• Unspeakable Times

The Biggest True Crime Story From The Year You Were Born

Sometimes, one news story completely overtakes the airwaves. These high-profile incidents can be worldwide events, political struggles, or natural disasters, but sometimes, they're fascinating crimes. The last several decades have been full of prominent true crime stories, and a look back through history reveals which of these tales was on everyone's lips the year you were born. 

While most of these events spanned multiple years - thanks to lengthy investigations and court proceedings - each seemingly overtook the news cycle for a specific period of time.

  • 1980 - John Lennon Is Murdered By An Obsessed Fan

    On December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman visited the Dakota where John Lennon lived with his wife, Yoko Ono. Chapman was somewhat of a fixture outside of the building, and on that day, he wanted Lennon to sign a copy of his Double Fantasy album, which the musician did around 4:30 that evening.

    Upon returning home from a recording session with his wife around 10:50 that night, Lennon once again noticed Chapman outside of the Dakota, still clutching his autographed album. Lennon exited his car and Chapman shot him four times in the back and chest.

    Lennon was pronounced dead at the hospital that night after unsuccessful attempts to resuscitate him. The news of the former Beatle's passing interrupted a Monday Night Football game, and news outlets released special reports covering his life and legacy. Police arrested Chapman outside of the Dakota where he waited patiently for them after the doorman wrested his gun away. Sentenced to 20 years to life, Chapman has been repeatedly denied parole.

    That same year: 

    In New York State, the .22 Caliber Killer (also known as the Midtown Slasher) began a spree in September 1980. Joseph G. Christopher spent his time moving from Buffalo to various other cities, stabbing and shooting his way through at least 10 victims. All of the targets were Black and Hispanic men. Christopher's crimes were another shock to the country, which was coming to terms with a wave of serial killers.

  • 1981 - Adam Walsh Is Kidnapped And Slain

    Photo: Hollywood Police Department / ABC Local 10 News / Public Domain

    While shopping with his mother in a Hollywood, FL, Sears department store on July 27, 1981, Adam Walsh went missing. The six-year-old's parents, John and Reve Walsh, immediately involved law enforcement and began campaigning on television for the safe return of their son. Two weeks later, Adam's head washed up in a canal near Vero Beach. His body never surfaced. 

    As a result of their son's disappearance and death, the Walshes worked to change legislation and standard operating procedures concerning missing children. They founded the Adam Walsh Outreach Center for Missing Children days after burying their son and championed the Missing Children’s Act to add minors to the missing person's database. In 1984, John Walsh co-founded the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. In 1988, he began hosting America's Most Wanted, a show that asked its audience for tips concerning fugitives from the law. 

    Walsh was also instrumental in the use of "Code Adam" in stores to alert shoppers and employees to a missing child in their midst, as well as the implementation of The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. The latter expanded the parameters of the sex-offender registry and created a registry of child abuse on a national scale.

  • 1982 - Claus von Bulow Is Arrested And Tried For Murder

    Photo: Open Media Ltd / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    A wealthy Danish socialite, Claus von Bulow went to court for allegedly putting his wife, Martha “Sunny” von Bulow, into a coma in order to inherit her money. Sunny was a diabetic, and prosecutors argued that Claus purposely gave her too much insulin, which placed her in an irreversible vegetative state and allowed him to openly continue his affair with his mistress. The defense argued that alcohol and substance use combined with her diabetes was the real reason for Sunny's ailment.

    His first trial, which took place in Rhode Island in 1982, ended with Claus convicted of his wife's attempted murder. However, a second trial three years later cleared him of the charges. The media swarmed to the story thanks to its intrigue, infidelity, and supposed peek into the lives of the wealthy.

    That same year:

    In West Hollywood, Raging Bull actor Theresa Saldana was attacked by a stalker in broad daylight outside of her home. The attacker, Arthur Richard Jackson, stalked the actor for 18 months before approaching her, confirming her identity, and stabbing her. Saldana's neighbor stopped Jackson, but not before Saldana lost 26 pints of blood and her heart stopped. Surgery and transfusions saved her from the brink of death, allowing her to champion for stronger laws concerning stalkers and the police response to reports of being followed.

    Her advocacy helped California pass the nation's first anti-stalking law in 1990 after the death of another actor, Rebecca Schaeffer, at the hands of a deranged fan.

  • 1983 - Robert Hansen, 'The Butcher Baker,' Is Arrested

    Alaska was on high alert in the 1970s when an unknown attacker began kidnapping women in order to hunt and kill them in the wilderness. Robert Hansen worked as a baker in Anchorage where he lived with his wife and children. Unbeknownst to them, over the course of 12 years, he lured sex workers and exotic dancers into his car and plane with promises of cash, only to sexually assault them. While he would set some free with orders to remain silent, others became his prey in the wooded area around Knick River.

    In 1983, one victim escaped Hansen and fled to the city, sending police to Hansen's front door. In 1984, Hansen confessed to the murders of 17 women, although investigators believed that the number of victims could be much higher. Only four trials took place to avoid a media circus, earning him a 461-year sentence.