Jack Graham

I am sure that some of you will be glad to hear that this will likely be one of my shortest blogs.  This case is rather open and shut.  So what is so interesting about it that it is worth blogging about?  Well first off of course it falls into the category of true crime or it would not be here.  Secondly, because of the time period, once again the 1950's laws were different at that time. And thirdly, for me I find it interesting due to the speed in which not only was crime solved, but completely finalized, ending in the execution of Jack Graham.

On the evening of November 1, 1955 at close to 7pm the sky lit up near Longmont Colorado.  This is when United Airlines Flight 629 had an explosion in the air and landed in a sugar beet field.  The FBI was brought in initially to help identify the victims.  There were 39 passengers and 5 crew members on the flight.  There were no survivors.  

Pretty early on investigators noticed that this did not seem to be a normal crash or even a malfunction from the plane.  It looked as if something had exploded from the luggage compartment, specifically compartment number 4.  First investigators started with looking at the passenger manifest as well as looking into if anyone had not shown for the scheduled flight or had cancelled at the last minute.  The plane had first taken off in New York, making a few stops along the way, the last had been in Denver where it took off at approximately 6:52 pm and officially had crashed at 7:03 in Longmont. The flight was headed to Portland Oregon.  The next step was to look and see if any passengers had obtained life insurance in the airport.  It was common at that time (and apparently into the 1980's) to have machines available in airports in which life insurance could be bought.  They most likely started at this point to focus on the passengers who luggage was inside compartment 4.  Among the luggage in that compartment was items belonging to Daisie King and her luggage seemed to have an extreme amount of damage to it.  

It was soon discovered that life insurance had in fact been obtained for Daisie just prior to the flight.  It was also learned that she had been staying with her son, daughter in law and grandson just outside of Denver and was eventually headed to visit her daughter in Alaska for an extended visit.  It seemed rather logically to look into Daisie and her family a bit more.  So investigators found their way to her son's house to learn more.  Before reaching his home however, they already knew that Jack Graham, Daisie son, was no chore boy.  He had a criminal record for embezzlement as well as an arrest for the illegal transport of whiskey in the early 1950's.  Speaking to townspeople, before and after speaking to Jack they learned more.  They discovered that just in the year prior at least two suspicious things had occurred in Jack's life.  First, a drive in restaurant that Daisie owned, but Jack managed had had a strange "explosion" earlier that year and Jack had collected from an insurance settlement.  They also learned that Jack had bought a new pick up truck that he would soon after claim stalled on railroad tracks and was hit by a train.  He would once again collect insurance for this and many believed the accident had been deliberate.  So at any rate, investigators went to the Graham home already armed with some information. It should be noted that some things state that among the debris from Daisie luggage investigators found pieces of news articles pertaining to some of Jack's arrests several years prior.  I have to be honest here in saying I am not certain this was true and could have just been said to sensationalize the story.  Maybe it was said because it may have seemed to the public the stroke of luck the investigators had going to Jack Graham so early may have seemed too convenient for some. Who knows.  It just seems odd, despite the fact that many said that Daisie and Jack had a troubled relationship, that she would have carried these articles in her suitcase.  Then again it seems that Daisie traveled a lot and not sure she was really permanently settled anywhere and maybe she carried them with her as she carried most of her possessions.

At any rate, investigators went to the Graham home and interviewed Jack and his wife Gloria.  Both would say that they had not helped Daisie pack her suitcase because she was very particular about her things.  Although, Gloria mentioned something that Jack did not.  According to Gloria, on the day of the flight Jack had showed her a Christmas gift he had wrapped for his mother to take with her as she would be gone over the holidays.  Gloria had not asked what it was but assumed it was some sort of tool set that they had discussed buying Daisie for Christmas.  She did not know for certain that Jack had bought it but just assumed that he must have when he showed it to her.  

Upon further investigation, they learned that Daisie had a rather large estate to which Jack would inherit from along with the insurance policies.  Their eyes were on Jack.  By November 13, 1955, a mere 12 days after the explosion, Jack reportedly confessed to putting a homemade bomb in his mother's luggage. Once this came to light everything moved at lightening speed.  Authorities discovered that there was not a law on the books that made it a criminal act to blow up a plane at that time (that obviously has changed), so they did all that they could do, charge him in the murder of his mother.  He was arrested and in February of 1956 he attempted suicide but survived.  He was convicted of his crime on May 5, 1956 and was executed in the gas chamber in Colorado on January 11, 1957.  His trial was the first in Colorado to allow camera's and it was broadcasted on local stations.  He was arrested, tried, convicted and executed in the span of 15 months.

So why would he have done such a thing?  Most say that his animosity stemmed from his childhood.  He had been born during the depression and his father had died when he was very young (somewhere between the ages of 3 and 5).  He had spent some time in an orphanage (which was common in those days when one parent died) and with other relatives and apparently very little with his mother who remarried a few years after his father's death.   Daisie's new husband was apparently wealth and she had become a rather successful business owner throughout the years but the animosity that Jack felt towards her never subsided.  Most reports say she was a rather shrewd business woman and any help financially or legally she gave Jack was either done to prevent shame or to maintain control.  She bought Jack and Gloria a house but maintained that it was hers.  While many people have issues with their parents, few would go to the lengths that Jack did to eliminate her from his life.

While I agree that it seems between his confession and the evidence, he was in all likelihood guilty, the speed in which it all took place leaves me perplexed. There reportedly were items at the crash scene that matched those found in a search of Jack's home and vehicle after the explosion.  He stated he had constructed a bomb out of dynamite, wire, and a battery with a timer and it did all seem to, or was reported to be, true.  I am just always skeptical when a person is tried within just a few months (and I have seen way sooner) of their arrest.  He was executed a mere 8 months from the time of his conviction.  I never saw evidence of any sort of an appeal being filed, nor did I hear any mention of any sort of defense theory.  It was said that he seemed calm, and almost smug throughout his ordeal.  It was also said that he had no remorse and had commented that the number of people that were killed did not matter to him.  But again, I cannot say that just because this was reported this was actually the case due to the time period of reporting.

While I think many would agree that the appeals process that is in place now, especially regarding death penalty cases is near ridiculous as it lasts so long, there is a part of me that is thankful that it is not as easy and quick as it was back in this time period. I have seen too many cases in which there was way more to the story than what was found or established early on and as I have said before although I am not for or against the death penalty necessarily I think it should be reserved for the absolute worse criminals and in cases there is absolutely no question as to the who, what and why.  While I do feel in this case the who and what are answered adequately, the why (which I realize is not always necessary) may be in question.  Was there mental illness here?  Was there more to the story than what was reported?  These are things we will never know.

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