Murder

166 articles
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An unsettling story of murder and telemarketing; originally published in 2007 and recently anthologized in The New Black, edited by Richard Thomas.

"There is a noise—the noise teeth might make biting hurriedly into melon—punctuated by a series of screams. It makes me want to tear the headset away from my ear. And then I realize I am not alone. Someone is listening. I don't know how—a certain displacement of sound as the phone rises from the floor to an ear—but I can sense it."

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No one knew how Suzanne Jovin ended up in a wealthy neighborhood away from Yale’s campus in New Haven, or why she was brutally stabbed on the sidewalk, apparently by someone she knew. The only suspect that police named was her thesis advisor.

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A hairdresser confronts class issues and a local murder.

"During my lunch break, I thought about what I thought about Elena Czarinsky. Honestly, I’d never liked her much. She was one of those women who flashed her electronics around to remind everyone she had a real job where she was irreplaceable. She tipped with the generous lunacy of a woman who’s had to take her clothes off for a living. Once she told me she got off bad guys just to show she knew the law better than the next guy, and it wasn’t an apology. Actually, I could have hated the woman."

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A charming assistant funeral home director named Bernie Tiede murders a wealthy widow, keeps her in a freezer for months, finally gets caught, and still has the town's sympathy as his case goes to trial. The story that became Richard Linklater's Bernie.

Update: Tiede was convicted and spent 15 years behind bars before being released this week on the condition that he live in Linklater's garage.

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Young love in an rural American town is beset by ominous setbacks.

"The only person he could make out was Reverend Kelly, a traveling preacher from England. He sat by a lamp, which illuminated his sharp cheekbones and pointy nose, his sagging mouth formed into a smirk. And those beady eyes. Willie didn’t like the way he’d seen those eyes following Lena around earlier in the night."

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Misguided love sustains a groundskeeper through multiple deaths and decades.

"Murdering all those Emmetts had been especially hard on Archibald who was never adept at taking the lives of non-gazelles, however plentiful those lives might be. He grew more and more ill as the Emmetts came and dropped. He became increasingly fearful of silence and the dark, spending hundreds in oil to keep the house bathed in flickering light, a whole house drowning in amber. He’d taken to leaving tarpaulins up on the walls for when the Emmetts arrived so he could minimize his cleanup time, but as he spiraled deeper into paranoia he neglected to scrub them, and they wriggled blackly with flies. With an eye to hygiene, he had once tried strangling an Emmett, but this had proved too horrific for him to bear."

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He murdered his parents. Then he threw a party.

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Interlocking narratives of relationships and a potential murder.

"Metal ran in an extensive and intricate network in streams across the countryside and densely through the city. Metal channeled the blood, and metal screws held Sarah’s glasses together as she left the parking lot and exited Le Roy onto the freeway. She felt sad to have missed a chance to get involved with a crazed dangerous person like Mike. Had he really committed a murder before she picked him up? She thought about the geese and drove home."

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An unemployed banker drifts along Occupy protests, his crumbling life, and a crime scene.

"Against the bleachers’ far end, beyond the scope of the cameras, Michael was thinking again about Brussels. The bullet had rung out with plunky subtlety he knew to expect but found disappointing, still. He remembered a cathedral there and the sound he had heard inside of it. This was years ago. The sound he recalled was a cane that he’d heard falling onto the cathedral’s marble floor. The way sound survives inside a cathedral. He remembered looking across the aisle to a hairless woman with earrings dangling halfway down her neck. In the darkness of Chicago, the boy’s body called to him for a closer look, he still had his phone after all, a camera. He could hear the sirens approaching."

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Inside the most sensational murder in the history of study abroad.

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He was the father of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (a school of therapy that some would liken to scientific brainwashing), a guzzler of cocaine, and a highly paid lecturer with fabricated credentials. He was present when a young woman shot herself in Santa Cruz—but did he pull the trigger? A “parable for the New Age.”

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Reverse engineering the details of a murder that took place in St. Louis on Christmas Night in 1895 from over a century of popular song.

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He was a nobody who became a porn star, a porn star who became a destitute freebaser, an addict who set up his dealer to be robbed, and finally witness to a retaliatory massacre at the house they called Wonderland.

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Trevell Coleman wasn’t sure whether he’d killed a man. But after 17 years, he needed to find out.

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Behind the tabloid story of the “murder orphan” in Queens.

