United Flight 629
On November 13, 1955, FBI agents search the home of John Graham, a chief suspect in the bombing of United Airlines 629 that killed 44 people on November 1, 1955 over Longmont, Colorado. The flight had originated at New York’s La Guardia Airport and made a scheduled stop in Chicago before continuing on to Denver, where there was a crew change. The flight took off at 6:52 p.m. and eleven minutes later, air traffic controllers saw two bright lights suddenly appear in the sky north-northwest of the airport.
Numerous telephone calls soon began coming in from farmers and other residents near the town of Longmont, who reported loud explosions and fiery debris falling from the nighttime sky. Ground searchers who reached the crash site noted that all 44 people aboard the DC-6B had died instantly. The debris from the accident was scattered across six square miles.
There was early speculation that something other than a mechanical problem or pilot error was responsible. Investigators suspected that the aircraft had been blown-up by a bomb. There was also a strong smell of explosives on items from the No. 4 baggage compartment. The FBI, certain that the aircraft had been brought down by a bomb, performed background checks on the passengers. Many had purchased life insurance at the airport just before boarding. One such person was Daisie Eldora King, 53, a Denver businesswoman who was en route to Alaska to visit her daughter. When agents identified her handbag they found a number of newspaper clippings containing information about King's son, John Graham, who held a grudge against his mother as the result of an unhappy childhood, was the beneficiary of both her insurance policies and her will. Agents also discovered that one of Mrs. King's restaurants, the Crown-A Drive-In in Denver, had been badly damaged in an explosion; Graham had insured the restaurant and then collected on the insurance following the mysterious blast.
On November 13, 1955, law enforcement officers searched Graham's house and automobile, where they found wire and other bomb-making materials identical to those found in the wreckage. Faced with the mounting evidence and discrepancies in his story, Graham confessed to having placed the bomb in his mother's suitcase. Authorities were shocked to discover that there was no federal statute on the books at the time (1955) that made it a crime to blow up an airplane. Therefore, on the day after Graham's confession, the Colorado district attorney moved swiftly to prosecute Graham via the simplest possible route: premeditated murder committed against a single victim - his mother, Mrs. King. Thus, despite the number of victims killed on Flight 629 along with Mrs. King, Graham was charged with only one count of first degree murder. It was the first trial in Colorado to be televised.
As the case progressed, Graham quickly recanted his confession, but at his 1956 trial his defense was unable to counter the massive amount of evidence presented by the prosecution. He was convicted of the murder of his mother and sentenced to death. He was executed on January 11, 1957 in the gas chamber of the Colorado State Penitentiary. Before his execution, he said about the bombing, "as far as feeling remorse for these people, I don't. I can't help it. Everybody pays their way and takes their chances. That's just the way it goes."
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