The Naked City Nov 25 2014
A LITTLE TO THE RIGHT
Good aim is helpful for committing murders, and absolutely crucial for solving them.


Front Page Detective shows on this November 1971 cover how to attract eyeballs with lurid art and titillating text. Eisenhower’s social secretary murdered? That sounds intriguingly political, but it turns out Eisenhower’s only connection is that his White House had more than a decade earlier employed the murder victim in a secretarial position. Though no political angle exists, the crime itself is still very interesting. Laura Carpi, scion of a prominent Philadelphia family, disappeared in February 1971. In June the decomposed body of a woman was found in New York City’s East River, labeled an accidental drowning victim, and twenty days later interred on Hart Island as a Jane Doe in the potter’s field there. After the body was identified as Carpi’s, the New York Times published a sensational story claiming that her head had been removed before burial for study by junior pathologists, or, according to some sources in the pathologist’s office, simply to be used as a desk ornament. The Times claimed that a technician had been cleaning out whatever grisly remnants of flesh were still attached to the skull and happened to find a bullet lodged in its neck tissue. Dealing now with a suspected homicide, police focused on missing persons, and eventually summoned Carpi’s dentist. Recognizing his own work, he made the positive identification. 

The ME’s office became the center of a storm, with Chief Medical Examiner Milton Helpern blasting the Times story for insinuating that “the doctors in this office are cutting off people’s heads to make ashtrays.”  He pronounced the entire article “grossly distorted.” Perhaps it was, but uncovering a murder by chance never looks good, and he didn’t help his cause when he responded to a question about why his staff had failed to discover the bullet by saying that he ran a mortuary, not a graveyard, and was extremely busy. Though his answer was callous, it was also correct. His office had a contant flow of bodies coming through—that year more than 1,800 alone that had been victims of murder—and his staff was overworked. Add to this the facts that Laura Carpi had thick hair that concealed the small caliber entry wound at the base of her skull, the slug had left no exit wound, and the head had been four months in the water, and it’s possible to see how mistakes could be made. As to why the head was kept, the unconvincing official reason was that it was because the dentalwork would allow for possible future identification—which only made sense if all the Jane and John Does on Hart Island were also headless.

In any case, the finger of suspicion for the murder immediately pointed toward Carpi’s estranged husband Colin, at right, who was battling for custody of their four children. Not only would the loss of this battle and subsequent divorce settlement wipe him out financially, but he was also well aware that his wife had been seeing another man. For various reasons—jurisdictional issues and general reluctance to pursue the crime—Colin Carpi didn’t go to trial for two more years. A mountain of circumstantial evidence pointed at him, but his acquittal was deemed by most legal experts to be the right decision. The prosecution simply bungled its presentation to the jury, and even if the courtroom aspect had been perfect, much of Colin Carpi’s suspicious behavior could be chalked up to the circumstances around the custody battle and his wife’s affair. Perhaps a not-guilty verdict was an anti-climax after the high drama associated with the identification of Laura Carpi’s body, but not finding the perp is the way it often goes in true crime, and real life.

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The Naked City Oct 1 2014
DIFEDE TO BLACK
Be careful what you wish for—you may have to kill for it.


These two issues of Crime Detective, which appeared today in 1962 and 1964 respectively, both feature the same cover photo—each a reverse of the other—of Jean DiFede and Armando Cossentino. DiFede and Cossentino, who were thirty-six and nineteen, were May-December lovers convicted of murdering DiFede’s husband Dr. Joseph DiFede in order to collect a $72.000 life insurance policy (about $560,000 in today’s money). Dr. DiFede was attacked in his bedroom with a hammer and carving knife, and the disarray of the scene showed that he had battled fiercely for his life before succumbing to multiple blows and seven stab wounds. A third person on the scene later turned eyewitness against the lovers, claiming Dr. DiFede gasped to his wife with his last words, “I forgive you everything… Don’t kill me.” Meanwhile Cossentino stood over him and shouted, “Die! Die! Die!”

The eyewitness account (he said the extent of his participation had been helping to clean the crime scene because he feared for his life) was damning enough on its own. Police also discovered that Jean DiFede had bought Cossentino a new convertible, rented an apartment for him, and went on public dates with him. And just for good measure the all-male jury was repeatedly reminded that Cossentino was only two years older than Jean DiFede’s oldest son, who had been instructed to refer to her by her name rather than “mom.” When the guilty verdicts came down, Cossentino was sentenced to die in the electric chair and DiFede got twenty years. Upon hearing her sentence she screamed, “If I have to spend twenty years in jail I’d rather be dead!” As it turned out, neither of them died in prison. Cossentino’s sentence was commuted to life, and both eventually earned parole.