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“When I’m in Nigeria, I find myself looking at the passive, placid faces of the people standing at the bus stops. They are tired after a day’s work, and thinking perhaps of the long commute back home, or of what to make for dinner. I wonder to myself how these people, who surely love life, who surely love their own families, their own children, could be ready in an instant to exact a fatal violence on strangers.”

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Ten years after D.C. area sniper shootings, an interview with Lee Boyd Malvo.

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A mystery writer moves into an apartment where a grisly crime was committed.

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A family’s struggle with mental illness and the criminal justice system.

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Joe Arridy had an IQ of 46. In 1939, he was executed for a crime he neither understood nor committed.

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Thirteen years ago, NFL wide receiver Rae Carruth conspired to kill the woman carrying his child. The woman, Cherica Adams, died. The child, Chancellor Lee Adams, did not.

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Is a Marine responsible for a series of violent attacks against women?

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It started as a bluebird New Year’s Day in Mount Rainier National Park. But when a gunman murdered a ranger and then fled back into the park’s frozen backcountry, every climber, skier, and camper became a suspect—and a potential victim.

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Did a handsome young Green Beret doctor kill his pregnant wife and two daughters? Or, as he claims, did a group of candle-carrying hippies carry out a vicious home invasion while chanting “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs”? A mystery that spanned three decades.

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Two brothers dreamed of baseball stardom. One would end up killing the other.

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In the late 90s, an American man adopted a 5-year-old from the Ukraine. A decade later, one of the two would be accused of molesting young boys. The other would be charged with murder.

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When the Rolling Stones played Altamont.

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Bill Ferguson does not believe his son, Ryan, killed a popular newspaper editor. To prove it, he’s drained his savings, performed public re-enactments of the crime, and alienated almost everyone in his Missouri city.

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Two men named Nathan committed murders. Only one received a death sentence.

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Greg Ousley killed his parents and has been locked up for nineteen years.

Is that enough?

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On the evening of November 7th 1974, the 7th Earl of Lucan, an inveterate gambler and Backgammon champion with a taste for power boats, snuck into his estranged wife’s basement. He then bludgeoned their nanny with a lead pipe and placed her in a canvas sack, before attempting to murder his wife. Recognizing his voice, she convinced him that she could him escape, then slipped out a bathroom window. Lord Lucan was never seen again.

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The murderous tale of Washington D.C. fabulist Albrecht Muth and his late wife Viola Drath.

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How the author became tangled up with an international con man who may or may not have murdered several people.

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On June 4, 1989, the bodies of Jo, Michelle and Christe were found floating in Tampa Bay. This is the story of the murders, their aftermath, and the handful of people who kept faith amid the unthinkable.

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John MacNeil was convicted by the state of Massachusetts of second-degree murder. He was given a life sentence. He escaped. He was caught. Through an incredible feat of jailhouse lawyering, he somehow got himself paroled and exiled to Canada. Then he came home.

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In the remote wilderness along northern British Columbia’s Highway 16, at least 18 women have gone missing over the past four decades. Is it the work of a serial killer or multiple offenders?

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Twenty-one-year-old Briton Lucie Blackman came to Tokyo and found work in the Roppongi district hostess bars, where businessmen come to flirt with paid companions, and Western women draw a premium fee. Two months later, she disappeared. She would be found underneath a bathtub in a beachside cave.

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A group of Long Island misfits with aspirations towards Satanic worship disappeared into the woods to take mescaline. One of them never came back.

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A cop kills a fellow officer during a drug bust and claims it was an accident. Others suspect that it wasn’t.

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A nasty divorce ends in murder and national notoriety.

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In short order, eight gay men in Texas were murdered by teenage boys.

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The case of the murdered real-estate legend and her enraged assistant.

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A portrait of Trayvon Martin’s killer.

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She survived an evil, gruesome attack. Her partner did not. An account of a victim, a widow, telling her story on the witness stand.

Update, 4/16/12: This piece was just awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.
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On a Victorian-era murder case, and the novel it inspired.

