This week (October 5 -11) in crime history – The Dalton gang attempted final bank robbery (October 5, 1892); Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated (October 6, 1981); The Reno brothers committed first train robbery in the U.S. (October 6, 1866); Terrorists hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro (October 7, 1985); Mobster Roger Touhy escaped from an Illinois prison (October 9, 1942); Former postal worker Joseph Harris goes on shooting rampage in New Jersey (October 10, 1991); Botched robbery of a Southern Pacific train in Oregon (October 11, 1923)
Highlighted Crime Story of the week -
On October 10. 1991, former U.S. postal worker Joseph Harris shot two former co-workers to death at the post office in Ridgewood, New Jersey. The night before, Harris had killed his former supervisor, Carol Ott, with a three-foot samurai sword, and shot her fiancé, Cornelius Kasten, in their home. After a four-hour standoff with police at the post office, Harris was arrested. His violent outburst was one of several high-profile attacks by postal workers that resulted in the addition of the phrase “going postal” to the American dictionary.
Harris, who had a lifetime of psychiatric problems, was fired from his job in April 1990. Harboring a grudge against his ex-employer, he began to stockpile automatic weapons, grenades, and other weapons. Two years later, he learned that he had lost as much as $10,000 by investing it with broker Roy Edwards. Dressed in a black ninja costume, Harris entered Edwards’ Montville, New Jersey, home and handcuffed the family. After sexually assaulting Edwards’ wife and two daughters, he shot Edwards to death. Since hundreds of investors had lost money while dealing with Edwards, police never even considered Harris a suspect in his death until after the Ridgewood tragedy.
Arguing that he was insane, Harris’ lawyers said that he had told psychiatrists that he was driven by the “ninja spirit” to commit the crimes. In 1992, Harris was convicted of both the Montville and Ridgewood attacks and was sent to death row. But in September 1996, two days before a New Jersey State Supreme Court battle to overturn its death-penalty law was to start, he died of natural causes.
Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949.