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 an Afro 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.

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