Monthly Archives: June 2020

Boston doctor found guilty of killing wife

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/boston-doctor-found-guilty-of-killing-wife

On June 29, 2001, Boston doctor Dirk Greineder, 60, is found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Mabel Greineder, 58, his wife of more than 30 years.

Dirk Greineder was a distinguished allergist. His wife, known as May, worked for him as a nurse and was pursuing an advanced degree in healthcare. The couple had raised three children, and lived in Wellesley, a tony–and usually crime-free–Boston suburb. Neighbors and friends saw the couple as especially close and devoted to each other. Nearly every day, they walked their German shepherds together in a nearby park.

On October 31, 1999, Dirk called 911 from his cell phone to report that his wife had been attacked near a pond at their local park while the two were out for a walk. According to his testimony, he had left his wife to exercise their dog because she had been experiencing back pain, and when he returned to her, he found her beaten body prostrate on the path. She had been nearly decapitated and stabbed in the chest. Police found gloves, a hammer and a pocketknife believed to be used in the murder in a nearby storm drain.

In the course of their investigation, it was discovered that the well-respected and accomplished Dirk Greineder had been living a secret life. Using the alias “Thomas Young,” he had frequently downloaded internet pornography; rang up substantial phone sex bills; and regularly arranged meetings with prostitutes in hotels and at his home office. In fact, police found that he had contacted a prostitute the day after his wife’s murder. Believing that the doctor had killed his wife in order to more freely pursue his extramarital sexual activities, he was arrested in mid-November 1999.

Over the course of the trial, prosecutors described how Dirk had set up a phony company and used it to apply for a corporate credit card in the name “Thomas Young”; that he had frequently solicited group sex and escorts; and that this behavior seemed to become almost obsessive in the week before his wife’s murder. In those seven days, the doctor contacted several prostitutes, had sex with at least one, and sometimes spent more than four hours per day on internet porn sites, in addition to keeping up with a demanding career. Several witnesses testified that May had become increasingly insecure about the marriage, and had become focused on buying new clothes, exercising more often and had even thought about getting a face lift. Prosecutors pointed to the conclusion that May either had discovered her husband’s secret life, or was getting very close, and that Dirk wanted her out of the way.

Prosecutors also stressed that witnesses placed Greineder in the moments after the murder emerging from the area where the murder weapons were found hidden instead of heading in the most likely place to find help, the main road. The prosecution also introduced evidence that the doctor had delayed making the 911 call, that the gloves and hammer likely belonged to Dirk and that the blood found at the scene, including on Dirk’s body, was not consistent with his story.

Despite some seemingly damning evidence, Dirk Greineder enjoyed strong support from friends and family, including the couple’s three children. The doctor testified about how much he loved his wife and that they were looking forward to their daughter’s upcoming wedding. Although he said he was unsure if his wife knew of his sexual affairs, he intimated that the outside sex may have contributed to the strength of their relationship. The defense contended that the doctor had no reason at all to kill his wife.

Despite a mostly circumstantial case against him, Dirk Greineder was found guilty of first-degree murder on June 29, 2001, after a six-week trial and four days of deliberations. Later in the day, Greineder was given the mandatory sentence, life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Academy Award-winning actress Katharine Hepburn dies at age 96

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/katharine-hepburn-dies-at-age-96

On June 29, 2003, Katharine Hepburn—a four-time Academy Award winner for Best Actress and one of the greatest screen legends of Hollywood’s golden era—dies of natural causes at the age of 96, at her home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

Hepburn was born into a well-to-do New England family, the daughter of a prominent surgeon, Dr. Thomas Norval Hepburn, and his wife, Katharine Houghton, a suffragist and birth control advocate. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania in 1928 and became a stage actress; her role in the 1932 Broadway production The Warrior’s Husband led to a Hollywood screen test and a contract with RKO studios. In Hepburn’s debut film, A Bill of Divorcement (1932), she starred opposite John Barrymore and was directed by George Cukor, who would become her close friend and helm many of her films (including 1933’s Little Women, 1935’s Sylvia Scarlett, 1938’s Holiday and 1949’s Adam’s Rib).

