Year
1936
Month Day
April 17

A single horsehair helps solve murder of Nancy Titterton

After a week of tracking down every conceivable lead, police finally find the evidence they need in order to break the case of Nancy Titterton’s rape-murder in New York City. Titterton, a novelist and the wife of NBC executive Lewis Titterton, was raped and strangled in her upscale home on Beekman Place on the morning of April 10, 1936. The only clues left behind were a foot-long piece of cord that had been used to tie Titterton’s hands and a single horsehair found on her bedspread.

These small traces of evidence proved to be enough to find the killer. The detective in charge of the investigation had ordered his team to trace the source of the cord. After a full week of combing every rope and twine manufacturer in the Northeast, the cord was finally found to have come from Hanover Cordage Company in York, Pennsylvania. Company records showed that some of the distinctive cord had been sold to Theodore Kruger’s upholstery shop in New York City.

Since the investigation of the horsehair had already led police to suspect John Fiorenza, an assistant at Kruger’s shop, this new evidence only solidified their suspicion. Fiorenza and Kruger were the first to discover Titterton’s body, when they arrived to return a repaired couch (which had been stuffed with horsehair that matched the one found at the crime scene) on the afternoon of April 10. However, they both denied entering the bedroom that day.

When investigators learned that Fiorenza had been at the Titterton house on April 9 and had been late for work the morning of the murder, they looked deeper into his background. Fiorenza had four prior arrests for theft and had been diagnosed as delusional by a prison psychiatrist. Detectives first gained Fiorenza’s trust by pretending to need his help in solving the crime and then sprang the cord evidence on him.

Caught by surprise, Fiorenza confessed to the brutal crime but claimed that he was temporarily insane. This defense didn’t hold up too well at trial, and Fiorenza was executed on January 22, 1937.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Benjamin Franklin dies

On April 17, 1790, American statesman, printer, scientist and writer Benjamin Franklin dies in Philadelphia at age 84. Born in Boston in 1706, Franklin became at 12 years old an apprentice to his half brother James, a printer and publisher. He learned the printing trade and in ...read more

Yugoslavia surrenders to the Nazis

During World War II, representatives of Yugoslavia’s various regions sign an armistice with Nazi Germany at Belgrade, ending 11 days of futile resistance against the invading German Wehrmacht. More than 300,000 Yugoslav officers and soldiers were taken prisoner. Only 200 Germans ...read more

Architect of Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring resigns

Alexander Dubcek, the communist leader who launched a broad program of liberal reforms in Czechoslovakia, is forced to resign as first secretary by the Soviet forces occupying his country. The staunchly pro-Soviet Gustav Husak was appointed Czechoslovak leader in his place, ...read more

Apollo 13 Astronauts

Apollo 13 returns to Earth

With the world anxiously watching, Apollo 13, a U.S. lunar spacecraft that suffered a severe malfunction on its journey to the moon, safely returns to Earth. LISTEN ON APPLE PODCASTS: 'Houston, We've Had a Problem' On April 11, the third manned lunar landing mission was ...read more

Cambodia falls to the Khmer Rouge

Khmer Rouge troops capture Phnom Penh and government forces surrender. The war between government troops and the communist insurgents had been raging since March 1970, when Lt. Gen. Lon Nol had ousted Prince Norodom Sihanouk in a bloodless coup and proclaimed the establishment of ...read more

Eddie Cochran dies, and Gene Vincent is injured, in a UK car accident

Eddie Cochran, the man behind “Summertime Blues” and “C’mon Everybody,” was killed on April 17, 1960 when the taxi carrying him from a show in Bristol, England, crashed en route to the airport in London, where he was to catch a flight back home to the United States. A raw and ...read more

"General Hospital" airs 10,000th episode

On April 17, 2002, ABC airs the 10,000th episode of the daytime drama General Hospital, the network’s longest-running soap opera and the longest-running program ever produced in Hollywood. Created by Frank and Doris Hursley, General Hospital premiered on April 1, 1963. It was set ...read more

Indonesian volcano erupts, killing 80,000

Heavy eruptions of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia are letting up by April 17, 1815. The volcano, which began rumbling on April 5, killed almost 100,000 people directly and indirectly. The eruption was the largest ever recorded and its effects were noted throughout the world. ...read more

The Bay of Pigs invasion begins

The Bay of Pigs invasion begins when a CIA-financed and -trained group of Cuban refugees lands in Cuba and attempts to topple the communist government of Fidel Castro. The attack was an utter failure. Fidel Castro had been a concern to U.S. policymakers since he seized power in ...read more

Ford Mustang debuts at World’s Fair

The Ford Mustang is officially unveiled by Henry Ford II at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York, on April 17, 1964. That same day, the new car also debuted in Ford showrooms across America and almost 22,000 Mustangs were immediately snapped up by buyers. Named for a ...read more

Second Battle of Gaza begins

As the major Allied offensive masterminded by Robert Nivelle was failing miserably on the Western Front, British forces in Palestine make their second attempt to capture the city of Gaza from the Ottoman army on April 17, 1917. In the wake of the failed British assault on Gaza ...read more

General Henri Giraud makes his great escape

On April 17, 1942, French General Henri Giraud, who was captured in 1940, escapes from a castle prison at Konigstein by lowering himself down the castle wall and jumping on board a moving train, which takes him to the French border. Hitler, outraged, ordered Giraud’s ...read more

Americans seize 1,100 pounds of uranium in effort to prevent Soviets from developing A-bomb

On April 17, 1945, U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Boris T. Pash commandeers over half a ton of uranium at Strassfurt, Germany, in an effort to prevent the Soviets from developing an A-bomb. Pash was head of the Alsos Group, organized to search for German scientists in the postwar ...read more