We’ve all had those days. You forget that there’s a “no turn on red” sign, and get busted by the cops. Or you don’t watch your speed while heading to work and end up with a speeding ticket. Simple things can result in a run-in with police. Here are a few egregious criminals of the past and present who were done in by a completely unrelated run-in with authorities.
Dr. H. H. Holmes
Born Herman Webster Mudgett (above, right) in 1861, the notorious figure best known as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes is considered by many to be America’s first serial killer. As a youngster, his interest in medicine first manifested in a practice of conducting surgery on animals. As he grew, he graduated to humans. At least one theory posits that Holmes was responsible for the death of a childhood friend.
As a young adult, Holmes studied medicine at the University of Michigan. It’s believed he stole corpses from the school both for self-styled experimentation and making fraudulent insurance claims. Such behavior would indicate the ghoulish creativity Holmes put into his later crimes.
At 25, Holmes moved to Chicago and took a job in a pharmacy. A few months later, after the store’s owner curiously vanished, Holmes took over the business and converted it into a house of homicidal horrors. While in Chicago, Holmes also built what would be called his “Murder Castle,” a three-story building filled with torture chambers, trap doors, and even kilns to dispose of his victims’s bodies.
In 1893, the Columbian Exposition — aka The World’s Fair — came to Chicago. Holmes rented out rooms in his home to visitors. Among those who checked in, many did not check out — the exact number remains unknown. Holmes also acquired victims through false romantic relationships and bogus employment opportunities. All the while, he also kept practicing insurance fraud.
It was one such scam that led to his undoing. After his false insurance claim partner Benjamin Pitezel felt that Holmes burned him on a deal, Pietzel reported Holmes to the police. Authorities pursued Holmes, but before bringing him in, the diabolical doctor managed to murder Pitezel and three of Pitezel’s five children.
While he was in jail, Holmes admitted to killing anywhere from 20 to 100 people. At one point, the tally got as high as 200. The true figure is still a mystery. On May 7, 1896, Holmes was sentenced to death for Pitezel’s murder, and executed by hanging in Philadelphia.
Henry Lee Lucas
On January 11, 1960, Henry Lee Lucas, 24 (above, left), stabbed Viola Lucas to death. She was his mother.
He had come home from a night of drinking and just wanted to get some sleep. Viola, who had a history of violence, attacked Henry with a broom. During the ensuing dust-up, Henry knifed Viola in what he claims was an act of self-defense. The Michigan courts disagreed. He was convicted of second-degree murder, and sentenced to 20 to 40 years in jail.
After serving just under a decade behind bars, Lucas got paroled and was back out on the streets. In 1971, he got another five-year stretch, this time for attempting to kidnap three teenage girls. After that stint, Lucas became a drifter, eventually returning to Michigan and hooking up with fellow drifting deviant Ottis Toole. Lucas even embarked on a romance with Frieda “Becky” Powell, Toole’s niece. Authorities believe that Lucas eventually killed Powell, even though Lucas testified that Powell had run off with a trucker at a truck stop in Texas.
In 1983, cops picked up Lucas for a simple weapons-violation charge. While in custody, he began confessing to a series of murders, beginning with Powell and an elderly woman named Kate Rich, reportedly in an effort to improve his living conditions and get a proper attorney.
He later recanted the confessions, but he would go on to add new claims to his list. While he was in court on the charges of murdering Powell and Rich, Lucas said he had murdered more than 100 women total. He kept confessing from there. His stories became increasingly outlandish, to the point that Lucas even tried to state he murdered high-profile missing union boss Jimmy Hoffa. When all was said and done, Lucas is believed to have confessed to over 3,000 crimes. He eventually recanted most, if not all, of his claims.
Authorities were finally able to convict him of 11 of the murders he had confessed to committing. Nobody knows how many people Lucas actually killed. He was sentenced to death for a 1979 murder, but in 1998 the parole board of the State of Texas commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. Lucas finally died in prison in March 2001. He was 64.
The Manson Family“The Manson Murders” have become a part of American legend, exuding a macabre fascination with the hippie cult that slaughtered Southern California residents over several nights in August 1969 under command of their terrifyingly charismatic leader, Charles Manson.
Amid the details with which so many are familiar, though, is that the “Manson Family,” as the killers were known, did not initially get busted for murder.
A few months after the slayings, in October 1969, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, and the Park Service joined forces to conduct a raid on the residents of the Barker Ranch, some of whom were Manson Family associates. Authorities suspected they were part of a stolen car ring. Three men and ten women got arrested on auto-theft charges.
Police came back later to arrest Manson, who they found hiding in one of the cabinets. While behind bars, Susan Atkins, one of the most prominent Family members and an active participant in the murders, boasted to her cellmates about what she and her cohorts had done. Police took her seriously, and the pieces fell into place that eventually turned Charles Manson into one of the most chilling figures in modern history.
David Berkowitz, The “Son of Sam”
Just hearing the words “Son of Sam” struck fear into the hearts of millions of New Yorkers in the late 1970s. The man dubbed “The .44-Caliber Killer” by local media, who hunted the streets like an expert predator, was done in by the simplest of things: a parking ticket.