Heralded as a fresh, unconventional beauty and a talented actress, Hepburn won her first Best Actress Oscar for only her third film, Morning Glory (1933). A string of films made with RKO had mixed degrees of success, and Hepburn began earning a reputation as arrogant and self-absorbed on set, though she was always meticulously prepared for her roles. She also refused to play by the rules governing typical Hollywood starlets at the time, appearing publicly in pantsuits and without makeup and refusing to sign autographs or grant interviews. After modest successes with Stage Door (1937) and Bringing Up Baby (1938), Hepburn decided to buy out her contract with RKO, a move that gave her unusual control over her career for that time.

Her faltering image was revived by the success of The Philadelphia Story, which had originally been written for Hepburn to play on Broadway and was then adapted into a hit 1940 movie co-starring Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. Several years later, Hepburn met the actor Spencer Tracy while co-starring with him in Woman of the Year (1942). Though Tracy, a devout Catholic, remained married, the two began a romantic relationship that would last until Tracy’s death nearly three decades later. (Hepburn had divorced her husband of six years, Ludlow Ogden Smith, in 1934.) On-screen, they acted in nine films together, including Adam’s Rib (1949), Pat and Mike (1952) and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967). Tracy died just weeks after shooting was completed on the last film, for which Hepburn would win her second Best Actress Oscar.

Hepburn was awarded her third Oscar for her starring turn in A Lion in Winter (1968). She continued to appear in films and on television (including an Emmy-winning performance in 1976’s Love Among the Ruins) throughout the next three decades, winning a fourth Best Actress statuette for 1981’s On Golden Pond. Nominated for 12 Academy Awards in her lifetime (a record that would stand until 2003, when Meryl Streep received her 13th nomination), Hepburn never attended the awards show to collect her honors in person. In 1986, she broke her longtime silence about her relationship with Tracy (his widow had died in 1983) in a televised tribute to the actor. She read aloud a poignant letter she had written to him about his drinking, and about their last years together. She later included the letter in her best-selling 1991 autobiography Me: Stories of My Life.

In her final screen appearance, in 1994’s Love Affair (a remake of the classic 1939 film), Hepburn appeared frail but composed as ever in her portrayal of the aristocratic aunt of Warren Beatty’s character. In 1999, the American Film Institute (AFI) named Hepburn as the greatest female actress in the history of American cinema. When she died on June 29, 2003, the lights on Broadway were dimmed for an hour to mark the passing of one of entertainment’s brightest stars.

The Globe Theatre burns down

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-globe-theater-burns-down

The Globe Theatre, where most of Shakespeare’s plays debuted, burned down on June 29, 1613.

The Globe was built by Shakespeare’s acting company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, in 1599 from the timbers of London’s very first permanent theater, Burbage’s Theater, built in 1576. Before James Burbage built his theater, plays and dramatic performances were ad hoc affairs, performed on street corners and in the yards of inns. However, the Common Council of London, in 1574, started licensing theatrical pieces performed in inn yards within the city limits. To escape the restriction, actor James Burbage built his own theater on land he leased outside the city limits. When Burbage’s lease ran out, the Lord Chamberlain’s men moved the timbers to a new location and created the Globe. 

Like other theaters of its time, the Globe was a round wooden structure with a stage at one end, and covered balconies for the gentry. The galleries could seat about 1,000 people, with room for another 2,000 “groundlings,” who could stand on the ground around the stage.

The Lord Chamberlain’s men built Blackfriars theater in 1608, a smaller theater that seated about 700 people, to use in winter when the open-air Globe wasn’t practical.

READ MORE: Was Shakespeare the Real Author of His Plays?

