This week (December 5 – 11) in crime history – Boston belfry murderer claimed first victim (December 5, 1873); The bank robbing Reno brothers were hanged (December 6, 1868); Colin Ferguson shot and killed six and wounded 19 on Long Island commuter train (December 7, 1993); John Lennon was murdered (December 8, 1980); Frank Sinatra Jr., was kidnapped (December 8, 1963); Civil rights activist Mumia Abu-Jamal murdered a Philadelphia police officer (December 9, 1981); Bernie Madoff was arrested and charged with masterminding Ponzi scheme (December 11, 2008)
Highlighted crime story of the week –
On December 5, 1873, Bridget Landregan was found beaten and strangled to death in the Boston suburb of Dorchester. According to witnesses, a man dressed in black with a flowing cape was seen running away from the scene. In 1874, a man fitting the same description attacked and clubbed to death another young girl, Mary Sullivan. The killer’s third victim, Mary Tynan, was bludgeoned in her own bed in 1875. Although she survived the attack for nearly a year, she was never able to identify her attacker.
Residents of Boston were stunned to learn that the serial murderer had been among them all along. Thomas Piper, the sexton at the Warren Avenue Baptist Church, was friendly with parishioners and nobody suspected his involvement. But when five-year-old Mabel Young, who was last seen with the sexton, was found dead in the church’s belfry in the summer of 1876, Piper became the prime suspect. Young’s skull had been crushed with a wooden club. Piper, who was dubbed “The Boston Belfry Murderer,” confessed to the four killings after his arrest. He was convicted and sentenced to die, and he was hanged in 1876.
Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”
Michael Thomas Barry is the award winning author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime, 1950-1980.