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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Yesterday's Crimes: The Wolfman of El Camino

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2015 at 9:43 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

Ed Barbara of Furniture USA was the Bay Area's undisputed king of commercial interruptions in the 1970s and 80s. No commercial break during my childhood was safe from his rapidfire promises of easy credit, all delivered as he floated across rows of flimsy bed sets thanks to the magic of a primitive blue screen.

"No cosigners, no credit references necessary," he proclaimed before closing each 30-second spot with his trademark catchphrase — "Bye kids” — just to add an extra bit of creep factor.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Yesterday's Crimes: A Car Bomb, Al Capone, and a Dead Sportsman

Posted By on Thu, Oct 22, 2015 at 1:37 PM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

Chicago-style gangland violence erupted in suburban San Mateo on the morning of Feb. 5, 1952 when Tom Keen started his brand new Cadillac. Once the engine turned over, the car exploded before Keen could even back out of his garage.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Yesterday's Crimes: The Central Valley's Legendary Machete Murderer

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2015 at 10:25 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

Goro Kagehiro knew that something wasn't right on May 19, 1971, when he found a freshly dug hole on his 20-acre walnut farm in Yuba City, a Central Valley farm town north of Sacramento. At first, Kagehiro thought someone from the county may have taken some soil samples, but at three feet wide and six feet long, the hole was too large for that.

It was, however, the right size for a grave.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Yesterday's Crimes: The Serial Killer Who Stalked Gay Men in the Castro

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 10:39 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

On January 27, 1974, the body of Gerald Earl Cavanaugh, 49, was found on Ocean Beach, with the tide threatening to drag his corpse out to sea. Cavanaugh had been stabbed several times. The coroner’s report described him as “never married” — a polite way of implying that he was homosexual.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Yesterday's Crimes: Penny Dreadful, the Blonde Thrill Killer

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2015 at 11:35 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

August Norry of Daly City once dreamed of glory in baseball's major leagues, but he didn’t have enough of a fastball. After an unsuccessful tryout with the San Francisco Seals (the team that put Joe DiMaggio on the path to the Yankees), Norry settled down, got married, and started his own gardening business.

On Feb. 1, 1959, he took a Sunday afternoon drive on San Bruno Mountain, on the border of San Francisco and Daly City, where he frequently dumped lawn clippings back when people did that sort of thing.

The next day he made the papers in the worst possible way when his “bullet-torn, blood-spattered automobile” was found “abandoned on a lonely ‘lover’s lane,’” according to the San Mateo Times.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Yesterday's Crimes: The Torture-Kit Sadist

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 10:15 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

This story is one giant trigger warning.

On Saturday, July 20, 1957, James Lonergan, a 26-year-old teacher, was on a date with an unidentified 19-year-old student nurse. The car ride started to get bumpy, so Lonergan pulled over by Golden Gate Park. As he was checking for a leak in his gas tank, a man crept out of the darkness and pressed a 10-inch blade to Lonergan's back.

“I want no trouble, only your wallet,” the man said. Lonergan handed over his wallet and wristwatch, hoping that would be the end of the ordeal.

But it was just the beginning.

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Cool Interactive Map Shows What SF Looked Like Through the Decades

Posted By on Fri, Sep 18, 2015 at 11:15 AM

COURTESY SAN FRANCISCO HISTORICAL PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION
  • Courtesy San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection
A new interactive map lets you explore San Francisco before all the geometric glass condos and generic office towers came to town.

Business Insider reports that OldSF is the brainchild of Dan Vanderkam and Raven Keller, two developers who ingeniously geocoded pictures from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection to create an interactive map of the city dating back to 1850.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Yesterday's Crimes: Killer Elephants, Poisoned Orangutans, and the Curse of SF Zoo

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 10:02 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

When banker and philanthropist Herbert Fleishhacker found 30 acres near the southwestern coast of San Francisco, he thought it was the perfect place for the zoo he’d been dreaming about.

But you have to wonder if the San Francisco Zoo was built on an ancient Indian burial ground. Mysterious tragedies proliferated. The place seemed snake-bitten from the start.

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Yesterday's Crimes: San Francisco's Press Hounds a Lady-killer to His Grave

Posted By on Thu, Sep 10, 2015 at 11:34 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

Author's Note: This is a follow-up to last week's "Yesterday's Crimes" column, which detailed the violent history of the Emmanuel Baptist Church on Capp Street and ended like a posthumous season of Deadwood. And now, on with the even more grisly sequel…


The Emmanuel Baptist Church was cursed from the moment it opened its doors on Capp Street in 1878. Its first two pastors killed themselves, and the third murdered San Francisco Chronicle co-founder Charles DeYoung in 1880. But even with three deaths in under three years, the little church endured. But a change was needed.

In 1890, the congregation moved to a new building on Bartlett Street between 22nd and 23rd, and things were quiet for nearly five years. When the Rev. John George Gibson took over in 1894, his predecessor didn’t even have blood on his hands.

The curse came back, however, and this time it was bloodier than ever.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Yesterday's Crimes: A Cursed Church and the Chronicle's Bloody Beginnings

Posted By on Thu, Sep 3, 2015 at 9:45 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

The Emmanuel Baptist Church of Capp Street was cursed from the start.

In 1878, the church moved from a rented hall on 22nd and Folsom to more permanent digs at 22nd and Capp. A short time later, the church's first pastor, Rev. Charles Hughes, slashed his own throat with a straight razor. His replacement chose a somewhat less visceral method of suicide and shot himself in the head.

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