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The real-life events that inspired the new Richard Linklater dark comedy Bernie:

It’s a story about people believing what they want to believe, even when there’s evidence to the contrary. It’s a story about people not being what they seem. And it’s a story, as the movie poster says, “so unbelievable it must be true.” Which it is. I know this because the widow in the freezer was, in real life, my Aunt Marge, Mrs. Marjorie Nugent, my mother’s sister and, depending on whom you ask, the meanest woman in East Texas. She was 81 when she was murdered, and Bernie Tiede, her constant companion and rumored paramour, was 38. He’ll be eligible for parole in 2027, when he’ll be 69.

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The complicated case of Brigitte Harris, who, after years of abuse, accidentally killed her father by cutting off his penis.

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An investigative look at the killing of Trayvon Martin.

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Is a serial killer on the loose in Wellfleet? An investigation.

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Mary Ellen Johnson, a 48-year-old author, befriends a teenager convicted of murdering his parents.

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The noon chimes in the bell-clock tower rising above him to the building's 307-foot pinnacle sounded: pom-pom-pom-pom . . . 16 notes, high and sweet. Some say the chimes say a poem: "Lord, through this hour "Be Thou my guide, "For in Thy power "I do confide." After the chimes, there is a long pause -- 23 seconds if you hold a wristwatch on it -- time enough for a practiced man to reload three rifles and a shotgun.

“Doc” Quigg’s wire report on the 1966 Texas Tower shooting on the campus of UT-Austin.

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Lance Butterfield was the captain of the football team, had a 4.0 GPA and a girl he loved. It wasn’t enough for his dad. And then his dad became too much for him.
Part of our guide to Skip Hollandsworth's true crime writing at Slate.

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What happened after Joan Lefkow’s husband and mother were murdered in her home.

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In court and visiting prison with the parents of young Russian Nationalists who’ve killed.

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An unexplainable murder, double jeopardy, and military courts: the strange case of Tim Hennis.

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The story of Brandon Teena, a 21-year-old transgender man who was beaten, raped and murdered by two friends after they discovered he was anatomically female.

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A Houston man allegedly tries to hire several hit men to kill his wife. Each fails miserably. It becomes the talk of the town.

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A survivor’s frightening account.

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A group of misfit boys from the fringes of Las Vegas form a clique. Then, with murky motives, they decide to murder one of their own and bury him in a desert pit.

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After a Chinese immigrant couple were charged in their daughter’s death, supporters say they’re vulnerable targets of the American justice system.

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The author tracks down a former Peace Corps volunteer who murdered a fellow worker in 1976.

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A little after 9 a.m. on Sept. 15, 1990, the owner of a steel-products company pulled up to her office in Vinegar Hill, near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and spotted a black garbage bag sitting on the sidewalk out front. She parked her car and went to move the bag when she noticed it leaking blood. The woman called 911. Within the hour, Ken Whelan, a homicide detective from the 84th Precinct, peered into the bag. It was full of human body parts.
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The West Memphis Three, teenagers who were convicted in 1993 of brutal killings that they certainly did not commit on the basis of local gossip that they were satanists (as evidenced by Metallica fandom), suddenly found themselves released this summer after over 17 years in prison. But what life awaited them?

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On the murder of a young Hasidic boy in Brooklyn.

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The author travels to Mexico to meet a retired assassin and kidnapper, now himself a target of the faceless cartels that once employed him

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Breaking the news of the Kennedy assassination, an oral history:

Wicker: [In the press room] we received an account from Julian Reed, a staff assistant, of Mrs. John Connally’s recollection of the shooting…. The doctors had hardly left before Hawks came in and told us Mr. Johnson would be sworn in immediately at the airport. We dashed for the press buses, still parked outside. Many a campaign had taught me something about press buses and I ran a little harder, got there first, and went to the wide rear seat. That is the best place on a bus to open up a typewriter and get some work done.
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Houston detectives investigate a series of brutal assaults on prostitutes in the Acres Homes section of the city. They thought they were after one man; it turns out they were wrong.

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On the death of a high school basketball star in New York City.

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The story of a professional assassin.

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On the brutal killing of a high school girl in British Columbia.

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An interview with the author.

"We live in a frightened time and people self-censor all the time and are afraid of going into some subjects because they are worried about violent reactions. That is one of the great damaging aspects of what has happened in the last 20 years. Someone asked me if I was afraid to write my memoirs. I told him: 'We have to stop drawing up accounts of fear! We live in a society in which people are allowed to tell their story, and that is what I do.' I am a writer. I write books."

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On the 1934 lynching of Claude Neal, and the Florida town that kept the identity of those responsible a secret.