The Rolling Stones fight the law, and the law wins

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-stones-fight-the-law-and-the-law-wins

On June 29, 1967, Keith Richards sat before magistrates in Chichester, West Sussex, England, facing charges that stemmed from the infamous raid of Richards’ Redlands estate five months earlier. Though the raid netted very little in the way of actual drugs, what it did net was a great deal of notoriety for the already notorious Rolling Stones. It was during this raid that the police famously encountered a young Marianne Faithfull clad only in a bearskin rug, a fact that the prosecutor in the case seemed to regard as highly relevant to the case at hand. In questioning Richards, Queen’s Counsel Malcolm Morris tried to imply that Faithfull’s nudity was probably the result of a loss of inhibition due to cannabis use:

QC Morris: “Would you agree in the ordinary course of events you would expect a young woman to be embarrassed if she had nothing on but a rug in the presence of eight men, two of whom were hangers-on and the third a Moroccan servant?”

Richards: “Not at all.”

Morris: “You regard that, do you, as quite normal?”

Richards: “We are not old men. We are not worried about petty morals.”

With that one line, Richards emphatically established himself as the spokesman for a generation that did not share the values of the British establishment. The charges brought against him by that establishment, however, were quite serious. While Mick Jagger stood charged with illegal possession of four amphetamine tablets he’d purchased in Italy, Richards faced the far more serious charge of allowing his house to be used for the purpose of smoking what the law at the time referred to as “Indian hemp.”

Judging from his defiant attitude on the stand, Richards may not have taken the possibility of conviction very seriously. No marijuana had actually been found in Richards’ possession, but on the evidence presented at trial of a “sweet incense smell” detected by police, Richards was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison. Jagger was also convicted and sentenced to three months, but he was immediately released pending an appeal. 

Richards, on the other hand, was sent directly to Wormwood Scrubs prison on this day in 1969, where he was greeted like, well, a rock star by his fellow inmates. Richards would spend only one night in prison, though, as he was granted bail the following day, also pending appeal. His conviction would later be overturned based on the prejudicial nature of the evidence of the naked young woman in a bearskin rug. For his part, Richards was definitively pleased: “I like a little more room, I like the john to be in a separate area,” he later said, “and I hate to be woken up.”

Britain recognizes General Charles de Gaulle as the leader of the Free French

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/britain-recognizes-general-charles-de-gaulle-as-the-leader-of-the-free-french

On June 28, 1940, General Charles de Gaulle, having set up headquarters in England upon the establishment of a puppet government in his native France, is recognized as the leader of the Free French Forces, dedicated to the defeat of Germany and the liberation of all France.

For Charles de Gaulle, fighting Germans was an old story. He sustained multiple injuries fighting at Verdun in World War I. He escaped German POW camps five times, only to be recaptured each time. (At 6 feet 4 inches in height, it was hard for de Gaulle to remain inconspicuous.)

At the beginning of World War II, de Gaulle was commander of a tank brigade. He was admired as a courageous leader and made a brigadier general in May 1940. After the German invasion of France, he became undersecretary of state for defense and war in the Reynaud government, but when Reynaud resigned, and Field Marshal Philippe Petain stepped in, a virtual puppet of the German occupiers, he left for England. On June 18, de Gaulle took to the radio airwaves to make an appeal to his fellow French not to accept the armistice being sought by Petain, but to continue fighting under his command. Ten days later, Britain formally acknowledged de Gaulle as the leader of the “Free French Forces,” which was at first little more than those French troops stationed in England, volunteers from Frenchmen already living in England, and units of the French navy.

On August 2, a French military court sentenced de Gaulle to death in absentia for his actions. (No doubt at the instigation of the German occupiers.)

De Gaulle would prove an adept wartime politician, finally winning recognition and respect from the Allies and his fellow countrymen. He returned to Paris from Algiers, where he had moved the headquarters of the Free French Forces and formed a “shadow government,” in September 1943. He went on to head two provisional governments before resigning.

Former President James Madison dies

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/former-president-james-madison-dies

On June 28, 1836, James Madison, drafter of the Constitution, recorder of the Constitutional Convention, author of the “Federalist Papers” and fourth president of the United States, dies on his tobacco plantation in Virginia.