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The Naked City Sep 21 2014
AMERICAN MURDER STORY
Wait a sec, I have the right to remain silent? Really? Oh. Um, I take back everything I said.

Blood splattered Henry Whitfield appears in the above photo after his arrest for homicide by Los Angeles police. Following an argument about a woman and money, Whitfield shot Robert Hayes, seen dead in the background, then called police and waited calmly for them to appear. After they arrived, Whitfield told them; “I killed him, and I’m glad. He was no good. I should have killed him a long time ago.”

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Intl. Notebook Sep 7 2014
A RIP IN TIME
History’s most storied serial killer finally identified.

Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper has published a story in which it claims infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper has been identified through DNA testing. The analysis was performed on a shawl found by police on the body of Catherine Eddowes, the fourth of the Ripper’s canonical victims, killed on the same night as Elizabeth Stride in what is termed by Ripper scholars as “The Double Event.” The shawl had recently been bought at auction by an amateur sleuth and passed on to genetic experts, who took samples from the fabric and found matches to the DNA of descendants of Eddowes, and to the descendants of Aaron Kosminski, an original Ripper suspect who had been questioned and surveilled by police back in 1888.

The Mail has said the new evidence “puts to end the fevered speculation over the Ripper’s identity,” but we imagine independent corroboration will probably have to follow before that’s true. Kosminski was of Polish descent and had emigrated from the Russian Empire to London. Police reports from the time of the murder describe him as a serial masturbator, and indeed the Kosminski DNA sample from the shawl is thought to be semen, meaning that in the few minutes after the killing he both mutilated the corpse and ejaculated over it. Presumably more details will emerge in the coming days, but the announcement of Kosminski as the killer, if true, has to rank as one of crime history’s most significant, and may bring to a close one of its most baffling murder cases.

Update: That didn't take long. Various scientists and DNA experts say the genetic analysis done on the shawl was botched due to error of nomenclature. Instead of an extremely rare genetic match, DNA extracted from Eddowes' shawl actually matches that of most people of European descent. So forget everything we wrote above.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 7 2014
WOMEN'S ACCESSORIES
No, the other gun, silly. The one that matches my shoes. The one with the pearl inlay. Geez, men are so dense.

Above, the cover for Robert O. Saber’s, aka Milton K. Ozaki’s Chicago-based tale of crooked cops and robbers A Time for Murder, 1956. The artist here is Walter Popp. 

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The Naked City Sep 1 2014
ALICE IN CHAINS
There’s no such thing as a private life for a woman on trial.


This cover of Front Page Detective from today in 1968 features suspected murderer Alice Crimmins, and it caught our eye not only because of its bold graphic style, but because it’s a prime example of what is today called “slut-shaming.” It’s a term we don’t like, but we didn’t make it up. Basically, it’s the process of assassinating the character of women who dare to have multiple sexual partners, or perhaps who have few partners, or even one, but seem to enjoy sex a little too much. Generally it doesn’t matter if she’s married or single—it’s a special trap designed just for women.  

Alice Crimmins’ two children vanished in July 1965 and were later found dead. Crimmins was made to answer at her 1968 trial not only for her whereabouts and actions relating to the crime, but also to describe her sex life in detail, both pre- and post-murder. The press routinely labeled her a “sexy redhead” or “sexpot,” a phenomenon demonstrated on the above cover. She was also called an “ex-cocktail waitress” even though she held that job for mere months. During one courtroom exchange the prosecutor made Crimmins admit that sometime after the deaths of her children she went swimming nude with a male friend, prompting one of the mostly male jury to grumble, “A tramp like that is capable of anything.”

In the end Crimmins was convicted of manslaughter, the verdict was overturned, and she was tried again. The second trial took place in 1971 and featured less overt slut-shaming than the first, but Crimmins was notorious by that point and her reputation once again may have contributed to her conviction, this time for both manslaughter and murder. These verdicts were struck down in 1973, the manslaughter conviction was quickly re-instated, and Crimmins served another four years before being paroled in 1977, after which she went on to live in quiet obscurity. See more of Front Page Detective’s lurid cover style here.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 26 2014
ONE GIANT LEAP
In case of emergency—jump.

Consider these a small subset of our collection of falling covers—call them desperate leaps. The interesting part is if the gunmen weren’t there, both women would look like they were having fun. The art is by Harry Barton, 1957, and Rudolph Belarski, 1948.
 