On the very night the murder of Stacy Moskowitz took place, Berkowitz got a citation for parking too close to a fire hydrant. Police traced the car back to Berkowitz’s Yonkers address, and the stakeout began. Police detained him as soon as he surfaced. When asked to identify himself, Berkowitz said, “I am Sam. David Berkowitz…. What took you so long?”
In June 2013, Edwin Burgos shot Luciano Cajigas, 28, to death on an East Harlem, New York, street after a late night argument. Burgos fled the scene and remained on the loose for three years.
On September 11, 2016, Burgos made a wrong left turn while driving on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Officers pulled over his vehicle and realized who they had finally caught, and Burgos got the charges related to Cajigas’s murder added to his sheet.
One of the most notorious serial killers in American history, Ted Bundy was able to kidnap, assault (sometimes sexually), and murder at least 30 women across the United States between 1974 and 1978. The true number of Bundy victims remains a mystery to this day.
The beginning of the end of Bundy’s swathe of death came in the state of Utah in August 1975. It wasn’t that the police found him with a victim. It was a simple instance of the police pulling him over after he drove at dangerous speeds and was behaving suspiciously.
According to a 2000 interview with Bob Hayward, the officer who’d pulled Bundy’s tan Volkswagen Beetle over that night, Hayward had been trying to get to a call when he stumbled upon the Beetle parked in a subdivision. When his headlights found the car, the Beetle recklessly tore off into the night.
Hayward pursued and pulled the car over in an abandoned gas station. Bundy appeared jumpy and agitated and offered up lame excuses for his poor driving, prompting Hayward to search the vehicle. The officer found enough evidence to arrest Bundy. If the killer had just remained calm that night, we have no way of knowing when he might have finally been arrested.
Peter Sutcliffe, The “Yorkshire Ripper”
We recently told you about Peter Sutcliffe, the British serial killer who was convicted of murdering 13 women after he claimed that the voice of God told him to murder prostitutes. The murders all took place in the late 1970s, but when Sutcliffe was finally captured, it wasn’t for the brutal killings.
Police stopped Sutcliffe while he was driving in the company of 24-year-old prostitute Olivia Reivers. His license plates turned out to be fake, kicking off the investigation that eventually revealed his identity as a sadistic slayer.
Sutcliffe eventually pleaded guilty to 13 counts of manslaughter and 7 counts of attempted murder. He claimed that while he worked as a gravedigger, voices emanated from the headstone of a dead Polish man that ordered him to murder prostitutes. A trial judge found Sutcliffe guilty of murder on all 13 counts.
Timothy McVeighOn April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh committed what was, at that time, the deadliest act of terrorism in the United States: the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City.
McVeigh had been meticulous in his planning of the crime, but somehow, one detail slipped. Not even 90 minutes after the blast, a detail-oriented Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper by the name of Charles J. Hanger spotted McVeigh driving a yellow 1977 Mercury Marquis with no license plates. While pulled over, Hanger noticed an obvious bulge in McVeigh’s coat. Hanger quickly apprehended McVeigh for unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon.
According to a 2015 interview with the Los Angeles Times, if Hanger hadn’t seen that weapon, he very well might have just let McVeigh off with a ticket for the missing plate. Two days later, as McVeigh was finally about to go before the county judge on the charge, the FBI had connected McVeigh to the bombing.
As we told you last month, Miguel Bonilla really did not like his girlfriend. That girlfriend, 52-year-old Juana Alvarez, had been missing from her Bronx apartment since July 11, 2016.
According to reports, Bonilla just woke up that morning, thought about how intensely he hated Alvarez, grabbed a knife, and plunged it into her chest. A neighbor told police that Bonilla had actually threatened to kill Alvarez before. Someone tipped off the cops that Bonilla had confessed to the stabbing, after which he stuffed Alvarez’s corpse into a plastic bin and left it in one of his apartment building’s dumpsters. When police reviewed security footage, that’s what they saw.
Bonilla eluded arrest for weeks, then got popped for jumping a subway turnstile at Penn Station. Bonilla, 44, has a rap sheet that includes at least 25 prior arrests. Prosecutors are now trying to put together the murder case against Bonilla without having Alvarez’s body. He remains in custody. His next court date is scheduled for December 12, 2016.
The major crime doesn’t always have to be murder. William Moyer, a 51-year-old youth swimming instructor, was recently busted for child pornography as the result of his playing music too loud.
Police in Feura Bush, New York, responded to a complaint about noise coming from Moyer’s home this past Labor Dry Weekend. Patrolmen stopped in to ask him turn his stereo down. While there, an officer noticed images of nude underage girls scrolling across Moyer’s computer monitor as a screensaver.
A judge issued a search warrant, and authorities seized computers, external hard drives, and various other digital tools. Moyer admitted that he’d been downloading child porn for years. He was charged with one count of felony possession of a sexual performance by a child and held on $20,000 bail.
Records indicate that Moyer is no longer in custody, which indicates he likely made that bail. No word on when he will next be in court, but we suspect he’ll keep his music down going forward.
Main photos: Henry Lee Lucas [Texas Dept. of Corrections] and H. H. Holmes mug shots.