population at the time. OJ was found not guilty and the murder of Nicole and Goldman remained unsolved. Dozens of books written on the case, and the 2016 award-winning documentary "O.J.: Made in America" have kept the public interest in trial alive, even after more than 20 years.
5. The Bombing at the 1996 Olympic Games
The Atlanta Summer Olympics of 1996 were disrupted on July 27 due to a report about a bomb that was about to go off in the Continental Olympic Park. The police began evacuating the venue, but unfortunately, the bomb exploded earlier than expected. It killed a mother who brought her daughter to see a free concert taking place at the park and a cameraman. More than 100 people were injured. Within a few days, Richard Jewel, the security guard who found the backpack containing the bomb, was investigated as a suspect. However, by October, he was cleared of any wrongdoing.
The true culprit was finally identified two years after the incident in 1998. A series of bombings that occurred in the South of the US linked Eric Rudolph to the Atlanta bombing. When the police finally managed to capture him in 2003, he said his anti-abortion and anti-homosexual views were the motivation for his crimes.
6. JonBenet Ramsey
On December 26, 1996, Patsy Ramsy called the police to report her daughter JonBenet was missing, and a three-page long ransom note was found in her room. After an extensive search, the 6-year-old’s body was found in the family’s basement later that day.
In the following days, the media was in a frenzy. They swarmed JonBenet’s school, John Ramsy’s office, and the local church. The parents' accounts of what happened the night their daughter went missing were inconsistent and sparked the public’s suspicion. Another fact that was held against Patsy and John was that JonBenet was a regular contestant at child beauty pageants. Many people had never even heard that such pageants existed and criticized the parents for public inappropriate displays of their child.
In 2006, the Ramseys were cleared of any wrongdoing because of advanced DNA testing. To this day, the crime remains unsolved.
7. The Assassination of Gianni Versace
On July 15, 1997, designer Gianni Versace was shot on the front steps of his mansion in Miami after returning from a morning walk to purchase an Italian newspaper at his favorite cafe. The killer was Cunanan, a serial killer who was already known and wanted by the FBI.
The murder made headlines, and manhunt after Cunancn began. The killer was found dead in a houseboat a week later, having used the same gun that killed Versace to take his own life. It is known about Cunanan that he was extremely intelligent and likely suffered from an antisocial personality disorder. He did not leave a note nor ever explain his motives.
8. The Assassination of John Lennon
On December 8, 1980, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were returning from a photoshoot with Annie Leibovitz when Mark Chapman shot the former Beatle four times in the back. The event took place just steps away from the Dakota apartments in New York City. Chapman calmly stayed at the scene of the crime until the police arrived. They found him reading a copy of The Catcher in the Rye.
Since her husband’s death, Yoko Ono has been advocating for gun control and paying an annual tribute for him to spread his message of peace. “John Lennon’s death 34 years ago today triggered the same shock and outpouring of grief as the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy,” wrote the critic Jay Cocks in his cover story about Lennon’s legacy in Time Magazine.