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Thirty years after the murder in Abilene, the question remains unanswered.

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On the LAPD’s decade-old cold case division: its detectives, its tactics, and its successes.

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The world’s foremost Sherlock Holmes expert found dead in a locked room, leaving no note.

There was something else, he said, something critical. On the eve of his death, he reminded me, Green had spoken to his friend Keen about an "American" who was trying to ruin him. The following day, Gibson said, he had called Green's house and heard a strange greeting on the answering machine. "Instead of getting Richard's voice in this sort of Oxford accent, which had been on the machine for a decade," Gibson recalled, "I got an American voice that said, 'Sorry, not available.

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A tony bedroom community in Los Angeles, a kidnapping gone horribly wrong, and the birth of a teenage fugitive.

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On the “Pacification Process,” or how we ended up in the least violent moment in our species’ existence.

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When your family is murdered, and the home you had made together is destroyed, and you yourself are beaten and left for dead — as happened to Bill Petit on the morning of July 23, 2007 — it may as well be the end of the world. It is hard to see how a man survives the end of the world. The basics of life — waking up, walking, talking — become alien tasks, and almost impossibly heavy, as you are more dead than alive. Just how does a man go about surviving such a thing? How does a man go on?
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Three primary reasons: A desire for vengeance, the sanitization of executions and, ironically, the reliability of DNA evidence.

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How a town of 29,000 on the Hudson River came to be “one of the most dangerous four-mile stretches in the northeastern United States.”

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A blow-by-blow account of Howard Unruh’s slow, deadly walk through Camden, New Jersey – written in two and a half hours:

James J. Hutton, 45, an insurance agent from Westmont, N.J., started out of the drug shop to see what the shooting was about. Like so many others he had figured at first that it was some car backfiring. He came face to face with Unruh. Unruh said quietly, “Excuse me, sir,” and started to push past him. Later, Unruh told the police: “That man didn’t act fast enough. He didn’t get out of my way.”
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After acting erratically and trying to skip out on a dinner bill, she was detained briefly in Malibu before being released in the middle of the night. Twenty-four years old and in an unfamiliar area, she had no car, no phone, and no wallet. A year later, her body was found in a nearby canyon. On the search for answers.

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Beyond the fact that he lacked a pulse, little is known about the man found on an Adelaide beach in 1948.

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The creator of the California-based food chain kills his mother, sister and, finally, himself:

From Hollywood to Anaheim, he had opened a chain of fast-food rotisserie chicken restaurants that dazzled the food critics and turned customers into a cult. Poets wrote about his Zankou chicken. Musicians sang about his Zankou chicken. Now that he was dying, his dream of building an empire, 100 Zankous across the land, a Zankou in every major city, would be his four sons’ to pursue. In the days before, he had pulled them aside one by one -- Dikran, Steve, Ara, Vartkes -- and told them he had no regrets. He was 56 years old, that was true, but life had not cheated him. He did not tell them he had just one more piece of business left to do.

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As divided families argued over whether to stay or go, Jones saw part of his congregation slipping away. Al Simon, father of three, wanted to take his children back to America. "No! No! No!" screamed his wife. Someone whispered to her: "Don't worry, we're going to take care of everything." Indeed, as reporters learned later from survivors, Jones had a plan to plant one or more fake defectors among the departing group, in order to attack them. He told some of his people that the Congressman's plane "will fall out of the sky."
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A former priest becomes the prime suspect in the 1960 murder of a Texas beauty queen.

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The coldest of cases: During 1884-85, seven women and one man were brutally murdered in Austin, Texas.

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Karen Holloman opened the door of her uncle's apartment with his best friend, Larry Young, a step behind. As they edged inside, she looked to her left and saw the end of her uncle's bed and his motionless feet. "He's been in here asleep all along," Holloman muttered, for a moment annoyed at the worry he had caused by not answering his phone. Her anger froze as she entered his room: The Rev. Marvin Moore lay dead in his bed, a bullet hole through the back of his head, a pool of blood gathered beneath his limp arm.
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Slowly, Bobo pulled off his shoes, his socks. He stood up, unbuttoned his shirt, dropped his pants, his shorts. He stood there naked. It was Sunday morning, a little before 7.
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How one man terrorized a small Illinois town.

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A visit to the French hideaway of Ira Einhorn, co-founder of Earth Day, who had avoided arrest on murder charges for nearly 20 years.

