Pictograph 1992

A dark night, long ago and far away

Every crime writer has heard this little heckling voice, usually from the cheap seats, but sometimes from inside his own head. It isn’t always loud, but it’s often piercing. Tragically, today is the 43rd anniversary of a monstrous crime against two of my childhood friends in the small town where we grew up: Two young sisters were abducted…Read More…

Wounded police officers outside the Downtown Howard Johnson Hotel in New Orleans.  Mark James Robert Essex was born in Emporia, Kansas. He joined the United States Navy, where he was subjected to two years of ceaseless racial abuse.  He was given a general discharge for unsuitability on 10 February 1971, for "character and behavior disorders." After his discharge, he became involved with black radicals in San Francisco, California and later joined the New York Black Panthers.
10:15am, 7 January 1973, Essex shot grocer Joe Perniciaro in New Orleans.  He entered The Downtown Howard Johnson's Hotel on 330 Loyola Ave.  In front of room 1829 Essex shot Dr. Robert Steagall and his wife Betty.  He soaked telephone books with lighter fluid and set them ablaze under the curtains of the Steagall's room.  On the 11th floor, Essex shot his way into rooms and set more fires. He killed Frank Schneider, the hotel assistant manager, and shot Walter Collins, the hotel general manager. Police attempted to enter the hotel with a fire truck ladder bu were thwarted.  Attempting to rescue trapped officers, Deputy Chief Sirgo was shot in the spine by Essex, and died. Seeing the story on TV, Lt. General Chuck Pitman of the United States Marine Corps offered the use of a CH-46 military helicopter to assist the police officers. The helicopter was loaded with armed men and sent up. Essex and the helicopter exchanged many rounds over many hours. Essex managed to hole himself up in a concrete cubicle that would protect him. Right as he hit the helicopter's transmission, Essex was barraged with fatal gunfire. An autopsy later revealed more than 200 gunshot wounds.

Before Dallas, there was Mark Essex

This was excerpted from Ron Franscell’s DELIVERED FROM EVIL, a book that explores the lives of 10 ordinary people who survived mass killers. One of those monsters was a racist sniper named Mark Essex, who perched in a downtown New Orleans hotel in 1973 with an evil plan to kill as many white people as…Read More…

GEORGE the Dummy

Did a Bible-thumping dummy meet a grim end?

The story you are about to read is true. No names have been changed to protect anybody. I’m not that creative. ~~~~~~~~~ The city is Beaumont, Texas. I carry a chewed-up pencil, a ratty notebook and my fingers are stained with bubble-jet ink. I’m a newspaperman. (Here’s where you, the reader, sing, “Dum-de-dum-dum.”) It was…Read More…

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