Some of the biggest crimes in history took place here in New Jersey
While New Jersey has been portrayed as a haven for crime and corruption, compared to the rest of the country New Jersey ranks in the median for crime rate in several categories.
The entertainment portrayal of New Jersey as overly corrupt yielded two major HBO series, Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos. They integrated a few historical facts into those shows with over-dramatizations of characters and events.
We are no angels here in New Jersey and crime exists in many forms but some of the crimes have been the most notorious in history.
Political warfare in Weekhawken
There was the dual between Aaron Burr, the sitting vice president of the United States and Alexander Hamilton, the former secretary of the Treasury, which at the time was outlawed in the northern U.S. Held in Weehawken, the draw did not end well for either gentleman.
Burr’s bullet hit Hamilton, Hamilton’s bullet hit a branch behind Burr’s head and Burr with the help of others, was rowed across the Hudson immediately after prompting him to be indicted for murder in both New Jersey and New York.
Trial of the century
There was the unique and terrible kidnapping.
The kidnapping of the 20-month-old son of famous aviator Col. Charles Lindberg and his with Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The baby was kidnapped around 9 p.m. on March 1, 1932, from the nursery on the second floor of the Lindbergh’s home in Hopewell.
A series of ransom notes back and forth, mud prints at the scene, interrogation of those close to the crime and involvement from the New Jersey State
Police, the governor, politicians, and an extensive search ensued. The baby was found about 4 miles from the Lindbergh home in Mount Rose, Mercer County. An autopsy suggested that the baby obtained injuries because of the kidnapping and may have hit his head on a ladder rung and died instantly.
After years of searching for the killers, the evidence landed and pointed to Bruno Richard Hauptmann from the Bronx. After years of appeals and new trials, he was convicted and sentenced to die by electrocution. On April 6, 1936, Hauptman was electrocuted here in New Jersey.
The real Boardwalk Empire
Enoch L “Nucky” Johnson. Nucky Johnson was the basis for the fictional character in the HBO Series Boardwalk Empire. The character played by Steve Buschmi in the HBO series is not too far from the truth about the real Nucky. Nucky Johnson was the political boss who ran Atlantic City and Atlantic County.
He was the sheriff of Atlantic County, and a crime boss from the 1910s until his conviction of tax evasion in 1941. He was prominent in handling prohibition; he also had strong ties to gambling and prostitution.
There was not a street, a parade, a building or school that would be built in Atlantic City or Atlantic County without the blessing of Nucky Johnson. He stood up and demanded respect from the New York crime families who frequently would assess the strength of Nucky’s reach.
He became successful and was instrumental in smoothing the tensions with the black neighborhoods of Atlantic City. He was instrumental in getting the black people out to vote, albeit for his designated candidate.
Nucky was a tall, strong man standing just over 6 feet tall, always dressed impeccably and wore a fresh red carnation in his lapel every day. This was well represented in the Boardwalk Empire series.
He was a living legend: Men feared him, women wanted him, and Atlantic City became stronger as a result of his strong hold.
The Iceman killer
American serial killer Richard Kuklinski, “The Iceman" was born in Jersey City in April 1935 and was convicted of four murders in 1988 and eventually a fifth in 2003.
He was an imposing figure standing 6 foot 5 inches and weighing close to 300 pounds. He used his size for intimidation and getting results, his way.
Kuklinski was a troubled youth claiming in interviews after his capture that he would kill neighborhood cats, and committed his first murder while he was in his teens. Many of his crimes were robberies, illegal narcotics, and other infractions.
Kuklinski claimed in a scintillating TV interview while in prison that he killed over one hundred people as a hitman for the mob. When pressed for details about any of those murders, police found no credence in his claim.
He was analyzed and submitted to major psychological testing all of which pointed to a diagnosis of psychosis and schizophrenia. Kuklinski was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease in 2005 and later transferred from Trenton State Prison to St. Francis Medical in Trenton for care.
Ironically, Kuklinski stated that he wanted to be revived with life-saving measures while his wife Barbara implemented a do-not-resuscitate order. One week before Kuklinski died, doctors asked Barbara if she still wanted the DNR and she said yes. On March 5, 2006, Kuklinski died in the hospital.
These are just some of the notorious crimes and criminals that graced New Jersey. Do not believe everything you see on TV about crime in New Jersey.
Celebrities Who Were Murdered
Gallery Credit: Natasha Reda
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.