November 13

This Day in History

Crime

Nov 13, 1955:

Police search John Graham's home and find bomb-making materials

FBI agents search the home of John Graham, a chief suspect in the United Airlines plane explosion that killed all 44 people on board on November 1. The jet, which exploded shortly after departing from Denver, contained a hole near the cargo hold and traces of dynamite residue, suggesting that a bomb was responsible for the crash. Within a week, FBI agents began delving into the background of everyone connected to the flight.

One of the passengers on board the flight, Daisie King, was a wealthy woman traveling to visit her daughter. Although the suitcase that she had checked-in had been obliterated by the explosion, her carry-on bag contained a newspaper clipping about her son, John Graham, who had been involved in forgery and theft. When FBI agents questioned Graham on November 10, he told the detectives that his mother had packed shotgun ammunition in her suitcase. Graham's wife provided more intriguing information: just before Graham took his mother to the airport, he had placed a gift-wrapped package in her luggage, explaining that the present was a jewelry tool kit. Graham denied any knowledge of this gift but the FBI obtained a search warrant to investigate further.

A search of the Graham home turned up the ammunition that Mrs. King had allegedly packed, a small roll of copper wire, and a life insurance policy for Mrs. King, naming Graham as the designated beneficiary. Graham's wife later revealed that he had ordered her to claim that she had been mistaken about the gift package.

Faced with mounting evidence against him, Graham suddenly confessed to planting a bomb in his mother's suitcase. He told the agents that he had taken a job in an electronics store to learn how to construct the bomb, which consisted of 25 sticks of dynamite, a battery, and a timer. At his televised trial, Graham retracted his confession but was found guilty. He was executed in the gas chamber in January 1957.

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