Madison first distinguished himself as a student at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), where he successfully completed a four-year course of study in two years and, in 1769, helped found the American Whig Society, the second literary and debate society at Princeton (and the world), to rival the previously established Cliosophic Society.

Madison returned to Virginia with intellectual accolades but poor health in 1771. By 1776, he was sufficiently recovered to serve for three years in the legislature of the new state of Virginia, where he came to know and admire Thomas Jefferson. In this capacity, he assisted with the drafting of the Virginia Declaration of Religious Freedom and the critical decision for Virginia to cede its western claims to the Continental Congress.

Madison is best remembered for his critical role in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, where he presented the Virginia Plan to the assembled delegates in Philadelphia and oversaw the difficult process of negotiation and compromise that led to the drafting of the final Constitution. Madison’s published “Notes on the Convention” are considered the most detailed and accurate account of what occurred in the closed-session debates. (Madison forbade the publishing of his notes until all the participants were deceased.) After the Constitution was submitted to the people for ratification, Madison collaborated with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton on “The Federalist Papers,” a series of pamphlets that argued for the acceptance of the new government. Madison penned the most famous of the pamphlets, “Federalist No. 10,” which made an incisive argument for the ability of a large federation to preserve individual rights.

READ MORE: 8 Founding Fathers and How They Helped Shape the Nation 

In 1794, Madison married a young widow, Dolley Payne Todd, who would prove to be Washington, D.C.’s finest hostess during Madison’s years as secretary of state to the widowed Thomas Jefferson and then as the fourth president of the United States from 1809 to 1817. Dolley Madison earned a special place in the nation’s memory for saving a portrait of George Washington before fleeing the burning White House during the War of 1812.

The War of 1812 tested Madison’s presidency. The Federalists staunchly opposed Madison’s declaration of war against the British and threatened to secede from the Union during the Hartford Convention. When the new nation managed to muster a tenuous victory, the Federalist Party was destroyed as America’s status as a nation apart from Britain was secured.

After retiring from official political positions, Madison served Thomas Jefferson’s beloved University of Virginia first as a member of the board of visitors and then as rector. In 1938, the State Teachers College at Harrisonburg, Virginia, was renamed in Madison’s honor as Madison College; in 1976, it became James Madison University.

DaimlerChrysler announces Smart’s arrival in United States

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/daimlerchrysler-announces-smarts-arrival-in-united-states

After a flurry of rumors, DaimlerChrysler chairman Dieter Zetsche announces on June 28, 2006 that the company’s urban-focused Smart brand–already popular in Europe–will come to the United States in early 2008.

Smart–an acronym for Swatch Mercedes ART–began as a joint venture between Swatch, the company known for its colorful and trendy plastic watches, and the German automaker Mercedes-Benz. The result of this collaboration was the Smart ForTwo, which measured just over eight feet from bumper to bumper and was marketed as a safe, fuel-efficient car that could be maneuvered easily through narrow, crowded city streets. The ForTwo debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1997 and went on sale in nine European countries over the next year. Despite its popularity among urban Europeans, Smart posted significant losses, and Swatch soon pulled out of the joint venture. Despite these setbacks, Mercedes maker DaimlerChrysler (now Daimler AG) made an initial foray into the North American market, launching the Smart in Canada in 2004.

On June 28, 2006, Zetsche announced Smart’s planned U.S. launch, declaring: “The time has never been better for this–and I am convinced that the Smart ForTwo as an innovative, ecological and agile city car will soon become just as familiar a sight on the streets of New York, Miami or Seattle, as it is today in Rome, Berlin or Paris.” Between 2003 and 2006, as reported by the German newspaper Handelsblatt, DaimlerChrysler (now Daimler AG) had taken a loss of some 3.9 billion euros (around $5.2 billion) on the Smart brand, and the company looked to the U.S. market as a way to bring the brand into profitability. It had initially planned a 2006 release in the United States, but pushed it back; the skyrocketing price of fuel gave the company the impetus it needed to introduce the Smart, which was designed to achieve 40 plus miles per gallon under normal driving conditions.

