Year
1957
Month Day
June 26

A serial killer preys upon a woman out for a drive

Margaret Harold is shot and killed while out for a drive with her boyfriend near Annapolis, Maryland. Her killer swerved in front of the couple’s car, approached with a .38 revolver, and shot Harold in the side of the face, while her boyfriend managed to escape. Investigating police found an abandoned building nearby, filled with pornographic pictures, but its full significance would not be revealed until nearly two years later.

Early in 1959, the Jackson family was driving along a dirt road in Virginia, returning home, when they were forced to stop and abducted at gunpoint. Two months later, two men came across the bodies of Carroll Jackson and his one year-old daughter Janet, dumped in a remote area of Fredericksburg, Virginia. A short time later, Mildred Jackson and her five-year-old daughter Susan were found buried in a shallow grave, just outside the abandoned building that police had discovered when investigating Harold’s murder.

Mildred had been brutally raped in the same room where the pornographic pictures had been found two years earlier. Since investigators were reasonably certain that the same killer had committed the murders, the media jumped on the story. Tips began to pour in, and although most of them were worthless, one pointed authorities towards Melvin Rees.

Rees was eventually found in West Memphis, working as a piano salesman. Margaret Harold’s boyfriend picked him out of a lineup and a search of his home turned up a .38 pistol. The most damning evidence, however, was a note paper-clipped to a newspaper article about Mildred Jackson in which Rees described his horrific crimes in detail.

Detectives also found evidence that linked Rees to the slayings of four other young women in the Maryland area as well, although he was never convicted in those cases. Rees was tried in February 1961 for the murder of Margaret Harold and in September 1961 for the murders of the Jackson family; he was convicted of both and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1972, and he died in prison from heart failure in 1995.

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

St. Lawrence Seaway opened

In a ceremony presided over by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II, the St. Lawrence Seaway is officially opened, creating a navigational channel from the Atlantic Ocean to all the Great Lakes. The seaway, made up of a system of canals, locks, and dredged ...read more

U.N. Charter signed

In the Herbst Theater auditorium in San Francisco, delegates from 50 nations sign the United Nations Charter, establishing the world body as a means of saving “succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” The Charter was ratified on October 24, and the first U.N. General ...read more

Former U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond dies

Strom Thurmond, who served in the United States Senate for a record 46 years, dies on this day in 2003. Thurmond’s long and controversial political career had ended with his retirement one year earlier. Thurmond was born on December 5, 1902, in Edgefield, South Carolina, where ...read more

U.S. begins Berlin Airlift

On this day in 1948, U.S. and British pilots begin delivering food and supplies by airplane to Berlin after the city is isolated by a Soviet Union blockade. When World War II ended in 1945, defeated Germany was divided into Soviet, American, British and French zones of ...read more

First U.S. troops arrive in France

During World War I, the first 14,000 U.S. infantry troops land in France at the port of Saint-Nazaire. The landing site had been kept secret because of the menace of German submarines, but by the time the Americans had lined up to take their first salute on French soil, an ...read more

Berlin Airlift begins

In response to the Soviet blockade of land routes into West Berlin, the United States begins a massive airlift of food, water, and medicine to the citizens of the besieged city. For nearly a year, supplies from American planes sustained the over 2 million people in West Berlin. ...read more