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The Naked City Jun 20 2014
GUN RAID KILLS BUGS DEAD
Top of the world one second. An anecdote the next.

Mobster Bugsy Siegel met his end in a Los Angeles bungalow belonging to his girlfriend Virginia Hill. His killer attacked from the dark through a window, spraying a burst of automatic fire from a .30-caliber military M1 carbine as Siegel was sitting on a sofa. Accounts of the damage to Siegel are all over the map, but the morgue photos tell the story. The shots came from a front rightward angle. He was hit in the torso with bullets that pierced his lungs, and he was hit twice in the head—once in the right cheek, and once in the right side of the nose. The pressure from that bullet passing through his skull blew his left eye out of its socket, but he was not actually shot in the eye. It happened today in 1947.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 5 2014
FAST COMPANY
I’m flattered you sprinted over here, but what I said was after my bath I wanted to enjoy a random flick.

Paul Cain was a pseudonym used by George Caryl Sims, who wrote short stories for Black Mask, and found them so well received that he cobbled several together in the 1933 novel you see above. Fast One remains one of the more acclaimed pulp efforts of the 1930s, and if you read online reviews they’ll typically mention its strong style and unusually violent content. Sims also penned scripts as Peter Ruric, including the Boris Karloff hit The Black Cat, which we discussed here, and the nicely titled Grand Central Murder. Today Fast One is extensively reprinted, but the above edition is a rare one. It appeared in 1948 from Avon, with uncredited but excellent art.

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The Naked City Jun 2 2014
HARVEY'S PRIDE
They were on a collision course from the moment they met.


This cover of the The National Insider published today in 1963 touts a true story about actual people for a change of pace, in this case Harvey and Christine Holford. Thirty-one-year-old Harvey Holford was a club owner and well-known figure in Brighton, England; eighteen-year-old Christine Hughes was a local party girl. They met, romanced, and married each other, but Christine quickly found Harvey a sexual bore and he soon resented her constant bedding of other men. At one point he shaved her head bald as punishment for her philandering, then later apologized by buying her a sports car. But these stints of tranqulity never lasted long. The last straw came when she allegedly taunted him using their daughter Karen, claiming she wasn’t his, which resulted in him shooting her.

When police came to their flat the couple were sitting up in bed. She had six bullet wounds, one in the face, and was long gone from this world. She was propped against her husband, who was comatose from an overdose of pills. But he recovered and was held in Lewes Prison until he could stand trial for murder. The day before the proceedings were to begin he tossed himself from a window and fractured his skull. He recovered again, and eventually went to trial before a sympathetic judge who, referring to Christine’s taunt about the paternity of the couple’s daughter, at one point told those assembled in the court, “Can you imagine any words more calculated not only to sear and cut deeply into the soul of any man but to rub salt into the wound at the same time?” Harvey Holford was later acquitted of murder to vigorous applause from the public gallery, and convicted instead of manslaughter, serving three years before being paroled in 1964.

Of course, the key to acquitting a man of murdering his adulterous wife is to consider her a piece of property rather than a human being, and there’s little doubt that’s what happened in the Holford case, for as hurtful as infidelity may be, male pride eventually heals whereas dead wives never do. Harvey claimed to have acted in a fit of passion—the very quality Christine always claimed he lacked in their marriage—but we tend to think divorce is the more sensible remedy for unfaithfulness. Or sometimes even—call us crazy—reconciliation. To this day, though, many still doubtless think Harvey Holford was blameless. Luckily for him, the presiding judge was one of them.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 26
1922—Egyptologists Enter Tut's Tomb
British Egyptologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years. Though sometimes characterized as scholars, Carter and Carnarvon were primarily interested in riches, and cut up Tut's mummy to more easily obtain the jewels and gold affixed to him.
November 25
1947—Hollywood Blacklist Instituted
The day after ten Hollywood writers and directors are cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the group, known as the "Hollywood Ten," are blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios.
November 24
1963—Ruby Shoots Oswald
Nightclub owner and mafia associate Jack Ruby fatally shoots alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of Dallas police department headquarters. The shooting is broadcast live on television and silences the only person known for certain to have had some connection to the Kennedy killing.
1971—D.B. Cooper Escapes from Airplane
In the U.S., during a thunderstorm over Washington state, a hijacker calling himself Dan Cooper, aka D. B. Cooper, parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines flight with $200,000 in ransom money. Neither he nor the money are ever found.

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