U.S. history is full of complex and interesting cases that have baffled law enforcement. From white-collar fraudsters to Ponzi scheme organizers to notorious gangsters to infamous kidnappings and heinous acts of murder as well as mayhem, here are some of the most interesting criminal cases in U.S. history.
- Escape From Alcatraz
Alcatraz Island, which is also commonly known as “The Rock,” was one of the most famous maximum-security prisons in the nation. While it held prisoners since the Civil War, it was not renovated and fortified until 1934, at which time it was considered the world’s most secure prison. During its nearly 30 years in operation, a total of 36 inmates attempted to escape from Alcatraz on 14 separate occasions. Nearly all of the escapees were either captured or perished during these attempts.
The fate of three inmates, however, remains in question to this day. Brothers John and Clarence Anglin, along with fellow prisoner Frank Morris, masterminded an elaborate escape from the isolated prison on Jun. 12, 1962. A fourth conspirator was involved in the plotting of the escape, but he was left behind because he was ill-prepared when the time arrived. This fourth man provided much of the information that is known about their escape plan to authorities.
While remnants of their escape were discovered in the choppy waters of San Francisco Bay, which surrounds the island prison, and its surrounding areas, the bodies of the three escapees were never found. The FBI case remained open for 17 years until Dec. 31, 1979, at which point the agency officially closed its active file and handed the case over to the U.S. Marshals Service, which continues to monitor the situation in the event of any new leads or evidence.
- D.B. Cooper Hijacking
The case of D.B. Cooper has mystified law enforcement agencies and the American public for almost 50 years. On Nov. 24, 1971, an ordinary-looking man in his 40s purchased a one-way ticket for a flight bound for Seattle, Washington. He called himself Dan Cooper and boarded the Northwest Orient Airlines flight in Portland, Oregon. Shortly after take-off, Cooper handed the stewardess a note in which he claimed to have a bomb. He made the stewardess draft a ransom note for the pilots in which he demanded four parachutes and $200,000.
After landing in Seattle and exchanging the flight’s 36 passengers for the parachutes as well as the ransom money, Cooper bailed out of the plane, which was bound for Mexico City, midway between Seattle and Reno, NV. The pilots and crew members landed safely, but Cooper disappeared into the night with the ransom money. There have been many theories over the years regarding Cooper’s fate, but there has been no conclusive determination. The FBI actively worked the case until Jul. 12, 2016, at which time the agency redirected its resources towards other pressing matters.
Law enforcement agencies have encountered several high-profile and sensational cases that have caused much consternation. Some of them have gone unsolved while others have become legendary tales. This posting is just a sampling of the most interesting criminal cases in U.S. history.