Dan Cooper skyjacking
November 24, 1971
The unassuming Dan Cooper boarded a Boeing 747 that was destined for Seattle and announced that he had a bomb. Cooper's intention wasn't to kill anyone. He simply asked for $200,000, along with four parachutes. When he received his deliverables in exchange for hostages, the plane returned to the air and within minutes, Cooper parachuted from the plane's airstair and was never seen again.
In 1980, the FBI found almost $6,000 in ransom money near the Columbia River, begging the question of whether Cooper survived his jump. Initially, Richard McCoy, who performed a sky robbery four months later, was thought to be Cooper, but that was dismissed since he wasn't near the crime scene. Another lead, John List, denied involvement, but was later convicted of murder. Today, an FBI fingerprint of Cooper exists and it is being matched against a database of suspects, but with no further hits to speak of.
The Gardner Museum art theft
March 18, 1990
Isabella Stewart Gardner opened her own Boston museum in 1903. Known for its wide range of classical and modern art, the museum was also home to the largest art theft in U.S. history. Thieves, disguised as policemen, entered the premises and walked away with 13 works of art valued at approximately $200 million. Among the notables were three Rembrandt projects and a Vermeer painting.
No one has been charged, but the FBI investigated a 2005 lead linking the art theft to the mob. The lead stems from a 1999 incident, when Carmello Merlino and David Turner were arrested for allegedly planning an armored car robbery. Intense police questioning led to a theory that the two were part of the Gardner theft, with the paintings being sold to Europeans through an American mob connection. Turner denied any involvement while Merlino remained coy and hinted that he knew the whereabouts of the art.
Japan's million yen robbery
December 10, 1968
Four Nihon Shintaku Ginko employees were carrying 300 million yen -- intended for Toshiba workers -- by car when a policeman stopped them with a tip that their car contained explosives. The employees left the car while the policeman inspected it and when smoke became visible, he told them to run. The "cop" then jumped in the car and drove away with the money.
Despite over 100 pieces of evidence, including the fake police motorcycle, the crime scene was useless. The investigation listed over 100,000 suspects, the leading one being the 19-year-old son of a cop. The boy had committed suicide and there was no trace of the money until after the statute of limitations passed. At that point, the boy's friend was arrested on a different charge and was found to be in possession of a substantial amount of money with no reason given. As no criminal or civil charges can be filed, any perpetrator could go public without repercussions.
The murder of Bob Crane
June 29, 1978
Hogan's Heroes star Bob Crane was happily married to his high school sweetheart. But, as the years passed, Crane's marriage crumbled as he explored a darker side of life with his friend John Carpenter. Carpenter worked in electronics and the two men began producing pornography. On the same night that their friendship turned sour, Crane was killed in cold blood.
The murder weapon was never found, but other clues pointed to Carpenter. He'd called Crane's home when police were there, without questioning why they were in his suite. Blood was also found in Carpenter's rental car that matched Crane's blood type. In 1992, the blood was to be tested for DNA, but it was found to be improperly preserved. Carpenter was still charged and although the trial highlighted their bizarre relationship, he was acquitted and died in 1998.
The killing of JonBenet Ramsey
December 25, 1996
A child beauty queen, JonBenet Ramsey lived with her family in Boulder, Colorado. The day after Christmas, her mother, Patsy, discovered a ransom note asking for $118,000. Against the note's wishes, the police were contacted, and eight hours later, a search of the house by family and friends led to the discovery of JonBenet's body in the basement.
Police found no signs of forced entry and the note was written on paper belonging to the family. The ransom note's figure matched the bonus of father John Ramsey's recent check and Patsy's handwriting allegedly wasn't excluded as a possible match. That aside, investigators do believe the culprit didn't live in the house, based on unknown footprints in the basement, a strange bedroom rope and unmatched DNA evidence. In 2006, police in Thailand arrested John Mark Karr, who said he had been with JonBenet when she died, but his DNA didn't match the evidence and no charges were filed.
Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls
September 7, 1996 and March 9, 1997
Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie Smalls or Notorious B.I.G.) were two of rap's most popular figures when they were murdered only months apart. While visiting Vegas for a boxing match, Tupac left by car with Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight. A car pulled up and opened fire, hitting Tupac four times. Similarly, Biggie was attending a party at L.A.'s Peterson Automotive Museum when he was told the party was ending early. He left by car until two other cars pulled up and a man in a bow tie fatally shot Biggie four times.
