Houston hasn’t always been the relatively tame, civilized city it seems to be these days, on the surface at least. It has a colorful history of crazy crimes that are almost unbelievable to read. Which is of course good for criminal defense attorneys in Texas, because it keeps us occupied when other good folks are being, well—good. Here’s a sampling of the kind of crazy things that have happened over the years:
Crazy Crime #1: Skull Theft
It all started long, long ago when Houston, the capital of the Republic of Texas, was just two years old. Judging by the account of a visitor from Nacogdoches, it was a pretty nasty place to be, with head and humidity competing against the stench from piled up corpses of animals and people who died from yellow fever. Rats the size of prairie dogs plagued the townspeople in town, while panthers and wolves plagued them outside.
The crazy crime of the time isn’t that two “rowdy loafers,” one of which was Davy Jones of battle fame, were hanged for various killings. It’s that honorable citizens dug up their bodies afterwards, cut off their heads and examined their skulls and brains for signs of bad character! And they were never prosecuted for it, either. When they were done, the skulls were buried in an unknown spot and perhaps never recovered, to this day.
Crazy Crime #2: House of Horrors
More nasty than crazy, the original crime was the killing of three adults and two children in 1910, after a party held in the home one evening. The chief suspect was a man thought to be in love with the wife, who had been seen hanging about after the killing but before the bodies were discovered. Although he was arrested, he seems to have been let off the hook because he later fathered a child, which couldn’t be done from prison in those days. So likely he had an excellent Texas criminal defense attorney or someone else was found guilty and it was just never recorded.
Crazy Crime #3: Candy Man in the Making
Most Texans know about the murders committed by “Candy Man” Dean Corll. However, few know how close Houston might have come to having a second, similar situation. Bill List, former convict and self-made trailer rental king, built himself a monstrosity of a home on Galveston Bay in the 1970s. By 1984, he was entertaining male hookers and street kids on a regular basis, who would have to submit to all sorts of weird sexual demands if they wanted to keep the roof over their heads. Eventually, his head was blown off by a particularly irate former street kid named Smiley.
What makes this case extra weird was that Bill List’s estranged daughter Deborah Thornton was pick-axed to death during a sexual killing spree by Karla Faye Tucker, a Houston answer to Bonnie and Clyde.
Crazy Crime #4: Ninja Shooting
Back in December of 2012, an 18-year-old man was shot in a convenience store’s parking lot by a ninja. Well, the suspect was certainly impersonating a ninja, because he pulled his shirt up over his face to cover it! A newspaper report of the incident reckons he couldn’t have been a real ninja because ninjas don’t use guns, and besides, a real ninja would never have been caught on tape. But that doesn’t mean ninjas should act like ninjas, right?
Crazy Crime #5: Tattooed Toddler Stabber
Who on earth stabs a toddler in the back? Perhaps someone who thinks the kid is an alien in disguise? It’s difficult to guess what was in the mind of tattoo-faced, 21-year-old Jose Guillermo Molina when he walked up to a 3-year-old boy in a Houston apartment complex play area in April this year. He grabbed the toddler, threw him on the ground and knelt on his back. Then he began stabbing him with a kitchen knife. Luckily the toddler wasn’t badly hurt, needing only two stitches from the hospital.
The checkered past (and present) of our City’s criminal justice system makes for good entertainment sometimes, but the truth is that where a concentration of people live, crime is going to happen. It isn’t always premeditated, nor are the crimes always rational and often, it’s only with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney that the real story comes to light. Otherwise, we’d still be living in the dark ages.
So if you or a loved one is accused of a crime, whether it’s crazy or not, the first thing you should do is to find yourself a lawyer who can represent you and walk you through the trial.
*Image courtesy of Jeyhun Pashayev