Marketed as “a small car with a big urban solution,” the Smart was inevitably compared to another small, odd-looking vehicle that had arrived in the United States from Germany nearly four decades before: the Volkswagen Beetle. Though early interest in the Smart resulted in more than 30,000 early registrations by September 2007, skeptics pointed to several factors that might hurt the Smart’s sales among American consumers, including the popularity of gas-electric hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius (reportedly more fuel efficient than the Smart) and that of another small (though much larger than the Smart) urban-friendly car, the Mini Cooper.

A serial rapist strikes in Allentown

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/a-serial-rapist-strikes-in-allentown

A knife-wielding serial rapist and murderer attacks Denise Sam-Cali in her Allentown, Pennsylvania, home. Although he succeeded in raping Sam-Cali on the front lawn outside her house, the woman survived and later proved instrumental in bringing him to justice.

Sam-Cali’s vicious attack was the third of its kind that month in Allentown. On June 9, a 15-year-old girl had been abducted and was later found dead in a reservoir with 22 stab wounds. On June 20, a five-year-old girl was raped by a man who broke into her home and unsuccessfully tried to choke her to death.

But Sam-Cali’s attacker was not through yet: He killed again on July 14. On July 18, Sam-Cali’s house was broken into. Police believed it was her attacker and began a stakeout of her home, leaving a window open to entice the assailant. In the early morning of July 31, the attacker climbed though the window and was greeted by a police officer hiding in the living room. A shootout ensued and he busted through another window to escape.

Hours later, 18-year-old Harvey Robinson stumbled into a local hospital, bleeding from two bullet wounds. Already a career criminal, Robinson had burglarized a home at the age of nine and was constantly in trouble with the law. When he was spotted by a police officer in the hospital, he attempted to flee, but was arrested.

After being identified by his surviving victims and DNA evidence, Harvey Robinson was convicted in 1995 and sentenced to death.

A teenage girl’s boyfriend murders her parents

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/a-teenage-girls-boyfriend-murders-her-parents

Police are called to the home of Jim and Naomi Olive in Terra Linda, California, after Jim Olive’s business partner reports that the couple has not been seen in a week. The house in disarray, officers found no sign of either the Olives or their adopted teenage daughter Marlene. However, Marlene turned up at the police station later that day and began telling a bizarre series of stories explaining her parent’s disappearance.

Marlene first claimed that her parents had gone to Lake Tahoe for a vacation but had not returned. As the interrogation extended into the second day, she told detectives that Jim had killed Naomi and then fled. But, when pressed on this story, she contradicted herself and claimed that her mother was the killer. In an entirely new tale, she then told the police that both of her parents were killed and taken away by a group of Hell’s Angels.

The detectives waited patiently until Marlene finally led them to a fire pit outside the town where the burned remains of her parents were located. With a little investigation, the detectives found out about Chuck Riley, Marlene’s boyfriend. At his home was an unopened letter from Marlene that read, “I have no guilty feelings at all about my folks. NONE. NEITHER SHOULD YOU. Relax.”

From Riley, police learned that Marlene and Naomi had a rocky relationship, mostly because Naomi was schizophrenic and paranoid. Apparently, she repeatedly told her daughter that she would grow up to be a whore just like her real mother. Angry and insecure, Marlene began biting off chunks of her own arm.

Marlene met Chuck Riley in 1974, and the two began a contractual relationship: Marlene provided sex for Riley in return for drugs. In March 1975, the two went on a $6,000 shoplifting spree and Naomi threatened to send Marlene to juvenile hall.

On June 21, Marlene arranged to go shopping with her father while Riley sneaked into the house and attacked Naomi with a claw hammer. Failing to kill her, he then stabbed her in the chest with a kitchen knife. By the time Jim and Marlene returned home, Riley was still in the middle of the attack. When Jim attempted to intervene, Riley shot and killed him.

Because she was a teenager at the time of the murders, Marlene Olive served only four years before being released from prison in 1979. Riley was given a death sentence that was later commuted to life imprisonment.