From our guide to fugitives for Slate.
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A schizophrenic man kills his counselor at a group home in Massachusetts:

Many people wondered aloud whether the system had failed both the suspect and the victim. How had Ms. Moulton ended up alone in a home with a psychotic man who had a history of violence and was off his medication? How had Mr. Chappell been allowed to deteriorate without setting off alarms?

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A profile of Florida legend—and pardoned killer—Charlie Driver.

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On the complete corruption of Paul Bergin, a federal attorney turned high-priced defense lawyer now awaiting trial on a host of charges.

If Paul is guilty of half the things they say, he’d be the craziest, most evil lawyer in the history of the State of New Jersey. That is saying something.

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In a shantytown near Johannesburg, an angry mob committed a horrifying crime that was caught on video.

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Five prostitutes disappear. Bodies turn up on a Long Island beach. On the women lost, and the families left behind.

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An attractive, young, pregnant woman disappears, her husband begins to act strangely, and one of the largest media circuses in history descends on the sleepy community of Modesto, CA.

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A woman is killed. Her husband is accused. A famous/infamous medical examiner investigates.

What’s going on here isn’t just science. It’s something deeper, something stranger, something at the same time both terrifying and fascinating.

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The story of a high school quarterback’s descent into madness, and its tragic end.

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Doc moves quickly. He takes off his windbreaker, tosses his leather bag on the counter and unzips it. He pulls out a slate-blue polyester vest, V-necked, with six buttons. He raises his arms and jumps into it and then says, with an air of deep satisfaction, "Aah." Doc is proud of his bulletproof vest.
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A murder case in Los Angeles, cold since the late ’80s, heats up thanks to breakthroughs in forensic science and leads detectives to “one of the unlikeliest murder suspects in the city’s history.”

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The questionable close relationship between a mobster/informant and an F.B.I. agent during a bloody Colombo crime family battle.

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Odessa High School students know her as “Betty,” a ghost that haunts the auditorium at night.  But few know much about the real Betty, whose 1961 murder was “the most sensational crime in West Texas in its day.”

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The story of the 1969 murder spree by Charles Manson and “Family” as told by those close to the case.

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An investigation into serial killings in a small North Carolina city.

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All told, the military acknowledged this summer, 14 soldiers from the base have been charged or convicted in at least 11 slayings since 2005 — the largest killing spree involving soldiers at a single U.S. military installation in modern history.
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How two love-struck, type A high schoolers almost got away with murder.

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A profile of CeaseFire, a group of “violence interrupters” attempting to prevent street shootings by treating them like an infectious disease.

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In 1960, beer heir Adolph Coors III was kidnapped and murdered. A look back at the crime and the man who committed it.

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How skateboard legend Mark “Gator” Anthony was born again, first as a street preacher, and then as a rapist and murderer.

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The strange life of Boston Corbett, the soldier who killed John Wilkes Booth in 1865.

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Sheikh Amer Hassan’s parties were notoriously debauched, evidence of a growing permissiveness in Karachi high society. His murder by a pair of young brothers surprised few.

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Rodrigo Rosenberg, a highly respected corporate attorney in Guatemala, began, in the spring of 2009, to prophesy his own murder. The unraveling of a political conspiracy.

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The story of Dean Corll and his accomplices, who killed over 20 teenage boys in the Heights neighborhood of Houston in the early 1970s, and the families searching for their missing sons.

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Why did a small-town girl have her family brutally murdered?

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The decades-long saga of Miami’s Take Once Cocktail Lounge, where you might get shot, your money will definitely be laundered, and everybody will know your name.

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How a tiny inner core made the Aryan Brotherhood the most feared prison gang in America; coded messages, murders on the outside, and the knowledge that those who are already in for life cannot be punished further.

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How the culture of academia helped Amy Bishop, a University of Alabama scientist who murdered colleagues during a faculty meeting, fall apart.

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The Gabrielle Giffords shooting, from the vantage point of three central figures: Daniel Hernandez helped save the congresswoman’s life; Patricia Maisch stopped the shooter from reloading; Bill Badger tackled him.

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At the very bottom of the porn totem pole is the “mope”, a barely paid assistant who hangs around and occasionally performs. Stephen Hill was mope-ing for Ultima Studios in exchange for pocket money and a place to crash. Learning he was going to be evicted, he sharpened a prop machete.