Both killings took place in busy areas, but no suspects have ever been charged. One reason for silence is because witnesses were afraid to speak out. Others whisper that police corruption and a larger conspiracy is at work. While gang ties, unpaid debts and royalties are possible motives, some theorists feel that Suge Knight might have been active in both killings to set up a rivalry gone wrong.
The Black Dahlia
January 15, 1947
Elizabeth Short was living in L.A. following the death of her fiancé, Matthew Gordon. An aspiring actress, Short mentioned an upcoming film audition in her last letter. On January 9, 1947, Robert Manley drove her to the Biltmore Hotel, where she disappeared a few hours later. Her body, which was severely mutilated with her face slashed open from the corners of her mouth to her ears, was discovered on January 15.
The investigation yielded many suspects, including 60 bogus confessions. The media nicknamed Short as "The Black Dahlia," based on her black hair and the mystery of the crime. Besides Manley, one of the prime suspects was Mark Hansen, a nightclub owner who had housed Short and was linked to some personal information sent to the newspapers. Woody Guthrie, Orson Welles and Bugsy Siegel were each suspected at one time. Some historians point to Dr. Walter Bayley, who lived a block from the crime scene and whose daughter knew Short's sister. Investigators believe the killer had a medical background and others allege that Bayley's mistress was keeping a dark secret.
Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance
July 30, 1975
Starting in 1957, Jimmy Hoffa was the Teamsters Union President. He encouraged unity among Americans in the transport sector, but hurt his own cause by using mob connections for intimidation. After going to prison for a juror bribe, Hoffa was released by President Nixon and later disappeared from Michigan's Manchus Red Fox Restaurant on his way to meet mobsters Anthony Giacalone and Anthony Provenzano.
Hoffa's vanishing act has only recently received its best leads. DNA evidence puts Hoffa in the car of his Teamsters colleague, Charles O'Brien, on the day of his disappearance. Felon Richard Powell, Louie Milito of the Gambino crime family, and hitman Richard Kuklinski are among those who claim some responsibility for Hoffa's disappearance and presumed death. The most compelling theory involves Frank Sheeran, a mob hitman, who told ex-prosecutor Charles Brandt in 2004 that he took Hoffa's life for a mob hit.
Jack the Ripper
August to November, 1888
In 1888, a killer attacked prostitutes in London's Whitechapel district. There were five known victims, with others subject to debate. One of the perpetrator's bizarre trademarks, besides the grisly nature of his crimes, was that he would kill in areas with public access -- with streets, doorways, and stable entrances being examples. This made it easier to get caught, but more frustrating for those trying to apprehend him.
The Jack the Ripper case bears no obvious suspects -- though many have been named over the years, including noted author Lewis Carroll and artist Walter Sickert. Jack the Ripper's name was penned in various letters to Scotland Yard that may or may not have been authentic. Police didn't have the technology that they do now, so they relied on volunteers to watch for ominous characters on the street. While clues were scarce, one killing featured a cloth that was left below some anti-Semitic graffiti, whose creator is unknown. It seems that the case of Jack the Ripper will never be solved, but he does offer historians a glimpse into the early days of how the media covered fearsome killers.
The Zodiac Killer
The elusive Zodiac Killer claimed to have taken 37 lives, but detectives only consider five to officially be his doing. After killings in December of 1968 and July of 1969, the killer sent three letters to San Francisco newspapers with pieces of a 408-symbol cryptogram. The cryptogram was solved, but it didn't offer clues as to the Zodiac Killer's identity. The letters and cryptograms continued (no others were solved), as did the murders. Police estimate that the killings stopped in 1969, but the letters continued into the mid-'70s.
Much suspicion was cast on Arthur Leigh Allen, a sex offender caught with bloody knives in his car the same day as a Zodiac murder. Eerily, both Allen and the Zodiac shared an appreciation for the short story The Most Dangerous Game, which tells the tale of a big-game hunter who decides animals are no longer worthy prey and changes his game to include humans. Despite three search warrants on Allen, he was never charged as his DNA tests, handwriting analysis and fingerprints have never offered a match.
the mystery remains
With every unsolved crime, the clock continues to tick and the clues continue to mount. As is often the case, the clues take investigators in various directions, sometimes blurring the lines between the truth, lies and coincidence. Until they're solved, all we can do is watch in continued morbid fascination in the hopes that some of the more murderous criminals still on the lose don't strike again.