Updated:
Original:
Year
1976
Month Day
February 12

Actor Sal Mineo is killed in Hollywood

Actor Sal Mineo is stabbed to death in Hollywood, California. Mineo was parking his car behind his apartment when neighbors heard his cries for help. Some described a white man with brown hair fleeing the scene. By the time they reached Mineo, he was almost dead from a deep wound to his chest. He died minutes later.

Sal Mineo was a famous teen actor in the 1950s. He co-starred with James Dean in both Rebel Without a Cause and Giant. The transition to adult roles did not come easily for Mineo, but he later appeared in films such as The Longest Day and Escape From the Planet of the Apes, and consistently performed guest spots on television series. On the night he was killed, Mineo was returning from rehearsing for a play.

For two years, the police searched in vain for clues to the killer’s identity. At first, they suspected that Mineo’s work for prison reform had put him in contact with a dangerous ex-con. Then their focus shifted to Mineo’s personal life. Investigators had discovered that his home was filled with pictures of nude men. But the homosexual pornography also failed to turn up any leads.

Then, out of the blue, Michigan authorities reported that Lionel Williams, arrested on bad check charges, was bragging to everyone that he had killed Mineo. Although he later retracted his stories, at about the same time, his wife back in Los Angeles told police that he had come home the night of the murder drenched in blood. However, there was one major discrepancy–Williams was black with anAfro and all of the eyewitnesses had described the perpetrator as a white man with long brown hair.

Fortunately, the police were able to unearth an old photo of Williams in which his hair had been dyed brown and processed so that it was straight and long. In addition, the medical examiner had made a cast of Mineo’s knife wound and police were able to match it to the description of the knife provided by Williams’ wife. Lionel Williams was convicted and given a sentence of life in prison.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

The NAACP is founded

On February 12, 1909, the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, a group that included African American leaders such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells-Barnett announced the formation of a new organization. Called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored ...read more

Last emperor of China abdicates

On February 12, 1912, Hsian-T’ung, the last emperor of China, is forced to abdicate following Sun Yat-sen’s republican revolution. A provisional government was established in his place, ending 267 years of Manchu rule in China and 2,000 years of imperial rule. The former emperor, ...read more

Congress enacts first fugitive slave law

On this day, Congress passes the first fugitive slave law, requiring all states, including those that forbid slavery, to forcibly return slaves who have escaped from other states to their original owners. The laws stated that “no person held to service of labor in one state, ...read more

Rommel in Africa

On this day, German General Erwin Rommel arrives in Tripoli, Libya, with the newly formed Afrika Korps, to reinforce the beleaguered Italians’ position. In January 1941, Adolf Hitler established the Afrika Korps for the explicit purpose of helping his Italian Axis partner ...read more

Release of U.S. POWs begins

The release of U.S. POWs begins in Hanoi as part of the Paris peace settlement. The return of U.S. POWs began when North Vietnam released 142 of 591 U.S. prisoners at Hanoi’s Gia Lam Airport. Part of what was called Operation Homecoming, the first 20 POWs arrived to a hero’s ...read more

Abraham Lincoln is born

On this day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln is born in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Lincoln, one of America’s most admired presidents, grew up a member of a poor family in Kentucky and Indiana. He attended school for only one year, but thereafter read on his own in a continual effort to ...read more

Ethan Allen dies

On this day in 1789, Vermont Patriot Ethan Allen dies of a stroke at age 52 on his Winooski River homestead. Allen is best remembered as the patriotic leader of the Green Mountain Boys, who took the British fort at Ticonderoga with Benedict Arnold in May 1775. He also had a ...read more