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She was last seen leaving a pickup bar, her body was found the next morning in the dirt beside a football field. He was ten. Thirty-six years later, the author investigates his mother’s murder.

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The bizarre tale–and unlikely turnaround–of an NHL player who tried to have his youth coach murdered.

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A comprehensive history of the case against the Menendez brothers, built primarily on secret audio recording made by their self-promoting therapist.

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The father: an Oscar-winning songwriter. The son, a college dropout and partier around downtown New York. Their alleged crimes; serial casting-couch rape (the senior) and a drowning murder in a Soho House bathtub (the junior).

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The story of a small town just outside Pittsburgh that has suffered through a half-century of economic decline, racial tension, and endless crime. Despite that trajectory, or perhaps because of it, Aliquippa has also produced an astounding number of NFL players.

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In the aftermath of a mysterious murder, exploring a part of the story that has received little attention: the young man who lost his life.

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On the last day of their junior year at Harvard, one roommate kills the other, then hangs herself. The press descends. A year later, a reporter searches for the real story.

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In 2003, a man robbed a bank with a bomb around his neck. It exploded shortly thereafter, taking his life and leaving authorities to piece together who had put it there.

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A young girl is reported missing. The detective assigned to her case quickly discovers she’s been gone for years. The story of his search for justice.

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His wife murdered his mother, tried to do the same to him, and was prepared to orphan their 8-month-old child. The attempt left him blind. Then he defended her in court.

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A Stockholm prostitute is found hacked apart in a dumpster, her head is never found. Two accomplished doctors, confirmed creeps, are arrested. Uncertainty endures.

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Returning to the scenes of three famous deaths in Seattle.

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An 18-month investigation proves reveals how easy it is to get away with murder in Baltimore.

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A writer starts a vacation in San Juan del Sur, a seaside village of 20,000 in Nicaragua, just in time to see an expat charged with the murder of a local.

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There was no doubt: Jeremy Gross had brutally murdered a convenience store clerk. All that was left to decide was his punishment. Death or life without parole? The story of a capital murder trial, as seen from the jury box.

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The story of a young man killed in Juarez.

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She moved to Cape Cod to escape the glitzy Manhattan world she born into. The only witness to her murder was her 2 1/2-year-old daughter. Everyone she knew, it seemed, was a suspect.

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A Wikipedia-style dissection of the case that inspired The Fugitive. The accused, Dr. Sam Sheppard, claimed to have struggled with an intruder before being knocked out and dumped on a beach, his wife’s left corpse in their house.

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Mr. Lindall was the only high school teacher who understood him. Then Mr. Lindall went to jail, and it was his turn to try to understand.

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The night the doctor behind the Scarsdale Diet was shot by his mistress, the impeccable headmistress of the elite all-girls boarding school Madeira.

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The unsolved killing of Russia’s most notorious spammer.

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A Barclays analyst leaves for a routine laser treatment and is never heard from again. Ten months later, authorities find her body under a concrete slab at the house of her doctor, who was in fact not a doctor at all.

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Three Dallas prostitutes were found dead in as many months. Charles Albright might be the last person you’d suspect–unless you knew about his unique, lifelong obsession.

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Jacob Riis, writing in 1899, on how a childhood spent in New York City’s tenements led a 15-year-old boy to be convicted of murder.

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A teenage love triangle turns tragic in Pinellas Park, Florida.

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In January 1966–the same month In Cold Blood was first published–Truman Capote sat down with George Plimpton to discuss the new art form he liked to call “creative journalism.”

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After his wife disappears, Hans Reiser’s defense contacts a Wired writer who they believe can help explain the world of groundbreaking code, video games, and sci-fi that defines Reiser’s existence.

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The many identities of Andrew Cunanan, Versace’s murderer.

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Dominick Dunne’s account of the trial of his daughter’s murderer.

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[Part 2 of 2] The story behind this spring’s spate of retributive murders in Southwest D.C.
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[Part 1 of 2] The story behind this spring's spate of retributive murders in Southwest D.C.
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When Christian Longo, who brutally murdered his family, was on the lam in Mexico he posed as a NYT reporter named Michael Finkel. From Death Row, Longo asked the real Finkel to attend his execution.

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The inside story of how an ABC nature shoot in Africa end up producing  a snuff film.